Casualties From the Battle Over PTSD
Pvt. Jacob Burgoyne was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and ordered to a psychiatric facility, but the Army sent him home instead. Shortly thereafter, Burgoyne stabbed a fellow soldier 32 times and set his body aflame because, he said, “that’s how we disposed of bodies in Iraq.”
After months of investigation, reporter Mark Boal, who wrote about the above story in Playboy magazine, discovered that doctors are under pressure to limit mental health diagnoses and treatment in order to satisfy political, budgetary and manpower concerns.
As it turns out, Burgoyne had not been evacuated to Germany as Koroll had ordered. According to Koroll, a colonel in Burgoyne’s command pressured the hospital to allow Burgoyne to return to America with his unit, the Third Infantry Division, which was to be one of the first units lionized for its heroism in leading the fight north to Baghdad. “He’s a hero. He should be with his men” is how Koroll remembers the explanation coming down to him. After he returned to Georgia, Burgoyne, according to his mother, spent a few minutes in an Army hospital, spoke briefly to an Army psychiatrist and then was released from medical supervision. Exactly two days later Burgoyne attacked a fellow soldier in the woods near Fort Benning, Georgia, killing him with 32 stab wounds from a three-inch blade and then burning his body with lighter fluid, because, as he explained at his subsequent murder trial, “that’s how we disposed of bodies in Iraq.”
“Basically they told him to go out and have a few beers and he’d feel better,” says Koroll. “Well, that’s what he did. But he didn’t feel better, apparently, because he stabbed someone to death.” Standing up as he makes his point, he adds, “It’s just a disgrace. The military failed.”
Koroll is a big guy, six-foot-four, easily over 250 pounds, with a large head and a strong, jutting jaw. He was a linebacker in high school on a championship team, and with the weight he’s put on since then, he looks as if he’d be even harder to push around now.
“That guy Burgoyne had a textbook case of PTSD, and he was supposed to go to the hospital,” he says over his shoulder. “I signed the evac order with my own hand. What the hell happened?”
Koroll couldn’t have known it at the time, but while he was in Kuwait, PTSD had become a political football, a surrogate in the larger debate over the Iraqi conflict. The powers that be in the Department of Defense were waging a quiet war against the very concept of PTSD.
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