The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

March 16, 2013

Vet who saved many in Iraq couldn’t escape demons

(Continued)

———

He wasn’t the same. His family noticed it when they met him in Schweinfurt, Germany.

“He came home burdened,” says his younger sister, Mary Linnerooth Gonzalez. “He was disappointed that he couldn’t affect the wheels of change. ... I think he was defeated.”

Amy, Linnerooth’s wife at the time — they’d met as teens in Rochester, Minn. — says they had trouble resuming their lives. He didn’t discuss what he’d seen while in Iraq, and didn’t open up at home.

“I think it was just kind of like a wall that he put up,” she says. “I asked him about that later and he said if he let that guard down, then it would be like a dam flooding and it would just all come out and he couldn’t be that way.”

There were some early warning signs, she says, including jokes about suicide. She dismissed it as gallows humor.

In 2008, after nearly six years in the Army, Linnerooth was a civilian again, returning to an academic world where he’d thrived.

He was the kind of student professors rave about for years, describing him as “brilliant” and “amazing.”

Patrick Friman, who was in charge of Linnerooth’s doctoral dissertation at the University of Nevada-Reno, remembers a day when his then-student joined him for training at an out-patient psychological clinic. A mother was struggling with her 3-year-old: The girl wouldn’t sleep in her own bed, wasn’t toilet trained and refused to do what her mother asked.

It soon became clear that Linnerooth, the novice, was much better at relating to the mother than the trained professor. “I marveled at how well he described the problem, the solution and the steps that need to be taken to achieve it,” Friman says. “She was hanging on his every word. She couldn’t wait to go home to try it.”

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