Yet despite all that, Dwyer continued to talk about going back to Iraq. He told his parents that if he could just get back with his comrades and do his job, things would right themselves.

When Maureen Dwyer first saw Zinn's famous photo, she'd had a premonition that it might be the last picture she'd ever see of Joseph.

"I just didn't think he was going to come home," she said. "And he never did."

Accidental overdose? An autopsy is pending, but police are treating Dwyer's death as an accidental overdose.

His friends and family see it differently.

The day of the 2005 standoff, Knapp spent hours on the telephone trying to get help for Dwyer. She was frustrated by a military bureaucracy that would not act unless his petrified wife complained, and with a civilian system that insisted Dwyer was the military's problem.

In a letter to post commander Maj. Gen. Robert Lennox, Knapp expressed anger that Army officials who were "proud to display him as a hero ... now had turned their back on him..."

"Joseph Dwyer who had left to Iraq one of the nicest, kindest, caring, self-sacrificing and patriotic people I have ever known," she wrote, "was forced to witness and commit acts completely contrary to his nature and returned a tormented, confused disillusioned shadow of his former self that was not being given the help he needed."

While Dwyer was in the service, Minor said, the Army controlled every aspect of his life.

"So someone should have taken him by the hand and said, `We're putting you in the hospital, and you're staying there until you get fixed ? until you're back to normal."

But Dr. Antonette Zeiss, deputy chief of the VA's Office of Mental Health, said it's not that simple.

"Veterans are civilians, and VA is guided by state law about involuntary commitment," she told the AP. "There are civil liberties, and VA respects that those civil liberties are important."

The family would not authorize the VA to release Dwyer's medical records. But it appears that Dwyer was sometimes unwilling ? or unable ? to make the best use of the programs available. In an e-mail to The Associated Press, Lennox, the former Bliss post commander, wrote that Dwyer "had a great (in my opinion) care giver."

Zeiss said the best treatment for PTSD is exposure-based psychotherapy, in which the patient is made "to engage in thoughts, feelings and conversations about the trauma." While caregivers must be 100 percent committed to creating an environment in which the veteran feels comfortable confronting those demons, she said the patient must be equally committed to following through.

"And so it's a dance between the clinicians and the patient."

Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, feels the VA is a lousy dance partner.

Rieckhoff said the VA's is a "passive system" whose arcane rules and regulations make it hard for veterans to find help. And when they do get help, he said, it is often inadequate.

"I consider (Dwyer) a battlefield casualty," he said, "because he was still fighting the war in his head."

'Nightmares in their head' The Sunday after the Fourth of July, Knapp attended services at Scotsdale Baptist, the El Paso church where she and Dwyer had been baptized together in 2004.

On the way out of the sanctuary, Knapp checked her phone and noticed an e-mail.

"I didn't know if you had heard or not," a friend wrote, "but I got an email from Matina this morning saying that Joseph had died on Saturday and that the funeral was today."

Knapp maintained her composure long enough to get herself and the children to the car. Then she lost it.

The children asked what was wrong.

"Joseph is dead," she told them.

"You said he wasn't sick any more," Justin said.