The War At Home

Today's NYT really brings it home:

The list of medals awarded to Sergeant Garza (no relation to the district attorney) tell of a good soldier. After two tours in Iraq, he shared a tight bond with unit members and missed them greatly when the Army sent him to a base in Georgia for additional training after a second deployment. He was troubled by a breakup with a girlfriend. And though he seldom spoke with his family about his combat tours, he once confided to his mother that he had a killed a person in Iraq. “He said, ‘It was him or me,’ ” Ms. Smith said. “But you could tell it troubled him.”

His family believes he did not get the care he needed, despite signs he had fallen into despair. In June, he left the Georgia base without permission, and the Army tracked him to a hotel room in Paris, Tex. In a suicide note he sent to a friend before leaving, he said he wanted to end it close to his friends. Among his purchases was a shotgun.

Sergeant Garza was brought back to Fort Hood and committed for psychiatric care, first to a civilian hospital because there was no room at the base hospital, said his uncle, Gary Garza, who lives in Killeen. After three days, he was transferred to the base hospital. He was released after two weeks and assigned to take outpatient counseling.

“We thought he was doing better,” said his grandfather, Homer Garza, a retired command sergeant major who served in Korea and Vietnam and who himself had silently suffered for decades with post-traumatic stress. In fact, Sergeant Garza had shared misgivings about his treatment at the base hospital with his uncle. “He said he felt like he was getting really good treatment at the civilian hospital,” his uncle said. “He said the civilian doctors seemed to care more. And for the military doctors, it was just like a job for them.”

True or not, on July 7 Sergeant Garza received a message on his cellphone canceling what was to be his first outpatient appointment. Though his family says the Army was supposed to be checking his apartment for guns and alcohol, that Sunday he put a pistol to his head and pulled the trigger.

His mother later listened to the message. “They said, ‘Sorry, we don’t have a counselor for you today,’ ” Ms. Smith said. “ ‘If you don’t hear back from us by Monday, give us a call.’ ”