Veteran who's been there reaches out

  • Updated: September 2, 2007 - 10:15 PM

After his struggle with PTSD, a Gulf War veteran is trying to help younger soldiers

Howard Books, of Stacy, Minn., is doing his best to help returning soldiers, volunteering at the Veterans Resource Center in St. Paul and on college campuses across the state.

As a veteran of the Gulf War, he knows well the dangers of post-traumatic stress, and how long it can linger.

Books, 42, had all the classic symptoms after returning from war in the early 1990s. He was angry all the time, and fireworks sent him dropping to the ground.

"I hit the bottle real hard," he said. He got into bar fights and used cocaine. He slept with a loaded gun under his pillow.

One morning, his mother tried to nudge him awake "and I knocked her all the way back to the door." After that, he said, "She woke me up with a shoe."

It took him years, he said, to seek help. He is back in college, working toward a degree and helping younger veterans navigate the state university system.

But even now, he says, "There's nights I don't sleep, there's days I just want to crawl into a hole." And, he notes, "You're talking 15 years later."

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