Sergeant carried his secret anguish home

From the Leaf-Chronicle

by Philip Grey

CLARKSVILLE, TENN. — Sgt. Justin Junkin came home from Afghanistan to his wife and infant daughter in May 2011, carrying his weapon, his gear and a bomb inside his head.

The secret that he brought back was as carefully concealed as any improvised explosive device in Kandahar Province, where Junkin served as a team leader with B Battery, 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 101st Airborne Division.

Not only was the secret concealed from family and friends, it may well have been concealed from Justin himself, buried deep in his subconscious, waiting for him to find its trip-wire.

He stumbled across that wire in September 2011. In a surrealistically short space of time, he went from being a seemingly whole and well-adjusted soldier and family man to a statistic in the Army’s deadly homefront war on soldier suicide.

Retired Lt. Gen. Hugh Smith, who serves on the board of NotAlone, a national nonprofit that deals with military post-traumatic stress and suicide issues, is familiar with the case and has himself spoken with Sgt. Junkin’s wife, Heather.

After reading the Army documentation, Smith said he was “trembling with anger,” and added, “This is a tragedy that should never have happened.”

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