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If Only They had Treated Him Before — (CNN)
By Wayne Drash, CNN
Video by Brandon Ancil, CNN. Photographs by John Nowak, CNN
Excerpt: Will was the first child, and never easy.
At 4, he shoved his 3-year-old brother Bob, nicknamed Bubba, down a flight of stairs and broke his arm.
At 5, he pushed Bubba so hard on a seesaw swing that it shattered one of his brother’s legs. Joe used a Newsweek magazine to form a splint until he could get Bubba to the hospital.
At 10, Will twice climbed to the top of the home’s pitched tin roof and threatened to jump off. He had to be talked down.
At 15, he left a note in the home that said: “By the time you find me, I will have injected the antifreeze in my neck.” Joe sprinted to an outbuilding and found Will on the ground, a syringe in his arm.
Will was admitted to the adolescent ward of a psychiatric hospital. Amy and Joe were told their son might suffer from bipolar disorder, but there was no formal diagnosis. Will was prescribed Depakote, an anti-seizure medication sometimes used for psychiatric conditions [“bipolar disorder”]. Suddenly, he could carry on conversations in ways he couldn’t before. But he complained the pills made his head hurt, and he stopped taking them almost as quickly as he’d begun — a pattern that would persist in the years ahead.
Mom and Dad arranged for Will to meet with a psychiatrist in a nearby town. He rejected the doctor, then a second one before finding a therapist he seemed to like. But he grew more defiant, drinking heavily and smoking weed. He skipped classes and dropped out of high school halfway through his sophomore year.
At 17, Will took his GED test to qualify for the Army. He went through boot camp in the fall of 2000 and advanced infantry training at Fort Polk in Louisiana. Growing up in the country and learning his way around guns helped him earn high marks as a sharpshooter.
Joe and Amy were ecstatic, thinking he had turned a corner.
Will shipped out to Schofield Barracks, an Army installation in Hawaii. It was there, his father says, that Will got into everything from crystal meth to cocaine. One day in 2001, Will showed up at the family home. He was AWOL. He made it back to Hawaii so he wouldn’t face desertion charges. He took a less-than-honorable discharge to avoid jail time for absence without leave.
By then, Will was an adult, in charge of his own health care. Mom and Dad worried about him, but he wouldn’t listen to their pleas.