Something Was Wrong
At first, I thought I had escaped the statistic of combat soldiers afflicted by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. But I felt peculiar, that sunny June day in 2006, when our plane landed, and we were finally home.
I thought there would be a feeling of joy and relief, that after a long and arduous 22-month mobilization and deployment to Iraq, I would celebrate reunification and personal victory of a successful mission and the simple fact that I was home, in one piece, alive. Of course, I was happy to be with my wife and children but there was no real joy, no feeling of victory that day…there was something wrong.
A Wall Of Video Monitors
In the weeks to come, memories of my duties as US Army Senior Combat Medic for our Task force began to clutter my mind. I once described it as watching a wall of video monitors with each screen replaying images of my personal experiences with death, violence, injury, cruelty, destruction, and loneliness of living and working in real war.
It was especially vibrant when I slept, so I tried to stop sleeping. Any small reminder would bring me back to those times… A roofer’s nail gun, the smell of diesel exhaust, an old tire on the side of the road could induce a full-on flashback where I would be on high alert, hear the chirp of radio in my mind, and taste the stale sand dust or metallic flavor of blood on my tongue.
I began to seclude myself, not wanting to be around people, just left alone to deal with my anguish. I pushed away those that loved me. I increasingly felt angry. There was no happiness. The internal strife was relentless, and darkness was closing in.
I could relate and understand why so many veterans had chosen suicide as an option to escape from it all. I was no different…except, I witnessed firsthand the fallout that senseless death had on families.
The Connection To Help
Then I met William, a counselor at the local Vet Center. He was a combat medic in Viet Nam and we connected immediately. He helped me to learn ways to cope with my new enemy and encouraged me to express my thoughts about it.
He helped me realize that sharing this struggle was a way to release the traumatic stranglehold and begin to regain my life. William was correct. So I began to write, both poetry and prose.
I also began to speak in public settings. I felt valued by sharing my struggles through storytelling and it helped to renew my sense of purpose by enlightening others about war and it effects.
As I began to regain my self-worth, it helped me to open back up and it rejuvenated my relationships with my wife and children, family’ and friends. My faith, that was such an integral part of my life prior, came back into existence. Ironically, it introduced a whole new tribe of like-minded friends and colleagues. This is where I met Toby Christensen and learned about ‘Hear the Hope’.
I realize that my personal strength and resiliency is founded in the love and compassion from and for those closest to me. And although, my trauma will never leave my mind completely, I now can accept it for what it is, and weather its occasional storms…only to find peace on the other side.
Lead Vocals: Toby Christensen
Background Vocals: CJ Lambert
Instrumentation & Production: Toby Christensen and Chris “CJ” Lambert
Written by: Bill Edson and Toby Christensen