It started out a fairly typical local crime story. There was a car-jacking at the Grand Canyon. Later it was learned that this was on the heels of an apparent failed suicide attempt by driving into the Canyon. Two days and a cross state police chase later two men were dead.
Then the human side of the tragedy came out. It was collateral damage from the war in Iraq. Former Marine Staff Sergeant Travis N. “T-Bo” Twiggs was one of the dead. Shaun Mullen at Kiko’s House (http://kikoshouse.blogspot.com/) has the details:
Twiggs went AWOL from his job at a Marine Corps laboratory in Quantico, Virginia.
He and his beloved brother, Willard, 38, drove to the Grand Canyon, where their car was found hung up in a tree in what appeared to be a failed attempt to drive into the chasm.
The brothers then carjacked a vehicle. They ended up several hundred miles away at a southwestern Arizona border checkpoint on May 14 and took off when they were asked to pull into an inspection area. Eighty miles later, the car was sighted on the Tohono O’odham Native American reservation, its tires wrecked by spike strips.
As tribal police and Border Patrol agents closed in, Twiggs apparently fatally shot his brother and then killed himself.
His PTSD was diagnosed, but not effectively treated. He had even met with shrub on behalf of veterans:
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Last month, Marine Staff Sgt. Travis N. “T-Bo” Twiggs went to the White House with a group of Iraq war veterans called the Wounded Warriors Regiment and met the president.
Twiggs had been through four tours in Iraq, one in Afghanistan and months of therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder in which he said he was on up to 12 different medications.
“He said, `Sir, I’ve served over there many times, and I would serve for you any time,’ and he grabbed the president and gave him a big hug,” said Kellee Twiggs, his widow.
Making the case even more tragic is that Sgt. Twiggs was trying to get treatment, but the system is inadequate.
“All this violent behavior, him killing his brother, that was not my husband. If the PTSD would have been handled in a correct manner, none of this would have happened,” she said in a telephone interview from Stafford, Va.
Travis Twiggs, who enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1993 and held the combat action ribbon, wrote about his efforts to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder in the January issue of the Marine Corps Gazette.
The symptoms would disappear when he began each tour, he said, but came back stronger than ever when he came home.
He wrote that his life began to “spiral downward” after the tour in which two Marines from his platoon died.
“I cannot describe what a leader feels when he does not bring everyone home,” he wrote. “To make matters even worse, I arrived at the welcome home site only to find that those two Marines’ families were waiting to greet me as well. I remember thinking, ‘Why are they here?'”
Weeks later, Twiggs “saw a physician’s assistant who said that was the severest case of PTSD she’d seen in her life,” his widow said.
He began receiving treatment, but the Marine wrote that he mixed his medications with alcohol and that his symptoms didn’t go away until he started his final tour in Iraq.
When he came home, “All of my symptoms were back, and now I was in the process of destroying my family,” he wrote. “My only regrets are how I let my command down after they had put so much trust in me and how I let my family down by pushing them away.”
Kellee Twiggs said her husband was “very, very different, angry, agitated, isolated and so forth,” upon his return. “He was just doing crazy things.”
She said her husband was treated in the psychiatric ward of Bethesda Naval Medical Center and then sent to a Veterans Administration facility for four months.
Most recently, Travis Twiggs was assigned to the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory at Quantico, a job he said helped him “get my life back on track.”
“Every day is a better day now,” he wrote in the Marine Corps Gazette. “…Looking back, I don’t believe anyone is to blame for my craziness, but I do think we can do better.”
Twiggs urged others suffering from similar problems to seek help. “PTSD is not a weakness. It is a normal reaction to a very violent situation,” he wrote.
Kellee Twiggs said she can’t understand why her husband was not sent to a specialized PTSD clinic in New Jersey.
“They let him out. He was OK for a while and then it all started over again,” she said.
This is only one of many tragedies resulting from shrub’s Iraq disaster, but one that is growing rapidly. We have more soldiers coming home in need of treatment, but the system is woefully unprepared to meet their needs. Shaun ends his post with a call for volunteers:
If you are not in denial and have some time to spare, there are opportunities to help
returning and troubled veterans at your local VA hospital or military base, or through church and community organizations.
These opportunities include helping fill out paperwork, finding lost forms, acting as a driver for doctors’ appointments, and just visiting and listening. Connecting with the right people can be a multi-layered process, so be patient. A good start is to ask for Volunteer Services.
While I support Shaun’s call for public help, I strongly believe that it is the Federal Governments responsibility to provide proper treatment to those who’ve served. It’s going to be expensive, but Congress needs to fund PTSD treatment at an unprecedented level. Shrub’s misguided war is creating new victims every day. We, as a civilized society, need to help these people in order to prevent future tragedies.