Ex-soldier recovering from PTSD talks about life, love, recovery and beating a DUI charge
Artie Loredo is rebuilding his life and healing his battle scars after 11 years spent serving in combat zones
EAGLE — The jury was out just 12 minutes before returning a not-guilty verdict, and another of Artie Loredo’s trials was behind him.
Loredo served 23 years in the United States military split between the Marines and Army. He served 11 years in combat zones in the Middle East. He was hit twice, once by a car bomb so powerful that it blew the Abrams tank on which he was standing 10 feet away from where it was parked. Also, along with the three Bronze Stars, a couple of Purple Hearts and a Meritorious Service Medal, he carries the scars from that bomb blast and an enemy AK-47 fired at him.
Those are the scars you can see.
“The body heals quickly. The mind …?” Loredo said.
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Military to his marrow
Loredo is originally from Texas and entered the military while he was still underage. Ten days after he walked his high school commencement line, he was marching in boot camp.
“My mom and dad had to sign for me so I could join. I was still in high school,” Loredo said. “That’s all I’ve known. Sure, I picked up some hobbies along the way. I like working on cars. But really, veterans coming out the military after 25 or 30 years, what do they have to look forward to? They just gave up a command that has a thousand Marines or a thousand soldiers. Now they’re in charge of nothing.”
Compounding his transition to civilian life were the physical injuries that developed into post-traumatic stress disorder.
Loredo did what’s called “double duty,” serving six and a half years in the Marines, then transferring to the Army to finish his career — 23 years and two months.
The Army recruited him to teach his skills to new soldiers. He was happy to serve. “Also, the bonus helps,” he said laughing.
Anchored in Colorado
His spouse and children grew up in Colorado because it was one of the places he was last stationed. He was assigned to Washington state to finish his tour and left them in Colorado Springs.
He ended up deployed to Cuba and back to Afghanistan, but didn’t tell his children he was headed back to the battlegrounds in the Middle East.
“The burden of telling my children that I have to go again just got tougher and tougher every time. I’d tell them, ‘Daddy has to go to work,’ and I’d leave for six months or a year, or 18 months at a time. It’s crazy,” Loredo said.
For most of us, “work” sometimes includes some in-fighting, but not enemies doing everything they can to kill you.
Loredo was standing on top of an Abrams tank when a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) rolled past. This one — a passenger car — was loaded with a 120-millimeter rocket.
“The blast was tremendous,” Loredo said.
A loaded Abrams tank weighs 140,000 pounds — 70 tons. The massive blast blew that tank more than 10 feet.
“That’s incredible,” Loredo said. “The blast hit me. Shrapnel hit my helmet, went through and hit me on top of the head. Blood went everywhere. That’s how I was hit the first time.”
The second time he was in northern Iraq when the enemy opened up with AK-47s. He caught some rounds in the shoulder.
“That one didn’t take me down either,” he said.
It did let him decide whether to stay or leave the military.
“I stayed. I patched up my wounds and drove on,” Loredo said.
Hearts and minds are another matter
He patched up his physical wounds. His mental and emotional wounds were another matter. Friends, family and other veterans slipped him little booklets: “When Do You Know Your Family Member has PTSD?” or “When Do You Know Your Family Member Has Traumatic Brain Injury?”
“Everything you read is true. All the little booklets. It’s an eye-opener. You learn that you have changed, and why you have changed,” Loredo said. “You come back from trauma and you don’t want to talk about it. But you do. You go through an in-patient program like I did and try to fix yourself.”
He landed in the Cincinnati VA Medical Center’s Trauma Recovery Center. In Cincinnati, he learned what so many veterans learn: that they’re not in this alone. He ate, slept and lived with other veterans who had suffered the same kinds of trauma.
“It was intense. For a long period of time, most of the day you’re with doctors. We talked about the traumas that happened to me, and how we could make it better for a person coming back from combat. That place helped me a lot,” Loredo said.
The symptoms are the same
On the night of Nov. 30, 2016, Loredo was driving along I-70 through Eagle County when he was pulled over for weaving. The now-former police officer testified that he smelled alcohol on Loredo’s breath, that his eyes were watery and glassy and his speech was slurred.
The police officer mistook Loredo’s symptoms as being under the influence, when it was PTSD, said Jim Fahrenholtz, Loredo’s defense attorney.
Loredo was so physically beaten up from his war wounds that the only roadside test he could perform was tracking a light horizontally with his eyes, Fahrenholtz said.
“Post-traumatic stress disorder is real,” Fahrenholtz said. “He has a traumatic brain injury and it can give you false positives. They’re not reliable.”
Loredo said he was fresh out of that Cincinnati trauma center when he came to Colorado.
“When I was at the traumatic brain injury center in Cincinnati, we had everything from speech therapy to enunciation. I had lost a lot of that. Still today when I read stuff, it looks cluttered sometimes,” Loredo said.
When he was pulled over, Loredo refused to perform roadside tests and the blood test. That is his right, prosecutors told the jury.
Loredo pleaded not guilty and waited two and a half years for his day in court — literally one day.
During the trial, police did not produce the body cam video, Fahrenholtz said.
In his closing argument, Fahrenholtz repeatedly asked the jury, “Why wouldn’t they produce the video? What are they trying to hide? You can believe that if they had the evidence, they would have played it for you.”
12 minutes to decide
When the jury began deliberating, no one could know how long they’d be out. It turned out, 12 minutes was all it took to reach a verdict.
“Hearing that (not guilty verdict) …” Loredo’s voice trailed off and he turned to Fahrenholtz. “I haven’t had that many good things in my life lately. It has been tough on my family. It’s awesome, what you did for me today. Thank you.”
He raised his right hand to the medals on his vest, smiled and strode into his rebuilt life.