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The Army told The Washington Times that 27,973 troops from that branch alone have been dismissed from service on punitive discharges from October 2002, the start of fiscal 2003 and just before the Iraq war began, to May 2009. Close to half — almost 12,700 — were ousted in fiscal 2003.

A good portion of those who have seen combat duty can be expected to have PTSD. The 2008 Rand Corp. study, which found that one in every five Iraq and Afghanistan veterans suffers from PTSD or major depression, also determined that rates of PTSD were highest in the Army and the Marines and that 45 percent of those surveyed said they had seen dead or seriously injured noncombatants.

What’s being done

One of the soldiers is Special Operations Command Sgt. Adam Boyle.

Sgt. Boyle was thrown out of the Army because of a “pattern of misconduct,” even though he had been diagnosed with PTSD. As a combat veteran who served two tours in Iraq, Sgt. Boyle began experiencing intense pangs of guilt and anger and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder at a stress clinic in Iraq.

“I was always in the field before then,” he recalled. “I did everything you can imagine from patrols to raids to capturing enemy POWs, interrogations, reconnaissance by fire. Everything you can imagine that put me in harm’s way, and I was OK with it.”

The bad feelings began to set in after two of his buddies were killed, one of them newly married with a child. “Those deaths haunted me, the idea of their families back home without them,” he said.

After his diagnosis, Sgt. Boyle was sent to North Carolina’s Fort Bragg, an assignment he resented because he thought he should be fighting the war. At Fort Bragg, he was given heavy antidepressants and sleeping aids that he said caused him to oversleep and miss formation on several occasions, a major transgression in the military.

He wanted to return to Iraq to fight, but the medications barred him from more deployments and he became miserable and agitated. Sgt. Boyle went on to spar with commanding officers who, he said, were unaware of his combat experience. He drank heavily, couldn’t control his rage and ended up in trouble with the law.

He reached the tipping point when he experienced a flashback while supervising a session at the firing range at Fort Bragg.

“I was supposed to be keeping an eye on [the soldiers], keep them safe and doing the right thing,” Sgt. Boyle recalled. “At one point, I went into a flashback into a firefight, and I was in Iraq. And during that flashback, I zoned out and forgot what I was doing.

“I snapped out of it and realized I missed the whole firing sequence, and it scared the hell out of me. I can’t operate as a soldier if I can’t concentrate on a firing range like that. That helped me realize I had to get out.”

At that point, in consultation with his psychiatrist, Sgt. Boyle began seeking a medical discharge based on his PTSD. But the process was slow; he was allotted only one hour per month with his psychiatrist to plan proceedings and receive counseling for his existing problems.

Some of those problems were documented in a domestic violence complaint filed by a former girlfriend who said Sgt. Boyle assaulted her, although she never brought charges.

“His command has been contacted numerous times by myself and friends trying to get Adam’s behavior under control,” she said in the complaint. “I would like to see him get serious help and be removed from anyone else he could cause harm to.”

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