Iraq, Afghanistan War Veterans Struggle With Combat Trauma
Before her life fell apart, before suicide began to sound like sweet release, Natasha Young was a tough and spirited and proud Marine.
Straight off the hardscrabble streets of Lawrence, Mass., a ruined mill town ravaged by poverty and drugs, she loved the Marine Corps’ discipline, the hard work, the camaraderie, the honor of service to her country.
She went to war twice, the last time five years ago in western Iraq with a close-knit team of Marines who disabled IEDs, roadside bombs. It was nonstop work, dangerous, highly stressful and exhausting. Six of the Marines were killed in bomb blasts, each death a staggering gut-punch to the others. After they returned home the commander took his own life. Staff Sgt. Young broke down, too, spent physically, emotionally and mentally. Eventually, she was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and, last October, was medically discharged from the Corps.
Having been a strong warrior, now she simply couldn’t function. “I was ashamed of myself,” she says in a whisper at her home in Haverhill, Mass.
Young is one of a generation of 2.4 million Americans who fought in Iraq or Afghanistan, many of whom are coming back profoundly changed by what combat veteran and author Karl Marlantes described as the “soul-battering experience” of war.