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Spokane veterans therapist writes about his own military experiences

Courtesy of Carroll McInroe

Carroll McInroe didn't fight in Vietnam, but had an interesting stint here in the U.S.

For years, Spokane psychotherapist Carroll McInroe has helped military veterans work through their personal issues. His vocation was inspired by his own military service during the Vietnam era. McInroe didn’t serve in Southeast Asia, but he had his own harrowing military experiences right here in the U.S. and he has written about them in his new book, “Death Came With The Postman.”

Carroll McInroe: “I’m originally from Gordon, Texas. It’s a small town in Texas.”

Doug: “Where in Texas is Gordon?”

Carroll McInroe: “It about 70 miles west of Fort Worth, population 404. That’s where I left from to go in the Army.”

It was a time when young men like McInroe had to worry about whether their draft numbers were low enough to guarantee they’d get called up. Some young men tried to cut their losses and volunteered, in hopes they could get a better deal than if they were drafted.

Carroll McInroe: “I checked around. If you volunteered you had to serve three years or four years. I knew I didn’t want to do that. And then I found out you could go volunteer for the draft and only get two years. In those days, the draft boards were card catalogued and a little old lady ran the place. So I went over and talked to her and I said, ‘Ma’am, I want to volunteer for the draft.’ And ‘What’s your name, son?’ ‘McInroe.’ ‘Oh, ok, just a minute here. McInroe, Carroll W?’ I said, ‘Yes, ma’am.’ She said, ‘You don’t have to volunteer. I’ve already got you right here.’ She said, ‘Go home and enjoy 30 days because you’ll be coming back here June 19.’ (Laughs) So that’s the way it went.”

Doug: “So you’d been drafted.”

Carroll McInroe: “I had been drafted, right.”

Doug: “They just hadn’t told you yet.”

Carroll McInroe: “I hadn’t gotten the letter yet. That’s what the title is about. ‘Death Came With The Postman’ when you got your draft notice in the mail. When you got that draft notice, in most cases, certainly in my case, I had to sit down with my mother on the couch while she cried her eyes out. She didn’t want me to do that and I didn’t have to do that. I was in college and doing well in college. I could have stayed in college, but I didn’t. It broke her heart, but I survived it and she did too.”

McInroe served his basic training at Fort Bliss in west Texas. He wound up serving in military intelligence, with folks who worked for the CIA, and he tells a variety of stories in, let’s say, colorful language.

Doug: “How did you decide what to write about and put in the book?”

Carroll McInroe: “I wrote about what happened to me.”

Doug: “Just everything.”

Carroll McInroe: “Yeah, I just told stories. I’m not that creative. I can’t make it up. I wrote the book just like I’m talking to you. I had these stories in my head and I just started writing them down.”

He tells stories about some shady characters, about getting arrested during a traffic stop and about some of the truly dangerous working conditions he encountered, especially at Fort McClellan in Alabama.

Carroll McInroe: “That’s where I got the exposure to a lot of radiation. We had to run patrols in a nuclear ground zero. We had real radiation out there. Wore a radiate meter around my neck. It pegged at 200 and we were running at 200 rads around those patrols. We went over in a helicopter at about 150 miles an hour and 200 feet. A helicopter patrol and it was still 200 rads. I mean, it was hot. It was really hot. They had isotopes sitting on top on the top of post, real isotopes, you know. It was the real deal. So they exposed us to some fairly heavy amounts of radiation. That may be one of the reasons I have Parkinson’s disease. If you’re exposed to radiation and you have a tendency toward Parkinson’s anyway, you’re more assured of getting Parkinson’s. Your chances are doubled of getting Parkinson’s if you’ve been radiated, heavily radiated, as we were. We worked in classrooms with GB and GV nerve agents. You know what a nerve agent is. That’s the worst chemical known to man. We worked with them in a classroom, killing rabbits.”

Doug: “So you are a licensed psychotherapist. Tell me why you became a psychotherapist.”

Carroll McInroe: “To work with veterans. That’s what I wanted to do. It’s the only reason I did it and I worked for the VA for 15 years. I treated 30,000+ veterans for PTSD. Now, I don’t have PTSD because I wasn’t in combat. What I have and what I’ve had since the Army is called a generalized anxiety disorder for a lot of different reasons.”

You can read about Carroll McInroe’s Army career in his new book, “Death Came With The Postman,” which you can find at Auntie’s Bookstore in downtown Spokane.

One of the Northwest's most seasoned reporters is returning to his SPR roots. Doug Nadvornick will be heard frequently on KPBX and KSFC reporting on local news.