After military husband's tragic death, widow takes on PTSD

Wednesday, May 14, 2014 | 5:24 p.m. CDT
Family, friends and members of the military gather beside Kryn Miner's casket after his funeral outside St. Lawrence Church in Essex, Vt., on May 2. His widow, Amy Miner, third from left, believes the Veterans Affairs health system must do more to help veterans who struggle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after returning home.

BURLINGTON, Vt. — Amy Miner says her late husband's fight did not end when he left the war.

As with many veterans, Kryn Miner's battle against the emotional scars of a long military career was just beginning when he returned home.

It ended last month when he was shot to death by one of their four children after he threatened to kill the family.

Since losing him, the 39-year-old widow has vowed to bring attention to the need for better treatment for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.

"The truth of the matter is if we can't take care of our veterans we shouldn't be sending them off to war," she said in a Monday interview with The Associated Press. "It doesn't make sense. Because they're coming back and this is the result, and it's happening more and more."

An Army veteran at age 44, Kryn Miner was a loving father and husband, a dedicated career soldier, the guy who would walk into a room and make immediate friends, his wife said.

But after 11 deployments in seven years, he became troubled. His behavior changed noticeably after he was thrown into a wall during a blast in Afghanistan in 2010, one of 19 blasts in his 25-year career, his widow said. Suffering from PTSD and a traumatic brain injury, he tried to take his own life in September, she said.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs says about 15 percent of veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from PTSD. The disorder is treatable and many soldiers diagnosed with it are successful and high functioning, according to Army Medical Command spokeswoman Maria Tolleson.

But PTSD also affects entire families dealing with a loved one who can become isolated, anxious or act out due to anger or depression.

Thomas Simpatico, director of the division of public psychiatry at the University of Vermont, said the more families know about the disorder the better.

"If your father is all of a sudden flying off of the handle or breaking dishes, or whatever, and it happens to be after you said something, one might make the wrong conclusion that his behavior is the result of your activity," he said.

Amy Miner said the last night of her husband's life got off to an amazing start: They attended a wedding in Vermont with two of their four children, dancing and celebrating with good friends.

But afterward things went wrong. Kryn Miner became verbally abusive toward his wife on the ride home and began to hit himself. Prosecutors say he threatened to kill his family, assaulted his wife and then threw a loaded handgun to their teen child who came to her aid.

"Do you want to play the gun game?" the sniper-qualified Miner asked the teen, according to authorities. The teen fired six shots when Miner pulled another gun from a bag. Prosecutors ruled the April 26 shooting justified and did not bring charges against the teen.

Miner joined the military in 1987 and served with the 82nd Airborne Division. He became a paratrooper, ranger and sniper; he jumped into Panama and served in the Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Not long before his death, his typical day was filled with anxiety, anger and depression, his wife wrote at the time. He felt lost, empty, worthless, and was suspicious; he felt guilty for being home while some of his comrades died or were overseas and for the distress he caused his family.

He tried therapy at a Veterans Affairs facility but often had to wait for hours to see different counselors, Amy Miner said. He stayed overnight at a VA hospital, but doctors told him it wasn't the place for him; he had gotten into another treatment program unrelated to the VA and learned how to cope with some of the depression and anxiety, but the program didn't deal with PTSD.

Eventually, he turned to the Lone Survivors Foundation, which helps wounded veterans return to civilian life, and offered retreats to service members diagnosed with combat-related PTSD and their families.

"He was deeply committed to the notion that our nation's veterans have access to the peer support network and resources they need to manage the impact of their time in the service," said Beau Teal, owner of CrossFit Burlington, where Miner was a trainer.

He also developed a workout for veterans battling emotional wounds, designing it to take 32 minutes as a way to remember the 32 veterans who either attempt or succeed in committing suicide every day, Amy Miner said.

His new mission was getting help for others suffering from PTSD. He made a Chicago TV appearance to speak about the foundation and to raise money by telling his story at a gala.

Since his life ended, Amy Miner has committed to continuing his work.

"He was and still is my everything," she said. "I promised him I would never give up on him."

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