Awarded to Craig F. Walker of The Denver Post, for his compassionate chronicle of an honorably discharged veteran, home from Iraq and struggling with a severe case of post-traumatic stress, images that enable viewers to better grasp a national issue.
The Story of Scott Ostrom
In today's community of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, one in five suffer from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or major depression. Brian Scott Ostrom is one of them. After serving four years as a reconnaissance marine and deploying twice to Iraq, Scott, now 27, returned home to the U.S. with a severe case of PTSD.
"The most important part of my life already happened. The most devastating. The chance to come home in a box. Nothing is ever going to compare to what I've done, so I'm struggling to be at peace with that," Scott said. He attributes his PTSD to his second deployment to Iraq, where he served seven months in Fallujah with the 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion. "It was the most brutal time of my life," he said. "I didn't realize it because I was living it. It was a part of me."
Since his discharge, Scott has struggled with daily life, from finding and keeping employment to maintaining healthy relationships. But most of all, he's struggled to overcome his brutal and haunting memories of Iraq. Nearly five years later, Scott remains conflicted by the war.
Though he is proud of his service and cares greatly for his fellow Marines, he still carries guilt for things he did and didn't do fighting a war he no longer believes in.
Scott drinks a beer outside the VFW Post in Longmont, Colo. Scott recalled his worst day in Iraq. 'We got this infantry platoon attached to us to beef up our numbers. ... There was this one guy, and I knew right away that we were going to be friends. ... The vehicle he was riding in the passenger seat hit a really big bomb that day - really big IED, and it trapped him inside the humvee, and I got to listen to and watch him scream as he burned. And I never learned his name. There was nothing I could do. ... I lost a friend that I never had.' (Craig F. Walker, The Denver Post - December 29, 2011)