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I felt that this should be read so that it may help some families and friends of our veterans. It has really helped me ( i was never in the service) gain more pride and respect for all of those in uniform and the sacrifice that they make for our freedoms.

It is of the most respect and admiration for you all that, I humbly post this soldiers story, and hope that are Gov. and Nation learns the value of those who fight for us all day in and day out.


A Soldier Fights Off the Cold

By DAMON T. ARMENI May 7, 2014, 7:43 pm 48 Comments

WASHINGTON — On Aug. 4, 2004, while in my Stryker combat vehicle battling insurgents for control of a street in Mosul, Iraq, I was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade. The core of the rocket, a solid piece of metal only a few inches long, sliced open my stomach from right to left, filled my legs and face with shrapnel, tore my intestines, lacerated my liver, destroyed my spleen, punctured my diaphragm, flattened my lungs, shattered my ribs and ruptured discs in my back. As I struggled to remove my smoldering body armor, I watched my stomach tear open and my intestines begin to push their way out.

It took one year in the hospital and one year of physical therapy, but two years to the day after my injury, I was back in Iraq for a second tour. During my third and final tour there, I commanded troops in combat — one of the greatest honors for an officer. My fight to return to health isn’t over, but it’s manageable, because it is defined by a clear set of objectives with specific methods of treatment that produce visible results.

The wounds I carry in my memories are harder to heal.

Dark, ever-present and so very, very cold: This is how post-traumatic stress disorder feels. It never goes away. On bad days, it is so close you can’t breathe. On good days, it is off in the distance like a gathering storm whose cold wind only just touches your neck.

Though it’s hard for me to admit it, I’ve suffered from PTSD for several years. For a long time I locked the memories away in a room in my mind. I would sometimes touch the door, to make sure it was secure. It was always cold and whenever I opened it to toss in another memory, a biting wind would come roaring out. A wind that stank of diesel fuel, spent gunpowder, sand and death and carried with it my screams of pain, the voices of my soldiers struggling to save my life, and the beeps of a hospital.

I’d wrestle the door shut, lock it, have a strong drink (or five) and get on with my life. I had a wife to love, a family to raise, and soldiers to lead — I didn’t have time to deal with it. Then I got cocky. I thought I had it under control. In 2011, I went to graduate school. I had, for the first time, no pending deployment and no soldiers to train. I quit checking on the door, and so I missed it when the locks began weakening.

After graduation, I requested an opportunity to deploy again and was told I’d be going to Saudi Arabia. I thought, “perfect — not a combat deployment, but a chance to get back into the swing of things.”

But about two months before it was time to go, the door in my mind broke down, and PTSD came for me. It was a beautiful day. I was heading to meet my wife and kids for a handoff. On I-95, just before Fredericksburg, Va., the acrid smell of rocket propellant filled my nose. I could hear my soldiers telling me I’d be O.K., could feel my stomach tearing open again. I couldn’t feel my feet, my hands were numb — I couldn’t breathe. Drenched in sweat, I managed to get my car off the road and call for help. First my wife, then an ambulance.

Later that day a civilian doctor told me I’d had a panic attack. I asked him if it was a flashback and he laughed at me. Until then, I’d always felt the safest with doctors — they had put me back together. But now I was terrified, and felt like that terror was being played down. Imagine half of your mind telling you that you are in a combat zone, under attack, that you need to take action to defend yourself, and the other half telling you that all you need to do is stop and breathe. You don’t know what is real and what isn’t.

I was taken off the deployment list by order of my military doctor. I was crushed, sure that my career was over and paralyzed with the fear that I would never be able to provide for my family and make them proud of me. In my mind, I was nothing but a cowering baby.

But I was wrong. I soon learned that treatment for PTSD is like a good training regimen — difficult and painful. It helps me to imagine the tools I have been given as military-issue supplies. Therapy starts with this figurative tool kit: a flashlight, cold-weather gear, body armor, a helmet and a weapon. The gear keeps you warm when the storms of PTSD gather. You learn to keep your mental body armor handy to protect against sudden attacks — providing precious seconds to collect yourself and fight back. When the darkness rolls over you, the imagined flashlight helps you see.

Unlike training for combat though, your family and friends can participate. They get tools, too, but it’s different stuff — equipment I imagine as attack helicopters and tanks, to provide me with cover, and ChemLights to mark a path for me out of the storm.

PTSD is a scary thing for children; my son and daughter are 8 and 11, and they don’t understand what it is or why it acts like it does. But my wife and I include them in the healing process and answer their questions whenever they ask them. They have learned to recognize when PTSD is coming for me. Sometimes they’ll act goofy to try and make me laugh, other times my daughter will just snuggle with me in silence or my son will quietly play with his Legos, calming me just by being around.

When the battles become exceptionally fierce, my wife, Kim, goes on the offensive. She attacks the PTSD where it lives, talking through the traumas with me. She reminds me that I am worth fighting for, that she is not ashamed of my burden, that there is a purpose in what we are going through and that it may not be for me to know why. She is my hero.

While some say PTSD is a curse on families and stop there, I would add that having a loving family can give us an edge over the enemy because we don’t have to fight alone. I regret that my family has to take up arms to help me, but I thank God that I have them.

Together we are winning. PTSD can’t attack me anymore without getting more than it gives. Soon I hope to be able to venture down into those dark corners of my mind on purpose. Armed with the tools treatment has given me and flanked by my allies, I will seek out my enemies and drive them away. This is the day I dream of, when the scars in my mind, like those on my body, will be nothing more than a reminder of darker days. Despite the fact that my physical wounds will most likely soon result in early retirement from the Army, I will always be an American soldier and I will not accept defeat on any battlefield.

I feel an obligation to tell my story, because so many others are suffering through the darkness and pain. Americans must know that the scars from PTSD are very real and in many ways, more painful than the ones caused by bullets or shrapnel. I know, I have both. No one should underestimate the power of PTSD — it has no soul and fights only for yours. You cannot defend yourself alone, but victory is possible. It is strong, so you must be stronger.

Those who are suffering must get help. It takes time and effort, but it works. Those who know others who are suffering — stay with them. That day spent with a buddy, even in silence, may save a life. That act makes you no less a hero than if you saved him from an enemy bullet. We are America’s soldiers and we leave no one behind.
Damon T. Armeni is a United States Army Major.


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Very very well written!
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