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Monday, January 14, 2013

Navy SEAL Loses Battle With PTSD

Navy SEAL Robert Guzzo committed suicide in November 2012. (Screenshot from The Fold)

Navy SEAL Robert Guzzo committed suicide in November 2012. (Screenshot from The Fold)

An estimated 18 veterans commit suicide every day. One of them was a former Navy SEAL, who killed himself on the day after Veterans Day, 2012.

Rob Guzzo's mother, Robin Anderson, holds Guzzo's daughter. (Screenshot from The Fold)

Rob Guzzo’s daughter is held by this mother, Robin Anderson, a Navy veteran. (Screenshot from The Fold)

Rob Guzzo served in Iraq and suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) when he came home. He kept that a secret because he feared for his career.

“Rob was speaking to his teammates and senior teammates about some of the things that he was experiencing,” Guzzo’s mother Robin Anderson told Here & Now’s Robin Young. “They were cautioning him that if you go see a mental health provider, if you say you’re having these types of symptoms, it is going to affect your security clearance. For a SEAL, if you don’t have a security clearance, you don’t go on secret classified missions, therefore you’re not a Navy SEAL.”

Eventually, Guzzo’s symptoms got so bad that his parents, both Navy vets themselves, got him discharged and got him private treatment outside the military.

Rob Guzzo is pictured as a child, being held by his father, Bob Guzzo, also a Navy SEAL. (Screenshot from The Fold)

Rob Guzzo is pictured as a child, being held by his father, Bob Guzzo, also a Navy SEAL. (Screenshot from The Fold)

But in the end, it didn’t help.

Brook Silva-Braga, a classmate of Guzzo’s from Portsmouth High School in Rhode Island and host of The Washington Post’s online news program “The Fold,” told Guzzo’s story in a recent video report.

“In the Navy, in the Army, in Special Forces, they are trying to change this [PTSD] stigma, they’re trying to reduce it,” Silva-Braga told Here & Now. “But there’s at least a couple things that they run up against. One is this long-entrenched culture. But in cases like the SEALS there is this legitimate sticky wicket of, because of the security clearance, there may be some people that come back that shouldn’t keep their clearance because of what they’re going through. But because they know that, how do they get treatment for what they’re going through? And it’s a bit of a catch-22 that I’m not sure there’s a good answer for.”


  • Brook Silva-Braga, hosts The Washington Post’s online news program “The Fold.”
  • Robin Andersen, mother of Navy SEAL Robert Guzzo.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Al Dorman28

     Please do a story on Aaron Swartz

    • Robin Y

      We are keeping an eye on that. Thank you.

      • Al Dorman28

         No, thank you, great show as always!

  • http://www.jerroldrichards.com/ Jerrold Richards

    So this guy is described as “full of life.” Yet he chose the job of hired killer. Hmmm. Doesn’t compute. Unless, of course, he really was a whacked-out sociopath who liked killing people. A man happy in his work.

    • Ktronboll

      Inappropriate comment.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003000884786 Navin R Johnson

        It isn’t inappropriate, but sociopaths never commit suicide.  Jerrold Richards makes an excellent point.  Many of the new recruits to the military think they are signing up for adventure, when they are really being recruited to kill people and destroy things. 

        • Danielsurber5

          @NavinRJohnson – I can ensure you Rob knew exactly what he was signing up for, more than I’m sure the average recruit even knows, as his father Bob was a Navy Seal for 26 years and Robin had 30 years in the Navy. If anyone knew what they were signing up for the most, it would be a son of two career military parents with 56 years of service between them. To say that a hero who fought for our country and for people like you, is either a sociopath or a person who mistakenly thought he was signing up for an adventure, is not only ignorant, but completely misguided. Its people like you who don’t have the honor or courage to stand up and fight for our country who should just sit back and thank people like Rob and his family for their sacrifice and courage, because without people like them, our country wouldn’t be what it is today.

          We as Americans don’t even ask, we expect these soldiers to stand up for us and protect our freedoms, then we use these freedoms (speech) to attack them without knowing the facts? Here are some facts for you – 349 active duty service members committed suicide in 2012. The number of soldiers killed in the war with Afghanistan in 2012 was 313. When our soldiers suicide rate is higher than our losses out in the field there is a real problem. I can ensure you these men and woman were not sociopaths or “adventure” seekers led astray, they were soldiers who succumbed to the stresses of war, without the proper support they rightfully deserved upon their return.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003000884786 Navin R Johnson

            @e2dbe7ec3b73be84e8695626f73e89c7:disqus ,  why are you replying to me when I said he was NOT a sociopath.  You need to re-read my post.

            Gazing upon the true face of war is a perilous endeavour, and some
            people are broken by the experience.  For those with PTSD, there is no
            cure.  No matter how much support, therapy, or medications the symptoms
            never abate.  The only way to keep our soldiers healthy is not to use
            them as frivolously as we have in the last decade. 

            And since you don’t know anything about me, you can keep your ignorant and self-righteous opinions about me to yourself. 


          • Danielsurber5

            I read your comment and I am replying to both you and Jerrold. For you to say that Jerrold’s idiotic comment was not inappropriate makes you ignorant. For you to then to offer a generic explanation about someone who YOU DO NOT KNOW makes you ignorant. And finally for you to say that there is no cure for PTSD (not being a doctor) makes you ignorant and misguided. Recognizing the issue, support, therapy, medication and education can all contribute to the battle against PTSD. To take the high and mighty road and say we need to rethink our war policies, will not help the people who currently are already suffering under these conditions. The bottom line, this article is about a war hero who lost his battle with PTSD and who did not receive the proper treatment. Stories like this need to be told to create awareness so this problem can be brought to the forefront, not for people to offer up uneducated reasons why things like this happen and hopeless outlooks on the problem with no basis. I’d rather spread this story and create this awareness in the hopes it can save even just one soldier or hopefully many.

    • http://www.facebook.com/dentedcan David Brown

      @JerroldRichards:disqus - You’re a disgusting individual. I knew Rob years ago and he was a standup guy – every kind word spoken of him is an understatement. Growing up, any hint Rob would become a SEAL would be due to his indomitable spirit, not his desire to harm others. 

      He didn’t take the job of hired killer; he took the job of defending the interests of his country, and of others, in a time when he knew that would mean making enormous sacrifices. He did a job neither you or I would do, because he knew someone had to do it, and he was capable.
      He’s not a hero for the his actions; he’s a hero for the reasons that compelled him to take such risks. 

    • Jfbtb

      He CHOSE to serve his country. He was raised to fight for his believes. He was taught that freedom is not free. He was not afraid to stand and fight for those freedoms that so many of us take for granted. 
      Can we not be Happy and full of life while standing up for what we believe in?  It is a gift to be able to make people laugh and feel good. It is a gift that Rob had and is now lost.   We need more like him. We need people to stand up and do instead of sit around bitching that things will never get better. 

    • Mark Matz

      Jerrold, and what do you know of life? You know nothing of Rob, and nothing of what it means to be a SEAL, yet you speak with spite against him and his calling in life. You are a coward.
      You describe yourself as “accurate, thorough, efficient, and reliable”…exactly the qualities I look for in a good piece of accounting software, but far from what it means to be a good human. 

      Rob is loved by an enormous amount of people. Even though he’s gone from this world, his love remains. A person would be lucky to have just an ounce of that love after living more than twice as long. 

      To the people who know Rob, your comments are silly. To those who don’t know Rob, your comments are meaningless. So what value did you add here with your spite and hatefulness? What is the purpose of your comment other than to offer empty words into a meaningful discussion? Is this how you “contribute” to life?

      You would be wise to judge yourself before blindly judging others. Take an inventory of your own self-worth. Tally the good deeds that you have done for others. Ask yourself how much you are loved. “A heart is not judged by how much you love; but by how much you are loved by others.” ~ The Wizard of Oz

      • Farmerobrown

         I don’t hear or see anything about this Jerrold going in harms way to serve the Country and the People.

        I’m Thankful for Rob and each and every other person who undertakes the job to  defend and protect us and our Country.

         Thank you Mr Matz for pointing out facts when few others are able. So sorry for the loss of our fighting Men and Women. Bless you All.

  • lindsay kay

    @Jerrold – what a heartless thing to say.

  • http://www.jerroldrichards.com/ Jerrold Richards

    It would be nice if it could all come down to John Lennon’s phrase, “What if they gave a war and nobody came.” It does not. Individuals, families, and societies do face dangerous threats, and must respond, even with violence. I think our society currently is lacking three key concepts concerning this reponse. First, such response should only occur when needs are threatened, with much less emphasis on wants. Our fat society presently responds too often with unnecessary violence when wants, some of which we would be better without, are threatened. Second, many cultures have social and ceremonial processes for preparing for violence, and for winding down afterward. Our society is astoundingly crippled in this area. Simply dump the killers back on the street, and then, duh, wonder why they kill themselves. Third, our society has drifted toward having a relatively isolated sub-class of people do the killing. This is bad for those people, and dangerous for our society. I suggest, therefore, that the reason this person killed himself is that he was not a whacked-out sociopath. Quite the contrary, that there was too much conflict between his chosen career and his character. And this occurred within the social environment in which the three concepts above are not adequately addressed.

    • Navy Vet HM3 FMF

      You apparently do not even understand the context in which these phrase is used, “What if they gave a war and nobody came.”. Try reading the entire poem. It’s meaning is the exact opposite of which you are using it. And the poem is not by Lennon. it is by Bertolt Brecht, circa 1930.

      These many disgraceful and ignorant statements such as “the job of a hired killer” and several others above previously stated is repulsive. As with local police when weapons are drawn and used forcefully to stop an assailant during violent crimes, their jobs may include being forced to take a life, however, this is ignorant for you to claim either police or Navy SEALs are “hired killer’s”. This display of a lack of knowledge of what Navy SEALs are trained to do, and their various missions they are tasked out to perform, is ridiculous. May this Warrior RIP and his family be given the strength and peace to overcome such a tragic loss of life which could very well have been prevented. 

  • Kate

    I’m sorry for your terrible loss.

  • Neal

    Another sad outcome for us Americans. Even though I feel that the invasion of Iraq was immoral, I grieve for our and Iraq’s losses. Too many good Americans were lost to us, and the chaos in Iraq goes on. 

  • Former Teammate

    My condolences to Rob’s family and to the thousands of other families who are experiencing these tragedies; I am sure I cannot fully understand what they must be feeling. I heard this segment on the air today and had to pull the car over from emotion. But, however, I feel compelled to point out something strikingly important regarding this exact case.

    I knew Rob extremely well: trained and served with him, lived next door to him, and we spent many countless hours “on and off” the clock together. In fact, we were in a small unit together comprised of only 7 members. I feel my statements will be both accurate and fair.

    Rob was a friend, and I am truly saddened to hear of this news. But I am not shocked that Rob ultimately took his own life. His service as a SEAL was preceeded by an undisputed personal instability, and accompanied by a well-known life of excess and pattern of behavior that surely exacerbated any underlying emotional or psychological issues that he brought with him to the Teams. He was not a quiet or reserved individual; there likely could not have been an individual who more outwardly expressed the need for attention. For not doing more for him, especially in light of this, I will always be somewhat at fault.

    What ultimately drove him to this end was less to do with his service and more to do with personal issues that were not dealt with or addressed. By comparison to most SEALs, Rob’s tenure and involvement in the teams was not long, and from the beginning, his career was not without its own issues.

    What most bothers me about this article/segment is two-fold: the additional attention or highlight applied here because he was a SEAL, and secondly the continual blame placed on the shoulders of the military or our warrior culture. There are many thousands more who need help with this growing problem; the SEAL brand should not be the focus, as all to often is the unfortunate case as of late. This phenomenon or perverse advertising is precisely illustrated by your headline. People stop to read, not because the event was a tragedy, but was a tragedy to a SEAL.

    To the second, without a reservation, I can attest that there is, and was at that time, abundant help and resources for any member who sought it. Mental health it is continually being reviewed, stressed, and improved, and I am adamant that it was not his risk of losing his clearance which precipitated his silence. To this end alone, there are SEALs on active duty right now operating with “pending clearances” or under administrative or limited duty.

    In all honesty, the notion that he would be have been ostracized is possible, and may somewhat have contributed to this outcome. Exceptional mental fortitude and physical prowess is demanded and essential in our community; you will not earn a trident without them. These attributes are also routinely assessed and they are integral to who we are. However, I know of many who have chosen to seek help and have not suffered either personally or professionally. I know even many more brothers who would not fault another for seeking help. We can certainly improve (also part of our creed, to continually improve), but to blame or casually demonize the institution, the mission, or our culture is, at a minimum, entirely wrong, and as a potential solution, woefully inadequate bordering on laziness.

    Rest in peace, Rob. You are missed:

    May the road rise to meet you,

    May the wind be always at your back,

    May the sun shine warm upon your face,

    The rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,

    May God hold you in the palm of His hand.



    • Robin Y

      Thank you for this. I wondered out loud if I should have asked if in fact
      anyone felt that there were issues that should have screened him out of the SEALS.

      Best to you

      • Scott Gordon, PsyD

        Robin, the issues in your well written article have nothing to do with the ones I study but, I urge you to have a look at http://www.nafod.com to learn a bit about what my practice is studying. A 10 page thesis has just recently been completed and is in peer review stage but if you’re interested at all, I’d be happy to share a bit more with you. – Dr. Gordon

      • Randersen_navy

        Robin Y,

        Now that the question has been asked, there were not.  Thank you again for the opportunity to share Rob’s story and raise awareness of PTSD and TBI.

        Robin A

        • Robin Y

          Thanks Robin.

          I hope you see how much interest there is in your son’s story.

          I’m gathering he had a lot of friends but also, your goal of education is being reached.

          All best

        • Josephklotz

          Robin I’ve never been more shocked and saddened by anything. Words seem meaningless . I’m just so very sorry.

    • RIP Rob.

      - Former Teammate 
      Very well said.  I have seen behind the curtain and you are telling it straight.  My prayers are with Rob’s family and his brothers in arms that are still serving.

    • Randersen_navy

      While you are extremely articulant,  I submit you are making many incorrect assumptions.  Rob was in fact a human being and with that – imperfect.  He did NOT however, have a history of mental health issues prior to his military service.  I can appreciate your desire to justify the Navy’s, and more specifically SPECWAR’s, actions or lack thereof in Rob’s case.  However I’m sadden to read its at Rob’s expense.  Rob is gone, that is one thing in which we agree.  If  using his status as a former SEAL can raise awareness of PTSD and TBI, I’m more than happy to do so.  More so, I feel a responsibility to do just that.  Your response to this story leaves me wondering…..if you weren’t a part of the solution, were you a part of the problem?  At the end of the day, its what makes this country great – having a opinion and the right to express it.  I spent 30 years of my life defending just that.   Robin Andersen, Rob Guzzo’s mom

    • Mark Matz

      “Former Teammate,”

      I have to wonder who exactly you are… especially since I was with Rob on every op in country. I walked point on every patrol. I lived in the same tent as Rob at Camp Marc Lee along with Eric Shellenberger (R.I.P.), and Carlos V. 

      The language you use is very articulate, however, being somewhat articulate myself, I have wonder why you don’t stand out in my mind. Your writing is far from that of a typical brother in the community. Everything about the way you wrote your response tells me, instinctually, that you are not who you claim to be. Your impeccable grammar, well-crafted paragraphs, and subtle accusations paired with a touch of emotion, leads me to believe that this was not a compulsory response. Rather, it seems that this was drafted and edited like a college paper. Of course there’s nothing wrong with writing articulately, but it is highly uncharacteristic of a brother… especially, after such a strong emotional response to first hearing this story. 

      Your claim that Rob had “undisputed personal instability” prior to becoming a SEAL is quite the accusation, but lacking in evidence… you accuse Rob of  leading a “well-known life of excess and pattern of behavior that surely exacerbated any underlying emotional or psychological issues that he brought with him to the Teams.” By whose definitions are you defining excess? What empirical data are you using to link these so-called patterns of behavior to worsening your claim of emotional or psychological issues?
      “What ultimately drove him to this end was less to do with his service and more to do with personal issues that were not dealt with or addressed.” ….and you base this off what evidence? Are you an industry professional? Do you have a psych degree? …it’s funny, that I don’t remember someone of your “merit” serving along side us in combat. Either way, a person of your educational status should be aware that making claim without sufficient data and warrant is nothing more than an invalid accusation.

      “By comparison to most SEALs, Rob’s tenure and involvement in the teams was not long,” …most SEALs? There are many “career SEALs” who never saw combat, so what’s your point? 

      “and from the beginning, his career was not without its own issues.” Issues? Again no definition of “issues,” but I was there. Some of these issues might have been result of guys put into leadership position, who had no business being leaders. This is one of the reasons so many good operators leave the Teams. But again, this point strays from the real issue.

      “There are many thousands more who need help with this growing problem; the SEAL brand should not be the focus” …it’s not the focus, it’s a platform to raise awareness for those many thousands more whom you make reference. If stories are not told, the public will remain ignorant, and improvements to the flawed system will have no chance of occurring. 

      “without a reservation, I can attest that there is, and was at that time, abundant help and resources for any member who sought it.” … “Help” that’s so effective, suicides outpace deaths in theatre? …the system is flawed, and centered around keeping boots on the ground. Then, when a guy gets into a fight in town, the command turns their backs, or seeks additional punishment… great system. 

      We were lions led by dogs.

      And, I find it strange that you leave no identifying information… at least so much that a fellow brother could identify you. Nor, did you contact his family. Instead, you send a message into the blind, with no identifying information. If you make a statement, stand by what you say. For this, you’re a Herb!


  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1469198865 Mj Bassanello

    So sad. As a Navy Veteran and friends with retired US Navy Seals, as well as my son’s father 100 percent disabled vet due to PTSD this hits home. We need the VA to be in full force to help our Vet’s get through this! My deepest sympathy to the family of Rob Guzzo. R.I.P.

  • Annamarie

     I know an innovative program that is working with expressive therapies to have veterans with PSTD.  They are just starting, but every one of their workshops has been successful in helping vets. Here’s their website. http://www.warriorconnection.org/

  • AnotherOneLost

    I am so shocked and saddened to find this today.  My husband and I met Rob in San Diego several years ago.  There are several layers of terrible irony in their very brief story. They did not get on particularly well at first but my husband saw much of himself, as a younger Team guy, in Rob and they bonded pretty quickly.  In the spring  of 2011, my husband took his own life after a long battle with PTSD.  I did not see it coming. Even his clinicians did not see it coming.  There is so much work to do in the mental health field and speaking out, as you are doing for your son, is the first step. 

    After writing and deleting half a dozen times, I am finding less and less to say…my sincerest condolences to those who knew and loved Rob.

    May God bless and keep you all. 

Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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