I just received this note from Chief Mike Masterson of Boise. It is a positive direction that many cities can immediately take. Remember, we have had a million of our young people sent to Iraq and Afghanistan. Many of them have been traumatized by that experience — both physically and mentally.
As a nation, we need to be alert, compassionate, and responsive.
This is one way.
“I wanted to take time to share a success story with military veterans which I believe can be replicated in any community across the country. In 2009, the Boise (ID) Police Department had a deadly force encounter with Idaho’s most decorated army veteran after he shot into the doors of occupied rooms looking for his dog.
“He was wearing body armor, armed with rifle and handguns and a lot of ammo. Officers encountered him at the top of a second story set of stairs where he ‘lasered’ them with his light equipped rifle which resulted in an immediate response from officers. No one was injured and former Army Sergeant Nickel was taken into custody without injury to anyone. He was later determined to be suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).
“As a result of that incident, we took leadership and convened the rather fragmented veteran and mental health resources of the community to begin discussing better ways of working together. From this effort came the Treasure Valley Veterans Resource Network. It has been going strong for the last three years. They meet meeting monthly with 30 to 40 people in attendance.
“I believe that, together, we have saved over a dozen veterans during this time. The following letter from the mother of a young soldier makes the point:
My son and his mentor texted back and forth a few times yesterday and they have future appointments scheduled. (My son) is still walking in the clouds. He went to his orientation for the Hospice work he is going to volunteer for and is very excited. He is going to spend some time with a Vietnam vet today. He told me last night he now knows why he survived Iraq and that was to do what he is doing right now, help others. A few short months ago I was sure (my son) would eventually take his own life and I would have to somehow deal with that. I can’t believe how far he has come in that short of time. All he needed was [someone] to step in and let him know he wasn’t alone and he could do it and holy cow look where he is now! I’m so proud of him and so grateful to the three of you! My son has a purpose now… My tears are happy tears again! A Grateful Mom
“If you have recurring issues with military veterans in your community related to crisis, employment, housing, education it might be worth your time to call your community resources and agencies together in a similar mission to that described in the attachment. It has been one of the most satisfying experiences of my 37 years in policing and I think you will find it equally rewarding as well.
“[Sgt. Nickel is about to complete the terms of his sentence. Just after he entered treatment, he agreed to sit down with us and describe the events that led up to the encounter that evening and what he was thinking , seeing and hearing during the confrontations with officers. It resulted in a one-hour video describing ways to respond to veterans in these situations: Private Combat: Police Intervention For Vets in Crisis. It is available for $15 (plus $3 shipping) at http://www.nami-boise.org.] “
Chief Mike Masterson, Police Department, Boise (ID)