SEARCHING FOR ANSWERS
Stories of inadequate care for Iraq veterans at Walter Reed Army Medical Center have been making headlines recently. This is a story about inadequate prevention: Army Specialist Jeffrey Henthorn was 25 when he committed suicide during his second tour in Iraq, shooting himself in the head with an M-16 rifle. Official reports later revealed that Henthorn's superiors knew he was unstable and that he had threatened suicide on at least 2 separate occasions, but was never relieved of duty.
After his death, Jeffrey's parents spent over a year trying to figure out what happened. They received little response from the Army, however, until they went public with their story as part of a newspaper series on mentally ill soldiers being deployed and redeployed to combat in Iraq.
Today, Dick Gordon talks to Jeffrey's parents, Kay and Warren Henthorn about their son's death and why they believe it could have been prevented.
No one has ever explained to us why he wasn't relieved of duty and gotten medical help. And I guess that's part of why we're telling this story, so that these people that are in the chain of command, in a company, in a brigade or whatever, will take notice of these kinds of circumstances and do the right thing.
Jeffrey Henthorn's story is not unique. Army officials, including the Army's top mental health expert, admit there is a significant disparity between the percentage of soldiers experiencing significant mental and emotional distress and those receiving treatment. With the war in Iraq now in its fifth year, this gap is driven in part by troop shortages and a military stretched to its limits.
In part as a result of the Henthorns' willingness to speak out, Congress introduced legislation requiring better screening and treatment of mental health problems among service people.
- Read the award-winning series by Lisa Chedekel and Matthew Kauffman in the Hartford Courant
Regular listeners to the program will know that Dick often asks for stories from listeners. Susan Barber emailed us with her story: dining in a restaurant 3 years ago, eating pizza with her husband, as she had at the same venue two weeks prior. She began to feel itchy, and her throat got sore - food allergies. Susan now travels "self-contained" as she puts it, with her own food. She tells Dick that her sense of smell has intensified now that there are so many food items she can no longer eat. Walking down a street in Manhattan, she says, and catching the scent of restaurants and markets can actually make her feel full.