The first person executed in the U.S. this year was a Bronze star recipient.
Andrew Brannan volunteered for the army and served a year in Vietnam. He was honorably discharged. In 1984 he was diagnosed with PTSD and in 1996 his VA psychiatrist diagnosed him as bipolar as well.
In 1998 he killed a police officer in a traffic stop, and he was convicted of murder and given the death penalty. Prior to his execution
on Jan.13, 2015, his lawyer told him that his case had raised public awareness of PTSD and veterans. He said "I am proud to have been able to walk point for my comrades, and pray that the same thing does not happen to any of them."
For a time it seemed the same thing could happen, and soon.
There is a trial starting in February where another veteran suffering from PTSD is accused of murder. This man enlisted as a Marine and served in Iraq from 2007 to 2009. While serving outside Baghdad, he witnessed mortar attacks and much worse.
He returned to the U.S., and in 2010 he was sent to assist with the fallout of the Haiti earthquake. The time he spent there affected him harshly, and he told his mother "They didn't train me to go and pick up baby bodies off the beach."
When he returned from Haiti, according to his family, he was changed. In July of 2011 he was diagnosed with PTSD at the Dallas VA. He was released when deemed sufficiently improved, but he returned to the hospital with similar mental health issues two more times.
He was prescribed eight medications including lithium, prazosin, and Zoloft. According to friends and family, his symptoms got worse. He thought that helicopters were watching him and that he would be forced to return to Iraq.
He was fixated on demons and his mother wanted him to be referred to a residential program for those with PTSD. She says a psychiatrist at the VA said he was not stable enough for that program.
She sought help from another veteran — a man who had also served in Iraq and who had helped other veterans struggling with PTSD. He agreed to help her son. That man was Chris Kyle
, an American hero known as the American Sniper, whose story is in movie theaters this week.
This marine who served in Iraq and picked up babies' bodies in Haiti is Eddie Ray Routh. Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield took Routh to a firing range and never returned.
According to prosecution, Routh killed them for their truck. Attorneys for Routh will argue the insanity defense.
Up until about a month ago this was a capital murder case and, if convicted, Routh could have followed in Brannan's footsteps. However the prosecution recently withdrew the death penalty so Routh faces life in prison. The trial starts in February.
Brannon, Routh, and Kyle all volunteered to serve our country and to put themselves in harm's way. Kyle returned a hero, and continued to serve by helping his fellow warriors.
In his book and the movie "American Sniper," we have the opportunity to celebrate Kyle's heroism. But if we are to extol the glories of war, we must also accept the horrors.
Many of our soldiers return from war wounded. Our VA hospitals are incapable of dealing with the physical damage. In 2004, the Dallas VA that treated Routh was called the worst in the nation.
The allegations that veterans died on secret waiting lists at Phoenix VA hospitals have not been appropriately addressed. If it is true that the VA is allowing veterans to die of physical wounds it's not hard to believe they could allow them to kill one another over psychological ones.
When will we insist that the VA be fixed? If Brannan and Routh did not deserve better, certainly Kyle did.
Heather Hansen is a trial attorney and a partner at O'Brien and Ryan LLP. She is a legal analyst for Newsmax and can be seen on MidPoint every Monday afternoon. Hansen is a trained mediator and a volunteer for the Support Center for Child Advocates. She also serves as a legal analyst for CNN, Fox News Channel, CBS Sports, and Fox29. For more of her reports, Go Here Now.
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