Iraq veteran raps to treat his PTSD

Sgt. Leo Dunson poses for a photo at his apartment, April 26, 2012, in Las Vegas. Dunson is trying to turn his PTSD from serving in Iraq into a rap career. The Las Vegas college student has self-published several albums with songs like
AP Photo/Julie Jacobson
Sgt. Leo Dunson poses for a photo at his apartment, April 26, 2012, in Las Vegas.
AP Photo/Julie Jacobson

(CBS/AP) On one of the many days Leo Dunson wanted to die, the Iraq veteran put a gun to his temple and pulled the trigger. The loaded weapon misfired.

For the troubled former soldier, it was another inexplicable failure, like his divorce or inability to make friends after returning from the war.

In a Las Vegas recording studio, Dunson rapped about his life: "What's wrong with me? Got PTSD. These pills ain't working, man, I still can't think."

Dunson, who was discharged from the Army in 2008 and diagnosed by the military with PTSD, uses his music to examine his disappointment with veteran life. It is the only thing keeping him alive, he said.

The use of music to heal war wounds is part of an emerging field of alternative treatment being embraced by military officials eager to help veterans suffering from PTSD.

The 26-year-old Dunson's self-treatment is violent images and words, the gritty marriage of a genre born in low-income, black neighborhoods and the horrors of a foreign war.

He made five albums in four years, all focused on his training and service as an infantryman. Thousands of fans follow him on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, where he posts his songs.

Dunson said he hopes his music helps other veterans confront their PTSD, even as he struggles with it himself.

"Music has always been my therapy," he said.