Showing posts with label survivor guilt. Show all posts
Showing posts with label survivor guilt. Show all posts

Friday, December 15, 2023

Hero with PTSD wonders if he did enough

Army Veteran Who Disarmed the Club Q Mass Shooter Opens Up About PTSD: 'Did I Do Enough?'

By Sean Neumann
Published on December 14, 2023
“There's a guilt,” Fierro explained to Hall, as the two discussed #PTSD and its impact on their lives. (Hall was wounded during the war in Ukraine while working for Fox News.)
Rich Fierro, the Army veteran who helped disarm a mass shooter who opened fire at a gay nightclub in Colorado last year, is speaking out about the post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms he’s been managing in the year since the shooting that killed five people and injured 17 others.

In a new interview with Fox News war reporter Benjamin Hall on his Searching for Heroes podcast, Fierro, 46, recounts the harrowing night of Nov. 19, 2022, when a gunman entered Club Q in Colorado Springs, Colo., and opened fire and how it has impacted both his and his family’s life.

The victims included his daughter’s longtime boyfriend Raymond Green Vance, who died in the attack, as well as bartenders Derrick Rump and Daniel Aston, as well as Kelly Loving and Ashley Paugh.

Fierro, who along with fellow patron Thomas James helped subdue the gunman and pinned him down for roughly six minutes until police arrived, has been regarded as a hero for his immediate response to the massacre. But Fierro has also spoken out over the past year, most recently on Hall’s podcast, about his lingering sense that despite his heroism, he didn't do enough.
read more here

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Firefighter was told after 9-11 stop watching videos of it

Nearly 2 decades after 9/11, a former firefighter sees the NYC memorial for the first time
Pennsylvania State Capital Bureau
Candy Woodall
September 7, 2021
He told a fire department counselor he was having trouble sleeping. When he did, he had nightmares about anger and fighting. He complained of irritability, of an inability to calm down or take pleasure in anything. He couldn't remember certain things he witnessed at Ground Zero.

Her advice, according to court records: Stop watching 9/11 videos. She did not refer him for further treatment; she also said that, after 9/11, the fire department counseling staff was overwhelmed with work and seeing hundreds of employees.

Michael Silvestri dipped his fingers into the flowing water and made the sign of the cross, from his forehead to his broken heart.

The waters here, in the South Pool of New York City's 9/11 Memorial, are like holy water, he said.

"It's sacred. It's their graves," Silvestri said.

His cross was also a silent prayer for the strength he needed to stand at this memorial for the first time.

Faith had helped Silvestri, now 59, get this far.

The former firefighter survived 9/11 two decades ago, but he's been fighting for his life ever since.

Silvestri moved to Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, more than a decade ago to get away from all the reminders on Staten Island. He was haunted by painful memories, undiagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder and the survivor's guilt that devoured him alive. It culminated in 10 seconds of rage 16 months after 9/11 that nearly cost him everything, followed by years of the slow path toward healing, the hard work of turning survival to rebirth.
read more here

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Veteran in crisis began to heal on Arizona Trail

The Arizona Trail chrysalis for life

Payson Roundup
Micheal Nelson
February 19, 2019
Mike Buckley makes his way from the Roosevelt Marina where he met a very friendly and helpful bar owner.

Mike Buckley stared at the gun on his desk.

“It was the night I started to crack,” he said in front of more than 200 members of the Arizona Trail Association at its annual meeting recently.

The 30-year Army veteran commanded a bomb squad in Afghanistan, but after months of sending his boys home in pieces, he’d reached his breaking point.

Sitting with the gun and his despair, he had no way to know the Arizona Trail would save him.

Little did he know a bartender on a golf cart, an Australian woman with body odor and a Pine winemaker with a bathrobe encountered along the trail would restore his faith in humanity — and heal the wound in his soul.

He ultimately found himself again in a charred burn scar, near the end of the 800-mile-long trail.

“At Telephone Hill, passage 41 runs through a burn scar,” said Buckley. “It incinerated ponderosa pines. Even to go out through the devastation is profound because you see life. I became overwhelmed. It was like a chrysalis of new life and I realized it was who I was.”
read more here

Monday, September 4, 2017

After Suicide Family and Friends Face Their Own Demons

Suicide Survivors: Death of a soldier forces parents to face their demons

Independent Record
Matt Neuman
September 4, 2017

For some people, moving on means finding a balance between forgetting and remembering.
 Ten years after the loss of her son, Lisa Kuntz of Helena still feels the pain, it’s just a little less jagged.

“I’ll see someone walking down the street that looks like him, and I’ll still break down,” she said. “But life is good for me now. Of course, it’s no bed of roses. But death is part of life, just like paying bills or being in debt.”
(Note: Read about the parents struggle and then read about his buddy's battle)
Now, 10 years later, Josh still struggles with the anxiety of losing his friend and his comrade.
“If he could see that over 10 years on, so many of us are still hurting, maybe he wouldn’t have done it,” he said. “But, hell, I’ve had suicidal ideations because of it, so maybe not. I still haven’t dealt with his death. I just keep shoving it down deeper.”
Survivors are three times more susceptible to suicide and self-harm, according to Karl Rosston, suicide prevention coordinator with Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services. He says the No. 1 thing survivors can do is talk about it, not internalize their feelings.
Josh went to the V.A. for help, and ended up on anti-anxiety medication. He had hoped for a quick fix, an easy out from the pain. But it wasn’t enough. Eventually he met a therapist he liked at the V.A., who he said helped to make him more self-aware of his P.T.S.D.
“She told me it wasn’t my fault, that I didn’t do anything wrong, but I guess I’ve never accepted that part of it. It’s unshakeable. In the Guard we spent so much time learning to protect and take care of each other, but we screwed up. I still live with that every day.”

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Vietnam Veteran, Major Jackie Hall Encourages Others To Get Help For PTSD

Heroes Among Us: Major Jackie Hall
ABC News 4
"I had visions of all these guys that I had brought back and feeling guilty about why could I have not taken better care of them all all this other stuff. That was the first time it had reared its ugly head," she said. "It wasn't until about five years ago that they finally gave me a PTSD diagnosis."
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) — Approximately 11,000 military women were stationed in Vietnam during the conflict. Nearly all of them were volunteers, and 90 percent served as military nurses.

Among them was Major Jackie Hall.

"I did the very best I could," Hall said as she walked through the Vietnam exhibit at Patriots Point. " You're never really totally relaxed."

Visit the exhibit brought back vivid memories for Hall, some of them horrific.

Hall served as an Air Force flight nurse during the Vietnam War. It was a job she wanted and a service she requested.

"You listen to them pour out their guilt," she said. "Their survivor guilt, you know? 'Why me? Why did I survive?'"
read more here

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

PTSD: Residual War of Finding Something Worth Living For

PTSD: Residual War
Combat PTSD Wounded Times
Kathie Costos
October 4, 2016

I haven't been doing much posting lately because I was working on my new book. A real switch for me since this is a work of fiction but within the pages is a lot of truth that few want to talk about. Hey, why should they bother when some many of gone bonkers over what is easy? How the hell they think raising awareness is going to help anyone is beyond even my understanding of human nature. To borrow a line from Dr. Phil someone should ask them "how's that working for you so far" because it has only gotten worse for the veterans.

So, it begins.

A young woman, Mary Walker, grieves for the brother she lost to suicide in Afghanistan while she blames him for being weak and selfish. Her other brother is confined to a wheelchair after being blown up by an IED. After yet another day playing caregiver to him at the Lake Nona VA hospital, she finds a script written by someone with the name Mary Edwards Walker and the words Medal of Honor.

She has a couple of hours sitting by the memorials to the fallen and reads every word.

The script starts at Fort Christmas where there is one of the strangest military funerals she ever heard of.

Then she begins to read about Colonel Amanda Leverage serving as a Chaplain in Afghanistan, cold, distracted and detached, Mary has already made up her mind she should not be in any position to tend to the spiritual needs of anyone.

Leverage is demoted and sent to Fort Christmas by someone protecting her so that she can at least fill out her days until she can retire with some kind of dignity. She is in charge of a bunch of misfits just like her, only they are all males. 

After reading the script, Mary finds a better understanding that having PTSD is far from being weak, but more the strength of their love that makes them grieve so much.

RESIDUAL WAR Something Worth Living For, is about finding something worth staying alive for since they are all too ready to risk their lives for the sake of others in combat, but seem to find something worth staying alive for when everyone is out of danger, but them.

It is the one thing they all have in common. When it comes to laying down their own lives for someone else, they were worth it. When it comes to seeing that same worth within themselves, that, that they find impossible to find. Yet, when they do, when they understand that it is the strength of their love that enabled them to do it, they use the same love to heal and then help others to find something worth living for within themselves.

There is a female hero in Leverage, plus one in a Black Hawk Pilot who wanted to die when she became an amputee and was told she couldn't fly anymore. She managed to not only live, but fly the General who gave her back something to live for as well.

The women and men in this book are not perfect but none of them are weak. All of them are dealing with PTSD, survivor guilt and in Amanda's case, savior's remorse on top of it. 

After over three decades of spending this much time with veterans, the last thing any of the are is weak. Ya, I know, perfect timing considering what hit the news about one more ignorant person using "not strong" and "can't take it" to explain why so many take their own lives.

This is nothing more than passing judgement on what we may think instead of what we actually learn about people.  It is about finding redemption among your peers and learning what it is to be a simple human within the complexity of military life. There are many part within these pages that are based on true stories stung together.

Homeless veterans abandoned and used as lab rats by ruthless, greedy fools who saw them as a way to get rich while pretending to care. The veterans actually believed no one would ever care about them, until Leverage arrived and taught them that they also have something worth living for after being betrayed by the Army in 2013 when 11,000 of them were kicked out of the only like they ever wanted.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Yarnell Hotshot Firefighter Remembers 19 Brothers Lost That Day

The Yarnell Hill Fire killed 19 firefighters — The lone survivor shares his story KPCC Staff
May 06, 2016
He said that he'll be battling survivor's guilt for the rest of his life and continues to struggle with PTSD.

"The things that I saw and the things that I've been through have just been branded into my mind,"
McDonough said.
A photo from Brendan McDonough's book, "My Lost Brothers." MCCARTIN/DANIELS PR
On June 30, 2013, the Granite Mountain Hotshots responded to a wildfire in Yarnell, Arizona. The specially-trained wildland firefighters were met by a 3,000-degree firestorm that eventually took the lives of 19 firefighters from Prescott, Arizona within minutes, leaving a sole survivor: Brendan McDonough.

Four of those firefighters had Southern California roots. McDonough reflects on his life and the fire which burned 8,000 acres in his new book, "My Lost Brothers: The Untold Story by the Yarnell Hill Fire's Lone Survivor," and he spoke with KPCC.

McDonough said that he wanted to be a firefighter since he was 13 or 14. He was advised to become a "hotshot" — the firefighters who are sent to fight wildfires in remote spots — because it meant the opportunity to travel and see the country.

McDonough said that he was going down a bad path and that joining the Granite Mountain Hotshots when he was 19 saved his life.

"The journey I was headed down before I got hired was not a good one. I was a drug addict. Six months before I got hired, I was just released out of jail," McDonough said. He'd been using heroin.

McDonough credits the Granite Mountain hotshots with turning him from who he was into who he is today.

"The guys that I worked with were just humble, caring, passionate, just amazing men that weren't only training me to be a firefighter, but to be a good dad," McDonough said. He has a young daughter.
read more here

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Australia "Overwatch" Tracking Social Media to Save Veterans

'Overwatch' group prevents veteran suicides by monitoring social media, sending in the troops
ABC Australia
By Louise Merrillees
Posted Fri April 29, 2016

"I've had my bad moments when I've been pretty low, and they've sent vets to come and find me. From what I can see, they've prevented an awful lot of suicides from happening."

PHOTO: Ex-serviceman Trevor Dineen receives support from veterans at his local RSL. (ABC News: Louise Merrillees)
Trevor Dineen, a 31-year-old ex-serviceman, is talking about Overwatch Australia, a national organisation that intervenes when defence force veterans show mental health warning signs.

Overwatch, a military term that means one unit providing cover or support to another unit, has more than 4,500 volunteers Australia-wide, who have served with the Australia Defence Force.

The organisation describes itself as a "peer-to-peer, boots-on-the-ground, rapid-response organisation formed to assist former ADF members who are at risk or in crisis".

Robert Harris is the national president of Overwatch, while Marc Kirwin is the national coordinator. Both of them served in the Army.

Mr Harris said Overwatch was all about a quick response when warning signs became obvious.

"Once we have someone's address, we can put boots on the ground in 30 minutes," he said.

Overwatch focusing on Rwandan and Somali vets

Mr Kwinan said Overwatch was focusing on veterans from the Rwandan and Somali peacekeeping and humanitarian missions.

"Those guys are wracked with guilt. The rules of engagement were totally different - they couldn't engage unless they were in direct harm's way or fired upon.

"They saw women and children slaughtered in front of them. And the militia are standing there looking at them smiling and knowing they couldn't do anything about it.
read more here

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Combat Medic Getting More Help After Road Rage

PTSD cited in Wellesley ‘road rage’ arrest
Boston Globe
Eric Moskowitz
Globe Staff
February 19, 2016
“It’s about the guy next to me,” Beagan’s father remembered him saying. “I feel like I should do my share to protect those guys.”
DEDHAM — When Wellesley police patted down Ian Beagan, they felt Army dog tags under his dress shirt and sweater. When they checked him for identifying marks at booking, they found the numbers 8-3-1-1 tattooed across his right knuckles.

The tags and the inked digits — the date Beagan’s friends were blown up, according to his father — hinted at the burden he has carried in the four years since he returned from Afghanistan.

On Thursday, the 25-year-old community college student was arrested for allegedly pointing a loaded gun at another motorist on Route 9, in an incident police said was “road rage.” In court Friday, Beagan’s lawyer called the episode a result of post-traumatic stress disorder, and a judge postponed Beagan’s arraignment so he could seek evaluation and treatment.

Beagan told police he had been a combat medic and hinted at an experience his father detailed to the Globe in an interview. On Aug. 3, 2011, the truck Beagan usually rode in was carrying five soldiers when it struck a hidden improvised explosive device on a bridge in the Nerkh District, his father said. Two died instantly; two others were badly wounded. Beagan was not on board, but he responded quickly to the scene, treating the wounded.

“Some soldiers have survivor’s guilt,” said his father, Michael Beagan. On top of that, “medics feel it’s their duty to keep their unit safe — that even if they weren’t there, somehow it’s their fault, and Ian has tremendous guilt that his buddies died.”
read more here

Afghanistan Vet Ordered To Get Counseling After Wellesley Road Rage Incident
From CBS News

Thursday, October 8, 2015

UK Veteran Battles PTSD After Sangin

‘Guilt – even innocent guilt – is an evil thing’: how soldiers struggle to cope when they come home
The Guardian
Matthew Green
October 7, 2015

Many ex-servicemen suffering from combat stress are damaged not by a traumatic event, but by the shock of returning from war. When they fall prey to insomnia, guilt, anxiety and isolation, the military, it seems, does not have all the answers
AJ did not want to leave but he knew he had no choice: the Chinooks only landed every two weeks and would be on the ground for no more than 10 seconds. As the helicopter raced across the hard-packed desert, he could not know that his hardest battle lay ahead.
The faces of the two young Afghan policemen would never leave him. They had both been shot while defending their position and bled to death in the back of a trailer as AJ and a medic tried to staunch their wounds. They could not have been more than 17 years old. AJ, as the former Royal Marine asked me to call him, was on his second deployment to Afghanistan. The first tour, in 2001, had been quiet. Five years later, his unit, 45 Commando, was engaged in fierce fighting with the Taliban outside the town of Gereshk. As a sniper, AJ acted as lookout for the other marines, carefully spotting enemy positions and either calling in mortar fire or counting down from three, according to his training, and pulling the trigger.

After the battle at Gereshk, AJ’s unit was deployed to Sangin, a small town on the Helmand river. It was a Taliban stronghold, and soldiers from the Parachute Regiment had narrowly managed to hold the town centre after intense fighting a few months before. AJ’s unit was based 4km away in an outpost known as FOB (Forward Operating Base) Robinson, where an outer ring of earth-filled wire cages formed the first line of defence. The marines bedded down in buildings in an inner circle nicknamed the Dust Bowl. A tower made of mud bricks stood in the centre and AJ took turns with the other snipers to man a makeshift bunker on the top, cradling their rifles and scanning the dun-coloured landscape for any sign of Taliban fighters.

Nowhere in Sangin was safe, but the tower was particularly exposed. FOB Robinson had been set up on a slope, giving the Taliban concealed in the town a clear aim into its interior. They exploited the site’s weakness to the full, hammering the base with 120mm mortars that made the ground shake. Sometimes as many as 30 rounds would slam into the ground in a single attack.

While other marines took cover, AJ and his sniper team would remain on the tower – searching the surrounding patchwork of terrain for any sign of the enemy. Each time he heard the crump of a mortar being fired, AJ flinched, suspended for 30 seconds, waiting. It was only when he heard an ear-splitting blast as the shell struck home that he knew he was still alive.
On his last day as a marine, AJ’s wife went to work. He got up from the kitchen table and found himself walking towards the garage door intent on ending it all. A silent voice was calling: “Everything will be easy if you come with me.”
read more here

Monday, September 14, 2015

Only Survivor of Helicopter Crash in Afghanistan Tries to Heal in Kansas

The loneliest war: The sole survivor of a crash in Afghanistan battles to regain his life
Fulton Post News
September 14, 2105
Grenades and small bombs exploded in the living room.Automatic weapons fire echoed off the walls

Pfc. Jayson Morton was the sole survivor of the crash of Arrowsmith 35, an Army helicopter attacked in Afghanistan. His survival was called a blessing, and he wanted to believe it.

At home in Kansas with his wife and children, he told everyone he was doing fine. He believed he could tame his grief and rage. He never imagined he had more to lose.

By late winter, the war had come home to Pickett Place.

Grenades and small bombs exploded in the living room.

Automatic weapons fire echoed off the walls.

Soldiers shouted to one another. One fell wounded.

Whitley Morton had tried to make their house a retreat, but her husband, Jayson, wouldn't let go of the Xbox.

Outside, the sun was warm and inviting, and Whitley knew the good weather wouldn't last. She had talked about going out, perhaps taking the boys to the park.

It wasn't going to happen.
read more here

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Iraq Veteran Carries Guilt of Surviving

LA Times
February 26, 2015
For Reyes, however, the thought of returning to patrol made his heart race. He told Army doctors that he couldn't stop thinking about suicide. They sent him back to Ft. Carson, in Colorado. If somebody had to die, he felt it should have been him.

A photo provided by Arvin Reyes, shows Shin Woo Kim, left,
and Reyes in Iraq before the June 29, 2007 ambush.
(Photo provided by Arvin Reyes)
It had been years since Sloan Sulham had heard from any of his men in Iraq.

But the soft voice and Philippine accent on the phone were immediately recognizable: Spc. Reyes.

"Arvin," Reyes reminded his former platoon sergeant.

Sulham wasn't likely to forget Arvin Reyes. They had been together on a day that changed both their lives.

In the early afternoon of June 28, 2007, they were riding in the same Humvee when insurgents in southern Baghdad ambushed their convoy. Five soldiers under Sulham's command were killed.

Now, nearly seven years later, Reyes had tracked Sulham down in Florida to make a confession: One of the soldiers, his friend Spc. Shin Woo Kim, hadn't died at the hands of the enemy.

Reyes said he had to tell the truth. He had accidentally shot Kim.

Sulham was astounded. He knew more than anyone else alive that Reyes was innocent.
read more here

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Marine talks of survivor guilt in a powerful animated film

Marine describes losing comrades in Iraq in moving animated film
Marine Times
By Hope Hodge Seck
Staff writer
December 10, 2014

Marine veteran Travis Williams doesn't try to hide the way his voice cracks when he describes the day he lost 11 teammates to a single roadside bomb in Iraq.

Williams, a former lance corporal with the Reserve unit 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines, out of Columbus, Ohio, told his story this fall for StoryCorps, an organization that records and archives interviews with participants across the country. StoryCorps recently turned Williams' interview into a short animated feature, one of three made in honor of Veterans Day this year.

In the three-minute, 45-second account titled "1st Squad, 3rd Platoon," Williams describes the events of Aug. 3, 2005, and their aftermath. The 12-man team set out on a rescue mission to find a missing Marine in Barwanah. After loading together into their tracked armored vehicle, Williams was told he needed to ride in the next vehicle in the convoy.

"I said, 'Catch you guys on the flipside," Williams said in the StoryCorps account. "And that was the last thing I ever said to them."
read more here

Nov 11, 2014
In August 2005, Marine Lance Cpl. Travis Williams and his squad were sent on a rescue mission in Barwanah, Iraq. En route, their vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb. Of Travis' entire 12-person team, he alone survived. Here, Travis reflects on the hours and days after the explosion, as well as his life now, and pays tribute to the men he left behind.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Family Searching for Missing Iraq Veteran With PTSD

Family hopes missing Iraq War vet will be found safe
By Ken Wayne, Reporter, Anchor

SUNNYVALE, Calif. (KTVU) -- A Sunnyvale family and a national veterans group are trying to find an Iraq War veteran who hasn't been seen since the last week of November.

28-year-old Joseph Weber left his home on November 24th. His family reported him missing two days later.

The family told KTVU he had been under stress recently and they say he's never been the same since he returned from two tours of duty in Iraq. His sister said he had lived with the family while trying to cope with life after serving as a military police officer in Baghdad.

"He never was really able to forgive himself I think. He suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and it affected almost every aspect of his life after that," Linnea Weber told KTVU.

The Highway Patrol found his car in the Golden Gate Bridge employee parking lot on November 27th.

Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety Captain Jeff Hunter told KTVU that raised concerns about what Weber might have been doing at the bridge.

"At that point we have CHP check surveillance cameras. There are images of him on the bridge with a crowd of people," Hunger said.

While there are no signs he jumped, but no signs he walked off the bridge either.
read more here

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Sebastian Junger "Last Patrol" and Survivors Guilt

Sebastian Junger's 'Last Patrol' Closes His Chapter on War, Looks at Life Outside Combat
ABC News
Nov 5, 2014
Sebastian Junger's "The Last Patrol" documents his walk from Washington, D.C. to New York City along Amtrak railroad lines. Junger, pictured right, was joined by veteran Brendan O'Byrne, left, and photojournalist Guillermo Cervera, center. HBO
“Soldiers come back from a very unified experience where no one cares if you're gay or straight, or Republican or Democrat, or Harvard educated or your dad's in prison. No one cares, right?” Junger said. “And then you come back to America where we're completely politically divided and economically and racially divided society, and I think it's appalling to soldiers who encounter that back home when it didn't exist in the front lines.”

For the better part of 20 years, journalist and author Sebastian Junger covered the adrenaline highs and the soul-crushing lows of combat in war zones from Bosnia to Afghanistan.

Junger embedded for nearly a year with the 173rd Airborne, fighting the Taliban in the Afghan valley of Korengal. He and the late war photographer Tim Hetherington risked their lives to bring “Nightline” incredible battle footage in 2007 for a joint project with Vanity Fair. Their report and footage went on to become the Oscar-nominated documentary “Restrepo,” named after a platoon medic killed in battle, as well as a follow-up documentary, "Korengal."

Hetherington died in yet another, different war -- he was killed in 2011 by shrapnel while covering the conflict in Libya. He was 40 years old.

Hetherington’s death was a turning point for Junger.

“Because Tim died I was never going to cover war again,” he told “Nightline.” “I was done. I got out.”

While mourning the loss of his dear friend, Junger discovered a chilling piece of old footage Hetherington filmed while the two were on a train from Washington, D.C., to New York. That’s where his newest HBO documentary film, “The Last Patrol,” begins.

“When we found that clip on his hard drive it was absolutely heartbreaking and chilling,” Junger said.

“Tim was killed in Libya in combat and on a trip that I was supposed to be on, and I couldn't go at the last minute, and it left me with a lot of complicated feelings.”

In the footage, the two talked about taking a trip following America’s railroads. Watching the tape, Junger said, “I felt incredibly guilty, that I should've been there with him, maybe I could have saved him, maybe it should have been me instead of him. I felt like I had abandoned him and failed him.”
read more here

Navy SEAL Howard Wasdin, "Rock Star to Rock Bottom" in PTSD Battle

Former Navy SEAL Team 6 Sniper Reveals How He Rediscovered His Faith After Hitting Rock Bottom
The Blaze
Billy Hallowell
Nov. 4, 2014
Upon his return, he faced both PTSD and survivors’ guilt, wondering, “Why were these guys taken and why was I allowed to live?”
The Last Rescue by Howard Wasdin

Howard Wasdin, a former top sniper with Navy SEAL Team 6, is hoping that his story of overcoming intense personal struggles will inspire others who are faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges.

Wasdin recently told TheBlaze about the issues he faced after sustaining injuries during the 1993 Battle of Mogadishu (also known as Black Hawk Down) in Somalia.

The incident took a physical toll on Wasdin, forcing him to leave the military and assimilate back into civilian life.

The former military fighter, who is now an author and a chiropractor, said that he initially hit rock bottom after leaving the service, forcing himself to crawl his way out of a world filled with pain and despair — an experience he recaps in his newly released book “The Last Rescue.”

“It’s a powerful redemption story that will hit home to anyone who has found him or herself in a dark place,” Wasdin said of the book.

The decorated former Navy SEAL said that after being wounded and “on the verge of death,” leaving the military was intensely difficult. Struggling to adjust, he ended up divorcing, turning to alcohol and finding himself profoundly confused about his destiny.

“I got a divorce right after getting out of the SEAL Team — a lot of bad things snowballing for me there,” he said, noting that he also became a single dad tasked with caring for his son. “After that, I jumped into the bottle and became best friends with Jack for a while, last name Daniels.”

Considering that the military was the only thing Wasdin truly knew and the only real job he had ever had, he said he was left distraught and disconnected.
Over time, though, Wasdin said that he was able to overcome these struggles through counseling and a return to his Christian roots — ideals he had previously abandoned in his adult life, placing his sole focus on his career.
read more here

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Jeremy Sears Last Moments With Another Veteran

Jeremy Sears Last Words, "Nowhere Important but thanks for asking." The question came from another Iraq veteran standing near him at the shooting range. Chris Naganuma knew pain when he saw it since he saw it in himself.

When you read this story about the battles veterans have to fight back home, it is easy to be angry. Easy to wonder what is wrong with the government when all of this is happening to them. If you just started paying attention, then your anger is justified. If you've paid attention all along then you would wonder when your head stops exploding whenever you read stories like this. All of it has been going on for decades.

Long before most serving today were even born, it was all happening. The pills instead of therapy. The backlog of claims. The overburned VA workers wondering how they can fit in a veteran in need of care before it is too late. And Congress, well, I don't have anything nice to say about them in the 113th anymore than I had anything nice to say about the 112th, 111th, 110th or any of them going back to 1946 when the first Veterans Affairs Committee was seated and it happened to WWI and WWII veterans long before I was born.

You wouldn't know because it hasn't been personal to you. Safe bet that you didn't know any of these older veterans. If you had, then you'd know none of this is new. That is the most deplorable fact of all. None of it is new and none of it should have ever happened.
The last moments of Jeremy Sears
In a twist of fate, another combat veteran is with him at the end
UT San Diego
By Jeanette Steele
OCT. 25, 2014
Chris Naganuma was at the Oceanside shooting range when 35-year-old former Camp Pendleton infantryman Jeremy Sears killed himself. Here, Naganuma attends his memorial at Miramar National Cemetery.
K.C. Alfred / UT San Diego

Chris Naganuma had the sense that something was wrong from the start.

He and his mother went to Oceanside’s Iron Sights indoor gun range for a simple practice session.

In the lane next to him, a guy in a backward baseball cap was shooting haphazardly. Even at only 10 feet away, he could barely hit the target’s inner circle.

Naganuma, a 28-year-old Army veteran, sized up his neighbor as a fellow vet. T-shirt, jeans, flip-flops. The man wore a black metal bracelet, a “hero bracelet” bearing the name of someone killed in action.

Naganuma wears two himself.

“First thing I asked him was, ‘Hey man, where did you deploy to, and how are you doing?’”

“He stopped for a second. Looked up at me,” Naganuma recounts.

“And the only thing he said was, ‘Nowhere important, man. But thanks for asking.’”

The weekend before Sears died, he first opened up to his wife about possibly having “survivor’s guilt” — sometimes seen as a symptom of PTSD.
read more here
Marine Veteran Laid To Rest After Gun Range Suicide

Oceanside shooting range where veteran put the gun to his head

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Oceanside shooting range where veteran put the gun to his head

When they ignored the veterans of Vietnam, no one cared.
It was easier to dismiss their pain than to explain why nothing was prepared.
When they walked the streets searching for a place to lay their head
it was easier to pretend to care when they were dead.
When they ignored the veterans of the Gulf War, no one cared.
It was easier to dismiss their pain than to explain why nothing was prepared.
When they walked the streets searching for a place to lay their head
it was easier to pretend to care when they were dead.
When we ignored the veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq, no one cared.
It was easier to dismiss their pain than to explain why nothing was prepared.
When they walked the streets searching for a place to lay their head
it was easier to pretend to care when they were dead.

We had decades to get this right but hey, it's a lot easier to pretend to care than to actually do something real. Make a stinking fuss over backlog of claims and some veterans dying waiting for appointments, then you get to walk away feeling oh so funking proud of "doing something" for the veterans you claim to care about.

Face it. When there are reports on suicides, everyone wants to read them but no one seems to be honest enough to say why they want to. Why does it piss me off? Because whenever someone has a chance to hear what can help, what can be done, people walk away. After all, then it would all be real and not just some story they read about a veteran in another part of the country.

When I had a chance to do something I did and so did a lot of other people but not enough. Most folks are too busy playing political games, taking sides as if one politician is any better than others when the truth is, we got what we deserved out of this jerks more interested in getting votes than earning them.

What good does it do to pay attention if you don't do anything with what you learn? What good does it do to support a charity when you don't have a clue what they do with the money and take no interest in making sure they actually do what they say they are doing?

There has never been a time when there has been more charities and more people claiming to be "addressing" the veterans needs. Congress has never spent so much money on "taking care of the veterans" and fixing the VA,,,,again. So why are we right back where we were when Vietnam veterans came home?

Nothing has changed! Nothing except there are more veterans committing suicide and more families grieving because no one cared enough to actually do something.
Did safety net fail suicidal Marine vet?
After multiple Iraq, Afghanistan tours, Jeremy Sears lost battle for benefits with the VA, then killed himself at Oceanside shooting range
UT San Diego
By Jeanette Steele
OCT. 14, 2014

Jeremy and Tami Sears— Facebook photo
Jeremy Sears is the kind of combat veteran that America desperately wants to help -- a Marine who served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Yet the safety net designed to support returning troops seems to have failed in his case, according to his wife and veterans advocates.

After waiting 16 months in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs claims logjam, Sears was denied all disability payments and, untreated for trauma injuries and facing financial difficulties, took his own life.

The 35-year-old former Camp Pendleton infantryman killed himself last week, almost exactly two years after being discharged.

On Monday, Oct. 6, Sears went to an Oceanside shooting range and put the gun to his head.

Just days before, he first admitted to his wife that he might have “survivor’s guilt” -- sometimes seen as a symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder.
read more here

“First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me— and there was no one left to speak out for me.”
― Martin Niemöller

In the 90's when we were going through all of this we were told that for every 10 veterans putting in claims, 8 dropped out from frustration. They simply gave up. It took my husband's claim 6 years before it was finally approved. It happened to most veterans. Lives fall apart and it is easier to give up than to keep fighting even when you know you're right. Reporters didn't care about what was happening to them. They said it was "old news" and didn't matter.

History repeated itself and we let it happen. When do we actually write a new ending for these veterans after they come home?

Sunday, September 28, 2014

You Don't Have to Fight PTSD Alone

Combat PTSD: Don't Fight Your Own Inner Struggle Alone
Wounded Times
Kathie Costos
September 28, 2014

Most veterans have no problem with the term Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. They know what PTSD means and why they ended up being changed by their military service. They know it is a price they paid for risking their lives for their military brothers. They made peace with all of it including the fact they can never be cured of it. What they could not reverse, they learned how to cope with it enough to take the power away from it.

They still have nightmares and flashbacks, but they happen less often growing weaker over time. They still have the same stressors setting them off but know how to recover faster. Their mind calendar still remembers anniversary dates but they see those days coming ahead of time. Able to prepare for the sadness of the event days in combat, they are no longer freaked out when they come.

They no longer isolate as if they have a reason to hide or are not worth being helped. They sought out other veterans, joined their "family" groups, found support and understanding after finally giving up on "fitting in" with people who will never be able to understand them. Life got better.

For others, well, they don't understand PTSD, so it is very hard to accept the words behind the letters PTSD. Put those letters to these words.

Painful Transition from Stressful Deployments.

While you may think changing the term is necessary to remove the stigma, you're wrong. You could call it anything you want but it is still what it is and there is nothing to be ashamed of having it. That is if you really understand what it is and where it came from. Came from? Yes, you didn't do it to yourself and it isn't something you were born with. It hit you. It hits roughly a third of combat veterans from one degree to another because it comes in different levels.

It also hits at different times. Most of the time you may not even be aware of when it started. Since combat comes with multiple traumatic events, it is often one on top of another. Sometimes you are able to shove it into the back of your mind, filling your days with other things leaving you no time to acknowledge the pain during the day and so exhausted at the end of the day, you pass out. Maybe you drink to cover up what your nerves are doing or to stop being agitated. All this just allows PTSD to fester and feed off your spirit robbing you of joyous emotions.

If you are so busy covering up what is painful, how can you find time to enjoy life?

Have you thought "Nobody cares" about you?

An Iraq veteran in Whitehouse Texas felt that way. He tried to commit suicide one night on a road near Lake Tyler. When Police Officer Sgt. Shawn Johnson found him covered in blood, the event was recorded by dashcam video.
On the video, the officers can be heard talking with the man and asking him why he wanted to end his life. When he tells them he feels nobody cares about him they respond, "We care. If we didn't care we wouldn't be here, right?"

He had used a broken beer bottle to cut himself and was losing a lot of blood.

"(We) went and spoke with him and as I was talking with him, he moved his arm and then I could actually see blood start, you know, coming out rather quickly," Johnson recalled.

Minutes went by as they, along with Tyler police officers, awaited EMS.

It isn't that nobody cares. Plenty of people do. You just haven't met them yet. Think about it this way. You know there are billionaires and millionaires in this country. Have you met any? Does that mean they don't exist? No, they are very real. They just haven't been where you were. Same thing with people caring about what happens to you. They care without even knowing your name.

Suicides tied to military service are horrible. All suicides are however when they come after a man or woman has managed to survive combat cannot survive being home, that screams a multitude of sins committed against them.

The sins did not belong to them but all of us.

Marine Clay Hunt committed suicide after doing everything right on his part. He went to the VA, became an advocate for other veterans. He didn't stop there. He became part of TEAM Rubicon going out on missions following natural disasters.
Although he battled post-traumatic stress disorder, he had 'turned his life around' and thrown himself into charity work and lobbying.

His mother, Susan Selke, told CNN: 'In my mind he is a casualty of war. But he died here instead of over there. He died as a result of his war experience. There is no doubt in my mind.' His death will not be counted as an official military suicide by the Pentagon, because he left the Marines in 2009.

Doctor needs to explain what comes after seeking help when so many have been failed. The military fails them then turns around claiming year after year what they are doing is working. Ok then, why are there so many still committing suicides just as the number of enlisted goes down as well? Why have the number of veterans committing suicide increasing?

They say peer support works best and that is very true but what they don't say is too often the "peer" has no clue what PTSD is or what can help, who can help or how to get any of it beyond a waiting line at the VA and a pocket full of pills.

There are things that do work but the first one is far too often the most ignored one.
Spirituality Spirituality means something different to everyone. For some, it's about participating in organized religion: going to church, synagogue, a mosque, etc. For others, it's more personal: Some people get in touch with their spiritual side through private prayer, yoga, meditation, quiet reflection, or even long walks.

Research shows that even skeptics can't stifle the sense that there is something greater than the concrete world we see. As the brain processes sensory experiences, we naturally look for patterns, and then seek out meaning in those patterns. And the phenomenon known as "cognitive dissonance" shows that once we believe in something, we will try to explain away anything that conflicts with it.

Humans can't help but ask big questions—the instinct seems wired in our minds.

It isn't up to anyone to judge if you need to be forgiven or not. That is your own inner struggle just as much as if you need to forgive someone else. Often there is nothing you did wrong but you may believe you did.
Survivor guilt is very powerful.
High on that list of emotions is guilt. Soldiers often carry this burden home-- survivor guilt being perhaps the kind most familiar to us. In war, standing here rather than there can save your life but cost a buddy his. It's flukish luck, but you feel responsible. The guilt begins an endless loop of counterfactuals-thoughts that you could have or should have done otherwise, though in fact you did nothing wrong. The feelings are, of course, not restricted to the battlefield. But given the magnitude of loss in war, they hang heavy there and are pervasive. And they raise the question of just how irrational those feelings are, and if they aren't, of what is the basis of their reasonableness.

Start with that. Asking why you are still here is the beginning but it shouldn't be the end. If you do not ask yourself the basic questions, you will not make peace with the guilt you feel.

Be honest. Think about what happened. Where were you, what were you doing and what else was happening?

Often a veteran will say "I should have been watching him" when the truth is, they were watching where the bullets were coming from and trying to stop them from coming. Reality sucks but the reality is humans cannot look everywhere at the same time.

Whatever happened, think about it all the way. Even if you come to the conclusion you could have done something differently, which happens a lot, that shouldn't be the answer you settle for. The big question is, would it have changed anything?

"I would have jumped in front of the bullet and saved him" comes out a lot. Unless you had ESP and super human reactions, that really wasn't a possibility.

Thinking you were responsible only shows how deeply you cared.

The very fact you are hurting now proves you cared then and now. Evil people don't give a damn about anyone but themselves. Folks joining the military need to care. You wouldn't have joined if you didn't care in the first place and cared a hell of alot more than your friends did when they decided to just do what they wanted to for their own sake.

That is the biggest reason why you feel as if you don't fit in with them anymore. You don't but if you think about it, you never really did or they would have joined too. You were different then and different now as a veteran. That is a big key in healing. You are not different from other veterans no matter what war they fought in.

You are not as alone as you think you are. You just haven't found them yet. Use the internet for veterans groups in your area. Try the established groups like the DAV, VFW, American Legion and all the others.

Here's the link for local chapters of the DAV Getting involved in your local DAV Chapter is one of the many ways you can reach out to fellow veterans in your community.
DAV Chapter members usually meet monthly to network and discuss issues of importance to veterans and the organization. Legislation, volunteer efforts and community projects are among the topics discussed, as well as upcoming events and activities. Chapters often hold formal ritual ceremonies in which new members are inducted into the organization.

Link to local Posts of the VFW
OUR MISSION:To foster camaraderie among United States veterans of overseas conflicts. To serve our veterans, the military, and our communities. To advocate on behalf of all veterans.

OUR VISION: Ensure that veterans are respected for their service, always receive their earned entitlements, and are recognized for the sacrifices they and their loved ones have made on behalf of this great country.


Always put the interests of our members first
Treat donors as partners in our cause
Promote patriotism
Honor military service
Ensure the care of veterans and their families
Serve our communities
Promote a positive image of the VFW
Respect the diversity of veteran opinions

Link to Post of the American Legion
The American Legion was chartered and incorporated by Congress in 1919 as a patriotic veterans organization devoted to mutual helpfulness. It is the nation’s largest wartime veterans service organization, committed to mentoring youth and sponsorship of wholesome programs in our communities, advocating patriotism and honor, promoting strong national security, and continued devotion to our fellow servicemembers and veterans.

If you Google "Veteran Support Groups" you'll find 10,700,000 results. They all care. They all know what you are going through because they did too.

The older veterans faced not fitting back in with people they knew after Vietnam. What made it worse for them was that they didn't even fit in with other veterans. They were totally isolated but that wasn't the end of their story. They ended up heading all the groups above. If you think they won't get what you are dealing with, think about what they came home to.

Here is the link to Vietnam Veterans of America for local chapters.
Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) is the only national Vietnam veterans organization congressionally chartered and exclusively dedicated to Vietnam-era veterans and their families.

By the late 1970s, it was clear the established veterans groups had failed to make a priority of the issues of concern to Vietnam veterans. As a result, a vacuum existed within the nation's legislative and public agenda. In January 1978, a small group of Vietnam veteran activists came to Washington, D.C., searching for allies to support the creation of an advocacy organization devoted exclusively to the needs of Vietnam veterans. VVA, initially known as the Council of Vietnam Veterans, began its work. At the end of its first year of operation in 1979, the total assets were $46,506.

"Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another."

You are not alone and you are worthy of living a better life than you are right now.
You are not alone!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

‘Ghost Closet’ Vietnam Veteran Shares Story of Little Girl Lost in Duc Pho

One lost little girl haunts Vietnam veteran still today
Monroe News
By Tom Treece
September 22, 2014

“I go to sleep and dream about ’Nam, and I see her face, and then … I see her hand slipping out of mine.”

As he shared his heartbreak with me, my heart went out to him. “After reading your ‘Ghost Closet’ book, I realized we had served in the same area, and knowing you have connections there, I’m hoping you can check to see if she might have survived.”

Late August, 1970, was the calendar’s breeding grounds for Southeast Asia’s monsoon season that would sweep in off the South China Sea and hang around for the next three months. The place he described, I remembered all too well.

LZ Bronco — the home firebase of my 11th Infantry unit — sat just outside the gates to the Village of Duc Pho in what was then South Vietnam. More importantly, it also stood just off the coast of that now-raging sea. “She’d probably be in her 50s … if she survived,” he continued. “ What a burden I could lose if I KNEW she had made it.”
read more here