From a War Zone to Stateside Nightmare

Achieving Their Goals

Cornyn, Rodriguez and Amanda Henderson all said the mounting pressures of finding recruits for an ongoing war are compounded by the fact that some of the Houston-area assignments are located in rural towns, leaving the soldiers little or no time to seek mental health help either on the road or on assignment.

And the recruiting commands, Rodriguez said, are typically led by men who have no combat service and do not understand how the pressure of moving from one intense situation to another can put a strain on a soldier. The combat veteran recruiters, he said, have a name for them -- the "USAREC mafia."

"We often talked about how we'd rather be in Iraq than recruiting," he said, adding that he jumped at the chance to go back to Iraq for a second tour after about 15 minutes with the Houston Recruiting Battalion.

Smith said that during the 2008 fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, the command's goal for active Army recruits was 80,000 and they achieved 80,517. It was the third year in a row that the goals set for active Army and Army reserves were achieved.

"I fully concur with you that soldiers we assign to recruiting duties must have the full range of support services they need," Geren wrote in his response to Cornyn. "I share your concerns that the remote assignments of recruiters may prevent a recruiter's full access to the Army's mental health services."

But Geren noted that USAREC had reported no evidence that leaders without command experience were ill-equipped to lead those who recently returned from overseas deployments.

'So Many Things to Be Changed'

Andersson's mother said her eldest son should not have felt that he had no other choice than to end his life. And the only way to stop it is to keeping talking about what happened to her son and the men who died before and after him.

"I really don't want anyone to have to go through this. I believe education will be the factor," she said. "The American people always step up to the plate."

Porter said she watched her son become more and more distant and listened to his fears that if he was more vocal about getting help he'd jeopardize the career he'd worked so hard for.

"I think there's so many things to be changed," she said from her home in Oregon. "It's hard to know how to work within [the military] when you're not in it."

Cornyn said he's disappointed the investigation ordered by Geren is internal and not independent, but he's willing to give the military the benefit of the doubt. He's expecting the report after the new Congress convenes in January.

"I don't know what to think yet," he said. "We'll want to see what the product is and whether it's credible before we ask for an outside investigation."

But while Rodriguez is unimpressed by the impending investigation -- "We call it the mafia because nothing ever changes," he said -- Amanda Henderson is optimistic.

Still working out of a recruiting station in Tyler, she's applied for a transfer to finish out her three remaining years in the Army in a different post. She said her 12-year-old son has slept in her bed since her husband died, and both of them are still reeling from the shock.

Her husband, she said, is "going to be my hero for the rest of my life."

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