"I was a great soldier once upon a time," Goldsmith says.
He graduated at the top of his class in basic training and was on the commandant's list in the Warrior Leadership Course with a 94.6 percent average. He aced every test, mental and physical, received commendations and medals and promotions, but by the end of his first deployment he knew he was in serious trouble.
His CSM (command sergeant major) Altman, however, had told his battalion, "If any of you go try to say you're depressed and thinking about killing yourself, you're going to get deployed anyway, and when we get there, you'll get to be my personal I.E.D. (improvised explosive device) kicker!" So he self-medicated; he drank. A lot. "All I wanted to do was black out."
What kept him going was the end that was in sight. He just had to hang on till his contract was up, and then he could go home, go back to school, and finally be a 20-year-old kid. Then days before he was scheduled to get out, his unit was locked down, stop-lossed as part of the surge. He was looking at another 18-month deployment.
At first he thought he was having a heart attack. It turned out to be a panic attack. He was diagnosed with depression, anxiety disorder and adjustment disorder, given a lot of pills and told he'd be fine. Or at least fine enough to go back.
The day before his unit was to deploy, Memorial Day 2007, he went out onto the memorial field at Ft. Stewart, where trees are planted for every soldier from 3rd Infantry Division killed in Iraq. He mixed pills and vodka, and tried to die.
Thursday, March 27
Stop Loss Makes Prisoners of 60,000 Americans
From Pentagon Holds Thousands of Americans 'Prisoners of War' by Penny Coleman at Alternet.