Air Force Veteran’s Suicide Spurs Call For More Oversight

Pride of Service Turns to Pain for New York Veteran Who Suffered From “the Darkness … of PTSD”

by Dennis Yusko
Times Union, April 6, 2012

STAMFORD — Framed portraits make up the family’s Wall of Honor. Pictures of men in uniform dating back to World War I watch over Guiseppe and Melody DiGregorio’s log home in the Catskill Mountains. One photo is of a handsome munitions journeyman in a military cap. He’s Edward Andrew Snyder.

The young man’s grandparents recalled recently how proud they were of “Drew,” how he grew up healthy and happy and followed in the footsteps of Guiseppe DiGregorio and his uncle by joining the Air Force.

Drew Snyder came home to Long Island from duty loading aircraft with bombs for missions in Iraq. He was diagnosed with PTSD, but resisted treatment due to stigma. He took his life Dec. 9, 2011 with a self-inflicted shotgun blast.

But pride turned to pain when the DiGregorios recounted Snyder’s return. Weeks after coming home to Long Island, he withdrew into anxious isolation. After being was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, the senior airman was discharged from the military and became a disabled veteran. Over the next few years, he slid into despair even as he worked to fulfill dream of becoming a New York City photojournalist. On Dec. 9, Snyder killed himself with a shotgun in his apartment on Long Island. He was 24.

“He could no longer deal with the darkness, the heaviness of PTSD,” Melody DiGregorio said. “He did not feel he could get out of it.”

The tragedy of Drew Snyder’s death sends a stark message about the difficulties modern members of the military face as an unprecedented number of service members return from Iraq and Afghanistan with combat-related stress. His grandparents say his story provides lessons about the unpredictable nature of PTSD and of the need for better monitoring of emotionally injured vets. The safety net for traumatized veterans didn’t work for their grandson, and they said they wanted others to avoid the same fate.

One of Snyder’s biggest obstacles to getting treatment was facing the stigma in military circles of a diagnosis of mental illness, Melody DiGregorio said. The DiGregorios believe a change in Snyder’s medications may have contributed to his suicidal state. Snyder refused to enter a VA mental hospital unit for fear of being branded “crazy” by other veterans, his grandparents said.

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