Mount Rainier Gunman & Iraq War Veteran Needed Help

benjamin c. barnes
Benjamin C. Barnes
The body of Benjamin C. Barnes, the man who is alleged to have shot and killed a Mount Rainier National Park Ranger on New Year's Day, as well as shot and injured four people the night before at a New Year's Eve party near Seattle, may have been found this morning. Authorities have spotted the body of a white male face down in the snow and are working through snow conditions to get to the body on foot and identify him. Police believe there's a strong probability it's Barnes since he is believed to have been hiding out in the park after the New Year's shooting and later abandoned his vehicle and managed to escape on foot after the park ranger shooting.

Regardless of whether or not, this body turns out to be that of Barnes, age 24, this story has unfolded into a nightmare, one that may have roots in the Iraq war in 2007 and 2008, when Barnes served in combat over there. Is this another case of a post-traumatic stress disorder gone untreated?

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Barnes' former girlfriend and mother of his child reported in an affidavit filed in a custody dispute earlier this year that he has serious mental health issues and possible post-traumatic stress disorder resulting from his combat service in Iraq. She also said Barnes is suicidal, easily irritated, angry, and depressed and keeps an arsenal of weapons in his home.

Obviously, the tendencies toward these behaviors atop a possible case of post-war PTSD is serious enough but combined with a whole lot of guns, this is a combination for disaster. In fact, if Barnes is proved to be the gunman, then we have all the proof we need.

It just makes me wonder where the help is for our servicemen and women who return from their military service, service that is always life-threatening, often violent, and, to put it lightly, totally messes with your emotional well-being. Was Barnes an overlooked veteran? Could he have been helped? Did no one put two and two together and is it common practice to bring our troops home and leave them to deal with their emotional struggles on their own?

Whether or not Barnes is found dead today, I think this is a serious question our country needs to continue asking. How can we better serve our emotionally scarred (and, in this case, violent) war veterans. In memory of Margaret Anderson -- the 34-year-old park ranger, mother of two young children, and wife to another Mount Rainier park ranger -- shot and killed yesterday, we need to figure out how to do things right the next time.

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Did this case make you wonder about the mental health treatment that's available to our war veterans?

 

Image via USA Today

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