Every time I hear news of a veteran struggling with PTSD, it brings about a certain kind of sadness. These men and women, for all they have done, for all they have seen, are almost trapped inside their own heads with these repeated thoughts of the tragedies they have witnessed and the fears they have faced. When I hear the sensationalized stories that stereotype the “crazed PTSD veteran,” I tend to shake my head, because that is the exception, not the norm.
That has always been my thought when hearing stories about a veteran with this troubling illness. That is, until I heard the news of the tragic death of ex-Navy SEAL, Chris Kyle. Chris was known as the most lethal sniper in the Armed Forces. He served 4 tours in Iraq, fighting in every major battle during Operation Iraqi Freedom. He had 150-plus confirmed sniper kills of insurgents in Iraq. He was so feared by the enemy that they actually put a bounty on Chris’s head.
That bounty was never fulfilled.
Instead, it was a different kind of enemy that took the life of Chris Kyle.
Eddie Ray Routh, a fellow veteran of Kyle, was reportedly having a difficult time coping with PTSD. Kyle and his close friend, Chad Littlefield, decided to help Routh overcome this illness, so they took him to the gun range. Through companionship of a fellow veteran and some recreational rehabilitation, they wanted do all they could for a man who had seen the face of combat, just like Chris.
Routh turned the gun and shot Chris Kyle and Chad Littlefield.
Anger is not an appropriate response to this tragedy. Sadness, mourning, and a heavy heart are warranted, but anger cannot be justified. Though we do not know the mental status of Eddie Ray Routh or the exact events of that day, what we do know is that PTSD is real and it can be all too powerful for some.
If this tragedy is, in fact, a result of Routh’s mental illness, this story should not create a firestorm of public fear of the perception of the “crazed veteran.” It should also not be used as an opportunity to make the Department of Veterans Affairs a scapegoat. What it should be is an open forum and a public debate to address what needs to be done for these veterans who are struggling.
What is truly the most regrettable fact about some veterans coping with such an illness is something that I do not believe has been discussed as thoroughly as it should be. I believe that there is a significant portion of veterans coping with mental struggles who do not seek the help they need. Many try to deal with it on their own. Many cannot. Others lose control through no fault of their own.
Chris Kyle understood the pain of fellow veterans like Routh. He made a stance to do something about it. He was committed to the cause of helping veterans. He had a nonprofit group, FITCO Cares, which gave at-home fitness equipment to disabled veterans. Kyle also had his own security training company, Craft International. Despite the time constraints of his business, his best-selling book and his own family, he still took the time to help out one single veteran in need.
Tragic? Yes. Scary? Certainly. But no matter how heartbreaking an incident like this may be, it is so important to remember that veterans like Eddie Ray Routh are the exception, not the norm.
DVNF is mourning the loss of Chris Kyle, as are many others around the country. This true American Hero was an upstanding individual with a good heart. He will forever be known as a man of integrity and honor.
May he rest in peace.