Quaker House of Fayetteville is asking Friends to help them raise awareness about the lack of mental health care for the estimated 700,000 veterans and service members in the US prison system, many of whom suffer from PTSD and other issues related to their military service. In so many cases, these mental health problems contributed directly or indirectly to the service members’ incarceration.
They are starting their campaign in North Carolina, where this problem is especially urgent, with a petition to North Carolina County and State Officials titled: “We Demand Adequate and Compassionate Mental Health Care for Incarcerated Service Members and Veterans in North Carolina.” Their goal is to bring pressure on NC officials and representatives to act, and to bring attention to this problem nationwide.
Joshua Eisenhauer’s story serves as a compelling example of the urgent need for mental health services for veterans and service members.
SSGT Eisenhauer is a former active duty service member who served on two combat tours with the 82nd Airborne Division close combat strike forces in Afghanistan. He witnessed the death and dismemberment of several of his close soldier friends in combat and consequently developed very severe PTSD. He was returned to the Ft. Bragg Wounded Warrior Battalion at Ft. Bragg, NC, where he was given a “High Risk” status. In January of 2011, in the late evening at his off-post apartment, a small fire developed in a make-shift cardboard ashtray on his front deck. The local police and fire department over-reacted, sending over 10 squad cars, 40 policemen, and dozens of firemen to the scene. The police pounded on his front apartment door. It was then that Eisenhauer lost contact with the reality of the situation and believed he was back in Afghanistan, in a combat situation. A 45-minute long shoot out occurred, with Eisenhauer firing his Glock 19 pistol, and the police firing back with red smoke grenades, flash bang grenades, and dozens of shots fired into his apartment. Bullets struck Eisenhauer in the left upper chest, right face, right thigh, and the flash bang grenades severely burned his scalp. Although Eisenhauer did fire at the police with his pistol, none were wounded or killed. After he lost consciousness on the floor of his apartment, he was medically evacuated to UNC Medical Center in Chapel Hill, NC. Two days later, in the intensive care unit, while he was still in a dazed state his attending nurse asked him if he knew where he was and why he was there. She charted his response in his medical records, which was: “Who’s got the roof. I was fighting the insurgents.”
Joshua consequently was sentenced to 10-15 years in prison. His sentence is being appealed, but in the meantime he is incarcerated in an open room with 30 other prisoners. He is allowed to see a social worker only about once every two months. The prison abuts a shooting range, which worsens his trauma. Joshua has asked to be placed in a cell by himself to get some relief from his environment, but was told that for that to happen, he would have to get into trouble and be put into solitary confinement.
Quaker House shares stories like Josh Eisenhauer’s to raise awareness of the true human costs of war, and advocate for the services and benefits that our wounded warriors deserve and need in order to heal.
Lynn Newsom, Director at Quaker House, writes:
“The men and women who served our country often suffer the “invisible” wounds of war: Post-Traumatic Stress, Moral Injury, and/or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). These combat-related injuries increase the likelihood of violent, aggressive, and impulsive behavior and require a regular regime of therapy and medication, often for years if not a lifetime.
“Such injuries can lead to alcohol and substance abuse, exacerbating the symptoms and tendencies of PTSD/TBI and increasing the likelihood of the victim’s getting into trouble with the law. “
Quaker House provides free and confidential counseling to service members, veterans and their families through their GI Rights Hotline and Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, and Moral Injury in the Military Counseling Program. In their work, they see the human damage that civilians and our political leaders do not.
Learn more about the work and witness of Quaker House at their website: www.quakerhouse.org
—-Content for this post provided Lynn Newsom