On November 14, 2006, the day he was shot, the Iraqi and American troops under his command scattered when the ambush began, and they assumed Schuring had fled with them. When they realized he hadn’t, they returned and pulled him into a walled courtyard to avoid more gunfire. A Navy corpsman bandaged his head and called in Humvees to transport him to a base hospital.
Despite the fairly rapid medical interventions, Schuring came close to losing both his left leg and his life—he had a near-death experience when he suffered cardiac arrest from blood loss. His PTSD began soon after he returned to the United States.
“I starting having terrible nightmares of what happened to me in Ramadi and of all the death and devastation I saw over there,” he says. “It seemed so real to me.” More than once he awoke and got into a combat stance, yelled, and slammed his fist into the headboard. “One time I punched Lynn while I was asleep,” he says. “It became risky for her to sleep in the same bed with me, so we agreed it was best for her not to.”
Schuring’s Iraq experiences invaded his waking life as well as his dreams. He sometimes experiences what he calls “daymares,” when something triggers a violent memory. He starts to sweat, his heart races, and he’s transported back to that street in Ramadi.
“One moment I’m bored, and the next I’m in the middle of a firefight,” he says.
With the PTSD, Schuring was gripped by chronic anxiety—he sensed danger everywhere, even in suburban Farmington Hills. He lived in the same state of hypervigilance as he had in Iraq, where he made rapid life-and-death assessments, often deciding on the spot whether an Iraqi on a street was friend or foe.
At home, he continued to mentally profile people to decide whether they meant him harm. Even now, when he hears a loud noise his body prepares to fight. At restaurants, he insists on sitting with his back to the wall so he can see people who enter.
Schuring descended into a major depression. He withdrew from people—his wife, children, parents, and brothers. He didn’t want to leave home except to go to work. Some days he didn’t want to get out of bed.
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Part of Schuring’s depression stemmed from his feeling that he’d let down the men in his unit by getting shot, a feeling shared by many wounded warriors. It pains him that he won’t be allowed to join them when they deploy to Afghanistan later this year.
To date, he’s undergone 27 surgeries, including having steel rods inserted in his leg to stabilize his femur. Injuries to his pelvis required that he get an artificial hip.
Williamson believes Schuring’s chronic pain and disability are interrelated with his depression. Schuring agrees. “I had been a triathlete and had run marathons,” he says, “and now I was using a walker. It has been very hard to for me to deal with.” He says that during some low points he thought he might be better off if his leg had been amputated.
Schuring also suffers short-term memory problems and mild aphasia caused by the concussive head injury he suffered when the shell struck his helmet. This frustrated him; he sometimes lashed out when his children—son Christian, born in 1998, and daughter Carolynn, born in 2001—corrected him.
Schuring’s irritability sometimes escalated into rage. “Anger started seeping into me, and I had not been that way before I went to Iraq,” he says. “I was a happy-go-lucky person. But when I drove to work, I’d see people in luxury cars and I’d tell myself they did not appreciate those of us who served. Look what we did for our country, look at what we sacrificed, I’d tell myself as I began to boil inside, and you people just don’t care, do you?
“If someone cut me off, I’d get so enraged I’d follow the car until the driver stopped, and then I’d get out of my car and confront him. One time when I thought some guy made a crude gesture to my wife in a parking lot, I stormed over and grabbed him by the lapels. My wife got me away from him before I did anything that might have landed me in jail.”
At six-foot-three and 220 pounds, Schuring is a formidable man. Fortunately, no one he confronted took up his challenge to fight.
In the two years after his injuries, Schuring, ever the Marine, kept telling himself he could “get over” his PTSD and other psychological problems even as they became more intractable. Prescribed narcotics for his leg and hip pain, he sometimes took an extra dose to dull the emotional pain.