A Medical Enlisted Military Web Community,
For all Military Services.
Past, Present, Future and Relatives of,
All are Welcome.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

PFC Dwyer loses Battle with PTSD

Soldier in photo dies after PTSD struggle

By Kelly Kennedy – Staff writer
Posted : Thursday Jul 3, 2008 17:03:09 EDT

During the first week of the war in Iraq, a Military Times photographer captured the arresting image of Army Spc. Joseph Patrick Dwyer as he raced through a battle zone clutching a tiny Iraqi boy named Ali.

PFC dwyer
The photo was hailed as a portrait of the heart behind the U.S. military machine, and Doc Dwyer’s concerned face graced the pages of newspapers across the country.

But rather than going on to enjoy the public affection for his act of heroism, he was consumed by the demons of combat stress he could not exorcise. For the medic who cared for the wounds of his combat buddies as they pushed toward Baghdad, the battle for his own health proved too much to bear.

On June 28, Dwyer, 31, died of an accidental overdose in his home in Pinehurst, N.C., after years of struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder. During that time, his marriage fell apart as he spiraled into substance abuse and depression. He found himself constantly struggling with law, even as friends, Veterans Affairs personnel and the Army tried to help him.

“Of course he was looked on as a hero here,” said Capt. Floyd Thomas of the Pinehurst Police Department. Still, “we’ve been dealing with him for over a year.”

The day he died, Dwyer apparently took pills and inhaled the fumes of an aerosol can in an act known as “huffing.” Thomas said Dwyer then called a taxi company for a ride to the hospital. When the driver arrived, “they had a conversation through the door [of Dwyer’s home],” Thomas said, but Dwyer could not let the driver in. The driver asked Dwyer if he should call the police. Dwyer said yes. When the police arrived, they asked him if they should break down the door. He again said yes.

“It was down in one kick,” Thomas said. “They loaded him up onto a gurney, and that’s when he went code.”

Dwyer served in Iraq with 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment as the unit headed into Baghdad at the beginning of the war. As they pushed forward for 21 days in March 2003, only four of those days lacked gunfire, he later told Newsday. The day before Warren Zinn snapped his photo for Military Times, Dwyer’s Humvee had been hit by a rocket.

About 500 Iraqis were killed during those days, and Dwyer watched as Ali’s family near the village of al Faysaliyah was caught in the crossfire. he grabbed the 4-year-old boy from his father and sprinted with him to safety. Zinn grabbed the moment on his camera. The image went nationwide and Dwyer found himself hailed as a hero.

He did not see it that way.

“Really, I was just one of a group of guys,” he later told Military Times. “I wasn’t standing out more than anyone else.”

According to Dwyer, he was just one of many who wanted to help after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. He’d grown up in New York, and when the towers came crashing down, he went to see a recruiter.

“I knew I had to do something,” he said. Just before he left for Iraq, he got married.

But when he returned from war after three months in Iraq, he developed the classic, treatable symptoms of PTSD. like so many other combat vets, he didn’t seek help. In restaurants, he sat with his back to the wall. He avoided crowds. He stayed away from friends. He abused inhalants, he told Newsday. In 2005, he and his family talked with Newsday to try to help other service members who might need help. He talked with the paper from a psychiatric ward at Fort Bliss, Texas, where he was committed after his first run-in with the police.

In October 2005, he thought there were Iraqis outside his window in El Paso, Texas. When he heard a noise, he started shooting. Three hours later, police enticed him to come out and no one was injured.

Dwyer promised to go to counseling, and promised to tell the truth. He seemed excited about his wife’s pregnancy.

But the day he died, he and his wife had not been together for at least a year, Thomas said.

And almost exactly a year ago — June 26, 2007 — Dwyer had again been committed to a psychiatric ward. Thomas said police received a 911 call that Dwyer was “having mental problems relating to PTSD.” “We responded and took him in,” Thomas said. “He’s been in and out.”

Military Times could not reach Dwyer’s family, but his wife, Matina Dwyer, told the Pinehurst Pilot, “He was a very good and caring person. He was just never the same when he came back, because of all the things he saw. He tried to seek treatment, but it didn’t work.”

She told the paper she hoped his death would bring more awareness about PTSD.

In 2003, Dwyer was still hopeful about the future, and about his place in the war.

“I know that people are going to be better for it,” he told Military Times. “The whole world will be. I hope being here is positive, because we’re a caring group of people out here.”

Comments

6 Responses to “PFC Dwyer loses Battle with PTSD”
  1. BobHandy says:

    Recently Federal District Judge Samuel Conti decided in the class action lawsuit in which we (Veterans United For Truth and Veterans for Common Sense) were plaintiffs, that the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) was failing in many cases in providing mental health services to returning veterans. Unfortunately he also decided that he did not have jurisdiction at his level to compel changes in the DVA’s procedures.

    While we are disappointed with Judge Conti's decision that he lacked jurisdiction, and do not agree that we did not prove the “systemic” nature of these problems, this outcome is far from being all bad. We knew that it was a crap shoot going in, but we were sure that he had the necessary jurisdiction. We also knew that no matter how he decided, the case would most likely end up before the Supreme Court. Of course we had hoped to be defending Judge Conti's decision against an appeal by the DVA; now we will be appealing his decision in the Ninth Circuit.

    When we started out, we knew that we were in it for the long haul. We won round one, just by getting the case heard in federal court, since the DVA and the Department of Justice both attempted multiple times to have us disqualified as plaintiffs, and denied that the federal court had any right even to examine DVA procedures and policies..

    We lost part of round two. It may be a setback, but it succeeded in large part since Judge Conti’s ruling expressed agreement with much of our complaint. Additionally The DVA has been exposed not only to the Congress, but also to the national and international media, who have stepped up their reporting on the shoddy treatment that the VA has been providing to returning veterans, and to the repeated delay and denial of service by the DVA..

    Americas veterans will be forever in the debt of Morrison & Foerster, LLP and Disability Rights Advocates, the two law firms that took on the DVA pro bono.

    Bob Handy, HMC USN (Ret)
    Chair, Veterans United For Truth. Inc
    http://www.vuft.org
    PO Box 4476
    Santa Barbara Ca 93140
    805 962 9082
    805 455 5259 cell

  2. Da_Chief says:

    I deleted a comment by “COUNT”, there is “NO PLACE” For insulting folks on this site. If you have a point to make, make it..

    D/C

  3. navydoc04065 says:

    As a corpsman who has served with the marines on two tours. One being casevac and the other as a QRF corpsman I have seen and done a lot of things, and I too suffer from PTSD. I feel that there are many marines out there that have the mentality of nothings wrong with me, I will be fine. They do not want to be proactive in there mental health and try to self medicate. I feel for the family of this young devil dog and I have had providers who were not the best when it came to treatment for PTSD. The thing for any one is if you don’t feel like you are getting the right treatment GO SOME WHERE ELSE get a second opinion. And if the medical officer will not let you get one then go to his boss. Get the help you need. Simper Fi

  4. navydoc04065 says:

    As a corpsman who has served with the marines on two tours. One being casevac and the other as a QRF corpsman I have seen and done a lot of things, and I too suffer from PTSD. I feel that there are many marines out there that have the mentality of nothings wrong with me, I will be fine. They do not want to be proactive in there mental health and try to self medicate. I feel for the family of this young devil dog and I have had providers who were not the best when it came to treatment for PTSD. The thing for any one is if you don’t feel like you are getting the right treatment GO SOME WHERE ELSE get a second opinion. And if the medical officer will not let you get one then go to his boss. Get the help you need. Simper Fi

  5. Pregnancy symptoms says:

    I wish to wish all pregnant women of good mood, easy pregnancy and natural sorts!
    Good luck also are happy! Give birth easily and independently! Let not doctors give birth for you, and you!
    Also adjust itself on chest feeding of the kid! Read the necessary information!
    Be, lovely pregnant mums and expecting posterities of the daddy, are healthy and wise!

  6. Phoenix56317 says:

    Am not an individual who is familiar with medical terms but I was an Armor Recon Specialist with the 4th/7th US Cavalry. I have come here to post my comment regarding this BRAVE CORPSMAN, who I feel was the BEACON of HOPE for Humanity. It takes a very special individual to become a CORPSMAN to begin with and I like to believe that corpsmen wears SUNGLASSES when they come to treating the wounded. They perform their assigned duties regardless of SKIN COLOR, RACE or RELIGION and they are more then willing to sacrifice their life to save another.