FOX47 NEWS - Local Vet Talks About Soldier Shootings

Jeff Angileri
May 12, 2009, 11:06 PM

War veteran Charlie Panosian vividly remembers guard duty in Vietnam with his marine partner.

We could hear the enemy talking and conversing and walking. He was exceptionally nervous. I mean it's pretty frightening as it is. He seemed to cross a line.

Later, without warning, Panosians's comrade opened fire.

This marine had lost it -- turned his rifle on fellow marines and started shooting them, killed a number of them.

Panosian was 19 years old, the average age of his unit was 20 -- young marines fighting half-way around the world, armed to the teeth.

You're strapped with M60 ammo, you carried grenades, mortar rounds, your food.

And dealing with a lifetime of stresses all at once.

Harsh conditions, the reality of life and death everyday living under that pressure, walking that fine line, seeing your friends get hurt, problems at home, there's a lot of divorce, lot of family break-up obviously. You change, your not the same person.

Panosian says on the battlefield, he and fellow marines looked to one another for support.

These are the fellows that really need to talk, get things out, verbalize, have someone listen compassionately, not make judgments.

Because when combat soldiers snap, it's not a slow progression, Panosian says. A moment can trigger madness.

They push a man well beyond his limits, physically and mentally. When that exhaustion comes, anything can happen.

Panosian says veterans are great resources for returning soldiers, when it comes to talking and dealing with war experiences, because who knows better what soldiers are going through than former soldiers.

Earlier this week, five Americans were killed when a U.S. soldier opened fire at a clinic in Baghdad. The alleged shooter, a 44-year-old sergeant, is in custody and facing murder charges. He allegedly burst into a stress clinic on Monday and began firing. All the dead were U.S. service members.

Some people say the shootings are more evidence that the stress of repeat and extended tours is causing mental health problems among troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Wisconsin Department of Veteran Affairs: http://dva.state.wi.us/ptsd/

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