Though war has been raging since the dawn of humankind, the study of trauma experienced in battle is still leaving us with questions. What do we call the symptoms that come from trauma? Some will say Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) and others will say Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). One big thing often overlooked, especially since 2001 when we sent troops to Afghanistan and then in 2003 to Iraq, is the fact that PTS(D) is not just for veterans and not all veterans experience trauma while overseas.
PTS(D) is for all humans that experience traumatic events, such as car crash victims or sexual assault victims just to mention the tip of the iceberg. By placing the word “veteran” next to “PTSD” since 2001, the veteran and civilian communities ostracize each other. One group has scary stories that the other group doesn’t understand, yet both groups need each other because at the end of the day, we’re all humans that can be effected by trauma. Veterans volunteered to get their hands dirty while civilians enjoyed their freedoms. On the other hand, veterans need the support of the civilian community before, during and after each deployment. We need each other. So how can we work together to shed light on the subject matter? We simply speak to each other to understand what’s really going on within us. When problems are identified, we can work together to solve them a lot quicker than we have been.
This book is a collection of opinions alongside some research. There are combatants that have served in the U.S. Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force and the independent security contracting world in the pages ahead. Some know each other like family. Others have no clue who any of the other writers are. Some were on the same deployment and others were deployed to completely different places in completely different years. We even have the point of view from a wife of a veteran and how she handled their struggle. Each writer was asked, as a guideline, to write about their opinions of PTS(D) before seeing combat and their opinions on the subject matter after combat. Every single writer interpreted the task differently… even if they stood by another one of the writers in combat, experiencing the exact same events. Their individual opinions will show how there’s a lot more to the diagnosis of PTS(D) than we have previously thought.
AN EXCERPT FROM
TOO YOUNG TO DIE
The worst thing to hear from people is that you're different now.
No one wants to hear that. It's upsetting and makes you want to deny it even more, but deep inside, you can't fool yourself. We've all changed and will always be different. After being injured and joining the non-profit, Heroes Sports, I couldn’t play baseball the same or even be out in the Sun and on the field too long. It seemed there wasn’t a place on the ball field that I didn’t throw up on from my brain and internal injuries. Of course, my teammates would give me shit, but I’d never leave the ball field. I just kept a little bottle of Listerine in my back-left pocket and kept pushing on. It turned into a superstition of mine after doing so well at our first baseball game. “Baseball Players...”
Painting and writing about moments in life is when I started to expand my mind. It helps me tap into my subconscious mind and release everything that I have trouble wanting to think or talk about. I have also realized my nightmares are not as bad when I paint that day. Some of the benefits of painting that I’ve found are that it helps the mind, soul and the things we hold inside that a lot of us cannot talk about.
AN EXCERPT FROM
PATROLLING FOR CLEMENCY
Every night I have this recurring dream. It has been for months, maybe years. I see the guys. We are all there and in our original form, from years ago. We are fuller and healthier looking, but we’ve been in the ‘Stan (Afghanistan) for months now. Lack of food, lack of sleep, tattooed with grime and sun-blistered faces. We look exhausted, skinny and underfed. These were the conditions. Light chow when it was available, patrols nonstop, an unforgiving sun and bitterly cold nights.
In my dream, we have just gotten back from a patrol. We made contact with the enemy with sporadic gunfire. Nothing crazy or extravagant, at least not to us. Every day you fired at LEAST a couple rounds from your rifle. If you didn’t, then something was wrong or the enemy was planning something big. Silence was eerie, and could translate to bad things, like a pending complex ambush around the next curve in the road. We file back inside the wire, peel our gear off and migrate to the side of the tents to have a smoke. Time seems to move slower. As we smoke, we reflect on the events of the firefight. We call each other out, making jokes of how one or some looked scared, froze up, tripped and fell, or looked totally “badass.” We mimic the screams, the yells and the commands…