The Many Faces of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

PTSD Disrupts Family Life for Some Returning Troops

"For the longest time, I held myself responsible," Swain said as he sucks in what seems a gallon of air, "because I had changed her shift; if I hadn't changed her shift, she wouldn't have been in that spot when the mortars came in."

Swain was deployed back to Fort Hood, Texas, and then to Southern Command in Miami. He grew moody and distant from his wife and 8-year-old daughter. Plagued by forgetfulness, he ploughed ahead with work.

Tortured by memories of Samuels, now buried in Arlington National Cemetery, he worked harder to ensure his new troops were safe. But as he labored, he was stricken with the guilt of spending too little time with his family. Once he was home, all he could think about was work.

"A gap developed between me and my wife. It got to the point where I was a scary person, I'd ball up my fists, get red. I was not the same person that she had married, and was not the same father to my daughter."

Trying to Break the Silence Is Key

Victor Montgomery, whose book, "Healing Suicidal Veterans" was published this year, says most troops can't communicate what they're feeling, until there's a crisis.

"Sometimes troops have a hard crust around them. And even when they sit down for a psychological screening after a deployment, they often don't divulge what they're feeling and thinking. They're just trying to suck it up and get on with their lives," Montgomery said.

Healing active duty troops and veterans requires greater awareness and better trained counselors. Montgomery cites a Rand Corporation study that found 75 percent of veterans don't get the type of help they need.

A Vietnam veteran, Montgomery cites a startling fact: it's estimated that as many as 100,000 Vietnam veterans have committed suicide -- nearly twice the number of troops killed during the war.

I asked Swain why an 18-year veteran of the Army, an intelligence analyst with a lot to lose would risk going public with his story. Swain grew silent for a moment, then leaned forward in his metal hospital chair.

"One of my goals, without even realizing it, when I agreed to do this, was to let people know who might be suffering or know someone who is suffering that it's OK to come in and get help."

He paused for a second, then continued. "Because what you have left to live for is the rest of your life."

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