Monday, November 13, 2006
Mother fears driving America's streets
Take a minute and imagine what it must feel like to think every piece of trash on the side of the road or every discarded soda can could be an improvised explosive device. Such is life for a mother of two I met recently in suburban Illinois.

Keri Christensen served in Iraq with the Army National Guard. She has been back for a year and still panics when she takes her kids for a ride in the family minivan. Keri's job in Iraq was to haul tanks and heavy equipment from Kuwait to Iraq. She had to scan the roads regularly for roadside bombs to help keep the convoy safe. That fear has stuck with her.

She says she was diagnosed in Iraq with post-traumatic stress disorder. As many as one in seven soldiers returning from Iraq could have it, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.

Keri and her husband Brian told me she didn't have any mental health issues before deploying to Iraq. But she says that since she's been back she's had imaginary conversations with her husband, run for cover at the sound of a neighbor's nail gun (he was doing home construction), and burst into tears during fireworks at Disneyland because it reminded her of explosions in Iraq.

Keri is getting therapy, but says her condition hasn't improved much. She says she has terrible nightmares and is taking both anti-depressants and sleep aids. Since returning from Iraq, Keri has been fighting her own war at home, which like the one she left behind, has no easy end in sight.
Posted By Randi Kaye, CNN Correspondent: 6:28 PM ET
  34 Comments
Unfortunately the aftermath of War is as harmful to our young men and women as the War itself. Some give their physcial life for our freedoms, but some give their mental life, and happiness of their families. I wonder which is worse? Love and Peace to all our fine young men and women in uniform.
Posted By Anonymous Rosy, East liverpool, Ohio : 6:50 PM ET
Hey Randi~
My heart goes out to Keri Christensen. I don't think her experience is unusual considering what she has been through. I think that If I had to experience this war I would much more messed up than Keri. I hope and pray her life improves soon. She sounds like a strong lady that had loads of responsibilities where lives depended on her judgment. Duties such as hers could certainly cause a lot of trauma and stress. God Bless her. I look forward to hearing more about Keri on tonight's broadcast.
Posted By Anonymous Betty Ann, Nacogdoches TX : 6:58 PM ET
bring the soldiers home, immediatly
the iraqi's are on another level
Posted By Anonymous mike new orleans, la : 6:59 PM ET
That is a sad story and I hope that Keri will be able to get the help she needs to make her life easier.
Posted By Anonymous Genevieve M, El Paso, TX : 8:31 PM ET
Hey Keri
Remember that you and all the soldiers either in Iraq or back here in the US are always in our prayers. Hope your condition improves and thank you for all of your service. We will always be thinking of you.
Posted By Anonymous Liz Toledo, OH : 9:33 PM ET
Randi,
The human body is very fragile but so is the human mind. Keri Christensen's mind and soul must heal just like a broken leg or the acceptance of a severed limb. I hope we as Americans do not discount the need for mental health medical help for our returning troops. Wish and pray for Keri's healing.
Posted By Anonymous Sharon D., Indianapolis, IN : 9:40 PM ET
The sight of death is not pleasant! It doesn't matter if your a seasoned or green soldier. Every soldier perspective on life changes. More needs to be done to help the soldier when he/she comes home. This is not a new discovery. Every soldier who comes home, needs to go through a mental health program, to address the mental illness of war! There should be no time limit. The help and support needs to be constant.
Posted By Anonymous Claude Calgary AB Canada : 10:36 PM ET
Keri,
You are my hero. I pray daily for our soldiers. My uncle died in Vietnam. He was only about 21. Another one of my uncle's was in Vietnam twice and as a result of agent orange, died in May from bone cancer. Believe me when I say I will pray for you. I will also add you name to the list of friends that have daily prayer requests. You are a hero. I hope you can get the help you need. God knows what you have been through. My dad and other members of my family are were in the military. I have heard some stories. If only the people knew it all. God Bless You
Posted By Anonymous Lorrie, Larksville, PA : 10:56 PM ET
Randi,we have to wonder how many thousands more like Keri Christenson are and will suffer from PTS. I'm glad
that she is using wisdom and seeking help. There are many success stories of those who have dealt with high trauma. The noises, the nightmares, the reaction to suddenness, are real and difficult to deal with. Eventually,with help, they can be lessened and alleviated. Stay the course Keri, it will happen.

Sue
Posted By Anonymous Sue Jackson, Wauchula, Fl. : 11:17 PM ET
Interesting how many of the millions of veterans who fought in WWI & WWII came back to lead functional lives.... But now more than 1 in 10 soldiers has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.... Please..... I don't think most Americans realize that soldiers can get full disability if they are diagnosed with PTD.... Once Again, Americans looking for the free handout... And, by the way, I'm a soldier too, over twenty years in and have also been in Combat. If they need therapy fine.....but this is not a disability like the soldier that loses a limb....and they should not collect disability payments for this!!
Posted By Anonymous Steve, Fort Bragg, NC : 12:02 AM ET
Randi
It's amazing what our men and women in uniform have to go through. I'm surprised they all don't suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Anderson mentioned that those suffering from it can get help. What can be done to help or cure PTSD? It would be interesting to have a segment on 360 exploring the options these soldiers have. It's hard to imagine that anything can erase the horrible images and sounds that must haunt them for the rest of their lives.
Posted By Anonymous Christina, Windber, PA : 4:12 AM ET
I'm a psychology researcher and I want to tell Keri and others like her that PTSD is very treatable. Surprisingly, medication is usually not considered to be the most effective cure; instead, cognitive-behavior therapy and exposure therapy have been demonstrated to give panic and PTSD sufferers the most relief. These therapies typically begin by constructing a hierarchy of the most feared sensations or situations (like loud sounds and lights or driving) and experiencing them in a supportive context, sometimes alongside the therapist. The idea is to train the mind and body to be less sensitive to the threatening stimuli and basically rewire the fear circuits that are triggering the panic. It is common to want to avoid or escape frightening situations, but avoidance can make panic worse because you never "relearn" that fear does not have to equal danger. Medication is discouraged by some psychologists because it can be a form of avoidance. I hope that is helpful...you can find a cognitive-behavioral therapist in your area by searching the American Psychological Association (APA) website or PsychologyToday.com.
Posted By Anonymous Darby S., Los Angeles, CA : 4:31 AM ET
I think we have to take more time to stop and appreciate the sacrifices all of our soldiers make. But at the same time I think soldiers need to make sure they are ready to join the military- patriotism is a great thing but you need to be ready.

There is a mental difference between a woman who had to look for IEDs, and a personal friend who's humvee was blown up by an IED and his only fear is he will not get to return to Iraq with his squad- clearly he was ready for war and she was not.
Posted By Anonymous J Spokane WA : 5:48 AM ET
Congratulations Mr. Bush. Another young life ruined by your oil war. Way to go.
Posted By Anonymous Jon, Malvern, PA. : 8:34 AM ET
You do get over it. I had the same type of problem, even jumping out of a moving truck at the sound of a plane. Dreams, nervous watching. It all went away after a few months home, and I now have another 50 years without this problem. Be reassured, your mind is stronger and more capable of recovery than you imagine.
Posted By Anonymous Duane, Stroud, Oklahoma : 8:56 AM ET
This is so sad, considering how many "Keri's" are out there that we don't know of. I pray that Keri and all the others recover enough to live their everyday lives not in fear but in peace. Thank you for shedding light on this aspect of our soldiers' lives after they have served their time in war.
Posted By Anonymous Kuukua, Snellville, GA : 8:56 AM ET
I don't understand why we are still in Iraq. Maybe I'm not intelligent enough to understand all the political ramifications that would result if we leave. But I do know that lives are being ruined. We are fighting a war of ideology as well. It's the same as in Vietnam. We don't want to accept that there are cultures in the world that do not value life and that are full of extremists. This story is sickening. This young woman is scarred, and it won't be easy for her. I hope she knows that there are those of us who are grateful to her and admire her.
Posted By Anonymous Debbie Darby, Denham Springs, LA : 8:57 AM ET
Oh my... That is a sad, and probably very common story... I really feel for this young mother... Let's hope the United States and the army does not drop the ball at this point... This is when she and others will need help the most... God Bless her and God bless CNN for reminding us that once they reach home the battle is still not over...
Posted By Anonymous Sherry, Sarasota Fl : 8:58 AM ET
I feel for all who are serving and waiting to serve our country to make it safe, but why is it that men and women who sign up for all the armed Services and the National Guard are telling their stories of all the nightmares and non sleeping nights expect when we are at war. My daughter has been in the Army since she was 17 (now 25) and has been treated for different problems associated with war, but she EXPECTED it. GOD BLESS ALL!
Posted By Anonymous lisa, baltimore maryland : 9:09 AM ET
I see so many flags and bumper stickers around here with the phrase "Support our Troops" or "God Bless Our Soldiers." And while so many in Washington are divided on the war in Iraq, all have made statements of love, respect and support for our soldiers doing all the messy, dangerous work. So how does this administration get away with millions in benefit cuts to veterans and their families? It would seem as though such actions would draw much more criticism and outrage from US citizens than Kerry's bad joke.
Posted By Anonymous Kerri Ellis, Ringgold, Georgia : 9:16 AM ET
I can almost get where this troubled soldier is coming from. As a mom driving a minivan in this country I feel like it is like going into battle sometimes. People think they have a duty to harass minivans. Cutting off, tailgating, aggressive passing on the right, you name it. The most stressful part of my day? Driving through a construction zone with a 20-mph speed limit. Too often there's an angry SUV driver on my tail. Forget any help from the cops-- I tried reporting road-rage once (description of the driver, car and license plate number, and they still did nothing). I should have stepped on my brakes, gotten rear-ended and then sued. I'm thinking about putting a high-power laser on my roof of my minivan and aiming it at the idiots behind me. See? It is like going into battle.
Posted By Anonymous Ann D, Superior, Colorado : 9:17 AM ET
I'm a Chinese girl,and this's my first time to be your blog.
Peace is very important for every one of us.But in my opion,person like the woman who returned from the Iraq should be much more active and optimistiv.No one can help her to relieve her own suffering fundamently except herself!
Posted By Anonymous Dai Xiaoli,Hangzhou,China : 9:31 AM ET
I certainly feel for her and I hope she is able to find some way to deal with her fears.
It makes me wonder why we have so many people who are so adversely affected in modern times (Vietnam - Iraq) with this kind of stress. Was it just that we didn't hear about the WWII vets with these problems or are we more prone to these problems now?
Posted By Anonymous Sean, Sandy Utah : 11:11 AM ET
I think that it is sad that our military are subjected to such chaos overseas and return to us in such an infantile state. Maybe the medics overseas should, if they are already, do psych exams like every 3-6 months and before they return to the US.
Posted By Anonymous Charisse Eggleston, Martinsville Virginia : 11:27 AM ET
We all get upset about the little things in life. They are sooooo small compared to a Mom (Keri) who was away from her family for a long time serving our country. She came home to face to face the same fears. God Bless you Keri and all others doing battle in Iraq and then when they get home and get help to get well soon so you can enjoy your children. I will think of you next time I'm upset about something minor and change my attitude quick b/c of your service to this country
Posted By Anonymous Amy D Wallingford, CT : 1:07 PM ET
For those of you blaming President Bush for this, remember those who still suffer PTDS from what they experienced on September 11th. We should just maybe think about who is really responsible´┐Ż.like the terrorists who put no value on human life!!!
Posted By Anonymous Ruth, Nebraska : 1:13 PM ET
I am currently in the military and have served in Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan and I believe that we are all too ready to call this syndrome PTSD and we simply need to look at it as a conditioned response. I have done the same thing as the subject of the story, in fact, due to the land mine scare in Bosnia during the late 90's I was afraid to walk on anything but sidewalks for 6 months after my deployment. In fact, I felt trepiditious as I mowed my grass for fear of stepping on a land mine. This is not an illness, it is a conditioned response; a defensive measure that was trained and trained to the point that it became second nature. Unless she really cannot cope and has become a danger to herself and others,..this too will pass.
Posted By Anonymous Kyle McCreary, Odenton, MD : 2:32 PM ET
Steve, I can not believe such ignorance from the lips of a fellow veteran. My father was a WWII veteran, back then it was not called PTSD, it was called combat fatigue. He was quite functional after the war, it did not come home for almost 10 years. PTSD/combat fatigue can be just as deabilitaing as the lose of a limb or more so. All I can say is spoken as a true REMF.
Posted By Anonymous JC Topeka, KS : 4:28 PM ET
Steve, from Fort Bragg, I don't think it is a very accurate statement to say WWI & WWII veterans lead functional lives. 1940's America was a very different place than 2006 America. They lived in a time where if you had mental heatlh issues, you kept them to yourself or as a secret the family only knew. Thankfully, we as a society have become more enlightened to the non-physical symptoms of war and to completely discount these findings is not only irresponsible but an injustice to our troops. For example, in 1945 a child with autism would have simply been labeled "retarted" and sent to a mental hospital to live out their days. Today we recognize the different mental health conditions and encourage treating the mental ill not ostracizing them from society or denying them benefits earned.
Posted By Anonymous Katherine, Woodland Hills, CA : 5:07 PM ET
As a Mom of a son, still currently in Iraq, I have to say that his time in the combat zone has changed him! For those of you who have not experienced what these brave men and women go through everyday, I say, take a walk in their shoes. I agree that they are experiencing the result of a conditioned response to what they are exposed to on a daily basis, you just cant turn than off when your back home. But I do think that Iraq is a different war than others in that at most times these soldiers don't know who the "enemy" is, as they choose to hide and take pot shots at them every chance they get. This situation brings a whole new element to their combat situation and therefore we are bound to see a variety of reactions in how our soldiers deal with combat stress. My hope is that the changes in my son's behavior, sleepless nights, jumpiness, irratiblity etc. will diminish over time once he's home for good and is able to finally let his guard down. One thing I know for sure, his family and friends will be there every step of the way to offer the support and compassion that he so rightfully deserves.
Posted By Anonymous Terry Flynn, Townsend, Ma. : 5:38 PM ET
This is truly sad and as the war goes on, we will perhaps hear more of such stories. Yet there are people who support the war. This is a war that will never end because history of the middle east has been screaming so. The Israel- palestinian conflict, the Taleban fight against the Russians, and all over South East Asia the muslim fundamental groups continue to kill the innocent. It is education both here in the states and in the middle east that will end conflict not war.
Posted By Anonymous Poppy, Fremont CA : 8:09 PM ET
My husband served in Vietnam in 70-71 and STILL suffers the symptoms as described here! I don't believe there is any 'easy end in sight' for veterans! All we can do as spouses is be patient and forgiving and help them every day.
Posted By Anonymous Cate, Eagletown, OK : 11:00 AM ET
It's unfortunate Kari has this problem; however, I noticed the vast majority of responses were against the war and President Bush. If everyone in the USA backed President Bush and respected his sincere efforts to do what's right, the war would be long over and we would be victorious. Our enemy enjoys our citizens complaining about everything related to the war. Why doesn't the media focus on all the many good things that are coming out of this war?
Posted By Anonymous Ralph Stroyne, Pittsburgh, PA : 11:06 AM ET
Please tell me that Ann from Superior, CO is joking.
Posted By Anonymous Kristin, Cincinnati, OH : 10:31 AM ET
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