Retired Army Captain Karen-Nicole “Cole” Knapper spent more than a decade fighting for freedom, with her first combat tour coming just six weeks after 9/11. In total, Knapper served four combat tours overseas, including serving as a company commander while deployed in Afghanistan. During her service she earned the Bronze Star Medal in 2002 as corporal, and again in 2010 as a company commander. Knapper was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal in both 2010 and 2012.
But medals are not the only reminders Knapper has of her time spent overseas. She is one of the 11 to 20 percent of post 9/11 veterans who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
“I did my first combat tour six weeks after 9/11,” Knapper told Fox News. “I deployed to the Middle East, things were obviously very crazy, but it really wasn’t until my last tour of duty which was in 2009, when I was a company commander – that one was the most traumatic.”
Knapper said she continues to live with the experiences and pain from PTSD. One memory of a visit to eastern Afghanistan is particularly troubling for the retired officer.
“There was one evening when I was out visiting some of my soldiers, some of my troops in eastern Afghanistan,” Knapper said. “I couldn’t sleep, I made my way to the infirmary. When I walked in there was this horrible screaming. There was this woman who, both of her arms had been broken.”
Knapper said she remembers the woman’s husband standing right near her as doctors worked to address the compound fractures and bone sticking out from the wounds.
“For me, that’s an image I can’t get out of my mind,” she said. “And I think it’s because it really just brought to the forefront, violence against women. You know, you hear about it, but to see it… it’s the hardest thing.”
Knapper, who is a doctoral candidate at Columbia University in instructional technology and media, receives both individual and group therapy for PTSD, including psychotherapy and psychiatry. Her treatment includes cognitive therapy and a regiment of Zoloft and vitamin therapy.
“There’s this idea that just because you’re a veteran, that you’re just crazy,” Knapper said. “I think that there needs to be more support. There’s not enough.”