Stained by Darkness
Updated: Jul 16
The Endless War on Crime
“Before man was, war waited for him. The ultimate trade awaiting its ultimate practitioner. That is the way it was and will be. That way and not some other way.” ~ Cormac McCarthy ~
It wasn’t until 1980 that the acronym PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) first appeared in the third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. An acronym most folks were unfamiliar with, it soon went viral. A condition that arguably came into existence soon after the sentient being known as a man appeared on Earth, we were now acknowledging it.
What is a sentient being?
My research has not revealed a clear definition so I have taken the liberty to compose my own: “A sentient being is a creature that consciously considers its past and future.” I had to add the word “consciously” as I had often witnessed my late police dog, Cisco, have vivid dreams, squirming and growling, sometimes even barking, on the floor as he slept. Psychologists say dreams originate in the subconscious.
But who am I to say that K9 Cisco didn’t suffer from PTSD? While he may have not ruminated about the past or future, he could sense things in the present that I could not. During our time as a team known as K926, he certainly led me into the darkness on many exciting and dangerous missions. (see Villains-Victims-Victors) One time, Cisco sensing what could not be seen or heard, independently chose to use force. In doing so, he decidedly kept a bad situation from getting worse. On another occasion, that duty fell to me. We did what we were trained to do, our part in holding the thin blue line.
“The department stood by its agreement, and when he was retired, Cisco was returned to me as my pet. Cisco and I often sat in the front of the fireplace and talked of our adventures. Like always, he mostly listened. Cisco lived out his remaining years with me and my family”. EXCERPT FROM Paths Crossed: Villains – Victims – Victors
Villians Victims Victors - What's in a Name?
A police officer’s lot is dealing with “Villains – Victims – Victors,” thus the title of my first book. More villains and victims than victors. Metaphorically, police officers mostly work in dark places where they strive to maintain peace. For me, it was a most rewarding thirty-eight-year career. But was I Stained by Darkness?
I recently attended a yoga session for military and first responders. The leader, a retired Connecticut State Police Trooper opening remarks revealed that the D in PTSD had been dropped. It was now Post Traumatic Stress. He said indicators of PTS can be flashbacks, nightmares, and avoidance, resulting in fear, grief, and depression. His hour-long yoga session followed. The gentle mindful movement of the body, combined with the beautiful morning and park, flooded a participant with gratitude. For more information on “Mindful Resilience” click Veterans Yoga Project. While I admit to being a bit on the cynical side and embracing “Don’t be afraid, be ready,” based on this information, I think I have dodged PTS.
Below is an overview of my latest book, Heart Shots, followed by an excerpt from it. I believe it is an example of PTS before it was recognized and treated. One wonders if Trooper Vogel’s life would have gone differently had treatment been provided.
The story unfolds in 1957 when a WWII veteran, convicted sexual predator and parole absconder, picks up a hitchhiker in Maine, who is a drifter with no criminal record. Matched, they embark on an undetected nationwide crime spree; that is until an intuitive Michigan trooper begins to unmask their criminality. Shot three times and left for dead, this trooper is the first of nine heroes to emerge in the following ten hours.
When MSP Trooper Douglas Vogel was released from the hospital, his wife, Marilyn, and post commander, Sergeant Fred O’Donnell, were waiting to take him home.
Marilyn and Doug Vogel with Sergeant O'Donnell | Picture from Kay Pellot Andersen's scrapbook
Vogel would return to light duty on November 18, and later to full duty. Easing back into patrol, it would be Trooper Warren Hutchinson, whom Vogel had once provided field training, that would take him out for his return to the road. After their first traffic stop, Hutchinson could tell that Vogel was visibly shaken. Gradually, his confidence appeared to return.
Vogel would be the third officer in the history of the Michigan State Police to be awarded the Valor Citation while still living. It was his intuition that had uncovered the criminal ways of Taylor and Whitley, leading to a shootout in which he was seriously wounded. A hero, with a wife and now five children, he would soon be promoted to detective and transferred to Detroit.
Since Vogel was the one who sparked the tragic events, one wonders if he struggled with what has been called “survivor’s guilt.” At that time, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) was not recognized. His family would suffer from its symptoms when he became alcoholic and abusive. A divorce followed.
Eventually, these symptoms affected his work, and under pressure, he resigned from the MSP. Douglas Vogel would struggle with relationships and employment for the remainder of his life. He once told his son, “You don’t know how it feels to have a man look you in the eye as he shoots you.”
In the early 1980s, he learned from the Indiana authorities that Victor Whitley had been released. He was advised that if Whitley ever tried to contact him to report it. In response, Vogel told his son, “If I ever see him, I’ll kill him on the spot.”
In November of 2003, at age 74, he died from respiratory failure at St. Joseph Hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan. It was the same hospital that had treated him for his gunshot wounds some 45 years earlier.
This picture was taken at the Michigan State Police award ceremony. At it, Commissioner Joseph Childs presents Trooper Douglas Vogel (left) and Mrs. Dugald Pellot, on behalf of her fallen husband, the Valor Award and Sergeant Frederick O’Donnell (right) the Bravery Award.
Compliments of Michael O’Donnell, son of Sergeant O’Donnell