Iraq war veteran Kyle Van Tassel has been making headlines for about the past month and a half.
Just to catch you up, back in November the 28-year-old – dressed in cammies and toting an American flag – caused a pretty big traffic jam and police standoff when he positioned himself on the La Cumbre Road Highway 101 overpass (in Santa Barbara) and started waving an unloaded gun and yelling about what war veterans face when they return to America.
Several days later, the court discovered Van Tassel had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and had failed to take his medication, which may have been what brought on the incident at the overpass (even though the prosecuting attorney, Darryl Perlin – who apparently moonlights as a psychiatrist at night – repeatedly “stated his doubt that Van Tassel exhibited signs of PTSD at all”).
Van Tassel’s judge lowered his bail on the condition that Van Tassel check into a VA-managed mental health facility in Los Angeles – which he did, only to appear in the news again after leaving the facility several times to visit (you’re not going to believe this) Tom Cruise. Van Tassel apparently visited Cruise’s Beverly Hills home in the hopes of appealing to Cruise to become an advocate for veterans. I don’t know Cruise’s stance on veterans, but I do know a bit about his stance on mental health and I don’t think he’s the best candidate for PTSD advocacy.
Anyway, Van Tassel is back under a doctor’s care, and that’s where the story ends for now.
My heart goes out to Van Tassel and his family. Most people who know me know I’m a strong supporter of America’s military men and women, and for a long time I’ve struggled with how our veterans are treated when they return home. After everything these people do for us, I just can’t wrap my brain around some of the the stories I’ve heard about.
Whether or not Van Tassel’s actions were fueled by symptoms of PTSD (or bipolar and schizoaffective disorders, as is now being reported), not everyone is looking at this as an entirely sad story. Philip Marteney, a Veterans for Peace activist, especially sees what good may come of it:
“I personally think he did a heroic act,” said Marteney, who served for 14 months in Vietnam as an Army draftee from 1970-1971. “He brought an issue to the attention of thousands of people and did no harm to anybody.”
What are your thoughts on this situation? Do you hope Van Tasell’s actions will bring more awareness to the mental health issues our veterans face? Do you have a story of your own to share? Feel free to chime in.
In the meantime, if you’d like to learn more about, and find resources for, PTSD and veterans, check out these sites:
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Last reviewed: 2 Dec 2011