Greg MilamJanuary 17, 2012 4:07 PM
The case of an Iraq war veteran accused of being the serial killer of four homeless men in California is raising some uncomfortable questions.
Itzcoatl Ocampo was arrested when members of the public chased him after a 64-year-old man was stabbed to death outside of a fast-food restaurant.
He is expected to be charged with that murder and three others in a spree of killings which terrorised the homeless community in Orange County.
Ocampo’s father Refugio, himself living rough, says his son came back a changed man from a deployment to Iraq in 2008.
He said his son expressed disillusionment and became even darker as he struggled to find his way a civilian. The month he returned home one of his friends was killed in combat in Afghanistan.
Ocampo’s family say his hands shook and he suffered headaches. He had some medical treatment but then began drinking heavily.
His father and a Vietnam veteran neighbour tried to push Ocampo to receive further veterans help but he refused and rejected psychological help.
Inevitably the case has raised questions about the psychological impact of combat on thousands of Americans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan and the help on offer.
The Daily Northwestern reported: “A troubling study released last year by the Department of Veterans Affairs found that, on average, 18 veterans commit suicide every day. The VA has its own suicide hotline that handles roughly 10,000 calls each month.”
Huge numbers returning home from wars now being wound down might suggest it is a problem that will only get worse.
The US government is expanding the support network but admit the biggest problem is reaching those people who won’t come looking for help.
Homelessness and unemployment, especially unemployment among the young, are major problems for America’s millions of veterans.
Itzcoatl Ocampo remains innocent until proven guilty, of course, but the details of how he has lived his life since returning home are a worrying enough sign.
Too many people still remember what faced those who returned from Vietnam.
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