G.I.'s plea: Give troops with PTSD more help

(CBS NEWS) JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. - The American soldier who allegedly shot and killed 16 Afghan civilians served three tours of duty in Iraq before serving in Afghanistan.

Some experts say U.S. troops are being stretched too thin - and it's having an effect.

The suspect in the rampage in Afghanistan was stationed here until a few months ago.

We talked to an active duty soldier here who says he worries that our military men and women are being stretched to their breaking points.

"It will get better and it will get easier, but you won't ever forget faces and things you saw; it becomes part of you," says Specialist Jared Enger.

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He should be in Afghanistan right now, fighting alongside the very soldier suspected of killing 16 Afghan civilians.

"He's in the same brigade I'm in," Enger notes. "He's in a unit I've done work with, so it's very well someone I could have crossed paths with and done some training with."

Enger spent two tours in Iraq - nearly 27 months of combat - during which he saw one of his best friends die right in front of him.

Like hundreds of others here at Joint Base Lewis McChord, Enger was diagnosed with chronic Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

"I'm having nightmares. I'm having flashbacks. I'm really just feeling completely on edge," he said.

And news about how the base is responding to its soldiers' issues has been dismal.

Last month, the head of the base medical center was placed on administrative leave for reversing the diagnoses of nearly 300 soldiers who were told they had PTSD, allegedly to save the military money.

PTSD diagnoses at Lewis-McChord reexamined

Jared was one of them. But his diagnosis has now been reinstated and he's about to be discharged. Yet, he worries about his fellow soldiers, who have endured more than a decade of deployments.

Thirty-four thousand soldiers have been deployed from Lewis McChord, and 20,000 of those have served multiple tours, deployed more than once to Iraq or Afghanistan, according to the base.

"Is two tours too much?" Enger asks. "Is five tours too much? Who's to say? There needs to be a better system in place."

He's particularly upset about this: In the past two years, officials at Lewis McChord said, 26 soldiers at the base have committed suicide.

"Something like that should never happen, and the only way it's not going to happen is with guys getting the help they need," said Enger.

Members of Congress are now looking into how those PTSD issues have been handled here at the base.

As for Jared, he told us that, if he could, he would prefer to be in Afghanistan, because being in a battle zone is now where he feels most normal.

To see Ben Tracy's report, click on the video in the player above.

  • Ben Tracy

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