Local News

Airman Says Stress Disorder Cost Him His Job

Posted July 20, 2007

— When service members come home, the physical battle can become a mental one.

The Army says up to 25 percent of soldiers who return from Iraq show signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – and that's just one branch of the military.

Many of those troops are reluctant to ask for help. One former airman did, but he said that started a chain reaction that eventually cost him his job.

“It’s almost like I was never in the military at all, except for memories,” said Air Force Staff Sgt. Damon Wood.

It's the memories that haunt Wood. After two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan during almost nine years in the Air Force, he said he'll never be the same.

“I came back messed up this time,” he said.

Wood said he watched a roadside bomb explode right in front of him and that he saw many other horrors. For years, he kept quiet about how the war was affecting him. But when he finally asked for help, Wood said it cost him his career.

“If you go to mental health, you lose your weapon. You lose your job,” he said.

Wood admits he made mistakes. Anxiety, hyper-vigilance and almost no sleep led to drinking. He was charged twice in two months with driving under the influence, he said. Instead of fighting to get him back on the job, Wood said, his commander fought to kick him out of the Air Force.

“What I was called by the commander is a disease in his squadron,” he said.

Wood is not alone. Two other members of his squadron told WRAL they suffer from PTSD and are not getting the help they need. One of them is also in the process of being discharged.

A spokesperson for Seymour-Johnson Air Force Base wouldn't talk about this case, but said mental health experts on base do everything they can for airmen with PTSD.

Wood said, however, that too many veterans are thrown away because they can no longer fight in Iraq.

“They’re not looking after troops. We’re just numbers,” he said. “It I had come back from there missing an arm or leg, and then got in trouble or something like that, I’d probably still be treated as a hero.”

A local attorney who specializes in military law said most veterans with PTSD do get into trouble with substance abuse soon after they return from war. Once diagnosed, he said, their biggest challenge is keeping their retirement and medical benefits.

9 Comments

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  • NCMOMof3 Jul 22, 2007

    ladyblue, I'm so sorry for you and your husband and I know they are trying to make things better but the military and the public still has a very long long way to go. It breaks my heart for our men and women to give up so much to come home and continue to suffer. It's never an easy road for service members or their families even though it is/was our choice

  • ladyblue Jul 21, 2007

    I am showing no criticism to soldiers who fight even though mine blew himself away in one of his episodes. I'm saying back then during Vietnam they didn't recognize asian orange damage nor PTSD. After a year of jungle warfare being a tunnel rat, being shut up alive in a tunnel with dead people my husband couldn't get any acknowledgment of mental counseling because they didn't think it existed. Today the military does acknowledge help, but I see they aren't any different in taking care of their troopers as in the 60-70's.

  • BOHICA Jul 21, 2007

    Every man and woman that has served in a war should no doubt get all the help they need. They have given their time for us and put their life in harms way who are we to say they should be helped when they are in need. Thanks to all they have done and are continually doing for us to keep our country safe. Our prayers go out to them all.

  • NCMOMof3 Jul 21, 2007

    what's so sad is even after our service men and women get out, they will have trouble in the civilian sector. My husband served for 13 years on active duty. He also suffers from PTSD and is fighting right now to keep his job, with the state. He is out of work at this time, with no pay, while they decide if his PTSD adversely affects his job performance due to one incident in 8 years. Thanks for serving your country. Our men and women need our thanks and our support. Not our criticism

  • krankyroo Jul 20, 2007

    So this is how we treat the men and women that are fighting for us??!! I know it's nothing new, however, the veterans need to be getting the good quality healthcare (mental and physical) for as long as they need it.

  • parawife Jul 20, 2007

    Every soldier who has served during war time deserves all the help they need as long as they need it without exception.They have earned that and then some.

  • ladyblue Jul 20, 2007

    I'm sorry Mr Wood but you knew when you signed up the possibility of war would be out there. I am sorry you did not have the stamina to take what you witnessed but think of the soldiers out there day in and day out going back on one tour after another. They see what you saw for several hours all day long. Think of others. My husband was in the VietNam war. He went though the devil over there for a year tour of duty. His post traumatic stress wasn't even recognized so he got no help and was kicked out of army with an undesirable after putting in all but 30 days of his three year duty time. The sadness is he killed him self while on one of his flash backs. So you go on and get your help. I'm sure they will let you out on an honorable discharge, not like they did in the old days. They felt if you couldn't handle the stress you were discharged without honor. The day of his death he mentioned he couldn't even get a seeing eye dog or medical care from the country he'd served for 3 year

  • dryhumper Jul 20, 2007

    Instead of using war money we should end the war and give these guys the respect they deserve.

  • grenlyn1 Jul 20, 2007

    Isn't this the same thing we did during the Vietnam War? Our men and women were dispensible? Now they live with addictions and homeless among our society with no government help. Do we not learn from the past? Haven't we risen above our own mistakes? Apparently not. God Bless our military not only for the sacrifices they have endured while serving our country but for the sacrifices that lie ahead for them. Put some of this war money into their health and well being. We owe them that much! If not more.