By Ray Stern
By New Times
By Amy Silverman
By Stephen Lemons
By Stephen Lemons
By Monica Alonzo
By Chris Parker
By New Times
Nine days later, Marine Lance Corporal Anthony Botello was killed in a sniper attack. Botello's death crushed Callan, not only because he knew the 21-year-old soldier, but also because (he later wrote to family and friends) he'd failed to persuade a superior not to send anyone on patrol that day because of intelligence information he'd gotten.
In March 1993, Callan responded to his mother's concerns:
"You asked me if I thought any of the things I have been seeing over here will haunt me later on," he wrote. "Naaaah. Fuck this place. Ain't nothing but a thing. Ha ha. Over time it will be okay. Basically, I don't give a shit. That sounds terrible. But that is how I deal with it.
"The only time I have felt bad is on Monday we did this sweep of an area in the city, and this pleasant-looking young lady walked by. I said hello, and she smiled. Then she held out her hand. God, was it infected. I wanted to do something, but we aren't allowed to give first-aid unless we shot them, I tried to arrange transportation for her to one of the hospitals, but policy was we couldn't do it. I still feel bad about it. She had such pain in her eyes and hope in her eyes that we might help.
"Our corpsman said she would die in a couple of days if she didn't get to a hospital soon. I doubt she got to a hospital. That is how fucked up this place is."
Brian Callan's first tour of duty in Somalia lasted five months, during which the seeds of his future diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder firmly had been planted.
A new subcategory of PTSD has emerged in the aftermath of Somalia and other U.N. peacekeeping missions: Dubbed Peacekeepers' Acute Stress Syndrome, it refers to soldiers who are unable to cope with the impotence they had felt when confronted with violence and atrocities in places such as Somalia, but had been ordered not to do anything about it.
The syndrome shows itself in rage, depression, sleep deprivation and other PTSD-like symptoms.
Dr. Lars Weisaeth wrote of the phenomenon in a 1996 study: "Witnessing atrocities against civilians and without the opportunity to help, and being subjected to firing incidents without permission to return fire seem to represent especially severe traumas for the peacekeeper in contrast to the traditional combat soldier."
Dr. Brett Litz of the National Center for PTSD published a journal article on the subject in 1998. About one in four of the Somalia veterans he studied had reported clinically significant psychological distress -- particularly hostility and anger problems. About 10 percent of the Somalian peacekeepers met the criteria for full-blown PTSD.
Shortly after Callan left Somalia in May 1993, a superior recommended him for the Marine warrant officer program: "Bold, level-headed, well-read staff non-commissioned officer, Inspirational leader and dynamic teacher. Trustworthy, good-humored and immensely loyal."
Though Callan still seemed to be the epitome of the relentlessly tough Marine, things weren't going nearly so well inside his troubled mind.
Back in the U.S. for a few months after Somalia, Brian Callan married his second wife, Doris Leup, in July 1993. His next assignment took him to London, where he moved with Doris and -- in a turn that temporarily delighted him -- his two children.
But the new couple's honeymoon was painfully short, and Doris left Callan before the year ended. The children, then both in early adolescence, wound up back in Window Rock with their mother after Callan got transferred back to the States in 1994.
Callan had started to see a psychiatrist in London that fall of 1993 for stress, and later noted in writing to his superiors that he'd felt "a lot of anger and physically want[ed] to hurt things" at the time. But the psychotherapy wasn't helping him much.
"I am withdrawn, [have] difficulty in sleeping, rashes/itching, stomach, light-headedness, vertigo feelings, anxiety attacks (rapid heart beat, dizziness)," Callan wrote in 1994. "I want to scream and run away, but nowhere to go and to what end? Have attempted to bring my problems to some one's attention (admittedly, not vocal enough to commanders), but we are too busy' to take a time out.' Also, fear that this would destroy my career, so I keep most of it to myself. No one listens, no one helps."
By the end of 1994, the U.N. peacekeepers decided to leave Somalia once and for all. The Marines deployed Callan in November 1994 to the USS Belleau Wood off the shores of Somalia.
There, he awaited the onset of Operation United Shield, the last phase of the failed effort. The plan was for U.S. and Italian Marines to ensure safe retreat of the remaining U.N. personnel from the war-torn country.
On March 1, 1995, 2,100 Marines landed by sea in Mogadishu, and set up two cramped camps, one on Green Beach and the other overlooking the Mogadishu airport. Callan was stationed at the beach, serving in the intelligence section for the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force.
He and the others were endangered for the next three days by infrequent but intense exchanges with Somali snipers, though news accounts later said no Marines were injured in the brief operation.