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War’s lasting effects on a ‘soldier’s general’

Post by Scott Fontaine on Nov. 25, 2008 at 2:21 pm with No Comments »
November 25, 2008 2:21 pm

Carter Ham is known as a “soldier’s general”, the guys at Fort Lewis say. Cares about his guys. Sees soldiers as people, not pins on a tactical map.

I talked with one senior enlisted soldier today – don’t want to use his name because we were just chatting and I’m not sure he knew I might use his anecdote – who got hurt pretty badly in Iraq. As he was being evacuated, Ham had tears in his eyes. The general promised the soldier he would get the best care the Army could provide.

He’s a riser: Ham arrived in Fort Lewis in August 2003 as a brigadier general. Just months later, he was in Mosul, Iraq, leading Task Force Olympia. He oversaw combat operations by two Fort Lewis-based Stryker brigades, among a portfolio of other responsibilities. Now the 56-year-old is a four-star general and commands all American soldiers in Europe.

But the effects of his tour in Iraq have lingered. According to an interview with USA Today, he didn’t sleep well after he returned. Loud noises startled him. He sought treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.

The USA Today story not only reaffirms Ham’s reputation as a soldier’s general, but it’s also one of the first times such a high-ranking official has openly talked about suffering from PTSD.

From the story:

The mess-hall bombing stands out in Carter Ham’s mind. “Not a day goes by when I don’t think about it,” he says. But the cumulative effect of making decisions that put troops in harms’ way gnawed at him as well.

“You’d get to the middle of the month and you’d say, ‘You know, we haven’t had anybody killed this month. Can we get through one month? Can we get through just one month without getting somebody killed?’ “

And here’s a quote from Ham’s wife, Christi

“When he came back, all of him didn’t come back. … Pieces of him the way he used to be were perhaps left back there,” says his wife, Christi. “I didn’t get the whole guy I’d sent away.”

Check out the article if you have a few minutes. One of the best stories you’ll read today.

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