10 Years After the Pat Tillman Tragedy a Soldier Finds Hope and Healing in Veterans Treatment Court

Last weekend, NBC’s Today told the story of Steven Elliot, a former Army Ranger who believes that he is responsible for the friendly fire that killed fellow Ranger Pat Tillman. Elliot carried the burden of this tragic mistake with him for years, and it nearly cost him his life. But like countless veterans, Elliot found solace through treatment, and found strength by being of service as a mentor in Veterans Treatment Court. He chose to share his story publicly in hopes that it will help struggling veterans.
 
In the riveting piece, Elliot described the downward spiral he and so many veterans experience when they come home. “If I didn’t drink I couldn’t sleep,” he said. “Reliving scenes of war in the form of a nightmare was very common.” After a self destructive period Elliot began to recognize that  PTSD was tearing him apart. With the help of his wife he sought treatment. With the help of a judge he was able to once again serve.
 
Thurston County, Washington Veterans Treatment Court Judge Brett Buckley recognized that Elliot had much to offer the veterans in his program and asked him to join the team as a volunteer veteran mentor. “While my circumstances were unique because of their tie to Pat, they were not unique at all with respect to the trauma a lot of people are trying to work their way through,” Elliot said. Mentoring his fellow veterans has helped him heal and come to terms with his experience. “Probably the biggest benefit,” he said, “is it cures you of the myth of isolation.”