Break Them, Discard Them
"With a military health care system over-stretched by two ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, more soldiers are deciding to go absent without leave (AWOL) in order to find treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Eric Jasinski enlisted in the military in 2005, and deployed to Iraq in October 2006 as an intelligence analyst with the U.S. Army. He collected intelligence in order to put together strike packets – where air strikes would take place.
Upon his return to the U.S. after his tour, Jasinski was suffering from severe PTSD from what he did and saw in Iraq, remorse and guilt for the work he did that he knows contributed to the loss of life in Iraq.
"What I saw and what I did in Iraq caused my PTSD," Jasinski, 23-years-old, told IPS during a phone interview, "Also, I went through a divorce – she left right before I deployed – and my grandmother passed away when I was over there, so it was all super rough on me."
In addition, he lost a friend in Iraq, and another of his friends lost his leg due to a roadside bomb attack.
Upon returning home in December 2007, Jasinski tried to get treatment via the military. He was self-medicating by drinking heavily, and an over- burdened military mental health counselor sent him to see a civilian doctor, who diagnosed him with severe PTSD.
"I went to get help, but I had an 8 hour wait to see one of five doctors. But after several attempts, finally I got a periodic check up and I told that counselor what was happening, and he said they’d help me… but I ended up getting a letter that instructed me to go see a civilian doctor, and she diagnosed me with PTSD," Jasinski explained, "Then, I was taking the medications and they were helping, because I thought I was to get out of the Army in February 2009 when my contract expired."
As the date approached, a problem arose.
"In late 2008 they stop-lossed me, and that pushed me over the edge," Jasinski told IPS, "They were going to send me back to Iraq the next month."
During his pre-deployment processing "they gave me a 90-day supply of meds to get me over to Iraq, and I saw a counselor during that period, and I told him "I don’t know what I’m going to do if I go back to Iraq."
"He asked if I was suicidal," Jasinski explained, "and I said not right now, I’m not planning on going home and blowing my brains out. He said, ‘well, you’re good to go then.’"