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Under Fire

Haunted by Memories of War, A Soldier Battles The Army

By Lynne Duke
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 1, 2004; Page C01

"Satchel bomb!"

His shout shatters the night. The lieutenant is fighting, barking orders. He hollers and grunts. On the sofa at a friend's house, 1st Lt. Jullian Philip Goodrum, U.S. Army Reserve, wrestles and thrashes, fighting a war as he sleeps.

Pam McGill can hear him. She bolts upright in bed in her Knoxville, Tenn., home and rushes to the living room.

First Lt. Jullian Goodrum could be court-martialed because he did not request leave before checking into a psychiatric hospital during a mental breakdown. (Preston Keres -- The Washington Post)

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They've been friends for 20 years. Goodrum used to sing in her youth choir at a local Baptist church back in Powell, their Tennessee home town. Goodrum, 34, had only brothers. So McGill became a big sister. And on his return from service in Iraq last summer, his old friend became an angel of mercy.

"It was like he was under fire or something," McGill, 43, recalls of those awful nightmares.

She remembers him shouting "Clear!" and words she could not understand.

"He was talking about somebody dropping a bomb off a bridge and he was trying to keep his men safe."

Other times, on other nights that Goodrum himself describes, he'd relive those bleak seconds aboard the USS Missouri when he was in the Navy during the Persian Gulf War and an Iraqi missile drew a bead on his ship.

"Brace for shock," a voice bellowed over the ship's PA. Then the countdown to impact. "Sixty yards. Fifty yards. Forty yards . . ."

Goodrum, a gunner's mate, bowed his head, expecting to die. "Dear God, forgive my sins. Please watch over my mother and my brothers."

A nearby British vessel saved the day, shooting the missile down 30 yards from the Missouri. Goodrum still sees the huge explosion, its yellow light, in his dreams. He cannot shake that image, or the seconds he thought were his last.

The strain and fear stalked him through one war, through the years that followed, then into a second war. Each dangerous convoy in Iraq -- "suicide missions," the troops called them, because they were so poorly equipped -- fueled his secret panic, his fear that one of his soldiers would die. And then one of his men did die.

His stress became a beast that grew and grew -- especially after he was turned away from an Army medical clinic last fall when he sought help in the midst of a mental collapse. The beast just overwhelmed him, just mauled him as he slept.

"Phil, you're here, you're safe, wake up." McGill would coax him back from his hell. She'd hold him tight, to stop his thrashing. He would awaken; he would quiet. But there was no calm.

"He would just go into that little trance again. Shaking. His hands would shake tremendously."

Goodrum's green Class A uniform is crisp, his dress shoes shiny, his black beret properly tilted. Four rows of ribbons rest above the pocket of his pressed shirt.

They tell a soldier's story: U.S. Navy seaman, turned Tennessee National Guardsman, turned U.S. Army reservist, activated for duty in Iraq. He is a straight-back, yes-ma'am, no-sir kind of guy, church raised, proper, gung-ho.

He walks with soldierly precision through the mist that shrouds Walter Reed Army Medical Center on a morning rendered surreal because of what lies ahead. On this October day, he will fight his other war -- his war with the U.S. Army.

He is sweating, already, even before he climbs the columned steps that lead to the offices of the Army's Judge Advocate General's Corps. Prosecutors there are waiting for him. They want him out of the military that he has loved so well.

He pops the first of a series of anti-anxiety pills prescribed to stanch the panic attacks. The meds will hold him steady through a day on which his life may depend. By day's end, he will have taken double the dosage recommended as part of his regimen of medications for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

An Army survey, completed last December, found that 17 percent of soldiers and Marines who'd returned from duty in Iraq reported symptoms of major depression, anxiety or PTSD. The number is expected to go higher with time, as more soldiers return from duty in this conventional war that has become a harsh counterinsurgency campaign. And Matthew J. Friedman, executive director of the National Center for PTSD, predicts that many more PTSD cases will go unreported; the Army survey also found that soldiers still are intensely reluctant to divulge their symptoms because of fear of being stigmatized as weak.

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