As a retired soldier, I know the effects of PTSD. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as it is known, is a life altering event that often defines the lives of not only the soldiers but their families and friends as well. This event is often precluded by tragic moments that scar us on a deep, emotional level. Sights, smells, even taste often triggers moments that make living difficult. When I was first diagnosed, everything seemed to trigger my PTSD. Burn victims in thrift stores, music in restaurants, even the smell of certain fragrants such as incense would trigger feelings of anger and frustration in me.
Whew. That is a load off my chest. I still have moments of extreme paranoia, it can’t be helped. PTSD is the off shoot of being too strong for too long. Soldiers are taught to suck it up when things go south. As we like to call it, when life becomes “the suck” we are taught to channel our frustration and anger and add fuel to the fire. Therefore, the divorce rate and suicide rate among our military is sky high. We are not taught the proper way to deal with our frustrations. It is easier to yell and scream than it is to calmly work through the issue with the help of others. It may be that I am just hardheaded, but I don’t remember much calmness in the Battle of Fallujah. Nor do I remember anyone giving me the tools I needed to reintegrate myself back to civilian life. My career ended in 2012. It was not because I was a bad soldier. I made Sergeant in three years and spent seven as a qualified leader with multiple combat tours under my belt. However, every time I left, I felt like I lost a piece of my soul with each trip. I grew more and more distant. My sleep was constantly interrupted with visions of past actions that I could not forget. I turned to alcohol and prescription pills to drown the pain. In the end, the Army called my mother and told her to come to Colorado, because her son was trying to kill himself.
There have been many dark days. There still are, however, with the love of my family and a wonderful woman who shall remain unnamed at this time, I have found my way home. It also helped me to start going back to church. Church isn’t for everyone. I understand that better than most, but the fact that I believe in something greater than myself resonates within me. It was the same reason that I joined the military to begin with. I joined after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. A day of infamy to be sure, but it was 18 November 2001 that left indelible marks on my life. That was the day I officially left home for the last time. Or perhaps it was March 5. 2004 when the 7th US Calvary was sent to Iraq. Either way, the scars, pain and torment that I have lived with all these years have driven me to the brink of madness. It has also caused me to re-evaluate my life.
To help your friends, or family members who have served, understand that if you have not strapped on those boots, chances are we won’t talk to you about it. As difficult as it is for those of us who suffer from PTSD, the last thing we want to do is visit it with people who do not know the amount of sacrifice that we put in to gain these scars. Loss of friends, and battle buddies mar our consciousness. Seeing helpless people slaughtered while our politicians claim it is a hopeless battle scar us. Knowing that we could win if our government would let us, push us deeper and deeper into the muck. Yet for all of that, we continue to march on. May all veterans everywhere know peace. God bless you all and may He keep you in the palms of His hands.