Moral Low Ground

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Jason Pemberton, Highly-Decorated Iraq War Veteran with PTSD, Kills Wife Tiffany, Himself in Daytona Beach, Florida

A highly-decorated Iraq war veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) killed his wife and himself in Florida over the weekend, the latest casualties in a military mental health crisis that has been growing in recent years as hundreds of thousands of troops return home from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan and struggle to re-adjust to civilian life.

The Daytona Beach News-Journal reports that 28-year-old Jason Pemberton and his wife Tiffany, age 25, were found dead in their Daytona Beach, Florida apartment on Sunday morning. Daytona Beach Police Chief Mike Chitwood described a horrific scene discovered by police responding to a neighbor’s call. Another neighbor said he head two gunshots around 9:30pm on Saturday but did not notify authorities.

A preliminary investigation found that Pemberton shot his wife in the chest with a rifle before turning it on himself, shooting himself in the head.

Pemberton, who served with great valor as a sniper in the U.S. Army, was a highly-decorated soldier. He was awarded three Purple Hearts, awarded to troops wounded in battle, as well as a Bronze Star and other medals. But he also suffered from PTSD and received a medical discharge from the Army in 2009 because of a severe back injury suffered when his parachute opened too late.

“This kid was a hero,” Chief Chitwood told the News-Journal. “Clearly, something went terribly wrong.” Speaking about Tiffany, Chitwood added: “She never set foot in Iraq, but she is a casualty of war.”

Chitwood said that neighbors often heard the couple arguing, but Darrel Pemberton, an uncle from Alabama, said “they were just a happy, young couple.”

“He did what he was supposed to do and came out injured for life,” his uncle told the News-Journal. 

He isn’t the only one. Between 15% and 20% of all U.S. troops who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan are believed to suffer from PTSD. Many are wrongfully discharged after being diagnosed with bogus “personality disorders” to save the Defense Department money that would have had to be spent treating their illness. These wounded warriors have to deal not only with the stigma attached to mental illness but also with the stressful experience of re-integrating into civilian society after years of combat. It should come as no surprise that some of these young men harm themselves and/or others; every 80 seconds a U.S. military veteran commits suicide. The tragic case of Jason and Tiffany Pemberton should serve as a reminder that in order to truly support our troops, we must do a better job of diagnosing, treating– and preventing– PTSD and other traumatic brain injuries.

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One Comment

  1. rick langeMarch 6, 2012 at 2:32 pmReply

    Jason was my upstairs niebor. He was like a son to me. Im the one who called. I too have PTSD. Something needs to be done

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