Street Name Honors Troubled War Hero
A New York town has renamed a road after a heroic soldier who died this year in Pinehurst.
Spc. Joseph Dwyer grew up on Pipe Stave Hollow Road in Brookhaven, N.Y. The road runs to the Mount Sinai harbor. Monday, in a ceremony complete with bagpipes and an American flag flying high between two fire truck ladders, the town renamed a portion of it Spc. Joseph Dwyer Road.
"It's another piece of the pie," said Patrick Dwyer, Joseph's father, "that maybe Joseph's death could mean something. It's a busy corner. Maybe it can bring some attention. I think it will help."
Since his death, his family has hoped and tried to bring some attention to soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder and perhaps help people suffering from it, as Dwyer did, get the help they need.
"I know he would be proud," his father said. "He spent his whole life in New York on that street."
Dwyer became perhaps the most famous soldier of the Iraq war during the first few days of the conflict, after a photograph of him carrying a wounded and half-naked Iraqi child appeared on the front of USA Today and several newspapers and magazines worldwide.
A U.S. Army medic, Dwyer joined up just days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The Army awarded him the Combat Medical Badge for his heroism, but it was in his return from war that Dwyer faced his most difficult fight, which would ultimately take his life.
Dwyer was diagnosed with PTSD. He died in Pinehurst earlier this year, the victim of an accidental overdose of inhalants. His family and friends say that he may not have died on the battlefield, but the war and the disorder it caused him to suffer from is what killed him. He was 31 years old.
After returning from Iraq, Dwyer was often plagued by delusions of people trying to kill him. He made his home into a fortress. In 2005, he shot up his El Paso, Texas, apartment. He once wrecked his car dodging a nonexistent roadside bomb.
He sought help from several different Veterans Affairs Medical Centers. When his symptoms returned, Dwyer began using inhalants to give him a few moments of peace.
He died June 28 as an ambulance took him to the hospital.
A Web site in Dwyer's honor has been established. Donations can be made through the site to a fund set up to assist his wife, Matina, and begin a college fund for his 2-year-old daughter, Meagan.
His family hopes that his story can bring attention to the plight of those suffering from PTSD. It's estimated that between 12 and 15 percent of soldiers returning home from the Iraq war have the disorder.
"If all the guys needing help get help, then that would be great," Patrick Dwyer said. "Guys are suffering still. They don't have enough rooms at the veterans' hospitals. You talk to these guys and it's just heartbreak. You can hear it in their voice."
People with PTSD need one-on-one therapy, and they need it soon after diagnosis, Dwyer said. Most suffering from it can only get group sessions at a VA hospital.
"They need long-term care," he said. "They really need to catch it early. Joseph had five years of it."
Contact Matthew Moriarty at 693-2479 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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