11-18: Tragedy in Vermont

[I consult and consider many sources in search of appropriate subject matter for this blog. Often I find material that is best left (mostly) untouched by me, e.g., today’s piece. This article appeared on the Democracy Now website last week.]

This story contains a nightmare scenario that Veterans with PTSD and the mental health professionals who treat them fear. Although an exception to the actions of the majority of PTSD victims, it nonetheless happened.

Vermont: 5 High School Students Killed after Iraq War Vet Drives into Car on I-89

In Vermont, five high school students have died after a motorist driving the wrong way down Interstate 89 slammed into the teenagers’ car, which burst into flames. He then stole a police car after the officer stopped to try to put out the fire. He then drove away, turned around and raced back, smashing into more cars that had stopped to help the students in the car crash. The driver … [I have chosen to omit his name, as I see no benefit to including it] is a U.S. military veteran who served in Iraq. Authorities say he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD, and that he’d gone to the emergency room the morning before the crash seeking help, but that he was not screened by a mental health clinician.

I do not doubt that this tragedy happened as reported. I find it imperative to say, however, that this veteran’s experience does not mirror my own experiences with the VA which have been excellent.

The story continues …

His ex-girlfriend took out a restraining order against him after a domestic violence incident in May. She says he’s threatened to kill her by driving them into a pond. She has won full custody of their toddler. Authorities say [he] … is still unconscious and in critical condition after the crash….

This man obviously had long-standing mental health issues as well as legal ones as evidenced in the restraining order the mother of his child was compelled to take out against him. Which “system” failed most: the legal system or the VA? Does it matter? Yes!

It matters.

It matters that we as a society have lost five innocent teens. It matters that a deeply disturbed and violent man was not in some “system’s” custody, where clearly he belonged. It matters that this man’s actions will taint the opinion of some that (all) PTSD victims are to be avoided, shunned, or feared.


The illustration at the blog’s top is the Combat Infantryman’s Badge. The blogger is a Vietnam Veteran, 1966-67. He is an author and past state chaplain for a major veterans organization. He welcomes comments on posts and encourages readers to subscribe to PTSDOutreach.com; two points: 1) it is free, 2) posts appear directly in your e-mail in-box.

2 thoughts on “11-18: Tragedy in Vermont”

  1. I feel that the US failed this soldier by not having appropriate care in place before he and other soldiers returned from war.

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