Chris Dorsey likes woodworking. He loses himself in the familiar motions of shaving, carving and sanding along the grain. The fresh-cut wood is intoxicating. The scent steadies his mind.
What started as therapy for Dorsey’s post-traumatic stress disorder has grown over the years into a hobby. He is an avid woodworker, crafting bowls, tables and the likenesses of various animals.
Dorsey, a 33-year-old Gainesville native and Iraq war veteran, needed a hobby because “when you come back from war, you’re not quite the same. It’s hard to deal with. Woodworking helped me cope.”
Recently, the PTSD symptoms became too intense for his beloved hobby to remedy. Dorsey figured he’d try and set up an appointment with the local Veterans Affairs Clinic for counseling.
The first time he visited a clinic in Gwinnett County, Dorsey said he got the runaround. Staff told him they weren’t accepting new patients and offered little to no help.
The second time, he decided to show the world this phenomenon. Waiting in line at the VA Oakwood, Community Based Outpatient Clinic, Dorsey flipped out his smartphone and started filming.
The YouTube clip, which shows a clinic employee turning Dorsey away, saying the facility wasn’t “accepting new patients,” has since gone viral.
Comments from Oakwood clinic officials were not available Friday as it was closed for the July Fourth holiday.
“It’s not just me this type of thing is happening to,” Dorsey said. “There are vets nationwide who are suffering, and they’re being turned away. They’re being put on waiting lists.”
Following the posting of his video clip on YouTube, Dorsey has since been in touch with a Veterans Affairs chief of staff, who has helped him successfully schedule an appointment with a counselor.
‘This unexplainable anger’
Having served in the Army from 2001-05, Dorsey was a reconnaissance specialist in Iraq. He’s suffered for some time with PTSD.
Feeling the need to stay busy is one of the most common symptoms. When Dorsey was laid off from his job in the food services industry more than a year ago, he desperately needed something to occupy his mind.
“I’d just be sitting in the house and I could feel this unexplainable anger building up inside of me,” Dorsey said.
Prior to his deployment to Iraq, he’d never once lost his temper.
“But when I got back from Iraq, things changed,” he said. “Now, I have trouble with crowded places. I’m always standing, always feeling on edge.”
On top of that, Dorsey said he’d fly off the handle for no reason at all, often directing anger at the people he loved.
“I talked with my fiance about it,” Dorsey said. “She’s been very good the past couple of years. She’s been understanding.”
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website, PTSD “can occur after someone goes through a traumatic event like combat, assault or disaster.”
The site offers the following regarding treatment: “Instead of telling others how you feel, you may keep your feelings bottled up. But talking with a therapist can help you get better.”
‘Tired of all the talking’
Lee Marchetta said his son, Leighton Marchetta, 21, of Gainesville had also struggled with PTSD. In addition, Lee said his son had often found it difficult to schedule appointments for counseling through Veterans Affairs clinics.
Leighton Marchetta was the accused shooter in the June 8 incident at the Georgia State Patrol Post in Gainesville. Leighton served as a private in the Army for more than two years in Germany before being “forced out early before his tour was complete, because ... he was having issues.”
Fellow Iraq veteran Chaz Jackson of Jackson County became acquainted with Dorsey recently because of the trouble they’d both been having getting appointments.
Having served in the Army from 1999-2006, Jackson is also a PTSD sufferer.
“This is what it’s going to take,” Jackson said. “This video, bringing this problem to the attention of the public ... it’s what has to be done for people to see what it’s like being a veteran.”
Dorsey said there are veterans all over the country with issues — PTSD and beyond — they’re trying to resolve.
“I just want them to be able to get the help they need,” Dorsey said.
“I’m really not trying to vilify the VA. They’ve got a lot of great facilities and they do some good, but veterans are not getting the treatment they need.
“My hope and my goal is that this whole thing will actually change something about the way veterans are treated,” Dorsey said. “There’s been talk about change, but I’m tired of all the talking. We want to see actual change take place for veterans.”