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How A War Hero Became A Serial Bank Robber
June 10, 2013 8:28 PM   Subscribe

How A War Hero Became A Serial Bank Robber. "Army medic Nicholas Walker returned home from Iraq after 250 combat missions, traumatized and broken. His friends and family couldn’t help him. Therapy couldn’t help him. Heroin couldn’t help him. Pulling bank heists helped him." [Via]
posted by homunculus (32 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
This made for a really interesting read first time around. Glad you promoted it to an FPP.
posted by arcticseal at 8:46 PM on June 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Warning for other readers: gets pretty graphic and grisly in describing the carnage of war.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:57 PM on June 10, 2013


As if we really needed a reminder of the carnage of war. My father, who was in a WWII bomber shot down over the Pacific and never talked about it in much detail, wore emotional scars that he passed on. But being one of 'the Greatest Generation', he didn't become a Bank Robber, just an Insurance Underwriter.
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:15 PM on June 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Interesting story. It's not hard to believe that the few people who actually tried diagnosing him early on had trouble. He is clearly very intelligent and as he describes it was doing his best to not show the symptoms.

I'm glad to hear he's been able to find and accept treatment. He had a very rough ride.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:16 PM on June 10, 2013


I could not hate that animated filter they're running over the pictures at the top any more than I already do.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:30 PM on June 10, 2013 [3 favorites]




As if we really needed a reminder of the carnage of war...But being one of 'the Greatest Generation', he didn't become a Bank Robber, just an Insurance Underwriter.

I think we need constant, graphic reminders of the carnage of war. As a society, we glorify it. We get our crying eagles, kill a commie for mommy, footprint of the american chicken, nevar forget, dudes practically spraying jizz over the technical specs of the latest killing machines--all lame, disgusting patriotic bullshit.

We hardly even consider the human cost to the men and women from our own country we send into harm's way--let along the human cost on the other side, people who are mostly like us. (Like my 46-year-old desk-job doppelganger in Afghanistan is really a worse human being than I am, just because he was born there and I was born here?)

I don't condone returning soldiers robbing banks as therapy, but you know what? What the fuck else do we do for them? Your grandad probably had the GI bill and other assistance, and a society that welcomed him home as a hero. These days, we have a hostile system designed to deny benefits to returning vets, and from what I understand, being a veteran is hardly a bright point on your resume. And no one else gives a shit.
posted by maxwelton at 10:44 PM on June 10, 2013 [25 favorites]


But being one of 'the Greatest Generation', he didn't become a Bank Robber, just an Insurance Underwriter.

He didn't. Certainly, some others did. People are different.
posted by JHarris at 10:47 PM on June 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


The very best and most effective way to ensure people don't come back from war broken is not to send them to war in the first place. Abstinence first!
posted by Justinian at 11:28 PM on June 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


He didn't. Certainly, some others did. People are different.


Careful now. We have to wait until that generation is dead before we can demythologize them.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:55 PM on June 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Absolutely nothing.
posted by fullerine at 12:08 AM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Say it again.
posted by Chutzler at 12:34 AM on June 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


But being one of 'the Greatest Generation', he didn't become a Bank Robber, just an Insurance Underwriter.

that's just ignorant
posted by thelonius at 1:52 AM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Maxwelton wrote : I think we need constant, graphic reminders of the carnage of war.

Truffaut and others have noted you cannot make a truly anti-war film
posted by lalochezia at 5:08 AM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've worked at places that have been robbed. Getting robbed is no fun. It's horrifying that the only way Walker could deal with his trauma was to traumatize others.
posted by ogooglebar at 5:40 AM on June 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Lots of people suffer during wars. In fact the people that suffer the most often end up the kindest people. I am suspecting this guy sucked before the war.
posted by tarvuz at 5:51 AM on June 11, 2013


It's horrifying that the only way Walker could deal with his trauma was to traumatize others.

Self-medication. I think there were lots of ways he could have dealt with his trauma, if it had been recognized as such.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 6:12 AM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wow, lots of lack of understanding of PTSD here. I assume tarvuz and oneswellfoop don't believe it's a real mental illness, that Walker and his like just need to suck it up and deal with it like "real" men? thelonius said it best.
posted by Crash at 7:52 AM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Self-medication. I think there were lots of ways he could have dealt with his trauma, if it had been recognized as such.

To be sure. The people I worked with got better help, sooner.
posted by ogooglebar at 8:04 AM on June 11, 2013


Maybe with WWII that so many had served is part of what helped the readjustment. With a volunteer force, when you come back, how many people can relate to what you've gone through?

Especially with Iraq, a war perpetuated on a lie that saw the magnetic yellow ribbons come down en masse after Abu Ghraib and Fallujah/Sadr City. The supporters ran or went into private consulting and now the episode is being judged as something Best Not Talked About.

And for WWII...don't let historical blindness and our national penchant for amnesia lead anyone to believe that was easy just because nobody remembers now - "The Best Years Of Our Lives" (1946) is a great, Academy-Award winning example of the time made by people living in it of how readjustment worked, or didn't.

The scene in the candy shop is a 1940s sanitized version of what was a very real issue - not necessarily everyone got all hard and dewy for fightin' that Axis.
posted by lon_star at 9:02 AM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Maybe with WWII that so many had served is part of what helped the readjustment.

Another way to look at it is that being a veteran was so common that nobody bothered to track it against violent crime/domestic battery statistics.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:15 AM on June 11, 2013


oneswellfoop: As if we really needed a reminder of the carnage of war.
Until every little boy and girl growing up is aware of it before age 18, we do.

Sadly, they watch shows that glorify the carnage, in which the hero always comes home, usually with all limbs intact.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:33 AM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't really think bank robbery is an appropriate response to getting PTSD, and I'm guessing big piles of money was also a major motivating factor.
posted by delmoi at 10:16 AM on June 11, 2013


and I'm guessing big piles of money was also a major motivating factor.
He gave away most of the nearly $40,000 he’d stolen — to friends, dealers and other addicts. Some of it he burned, holding it over his kitchen sink and lighting it on fire, the way he once saw it done in a movie.
posted by homunculus at 10:26 AM on June 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm just struck by the multiple opportunities that the medical profession had to get this guy help and they didn't do it.

I'm also saddened all over again by the decision to go to war in the first place. So many lives on both continents have been destroyed and for what?
posted by Leezie at 10:56 AM on June 11, 2013


Kind of a derail, but another difference about modern war that may increase PTSD is the voyage home. There's a big difference between leaving the battlefield in Iraq and being back in CONUS 24 hours later compared to the long walk/train/boat combination that US service men had 60+ years ago. WWII soldiers came home in large groups (by the boatload), giving them the time and opportunity to decompress and talk.

That being said, PTSD existed in previous conflicts, it just went undiagnosed.
posted by Crash at 11:26 AM on June 11, 2013


But being one of 'the Greatest Generation', he didn't become a Bank Robber, just an Insurance Underwriter.

More likely its a matter of mobility of the modern soldier and the an all volunteer army trying to maximize boots on the ground instead of peeling potatoes

In 4 years a WWII solider would see on average 40 days of combat and the rest of the time they'd be losing their pay in a poker game with those damn navy boys. Vietnam was 240 days in one year. Iraq/Afghanistan seems much much higher. This is all due to mobility; ships and marching vs hueys vs humvee. This mobility also account for the lower mortality but disability of wounded soliders.

Also, for every Band of Brothers there were 20 grunts doing shit work while not safe probably insulated them from the horrors of war a large percentage of modern soliders endure 7 days a week for years on end.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 2:26 PM on June 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


homunculus: and I'm guessing big piles of money was also a major motivating factor.
He gave away most of the nearly $40,000 he’d stolen — to friends, dealers and other addicts. Some of it he burned, holding it over his kitchen sink and lighting it on fire, the way he once saw it done in a movie.
You and your "reading the article"! P'ffft!
posted by IAmBroom at 2:35 PM on June 11, 2013


"In 4 years a WWII solider would see on average 40 days of combat and the rest of the time they'd be losing their pay in a poker game with those damn navy boys."

-- is that Infantry or average member of the army? It seems a lot of units spent more than 40 days of combat in their 4 years (of course, a lot spent years as POWs as well compared to now).
posted by whatgorilla at 3:53 PM on June 11, 2013


With regards to WWII vets, it's chilling to think that this was all happening to them but it was completely swept under the rug instead of just partially.

Suicide Rates Soar among WWII Vets, Records Show
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:18 AM on June 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


Your grandad probably had the GI bill and other assistance, and a society that welcomed him home as a hero.

Yeah, the guys who saw more action really did have a hard time adjusting but it was never talked about.

“Before you go to war, you want stories, you know — that’s the really tragic thing,” he told me, “because this is that story, and there are no good guys, and no bad guys. And looking back, you think to yourself: What did you think was going to happen? Death or glory? And then you feel bad because this is exactly what you wanted. It’s real easy to get into, and it’s real hard to get out of.”

This.

"You may miss the excitement of the deployment for a while”
heh.


and “You may have changed in your outlook and priorities in life.”

It's also fun listening to people with their opinions. Not just on war, which they've never seen. But how important it is to have a well manicured lawn, how they're gonna die if the local sports team doesn't do well.
'Important' is entirely redefined.

And who you are in relationship to the world is drastically altered. One of the tough things is finding yourself again. And some people, yeah, it takes something drastic, like robbing banks before they are willing to hook back into life.


"You can hold yourself back from the sufferings of the world, that is something you are free to do and it accords with your nature, but perhaps this very holding back is the one suffering you could avoid." - Kafka
posted by Smedleyman at 2:12 PM on June 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


AMA with Scott Johnson
posted by homunculus at 12:48 PM on June 23, 2013


« Older "It felt like I had driven back in time."   |   The Hymn of Acxiom Newer »


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