Father, Son Share Insights On Service-related Stress
(January 26, 2009)
Rich Glasgow, left, joins his son, Robert Glasgow, after
Robert completed basic training at the Marine Corps
Recruit Depot San Diego In September 2001. Courtesy
WASHINGTON, Jan. 22, 2009 – Rich Glasgow
and his son, Robert, served in different military services
at different times, but they know what it's like to deal
with the same psychological enemy. And both have
recommendations for the military.
Coast Guard Chief Warrant Officer 4 Rich
Glasgow directed search and recovery operations out of New
York in the 1990s, overseeing boating accidents, airplane
crashes and even Fourth of July events. But the post he
really wanted was commanding officer of Station Golden Gate
in San Francisco – not for its beauty, but for a grim
“It was known throughout the Coast Guard as the station
where you pick up bodies,” he said, referring to people who
commit suicide by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. “I was
going to figure out the trend.”
Glasgow got that job in 2000. But as he immersed himself in
efforts to lessen the number of suicides and ease the burden
on his Coast Guard crew, he began his own psychological
struggle against post-traumatic stress disorder, an anxiety
disorder caused by witnessing or experiencing a traumatic
“I thought I was prepared,” Glasgow
said, but the vivid sights and sounds of people falling and
hitting the water replayed over and over in his mind and affected his
Glasgow, now a civilian, came to see that
his son, Robert, a high school graduate who enlisted in the
Marines before the 9/11 terrorist attacks, also was
afflicted with PTSD.
“This was a kid, just a loving kid who'd do anything to
please people,” Glasgow said.
Cpl. Robert Glasgow was assigned to the 2nd Marine
Division's 1st Battalion, 8th Regiment, serving as a
rifleman in the infantry. He was deployed to Iraq in 2004
and fought in Fallujah in Operation Phantom Fury, a
U.S.-Iraqi military offensive that involved intense urban
“It was up-front and in-your-face action,” he said of the
operation that lasted for weeks.
Based on his own experiences, Rich Glasgow said he saw
numerous signs of PTSD in his son when he was out on leave
and after he left the Marines in 2005.
“There was sleeplessness, active aggression and zero
tolerance for the Arab community,” he said.
Defense Department officials estimate that as many as 20
percent of today's troops may suffer from the disorder, and
officials have renewed commitments to treat it. The military
also has implemented better reporting mechanisms for those
potentially affected and launched efforts to reduce the
stigma attached to military members who receive mental
In recent interviews, Rich and Robert Glasgow described
their experiences that led to their diagnosis of
post-traumatic stress disorder, their treatment and their
progress in reclaiming their lives.
“I think I'm beyond it,” said Rich Glasgow, who now directs
a county emergency dispatch center based in Newport, Ore. “I
know how to deal with it now.”
“I feel like I'm a lost soul with no direction,” Robert
‘I'm a Tough Guy'
When Rich Glasgow arrived at Station Golden Gate in July
2000, he had served more than two decades with the Coast
Guard, starting with taking care of a lighthouse. Other
duties focused on intelligence collection, inspections,
narcotics and search and rescue operations in which he
recovered bodies from boating accidents and commercial
He said he remembers thinking: ‘I'm a tough guy – I've seen
The new commanding officer was tested the first day on the
job in the middle of his welcoming ceremony.
“Somebody jumped from the bridge, and the crews took off,”
In his efforts to understand the problem first-hand and
reduce the number of missions for his crew, Glasgow went out
on dozens of recovery missions. He said he remembers the
sights, sounds and look of the bodies after the fall from
more than 250 feet.
“I used to tell my crew: ‘Don't watch,'” he said. “But it's
On one occasion, he said, he watched a jumper tumble head
over heels until he hit the water.
“I shouldn't have been able to hear his voice, but I could
hear it – and can still hear it to this day,” he said. “It's
in my imagination.”
Based on recommendations from a medical officer, Glasgow
sought help through counseling and was diagnosed with PTSD.
“I would keep replaying an event,” he said “The tape would
just get stuck on replay.”
Glasgow likened PTSD to a wound that isn't allowed to heal
or a bad memory that isn't allowed to fade. In his case, he
said, each new suicide reinforced the sights and sounds
already embedded deep in his memory.
Glasgow said he resolved to “get this fixed.” He said he
learned talking about his experiences helped him diminish
their effect and flush them out. He also said he realized he
had to address the potential PTSD problem for his crew. He
estimated at least 90 percent of the 72 members in his
command would see suicide jumpers.
“I couldn't stop someone from jumping,” he said. “But I
could impact the effect it had on the crew. I think I really
did a good job.”
Glasgow established new procedures for his command. He
required new members to take training about what they would
see and how to handle it before they went on recovery
missions. He also proposed ways to segment the missions to
minimize the amount of time crew members spent with
“In the military, you're supposed to be a macho guy,” he
said. “Publicly we are, but privately, we need help.”
All this training helped him recognize that his son also
needed help. “I could tell he was in shock,” he said.
‘You're All Going to Die'
Robert Glasgow said he knew from childhood that he wanted to
join the military, inspired by “Heartbreak Ridge,” a film
about the 1983 U.S. invasion of Grenada. He chose the
Marines, saying he thought it would be the hardest of the
services, and joined after high school.
“It was peacetime,” he said. “I figured I'd be in the
Mediterranean floating around in a boat, getting drunk.”
But the 9/11 attack happened while he was in boot camp. His
drill sergeant, he said, offered a sobering perspective:
“You're all going to die.”
He said he didn't see much action during his initial
deployments to Norway, Liberia and Iraq before returning
home for more training.
By June 2004, he was back in Iraq, assigned to the 2nd
Marine Division, 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment. Five
month later, he was in the thick of Operation Phantom Fury
in Fallujah, launched Nov. 7, 2004 to clear the city of
The young Glasgow was in charge of the mortar section,
giving indirect fire support for his company.
“We pushed into the city,” he said. “Everywhere you'd look
there were bad guys -- bad guys behind bad guys behind bad
guys. My guys fired every which way.”
The fight lasted eight hours, and Glasgow has spent years
reliving scene after scene of urban combat, of watching
people get shot, of rocket-propelled grenades exploding, of
holding people with bullets in them, of blood everywhere.
He recalls thinking, “Oh, God. This is so horrible, seeing
Marines wounded, crawling.”
But he said he also has memories of killing enemies with
machine gun fire, of cutting them in half.
All seven men in Glasgow's section survived and were praised
for hitting their targets, he said. He also described his
response to the battle: “I felt like my body was on auto
pilot and my mind thought: ‘Do what you need to do to get
the job done.' I had become so hardened.”
Over the next few months, Glasgow said, he was “trying to
act out” and left the Marines in May 2005, with an honorable
Since then, Glasgow said, he has struggled to hold down
jobs, get an education and get treatment for the same
psychological condition that afflicted his father.
At first, he stayed with an uncle in Northern Virginia and
found work for $13 an hour. He said he spent his money on
drinking and would scream in his sleep, waking his uncle two
floors away. He said he also gained “an enormous amount of
weight,” ballooning from 215 to 275 pounds.
After going through several jobs, either getting fired or
quitting, Glasgow took his uncle's advice and sought
treatment. Counselors at a nearby vet center diagnosed him
“It took a year to find out what I had,” he said, adding
that it was his “loving family” who continuously urged him
to seek help.
Like his father, he resolved to face his anxieties, saying,
“I'm above this.”
Glasgow spent seven months in an in-patient unit at the
Martinsburg VA Medical Center in Martinsburg, W.Va., where
he said most patients were about 30 years older than him.
“I was branded as a troublemaker, young and loud,” he said.
But, he said, he learned skills to help him cope with his
problems, with the shadows he would see in the dark, with
screams in his head, with flashes of war fighting that could
engulf him for hours.
“I'm trying not to hide behind the mask of PTSD,” he said.
“I'm trying to work through it. But there is no end to it. I
have to constantly deal with it.”
Now 25, Glasgow is attending Shepherd University in
Shepherdstown, W.Va., and is on track to graduate with an
associate of arts degree this spring. He lives on a $1,100
per month disability check in his own apartment, he says,
and barely has enough to get by.
On good days, he said, he envisions teaching in schools
throughout the world. Other days, he said, he is stressed
and feels lost. And some days, he said, another part of him
would like to “go to Indonesia and fight on the high seas.”
He now realizes how much he and his father have in common:
“It's very soothing to know he's gone through some of the
same stuff I have.”
“I'm still proud of him,” Rich Glasgow said of his son.
Both father and son have recommendations for the government
to minimize post-traumatic stress disorder and to improve
“The military needs to do a better job preparing them,” Rich
Glasgow said. “We tell them how to shoot, but we don't
prepare them for what happens when they do pull the
Servicemembers should learn what they likely will be dealing
with before they go to a conflict and be armed with tools to
address their emotions, the elder Glasgow said. He also
would like to see counseling sessions for everyone upon
Robert Glasgow said he appreciated the efforts by counselors
– but wanted to see an increase in staff.
“I've seen them burn the midnight oil,” he said. “I wish
there were more people to help them help us.”
American Forces Press Service
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