The Military's Showdown Over PTSD

(CBS) Twenty-two year old combat medic Jonathan Norrell volunteered for every mission during his year in Iraq.

He was bombed, ambushed, treating wounded under fire - and the memories still haunt him, CBS News correspondent Kimberly Dozier reports.

"The things that affected me the most weren't the IEDs, which I went through six or seven of, and all the firefights, and all the combat," Norrell said. "It was the psychological stuff, the people I failed to help."

By the time he came off his tour of duty he was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: anxiety, sleeplessness, flashbacks. Military doctors recommended immediate discharge and treatment but the command refused.

Instead they forced him into combat training exercises. He turned to drugs and alcohol.

"I just lost it," Norrell said. "I didn't wanna do it anymore."

So the Army he served so well in Iraq threatened to expel him without medical benefits.

Norrell's case reveals the showdown inside the military, between the new school and old school view on how to handle PTSD - one of the signature injuries of the Afghan and Iraq wars.

And experts warn there's a storm coming: a generation of soldiers coming home with PTSD.

A new study estimateas that roughly one in five U.S. troops is suffering from major depression or post-traumatic stress from serving in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and an equal number have suffered brain injuries.

CBS News has been given documents showing more than 100,000 vets of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are seeking help for mental health disorders.

Norrell decided to fight back by reaching out to veteran's groups and advocates like Carissa Picard of Military Spouses for Change. Picard's husband leaves for Iraq in June.

"Our soldiers didn't choose to wage this war; they didn't choose to go to Iraq or Afghanistan," she said. "We've sent them there. We need to take responsibility for what happens to them."

Norrell's struggle for help took months of meetings, phone calls, e-mails, lobbying Congressmen and the top levels of the Pentagon before she finally got help at Fort Hood.

We asked the man in charge there why it took so long.

"The field commander recognizes the soldier has a problem, and they request the soldier to be transferred to the warrior transition unit," said Col. Casper P. Jones III.

Dozier said: "That sounds great, but we know in this situation, for several months, it didn't happen."

"It didn't happen," Jones said. "I think there are lessons from this case that can help us all as we move forward."

CBS News has learned that top Pentagon officials have made visits to bases across the country. They're telling Army commanders to take their doctors' diagnoses more seriously, and get the troops treatment.

Norrell hopes that by speaking out, other troops won't have to fight so hard to get the help they need.

"Hopefully what happened to me won't happen to any more soldiers," he said.


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