US Navy SEAL

Eddie Ray Routh: The Untold Story

In a response to the tragic events that occurred on February 2nd 2013; the Warfighter Foundation has conducted a comprehensive investigation that included interviews with U.S. Marines that knew and served with Eddie Ray Routh, the murderer of U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle and Chad Littlefield. Additionally, there has been very little investigation into Routh’s military service and no inquiry regarding those who served with him. This is the first time Marines who knew and served with Eddie Ray Routh have been interviewed.

In order to understand the true significance of the subject matter, we must first provide an analytical assessment of Eddie Routh’s cognitive dissonance. What , if any , are the key implications that caused this individual to perform such a behavior.  We can begin this assessment by breaking down Routh into several categories. The individual persona, the state / role and behavior within the United States, and finally his role as a Marine within the war in Iraq. This systematic breakdown allows for a precise characterization of not only his personality, but also allows for the identification of any “red flags” that might be claimed from Routh himself.

 


 

THE BEGINNING

Our analysis begins with SSgt. Justin Webster, a former U.S. Marine that served honorably from 1998 – 2011. Webster was a Marine Corps recruiter that dealt directly with Routh for 11 months before heading off to Marine Corps boot camp. According to Routh’s mother Jodi, Routh left home during his junior year and moved in with his aunt and uncle who lived in a nearby town. She said that they had wanted to get away from their overprotective mother. Jodi doesn’t dispute this: “They were rebellious, and they wanted to drink and smoke pot and stuff, and that wasn’t gonna be allowed at our house.” The aunt admitted that she kept alcohol and marijuana around. Routh’s sister Laura, said that friends often passed out on the floor, and described the aunt’s house as “a squatter pad.” Meanwhile, in a house not far away, Routh and Laura’s grandfather was dying of cancer. The aunt was among those who had been entrusted to handle the grandfather’s prescriptions, including morphine; some of the morphine was stolen, and the aunt’s husband eventually overdosed on it. These initial conditions that Routh was exposed to may have been a contributing factor in the psylogical paranoia leading up to the murder.

“Eddie wanted to be a Marine forever, supposedly. He joined the DEP (Delayed Entry Program) his senior year and participated in the Recruiting Station’s pool functions (training events to prepare Marine candidates for Recruit Training) two to three times a week.” Webster said. “He was a dumb country kid. Good, but dumb.” Routh reportedly barely graduated High School and received an incredibly low score on the ASVAB (test that helps predict future academic and occupational success in the military). Jeff Diener, one of Routh’s classmates, said that he was “kinda hard to get along with.” Another classmate said that Routh was a “standard troublemaker” who “didn’t show a whole lot of respect” for the teachers. Kc Bernard, who was a security guard at the school for two of the years that Routh was there, said that Routh was “always ready to fight” and “had a chip on his shoulder.”

SSgt. Webster admitted, when Routh enlisted, it was during a time when the Marine Corps Recruiting Command was putting pressure on Marine Recruiters to fill quotas, no matter the cost. For example, in 2008, the Marine Corps recruited a man with autism. Over the last three fiscal years in 2009, 265 Marine recruiters have been relieved of duty for misconduct, most commonly for hiding negative background factors.

Later, Routh completed Marine Corps Recruit Training and headed home for leave. Webster said that “he [Routh] seemed motivated.” SSgt. Webster wouldn’t see Routh again until being stationed at Marine Corps Air Station New River, just a few miles away from Camp Lejeune where Routh was stationed. Webster ran into Routh at a bar in Jacksonville, NC. “It was late 2009 or early 2010, I went to a local Marine Corps bar, Lucky’s Tavern in Jacksonville, and there Routh was” said Webster. Routh’s grooming standards were out of Marine Corps regulation and he was “nasty looking, appeared disgruntled.” The two never spoke, due to circulating rumors of Routh’s drug use, but Webster was able to see that something was wrong. “Something had changed him. I just wrote it off as just a disgruntled Marine, you know, that typical first term Lance Corporal.”

IRAQ

We then spoke with Cpl. Ryker Pawloski who served Honorably between 2005 and 2009. Pawloski served directly with Routh before and during Iraq with 8th Combat Logistics Battalion (CLB-8), where Routh had been assigned after enlisting as a 2111 Small Arms Repairer/Technician, more commonly referred to as an armorer. “My first impression of Routh, was that he was a tall goofy bastard” Pawloski continued “prior to our work up, I never noticed anything odd.” The unit Routh and Pawloski were assigned to, was preparing for deployment to Iraq. As part of the preparation, the unit was sent to CAX (Combined Arms Exercise), the Marine Corps’ most advanced live-fire unit-level combined arms training program. It was during CAX, when the two Marines were spending every moment together as “Battle Buddies” that Pawloski finally noticed something was odd about Routh. “Eddie was easily pissy, he took everything too personal. I mean, I spent a lot of time with him, he really seemed like a good dude. But, he had that quirk.” Pawloski reported.

It is important to realize that Eddie Ray Routh never experienced combat. According to the American Psychology Association “There is now accumulating evidence that suggests that posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is linked to combat experiences.”

Routh and Pawloski deployed together with CLB-8 in August 2007 to Camp Fallujah, Iraq. Pawloski said “We got mortared a couple times, that was the extent of our combat experience. Incoming was like hit and miss bullshit, for the most part there wasn’t a whole lot of hits. Routh was never near any incoming. Where he was located on the camp, he was rather safe and cozy.” Soon after CLB-8 arrived at Camp Fallujah, Routh was sent to Camp Balad in order to support the prison. Pawloski told us “Routh wasn’t needed. We had a few armorers and he was the only one we could spare.” After a couple months, Routh returned to CLB-8 at Camp Fallujah. “This is where I would like to set the record straight” Pawloski said ” Routh hated Muslims. He talked to me about his experiences at the prison and how he liked beating them with batons and didn’t sympathize with them. He really seemed like normal goofy Routh.” However, that same previously mentioned “quirk”, was about to be unleashed at full force.

 

According to the CAR/HSM Database, Eddie Ray Routh is not recipient of the Combat Action Ribbon; a personal award for combat service.

 

One day in the armory, Pawloski witnessed Routh almost beat another Marine to death. Pawloski said “Some of the guys were teasing Routh. They had posted ‘WANTED’ pictures of him with a rainbow flag. It was a harmless joke and he fucking snapped.” Routh selected one of the Marines in the armory and began pummeling his face until he was bleeding severely. Pawloski said “We had to break it up. He was out of control.” However, this was not an isolated incident. Routh had already shown a history of this “quirk” where he would snap. Pawloski reported “he would lash out like a fucking wild animal.” It was only a couple weeks later when Pawloski himself would become another victim of Routh’s uncontrollable rage. Pawloski reported “I was walking back into the armory and heard something funny, so I was laughing on my way in. Out of nowhere, Routh body slammed me. I was knocked unconscious because Routh hit my head on the steel work bench when he threw me down. I woke up convulsing.” Pawloski reported that the incident gave him a Traumatic Brain Injury, which can result in bruising, torn tissues, bleeding and other physical damage to the brain that can result in long-term complications or death.

“For him to be able to snap as bad as he did, says something.” Pawloski continued “I think something might have happened when he was young. He never really talked about his family. Routh seemed like he was a guy that was picked on.” According to the National Institute of Health, children who had been abused or neglected were 38% more likely to be arrested for a violent crime. Pawloski also reported that after Routh left the Marine Corps he “hit drugs hard, and I mean fucking hard. Hard shit and prescription.” About 50% of patients diagnosed with schizophrenia meet criteria for substance abuse or dependence. While substance abuse does not cause schizophrenia, it can worsen the symptoms of the disorder. Patients may have particularly bad reactions to amphetamines , cocaine, PCP (“angel dust”) or marijuana. It is thought that patients with schizophrenia are attracted to drugs of abuse as self-medication for some of their symptoms.

CLB-8 returned from Iraq in March 2008. Pawloski said “When we returned, everything went back to normal for Routh. We both went home on leave, we talked all the time; he was normal.” Cpl. Pawloski stated, that PTSD is extremely unlikely and that a previous mental issue was already very prevalent in Routh.

HAITI

In 2009, Routh was assigned to the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit command element, detached from CLB-8. Sgt. Andrew Stokes was right there with him, even sharing the same sleeping quarters. “Eddie was our armorer. If anyone needed to pull weapons out, that is all he did.” said Stokes. The Marines worked together for months on the USS Bataan throughout Spain, Greece, and Turkey among others. Stokes reported “Eddie was a cool guy. But he was a really wild guy. I never really hung out with him outside of work, I know he would drink, but not more than any other Marine.”

On January 18th 2010, Marines with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) – joined under the Bataan Amphibious ready group (ARG) – began arriving in Haiti in order to conduct a Humanitarian-Assistance Disaster-Relief (HADR) mission. The ARG consisted of the USS Bataan, USS Carter Hall and USS Fort McHenry. Units within the MEU consisted of 1,600 Marines with the Combat Logistics Battalion 22, 3rd Battalion 2nd Marines, Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 461, and the MEU Command Element (Where Routh and Stokes were assigned). U.S. troops were also transported by helicopter onto the lawn of the Presidential Palace to help restore order and distribute aid.

The Marines that were sent to Haiti, were primarily for riot control and to distribute aid. Reports have circulated that Routh was part of a “body recovery” mission and that this is where his “PTSD” had developed, this however has been found to be false. Stokes reported “Routh never left the ship. He was the armorer, why would he leave the ship?” Furthermore, the ARG consisted of Marines from 3rd Battalion 2nd Marines (an infantry battalion). “The 03’s (Infantry Marines) were the ones on the ground in Haiti conducting operations.” Stokes continued “Based upon the time I spent with him, I don’t see the claim about PTSD adding up at all.”

AFTER THE CORPS

Upon separation from active duty, Routh struggled with drugs, alcohol, and mental instability. Routh’s father recalled, “We were down at the lake. We’d been going down there since he was nine years old, hunting and fishing. We would go there every weekend if we could get away with it. It was all good but I don’t know, something triggered him and he was telling me he was Dracula, that he was a vampire and wanted to suck people’s blood.” This incident (and Routh’s history of aggressive behavior) is an indication of a psychotic disorder. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (also known as the DSM-IV-TR), the diagnostic standard for mental health professionals in the United States, describes several mental disorders that Routh could have been diagnosed with. Bipolar Disorder and Schizophrenia are at the top of the list, based on Routh’s behavior. It is important to realize that Routh’s behavior was not an indication of PTSD. It should be noted, that environmental stressors related to home and family life (parental death or divorce, family dysfunction) or to separation from the family of origin in late adolescence (going away to college or military training; marriage) may trigger the onset of schizophrenia in individuals with genetic or psychological vulnerabilities.

Schizophrenia often goes undetected for about two to three years after the onset of diagnosable symptoms, because the symptoms occur in the context of a previous history of cognitive and behavioral problems. The patient may have had panic attacks, social phobia , or substance abuse problems, any of which can complicate the process of diagnosis . In most cases, however, the patient’s first psychotic episode is preceded by a prodromal (warning) phase, with a variety of behaviors that may include angry outbursts, withdrawal from social activities, loss of attention to personal hygiene and grooming, anhedonia (loss of one’s capacity for enjoyment), and other unusual behaviors. The psychotic episode itself is typically characterized by delusions, which are false but strongly held beliefs that result from the patient’s inability to separate real from unreal events; and hallucinations, which are disturbances of sense perception. Hallucinations can affect any of the senses, although the most common form of hallucination in schizophrenia is auditory (“hearing voices”). Autobiographical accounts by people who have recovered from schizophrenia indicate that these hallucinations are experienced as frightening and confusing. Patients often find it difficult to concentrate on work, studies, or formerly pleasurable activities because of the constant “static” or “buzz” of hallucinated voices.

Routh met the criteria of risk factors for violence in a patient diagnosed with schizophrenia: male sex, age below 30, prediagnosis history of violence, paranoid subtype, nonadherence to medication regimen, and heavy substance abuse.

In July 2011, while working in Houston, Routh got heatstroke and fell ill. His sister drove to Houston to bring her brother home. On the way back, he told her that he had a tapeworm. He “kept obsessing over it,” Laura said. Raymond took him to the Dallas Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Doctors there failed to find a tapeworm. Routh stayed in the hospital a few more days, for further tests, then checked himself out. This is a clear indication of somatic hallucinations. Somatic hallucinations refer to sensations or perceptions about one’s body organs that have no known medical cause, such as feeling that snakes are crawling around in one’s intestines or that one’s eyes are emitting radioactive rays.

Since May of 2012, Routh had been involved in at least three incidents involving police and pleaded guilty to a DWI charge in Johnson County. Additionally, Dallas police say a woman called them to an apartment complex in the 7600 block of Churchill Way in North Dallas because she feared for Routh’s safety. Routh was in distress and wanting to get help, so officers took him to Green Oaks for a mental health evaluation. Routh’s mother also called Lancaster police on the night of May 14th 2012 to report a burglary. The report listed Routh as the suspect and indicated that nine pill bottles were taken.

Routh’s mother, Jodi, reported a disturbance in September 2012 after Routh got into a fistfight with his father over nothing. Routh stomped toward the house, threatening to “blow his brains out” and “suck-start a rifle.” Jodi knew that he was going for the guns, and she grabbed one of Routh’s friends and told him to get the weapons out of the house. Routh fumed when he found the gun closet empty and shouted, “I’ll blow all your brains out!” Jodi called the police, telling the operator, “They need to admit him to the mental ward.” Routh was arrested and taken to Green Oaks Psychiatric Hospital.

In January 2013, Routh and his girlfriend Jen were hanging around her apartment when he fell into a state of paranoia. He began ranting to Jen and her roommate about government-surveillance activities. He once told a friend that the helicopters overhead were watching him. Outbursts of this nature had become more frequent. He made sure to cover the camera on his computer (“He felt very strongly about that,” Jodi said), and confided to family and friends, “They know what we’re doing.”

Inside the apartment, Routh began pacing in front of Jen’s door, clutching a knife. He said that he was prepared to defend her from government agents who were out to get them. For hours, she tried, unsuccessfully, to calm him. Finally, Jen’s roommate texted the police, who arrested Routh and took him to Green Oaks. He was transferred to the Dallas V.A. the next day.

The quality of care varies from one V.A. facility to the next. In 2004, the V.A. Inspector General called the Dallas facility the worst in the nation; a Dallas TV station interviewed veterans who alleged that the facility was so poor that it put “lives at risk.”

MURDER

Former U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle was a local in the same town as Routh. Routh’s mother Jodi worked on the special-ed program at the Midlothian, Texas school which Kyle’s children attended. On January 25th 2013, Jodi approached Kyle in the school parking lot and told him about her son Eddie. Routh’s father recalled “Chris said he had some work to do right then but he would think about it and he would do what he could.” A week later, Chris called and offered to help.

The morning of Saturday, February 2nd, Kyle and his wife went to their son’s ballgame. Afterward, a friend of Kyle’s, Chad Littlefield, met with Chris and they headed to pick up Routh.

Routh climbed into Kyle’s F-350, and they headed to Rough Creek Lodge, a resort ninety miles to the southwest. Kyle had helped design the thousand-yard rifle range there, and he was allowed to come and go as he pleased. The drive took a little more than an hour. According to Taya (the wife of Chris Kyle), Chris thought that the trip would “give someone who was hurting a chance to talk on the drive, spend a short bit of time shooting, and then give him a little more time to talk on the way home, to find some outlets and resources.”

Kyle parked in front of the main lodge around 3 P.M. Routh stayed in the truck while Kyle and Littlefield went inside to register. The property extends over eleven thousand acres; hunting grounds and the rifle range cover more than two-thirds of it, and a locked gate prevents golfers from straying into dangerous areas. At Kyle’s request, an employee radioed ahead to unlock the gate. Kyle and Littlefield got back in the truck, and they bumped along a dirt road for a few miles. They reached the shooting platform and raised a red Bravo flag, to warn others away. Kyle had reserved the range until four o’clock.

At 4:55 P.M., a guide noticed that the flag was still up. He drove toward the platform. He noticed several weapons set out, waiting to be fired, but he did not see Kyle’s truck. From a distance, the guide saw what appeared to be a sack. As he drew nearer, he realized that it was a dead body. Littlefield was on his back, with multiple gunshots in the chest; his pistol remained tucked in his jeans. Up close, the guide discerned grooves in the sand around Littlefield’s fingers, suggesting that he had clawed for life after hitting the ground.

Several feet away, Kyle was lying face down. He had been shot in the back and in the back of the head. Blood covered his baseball cap. His pistol lay in the sand, within reach. The guide called 911, then bent over Kyle to administer CPR. It was hopeless. He was dead.

Routh called his sister and brother-in-law from an apartment in Alvarado to see if they were home before driving to their house in Midlothian in Kyle’s black pickup truck, according to an affidavit. Around 5:45 P.M. he arrived at his brother-in-law, Gaines Blevins, house. Routh told Gaines and his sister, Laura, that he and two other people “were out shooting target practice and he couldn’t trust them so he killed them before they could kill him.” He asked them if the world was freezing over, then announced that he had a new truck. Laura asked if he had traded in his car, a Volkswagen Beetle; he said no, but added, “I sold my soul for a truck.” He went on, “We went up to the gun range. I killed them.” Laura asked her brother what he was talking about. “Chris and his friend. I killed them. I murdered them,” he said. “I didn’t really think he was telling the truth,” Laura said. “And he’s, like, ‘Are you and Gaines in Hell with me?’ And I was, like, ‘No, we’re not in Hell.’ And he was, like, ‘Well, do you think I can get to Oklahoma?’ And I was, like, ‘Oklahoma? What’s in Oklahoma?’ And he’s, like, ‘Well, if I can get to Oklahoma, I can get out of this.’ And I was, like, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about, but I think you’re telling me a story. Don’t lie to me. Tell me what happened.’ And at this point we’re almost to the front door, and so we walked outside, and when we walked outside I thought I was gonna throw up on myself, because here’s this truck that I know he could never afford. The tires alone were expensive. That’s the first thing I saw—these giant, big knobby tires on this pickup truck.”

Laura realized that Routh really must have killed two men. He offered to show Gaines the murder weapon, and began reaching into a tool chest in the truck. They told him to stop. Laura was afraid for herself and for Gaines, and she asked Routh to leave and turn himself in. Before he drove off, he said to her, “I love you.”

Laura Blevins told police her brother seemed “out of his mind saying people were sucking his soul and that he could smell the pigs. He said he was going to get their souls before they took his.”

In the 911 call to police, the brother-in-law of  Eddie Ray Routh described a paranoid Routh who arrived to his home and said he’d murdered two people because “he couldn’t trust anyone anymore and everyone was out to get him,” according to a search warrant affidavit. Routh “admitted to killing Chris Kyle and Chad Littlefield at Rough Creek Lodge Shooting Range” and “admitted to stealing Kyle’s pickup truck” in a statement to police.

As the call continued, Laura Blevins described him as being psychotic and said she did not know whether he was on drugs. “He’s all crazy,” Blevins said. Blevins’ husband told the 911 operator that Routh had told them he had two guns in the truck. He said he didn’t know where Routh was headed. “He was talking kind of babble,” Blevins’ husband said. He said that he did not make any threats toward them and that “He [Eddie Routh] just got out of a mental hospital last week.”

Routh then left their home driving the truck, saying he wanted to get to Oklahoma to avoid Texas authorities, the documents state. Authorities arrived at Routh’s home (where they found drug paraphernalia, Routh later admitted he’d been smoking marijuana that might have been laced with other drugs.) in Lancaster to arrest him and saw Kyle’s pickup truck at the home, Routh tried to flee in the pickup. The brief pursuit ended in an arrest near Interstate 35 and Camp Wisdom Road around 8:34 p.m.

Just hours after the murders of former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield, Eddie Ray Routh gave a long, strange, rambling confession. A Texas Ranger talked to Routh for about 45 minutes the night of the murders in February 2013. The Ranger read Routh his rights, and asked if he understood. Ranger Danny Briley said Routh nodded. Briley asked Routh why he did it. Routh responded in a deep drawl, “I knew if I didn’t take out his soul, he would take my soul next.” He added, “I got tons of people eating my soul,” and, “I can’t sleep.”

Routh also mentioned a wolf in the sky, warlords unhappy with him, and world counsels of men and women to solve problems. He was handcuffed, sitting inside an interview room at Lancaster police headquarters. He did not ask for an attorney, but did ask to see his mother.

AFTERMATH

Throughout the past few years, Eddie Ray Routh has shown clear signs of a severe psychological disorder. Routh meets the “positive symptoms” of schizophrenia (The positive symptoms of schizophrenia include four so-called “first-rank” or Schneiderian symptoms, named for a German psychiatrist who identified them in 1959), which include delusions, hallucinations, hearing voices, thought insertion or withdrawal (notion that other beings or forces are putting thoughts or ideas into one’s mind i.e. God, aliens, the CIA, etc.), disorganized speech and thinking, and disorganized behavior.

In contrast, you can’t ignore a woman that lived with a U.S. Navy SEAL that served five combat tours in Iraq. A woman who experienced PTSD from a man that undoubtedly carried a larger burden on his shoulders than Eddie Routh. Chris Kyle’s PTSD resulted in helping his fellow veterans, not murdering them. Taya Kyle said that people with PTSD “work through their struggles, just like we work through our struggles. They are phenomenal people and it doesn’t change their character,” Taya Kyle said. She also said that PTSD is not a justification for murder.

Psychologist Dr. Bret A. Moore, an expert in military psychology, said “In most cases, PTSD does not lead to criminal behavior. Much of what is seen on this issue in the media is a result of savvy lawyers conjuring up defenses for their clients that would have likely committed the crime regardless if they had PTSD or not. Lawyers know that the average citizen sitting on a jury will have a great deal of sympathy for the veteran, which they hope will result in a favorable outcome for their client.” – excerpt from Dr. Moore’s article in Psychology Today, titled Criminal Behavior is Not a Symptom of PTSD.

Approximately 80 percent of patients with PTSD have at least one comorbid (in medicine, comorbidity is the presence of one or more additional disorder) psychiatric disorder. Note, that a precipitating traumatic event is necessary, but not sufficient, to make the diagnosis of PTSD. Of all the “traumatic” events that Routh had described throughout his military history (i.e. shooting a child on patrol in Iraq, handling dead bodies in Haiti, etc.) none of them actually happened, according to the Marines he served with. Delusions (a false belief that is resistant to reason or to confrontation with actual facts) are very prevalent throughout Routh’s history and another clear symptom of schizophrenia.

According to retired U.S. Army Major, Dr. C. Alan Hopewell, Ph.D., MP, ABPP (former President of the Texas Psychological Association, former Senior Neuropsychologist for the Department of the Army, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at UNTHSC, American Board of Clinical Neuropsychology) Eddie Routh’s behavior was not consistent with that of PTSD. Rather, Dr. Hopewell confirmed our findings, that Routh’s “symptoms are consistent with that of a paranoid schizophrenic.” It is important to note, that a major role of Dr. Hopewell’s career in the Army, was as the senior psychologist for evaluating and clearing Army Snipers and combat veterans. Additionally, Dr. Hopewell was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal for courage and heroism beyond the call of duty for thwarting part of the attack of Nidal Hasan at Ft. Hood, TX and for first responder actions. Note, these views are his alone and do not reflect the views of DOD or UNT.

While Routh’s mental condition will no doubt play a role in the upcoming trial, the claims of PTSD are without question, false. It is important to realize that there is still no excuse for the murders committed by Eddie Routh,  because he knew what he was doing was wrong. However, partial blame rest with the Military Entrance Processing Station that allowed Routh to Enlist, with Routh’s Marine Corps command for ignoring Routh’s violent behavior, and with the blatant incompetence of the V.A.

Lastly, although Routh’s parents had struggled endlessly to get Routh admitted into a psychiatric hospital, the blame falls with them for allowing their son, that they knew was mentally ill and extremely violent, to go to a shooting range without disclosing Routh’s violent and erratic behavior.

Had Chris Kyle known what we know now, he would still be alive.

 


 

IN THE END

One of the unfortunate realities of waging long war in two countries, is meeting troop level requirements with an all volunteer military. Those who have served have witnessed or learned second hand, of enlistees who are way below the usual minimum accepted standards being shipped off to boot camp. The lowering of standards in all the categories that make a “good soldier” are helping to create future tragedies. These tragedies are being caused by individuals who are lacking psychologically,socially,spiritually, and behaviorally. The individual who is deficient in any or all of these areas is going to have a more difficult time coping in a peace-time, non-combat military enlistment. Everyday there are tragic stories about someone in the military or a veteran who has committed a violent crime. Usually the perpetrator, family members, or the media immediately place the blame it on Combat-Related PTSD. Then with further examination the PTSD alibi starts to quickly unravel. What the media, the witless, and violent psychopaths looking for vindication don’t realize, is that everyday we are all interacting with others who are suffering from PTSD, and we may never know it. Most PTSD symptoms are not recognizable to strangers, it would take knowing the PTSD sufferer intimately to view the signs and symptoms. PTSD symptoms vary widely but usually consist of at least these three categories ; recurring memories, avoidance, and hyperarousal. There may also be depression.

These symptoms don’t manifest all at one time, it is more of a cycle, a roller coaster, a merry-go-round. It is Ground Hog Day. The PTSD roller costar keeps going around and around. The ride isn’t all bad, it’s just not all good. There will be those sweet moments when those who are cursed with this affliction, resemble their former selves. When they re-find joy in all the activities that made them feel alive. When they make to do lists, get proactive and productive, and plan their amazing futures. Unfortunately that high, that joy for life is fleeting, just like the ability to feel true happiness. Imagine waking up and wishing it was night, so you could just go back to bed. Pretending to be sick to avoid interacting with other human beings. Not being capable of leaving your house. Driving to pick your child up from school, and getting lost. Even though you have been driving to the same place for four years. Looking in your rear view mirror, to see if the car behind you has been tailing you. Starting things, and never finishing them. Never finding any enjoyment in all the activities you used to love. Feeing like life is passing you by. Not being able to sleep unless medicated. Insomnia, with anxiety. Not being able to imagine your future or one that is better than the present. PTSD sufferers are not violent. Most PTSD sufferers, despite dealing with their challenging reality still try to help others who are in the same situation. Those with PTSD are more likely to cause harm to themselves instead others. Allowing criminals to abuse and implicate a valid disorder that so many service members, veterans, and family members endure, is abhorrent. I am not a Doctor and I don’t know everything about PTSD. The one thing I do know though, is that I have it.

– Surviving Spouse of U.S. Navy SEAL


Co-Authored by Spencer Walker and Daniel Racca
Spencer Walker (deployed twice to Afghanistan and five times to Iraq) and Daniel Racca (deployed three times to Iraq) are Honorably Discharged combat veteran U.S. Marines. Both serve on the Board of Directors of the Warfighter Foundation and are the Editor-in-Chief and Managing Editor of Warfighter News.


 

Human Intelligence (HUMINT) is the collection of information from human sources.

HUMINT for this report was collected from:

  • Major. Dr. C. Alan Hopewell, U.S. Army 1976-2010
  • SSgt. Justin Webster, U.S. Marines 1998 – 2011
  • Sgt. Andrew Stokes, U.S. Marines 2006-2010
  • Cpl. Ryker Pawloski, U.S. Marines 2005-2009

Open-Source Intelligence (OSINT) refers to a broad array of information and sources that are generally available, including information obtained from the media (newspapers, radio, television, etc.), professional and academic records (papers, conferences, professional associations, etc.), and public data (government reports, demographics, hearings, speeches, etc.)

OSINT for this report was collected from:

Death of an American Sniper: A Response to a Dishonorable Article

“It is not the critic who counts, not the one who points out how the strong man stumbled or how the doer of deeds might have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred with sweat and dust and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes up short time and time again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself a worthy cause; who if he wins knows the triumph of high achievement; and who, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt

I am sure most of you have read, or heard of, the article titled “Death of an American sniper” by Laura Miller. She is unintelligent and extremely biased, as revealed in her shameful article.

Lets take it from the top Laura.

Your first point is that Chris disliked politics and was too oblivious to realize that politics is part of war. Okay Laura, do you really think our uniformed service members do not realize that they are part of the “activities associated with the governance of a country”? (Definition of politics, by the way). Do you truly believe that our nation’s Warfighters do not understand that wars are politically motivated? No shit war and politics go hand in hand. Our nation voted on two joint resolutions to enter Afghanistan and Iraq. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that someone as daft as you, missed Chris Kyle’s point.
(more…)

Out To Sea With No Shore In Sight

I.

My father was a sailor in the US Navy.  He was also a brother in a band that so many men (from all walks of life) try to become, in a place where only few make the cut.  My father was a special operator; a Frogman, but better known by most as a Navy SEAL.  Growing up a “SEAL PUP” in the early 80’s didn’t impact me in the same way that it does now.  I’m sure it has something to do with being able to understand the job of being a SEAL – what these men do, what they go through, the risks of the job, and the challenges and sacrifices that they and their families must accept and make.  The emotional, mental, and physical strain that these men face in training and in combat fuse them as one, but above all, as brothers operating as a single unit.  There is no other operating group like them. These men have died for each other and that is why they are so close on and off the battlefield, and also why their families are also very close to one another.

I was four, going on five when my father was killed. I didn’t have the ability to understand any of it at that age.  Mom and Dad did a great job at not allowing his career in the Teams to impact us in a negative way and for the most part, they kept my brothers and I oblivious.  There wasn’t a stamp on how much time we had or spent together as a family.   I only remember the good times and how the time with him was spent doing something incredible.  I don’t remember the number of times he was deployed or home because we didn’t focus on that.  We missed him when he was gone and excited to see him when he returned.  We just picked up from where we had last left off because that was standard operating procedure for us, it was what was normal.  It’s not an uncommon thing to hear how these guys live their lives.  With or without families it’s either, “always to the fullest” or “like tomorrow is the last” and it couldn’t be more true.  Now that I’m an adult and fully understand the lifestyle, I now understand why dad spent every moment he had home….with us.

Dad died in ’84 when there weren’t any wars and the world seemed relatively quiet.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure he snuck off to save the world from some kind of threat from time to time, but deploying for war wasn’t something our family had to deal with.  Unfortunately now, I can’t say the same for our active duty families.  A huge strain has been set on the community with the amount of losses suffered over the last twelve years.  The guys deploy about 65- 70% of the time now.  Family life is certainly more challenging and because of it, the bond and kinship of the community is stronger than ever.  We lean on each other for support because we’re the only ones that know what each other is going through.  Families now have to accept the fact that the risks are higher with every deployment, that it is the norm.  Wives are left home alone with kids, while keeping the household secure so the guys don’t have to worry about anything except concentrating on their jobs.  Kids are now impacted by the stamp of time because their fathers are gone way too often, and it’s not out of the ordinary that a baby meets his or her father for the first time via Skype.  The way I see it, my family and I had it easy and we were spoiled by comparison.

My father was killed during a training jump.  He deployed his chute and got tangled up in the strings when he landed in the water and drowned.  The details of his death are unknown because no one knows what really happened.  The coroner stated that his back had been broken, so he may have hit the plane at some point during the actual jump.  He also speculated that he was probably conscious enough to pull and deploy his chute, but probably went back out of consciousness before hitting the water.  Whatever the details really are, my family and I have always hoped that it was quick and that he didn’t suffer.  We were lucky to have been able to bring his body back home to bury.  By a miracle, the search and rescue team found him the next day.

Life after that changed our family in an extreme way….

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“Your father was a good man.  Growing up without a him is gonna to be hard, it’s gonna hurt .  You’ll feel alone, out to sea with no shore in sight.  You’ll wonder why him, why me?” – Act of Valor

That quote is pretty much how I can honestly sum it up.  Dad and I were very close but he was also close to my brothers, we were all close.  My mom has often said that my brother Adam (who’s the eldest) and I (being the youngest), took his death the hardest.  Adam was thirteen and had lost his role model, while also becoming the man of the house.  As for me, well…I can’t imagine what it was like for my mother to have to figure out a way to explain to my four-year old self, what happened and why daddy wasn’t coming home.  I didn’t understand it and as a result, I spent countless nights falling asleep in front of the front door waiting for him to walk through it finally.

We were stationed in France at the time, so we moved back to the states and into our home in Virginia Beach.  We had to start our lives all over and it was hard.  For us and the case for most of the families, the stress lies the hardest financially.  Mom didn’t work when dad was alive because she was a stay at home wife/mom.  Being a SEAL wife requires a lot of dedication to the homestead, which is why most don’t work and focus only on their families and the house.  Mom worked 3 jobs while she went to school.  She struggled a lot to pay the bills, to put food on the table, but she managed and did her best with the cards that had been dealt to her.  Dad was not only the financial means for the family, but he was also the pillar while my mother was the backbone.  Finding herself now serving as both, I often wonder how she never broke or crumbled under all of the weight that came with it.

When times for her were really hard, I would hear and see her cry over her school books, when she thought no one was there.  She’d be talking to dad as if he were at the table with her, telling him how much she loved and missed him and sometimes cursing his name for leaving her.  It was tough for her to face her own feelings over losing her husband, but she was also left to deal with her children’s.

We didn’t make it easy for her and the burden of feeling guilty weighed heavily on her, despite knowing that there was no one to blame.  I gave her the most difficult time and as a result, I spent years growing up, being resentful and blaming her.  It took me a long time to finally understand and truly believe that my father’s death was no one’s fault and beyond anyone’s control.  I admit that I believed that he abandoned us for his job and that my mother didn’t try hard enough to stop him from leaving, even though it was a volunteer trip.  She understood the job and she understood my father’s love for it, but most of all, she understood who he was.

My mother, Diane is one of the strongest women I know and one of the most hard-core SEAL widows to boot.  She’s the true meaning of Warrior Queen in my book.  Raised three kids, worked three jobs while attending college full-time.  That woman earned a Masters in Psychology and beat all the odds against her.  She has sacrificed so much, twice over for her family and never looked back with regrets.  She has dedicated her life to being a SEAL wife and then after that, to playing the role of both parents for her children, and I respect her so much for all of it.

There are no regrets other that my daughter will never get to meet her grandfather.  I believe they would have been the best of friends.  My brothers and I grew up knowing and believing that our father loved us very much.  He died doing what he loved with a heart full of content.  I only wonder if his last thoughts were of all of us.  I like to believe we were.

II.

I was asked once If I ever wanted to marry a man just like my father.  What girl wouldn’t want to marry some one like their dad, especially if their father was as amazing as mine?  I wanted to marry a man with the same values and spirit as my father, but I didn’t want to marry a man who had the same career.  Mom never wanted me to live the same kind of lifestyle and she sure as hell never  wanted me to go through what she had.  We stopped attending the annual SEAL reunion picnics that took place every summer when I turned 16.  I knew mom’s reasons and I didn’t argue with her because I felt the same way.  I didn’t want to love my husband with all of my heart, only to lose him to the same line of work.

Despite all of that, it was hard to grow up in the community and in a place like Virginia Beach, and not have a few friends that were team guys.  I met my first two friends through my brother because they trained in Brazilian Jujitsu with him.  After that, I just kind of made more and more over the years, and as a result, I now have some of the most “rough & tumble”, “no holds bar”, but ever so amazing friends.  Friends that I made when I was in my early 20’s and that I still have today as my brothers.  Unfortunately though, over the last 12 years, I’ve had to say goodbye to too many as a result of the wars in Afghanistan and in Iraq.

8.6.11

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15 U.S. Navy SEALs from the Naval Special Warfare Development Group’s Gold Squadron
5 U.S. Naval Special Warfare support personnel
3 U.S. Army Reserve personnel from the 7th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment
2 U.S. Navy SEALs from a west coast based SEAL team
2 U.S. Army personnel from the 2nd Battalion, 135th Aviation Regiment
2 U.S. Air Force Pararescuemen from the 24th Special Tactics Squadron
1 U.S. Air Force Combat Controller from the 24th Special Tactics Squadron
1 U.S. Military Working Dog

I lost one of my closest friends on August 6th, 2011 when the CH-47 Chinook helicopter that was carrying him and his teammates (30 men were lost all together, and one military working dog) was shot down over the province region of Wardak, Afghanistan.  It was the largest loss of life in Naval Special Warfare history and the single greatest loss of life for our forces in Afghanistan.  Before that, Operation Red Wings held the title,  when 19 of our brothers were lost on June 28, 2005 during a fight with enemy forces in the Pech District of Afghanistans Kunar Province.  Three  of the SEALs that were lost, had been engaged in heavy gun fire on the ground and another sixteen men (8 US Army Night Stalkers and 8 US Navy SEALs) were lost when their helicopter was taken out by an RPG while attempting to rescue them.

I will never forget the morning of August 6th.  I can honestly say that it was one the worst days ever – for a lot of us here,  back home in the states.  Waiting for confirmation was the worst and I remember sitting by my phone and computer in denial, praying that I might get a phone call or an email from my friend, telling me that they were all alive and well.  I wish more than anything that this was how it ended.

When the boys finally came home to be laid to rest,  it was a very difficult time for those of us who knew and loved these men as sons, brothers, uncles, fathers, nephews, cousins, friends and teammates.  But, the tragedy brought all of us together as a community and we supported and loved one another to get  through it as we mourned and said our goodbyes to these amazing men.  Just like my father and his brothers, I know and believe that these men also loved what they did and believed in the cause in which they were called to fight.  They were proud to be Americans, they loved their country and were willing to sacrifice themselves for it.  They did just that and then some, and I could not see them wanting to go any other way, except to grow old with their wives and to watch their children grow up to be just as amazing as they were.

I am a proud American and I too love and serve my country.  I am honored to have known and been a part of so many of these amazing warriors’ lives.

In memory of US Navy UDT/SEAL Lt. Slater C. Blackiston III
and the men of Extortion-17

The Music Never Stopped

Everyone has been hitting me up about the recent OAF Nation article titled “When the Music Stops.” So I finally took some time to sit down and thoroughly read through it. To be honest, I agree with a lot of the article but there are several things I want to say about it.

“I am always humbled in the presence of warriors.” Those are the words of US Navy SEAL Captain Pete Van Hooser and they were the motivating factor behind my every action while I was enlisted. Afghanistan is drawing down, but I didn’t decide to join the Marines because of Afghanistan, it was never a factor in my decision. I enlisted because I wanted to earn a place within an elite brotherhood. I wanted to stand beside men who were more concerned with my well being than they were their own lives. I joined because I wanted to serve and my call to duty was solely based on my personal courage.

The author states “our purpose in life had just disappeared” because the drawdown in Afghanistan. My purpose in life has not fucking disappeared. Combat is not and never will be something that I enjoy. Ironically, it is the only negative thing about serving in a combat role. Every time an IED went off or shots were fired, I was scared to death. Not because I was afraid of being killed or injured, but because I didn’t want to lose anymore of my brothers. My purpose in life is to ensure my brothers come home and then to do whatever I can to look out for them after they get home. My purpose is to train my Marines, to prepare for our next fight. You are mistaken if you think this is our final fight, but you are fool to wish for war.

A generation of heroes have shaped the face of the United States of America in the defense of our nation and sacrificed themselves upon the alter of freedom. These wars over the last few years have changed us but they do not define us. We did our jobs and we kicked ass. Who cares about the end game or the political agenda. As Marines, we serve one purpose: to fight.

“The ROE’s have been so neutered that they’ve become a detriment to the troops.” Tell that to anyone in my unit and they will all give the same answer: “What the fuck is an ROE?” Maybe this question of “What now?” is more prevelant in other services or units, but for me and my Marine brothers, we know “what now”, it is part of our creed: “So be it, until victory is America’s and there is no enemy.” We understand that now we prepare for our next fight. We have an opportunity to train hard and learn from our experiences. For my brothers who have been pushed out in the bullshit Reduction in Force and are hurting for that sense of pride again, I encourage you to take advantage of the opportunities out there that will allow you to continue to be a warrior.

Contrary to the article, contracts are not drying up. They are becoming more competetive because of the influx in qualified warriors. After the military draws down later this year in Afghanistan, a significant amount of opportunities will arise. Is contracting the only option? No. Opportunities such as the Department of Energy Nuclear Materials Courier Federal Agent where you can drive nukes around the country kitted out like fucking Delta, or the Department of State Security Protective Specialist where you deploy to  high threat locations like Afghanistan and Pakistan. Both require no degree and value your military/combat experience. It is just about knowing where to look. If you want to continue to serve in the military, there are numerous opportunities for prior service; the Army will take you in a heart beat for Special Forces and the Navy will take you for SEAL.

Our good friend, former US Navy SEAL Lt. Jason  Redman puts it best:

“The end of an era. On Aug. 28, 2013, I finally retired from the United States Navy after almost twenty one years of service.  It was a surreal moment as I stood surrounded by friends, family, and icons of the Naval Special Warfare community, as they recalled my service to the Navy and our great nation.

As I listened to friends and family remember, I thought to myself, “this ends a part of my life that I fought so adamantly to obtain.”  Interestingly, though, I did not feel sorrow, merely satisfaction.  My career did not end the way I had planned.  I had always aspired to command a SEAL Team someday, but alas, life has a way of altering our course, and mine was definitely altered in that firefight in September of 2007.  People often ask me, “Do you regret it?  Would you change what happened if you could?” and the honest answer is no.  What I went through, I hope no one has to go through. It is a painful and often times disheartening journey, but as with many hard lessons I learned through the military it taught me who I am.  It taught me what I am truly made of and what it is to lead, regardless of the circumstances you are placed in.  In this view, I know my career, strewn with hard lessons learned but ending on a high note of achievement, is exactly how it was meant to happen and I look forward to taking these lessons learned  through my Naval Special Warfare career and sharing them with the world.  Long Live the Brotherhood.” – LT (SEAL) Jason C. Redman (retired)

The Global War on Terror is far from over and our enemies are only growing in strength and numbers. We have dedicated out lives to a great cause and it was not for nothing, it was for each other. We are warriors, and for us, the music never stops.