April 21, 2008 – The lawsuit, filed by two non-profit agencies representing military veterans, comes in the midst of a recent study that finds one in five U.S. soldiers currently suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
It’s an illness, which until the early 80’s, didn’t get much attention, but affects thousands; especially veterans.
And for one Fresno man, it nearly cost him his life.
Jim Doyle was just 19 when he set off to fight in the Vietnam War.
“I lost a lot of good buddies in Vietnam, had one of them die in my arms, watched people get blown up and lose limbs,” Doyle said.
He came home in 1970. But his life was anything but the way he left it.
“Went on for almost 20 years, having problems with drinking, abusing alcohol and relationships were tenuous at best,” Doyle said.
It wasn’t until the early 90’s when images from the first Iraq War infiltrated TV that Doyle’s disease raged out of control.
“It really affected me dramatically because I could see the body bags and I could smell the smell of death again,” he said.
“Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can come upon in the throws of combat or even years after,” Carolyn Hughes with the Veterans Hospital, said.
It’s common for thousands of veterans, feelings of depression, suicide, anger and isolation often a direct result of war.
“Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is real. It’s not phony. It’s not people looking for an easy way out,” Doyle said.
Hughes says they make every attempt to treat veterans with PTSD and their families.
“As soon as a veteran is in the system, the doors are open for services and support,” Hughes said.
“There’s no support system for them when they come home,” Doyle said.
And he adds that more needs to be done.
“Everyone needs to be educated on this and I think the lawsuit will force the issue more into the public eye,” he said.
Nearly 40 years after coming home from war, Jim Doyle is still adjusting. He’s been married for 32 years and raised a son.
“But it’s difficult. There are still moments when I just go tapioca,” he said.
Experts say that’s normal and although people like Jim will never forget the war, it is possible to move on.
VA officials say they have several programs available for veterans and all someone has to do is contact them for more information.
The program for PTSD typically involves psychotherapy, medication and social intervention and lasts about 60 days.
You can contact the local Vet Center at 559-487-5660 or it’s located at 3636 N. First Street in Fresno.