The Troubled Homecoming of An Iraq War Vet
The man's name is James Blake Miller, and he's from a tiny coal-mining town in Kentucky. During the battle of Fallujah, LA Times photographer Luis Sinco captured a shot of Miller smoking a cigarette and looking very WWII John Wayne--vintage Americana. That photo ran in news outlets all over the planet, and now this young former Marine is an icon. Only problem is, he also suffers mightily from untreated PTSD and might snap at any moment and blow somebody's head off, most likely his own. That's the gist of this new article in Rolling Stone about him, although there have been lots of previous articles about Miller in the same vein, as well. I ran across this quote by Miller a while ago that struck me:
"Some things you can't ever get rid of and you can't ever be cured of. You can't run away from it and you can't hardly deal with it." – James Blake Miller (a.k.a. “The Marlboro Man”), SF Chronicle article
I guess his story moves me because I'm from a pretty small town in Virginia where there are lots of guys like this--both alive and no longer with us. It's up to us to help them better when they return from service, whether we agree with the actual conflict or not (I absolutely do NOT agree with the invasion of Iraq). The military just throws money at them and lets them spend the rest of their lives drifting around out there aimlessly with PTSD as ticking time bombs among us. I think they know it, too, but they don't quite know what to do about it. Learning to seek out help for your mental disability is not exactly in the first chapter of the U.S. Marine training manual.
Here's a poignant paragraph from near the end of the Rolling Stone article by Jenny Eliscu:
Miller receives a monthly benefit of $2,500 in disability payments — compensation not only for his mental injuries but for an array of physical impairments including hearing loss in his right ear, shrapnel scarring and a bacterial infection in his tear ducts. He has no cartilage left in either knee, and the muscles in his feet have calcified from carrying a 200-pound pack on his back in Iraq. "People say, 'You draw money for being fucked up, so what's your problem?'" Miller says. "I'd pay the government three times what they give me to have the sanity I had before."