For a soldier's parents, their own post-trauma
When Army Sgt. Ryan Kahlor returned from two combat tours in Iraq last year, he was a walking billboard for virtually every affliction suffered by today’s veterans. "My dad fought tooth and nail for me, knowing people in the military can't speak for themselves always," Ryan said. "My Dad pushed me to get help. He doesn't let me cut corners and he's always on my butt." Audio slideshow
As they help their son recover from a war they had supported, it's a journey through 'secondary PTSD.'
By David Zucchino
December 14, 2008
Reporting from Temecula -- When Army Sgt. Ryan Kahlor returned from two combat tours in Iraq last year, he was a walking billboard for virtually every affliction suffered by today's veterans. He had a detached retina, a ruptured disc, vertigo, headaches, memory lapses and numbness in his arms. Fluid seeped from his ears.
He was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. He was violent and suicidal. He carried a loaded handgun everywhere. He drank until he passed out. He cut himself. He burned his own skin with cigarettes. He bit through his tongue just to watch himself bleed.
Kahlor, 24, admits he came back not caring about anyone -- the military, his friends, his family or himself. But pushed hard by his parents, he slowly accepted and then embraced counseling and treatment. Today, he has begun to recover.
His parents are still trying.
The Kahlors -- a college employee and a nurse -- have fought through a series of transformations unfamiliar to most military families.
Tim Kahlor says he and his wife, Laura, have been left with what he calls, only half in jest, "secondary PTSD." He says his doctor prescribed antidepression medication to help him cope with his son's ordeal. And both parents, haunted by their son's physical and emotional breakdown, are fiercely opposed to the war.
Tim Kahlor, 50, who had felt a patriotic surge after the Sept. 11 attacks, turned against the war after Ryan complained during his first tour about ineffective body armor and poorly armored vehicles. Laura Kahlor, 53, blames the war for her son's psychological and physical torment. Though she is now grateful for the treatment he eventually received, she -- like her husband -- wishes they had never let Ryan enlist.
They are still bitter over the several months that their son drifted while they pleaded with both Ryan and the military for effective PTSD treatment. Ryan survived several roadside bomb attacks in Iraq but was traumatized by the violence he witnessed.
"I was so naive. I was this kid from the Bible Belt who thought our country would take care of our soldiers," Tim Kahlor said. "I have guilt for helping him get into this."
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