As the investigation into the man responsible for killing five innocent people in the Fort Lauderdale airport Friday continues, a more complete picture of Esteban Santiago is starting to take shape, and to be honest, it’s beginning to sound like a familiar story – but not the one that’s getting the brunt of the media attention.

Such was the case in 2012, when Eddie Ray Routh, a Marine veteran, shot and killed legendary Navy SEAL Chris Kyle along with his close friend, Chad Littlefield at a gun range.  The two had offered to take him out shooting to help with what his family feared was ‘Post Traumatic Stress.’  We’ll be hearing more in the news in the weeks to come about Santiago’s military experience, including his deployment to Iraq, and almost certainly, his defense attorneys will attempt to blame this shooting, like Routh’s, on the mental effects of deploying to a war zone.


This line of thinking is not only preposterous, it’s insulting to the millions and American men and women who have served in our nation’s military – and it works to continue the perception many Americans have of our veterans: that we’re all broken people, ready to explode into violence at any time.

Post-traumatic stress is a serious condition, and many Americans, whether veterans or not, suffer through it on a daily basis.  It can come in any number of variants, and affect people in any number of ways, but the media’s pursuit of a “Rambo-style” killer story is formed around a dangerously misinformed view of what American veterans deal with upon returning from a war zone.

Thanks to this kind of coverage, veterans are seen by many as “damaged goods” – worthy of our well-intentioned pity and free from responsibility for their actions.  After all, it was those horrible wars that made him do it, not the individual’s utter lack of appreciation for human life, cowardice in the face of internal struggle, and broken mindset to begin with.

When my wife was working as a corporate recruiter in the Boston area, she went out of her way to try to place veterans in jobs whenever she could.  She saw it as a logical extension of the military community we were both a part of – but was met time after time by nervous hiring managers that, behind closed doors, suggested to her that veterans may not be the right choice for their offices because of concerns about their ability to “integrate into their culture.”  No business, of course, could take that formal position – but formal positions don’t matter when you’re tossing resumes into the shredder.  Instead, she’d come home crying, unable to explain to these people who the men and women they were tossing aside were the very same men and women she considered family; men like her own husband, whom she knew wasn’t some damaged drill instructor waiting to kill his coworkers.