Commentary: System fails a wounded warrior

The Anchorage Daily NewsSeptember 21, 2009 

Soldier John Mayo came home from the war in Iraq mentally ill with post-traumatic stress disorder, and was heavily medicated with sleeping pills, anti-anxiety drugs and antidepressants. He's had nightmares, panic attacks, erratic and explosive behavior on the phone to his wife. He tenses up while driving, is set off by normal events like someone coming up behind him, or noises. He sometimes doesn't remember what's happened to him. He once cut his arms, thinking his family would be better off with him dead.

In that terribly mixed-up mental state, he got caught shoplifting from the Elmendorf Base Exchange.

He doesn't even remember doing it.

But he took a plea bargain, got a less-than-honorable discharge and lost his military medical benefits. He has been dumped onto the street, with no treatment for the mental wounds he suffered while serving in Iraq.

That's not right. Mayo got PTSD while in service to his country — harrowing duty in which he saw soldiers shot and blown up, and faced death himself working on convoys carrying supplies and prisoners. The country should help him get back to health.

The punishment — loss of his job, his home, his military health coverage, possibly all of his benefits as a veteran — is out of proportion to the crime.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Anchorage Daily News.

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