USAF, OEF Combat Veteran
I grew up around the world, mostly in Lakenheath England. In 2004, I decided to join the USAF as a Medic. I served in the USAF for a little over 5 years. I was deployed to Bagram Afghanistan in support of OEF for the majority of 2007. As a medic I had to do things I would have never imagined I was capable of. I also got to witness the absolute horrors of war. I found out very quickly that all the war movies I had ever seen could not have prepared me for the real thing. When I returned to my home base in California, I was plagued by nightmares of the things that I had done and seen, re-experiencing the horrors every single night, to the point where I was deathly afraid to go to sleep.
I did not want anyone in my command to know that I was suffering from these nightmares and lose my deployable status. So I took matters into my own hands. I found my way of being able to not have nightmares by climbing into a bottle. The bottle worked for a few years with me going down the rank structure instead of up and after a few years, the alcohol wasn’t working anymore to block out the nightmares so I turned to drugs. I was addicted to opiates for a while I was still active duty. I shouldn’t say addicted; I was trying to kill myself without actually killing myself. Somewhere along the way I decided to get help and told my NCOIC that I needed to go to rehab. During the course of rehab I was diagnosed with severe combat related PTSD. I sought help for PTSD and remained sober for about six months before I was court martialed for drug use, sent to jail for 120 days and discharged.
After jail and being discharged, I tried my hardest to fit into normal society but I could not let go of my combat medic identity. After all it’s what I lived for and wanted to die doing. I could not fit in with my classmates in college and hated myself. I felt as though I did not deserve to live unless I was back in theater saving lives. I spent years struggling with addictions and being hyper alert during the day, freaking out at loud noises and certain smells and sounds, hyper alert and always looking out for danger, then waging war all over again in my dreams. Waking up screaming my bed soaked with sweat. I struggled with multiple suicide attempts and 5150 physch holds. I ended up a homeless drug addict.
I sought out Camp Hope because I had gone to the Thursday night meetings in the past. I spent 30 some odd days in a civilian rehab center to dry out before receiving a bed at Camp Hope. I have been a resident for a little over a month, and my life is changing for the better. I actually have a relationship with God and I am surrounded by other combat veterans that know the experiences I talk about. I have hope for my future and I have finally gotten it out of my head that the best thing I could have done in life is die for one of my brothers. Now I am learning how to cope with PTSD and forging a new brotherhood of combat veterans who have survived the wars over there and are now learning to survive the war that rages in our minds. With the help of my brothers and sisters and God I know there is hope for me and any other vet that is willing to have an open mind, be transparent, and do the necessary work to cope with PTSD.
Will you join Alex and help these brave men and women? Together with your generous support, we can provide hope and a home for those who have sacrificed so much while wearing the uniform of our great nation. Help us help them. Donate today!