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« Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet | Main | The Last and Least in Africa »

July 22, 2008

’I suck it up. That’s our job.’

From patient initiative, to military bureaucracy, to civilians and "civil liberties," it doesn't seem anything could have been done for Joseph Dwyer. But hats off to Dionne Knapp and the rest of the "four Musketeers" for their heroic friendship on his behalf. My prayers and thoughts are with Joseph's wife and daughter. God bless them.

From CNN, more of the tragic downward spiral:

When Dionne Knapp learned of her friend's June 28 death, her first reaction was to be angry at Dwyer. How could he leave his wife and daughter like this? Didn't he know he had friends who cared about him, who wanted to help?

But as time passed, Knapp's anger turned toward the government.

A photograph taken in the first days of the war had made the medic from New York's Long Island a symbol of the United States' good intentions in the Middle East. When he returned home, he was hailed as a hero.

But for most of the past five years, the 31-year-old soldier had writhed in a private hell, shooting at imaginary enemies, sleeping in a closet bunker and trying desperately to huff away the "demons" in his head. When his personal problems became public, efforts were made to help him, but nothing seemed to work.

This broken, frightened man had once been the embodiment of American might and compassion. If the military couldn't save him, Knapp thought, what hope was there for the thousands suffering in anonymity. . . .

Returning to the U.S. in June 2003, after 91 days in Iraq, Dwyer seemed a shell to friends.

The 6-foot-1 soldier had dropped to about 165 pounds, causing the other Musketeers to immediately think of post-traumatic stress disorder. Dwyer attributed his skeletal appearance to long days and a diet of MREs (Meals Ready to Eat), and his friends accepted the explanation.

But they soon noticed changes that were more than cosmetic.

At restaurants, Dwyer insisted on sitting with his back to the wall so no one could sneak up on him. He turned down invitations to the movies, saying the theaters were too crowded. The arid landscape around El Paso, and the dark-skinned Hispanic population, reminded him of Iraq.

Dwyer, raised Roman Catholic but never particularly religious before, now would spend lunchtime by himself, poring over his Bible.

When people would teasingly call him "war hero" and ask him to tell about his experiences or about the famous photo, he would steer the conversation toward the others he'd served with. Dwyer once confided that another image, also involving a child, disturbed him.

He was standing next to a soldier during a firefight when a boy rode up on a bicycle and stopped beside a weapon lying in the dirt. Under his breath, the soldier beside Dwyer whispered, "Don't pick it up, kid. Don't pick it up."

The boy reached for the weapon and was blasted off his bike. . . .

On October 6, 2005, Dwyer barricaded himself in his apartment. Imagining Iraqis swarming up the sides and across the roof, he fired his pistol through the door, windows and ceiling. After a three-hour police standoff, Dwyer was admitted for psychiatric treatment.

In a telephone interview later that month from what he called the "nut hut" at Beaumont, Dwyer told Newsday that he'd lied on a post-deployment questionnaire that asked whether he'd been disturbed by what he'd seen and done in Iraq. The reason: A PTSD diagnosis could interfere with his plans to seek a police job. Besides, he said, "I'm a soldier," he said. "I suck it up. That's our job."

Dwyer told the newspaper he was committed to embracing his treatment this time.

In January 2006, Joseph and Matina Dwyer moved back to North Carolina. But his shadow enemy followed him there. . . .

Read more.

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Comments

Rolley Haggard

The irony here, perhaps, is that had Dwyer taken a bullet to the head while in Iraq, everyone would have "understood" his behavior and recognized him as a hero. Not all wounds are physical.

I'm struck that Christ so praised the Good Samaritan because he lavished care on a stranger whose wounded condition, for all he knew, was culpably self-induced. "Love", the apostle said, "believeth all things." (1 Cor 13:7)

I wonder how great is our risk of being chided by Christ for erring on the side of compassion.

War is hell. I, too, salute Spc. Joseph Dwyer as a hero.

CLH

Very well said. Sacrifices by soldiers are not just physical.

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