He says he killed a human being on his 27th birthday.
His words are louder than the clatter of customers on this Veterans Day at Panera Bread in Oak Park Mall.
But the 29-year-old Army veteran from Lenexa, with baby-face cheeks and crinkly eyes, tells it so matter-of-factly, so dead on bluntly, it sounds normal.
He was pulling night-time guard duty in Iraq. A bullet whizzed past his head. Through the scope on his M-16, he found the shooter on top of a building nearly a mile away. Watched as the shooter popped his head above the railing and swung up his weapon for another try.
He tells how he saw the man's face long enough that he'll probably see it the rest of his life.
"That's one of the memories I brought back," Hank Eaton says. "But I never told my wife much about it. I didn't want her to get the secondary PTSD from me. This stuff is hard to hear. It can make you crazy."
He's read about post traumatic stress disorder. Tried to prepare for it before he deployed. Sought help for his symptoms after he left the Army. But since the shootings at Fort Hood last week, the worst of his own war experiences are streaming back in crystal-clear images, saddling him with insomnia and depression. Anger. Forgetfulness.
Eaton is not alone. The Fort Hood shootings have plunged untold numbers of other veterans into roiling, rekindling emotions that many thought they had learned how to shut away.
"We've had many, many, many calls," says Thomas Demark, a staff psychiatrist who treats Eaton and others at the VA Medical Center in Kansas City. "These are calls from patients getting treatment. We’ve have several crisis situations."
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