Claude. He told me his son was going to be on the Dr.
Phil show later that week. “You might want to watch
it,” he said. “I think you’ll be very surprised.”
When I tuned in, I was stunned. Sitting on stage
with his mother, girfriend Katie and Dr. Phil Mc-
Graw, Bailey seemed a mere shadow of the confident,
charismatic Marine I had met in 2005. Gone was his
winning smile and easy charm, replaced by a face
clenched in anger and fear as he and his mother re-
counted the many ways Bailey had declined since
coming home. Nightmares. Addictions. Suicidal
thoughts. And a rage that left him denting cars with
During the show, Bailey recounted some of the
horrors he’d witnessed in Iraq. A close friend whose
body was torn asunder by a roadside bomb. Men he
had killed. Women and children whose lives were lost
in the fog of war.
“If there is a God, and there is a heaven,” Bailey
told Dr. Phil, “I don’t see myself going there.”
Thinking back, Claude struggles to describe what
it was like watching his son disintegrate so rapidly.
“What you send over there and what you get back
are two very different things,” he says. “We sent our
son, and they brought back nothing but horror.”
THE STATISTICS ON PTSD ARE STAGGERING.
According to the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, 11
percent of soldiers who fought in Afghanistan and
20 percent of Iraq War veterans have been diagnosed
with PTSD. (By comparison, about 31 percent of U.S.
troops who served in Vietnam have been diagnosed.)
The Washington Post recently reported that more U. S.
troops died from suicide on active duty in 2012 than
in battle, making it the number-one cause of death
among our soldiers last year. And while awareness
of the disorder has risen throughout the past decade,
many clinicians who specialize in the treatment of
PTSD say there is a long road ahead.
“Since Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s more commonly
talked about. But the actual symptoms are not talked
about nearly enough,” says Dr. Steven Brodsky, PTSD
expert and clinical director of the OCD, Panic &
Trauma Center of New York and the affiliated center
in Teaneck. “It’s easy to spot things like flashbacks or
violent acting out, but the quieter symptoms are being
lost along the way.” Those quieter symptoms include
an inability to maintain relationships and a need to
avoid situations that bring back bad memories.
Brought on by the persistent repression of horrific
memories, PTSD manifests itself in many ways. Ac-
cording to Dr. Nancy Friedman, PTSD coordinator
for the Department of Veteran Affairs New Jersey
Healthcare System’s campus in East Orange, symp-
toms can be broken down into three primary catego-
ries—re-experiencing, arousal and avoidance.
“Avoidance may be the most harmful aspect of
PTSD, because instead of processing and digest-
ing their fear, they stay away from all reminders of
their feelings and thoughts related to it,” says Chris-
tina DiChiara, a post-doctoral fellow and specialist in
PTSD treatment at the Center for the Treatment and
Study of Anxiety at the University of Pennsylvania.
“It’s the avoidance that allows the trauma to fester.”
“We were scared to death of him,” his mother says.
“I told him many times that I was more scared when
he got back than when he was deployed. But he didn’t
want to see it.”
Even in his darkest moments, Bailey would not
surrender to the need for help.
“It was an ego thing, man,” Bailey says. “ ‘I’m a
Marine. I don’t need help. I don’t want any handouts.
But that was just a suit of armor to let everyone think
things were good. But everything was definitely not
DiChiara has encountered Bailey’s mindset more
times than she can count. “His experience is really com-
mon,” she says. “As a soldier you need to see yourself as
this fierce warrior in order to get through war. And in
combat, if you experience trauma, you need to stuff it so
you can survive. That’s what keeps you alive. But when
you come home, it works against you. The battle mind-
set is really what keeps so many vets from seeking help.”
AS SHOCKED AS I WAS TO SEE BAILEY ON TV that
afternoon in 2012, I was even more surprised by the
man I met in Starbucks last February. Dressed in a
wool sweater and jeans, he seemed lighter, as though
he had shaken off a massive weight.
“I’ll tell you what, there was a time when I never
“I was spared in Afghanistan. I was spared in Iraq. And even after
trying to kill myself. There are no coincidences. I’m here for a reason.
But I had to reach the bottom before I could see it.”