In November 2010, the Post-Gazette published a four-part series titled "A Soldier's Heart," the Civil War name for what we know today as post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. In a Veterans Day editorial, we described the troubled warriors highlighted in the series as "clearly heroes," despite suffering symptoms that were too long taken as signs of weakness.
If anybody thinks those words were just platitudes born of a sense of sympathy or guilt for those whose private wars have never ceased, consider Army Staff Sgt. Ty M. Carter, 33, from Washington state. On Monday, he stood in the East Room of the White House where President Barack Obama presented him with the nation's highest military award, the Medal of Honor.
Sgt. Carter is a very courageous man. He is also a PTSD sufferer, to which the president alluded in his remarks. The courage he showed on the battlefield is now reflected off the battlefield.
But if anybody thinks that the sergeant, who is still on active duty, was chosen for this honor as a PTSD poster boy, consider what he did on Oct. 3, 2009. It is a classic story in the annals of Medal of Honor winners.
Surrounded by the mountains of the Hindu Kush in remote eastern Afghanistan, 53 American troops found themselves defending a highly vulnerable position, Combat Outpost Keating, against a dawn attack by 300 insurgents.
Sgt. Carter repeatedly braved intense fire by running across open ground to resupply comrades with ammunition, fired and killed enemy troops and carried back a wounded soldier (who later died of his wounds, one of eight Americans to die). Another soldier, former Staff Sgt. Clinton L. Romesha, received the Medal of Honor in February for heroic actions elsewhere in the same battle.
Sgt. Carter once believed that PTSD was not a real disorder, but instead an excuse to avoid work. Now he is speaking out to help other sufferers like himself. He speaks with a unique authority on behalf of heroes all.