The drawdown of troops from Afghanistan, beginning next month, is supposed to mark the beginning of the end of America’s ten-year war in the Gulf.

But returning veterans will be fighting battles for years to come.

More than one third of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan have been diagnosed with mental health problems — some of whom are now getting cutting-edge treatments in Philadelphia.

Call the VA Hospital in West Philadelphia, and within the first five seconds you get this message:
“To reach the suicide prevention hotline, please hang up and call 1-800-273-8255…”

Veterans are twice as likely as non-veterans to commit suicide.  That’s a statistic Kevin Miracle understands.

“You start to dissect everything you did, and you start realizing how bad it was and some of the things you did, and you basically come home with blood on your hands — and it bothers you,” says Miracle, who now works at the Philadelphia Veterans Multi-Service and Education Center.

Story continues below…

(Kevin Miracle, seen at the Philadelphia Veterans Multi-Service and Education Center, suffers with PTSD. Photo by Pat Loeb)


Miracle (above) did not have suicidal thoughts but, like an estimated 17 percent of Gulf War veterans, he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”).  And the rate is higher for women vets, nearly a quarter of whom report a sexual assault in addition to battle trauma.

Extended interview with Kevin Miracle about living with PTSD

PTSD research has come a long way since the disorder was first recognized 30 years ago, and one of the leaders in the field is Edna Foa at the University of Pennsylvania.

(Prof. Edna Foa, of the Univ. of Pa.'s Dept. of Psychiatry. Photo by Pat Loeb)

Foa (right) developed a therapy called “prolonged exposure,” which forces veterans to do the opposite of what they’re instincts tell them.  Foa forces them to talk about the trauma, over and over and over.

“They get used to tell the story and be with the experience, and to realize that this experience happened in the past.  It’s not going to destroy you,” she explains.

Expanded interview with Dr. Edna Foa on her “prolonged exposure” therapy for PTSD

Research shows that prolonged exposure therapy works for about 80 percent of veterans.  Miracle says it’s helping him, but after repeated tours of duty he knows there are emotional scars that will never heal.

“Every tour, you change. You can’t go back.  You crossed over a line you can’t come back from,” he says.

Reported by Pat Loeb, KYW Newsradio 1060

Listen to the KYW Regional Affairs Council series, “Coming Home,” by Pat Loeb…

Part 1: The ‘Signature Injury’ of This War

Part 2: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Part 3: Combatting Joblessness Among Vets

Part 4: Combatting Homelessness Among Vets

Additional e-x-t-e-n-d-e-d podcasts:

Pat Loeb interviews traumatic brain injury survivor Lt. Sam Console

Pat Loeb interviews traumatic brain injury expert Kacy Cullen

TBI survivor Sam Console talks about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Gulf War veteran Kevin Miracle talks about living with PTSD

Dr. Edna Foa of the University of Pennsylvania describes her “prolonged exposure” therapy for PTSD

Marsha Four, director of the Philadelphia Veterans Multi-Service Center, on veteran unemployment

Kevin Miracle, a once-jobless Gulf War vet now working at the Philadelphia Multi-Service Center

Vincent Kane, director of the National Center on Homelessness Among Veterans