TAMPA, Fla. — On Sept. 12 a highly decorated U.S. Air Force veteran's battle with post-traumatic stress disorder turned into a public spectacle.
Tampa police arrested Ralph Rodriguez following an outburst at Tampa International because of a flight delay.
Carmen Rodrigeuz tells ABC Action News her husband served his country immediately following the Sept. 11 terror attacks and hasn't been the same since. He is currently getting treatment at a VA hospital.
Rodriguez is not alone. Studies show that at least 20 percent of veterans that served in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from PTSD. And, that number could be a lot higher.
"I’ve had a lot of treatment, you know, but before that, you would be angry or nervous, or your anxiety would be high," Army veteran Gerald Pickett said.
Pickett said he understands what Rodriguez was feeling.
"I was at the point of suicide," Pickett said. "I put a gun in my mouth a couple of times...when you get down to that depression and you can’t, it’s like an oily suit that just hangs on ya, hangs on ya every day you know. You combine that with nightmares, no sleep...then what are your options? And, that’s it, and that’s probably why a lot of guys take their own lives."
Pickett fought to get his life back to a new normal. He walked through the doors of the Behavioral Health facility at the Department of Veteran Affairs and asked for help.
"It’s either you bring it to light, or it eats you to death in the dark," Pickett can't stress enough how important it is for veterans and active duty members to ask for help if they need it.
24 hours a day seven days a week 365 days a year anyone in need can call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and press 1.
Or you can text 838255 and visit their website VeteransCrisisLine.net.
According to the recent statistics by the VA every day 20 veterans will commit suicide.
"The statistics are certainly high," Dr. Glenn Smith said. Smith started the PTSD clinic at the VA in the Tampa Bay Area 15 years ago.
Smith said there are so many advances in research and therapy that every veteran in a crisis can get access to the help they desperately need.
"Trauma does change a person, but that doesn’t mean someone has to struggle with some of the symptoms," Smith said. "It’s OK to stuff things, to get the job done, but if you never take a look at the impact, it will work on you eventually. Because, as I said before, stress is cumulative don’t let it reach that point where you can’t do anything about it or that it becomes so unmanageable it has impacts on things other areas of your life you wish it hadn’t."
Pickett served his country for 24 years with no regrets. His son is active military following in his father's footsteps.
For more information on PTSD click here.