Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The After Effects of War

Tormented USS Cole bombing survivor dies in Fla. home
Dec 29 2009
By BRIAN SKOLOFF - Associated Press Writer

In this undated photo provided by the Gokool family, is U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Johann Gokool, who was found dead in his Homestead, Fla. home Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2009. Gokool was an electronic warfare technician aboard the USS Cole when suicide bombers rammed a small boat packed with explosives into the ship on Oct. 12, 2000 in Yemen. Gokool lost his left foot in the bombing and suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla.— U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Johann Gokool lost his left foot when a bomb ripped a hole in the side of the USS Cole nearly a decade ago, but the injury was nothing compared with the mental torment that ravaged him almost daily.

He returned home to Florida suffering severe post-traumatic stress disorder and frequent panic attacks so violent he would launch into seizures and even fractured his own wrist several times as he flailed, sister Natala Gokool said Tuesday.

One of the brothers he lived with found him dead in their home last Wednesday, just a week after his 31st birthday, Natala Gokool said. His cause of death was unknown, though she said foul play was not suspected. The family believes the seizures just became too much for his body to handle.

Born in Trinidad, he moved with his family to South Florida as a young boy, and joined the military right out of high school.

He was in the ship's mess hall during the attack.

"When the explosion went off, everything was in slow motion, like a movie," Gokool told The Miami Herald in 2005. "My body spun around and I could smell smoke and fuel."

After being knocked unconscious, Gokool said he woke up and slowly dragged himself up a ladder to rescue.

"I don't want to die here," he said he thought to himself.

Doctors later removed his badly injured left foot, and he was visited in the hospital by then-President Bill Clinton.

Gokool lived in Homestead, about 35 miles southwest of Miami.

His sister said the lost foot "didn't really have any effect on him once the physical wound healed."

It was the panic attacks that scarred him. He couldn't work and stayed home when he felt them coming on, which was sometimes too often for him to live any normal life. He played cards occasionally and video games, and chatted often on the Internet with friends. He and his sister would go to the movies just about every Tuesday, but only when he felt comfortable there were no panic attacks looming.

Funeral services were set for Saturday in Florida. His family planned to take his ashes to Arlington National Cemetery.

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