A Veteran’s Day warm-up: broken soldiers are garbage

Summary: Here is a Veteran’s Day story, posted early so people can think about this before the big day. It describes how we treat veterans on the other 364 days. We often regard vets with PTSD as broken toys, whose slide into the gutter is ignored. Or, if noticed, then treated with contempt.

Nathan Damigo -By Bert Johnson, 13 August 20170
Nathan Damigo -By Bert Johnson, 13 August 20170.

Nathan Domigo

2004 – Damigo joined the Marine Corps at 18. He did two tours in Iraq, including participation in the fighting at Fallujah, as a light armored vehicle driver (MOS 031).

After his first tour, he tried to commit suicide, but a friend intervened, according to San Diego County court records.

October 2007 – Court records show that Damigo fell apart on leave after his second tour. He fell into a spiral of substance abuse to cope with PTSD (paranoia and flashbacks) and the loss of 3 friends in Iraq. He said that he felt “betrayed by the government.” But the big betrayal was in his future.

November 2007 – A few days after the anniversary of a friend’s combat death, he was drinking. He then went for a walk with a gun he had received two days before as a gift. He saw a La Mesa cab driver who he thought was Iraqi, put a gun to his head, and robbed the man of $43, records. Nathan’s mother said that a psychologist who worked with Nathan reported that the crime was a flashback in which Nathan went into combat mode.

He was convicted and spent a year in county jail and four years in prison. The Marines gave him an other-than-honorable discharge in 2007. (Sources here and the LAT.)

Nathan Damigo - returning
Damigo at the airport returning from Iraq. From “Wartorn: 1861-2010.”

How many oddities are there in this story?

First, Damigo was sentenced to six years in prison and served five years – for stealing $43. Forty-three dollars, no violence (although threatening with a gun) by a first-time offender. That’s extraordinary. There are criminals who committed horrific crimes in California who served less than five years in prison.

Second, this act is obviously that of someone mentally ill. Our response to him was “it sucks to be you.” Damigo was treated by America like an expended round of ammo. We will spend almost two trillion dollars on the F-35 program, but will not spend the relatively tiny sums for mental health care to help people like Damigo from sliding from the battlefield into the gutter.

in HBO’S 2010 PTSD documentary “Wartorn 1861-2010“, Damigo expressed remorse, telling CNN that he “flipped out on the guy.” The video shows that in a few months he transformed into an older and broken man.

Nathan Damigo at his sentencing hearing.
Damigo at his sentencing hearing. From “Wartorn.”

The rest of the source

While in prison, a fellow inmate gave him a copy of former KKK leader David Duke’s autobiography: My Awakening: A Path to Racial Understanding. This put him on a fateful road to finding new meaning for his life.

2014 – He was released from prison and enrolled at the California State University Stanislaus. He learned about and was impressed by the French nativist movement Bloc Identitaire. Damigo found YouTube videos by Angelo Gage, another Iraq veteran who struggled with severe PTSD – and became a white nationalist. Damigo commented on Gage’s videos and they became friends. Damigo eventually assisted Gage in creating the National Youth Front. He eventually became its Vice Chairman or Director (accounts vary).

March 2016 – Damigo founded the white supremacist organization Identity Evropa.

15 April 2017 – Left and Right riot in Berkeley, California.

A young woman (model, porn star) of many names – best known as Louise Rosealma – said she traveled to Berkeley “determined to bring back 100 Nazi scalps” (from her now-deleted Facebook page). She wore one glove on her right hand; it looks like a sap glove (weighted knuckles, illegal in California if metal). Photos show her carrying a bottle, like those thrown into the crowd by rioters. Damigo hits her. A blurry video shows he apparently about the throw a bottle before he hits her. The very-PC Berkeley police decline to prosecute him.

Journalists describe her as an innocent victimized. She gave an interview to CBS in which no tough questions were asked about her Facebook post, her mask, her odd glove, or any bottle-throwing (see below). She said was “on the sideline taking pictures” until repeatedly attacked by a gang of men who “were trying to crack my skull” and “were trying to hurt her as much as they could”. Oddly, she walked away without a scratch. More details about the incident here.

Damigo hits Louise Rosealma. She holdis a bottle by the neck, ready for throwing. Click to enlarge.

Nathan Damigo hits somebody
Photo by Reuters/Stephen Lam.

Activists call for his expulsion from Cal State University Stanislau, but its administration refuses.

August 2017 – He resigned as head of Identity Evropa.

2 January 2019 – He filed for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy.

Violence by the Left and Right

Antifa is larger and more violent than these white nationalist groups (at least, so far). It receives gentle treatment from journalists and the government. Damigo shows how vast forces are mustered against white nationalist groups – and their leaders. This guarantees that any successful far-right group will be totally alienated from our politics, and probably willing and able to effectively use violence.

For more about Nathan Damigo

For more about vets with PTSD

From PTSD to Prison: Why Veterans Become Criminals” by at the Daily Beast – “How the system fails them, and the new prison dorms that could help them get back on track.”

National Center for PTSD of the Veterans’ Administration – Roughly 15% of vets develop some form of PTSD, a number constant from Vietnam to the WOT.

Invisible Wounds of War – a typically magisterial study by RAND (2008). Based on data from 2007. Of course, their recommendations were largely ignored.

“Among OEF/OIF veterans, rates of PTSD, major depression, and probable TBI are relatively high, particularly when compared with the general U.S. civilian population. …Effective treatments documented in the scientific literature – evidence-based care – are available for PTSD and major depression. Delivery of such care to all veterans with PTSD or major depression would pay for itself within two years, or even save money, by improving productivity and reducing medical and mortality costs. Such care may also be a cost-effective way to retain a ready and healthy military force for the future. However, to ensure that this care is delivered requires system-level changes across the Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the U.S. health care system.”

For More Information

If you found this post of use, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Also see all posts about the far-right, about the far-left, about political violence, about ways to reform America politics, and especially these…

  1. Violence, the inevitable consequence of political extremism.
  2. The Right began the current cycle of political violence in America.
  3. What are the odds of violence from the Right in America?
  4. Fear the rise of political violence in America. We can still stop it.
  5. About Steve Crowder’s horrifying exposé of Antifa’s violence.
  6. Political violence is as American as apple pie.

Books about PTSD

I have not read these. They look authoritative and interesting. Please post reviews and other book recommendations in the comments.

Treating PTSD in Military Personnel, Second Edition: A Clinical Handbook, edited by Bret A. Moore and Walter E. Penk (2019).

Fields of Combat: Understanding PTSD among Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan by Erin P. Finley, an Asst Prof of Medicine and Psychiatry at the University of Texas Health Science Center – San Antonio. She is also a Research Investigator in the Veterans Evidence-Based Research Dissemination and Implementation Center (VERDICT) at the South Texas Veterans Health Care System. Bio here.

Treating PTSD in Military Personnel: A Clinical Handbook
Available at Amazon.
Fields of Combat: Understanding PTSD among Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan
Available at Amazon.

21 thoughts on “A Veteran’s Day warm-up: broken soldiers are garbage”

  1. The literature about PTSD in journals about law and medicine is often quite dismissive or even hostile to considering PTSD as a mitigating factor in crimes. Here is an extreme example.

    “Removing questions of validity may force us to recognize that normative judgments drive special treatment in sentencing with regard to PTSD claims. For example, military veterans and victims of domestic violence are assumed to be ‘deserving victims’ of PTSD, but what about victims of PTSD triggered by imprisonment or participation in gang violence? Should social disapproval of these stressors (i.e., causes of PTSD) allow the criminal justice system to withhold sentencing mitigation of these defendants even though they too suffer from PTSD?”

    — “Neuroscience, PTSD, and Sentencing Mitigation” by Betsy J. Grey – Professor of Law at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, Arizona State – in the Cardoza Law Review, 2012.

    Why should vets who developed PTSD be considered diffently than those who contracted it from gang violence? Professor Grey is puzzled.

    1. In regards to PTSD. Do you think the prevalence was lower or higher in pre-industrial societies?

      How did they deal with such and how effectively?

      1. info,

        Good question. I’ll bet the answer is “we don’t know.” It’s like discussions of monetary policy in the second century Roman Empire – lots of “inspired” (& usually confident) guessing.

        Look at all the descriptions of early Greek society based on the text of the Illiad. There is a sci-fi story in which aliens in the future find one thing from our civilization – and make brilliant deducations. Unfortunately, it is a Micky Mouse film – so the project was in vain.

  2. Much of the response by civilians to this post is the usual ignorance about PTSD and the workings of our justice system. Business as usual.

    More interesting is the response of officers. After 18 years of war, they should be familiar with PTSD, and show at least a little empathy for those broken by military service. After all, the military went through all this in Vietnam – within living memory. And we’re doing so again. But both were rare in comment threads about this.

    A retired Colonel gave a likely explanation: this is the late stages of the domination of careerism over professionalism. Without any “real” wars to fight, of what use is professionalism?

    Background to this

    In the nuclear age, most of the military preparations to fight China and Russia are unreal – like armored knights jousting after the development of guns. What we actually fight are 4th generations conflicts, not “war” in the sense that our military understands the term (which is why we don’t win).

    So discussions on military boards grow excited when talking about past wars – the Civil War is a favorite – or details of hardware. What is the best sidearm? What rifle round is superior? Discussions of the WOT are low key, usually muttering that our failure to win is the fault of the civilians. Discussions about the broken soldiers, detritus from the WOT, burn out fast.

  3. “Antifa is larger and more violent than these white nationalist groups (at least, so far).”

    I don’t accept sweeping statements based on anecdotes. Misuse of anecdotal evidence is an informal fallacy and is sometimes referred to as the “person who” fallacy (“I know a person who…”; “I know of a case where…” etc.) which places undue weight on experiences of close peers which may not be typical. Please link to statistical data on violent acts by each group, preferably from law enforcement source.

    1. Gloucon,

      Mob violence by Antifa is reported weekly. Reporters like Andy Ngo post photos and videos of specific incidents.

      After a brief surge, the larger white nationalist groups have been either extinguished or are laying low. Their actions are heavily followed by the major media, but seldom occur.

      Violence by individuals occurs all along the spectrum, but motives are impossible are determine – and are reported only when politically useful.

      1. “Violence by individuals occurs all along the spectrum, but motives are impossible are determine”

        Your kidding, right? Dylann Roof. El Paso. The Pittsburgh synagogue shooting.

        “Andy Ngo” There’s been no incidents since the June Portland riot.

  4. “First, Damigo was sentenced to six years in prison and served five years – for stealing $43”

    This is nonsense. He was sentenced to that many years because he held a gun to the man’s head. That’s a big deal.

    ‘Antifa is larger and more violent than these white nationalist groups (at least, so far). It receives gentle treatment from journalists and the government. Damigo shows how vast forces are mustered against white nationalist groups – and their leaders. This guarantees that any successful far-right group will be totally alienated from our politics, and probably willing and able to effectively use violence.”

    Agree.

  5. The conflation of “white nationalist” and “white supremacist” in the media and consequently in the minds of the average person has ensured that no white nationalist group or cause will ever be widely supported in this country.

    Gloucon, is that a joke or a troll? Don’t you think that if white’s or the right were engaging in violence on a regular basis it would be plastered all over the news? They can’t wait to blame the right even for instances where the right defends itself and they downplay or refuse to report actual cases by the left and Antifa. Meanwhile the anecdotal evidence piles up in spite of them and the headlines rarely, if ever, mention political violence by either side. Go on social media, however, and you can find hundreds of instances of left wing violence.

    1. “Go on social media, however, and you can find hundreds of instances of left wing violence.”

      So then why can’t you post a link to a law enforcement data source that lists the total violent incidents by both right and left? Without such data how can we know if the violence by either side are going up or down?

  6. Did he normally rob people while serving his tour? That’s the only way you can connect his crime to his service.

    1. Jeanne,

      Please read about PTSD. After 18 years of war, it is well-understood. Such confident ignorance as yours about it is …odd.

      But thank you for your demo of the attitudes discussed in this post.

  7. Part of the problem is new soldiers get months of introductory training when they join but there is no out processing training to evaluate and readjust to civilian life.

      1. This may not be reliable at all but it raises interesting points:
        https://theconversation.com/how-ptsd-treatment-can-learn-from-ancient-warrior-rituals-69589

        In tales like the Odyssey. Men were allowed to weep for their fallen comrades and let all their sadness hang out in a flood of tears going so as being excessive by our own standards. I do wonder if our over-stoicism may have enabled the stress of combat to linger increasing PTSD.

        There is also purification rituals performed on warriors for bloodshed and may have helped them move past the bloody necessity of combat.

        Like for example the ritual bathing of soldiers from the corruption of war among the Romans and the Israelites. Or the use of sweat lodges and so forth. To not look back on what is done.

        Perhaps they didn’t do very well like our modern times.

      2. info,

        There is a big clinical literature about PTSD. I don’t know how much we really understand. But nothing happens with drug and mental health issues (often combined) until someone is gotten into treatment – and the treatment is adequately funded.

        In America, our response to these things is often (most often?) prison. We know that does not work. For a high risk population, such as Veterans, the systems are grossly inadequate – with no safety net for those that fall thru. Mechanisms such as Veterans Courts exist in some juristictions, usually grossly underfunded.

      3. info,

        There is a belief on the Left that men and women in the US Armed forces are stoic robots that don’t mourn their lost comrades. Like so many of their beliefs, it is false. There are wakes, like that shown in Midway. There is the “Missing Man Table” ceremony, shown in the TV show “The Last Ship.” There are formal funerals, occasions on which open grief is appropriate.

        https://youtu.be/rgrCXnL5gWk

      4. Thanks for the correction in regards to mourning. Its a travesty there is insufficient research into this field. And funding to implement it effectively.

  8. “We often regard vets with PTSD as broken toys, whose slide into the gutter is ignored.”

    That is an exaggeration. Vets with PTSD may not get the help they deserve, but neither is the problem ignored. I doubt you can find a person with even a modicum of interest in current events who is not aware of the issue and sympathetic to vets with PTSD.

    “Or, if noticed, then treated with contempt.”

    That is simply rubbish.

    “He saw a La Mesa cab driver who he thought was Iraqi, put a gun to his head, and robbed the man of $43, records. Nathan’s mother said that a psychologist who worked with Nathan reported that the crime was a flashback in which Nathan went into combat mode.”

    Robbing cab drivers is part of combat? There is a big disconnect there which is enough to make me wonder if PTSD is just being used as a handy excuse.

    “no violence (although threatening with a gun)”

    Threatening with a gun is most certainly a violent crime. Putting a gun to a person’s head even more so.

    “this act is obviously that of someone mentally ill.”

    You might as well argue that all crimes are the result of mental illness. It may have been the result of mental illness. But it is not at all obvious.

    “Journalists describe her as an innocent victimized.”

    Sadly, that is SOP these days with regard to Antifa types. Even when the real victim is not alt-right or white nationalist.

    I am skeptical as to treating being a veteran and/or a PTSD sufferer as a literal get out of jail free card. The default position must be that people are to be held responsible for their actions. Yes, there should be exceptions made when treatment is a more appropriate response. But those must be exceptions, not automatic exemptions. Otherwise, the exemptions expand until they make a mockery of the criminal justice system.

    If in fact there are effective treatments that are being denied to vets (quite possibly true), then that is criminal.

    1. Mike,

      I’m unsure if you are just ignorant of PTSD and the vast literature about this, or just didn’t read the post carefully.

      I suggest reading some of the For More Info material. You’ll learn something.

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