A new year, and already another mass shooting. How did we get here again, and so soon?
Just this past summer, five police officers lost their lives during a mass shooting in Dallas, and this month a man opened-fire at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, killing five people and wounding eight more.
While there are multifactorial underlying causes in these tragedies, a closer look reveals a lot of similarities: both the shooters were veterans who struggled with mental stress, potentially PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder).
Dallas shooter Micah Johnson served in the U.S. Army Reserve and expressed a sense of betrayal to his parents after having left the Army. It was not what he had “expected,” according to relatives. His mother said: “the ideal that he thought of our government, what he thought the military represented, it just didn’t live up to his expectations.”
And, as for the U.S. Army Iraq veteran behind the Ft. Lauderdale shooting, Esteban Santiago sought help for his mental problems upon his return from Iraq in 2011, shortly after two of his fellow reservists were killed in a roadside bombing. Yet, despite Santiago’s rambling statement to the FBI in November, he was not placed on any federal “no-fly” lists, and following his brief stint in a psychiatric facility, his gun, which had been taken away after the FBI visit, was returned to him.
What’s the point of all of this?
PTSD has to be dealt with. It’s a mental health problem that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event, such as combat. Due to the varying symptoms of PTSD, treatment is different for everyone. Even still, when our soldiers seek help, it should never be swept under the rug as recovery could take months at minimum and it is apparent that it could mean the difference between life and death.
Another tragic example is ex-Marine sharpshooter Charles Whitman, who several days before fatally shooting 14 people and injuring more than 30 others at the University of Texas at Austin, wrote of his mental state: “I talked with a Doctor for about two hours and tried to convey to him my fears that I felt come [sic] overwhelming violent impulses. After one session I never saw that Doctor again, and since then I have been fighting my mental turmoil alone, and seemingly to no avail.”
Veterans Support Organization has employed many indigent veterans who at one point in their lives struggled with PTSD. We see it as our mission to help veterans especially those suffering from disabilities and mental stress. We give them jobs and the hope that they can get their lives back on track.
To us, it really is an honor to help uplift veterans who have struggled after giving so much of themselves and their families to serving our nation.
For our part, VSO is working to prevent further hopelessness among veterans – and more tragedies.
Story written by Richard VanHouten, founder and CEO of Veterans Support Organization.