Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Still fighting the Iraqi war back home

Still fighting the Iraqi war
Derek Giffin battles the 'demons' of post-traumatic stress
Tuesday, June 7th, 2011 10:00 PM

"You come back home, and you really wouldn't know that we're at war," Vincent Emanuele
Derek Griffin, an Iraq War vet, has struggled with PTSD.
J. GEIL/Staff Photographer

It's an image that haunts Oak Parker Derek Giffin some seven years after it happened. In his nightmares many nights, he sees a military specialist getting hit with a mortar about 30 feet away from him in Iraq, killing the man instantly.

"All that was left was just a pool of blood where he died," Giffin said. "Unfortunately, it's a moment I revisit daily."

After spending a year in Iraq in 2004, Giffin, now 30, was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. He says he came back to America a "different person," obsessed by his experience in Iraq and constantly fighting "demons." It resulted in the dissolution of his marriage.

But Giffin is trying to turn that negative upside down as he's joined the group Iraqi Veterans Against the War. There he has taken part in "Operation Recovery," an effort to stop the military from deploying troops who are suffering from traumatic brain injuries. He and others gathered by the Vietnam War Memorial near the Chicago River to bring attention to the effort on Memorial Day.

Giffin also works at the Chicago office of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, helping former soldiers file for disability and get their full benefits after serving. The job, in a way, is calming. He meets people who share his experiences, though that can also "tear open scabs," reviving memories he'd rather forget.

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Still fighting the Iraqi war

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