'He saved many; now he's home': The vet who could help everybody couldn't help self
Patrick Friman, who was in charge of his doctoral dissertation at the University of Nevada-Reno, recalls how once at the out-patient psychological clinic, Linnerooth expertly developed a plan for a young mother. She was having trouble toilet-training her 3-year-old daughter, getting her to sleep alone and doing what she was asked.
"I marveled at how well he described the problem, the solution and the steps that need to be taken to achieve it," Friman says,
Linnerooth also had made an impression at Minnesota State University-Mankato, where he earned his master's degree. Professor Daniel Houlihan, who was his adviser, remembers an enormously gifted writer who years ago predicted a high military suicide rate.
Linnerooth was hired to teach psychology at the school in 2008. He quickly became annoyed with 19-year-olds griping about tough grading standards — he'd just come from Iraq, where their peers worried about survival.
He missed meetings at times and seemed paranoid, shredding papers in his office, Houlihan recalls.
Things were also bad at home. Amy Linnerooth says they tried marital counseling.
Her husband seemed two people, she says. "It would be like the guy you knew ... then a little thing would set him off," she recalls. "I remember telling him 'I just want to blend in with the wallpaper. I don't want to be in your way.' It was like walking on eggshells."
In early 2009, Linnerooth's depression took a disastrous turn. He nearly died from an overdose of pills.
Amy Linnerooth says her husband was very remorseful. "He thought that was a really stupid thing to do to the kids and us," she says. She was convinced he'd never try to harm himself again.
By late 2009, though, his marriage was failing and his job wasn't working out.
Linnerooth was given an extended leave and headed west to start a new life.
McNabb invited his pal to join him at the Santa Cruz County Vet Center in California.
Linnerooth liked his new surroundings, but his ongoing divorce and separation from his kids weighed on him. Still, he remained an attentive, loving father. He'd fly to Minnesota often, and while in California, he'd call his children, Jack, 9, and Whitney, 6, every night. He'd read to his son; he created a cartoon series for his daughter featuring a spider they called Gigerenzer.
Linnerooth also felt his work as a veterans' readjustment counselor was helping people. He spoke at symposiums about the emotional trauma of war. With McNabb, he conducted a suicide prevention class for an Army Reserve unit, even as he himself was being treated for PTSD.
He became vocal about the strains on military psychologists. Linnerooth talked about the pressures to The New York Times and Time. He told the magazine in 2010 "the Army has been criminally negligent," in not having enough mental health experts to serve combat vets, putting a bigger burden on those doing the job.
He joined Bret Moore, another former Army psychologist he befriended before Iraq, to produce an academic paper about professional burnout. "He wanted to write and get the word out," Moore says. "It was therapeutic for him. ... He really was putting his heart and soul into it."
For a time, Linnerooth seemed happy, telling Moore about his budding relationship with Melanie Walsh, a social worker. They'd met a decade earlier when she was an undergraduate assistant at Reno. Moore was invited to their July 2011 wedding in Lake Tahoe.
But soon marital strains surfaced. He also began missing deadlines for their paper.
Moore says he eventually toned down Linnerooth's work to make it more academic and less emotional. "You could really see the anger," he says, noting it reflected both his attitude toward the military and his disintegrating personal life. The paper was published in 2011 in an American Psychological Association journal.
Linnerooth moved to Reno to be with his new wife. He was hired by the Department of Veterans Affairs to work with vets struggling with PTSD and other problems.
There was a hitch, though. He was approaching a two-year deadline to get a state license required by the VA.
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