Lance Cpl. Roel Ryan Briones says he is tormented by two memories of Nov. 19, 2005, in Haditha, Iraq.
The first is of the body of his best friend and fellow Marine blown apart just after dawn by a roadside bomb. The second is of the lifeless form of a small Iraqi girl, one of two dozen unarmed civilians allegedly killed by members of his Camp Pendleton unit Ã¢â‚¬â€ Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division.
He’s at home now, suffering from PTSD, says he was not one of those being investigated., helped in the cleanup and took photos with his cell camera.
When he came back he said he dropped his Olympus 3.2 megapixel camera by the unmanned Sparta base command operations center. When he returned a few hours later he said it looked like the camera had been moved so he assumed someone had downloaded the pictures and he erased them all.
But whether the photos ever reached authorities, who also have pictures from an intelligence investigation team and another source, is not clear.
I find that part odd. The camera contained evidence. Yet there was no check-in procedure for it, and he just assumed the photos had been downloaded and took the camera back?
What happened at Haditha, friends and family say, made him crazy, and 36 hours after returning home, he stole a truck, crashed it drunk, left the scene, resisted arrest, and is now out on $35,000 bail.
[His mother] said she is angry at what she described as the Marines’ failure to adequately “decompress” him and other Marines when they come home from combat. She said she was writing a book to help other families avoid what she and her son are going through.
“I used to be one of those Marines who said that post-traumatic stress is a bunch of bull,” said Ryan Briones, who has prescriptions for anti-depressants and sleeping pills. “But all this stuff that keeps going through my head is eating me up. I need immediate help.”
Briones, of course, is responsible for his own actions. However, as Sue says, no one ever recovers from war – most especially not from atrocities like Haditha.
Someone I know who was caught in a war zone overnight a few years returned to the States, couldn’t sleep, was anxious. He went to his M.D., who said you have PTSD and recommended a therapy group. He went, it was mostly Vietnam vets, and they accepted him completely. He’s fine now. His PTSD was ‘minor’ compared to what Briones (and thousands of other Iraq War vets) must be going through. Well, it wasn’t minor to him, but still, he didn’t have to see toddlers and moms who had been executed in cold blood.
The psychological damage from this war will haunt us for decades to come. It reminds of the Steve Earle line about a Vietnam Vet, “and I wake up screaming like I’m back over there.”
How many more?