The War Doesn’t End When the Troops Return Home

August 4th, 2009 at 10:33 am | 10 Comments |

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We’re talking about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder… and it can be DEADLY.

Fortunately, Army Reserve Staff Sergeant George Nickel survived his obvious episode of PTSD.

On February 8th, 2007, Staff Sergeant Nickel was the lone survivor from the explosion of one of the largest IEDs ever placed, outside of Karma, Iraq. The blast penetrated the armored hull and the 12 ton bomb-resistant vehicle was blown more than 10 feet in the air. Nearly every bone on the right side of his body was broken, and shrapnel from the blast tore his flesh; it was a miracle Nickel lived at all. Less than a foot away from him, the turret gunner was blown out of his hatch, dead before he hit the ground. The vehicle commander was even closer to George, and he was also killed right away. The driver lived long enough to be medevac’ed by chopper to the field hospital in Fallujah, but he died of his wounds en route.

The war doesn’t end for a vet when he comes home; it’s worse if you come back in pieces. Nickel was sent from Iraq to the Army Medical Center in Landstuhl, Germany. His destination in the States was Walter Reed – a grim place on a good day; George Nickel was lucky enough to arrive at the height of the neglect scandal.

Due to his condition, and the situation back home, George couldn’t be sent home for rehabilitation therapy. Back in Idaho he was an hour from the nearest VA rehab facility, and his house in the woods was not handicap accessible. So the Army warehoused him in an old hotel near Walter Reed. The conditions in these places are deplorable. George Nickel finally arrived home to Boise on July 4th, 2008.

What happened this week: George Nickel lost his dog. For whatever reason he took along a handgun, his AR-15 rifle and was wearing a tactical vest with as many as 90 rounds of ammunition when he went to look for it. Police say Nickel shot his way into two apartments before they arrived, clearing rooms CQB-style as he searched for his pup.

He developed situational awareness fast, apparently; Nickel surrendered to police without returning a shot as four officers fired some 12 rounds in a confrontation in the stairwell of Nickel’s apartment. No one was struck by any of the gunfire, thank God.

George Nickel Jr., 38, is being held in the Ada County Jail on a $500,000 bond for four felony charges of aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer, unlawful discharge of a gun into an inhabited building, and use of a gun in the commission of a felony.

I’m not a lawyer or a politician, and I don’t know what can be done or said on SSG Nickel’s behalf, but I’ve seen amazing results from the internet’s ability to blast out info in all directions. Maybe somebody out there is in a better position than I am to do or say something on SSG Nickel’s behalf: a preliminary hearing on the charges is scheduled for August 13th in front of 4th District Magistrate Kevin Swain.

Here’s more on what happened, and the hell that SGT Nickel went through downrange.

Originally posted at Stormbringer.

Recent Posts by Sean Linnane

10 Comments so far ↓

  • ottovbvs

    …………He sounds as if he needs some time in a mental hospital with proper care…….thank god there were no people in these apartments…….unfortunately the subtext here is the guy’s military experiences are somehow a justification for his behavior…….they are ………and all the dissing of Walter Reed is totally gratuitous(all hospitals are grim places on good days), this hospital has done great work that does not deserve to be trashed with innuendos and half truths

  • balconesfault

    Yeah, one more reason why politicians fantasies of an easy, clean, quick victory in Iraq were so dangerous. We are really good as a society of highlighting the risks of failure to militarily intervene in some situation around the world. We’re pretty crappy at paying attention to the risks of deploying our troops.

  • barker13

    The Office of the *Governor of Idaho, Butch Otter, can be reached via 208-334-2100

    *Can issue commutations/pardons.

    The two U.S. Senators representing Idaho are Mike Crapo — (208) 334-1776 and James Risch — (208) 342-7985; the Congressman representing Boise, Idaho is Mike Simpson — (208) 334-1953

    *All three men can obviously lobby their state’s governor for clemency and if he declines they can make the request of President Obama.

    Finally… Lawrence Wasden is Idaho’s State Attorney General. His office can be reached via (208) 334-2400


  • sinz54

    Despite these hyped anecdotes, studies have shown that the rate of mental illness among returning vets is no higher, and in some categories lower, than the rate of mental illness among the American population generally.

    Let’s remember how the term “go postal” originated.

  • SFTor1

    sinz, do you have any information on the consequences of mental illness in returning vets, compared to the general population? Are there more violent incidents? More firearms incidents?

    We sent those people into awful places. Now we need to take care of them. Statistics matter, but as far as I can tell it’s the individual cases we need to worry about here.

  • ottovbvs

    sinz54 // Aug 4, 2009 at 1:02 pm
    “Despite these hyped anecdotes, studies have shown that the rate of mental illness among returning vets is no higher, ”

    ………..I’m sure this is broadly true…….from my own experience of military life, admittedly it was still a draft army at the time, the makeup of a group of soldiers looked fairly like the makeup of a random groups of civilians in a factory…….interestingly Linnane is typical of a certain type one came across….this unfortunate young guy Nickel obviously has a screw loose but we don’t know the exact circumstances or whether he represents a continuing danger to himself or others……at the end of the day this has to be settled by the local medical, legal and police enforcement systems……..the last thing that seems appropriate is politicians getting involved

  • sinz54

    ottovbs: I agree.
    Mental illness is not a rarity; studies suggest that between 15% and 20% of the U.S. population have some degree of mental illness, in all walks of life. Thus it’s easy to cherry pick one or two out to support just about whatever conclusion you want to draw.

    Linnane is no more representative of anything in the military than those postal workers who “went postal” were representative of anything profound in the Postal Service.

    And did we forget about Lisa Nowak so soon? She “went postal” too–yet astronauts receive intensive psychological screening.

  • Sean Linnane

    otto-whatever-yer-name-is, I am typical of nothing you ever met in your draft Army of the 70s – the men I served amongst are nothing like random groups of civilians in a factory they are professional soldiers. You wouldn’t recognize one if he kicked you up your fourth point of contact.
    Nickel doesn’t have a “screw loose” – after what he went through he’d be insane if he DIDn’t have PTSD
    One of the most professional, squeaky-clean-behind-the-ears Boy Scout fast-trackers I ever worked with – a guy called B.W. – his wife was having an affair, and the Command yanked him out of Afghanistan and flew him straight into psychological hell here in Fayetteville, North Carolina with no support structure, nobody to meet him on the tarmac, nothing. B.W. ended up killing his wife & later himself. I knew B.W. , and I never would have thought him capable of what he did. This is not “screw loose” this is PTSD – something NOBODY is immune from, and it can be fatal.
    Thank you for your kindness & understanding. You may now reinsert your cranium back into your fourth point of contact. – S.L.

  • Dustin Ferrell

    Just to make sure I understand, sinz – you see (statistically at least) no difference between PTSD suffered by a servicemember for all he/she has done or seen, and the large “mental illness” bucket that surely includes much less serious symptoms?

    I agree w/ balconesfault, and am frustrated as a veteran with how little the human cost factors into our decision to go to war (one I did support).

    Not sure why Linnane is getting called out exactly, or who in the peanut gallery is qualified to say whether he’s “representative” or not.

  • ottovbvs

    sean linnane // Aug 4, 2009 at 11:29 pm

    “otto-whatever-yer-name-is, I am typical of nothing you ever met in your draft Army of the 70s – the men I served amongst are nothing like random groups of civilians in a factory they are professional soldiers”

    ……..Actually it was the sixties……..and you are very typical of a certain type……I’m also disappointed to hear that you dismiss all the guys who served in the sixties and seventies as unprofessional and not in your league…..a bit like my old man who served in Italy during WW 2 for hostilities only…..another unprofessional……I don’t seem to remember the unprofessionals of my time including many long service guys who’d served in Korea being so sensitive about loose screws……. a different and less politically correct mindset I guess… for your anecdote about the tracker this guy sounds like a nut case who also needed psychiatric treatment just as Nickel does……and believe me I’ve known a lot of people who had “no support structure” ……..I’m neither unaware of, nor unsympathetic to, guys who are having mental problems after active service……just trying to avoid the over emotionalism and exaggerations that seems to be your standard operating practise.