Transitioning back to civilian life after combat was a lot different for 65-year-old Richard Knight than it has been for 29-year-old Wesley León-Barrientos. Unlike during the Vietnam War-era when Knight was a soldier, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is today a widely recognized diagnosis among younger veterans who have seen combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, and who have more opportunities to get the support they need to cope.
“There are resources available by and for veterans where you can help each other through this,” said Knight, a Vietnam veteran living in southwest Bakersfield, whose untreated PTSD led him down a path of alcohol and drug abuse.
During his darkest moments, Knight sold marijuana and just barely avoided becoming one of the many Vietnam veterans incarcerated in California’s prisons. Today, that group is estimated to make up as much as 25 percent of the state’s prison population.
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