Who Will Get PTSD? Researchers are trying to predict who will be afflicted. But how we should use that information?
If the day was pleasant, and even when it wasn’t, the two boys would march themselves into the forest, in the shadow of the Black Hills in South Dakota, and hunt. They were no more than 8 at the time, so they took BB guns—all their parents allowed them—and looked for small game, squirrels mostly. The challenge of it turned the boys, Brian Baldwin and his cousin Chuck, into sportsmen, and then best friends.
After high school, Chuck went off to Vietnam as a helicopter gunner. Brian started college and joined the ROTC on campus. By the time he got his commission and completed flight school—to be a Medevac pilot—the war was almost over.
Nevertheless, Brian’s military career took off: He found that he loved the officer’s life. Chuck, though, struggled. He came home from the war quick to anger, and drank too much, moved around a lot, and watched his marriage dissolve. When Brian saw him around the holidays, Chuck would want to talk about the war. Brian always switched the subject.
One night in the 1980s in his home in Rapid City, S.D., Chuck drank too much again. Only this time, before he passed out, he pointed a gun at himself. When he pulled the trigger, he left behind a second wife and a young son—just a few years removed from his first hunting trip.
Soon, “post-traumatic stress disorder” entered the public lexicon. What haunted Brian were the signs he missed. He wished he’d pulled more bottles away from Chuck or talked with him when he wanted to discuss the war: Chuck was isolated back in South Dakota, Brian realized, with no one around him who knew the military, the images he’d seen.