(Originally broadcast on December 8, 2011)
When we picture injuries suffered at war, more often than not they are physical wounds.
You won't find one local Veteran on a list of wounded, but he struggles everyday with the mental scars of war.
Army Sergeant Rex Stalnaker has witnesses the horrors of war. "We had a lot of trauma cases coming into the hospital unit," said Stalnaker.
In his almost three decades of military service, the Army Medic lived the day-to-day tension and regular bloodshed. Those things came with serving tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
Stalnakerfound he could cope with those experiences and memories. However, thousands of miles from the front lines and sheltered in the friendly confines of a U.S. Army base, the soldier said he witnessed the most horrific event of his military career.
"The first thought that I had after I realized what was happening was, well I'm going to die today," said Stalnaker.
He was inside the Soldiers Readiness Processing Center at Fort Hood, Texas when he saw Army Major Nadal Hasan open fire on a room full of fellow soldiers.
"My first thought was, that's firecrackers and I stood up and looked over the cubicle and I saw a soldier, head shaved. Saw the look on his face and cloud of smoke form the powder and shooting at the soldiers still seated in those seats and I yelled shooter! " explained Stalnaker.
He was around 15 feet away from the shooter. "I saw bullets coming through both sides of the cubicle and I thought well I need to move," said Stalnaker. "As he walked by them he would shoot the people as they were laying on the floor," said Stalnaker.
He said the shooter missed him after taking a different route to the back of the building.
A Civilian Police Officer responding to the scene shot Hassan. He is paralyzed from the waist down and remains jailed awaiting trial.
In the gory aftermath, Stalnaker recalls turning his focus to one young soldier severely wounded. "He had been marked for dead and I saw that he still had a pulse so I began working on him. Did CPR on him and his heart eventually stopped. He ended up dying and it bothers me that there were other soldiers that I could probably have saved," said Stalnaker.
This scene is just one of many "What-if's" Stalnaker continues to replay more than two years after the massacre. In all, 13 people died and more than two dozen were injured.
Stalnaker's wife Kathy said witnessing the Ft. Hood attack changed her husband. "I learned later that blood covered him from head to toe..dripping from his uniform," said Kathy.
She worked to the ensure the military recognized Stalnaker for his actions in the aftermath of the shooting.
Stalnaker deployed to Afghanistan within a couple of week of the carnage at Fort Hood. Overseas he started sleeping no more than an hour or two a night and Kathy recalls their conversations became short, hollow exchanges. "He came home a shell...he wasn't the person I sent his eyes were vacant...he was distracted," said Kathy.
Stalnaker suffered fits of anger and depression. He isolated himself from friends and feared making a trip to any public place without a weapon.
"Rex is 6-1 220 or 230 (pounds).He doesn't look like he can't take care of himself. But there were things that were shutting down...so I've become his caregiver," said Kathy.
She explained she didn't really know the acronym PTSD so she started doing her own research and found it runs in cycles and different things trigger it.
"He went hunting last year and a little bit of blood dripped on his shoes and that caused a flashback," said Kathy. "The VA has been great with them with medical treatment the counseling and that sort of thing but they don't offer very much for couples...and PTSD does not only effect the soldier. The thing I would want to tell the caregiver or wife is don't stop looking for help."
At age 54, Stalnaker is just beginning what can be a lifelong, torturous battle with PTSD which is a hidden but costly would of war.
Just last week, USA Today reported the Veterans administration is treating more than 200,000 Veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan for PTSD. That is more than 16% of the troops who served in those conflicts.