Thursday, December 22, 2011

The 'Highway of Death', from Kuwait, and PTSD

Loved ones recall vet's struggle with PTSD
Dec. 21, 2011 - In his mind, Stanley Gibson rode down the Highway of Death time and time again until that chilly December night when he came to a dead end.

Gibson, a 43-year-old disabled Gulf War veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, was shot dead by Las Vegas police in the early morning of Dec. 12. He was shot in the back of his head "with the same damn gun," Rudy Gibson said, describing the AR-15, the civilian version of the military's M-16 assault rifle.

That was the same weapon that Stanley took with him 20 years ago when they were both deployed in Saudi Arabia for Operation Desert Storm.


Stanley came home with memories that gave him a serious case of post-traumatic stress disorder as well as cancer he blamed on exposure to depleted uranium shells used in combat.

He was let down by the "system," according to his wife, Rondha, and brother, Rudy, who told the Review-Journal on Friday about the battle he was fighting.


As a cook, Stanley was not on the front lines of the assault to stop the armed retreat of Iraqi army convoys fleeing from Kuwait City to Basra, Iraq, in February 1991.

Instead, his bout with anxiety from PTSD began in the aftermath of combat when he and other soldiers of the 327th Infantry Regiment were sent in five days later to clean up hundreds of scorched corpses and carbonized bodies that littered Iraq's Highway 80, his wife said. That's where U.S. warplanes had bombed fleeing convoys of tanks and trucks.

"They'd pick them up, put them in body bags, throw them on a truck, take them to an undisclosed location, bury them in the dirt (and) burn that dirt," Rondha Gibson said, describing Stanley's role on the cleanup crew.

"And as you know, once a body is hot like that, you start breathing in fumes. They didn't give him personal protection equipment or none of that. They said, 'Go in and clean it up, and you guys will be OK.' "

Years later, flashbacks would spring to life.

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