As we go through our daily lives, there are those that struggle with hidden demons. These demons are results from traumatic events that occurred at some point in our life. Some people learn to deal with them in a positive manner. Others seek help from doctors or other sources like alcohol and drugs. We keep these demons a secret from the outside world, friends and family. One thing that we must understand, is that we are not alone and there are people who want to help. While we don’t fully understand what you went through, we can listen. It hurts to see so many of our family and friends take their lives because they feel that is the only way to rid their demons.
During my 9 years of military service, I never saw actual combat. However, I did have my own traumatic encounters that still plague me to this day. I have learned to cope with these problems. In 2004, I was deployed to the Horn of Africa. During my year-long deployment, I spent 3 months in Ethiopia. One afternoon, a group of us decided to spend the day shopping at a local outdoor market. We had our hired drivers/interpreters take us there. Now since Ethiopia sits close to the equator, it gets extremely warm there. So to encourage residents to shop at the outdoor market, the vendors wove burlap sacks together over their stands to provide shade. The stands were separated from each other to allow air to flow freely. This caused “alleys” to form, separate from the main walking paths. While we were walking and browsing the numerous vendors, we noticed a group of locals shadowing us. Where ever we went, our “shadows” followed. While this may not seem to traumatic to some, keep in mind, Africa has its share of terrorists and we were close to a known Al Qaida training camp. Once we realized what was happening, we quickly left (we ran). From that day forward, I cannot be in large groups.
In 2008, I was scheduled to be deployed to Iraq with the 38th MP Co, at the time, out of Indianapolis. During our training, I was having severe back pains. These pains prevented me from being deployed. During that deployment, the unit lost 2 great men and left another man severely injured. To me, I felt like if I had gone, maybe things would be different, perhaps those 2 men would still be here and the other would be perfectly fine. In 2009, I was able to return back to normal duty and thus deployed with the 384th MP Co out of Bloomington, Indiana. While in Iraq, we didn’t see anything. For the first 2 or 3 months, I was a driver for my squad. Eventually, I was placed on entry control duties. This was basically guarding the main entrance to the base we lived on. Towards the end of the deployment, things started to heat up a bit. At least three squads were attacked in some way or another. My squad took one round while sitting at an Iraqi Army base. Another squad was driving through Mosul and had a grenade thrown at them. A third squad took small arms fire from a local house in one of our villages we patrolled. However, no one was injured or killed. The only people who actually got injured were my squad leader when he lost his footing climbing out of his truck and hit his head and my gunner, who was knocked unconscious when we hit a pot hole returning home from a mission. Her weapon became dislodged and struck her forehead. Overall, nothing too concerning. But, I blame myself for my gunners injury. Although there was nothing that could have been done about the pothole, I still feel responsible. The pothole was about 3 feet deep and spanned both lanes. To this day, I avoid potholes out of fear of hurting my family.
When I returned home, I began having anger issues. My wife and I fought (verbally) a lot. Something we had never done before. Our arguments got to the point where my wife threatened to leave if I didn’t change. Instead of brushing her off like I wanted to, I sought the help of the VA. I spoke with a mental health professional who gave me some unique tools to help me. To this day, I am grateful for her help. My wife and I have never been closer and I have opened up my thoughts and feeling more.
This is a true story. I just wanted to share this with all of you because I found an article this morning talking about four individuals who suffered silently and ended their lives. These individuals lived in Evansville, Indiana and were members of the Indiana Army National Guards’ 163rd Battalion. If you know of anyone who may be suffering or you are one, PLEASE seek some sort of help. It used to be considered a sign of weakness in the Army to seek help from a doctor but it’s actually a sign a strength. By seeking help, you are showing that you still have the strength to carry on the mission. DO not be another statistic. If you don’t feel comfortable speaking to a doctor, seek out a fellow veteran. We are here to listen and offer encouragement.
Indiana State Chairman