The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

March 16, 2013

Vet who saved many in Iraq couldn’t escape demons

(Continued)

He became a college professor in Minnesota, then counseled vets in California and Nevada. He’d done much to help the troops, but in his mind, it wasn’t enough. He worried about veteran suicides. He wrote about professional burnout. He grappled with PTSD, depression and anger, his despair spiraling into an overdose. He divorced and married again. He fought valiantly to get his life in order.

But he couldn’t make it happen.

As the new year dawned, Pete Linnerooth, Bronze Star recipient, admired Army captain, devoted father, turned his gun on himself. He was 42.

He was, as one buddy says, the guy who could help everybody — everybody but himself.

———

He liked to jokingly compare himself to an intrepid explorer stranded in one of the most remote corners of the earth.

Linnerooth’s best buddy, Brock McNabb, recalls how they’d laugh and find parallels to the plight of Ernest Shackleton, whose ship, Endurance, became trapped in the Antarctic during an early 20th-century expedition. The crew ended up on an ice floe, scrambling to survive.

This was the 100-degree desert, of course, but for them, the analogy was apt: Both were impossible missions — Linnerooth and two teammates were responsible for the mental stability and psychological care of thousands — and both groups leaned on one another for emotional sustenance.

“There’s no cavalry to save the day,” McNabb explains. “You ARE the cavalry. There was no relief.”

McNabb and a third soldier, Travis Landchild, were the tight-knit mental health crew in charge of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division in the Baghdad area. They were there when the surge began, rocket attacks increased and the death toll mounted.

Landchild says the three dubbed themselves “a dysfunctional tripod.” Translation: One of the three “legs” was always broken, or stressed out, and without fail, “the other two would step up and support that person.”

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