By Brittany Lieberman / Managing Editor
It’s been five years since Marcus Gill woke up from a six-week coma after surviving a near-fatal attack while serving as a Marine in Afghanistan.
Although he was honored with a Purple Heart, the highest accolade offered by the U.S., his struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder affect him on a daily basis.
After spending seven months stationed in Afghanistan with Camp Pendleton’s 1st Battalion 5th Marines, Gill’s squad vehicle was bombed and blown in half.
His best friend, Justin Swanson was Among those lost in the attack.
“There are people over there devising a plan on how to kill you every single day,” the LBCC student said. “We were trained on what to look out for, but it still happened.”
Gill awoke in a Maryland Naval hospital in 2009 after spending six weeks in a coma.
He suffered whole-body shrapnel wounds, retinal hemorrhaging, a broken neck, multiple damaged vertebrae, a pinched nerve in his neck that cannot be surgically fixed and nearly lost his lower left leg.
“I felt riddled with holes and wounds. I woke up and completely freaked out. I started pulling the stitches from my face,” Gill recalled.
He was placed in the Wounded Warrior Battalion Alpha Co. for a year, where he received intensive in and out-patient therapy sessions and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
He was prescribed narcotics such as Percocet and morphine for his injuries. “I didn’t abuse the drugs, but I definitely embellished. I stayed home and didn’t talk to anyone for months and relied on my wife for everything.”
Severe signs of Gill’s PTSD started to show upon hearing his battalion was preparing to deploy to Sangin Valley, Afghanistan, an area known to be extremely dangerous.
Professor of social sciences Adrian Novotny, who served in the Vietnam War, was diagnosed with 30% PTSD in 2013.
“Comedian George Carlin lists all the names given for PTSD over the years. Shell shock, battle fatigue, operational exhaustion. It seems society has trouble facing the issue at hand. Humanity is squeezed completely out of these phrases,” Novotny said.
Thoughts of returning to warfare subjected Gill to severe breakdowns and fits of anger. “The Marine Corps are very old- fashioned and don’t treat PTSD as a real sickness. The (negative) image followed me around the battalion.”
In October 2011, Gill attempted suicide by way of prescription drugs and was charged with ‘destruction of government property’.
“I lost my wife, my image, my kids and my best friend. I felt worthless,” he said.
In Summer 2012 Gill’s time in the Marine Corps was up and he was given the option to leave or re-enlist. “I had a Purple Heart and I was being treated like a loser. I couldn’t wait to get out,” Gill said.
“If I could tell people anything about PTSD, it would be to not be afraid of it. The media attaches a stigma that makes those of us who have it look like monsters.”
Novotny said his attempt at PTSD treatment was unsuccessful.
“It seemed like my counselor was untrained or very poorly trained. The U.S. military spends billions on guns and nothing on therapy for the men and women coming back. All of a sudden you see a white flash and you’re missing limbs, your best friends and your sanity,” Novotny said.
Gill’s eyes focused on his silver bracelet etched with the name of his deceased friend as he takes a drag from his pen-shaped vape. “I don’t regret doing what I did, but if I knew what was coming, I would have never signed up.”