"Too trapped in a war to be at peace, too damaged to be at war."
These are the words of post-traumatic stress disorder.
They are the words of Daniel Somers, an Iraq War veteran who took his life last month. He left behind a powerful suicide note that went viral on the Internet after his family shared it with media in Phoenix, where he was from.
His note gives readers a clear understanding of what it's like to suffer from crippling depression and war-related psychosis. It also slams the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which he characterized as careless.
"My body has become nothing but a cage, a source of pain and constant problems. The illness I have has caused me pain that not even the strongest medicines could dull, and there is no cure," Somers wrote in his note.
"All day, every day a screaming agony in every nerve ending in my body. It is nothing short of torture. My mind is a wasteland, filled with visions of incredible horror, unceasing depression, and crippling anxiety."
Somers was a sergeant in an intelligence unit, where he ran 400 combat missions as a machine gunner in the turret of a Humvee. According to his parents, Howard and Jean Somers, their son was diagnosed with PTSD, a brain injury, Gulf War syndrome, fibromyalgia and a host of other medical problems in 2008, one year after the end of his second deployment.
The VA and nonprofit support groups, such as Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, known as TAPS, insist that there are mental health programs to help soldiers suffering as Somers did -- that suicide is not the solution.
But Somers' parents feel the military failed to help their son, who they say was more than just a sum of his wartime injuries.
He was a sharp mind, constantly dreaming up the next big thing. He had a strong memory and could pick up new skills quickly. He was great with computers, and for a while pursued a career as a car mechanic.
Somers played guitar. He wrote his first song when he was 12 years old, right around the time he first began dating Angel, the woman who would become his wife.
He joined the Army for the same reasons many others do: he wanted to provide for his family. He and his wife had dreams of one day leaving Arizona, and moving to a cooler climate -- maybe Seattle.
Those dreams never came true.
'Could it be better? Yes.'
In February, the VA released findings of a study that has saturated national op-eds and Washington news conferences ever since: 22 U.S. military veterans commit suicide every day.
Somers was outraged by the statistic.
"Is it any wonder then that the latest figures show 22 veterans killing themselves each day? That is more veterans than children killed at Sandy Hook, every single day," he wrote.
"Where are the huge policy initiatives? Why isn't the president standing with those families at the state of the union? Perhaps because we were not killed by a single lunatic, but rather by his own system of dehumanization, neglect, and indifference."
An increase in PTSD diagnoses and military suicides among U.S. veterans has prompted a national critique of the VA system, and in response, the Obama administration allocated more funding to improve its resources. In August, the president signed an order to improve veterans' and service members' access to mental health services.
According to Mark Ballesteros, a spokesman for the VA, the department has exceeded the goal, set by that executive order, of hiring at least 1,600 new mental health professionals.
In addition to more mental health hires, Ballesteros said, the VA plans to expand the type of technology available to veterans, such as "tele-mental health services." As of March, a 24-hour crisis line had handled more than 814,000 calls, some 94,000 chats, and 7,200 texts, and "helped more than 28,000 veterans in imminent danger," Ballesteros said.
VA resources are better than they have ever been, said Dr. Joseph Boscarino, a senior scientist with the Geisinger Health Center in Pennsylvania who specializes in PTSD and military suicide research. And, he added, the VA's expertise in PTSD treatment exceeds that of the private sector.
Still, there are issues.
"The funding has been dramatically increased, but there's always going to be delivery problems. Could it be better? Yes. It's government, so it's not going to be perfect," he told CNN.
Boscarino, a Vietnam veteran, said he was unfamiliar with Somers' case, but read his suicide note online.