Skip to comments.Post-War Stress Too Much For Marlboro Man's Marriage
Posted on 06/27/2006 6:13:03 PM PDT by blam
Post-war stress too much for Marlboro Man's marriage
By Catherine Elsworth in Los Angeles
A US marine whose photograph touched the hearts of countless Americans has filed for divorce just weeks after his lavish wedding was funded by donations from the public.
An iconic picture of James Blake Miller, 21, was taken in 2004 during a break from combat in Fallujah and was published in hundreds of newspapers.
Showing him grubby-faced and exhausted with a cigarette dangling from his lips, it earned him the nickname Marlboro Man.
After his return to the United States, the lance corporal revealed that he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
He also told one interviewer he wished he could have given his wife, Jessica, 23, whom he married in a simple civil ceremony in June 2005, the wedding of her dreams.
Sympathetic readers responded with contributions towards an £8,000 wedding ceremony, which was held on June 3 at a golf club near Mr Miller's home town of Pikeville, Kentucky.
The couple renewed their vows, with the groom in his Marine Corps dress blues and the bride wearing a white dress.
But nine days later, the couple were already living apart, according to court documents. On June 20, Mr Miller filed for divorce, saying the marriage was "irretrievably broken".
"I'm just sad for them," said Eunice Davis, of Pleasanton, California, who spearheaded the campaign to fund the wedding.
Mr Miller, who was discharged from the marines in 2005, has spoken about his struggles with post-traumatic stress and even addressed congressmen in Washington in an attempt to increase funding for veterans suffering from the disorder.
He told the San Francisco Chronicle that he was grateful to those who paid for the wedding but that he had found dealing with day-to-day issues and stress from the war too much. "I love Jessica, I really do, but I can't be with her," he said.
Mrs Miller told the paper she still hoped they could be together. "I think neither one of us recognised the scope of post-traumatic stress disorder and what it does to you and what it does to people around you," she said. "Now he's got to figure out how to deal with it before he can deal with me."
A Lt. Col. Dave Grossman has written at least two books (that I have read); 'On Killing' and 'On Combat' that are very interesting for any person who has a loved one coming home from a war zone.
Other useful reading is 'Deadly Force Encounters; what cops need to know to mentally and physically prepare for and survive a gunfight'. This is oriented towards police but applies to soldiers returning from a war as well.
The military unit should have a support group to help the family understand.
Too many of our fine men (and women) will feel as though they have to grit it out and 'not be a pussy'. This is completely the wrong approach.
Don't misunderstand me and think I am giving the chance for an excuse. The act of killing, especially up close, is unnatural and affects people in different ways.
Some are unaffected but many (perhaps most) are affected and the length of time in the area where the fighting occurs increases the negative effect drastically.
I understand the units are staying together now when deploying home, which is a hugely helpful thing because the soldiers can decompress with their peers who have comparable experiences.
PTSD is an insidious killer of the good life after battle that all of our fine men and women deserve.
On a more serious note, she probably revealed to him that she slept with everything but the kitchen sink while he was deployed. It's quite common.
Blam, I Respect your opinion but, I did booze and drug councilling after I got out of the Army, the brief liberal phase of my life. 99% of what you hear is BULL SHIT, most of these people are looking for an excuse for their failures.
That's a toughie ...
Well, he's young so everythings blown out of proportion for him. I think he's got issues but like you said, he needs to get a grip. I think it comes down to how much a person is willing to suppresses and control unsuitable reactions from prior duties. Kids today however are taught just the opposite.
I commend your service and your ability to get on with life. I truly wish the same for all of our vets. However, just because you managed to do it does not mean that others can't. PTSD is very real, and unfortunately disabling for some of these soldiers. They deserve help and respect. The fact that I can eat sugar whenever I want without consequence does not mean that diabetes isn't real.
"PTSD is real"
I never said it wasn't. Like I said before, he's got alot on his plate right now...including post-war stress. With time, healing and maturity perhaps he will be ready for marriage.
A Johnny Cash song:
"Call him drunken Ira Hayes,
he can't hear you anymore,
he's the whiskey drinking Indian..."
On Nov. 10, precisely one year after the photo was flashed around the world, Lance Cpl. James Blake Miller was medically discharged from the Marine Corps, diagnosed with PTSD. Three years after leaving the Kentucky hills for a career in the Corps, he was back home. He feels adrift and tormented, dependent on his new bride, his family and his military psychiatrist to help him make sense of all that has befallen him.
He barely sleeps. On most mornings, Miller says, he has no good reason to get out of bed. Often, his stomach is so upset that he can't eat. He has nightmares and flashbacks. He admits that he's often grouchy and temperamental. He knows he drinks and smokes too much.
"He's not the same as before," said his wife, Jessica, who has known him since grade school. "I had never seen the anger, the irritability, the anxiety."
Miller says he feels guilty about taking money--$2,528 in monthly military disability checks--for doing nothing. He's also frustrated that two careers made possible by his military training, police officer and U.S. marshal, are out of reach because law-enforcement agencies are reluctant to hire candidates with PTSD.
`It's like my life is over'
So he broods, feeling restless and out of options: "I'm only 21. I'm able-bodied as hell, yet I'm considered a liability. It's like I had all these doorways open to me, and suddenly they all closed on me. It's like my life is over."
At a restaurant one night last month, he became enraged when he thought a man was staring at his wife's rear end.
"I just wanted to grab his hair and smash his head against the table," he said later. "I was ready to kill him."
But he restrained himself, he said.
Five other members of his platoon of about three dozen have been diagnosed with PTSD, Miller said. A dozen men from his unit were killed in action. A Journal of the American Medical Association study published in March found that more than one-third of troops who served in Iraq sought help for mental health problems within a year of returning home.
Sitting in the couple's apartment above a furniture store outside Pikeville, Ky., Jessica Miller squeezed her husband's hand and told him: "You've gone through so much, baby, that you just broke."
In early January 2005, as his unit prepared to leave Iraq, what Marines call a "wizard"--a psychiatrist--gave a required "warrior transitioning" talk about PTSD and adjusting to home life. Miller didn't think much about it until he returned to Jonancy in late January and his nightmares began.
He dreamed about the 40 enemy corpses that he counted after the tank demolished the house, he said, and he dreamed that he had been shot.
"He would jump out of bed and fall to the floor," Jessica said. "I'd have to hold him to get him to wake up, and then he'd hug me for the longest time."
Sometimes, he mutters Arabic phrases he learned in Iraq or grimaces in his sleep, and his wife will keep whispering his name until he wakes up. Some nights, he doesn't sleep at all.
"I tend to drink a lot just to be able to sleep," he said.
He decided last summer to see a psychiatrist at Camp Lejeune, N.C., where he was based. In August, he was diagnosed with PTSD. But before he could be put on "non-deployable status," his unit was sent to assist with Hurricane Katrina recovery.
While aboard a ship off the Louisiana coast, Miller was taking a cigarette break when a petty officer made a whistling sound like an incoming rocket-propelled grenade. Miller says he remembers nothing, but was later told that he slammed the sailor against a bulkhead.
By November, Miller was forced to take a medical disability discharge.
"They said they couldn't take the risk of me being a danger to myself and others," he said.
"It's terrifying that at any moment I could lose control and not know what I'm doing," he said. "What if next time it's Jessica?"
This February, while smoking and staring out his wife's dorm window, Miller said, he thought he saw a dead Iraqi man on the grass.
"I can't tell anymore what really happened and what I dreamed," he said. "Sometimes I feel like I'm dying."
He visits a government psychiatrist and speaks with him by phone several times a week. He said his psychiatrist told him his PTSD has to be managed; his disability will be re-evaluated in March.
`What good have we . . . done'
Meanwhile, he has slowly turned against the war.
"We have done some humanitarian aid," he said, "but what good have we actually done, and what has America gained except a lot of deaths? It burns me up."
For Hillbilly Days, an annual festival late last month in Pikeville, Miller shaved his beard and got a military "high and tight" haircut. He agreed to help at a Marine recruiting booth. Just putting on his Marine fatigue pants and boots for the first time since his discharge brought back more memories, and he tried to tamp them down. He says he still recommends the Marines to potential recruits but advises them to seek non-combat positions.
He was so worried that the Marlboro Man photo would dominate the recruiting booth that he begged the recruiters not to display it.
"I can't stand to look at it anymore," he said.
This Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome is an excuse.
Absolutly right! As we all know everyone who has ever been in combat reacts exactly the same way.
I dare you to go the your nearest VA hospital/VA home and tell the vets there that they're just fakeing it.
Oh my....how is he doing?
A friend of my dad's was in the 82nd Airborne in WW2. He told me "If you stay busy enough, you won't ever think about it". He started his own business and worked all the time. I grew up with the WW2 generation and that was their philosophy. My next door neighbor saw his brother get killed while he was flying bombers. His reaction was to sign up for another tour as a fighter pilot. He went into business for himself, got rich and drank himself to death at 65.
Still, there were plenty of guys who never got used to being scared of being scared.
There may be malingerers who do damage to all but it does not change the fact that psychological trauma happens to people forced to witness terrible things.
It does not have to be a trigger puller either. Someone who normally is away from the tip of the spear who is suddenly confronted with carnage can be as strongly affected.
This is a problem in law enforcement as well as war.
No apology necessary. My friend's brother recently came back from Afghanastan and she says he's very different. Loud noises scare him, he refuses to talk about what he has seen, and his marriage is on the rocks. It's taken a toll on him.