Sunday, April 10, 2011

When 911 is Debatable

I was reading an article in the paper last week about an Iraqi Veteran who had himself, called 911 for help and clearly told the operator he had PTSD. Clearly not in his right mind, sobbing hysterically and talking about Iraq (flashback) the operator stated, they dispatched several police officers to his home. The spouse there said at the time that she felt it was under control and had been this way several times before, but he felt he needed to go to the hospital. The police arrived in full force, expecting a shoot-out and treated this Veteran with extreme force and abuse. Struggling, and then handcuffed, he tried to fight back. The cops arrested him and rather than getting him to the hospital or VA ER, he got to spend several days in jail awaiting a charge of resisting arrest and assault of an officer. The case was eventually dropped in court due to the fact that one of the police officers defended the Veteran and stated they "used extreme caution but some officers were excessive and stretching the truth a bit". Never did state whether this Iraq War Veteran ever made it to the hospital. My husband had told me of similar stories with Vietnam Veterans that have some of the same "force" being used in this area.

Being the fair person I am, I always try to take consideration from both sides of the scenario and understand why the police took such care when faced with the possibility of a Veteran, possibly armed, and often times trained to kill with their bare hands. Looking back over these past ten years of war, how many scenarios such as these have played out on our television screens and ended is causalities? Who can really blame society for treating PTSD Veterans with caution, suspicion and consider our Veterans to automatically be the menaces of society?

So this led to the Mistress thinking of course! In January, when my husband's bottom fell out as we call it, it got so extreme that I had considered calling 911 for help. In all the chaos of yelling and screaming, the tossing of items in the home and the pushing around on me....I did panic for a minute and tell my son to call 911. We never got that chance because he destroyed our phones. However, a part of me didn't want to do that because of so many factors that rang out in my head. One, he worked for a part of emergency medical services so that would mean losing his job. Two, he was truly afraid he would be arrested as he has seen it in his line of prior work, and three? Well, I don’t know why I didn’t want them here. Maybe fear, maybe embarrassment, maybe because so many other stories pushed their way through my “what to do” thoughts and reminded me that bad things usually end up. What if he got arrested? What if he went to jail and I had to bail him out? What if he got charged? The "what ifs" seemed to ride around in my head like some psychotic merry-go-round.

As children, we are constantly bombarded about how police, fire and emergency medical members are the good guys; they are our friends. It’s one of those occupations that many children, especially boys, act out in dress up at home or decide at five that’s what they want to be when they grow up. So why is it now, after post-war, we as the caregivers and spouses fear calling them when we are in need? When did our friends suddenly become our feared enemies?

I have to admit as I did early in my post about the “bottom falling out”, that calling the cops was the last thing I thought of. My first initial call was to his battle buddy who at the time was at work and I couldn’t reach. The second was to a fellow wounded warrior wife who well, is really my voice of sanity at times. She told me repeatedly to call 9-11 and I just couldn't do it to him. I think the fear of the unknown of what happens if you call 9-11 really plays a huge part when dealing with Veterans with these types of issues. Of course, reading online while searching for resources, I came across many stories of those that have been arrested for calling 911 when they needed help or were calling because they had suicidal thoughts.

While in my search, I came across several stories similar to each other and all based on trying to call for help. This story about a Marine ended up in suicide. Another one, which is rather interesting, involves a spouse trying to save the life of her Veteran, and how things got out of control but he ends up with an attempted murder charge. In due fairness, I am also posting this article I found because in the midst of calling 911 a police officer was injured, so when one reads this blog I won't get bashed because I am saying I am not considering both sides of the fence. Another good link was the story of a former soldier, Zac Hershley and his spouse, my friend. 

An attorney for a former soldier who says that he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder when he called 9-1-1 and allegedly held a gun when police arrived are firing back against the felony charges filed against Zac Hershley, saying that he is the target of prosecutorial vindictiveness.

On Monday, a Platte County judge found probable cause to put Hershley on trial for felony charges of placing officers in fear for their lives. But Hershley and his attorneys say that the only person in danger on that night last spring was Hershley himself.

Early on the morning of April 23rd, Hershley was standing in his front yard with a military assault rifle, talking to 9-1-1 operators. According to transcripts of the 9-1-1 call, Hershley at times seems to think that he's in Iraq, and he informed the operator that he called 9-1-1, and that he had PTSD.

"I called for help and now I'm charged with a felony," said Hershley.

At the preliminary hearing on Monday, Platte County deputies admitted that Hershley never pointed the gun at them, always at the ground, and when he did finally surrender, he was armed only with a cell phone. When they later went back inside his home, the deputies discovered his gun had never been loaded.

"No one was in fear for their lives at all or other things would've occurred," said lawyer Matt O'Connor, Hershley's defense attorney, who says that if the deputies were truly in fear for their lives, his client would have likely been shot.

O'Connor says that he believes prosecutors charged Hershely with a felony because he refused to plead guilty to a misdemeanor. Now O'Connor has filed a motion to dismiss based on prosecutorial vindictiveness, a claim that Platte County assistant prosecutor Mark Gibson strongly denies.

"(Hershley) indicated that I'm going to get spooked and start shooting," said Gibson, who says that it's not vindictive to charge someone for placing officers in fear for their lives.

"They did not know if the weapon was unloaded or not," said O'Connor.

On the 9-1-1 recording, Hershley says that he did not have any intention to shoot at police unless they shot at him first. The 9-1-1 operator then told him that the police would not shoot him.

Hershley, who was taken to a hospital and not jail on the night of the incident, says that he would never shoot at a police officer. If convicted of the felony offense, Hershley could face up to a year in prison.

"I had enough of that from overseas," said Hershley. "I don't need it back here."

After bringing this question up of "how many of us spouses feel comfortable enough to call 911 when things start going down hill?", I was surprised to see how many responses were given that were in the form of absolute no way in hell would they call 911. Between that posted question, and a small poll I conducted, there were only a few that answered that yes, they feel comfortable enough and trust emergency services to handle their PTSD vet. Some of the experiences they shared really upset and angered me!

When trying to get a support group up off the ground for area/state, I did ask the Emergency Medical Services here, whether they had a protocol to follow when they get a 911 call to a home with a veteran with PTSD. The answer was "Uhhhhh no. We have had training with Autistic and Mentally Ill patients but that's it". I also called the Police Department here who answered carefully but honestly "We try to handle the cases with extreme caution because we never know who we are dealing with. We have had training in dealing with Autism and Mentally Ill patients, but not Veterans. Look at all the ones who have gone crazy and killed people". I didn't like the "go crazy" part as often that highly offends me, but I could see his point. I don't think that ALL returning Vets with PTSD are untrustworthy though.

I had to say this was quite upsetting because in our area, it is estimated that we have more than 8,000 OIF/OEF Veterans, Thousands of Vietnam (not to mention the many homeless ones here on the street), Gulf War, and yes, even Panama Veterans. Some states other Wounded Wives stated, have training in dealing with combat PTSD so why isn't this mandatory for all states? If they can spend money taking classes for mentally ill and autism (which by the way am a huge supporter for because that was most definitely needed) why can't we add in one single crash course of basic knowledge and treatment? Instead, most of us that have had bad experiences.....feel like we know more than the cops do and they act as if our heroes have suddenly become the menaces to society because that is how society automatically classifies our PTSD veterans.

I remember being cautioned by other wives on calling 9-11, on the threat of Child Services coming in to take your children. I used my first two years as my go to book and I remembered she even had to caution families on seeking help in counseling and how Children Service's could be called in. I was informed the other day that in our particular state, that an attempted suicide can result in the bringing in of CS. So now, if we call 9-11, we must first worry ourselves sick about our Veterans, then we must worry about the way they are treated by the police department or EMS, THEN we have to worry about child services being called in and then all the aftermath that follows each of these. Like we aren't stressed enough right?

This past week my husband came out of the PTSD Rehab I have mentioned before with disappointing results. I was cautioned by more than several people to keep an eye on him at all times, make myself a safety plan, call 9-11 if things get too bad and all I could think about was.....Can I really do that? Now I feel that "safety plan" isn't really safe like I think it should be so what's the point of having one? I remember talking to my husband's psychiatrist after the bottom fell out and he came out of the hospital. I had commented that I didn't know how to help my husband and all I could do while he was going through what he was, was stand there. She looked at me and said "You can't feel guilt because there was absolutely nothing you could do. You could have been seriously hurt and you were smart not to touch him. The last thing they want to be is touched. You aren't trained to handle such incidents." While that made me feel better, I thought and the police department and other services are?

Since my husband was taken partially in by EMS, which was thought of as family (they stick together), the ones that took him to another hospital for psychiatric evaluations, of course told everyone at work. I probably could have pushed on the HEPPA law, but how does one do that? People will be people and they will gossip about their co-workers. However, even going down to the main office, people looked at us like we were carriers of leprosy and turned their heads to avoid looking at us. Our police and sheriff friends who used to call all the time and just shoot the crap with my husband, never called again. I like to think that its just because they don't understand.  In this small town, if we had to call 9-11....I could bet you that they would probably come fully armed and prepared to fight. I feel we are marked now.

I know I am just rambling, and I know there are many cases that the police DO need to be involved. Please don't feel that Uncle Sam's Mistress is stating do not use 9-11, but I think there needs to be some type of training done and education. I don't like the fact that ALL PTSD Vets are treated as common criminals when emergency services get to your home and lumped into the same category as the uni-bomber. All it does is add to the fuel to the fire, the cops can go home and tell their wives about the war crazy they had a call on and the spouse is trying to figure out how to get their vets out of jail ON TOP of getting the necessary help they need. Just doesn't sit well with me. It's not just for the safety of the Veterans either, as I know there are many cases where shootings have occurred with a PTSD Vet and has ended up in death on both sides. I think that if there is training, education on the subject and a protocol in could help both the Veterans and the police. If nothing more, it will give the spouses a reason to trust these people who are supposed to help. The worst thing I could hear last week was that some would NEVER call 9-11 if the PTSD beast reared its ugly head in the home. This could cause some serious problems and I don't want to see another spouse story of their deaths on tv or the internet. In the same thinking though, after hearing their stories I can't blame them for not wanting to call. I can't even begin to think of our active duty families and what it must be like to deal with the MPs on post.

So if you can't call 9-11, then who do you call for help? 


  1. I've been watching my Google reader to see when you were going to finish this post. I didn't want to respond to the poll because I didn't care to have the results post to my page but I'm pretty sure I fall into the not going to call category. I've always felt that I want to keep the police out of my relationships and the only time I've made an exception was when my ex left me with a concussion and even that was because the hospital was required by law to report it. I too worry about having to deal with the repercussions of getting the police involved because I know how quickly things can escalate just based on the examples you posted. We even sought help through family counseling and expressed our concerns with how we were handling discipline with the kids and how they were affected by his injuries and before we knew it we were threatened with CPS intervening. We felt completely betrayed and stopped going immediately, although not before I had the chance to tell my counselor how she set me up and blindsided me without having all of the information. These were counselors right at the Soldier and Family Assistance Center who only deal with wounded warriors and their families. Yet when we reached out for help instead of getting it they added to the stress by worrying us that we were going to have the kids taken away. We already felt like we were dealing with everything on our own but that just drove the point home. People just don't understand that the one size fits all approach doesn't work much of the time.

  2. Thank you for bringing this issue the attention it needs.


    Matt O'Connor

  3. Yes, like an idiot I hit post rather than save...and I thought I had deleted it and could repost but not the savvy internet blogger I thought I was! I am planning on writing my congressman about this issue and pushing to the max. Hey, figured some of my husband's taxes went into his salary, might as well make myself known right? Kinda like a bad penny and just keep turning up! Hahaha! In serious note though, its a waste of time that the ONLY thing the VA or Vet centers can offer in the "safety plan" department is call 9-11 when that is not an option for most of us. So what happens if they do and all hell breaks loose? Wonder if education and actually being in a room full of spouses or combat vets, listening to what goes on and seeing it...could help change our local officers, emergency etc. Hell, I say bring in DCS directors as well and educate them too. Maybe I am just thinking too large, but gonna try here in my area first and see how it goes. As always, it will probably be here on my blog as to what happens to that! Sorry you went through all that Pauliesgirl. We just need to take that and put it into the right hands to make sure it doesn't happen to others. <3


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