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PTSD associated with a mistake


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  • PTSD associated with a mistake

    This is the first time I am asking something here, as most of the info I want can be gotten with a simple search of these amazing forums. Thank you very much for setting this up for us writers.

    The question I am here to ask is rather heavy, and might be a little polarizing with the current political climate, so I want to share a little about myself so you can understand that I am not trying to say anyhting negative about the police.

    I, myself, am an Iraq war vet with PTSD, part of which stems from my first firefight. While being shot at, I saw movement in the corner of my eye, turned, and fired a three-round burst at center mass of my target, only to realize it was a child on a bike, trying to escape the fight. The child lived, but both of us were scarred for life.

    What I am looking for are accounts/stories similar to mine, where a police officer accidentally shoots an innocent, and what went through there mind after and how they cope. Especially if they decided to continue the same line of work. I'm trying to compare others experiences with mine so I can give a more accurate description of the trauma this has on those of us who have given parts of our life in the service of our country.

    Also,there are things put in place to help officers that find themselves in this regretable position, correct? Information on how the F.B.I. might handle this would be wonderful.

    As I am to close to my own trauma to look at it with the right lense, I am hoping you fine folks will help. Thank you again.
    Last edited by William Nalley; 12-07-2019, 07:27 PM.

  • #2
    I can't answer your question per se, but there was a guy in my company in the 80's who was door gunner in Vietnam. He said they had "free guns" and he killed some ARVN when they popped up. He said it still messed with him.


    • #3
      Mr. Nalley: As a Vietnam combat veteran (airborne infantry, pathfinders) I sympathize with your situation, but I'm not sure how much help I might be able to offer. Very few of us had any control over our assignments or the rules of engagement for any particular day or operation. I was a 19-year old sergeant E5 responsible for a dozen young guys in some very difficult situations. In the field we were subject to ambush, and we actively conducted ambush operations when provided sufficient intelligence information. In the rear we were in defensive postures while surrounded by populations that included total innocents as well as active enemy personnel.

      I can recall being the NCO in charge of perimeter defense at a small fire base when the main entry became crowded with Vietnamese (including women and children) encroaching into a known "free fire zone", and several charged the main gate and defensive positions. Rules of engagement required oral warnings followed by warning shots, then live fire on those encroaching on our defensive perimeter closely enough to threaten our perimeter. 50 years later I live with the memory of giving the order to engage after repeated warnings were ignored, resulting in over a dozen casualties. Recovered with the casualties were about 20 grenades (see Note 1 below), pretty obviously intended to be used against our defensive positions and breach the perimeter. The entire incident took place in 3 minutes or less.

      I can also recall an ambush patrol mission, setting up on a trail junction indicated by intel reports to be in hostile use at the time. Middle of the night, movement into the kill zone, trip flares activated, Claymore mines fired off, and small arms employed to eliminate the threat. Turned out to be a South Vietnamese Regional Forces unit patrolling the area, unknown to us (as we were unknown to them), no reciprocal communications through the chain of command. Over 20 dead and a dozen wounded.

      I remember several times when we had "gooks in the wire"; i.e.: people found to be breaching our defensive perimeters resulting in massive defensive fire (small arms, mortars, artillery, sometimes air support). Sometimes we found bodies, sometimes we found body parts, sometimes we followed blood trails into the bush, sometimes we even found weapons or explosives. Sometimes all we found were dead people with no way of determining who they were or why they were in a "free fire zone".

      PTSD is a relatively recent "clinical diagnosis" applied to those of us who have experienced such situations. No one ever heard of PTSD back in my active duty days. I am not at all sure that PTSD adequately describes the aftermath of such things, but it sounds good as a "sound bite" for news programs or research papers.

      Looking back 50 years later all I can suggest is that you can do nothing but acknowledge what happened and what you did at the time, and deal with the emotions and trauma that will be a part of your life for the foreseeable future. You may allow your military experiences to define the remainder of your life or you may decide to move forward as a wiser and more competent individual. You may surrender to grief or guilt, or you may decide to live your life in more productive ways.

      Note 1: We regularly supplied weapons and ammunition to local and regional forces, as well as ARVN forces. The grenades recovered were easily identified (by paint markings on the detonating caps) as among those we had recently provided to local forces for self-defense use, obviously diverted immediately to use against US forces.

      To those who have never been engaged in combat situations it is easy to see everything as black and white, good and evil. To many of us with actual experience the world is a very cloudy gray place.

      Best wishes.


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