On the outside, retired Marine Sgt. Nathan Sutton doesn't bare any physical scars from combat. But sit and talk with him for a bit, and you’ll see his mental scars.
“Now I forget what I was saying. Um…there goes my TBI again,” said Sutton.
Sutton has a traumatic brain injury that affects his memory. He also suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). He retired from the Marines three years ago, but over his eight year career, Sutton served three tours in Iraq as a combat engineer.
“I got blown up six times in one deployment,” he said.
Sutton left the military a highly decorated soldier. He survived under almost constant enemy fire. He saved countless lives and now he suffers because of it.
“That defines it. You got injured while you were in combat so yes, I do believe me (sic) and other people should get a Purple Heart for those types of injuries,” said Sutton.
Right now the Purple Heart is an honor reserved for service members who have suffered physical injuries during combat. But the National Alliance on Mental Illness said those with unseen injuries deserve consideration, too.
On Monday, Senator Patty Murray pushed her bill for better access to mental healthcare, including better treatment for soldiers with PTSD. And for now at least, that is her first priority.
“Medals are wonderful, but most importantly we've gotta make sure they're treated,” said Murray.
Sutton does not believe every soldier with PTSD deserves a Purple Heart, but it is something he feels should be considered if the disorder was the direct result of combat.