Cumberland Times-News

April 3, 2014

Fort Hood

What makes it happen, we don’t know


Cumberland Times-News

— A TV show we watched not long ago told the

story of a decorated war veteran, a one-time

hero who had fallen on hard times. Troubled and

unable to succeed in life, he became an alcoholic

and alienated his family and friends.

Ultimately, something snapped. He reverted to

the day he was by himself in a building, holding

off the enemy in the hope that reinforcements

would come. Women were in the building, and he

hurried them out of the place as he once did

when he was a soldier, and shot every man who

came near. They were

the enemy. Ultimately,

he was killed by

police officers who

tried everything they

could think of to

bring him back to the

present day.

This was a rerun of

“Naked City” that starred Jack Warden as the

veteran, and it first aired in 1962.

How prophetic, considering that we have at last

become fully aware of what the horrors of combat

can do to men and women who were brought

up in a civilized society like ours, which places

the ultimate value on human life.

For most of America’’s history, our veterans kept

their darkest nightmares to themselves. But then,

we began to see what was happening to our Vietnam

Veterans, who also had to take the lives of

their enemies, saw their buddies maimed and

killed, and may themselves have been wounded

— often mentally, deep inside, in places where

nobody else can see. The number of Vietnam Veterans

who have commited suicide exceeds the

58,000-plus who died as a result of combat.

We now know it as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Margaret “Peggy” Melotti, who once ran the

Re-Entry veterans’ clinic in Cumberland — and is

regarded as a hero by many veterans — helped to

develop and write the protocol for treating PTSD.

This week, an Iraq War veteran who was being

treated for mental illness killed three people and

wounded 16 others before committing suicide at

Fort Hood, the site of a previous deadly mass

shooting. Why he did it, we may never understand.

The human mind — not space — is the final

frontier. What provokes actions like those which

resulted in this latest tragedy, we cannot say. We

continue to hunt for answers, but they are elusive.

Most veterans come home and are able to

resume a more-or-less normal life, even if the

demons are still present to some degree.

We must devote whatever efforts are necessary

to helping those who aren’t as fortunate. Considering

what they’ve done for us, they deserve it.