By Seth Robbins, Stars and StripesApril 13, 2009
BAUMHOLDER, Germany - After two combat tours, one in Iraq and the other in Afghanistan, Spc. Shaun Crow could not sleep.
Open doors bothered him. Crowds frazzled his nerves. When he was in Iraq, a suicide bomber detonated an explosive in a bustling market. As he and his fellow soldiers arrived to help those who were injured, a second bomb burst.
"I remember seeing everybody blown off their feet," he said. "You could smell the flesh burning."
It was just one of the many bloody attacks that looped endlessly in his mind when he tried to sleep.
"When you are there, you don't really notice the sleeplessness," said Crow, who was part of the 2nd Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment. "But when I got back, I just couldn't get myself out of that rut."
Crow's wife urged him to get some help. Eventually he reached out to doctors in Baumholder and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and placed in a warrior transition unit.
With the help of medication and therapy, Crow started to recover. He had planned to become a police officer once he left the Army, but knew it would be tough to do that.
"I realized," he said, "that I couldn't take seeing the bad side of humanity once again."
Crow, 29, still had to work while part of the WTU, so he took a job at the Baumholder health clinic.
"It was stressful at first," he said. "But I enjoyed taking care of the people."
This led him to the idea of working toward becoming an emergency medical technician. He studied for three weeks at a course given in Landstuhl, covering everything from administering medication to patching up trauma injuries. At the end, he passed a written test and a nine-part, hands-on exam, earning a professional certificate.
Impressed with his efforts, his platoon sergeant recommended that Crow receive the Army Achievement Medal. It is the first medal to be awarded to a soldier recovering in Baumholder's Warrior Transition Unit, said 1st Sgt. Michael Clevenger.
"He took the initiative to make sure that he could transition from the Army to civilian life," Clevenger said. "That certification makes it so he can get a civilian job. And we want to encourage others here to do the same."
But why would Crow want to hop into the driver's seat of an ambulance where he will possibly see as much carnage as he did on the battlefield'
"I guess it's different for everybody what triggers certain things in PTSD," he said. "For me, it's the combat side, always being on guard. Not the trauma. Still, I'm sure it's going to bring back some memories."
A desk job, though, was not appealing after being a soldier.
"Part of me still misses the adrenaline," he said.
Crow now has returned to the U.S. but during an interview before he left, he said he will continue to study when he returns to North Carolina, with the goal of becoming a nurse.
"Being in the infantry, there were a lot of people who I couldn't help, friends who were injured," he said. "In a way, I'm going from taking someone's life to saving someone's life."