Salon has an article this past week that's truly horrifying, by a freelance writer named Julia Dahl, about an about-to-be-redeployed vet named Jamie Dean, whose life ended recently in a co-ordinated assault by the police in rural Maryland. James Dean is an American icon -- an actor in films like Rebel without a Cause, who died young, in the 1950s, and has remained to this day a symbol of youthful angst. Jamie Dean, dead at 29, is more likely to be remembered as one of the truly unconscionable casaulties of the current state of veteran care. Jamie was an Army sergeant on reserve, who'd done a tour in Afghanistan, came back apparently with horrors he didn't care to recount, and was being treated by the VA for PTSD, care he himself had sought, with the help of his new wife, Muriel. He'd also been drinking intermittenly heavily. Believe it or not, although he was currently being treated for PTSD, he also received recall orders, putting him back on active status, and ordering him to go to Iraq. That decision proved too much for Jamie to cope with, and after a night of heavy drinking, he barricaded himself in his dad's farmhouse in Maryland, and talked to his sister, while despondent. She got concerned and called the cops. The rest, as they say, is history. The story is well worth reading, because it tells a terrible tale of two parts of the government that strangely do not talk to each other - the Army and the VA - even when the same subject is involved - and also that having PTSD is not in itself reason enough not to be called back to war. Seriously?!!
First, the Maryland senators, Mikulski and Sarbanes, who represent Jamie Dean and his family should sponsor a bill --heck, they could entitle it "Jamie's Bill" -- making it impossible for someone who has active PTSD and is still recovering from their last deployment to be called up for another deployment. The bill could also mandate that the military and veterans affairs both communicate and share information about the same people, too. That seems unbelievably minimal, considering the consequences of not doing so.
Second, police and public safety departments across the country should get training and develop expertise in dealing with PTSD populations during crisis calls. It would seem that there would be more and more need for such training, as more veterans with combat trauma return to civilian life. Surviving Afghanistan or Iraq only to be felled by a bullet from your local cops somehow doesn't seem completely...right. And public servants who are themselves military veterans might need to highlight this need in their communities.