I was, like many others, shocked to hear of the death of SOC Chris Kyle. Many others, especially those who knew him, are far better suited to write about him. I never had the chance to meet him or his friend Chad Littlefield, who was killed alongside him.

I would like to discuss why I am quite simply dumbfounded as to how this happened, and then I would like to discuss PTSD. This is a difficult article for me to write on a number of levels.

For a veteran of the Iraq war – a Marine veteran, no less – to kill a man he knew had once fought alongside him against a common enemy is unconscionable.

I have never encountered an American military veteran who found justification in (objectively) unjustified violence. I have never encountered someone who I could tell was dealing with problems after a deployment who thought that hurting others who had done nothing to deserve it was a solution. Although veterans are often exceptionally skilled at the application of violence, they do not apply it to every situation with wanton disregard for its effects.

If anything, those fighting a battle against themselves did just that – they only wanted to hurt themselves or punish themselves – to hold themselves accountable for situations over which they had no control.

I don’t deny that people who fall outside these statements exist, only that they are so few in number as to be exceedingly rare.

For me to bring up the fact that the VA told me I had PTSD in conversation with people who have never been in the military is quite uncommon. It is not a point of pride and the greatest frustration comes from dealing with those who haven’t been there. Some pay lip service to veterans out of politeness, some genuinely mean it – but neither group was there with us, and all look at us differently.

I don’t want to be seen differently. I don’t want to be looked at with pity, fear, disgust, or mockery. I have had life experiences, ones that resulted from my choices, as have you. I joined to help people and wasn’t always able to. That’s my problem and not yours. It’s not anything I have ever used as an excuse to lash out at anyone else, verbally or physically.

But it’s easier to put someone with PTSD in the “crazed war veteran” box than it is to put real thought into their character or motivations.

I don’t know why Mr. Kyle and Mr. Littlefield’s killer (ym”sh) did what he did. Maybe we’ll know tomorrow or maybe we’ll never know.

What I do know in my heart is that his actions cannot be reconciled with the simple acronym “PTSD.”

20 thoughts on “PTSD”

  1. Thanks for your service. I never had the honor of serving in the military, but did retire from law enforcement. I was one of many to work the Virginia Tech shooting crime scene and one of few to work many other crime scenes. I too struggled with my own demons and depression. Ultimately, it was retirement that “cured” me, although my doctor said, “I worked for a bunch of assholes”. It did give me insight into mental health and I realize it’s nothing to joke about or take lightly. God bless all who serve.

  2. Have no doubt in your mind, there are many who see war veterans as “potential domestic terrorists,” and will capitalize on this and other tragedies in an attempt to infect others with the same idea. We cannot let that idea take hold, or we risk forever lumping our finest citizens in with felons, the mentally ill, and other “undesirables” in society – something which I can neither stomach nor tolerate.

  3. You are correct, and unconscionable is a very accurate description. This means also that someone else’s actions are/ were at a different level. As a society wherein most of us value one another, value life as a being, we attempt to understand why things happen, especially bad things, by key holing either the action or the person.
    I don’t know you other than what I see from you on Facebook. On the face, our only common thread may be a love for guns and sharing this passion with others. I just received my NRA instructor certification. I never served in the military.
    Just over 6 years ago alcoholism gripped me to the point of death. I spent 2 1/2 weeks in a coma. Learned to read, walk and enjoy life all over again. Haven’t felt the need for a drop of alcohol since. Probably never will. But, I will always believe that I am an alcoholic. Occasionally someone will say someone did something terrible because they are an alcoholic. And, they may be right, but it doesn’t mean all, or even most, alcoholics do awful things. It just makes it easier for our mind to digest.
    This was clearly a sick person who took some beautiful people from us, people trying to help others. Please don’t read any more into the stress syndrome and relate it to yourself, or any of the fine individuals who defends my freedoms. You are all Hero’s to me.
    Just wanted to take time out to say thank you and I’m sorry that your service for me has given you problems.

  4. What many dont understand is that it manifests differently with each individual person. Some shut down and cower in a corner. Others, the fear makes us angry. It is based on what triggers it and how the individual tries to prevent or counteract those triggers. Something else others dont understand is that we don’t want to talk about it when prompted. If I have an issue I go to someone directly. The “experts” on PTSD seem only to understand that it exists, and there’s been enough fakers out there to throw the baselines and treatment off, thus the creation of the “crazed war vet” image that is so prevelant. Honestly I think this guy had it in For Chris Kyle for some reason or another…more along the lines that serial killers kill than a young man damaged by PTSD.

  5. I am not a gun expert and my military opportunity was taken from me. I don’t know the hell of war or what it is like for someone to kill another in defense. But I do know PTSD, I have lived with it for 8 years and it does manifest itself differently for each person. I’m a survivor of extreme abuse from someone I should have been able to trust. I spent 9 years in a situation in which I tried every which way to get out of, from 2 suicide attempts to trying to join the army to escape. I have been away from that for 9 years now and am in a better place now, safe, but still have the flash backs, still jerk when someone moves a hand close to my face, I resign myself to cartoons and comedies only because horror movies and sometimes even ncis brings things to close for me. The nightmares I have are still vibrant today after 9 years free, and I still have a hard time being in a room with the door closed and locked. I have many scars from my experience. Only my doctor and rescuer knows the full extent of what happen to me and alot will still go to my grave unknown. I am telling this because although I have it for different reasons, it is still a horrid illness and a real one. It doesn’t help when people use PTSD for a crutch and blame it for their actions. Vets need more support than they get. I can’t say what this guy was thinking or what was in his mind but more research needs to be done on this condition instead of just cramming antidepressants down their throats and sending them home.I was on antidepressants for 8 years and they didn’t help me at all. I spend my time avoiding my triggers when I can or walking away until I can calm my nerves. I think it is being thrown around to lightly by people who know nothing about it and giving our vets a horrible label they don’t deserve.

    1. You may benefit from this therapy Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. I have a close friend who served as a combat medic in Vietnam and made a career helping those with severe PTSD as a counseling psychologist. This is his primary method of treatment and has hundreds of patients living to potential without pharmaceuticals.

  6. One interesting facet of PTSD that, I believe, applies to most veterans (former EOD here) is that we find comfort being around our comrades/former comrades. A lot of the social separation involves vet vs. non-vet, but we tend to thrive with those who we feel have similar experience, stories, and understanding of that life.

  7. Thank you for writing this Andrew. It needed said. As always, very well written and thought out.

    Good luck in your journey. Mine was a long one (ex-navy, desert storm). It is not about putting it all behind you. It is about learning who you are and accepting the experiences that have molded you into what you are today. You should be very proud of yourself.

  8. Thank you! I have been trying so hard to make since of all of this. I know several people who are back from The Middle East or from serving, it is pretty emotional for everyone. Chris was from around here and it seems like everyone knew him, even if they never met him. I agree, PTSD does not make you a killer. There is something else wrong with this young man and I hope they come to a conclusion very quickly. I do not want PTSD associated with murder. That is not what it is.
    Thank you for your service and thank you for this blog. I enjoy this very much.

  9. A facebook page I like sent me to your blog, and I am glad they did. First, thank you for your service. Although I have never served in the way you have, as a military spouse who’s husband came home from his 2nd deployment a person I didnt know, I know there is not a one size fits all label for ptsd. If you have never done any equine therepy, I strongly recommend it. After the 2 hardest years of almost 25 years of marriage it is what helped us overcome my husbands issues, and I have seen it work for many others.

  10. My biggest fear is that this and in the wake of the Newtown shooting that Vets that need help, but are not crazy, or at any risk of hurting anyone, will hide that they need help because they think they will be denied certain right, be put into a computer somewhere and labeled dangerous.

    Before all this, I know several guys that have told me that they might have PTSD, but they are not pussies about it, and that they just deal with it. Furthermore, they are worried they could not get employment doing a job that requires a gun (for a lot of us, it is the only skill set we are left with after discharge) or even be allowed to own a gun.

    Vets are some of the strongest supporters of the 2nd amendment out there, and the thought of being lumped into the group of people considered to be murders on some kind of a watch list is surely causing a unintended and potentially extremely harmful consequence. “I don’t want to claim PTSD, because I am not that bad off and don’t want to be denied purchasing a firearm”.

    We need to tread very carefully on how we respond as a nation to the actions of a few and make sure there are provisions that allow some distinction between types and severity of mental issues and health. If we don’t everyone that makes these decisions (metal health professionals or government employees) are going to error on the side of covering their asses and liability by stamping everyone “crazy”.

    1. That is very understandable! I was so worried when I took my CHL class because I take Zoloft. And this was before the Sandy Hook shooting. I started taking it because I just couldn’t stop crying when my mother passed away. It is not because I am crazy. But anyone can and would construed it anyway they want. In a perfect world, I would say they surely wouldn’t go after our vets that have PTSD! There are so many of them. But after what happened with Chris Kyle, and them saying Routh had PTSD, will make some people think people with PTSD want to kill people.
      So, since it is not so perfect, I am hoping like hell those that are hiding their PTSD, (with good reason) is getting some underground help, on the side help, or any help at all!
      You couldn’t be more right about being afraid, and out of all of the people in America I want armed, especially in case of tyranny….They would be the Former Armed Forces. Our Vets!!!

  11. Most veterans, the 90% of them, are fantastic people who deserve all the credit they earn. But there is always that 10% (anyone who served in the FMF can tell you) who are just natural sh!tbirds in every way possible. You can’t trust them on base, and not with your life in combat. These pariahs somehow slink through there four years, get out, and reap the same respect the 90% do until they open their mouths for an extended period of time.

    That POS in question is a murderer, non-combat related. The only PTSD he suffered from was being constantly reminded of his less than average human qualities/worth, which can only be magnified when surrounded by examplary men of grit and fortitude.

  12. You know what really induces PTSD? Your high school teachers doing a Harlem shake. That’s about as bad as I imagine WWI to have been.

    1. Vincent,
      Please think about what you said. Equating WWI to a dance is really downplaying what the soldiers and people of WWI had to endure and lacks respect! I know you were just trying to say how bad your teachers doing the Harlem Shake is but you might want to find something other than war to compare it to.

  13. I was never in the military although i come from a line of military members. I have a congenital lower back disease which prevents me from many things including joining the marines when i turned 18. I was disapointed to not follow in my fathers footsteps and tried several times to join but was denied both times. With this said i just wanted to add that i have thee utmost respect for all military members past and present. The service and sacrifice you guys have made means the world to me and i understand the importance of what ya’ll do on a daily basis whether be in the middle of a battlefield or running intelligence from an operating base. Although i do not know how it feels to go through what you guys did and how it has affected you guys, just wanna say i wish you all the best and hope the pain of combat subsides and your minds will eventually be at ease. Thank you guys for all that you’ve done for this country, it means a lot to my family and I. God bless America, the troops, and our 2nd Amendment. Thanks again.

  14. Your blog is fantastic and you are a gifted writer.

    I thought it important to clarify some points about PTSD. PTSD (formerly known as battle fatigue, shell shock, etc..) is a formal diagnosis by a licensed medical professional, NOT a label. It became a formalized diagnosis in 1980.
    PTSD is not a specific to combat veterans. Victims of crime, rape or other traumatic episodes suffer from PTSD.
    In order to be diagnosed, or labeled as you referred to it, one would have to explain in detail the physical and mental symptoms they are experiencing to their healthcare provider. If you have discussed these symptoms with your healthcare provider it is obviously a problem that is adversely affecting your life.
    PTSD is real. Brain scans of PTSD sufferers show changes in the shape of areas of the brain related to memory and emotion.
    Your concern of whether or not someone has been in combat, to make the diagnosis is not a statement I would expect from you. Its completely irrelevant whether or not a physician or counselor has been in combat to make a diagnosis or help sufferers of PTSD. Why? because symptoms are symptoms and they exercise extreme empathy, not sympathy, in their treatment.
    It was only a few years ago the VA did not recognize or treat PTSD. All Vets, myself included, should give thanks to the veteran’s advocacy groups who fought to have this recognized by the Government.
    Attempting to tough out PTSD is like toughing out cancer. You may live, but you will be far from potential.
    For those of you who even think you suffer from PTSD a little, don’t seek treatment for you, seek treatment for the sake of your loved ones and friends to help preserve and build healthy relationships.
    Last, your blog and videos are truly brilliant and no other entity comes close to what you have produced. Thank you for allowing me to post on this malignant and under recognized disease process.

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