Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Flags are fluttering at half-staff across Killeen, Texas, after yesterday's shooting at Fort Hood. This is a city that's all too familiar with spasms of extreme gun violence: a shooting rampage at Luby's Cafeteria in 1991 that left 23 dead.

When Michael Hartnett was getting kicked out of the U.S. Marine Corps, he was too deep into post-traumatic stress disorder, drugs and alcohol to care as his battalion commander explained to the young man that his career was ending, and ending badly.

"Do you understand what I'm saying to you, son? It's going to be six and a kick," Hartnett recalls the commander telling him.

The "six" was an expected six months of hard labor in the brig. The kick happened at Hartnett's court-martial, and finally woke him up out of the haze.

Eric Highfill spent five years in the Navy, fixing airplanes for special operations forces. His discharge papers show an Iraq campaign medal and an Afghanistan campaign medal, a good-conduct medal, and that he's a marksman with a pistol and sharpshooter with a rifle.

None of that matters, because at the bottom of the page it reads "Discharged: under other than honorable conditions."

Colorado Springs Gazette

Last spring, the Colorado Springs Gazette investigated the connection between war wounds, military misconduct and other-than-honorable or bad conduct discharges. Now Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet wants to officially study the topic.

If you're having chest pain, your doctor can test you for a heart attack. If you're having hip pain, your doctor could test for osteoarthritis.

But what if you're depressed? Or anxious? Currently there are no physical tests for most disorders that affect the mind. Lab tests like these could transform the field of mental illness. So far efforts to come up with biomarkers for common mental health disorders have proved largely fruitless.

A person having a stroke may not be in a war zone, but his or her life is in danger all the same. That's enough to trigger post-traumatic stress disorder in some stroke survivors, researchers say, with symptoms like panic attacks, nightmares and flashes of anger.

Suicide killed more American troops last year than combat in Afghanistan, and that is likely to be the case again this year.

According to the Pentagon, there were at least 349 confirmed suicides in 2012, compared with 310 U.S. combat deaths in Afghanistan in the same period.

Last year, more U.S. service members took their own lives than died in combat. And despite the drawdown of troops from Afghanistan, the pullout in Iraq, and hundreds of new programs designed to help troubled servicemen and women, the number of suicides continues to rise.

Lanny Martinson was a 23-year-old Marine sergeant in Vietnam when he last held his dog tags. In the 45 years since, he thought they were gone forever, lost in the mad rush to save his life after he and other Marines walked into a minefield.

He'll soon be getting one of those dog tags back, after a network of people worked together to find the tag's owner. When they contacted him, Martinson was just at the point of filing papers to request new dog tags, all these years later.

When he was in Vietnam, Isaac Oxereok's small build made him ideal for tunnel-ratting: running with a pistol and a flashlight into underground passages built by the Viet Cong. In 1967 he finished his tour with the Army and returned home to Wales, Alaska. Oxereok knew he wasn't quite right, but there wasn't anyone around to tell him how to get help.

"Post-traumatic syndrome?" he said. "I went through that I guess, mostly on my own. Some wounds never really show. So inside was kind of messed up."

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