Feb 16, 2010 12:25 PM by Andy Koen
It's hard to think of guarding convoys in Baghdad, Iraq during the peak of the Army's troop surge as normal, but to Sergeant Nicholas Gray it became a way of life during the 12 months he was deployed there in 2006 and 2007.
He said it was like going to work everyday, "just kind of getting up and putting your shoes and driving to work except for the fact that over there it's, more or less, people trying to kill you."
Gray served just the one deployment and was honorably discharged later in '07.
At first, things were going well. He started his own company, the entrepreneur brokerage firm NG Enterprises in downtown Colorado Springs and was slowly expanding the business.
But everything began to unravel one night in October of last year when he blacked out and kicked down his neighbor's backdoor.
According to police report, Gray's neighbor Edward Lynch heard someone shouting outside. He went to check it out and saw Gray trying to break into a car. He shouted at him and told him to stop.
Gray then turned and jumped the four foot chain link fence between their properties and began walking toward him.
Lynch immediately went inside and locked the door. As he was calling 911, Gray started to pound on the door.
He kicked hard enough to separate if from the doorframe, and with the dispatcher still on the line, Lynch again confronted Gray and kept a calm conversation with him until the police arrived.
He told the officers that Gray seemed confused and kept talking about his mission.
Gray has no memory of the incident. He had been talking on the phone with an old Army buddy from Iraq about an hour earlier and believes that something in the conversation triggered the episode.
"It's truly the only thing that makes sense as to why the incident happened, which is extremely scary."
Gray is currently serving two years of probation after accepting a plea agreement in case and is getting regular counseling for the PTSD.
He says he's opening up about his story because similar events have already cost him three of his friends. All of them committed suicide, including Casey Briggs who was arrested five days after Gray following a nearly identical incident in Baltimore.
"The biggest thing is that you can't force somebody to go ahead and admit that they have a problem," Gray said.
"A lot of people they just want to go ahead get back into the civilian world and just mix in, they don't want to go ahead and face the facts that they may have some issues at hand."
The Veterans Suicide Prevention Hotline has trained crisis counselors available to take calls 24 hours a day at 1-888-273-TALK (8255).
It was created by a partnership between the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Veterans Health Administration.
There are other resources for veterans and family members online at the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America website, www.iava.org.