You served in Iraq twice. Both times, you served in a combat role, kicking in doors. You lost a few members of your Army family, but you accepted that. It is part of the deal you made with Uncle Sam. You were commissioned through ROTC at one of the Ivy league schools. You get out of the Army when your time expires and feel like you have earned a rest. After several months of looking for work, you get a job at a national bank on the East Coast. Everything seems perfect. The civilian boss loves your work. Your co-workers appreciate having that Ivy league finance degree. You get two raises in the first six months.
Then, the day after Veteran’s Day, one of your former soldiers commits suicide. That brings back a flood of memories. You were his platoon leader. You spent almost 3 years taking care of this kid and keeping him straight. You knew his very young wife. You start having those bad dreams again. Its hard to sleep.
Your boss stops you in the hallway and asks if everything is ok. She has noticed you do not speak at meetings. You were late with that report. You tell her about that kid, who shot himself. She says “this is not the Army. Take a day off.” Then, she walks away.
Your sleeplessness worsens. At work, others are noticing your red eyes and nodding off at meetings. You take a day off. You get some work done at home. The boss fusses at you for taking a day off when your report was not turned in yet.
Weeks pass. The boss says accusingly that your speech is slurred and your eyes are drooping. The boss walks away, looking at you like you are a child molester.
Walking down the hallway, you find your desk. A minute later, Human Resources calls you in for a meeting. The boss is there. The HR person and the boss ask if you are using drugs. “No,” you look incredulous. They have no idea that in the Army, you were tested for drug use every other year. You think how ironic, the boss and the HR rep could probably not pass a drug test every other year for eight years.
The boss and HR representative accuse you, the former Ranger captain of PTSD. “No-o-o,” you stammer out. You think back to all those times you encouraged other soldiers to see a counselor about possible PTSD. You recall asking the kid if he had seen a counselor – just a couple of years year before he committed suicide. “No,” you say, “I do not have PTSD.” But, you add, “I have been seeing a psychiatrist for Depression. The medication causes some drowsiness.” You tell them you will talk to your psychiatrist about adjusting the dosage.
They press you to go take a drug test, now. The clinic will be open for another hour, they insist. They ask if you want to talk to the EAP counselor, Employee Assistance Program. You recall the orientation explaining that EAP will assist employees with drug alcohol problems. You know that the EAP program is a good way to end a promising career.
A more senior HR person comes in. She rattles off some statistics about all the employees who were helped by the EAP program. You continue to deny any drug use or alcohol abuse. The senior HR rep again asks about PTSD.
You break down and weep. The questions stop. They look at you like a monkey in a zoo. The senior HR tells you that you have 24 hours to contact EAP. You are suspended for one week with pay. They send you home.
You cannot imagine going back there after your boss saw you crying. A co-worker saw you leaving the room and shoots a questioning look..
The junior HR rep calls you the next day at home. He asks if you contacted EAP, yet. You tell him no. You explain again you have a psychiatrist. Why do I need a counselor? He says you are fired for not contacting EAP within 24 hours and for refusing a drug test. You never refused any drug test. You think back to those days in Baghdad when you were never sure who and where the enemy was. You think things have not changed so much.