Local Vietnam vet uses PTSD experience to help others

Many soldiers come home from war with wounds no one can see. They're suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

June 27 is national PTSD Awareness Day, when Americans are asked to learn more about the disorder affecting many returning troops.

One Grand Strand Vietnam veteran is using his experience with PTSD to help other vets recover from their hidden wounds.

Today, Kris Tourtellotte is the director of the Veterans Welcome Home and Resource Center in Little River, but in 1968 and '69, he was in an Army military intelligence unit.

"We lived right next to the grunts, all day, every day," Tourtellotte said.

Tourtellotte came home from Vietnam with shrapnel in his legs from a rocket propelled grenade, but that was not the cause of what he calls his 14 lost years.

His wounds were mental.

"I had extreme anger issues and it actually ended up costing me two marriages and several jobs."

He says he'd get in fights easily, have violent nightmares and then try to drink himself to sleep to avoid more of them.

"I still have extreme startle response. I hate the Fourth of July."

In 1984, a friend and fellow vet told Tourtellotte that he had PTSD and should go to the Veterans Administration to get help.

"I went in there and listened to them and thought they were all full of baloney, threw the chair at them, told them all where to go and I left," he said.

But a doctor followed up and brought him in for one-on-one therapy.

It worked. Tourtellotte started improving and soon found he had a knack for getting other vets to seek help.

Today, he is recognized and awarded for doing just that, but he worries about returning vets from Iraq and Afghanistan.

He says their families suffer in silence, while the vets deny they have PTSD or think they can get over it themselves.

"Our big thing is to make them aware that they are suffering and there are people that will help them, and it's free."

If someone you know has PTSD, Tourtellotte suggests you encourage that person to seek help through the VA and learn all you can about the disorder.

For more information about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, click here.