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"He had a lot of genuine goodness in his heart," said Ethan Driscoll, Ketchum's platoon commander in 2006."He took care of people and wanted to do the right thing.""Even people that outranked him looked to him for advice because he’d been there, done that," said Shane Bowman, who served with Ketchum in Afghanistan in 20."That was kind of what he thought was going to be the best thing for him. "He just felt this was his calling."Like so many other parents of children entering the military during those war years, Kittoe marveled at how Brandon was transformed and was blown away by the boot camp graduation at Camp Pendleton, Calif. He was stationed for six months in South Korea, working as a camp guard at the Marine Corps' Camp Mujuk near the Sea of Japan.The insurgency was gaining ground in Iraq, and by February 2006, Ketchum was in combat, often riding in the most dangerous place for route clearance missions — the lead truck. Charlie Company operated along roadways between the violent cities of Ramadi and Fallujah.Caitlin Thompson, a clinical psychologist who runs the VA's suicide prevention program, recalled the wrenching experience of losing three veterans to suicide.They were patients of hers and a team of health care workers."That's why I dedicated my life to veteran suicide, because I see those three young men over and over and over," she said. we know that people do get better.”The Iraq and Afghanistan wars were unique in physical and emotional demands. The result was veterans with a complex roster of ailments.
Within a year, state officials pulled him from William Ketchum's home amid allegations of child abuse, and the boy went to live with a woman his father had been dating, a social worker who had alerted authorities to what was happening between father and son.
Strife didn't end when Ketchum put the uniform away.
"I came home from war only to become lost in the fog of another war," he wrote.
When her older son grew rebellious, chafing at school and study, and she discovered marijuana in a suitcase one day, she'd had enough.
Brandon, then 14, was sent to live near Des Moines with the father he hardly knew, who was by then retired from the Army and struggling with his own issues of substance abuse.Because the wars lasted so long, large numbers of troops were required to serve multiple deployments that added up to years of cumulative combat duty. Ketchum, who was a combat engineer, suffered from service-related injuries to his knees and back, as well as traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, substance abuse, headaches and ringing in the ears.