Even as he continued to comfort others, Linnerooth was showing signs of strain.
Ray Nixon, then a medic at Riva Ridge, remembers anguishing over critical decisions — assigning soldiers to what could be life-and-death missions — and talking with Linnerooth.
“Pete would always tell me, ‘You’re doing the best job you can. You’re well trained,”’ Nixon says. “He always made me feel better. He knew exactly what to say, exactly what direction to guide you in — but Pete was very bad at taking care of himself. Any time he was having problems or getting overwhelmed, instead of asking for help, he’d lock himself in his room and try to deal with it alone.”
He had always been this way. His mother, Gayle McMullen, who adopted Pete when he was 9 1/2 weeks old, recalls a loving little boy who adored animals, talked up a storm at 18 months old and was very sensitive. He clammed up when upset. “You could see something was bothering him, but he kept a lot inside,” she says.
In Iraq, Linnerooth avoided socializing. Friends, he’d say, were potential patients.
His buddies gave him space, but they noticed he wasn’t bouncing back as he had before.
A year into the tour, McNabb says, Linnerooth walked in a doctor’s office and said: “‘I can’t stand it. This is too much. How much more misery and torture are these kids going to go through?”’
The doctor, McNabb says, asked if he might hurt himself. Linnerooth replied he wasn’t sure.
As he was evacuated, he told McNabb he was crushed having to abandon his teammates. They saw it otherwise.
“We didn’t know if any of us were going to get out alive. You never do in war,” Landchild says. “We kind of had this hope that one of us made it. Yeah, he’s broken as heck and he has a lot of healing to do but he got OUT.”