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From the Mind of a Progressive: The Damage Done

by Gary Thompson

“I caught you knockin’
at my cellar door
I love you, baby,
can I have some more
Ooh, ooh, the damage done.”

—- Neil Young

I got a phone call from my daughter this morning. Her name showed up on the screen of my mobile, and I answered it with a, “Hey sweetheart, what are you doin’ this morning?”

I got a long silence and then a quiet, “Daddy,” and then just long, mournful sobs. Over the next few minutes, I was able to piece together that Dino (not his real name), one of her best friends, a fellow she had deployed and served with while in the Army in Iraq, had died. Full stop.

Damaris and Dino were close, the type of friendship that can only be forged in the fires of a war deployment. It was 2006 or 2007, they were both in their early 20s, they were both intelligence operatives and they were both very good at what they did. They were a part of a very small group who lived, worked ate and when they got a chance, played together.

When they came back from Iraq, they went their own separate ways, but stayed in touch and stayed close. They would go visit each other at least once a year, all the way across the country if that’s where they were at. It wasn’t romance; they were Army buddies.

“I hit the city and
I lost my band
I watched the needle
take another man
Gone, gone, the damage done.”

—- Neil Young

But something wasn’t right. Dino brought demons home with him.  He was often battling with those demons (alcohol for sure, but probably worse). I didn’t ask. It wasn’t my business. However, I did pick up in casual conversation with Damaris and some of her friends, that Dino had been in and out of treatment centers, but nothing really stuck.  Then, Dino got an internship at an outfit here in Parkersburg.  

Imagine the luck of that draw; an internship in Parkersburg, from God knows where, to the little town in West Virginia where his best friend’s parents lived. Dino lived in Parkersburg about six months or more while he interned. For the first two or three weeks, while he looked for a place to live, he stayed with us. After that, we saw him around town and would occasionally have him over.

What a great kid. I call him a kid, but that’s just because he was my daughters age (by this time in his late 20s, probably).  Quiet, unassuming and hard working; everyone liked him. We loved having him in the house, because it was like having one of our own kids back. But, then his internship ended, and he had to leave. We heard through the grapevine of our daughter’s friends that Dino was still battling demons. We never saw it, or never recognized it if we did.

“I sing the song
because I love the man
I know that some
of you don’t understand
to keep from running out.”

—- Neil Young

And now, Dino is dead. Was it suicide? Was it substance abuse and overdose? Or, was it both?  Was it the same thing? Or, was it something different altogether? I don’t know. They are doing an autopsy on his body right now, and we’ll find out. Whatever it is, it won’t be pretty, it won’t be happy and it won’t be Dino.

It is hard to find statistics on how many veterans in the United States die of drug overdoses each year, but:  22 veterans kill themselves every day, 68,000 veterans suffer from opioid use disorders, the Veterans Assistance opiate overdose rate is almost double the national average, 52,404 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2015 and veterans are 10 times more likely than the average Americans to abuse opioids and … such abuse is a leading cause of homelessness among vets.

“I’ve seen the needle
and the damage done
A little part of it in everyone
But every junkie’s
like a settin’ sun.”

—- Neil Young

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