People in situations that cause stress, anxiety, and nervousness often do not understand the psychological severity of those situations until they are removed from them. Many times smells, sounds, or any number of triggers may stir emotional angst connected to the past.
Thousands of my fellow veterans live with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a mental health issue that creates unexpected challenges in daily routines.
Recent studies show at least 20 percent of the over 2.3 million Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans suffer from PTSD; however, we know the percent is much higher because many veterans do not report problems nor seek treatment.
Being a combat veteran from Operation Iraqi Freedom, I know first-hand the debilitating effects PTSD causes and with Chris Kyle’s recent death, I am reminded of the critical need to carry on Chris’ legacy in helping veterans living with PTSD.
I believe Chris and I are “cut from the same cloth” as the old saying goes. After faithful service to our country Chris devoted his life to helping veterans overcome the psychological trauma of the combat zone. In leading ARVets with our professional team, I am dedicated to serving and supporting all of our veterans and changing the public’s opinion of PTSD, just as Chris was.
In my experience with PTSD, it began with a common reaction of “avoidance,” by keeping myself busy adjusting to a new home, finding a job, and getting settled into civilian life again, allowing me to avoid recollection of military life in Iraq. It was not until ARVets formed that I had to confront those traumatic memories while talking to so many potential supporters, explaining our purpose and personalizing it with my experience.
Military movies set in combat zones are too realistic for me. An air horn sends my mind back to preparation mode when we were being attacked in Taji, Iraq. Abrupt loud noises shock my nerves. I realized I needed help.Through Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) I learn to train my mind and thoughts. While there are good days and then some challenging days, PTSD does not control me.
It is unfortunate our society does not understand this disorder, nor how we can help returning service men and women who are hurting. Like me, veterans with PTSD are successful, they can care for themselves, and they are not crazy or violent.
When veterans return home from war, they are different but different does not mean bad. They are no longer the person they were before deployment. They are still your loved ones but something has changed. Families and friends need to recognize the change and get to know their veteran again. At times they need to be loved on and encouraged. Other times, they need their space. Life is different.
The veteran who killed Chris may not be a bad person; he may be a veteran who simply needs help. Chris literally gave his life to help veterans with PTSD. They served their country and sacrificed their mental health in doing so. Chris’ death is tragic but we are tasked with the responsibility to carry on and help veterans.
My prayers are with Chris’ family, friends, and all the veterans he was helping. May God’s peace sustain us all and lead the charge to serve and support our brothers and sisters in arms.
Founder and CEO