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(No) Wonder Drugs (July 19 2010)

Orrin Gorman McClellan is among the war casualties that the Department of Veterans Affairs has just begun to track — young men and women who served in the post-9/11 military, and killed themselves after struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder and other war wounds.
Seattle Times (July 5, 2010).

Five years after returning from Iraq, Mr. McClellan took his life in a hasty gesture [read below] that makes me wonder not just about the ‘wonder’ drugs that are not working in treating PTSD, but also about the very nature of our war campaigns in the Middle East.

Seeing how McClellan’s ghosts pursued him, wore him down, and eventually turned him against himself in taking his own life, what I think about most is whether the ‘ghosts’ we’re fighting are our own (our own nation’s) - ghosts that haunt the souls of our combat veterans in ways we’ve never seen before.

The Times:

One night, McClellan relapsed. He was anxious about yet another drive to the Seattle VA scheduled for the next morning. He was uneasy about what seemed like an invasion of privacy: a noisy construction crew working on the house next door had asked to use the electrical plugs in his cottage.
That night, in addition to his Ambien sleep medication, he drank Wild Turkey whiskey. A stranger, apparently a new neighbor seeking to introduce himself, approached the house with a barking dog.
McClellan appeared to launch into a flashback. He retrieved his semi-automatic from a lockbox. Then, he went outside and fired several warning shots into the ground.
McGowan looked at McClellan. He seemed startled by what he had just done. But she eventually was able to calm him down.
Somewhere outside, there was a bang, perhaps a firecracker lit by a neighbor.
McClellan was set off once again. He fired more shots, then walked into a bedroom and shot himself.
In the following weeks, the family thought of the suicide as a kind of accident — that McClellan, his mind fogged by alcohol and prescription drugs, had not realized what he was doing as he pulled the trigger.
More recently, his mother has come to believe McClellan sensed, in his final moments of life, that he had been out of control. That he had the potential to hurt innocent people. To keep that from happening, she thinks, he took his own life.



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