'Marlboro Man' Marine Describes Struggle With PTSD

Marine Suffering From Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Tells His Story


LONG FORK, Ky., April 13, 2006 — You may know him from the iconic photograph, showing the exasperation and grit of a U.S. Marine.

He is Lance Corp. James Blake Miller from Jonancy, Ky., holler — a small valley between mountains — in the eastern part of the state named after his great-great-great-grandparents, Joe and Nancy.

To many Americans, this picture of a young American fighter has become a symbol of what is right with the nation. That may be true, but the deep, psychological wounds Miller has sustained in Iraq make him a symbol of something else, too.

Miller suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, a condition he says the American people do not truly understand.

"I tried to explain to people that I was suffering from PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder], and they were thinking that this guy is a head case," he said. "That's the reason that I am doing this."

"I want people to understand what PTSD is and what it can do to you — what it can do to your life. There's no real way to actually correct it, but I mean with the support of friends and family, and actual psychiatrists and things like that, it's something that can be dealt with," he said.

Miller's story is not unique. A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association indicates that more than one in three troops back from Afghanistan or Iraq sought professional help for mental health problems within a year of returning, with one in five reporting PTSD or mental trauma.

Miller joined the Marines as a high school senior in November 2002, driving almost an hour to the Pike County seat to enlist.

He was following in the footsteps of his grandfather, a Korean War veteran, he said.

"I can remember my grandmother talking about him and stuff like that, and just talk about the type of person you know it changed him into," he said. It made him a man, she would tell him.

6 Packs a Day

After basic training in Paris Island, S.C., Miller went to Iraq in June 2004. His cigarette habit, which began when he was 12, went from a 1 packs a day to 6 packs a day.