- Associated Press - Monday, January 27, 2014

MANDAN, N.D. (AP) - Stephen Herda didn’t think anything had changed, much less himself.

Even after he was wounded in a rocket attack in Iraq in 2007, Herda said, he considered himself to be the same man when he returned home to Mandan.

Others noticed a change.

“I’m pretty much an open book, if you want to read it,” Herda told The Bismarck Tribune (http://bit.ly/1aLeIxU).

Herda, a lieutenant colonel with the North Dakota National Guard, is one of the U.S. military veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

A study by the Congressional Research Service, the Veterans Administration and the U.S. Surgeon General estimates that at least 20 percent of the 2.3 million American veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have PTSD and/or depression.

The study did not include the 2.6 million veterans who went to war in Vietnam.

Dr. Kirby Schmidtgall, director of psychological services for the North Dakota National Guard, said symptoms of PTSD are numerous and varied. PTSD is a heightened crisis response that becomes a problem after the crisis is gone, he said.

PTSD symptoms don’t always start soon after the traumatic event. They may surface months or even years later. They also may come and go over the course of many years.

Schmidtgall said professional help should be sought if symptoms last longer than a month, cause great distress, or interfere with work or home life.

Sgt. 1st Class Tim Wicks of Bismarck was critically wounded by a roadside bomb in 2006 in Afghanistan. The attack killed two North Dakota soldiers under his command, Sgt. Travis Van Zoest and Cpl. Curtis Mehrer, both of Bismarck.

Another soldier in Wicks’ unit, Nathan Good Iron, was killed in a separate attack.

Wicks spent 17 days in a coma with a traumatic brain injury from the blast that shattered his legs, broke his pelvis in two places and fractured several vertebrae. He said some soldiers fear that seeking help for PTSD or other issues could affect their careers.

“Perception is reality,” he said.

In his case, Wicks said, he knew something had to change.

Story Continues →