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Iraq War veterans’ mental health has police on alertErin Emery
Sep 18, 2006Colorado Springs, Colorado - After returning from Iraq, Jason Harvey, a combat soldier with the Fort Carson-based 2nd Brigade Combat Team, raced his car at speeds of more than 100 mph on Squirrel Tree Road and played paint ball to replicate battle situations.
“You have no idea what stress is until you’ve been in combat. When you’re in combat, the adrenaline rush, it becomes fluid, you’re used to it all the time. Then when you come back, it’s not there anymore and you have to find something to get back to how it was,” said Harvey, 23, who was diagnosed with post- traumatic stress disorder. “I know a lot of guys who started going sky diving or rock climbing; for me it was street racing.
… It might sound strange, but for me, when I was driving fast, it made me calm again.” Harvey was kicked out of the Army after he was found driving with a loaded gun on Fort Carson. He now lives in Wellington, Fla. He is among the untold number of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan who have found themselves in what law enforcement officials increasingly realize are crisis situations - situations that often prove deadly.
While there is no hard data on whether high-risk or violent behavior is increasing, studies show the death rate for veterans returning from Vietnam and Operation Desert Storm was higher than for veterans who had not served in either theater.
“We expected it to happen, and it is now happening,” said Steve Robinson, director of government relations for Veterans for America, a program of the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation.
Colorado has seen the following in the past two months:On July 17, after an El Paso County sheriff’s deputy stopped a pursuit that began when he saw two men on motorcycles popping wheelies and screaming up Academy Boulevard at speeds of more than 80 mph, Army Spec. Kelon Jones slammed his Kawasaki into a car. He flew 85 feet and later died. Jones, 20, had served in Iraq with the 43rd Area Support Group.
On Aug. 7, Robert Ziarnick, 25, was accused of shooting at Greenwood Village police and carjacking a 2005 Acura before fleeing to Cherry Creek State Park. Seven months earlier, Ziarnick used a knife to cut the words “kill me” into his abdomen. His wife told police he had served in Iraq and was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Two days later, in Colorado Springs, a police officer found Reisom Markose, 25, dead of an intentional overdose of bupropion, an antidepressant. Markose served in Iraq with the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment and recently had become a U.S. citizen.
More than 1.36 million Department of Defense personnel have served in Iraq or Afghanistan since Sept. 11, 2001. Surveys show that 19 percent to 21 percent of troops who have returned from combat deployments meet criteria for PTSD, depression or anxiety, Army Col. Charles Hoge, chief of psychiatry and behavior services at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, told a House subcommittee last year.
That war veterans may be in need of mental-health help is becoming increasingly clear to law enforcement.
In Massachusetts, Norfolk County District Attorney William Keating developed “Beyond the Yellow Ribbons: PTSD and Veterans,” a training video for first responders. The DVD has been provided to police, fire, probation and court personnel to help them understand when a veteran is having trouble readjusting from the combat zone to the streets and what resources are available in the community.
So far this fiscal year, 156 sailors and Marines have died in off- duty accidents, said Cmdr. Edward Hobbs, a CDC spokesman.
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