The Precipice of PTSD

The Precipice of PTSD

 

The Precipice of PTSD

You don’t understand the change that happens inside a soldier after war.

Everyone comes back changed, whether they admit it or not, some worst than others.

I was the worst.

Not a day goes by in the past 13 years I haven’t thought about Iraq, the Fuck’d up things I saw and did.

I’ve just recently started moving on with my life with the intent to show civilians what it’s like to be on the battle front, fighting for our country and our lives, only to come home to a never-ending battle.

This scene from my book Combat Medic takes place at the precipice of my PTSD, the worst moment of my life.

Preface

” Slamming the door, I locked it and rested my head against the wood frame, trying to regain my thoughts. You’re home…you’re safe.

Sunlight is beaming in through the blinds, making it hard to see. Leaning against the marble counter in the kitchen, I set my keys down before wiping the sweat that wasn’t there from my brow. I wondered, Does it ever stop? My angst was making me feel cold. No…it never will. I stared at the floor. What if I was dead? Would anybody really care? I wouldn’t have to deal with this pain anymore. The thoughts; the nightmares…

My lower back throbbed. I pushed myself up on my hands, thrusting my hips back and forth, waiting for the pain to go away. I closed my eyes, put my head down, and started taking deep breaths, trying to calm down.

Standing up I grabbed a glass of water when a loud bang shook the room. My heart started racing; a chill ran through my body. The hearing in my right ear fell out, leaving a high-pitched ringing in the background. My heart jumped then started beating faster. I closed my eyes and saw flashing lights and heard gunfire – echoes and bangs.

I squatted to the ground behind the counter with my eyes wide open staring at the door. A chill ran through my back, into my heart. My jaw started shaking; teeth chattering like I was stark naked in a blizzard.

Someone kicked down the door dressed in battered, torn clothes with dirty rags covering his face. He ran towards me with an AK-47 rifle pointed at my face, shouting gibberish. I felt a rifle in my hand, the weight of the barrel upon my fingers; but it wasn’t there. I felt naked without a weapon, cold and unsafe.

My heart felt like it was being pulled in four different directions. It thumped, pumping me full of cold blood and adrenaline. My mind raced. What should I do? I smelled gunfire and smoke, but I could see that I was in my apartment. Is this real? The back of my throat was sore; there was a bad, acidic taste in my mouth.

I took in a couple of shallow breaths then jumped up and ran over to the kitchen. I grabbed the handle of my 8-inch chef knife and pulled it from the drawer figuring it would be better to have a weapon in case it wasn’t my imagination. I turned toward the door crouched down, waiting for anything that came through.

A minute slowly passed. “This isn’t real.” I thought out loud, “What am I doing? This is crazy.” At that moment excruciating pain shot from my mid-back down to my left foot. It was like someone had sliced my back in half with a searing hot knife. I tried taking a deep breath in, but stopped short when pain wrapped around my lung.

I dropped the knife. Feeling dizzy and nauseated, I slowly walked over to the bathroom, flipped the light on, and stood over the toilet, holding my stomach and head. I was sweating hard now. The room started spinning as an overwhelming smell of gunpowder filled it.

Images from war started shooting through my mind. In one, I was holding pressure on a wound, trying to stop the bleeding from a severed leg. In another, blood was splattered all over a sand-covered ground. Specialist B pointed to the blood, then over to a building. I raised my weapon as we went in for the kill. The last image was of eyes. A pair of glazed over, hauntingly sky blue eyes. They were staring directly into mine. I stared blankly into the toilet, engulfed in those eyes. The sight of death captivated me. I wanted it; it wanted me. It almost had me.

My focus shifted from his eyes to his head. I started to see blood running down his face as it came into focus. A green aid bandage was wrapped around it, attempting to hold his severed skull together. I looked down and saw blood covering my hands. I knew it wasn’t really there, but it all felt so real.

At that moment I felt numb, emptiness grew inside; my chest slowly became cold. Icy blood pumped through my veins. It felt like I was dying; like life was being drained out of me. I started shaking as a chill crept through me. Death enveloped me, clutching my soul with a wanton lust. My spirit quaked as my heart blackened.

Tears started falling down my cheeks as the visions slowly faded away. I felt like a hollow shell, void of any substance of life. Shaking my head I wiped the tears, but kept crying; unable to stop myself.

I walked to my bedroom, empty except for a small dresser. It’s been 7 months since I moved and still no furniture. Saddened, I closed the door and opened the window. A cool breeze blew through. The sun was bright, warm, and comforting. I took in a couple deep breaths; my jaw still jittered from the flashback as I let it out. My shirt was drenched in sweat.

I opened the drawer of the dresser and grabbed my pipe and weed. I ground some up, put it in the pipe and took a couple of long, slow hits. After about 15 minutes I was fully medicated, seeing everything in a haze. I stared out of the window and looked down at the courtyard. A young couple sat at a table drinking wine; talking… they looked happy. I could see smoke rising from the grill next to them and smelled the scent of barbeque.

Everything I was worrying about started to fade away. The pain in my back turned into a slight annoyance. I smiled a grin ear-to-ear and started beat boxing and singing; doing anything and everything to stop thinking about things – the nightmares from hell that still haunt me.

I poured a glass of cold water from the tap. After slamming a couple, the blue eyes started haunting me again. I felt myself sliding back into the other place when my phone snapped me out of the fall.

I looked at the screen and saw that it was Jessica; I answered annoyingly, “Hello.”

“Hi, what are you doing?”

“Just got home from work,” I said sharply. “Why, what’s up?”

“I don’t know; just seeing what you’re doing. You never call me just to talk,” she said, waiting silently for an answer.

I didn’t know what to say. “Sorry, I’ve just been busy.”

“Doing what?”

“Working. You know my hours at work.” I got upset. “Is there something you want?”

“Yeah, I was wondering if you would like to come over and eat dinner with me and Aleah tonight and this weekend? You know… have some family time.”

I was torn, feeling deep in my heart like I wanted to. But then I start thinking about what had just happened. The pain, the flashbacks, I was afraid to leave the house. I missed my daughter so much but I couldn’t drive like this. I lied, “I can’t, I have an appointment later today and I have to work this weekend.”

“Really? You told me you were off,” she said angrily.

“Well Mick asked me to work a couple extra shifts and I said yes.” I got upset again. “What do you want me to do about it? I can’t just say ‘No’ now; it’s work.”

“You never want to spend time with us. Aleah is always asking about you. What should I tell her?”

I felt awful. My heart started to burn.

“I’m sorry, Jessica, but I have to work.” I gave in a little, “I can come over after my shift is done. We can eat and play games. You can tell her I have to work and I’ll see her later.”

“Ok. Whatever,” she said.

Then it went silent for a minute.

“How come you don’t love me?”

“I never said I didn’t.”

“Then why did you leave?”

“Because we argue too much.”

“We argue because you don’t even try to listen to anything I have to say and you yell,” she said.

“You do too!” I quickly chimed in. “All you do is yell and I can’t take it. I don’t need people around me yelling all the time. I can’t handle it.”

“If you loved me you would try.”

My gut started hurting. “I do love you, Jessica; I just don’t know what to do.”

“Talk to me.”

Silence fell again, I felt so bad that we couldn’t get along. I do love her, but the arguments and fights, yelling in front of Aleah… it was too much. I don’t want her to think that is how relationships are. She should have a happy life.

“Ok, Sam! Bye!”

“Tell Aleah I’ll call her tonight. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Yep, bye.” She hung up, her tone saying all she needed to say.

The room fell quiet. I looked down at the phone and thought of all the good times I’ve had with them. The times I’ve curled over laughing when playing with Aleah. Hearing her laughs echoing throughout the house when I tickled her, I loved it… missed it.

How did I get here in this empty apartment, feeling sad and numb inside? I’ve tried my whole life to feel alive; to feel wanted, to be someone special. I joined the Army because it was where I belonged. Fighting for America, saving lives and making a difference, proving to myself that I could do anything, go anywhere.

Now I’m lost, stuck; sealed away in a cave at the center of a deserted world. I want to feel normal again; feel alive, not numb. My past keeps taking over my mind, flooding it with blood and explosions. I want it to end. I want everything to end.

How did I get here?

It was because of the war. Why did I ever sign up to go in? I don’t want to feel like this anymore; alone, struggling to hold onto reality day in and day out. I want a life worth living.”

Untitled design (1)

Click here to Order Amazon!

Combat Medic
A soldier’s story of the Iraq war and PTSD

Next Up – Danger- Gunfights in a Cemetery

 

 

The Precipice of PTSD

The Precipice of PTSD…

Most people don’t understand the change that happens within a soldier that just gets back from war. Everyone comes back changed, whether they’d like to admit it or not, some worse than others.

In my case, I was the worst.

Not a day has gone by in these past 13 years that I haven’t thought about Iraq and the messed-up things I saw and did there. I have only recently started moving on with my life with the intent to show America what it’s like to be on the battle front, fighting for our country and our lives only to come home to a never ending battle.

This scene from the first chapter of my book Combat Medic takes place at the precipice of my Post-Traumatic stress disorder, the worst moment of my life.

Slamming the door, I locked it and rested my head against the wood frame, trying to regain my thoughts. You’re home…you’re safe.

Sunlight is beaming in through the blinds, making it hard to see. Leaning against the marble counter in the kitchen, I set my keys down before wiping the sweat that wasn’t there from my brow. I wondered, Does it ever stop? My angst was making me feel cold. No…it never will. I stared at the floor. What if I was dead? Would anybody really care? I wouldn’t have to deal with this pain anymore. The thoughts; the nightmares…

My lower back throbbed. I pushed myself up on my hands, thrusting my hips back and forth, waiting for the pain to go away. I closed my eyes, put my head down, and started taking deep breaths, trying to calm down.

Standing up I grabbed a glass of water when a loud bang shook the room. My heart started racing; a chill ran through my body. The hearing in my right ear fell out, leaving a high-pitched ringing in the background. My heart jumped then started beating faster. I closed my eyes and saw flashing lights and heard gunfire – echoes and bangs.

I squatted to the ground behind the counter with my eyes wide open staring at the door. A chill ran through my back, into my heart. My jaw started shaking; teeth chattering like I was stark naked in a blizzard.

Someone kicked down the door dressed in battered, torn clothes with dirty rags covering his face. He ran towards me with an AK-47 rifle pointed at my face, shouting gibberish. I felt a rifle in my hand, the weight of the barrel upon my fingers; but it wasn’t there. I felt naked without a weapon, cold and unsafe.

My heart felt like it was being pulled in four different directions. It thumped, pumping me full of cold blood and adrenaline. My mind raced. What should I do? I smelled gunfire and smoke, but I could see that I was in my apartment. Is this real? The back of my throat was sore; there was a bad, acidic taste in my mouth.

I took in a couple of shallow breaths then jumped up and ran over to the kitchen. I grabbed the handle of my 8-inch chef knife and pulled it from the drawer figuring it would be better to have a weapon in case it wasn’t my imagination. I turned toward the door crouched down, waiting for anything that came through.

A minute slowly passed. “This isn’t real.” I thought out loud, “What am I doing? This is crazy.” At that moment excruciating pain shot from my mid-back down to my left foot. It was like someone had sliced my back in half with a searing hot knife. I tried taking a deep breath in, but stopped short when pain wrapped around my lung.

I dropped the knife. Feeling dizzy and nauseated, I slowly walked over to the bathroom, flipped the light on, and stood over the toilet, holding my stomach and head. I was sweating hard now. The room started spinning as an overwhelming smell of gunpowder filled it.

Images from war started shooting through my mind. In one, I was holding pressure on a wound, trying to stop the bleeding from a severed leg. In another, blood was splattered all over a sand-covered ground. Specialist B pointed to the blood, then over to a building. I raised my weapon as we went in for the kill. The last image was of eyes. A pair of glazed over, hauntingly sky blue eyes. They were staring directly into mine. I stared blankly into the toilet, engulfed in those eyes. The sight of death captivated me. I wanted it; it wanted me. It almost had me.

My focus shifted from his eyes to his head. I started to see blood running down his face as it came into focus. A green aid bandage was wrapped around it, attempting to hold his severed skull together. I looked down and saw blood covering my hands. I knew it wasn’t really there, but it all felt so real.

At that moment I felt numb, emptiness grew inside; my chest slowly became cold. Icy blood pumped through my veins. It felt like I was dying; like life was being drained out of me. I started shaking as a chill crept through me. Death enveloped me, clutching my soul with a wanton lust. My spirit quaked as my heart blackened.

Tears started falling down my cheeks as the visions slowly faded away. I felt like a hollow shell, void of any substance of life. Shaking my head I wiped the tears, but kept crying; unable to stop myself.

I walked to my bedroom, empty except for a small dresser. It’s been 7 months since I moved and still no furniture. Saddened, I closed the door and opened the window. A cool breeze blew through. The sun was bright, warm, and comforting. I took in a couple deep breaths; my jaw still jittered from the flashback as I let it out. My shirt was drenched in sweat.

I opened the drawer of the dresser and grabbed my pipe and weed. I ground some up, put it in the pipe and took a couple of long, slow hits. After about 15 minutes I was fully medicated, seeing everything in a haze. I stared out of the window and looked down at the courtyard. A young couple sat at a table drinking wine; talking… they looked happy. I could see smoke rising from the grill next to them and smelled the scent of barbeque.

Everything I was worrying about started to fade away. The pain in my back turned into a slight annoyance. I smiled a grin ear-to-ear and started beat boxing and singing; doing anything and everything to stop thinking about things – the nightmares from hell that still haunt me.

I poured a glass of cold water from the tap. After slamming a couple, the blue eyes started haunting me again. I felt myself sliding back into the other place when my phone snapped me out of the fall.

I looked at the screen and saw that it was Jessica; I answered annoyingly, “Hello.”

“Hi, what are you doing?”

“Just got home from work,” I said sharply. “Why, what’s up?”

“I don’t know; just seeing what you’re doing. You never call me just to talk,” she said, waiting silently for an answer.

I didn’t know what to say. “Sorry, I’ve just been busy.”

“Doing what?”

“Working. You know my hours at work.” I got upset. “Is there something you want?”

“Yeah, I was wondering if you would like to come over and eat dinner with me and Aleah tonight and this weekend? You know… have some family time.”

I was torn, feeling deep in my heart like I wanted to. But then I start thinking about what had just happened. The pain, the flashbacks, I was afraid to leave the house. I missed my daughter so much but I couldn’t drive like this. I lied, “I can’t, I have an appointment later today and I have to work this weekend.”

“Really? You told me you were off,” she said angrily.

“Well Mick asked me to work a couple extra shifts and I said yes.” I got upset again. “What do you want me to do about it? I can’t just say ‘No’ now; it’s work.”

“You never want to spend time with us. Aleah is always asking about you. What should I tell her?”

I felt awful. My heart started to burn.

“I’m sorry, Jessica, but I have to work.” I gave in a little, “I can come over after my shift is done. We can eat and play games. You can tell her I have to work and I’ll see her later.”

“Ok. Whatever,” she said.

Then it went silent for a minute.

“How come you don’t love me?”

“I never said I didn’t.”

“Then why did you leave?”

“Because we argue too much.”

“We argue because you don’t even try to listen to anything I have to say and you yell,” she said.

“You do too!” I quickly chimed in. “All you do is yell and I can’t take it. I don’t need people around me yelling all the time. I can’t handle it.”

“If you loved me you would try.”

My gut started hurting. “I do love you, Jessica; I just don’t know what to do.”

“Talk to me.”

Silence fell again, I felt so bad that we couldn’t get along. I do love her, but the arguments and fights, yelling in front of Aleah… it was too much. I don’t want her to think that is how relationships are. She should have a happy life.

“Ok, Sam! Bye!”

“Tell Aleah I’ll call her tonight. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Yep, bye.” She hung up, her tone saying all she needed to say.

The room fell quiet. I looked down at the phone and thought of all the good times I’ve had with them. The times I’ve curled over laughing when playing with Aleah. Hearing her laughs echoing throughout the house when I tickled her, I loved it… missed it.

How did I get here in this empty apartment, feeling sad and numb inside? I’ve tried my whole life to feel alive; to feel wanted, to be someone special. I joined the Army because it was where I belonged. Fighting for America, saving lives and making a difference, proving to myself that I could do anything, go anywhere.

Now I’m lost, stuck; sealed away in a cave at the center of a deserted world. I want to feel normal again; feel alive, not numb. My past keeps taking over my mind, flooding it with blood and explosions. I want it to end. I want everything to end.

How did I get here?

It was because of the war. Why did I ever sign up to go in? I don’t want to feel like this anymore; alone, struggling to hold onto reality day in and day out. I want a life worth living.”

combat-medic-bookcover6x9-viv

More Book Previews

Precipice
Portion

Training = Maze

“Training a service dog is like…”

While walking Tank this morning, I thought of how to best describe service dog training to people who’ve never experienced it. The closest thing I can compare it to is a maze.

Just think about it, your view of the maze is like life with PTSD. You try your hardest to navigate the many jagged, twisty paths to get through to the finish but the tools you have just won’t work. You end up getting worried, bad anxiety attacks, and flashbacks just thinking about trying it on your own. There needs to be a new tool to help you navigate through the complicated maze.

Stick with me now, here is where it gets interesting.

Someone very kind walks up and hands you a pen, a new tool to help you achieve your goals of navigating through the maze. I’d like to think of a service dog as the pen, a companion that keeps you calm and focused on achieving your life goals.

Instead of getting freaked when thinking about the maze, you are able to calmly use your new tool to start navigating through the many different obstacles.

IMG_0615
Tank

When I think about Tank, he did just that. I was practically a hermit, not leaving the house unless I needed to because of flashbacks. Just thinking about going out would be a struggle because I kept thinking of all the obstacles that may present themselves while out. When I received Tank from Project Delta and we were able to start public training, I felt better about going out. I actually wanted to.

I was able to use my pen and focus on calmly navigating through life. I got further with the pen than I did trying to depend on the tools I had.

But like the maze, training a service dog can usually lead to a dead-end. You have the right tool, but you can’t get past the road block because the tool ended up malfunctioning.

In my case, Tank ended up being way too overprotective. At home I couldn’t get him to stop barking at neighbors and dogs that walked by. Out in public I couldn’t sit down without Tank freaking out on people walking by, barking and snapping his jaws at them.

It was a side of Tank that I never saw coming. It’s a trait that’s hard to break, I would never be able to get him certified as a service dog. I love Tank to death, but I still had goals to accomplish, I still need to get to the finish.

Just like starting over on a maze, I have to try to find a different dog to help me finish my goal. I’m starting down the same path with the same tool hoping for a different outcome.

That’s just what it’s like, ask anyone and they’ll agree.

Three more days until Tank goes to his new home. He’s helped me overcome a lot of obstacles I would have never been able to do on my own. It’s hard letting him go, but he’s served his purpose.

Maze

Don't be bitter. Forgive!

Forgive! Don’t Be Bitter.

I remember how messed up I was back in 2011, living day by day thinking death was right around the corner. Seven years after war and it felt like I was stuck in hell. One moment I’d be fighting in a cemetery taking mortar rounds, the next moment I’m driving to work with chronic back pain speeding through traffic having flashbacks. Some days I just called into work because I was, quite frankly, scared to open the door because it might blow up.

In those dark moments my mind led me to believe that nothing in life was real. For some reason I believed that I had died back in Iraq and that I was in hell. That’s the reason that suicide was constantly running through my head.

“You’re never getting better, just let go of the steering wheel and it’ll all be over.”

I hated the military for making me this way. I hated my parents for how I was raised. I wanted to seriously hurt my ex-step-father for the years of abuse he put me through. He once beat me so hard, an ink pen somehow got stabbed through my ankle. I had this overwhelming urge to kill because of the random flashbacks I was pushed and pulled from.

I wouldn’t sleep for days at a time. I was used to it you know, from the 24-48 hours duties in the Army. I wished I was back in the Army in Iraq fighting on the front line again so I could feel normal, Someone important again.

My anger turned into bitterness which always led me back to suicidal thoughts, descending down a dark path.

I’m lucky that I found Jesus Christ or I would have followed through with something I could never come back from. I was saved by the scriptures I read day in and day out. The subject of bitterness  is all throughout the bible and the answer to finding peace is so simple, but so hard to grasp.

Forgivness

“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Matthew 6: 14-15 ESV

As soon as I softened my heart to the people that hurt me the most and tried my best to move on, life started getting better. I started talking to loved ones again and I served in my church as much as I could. I started slowly remembering the person I was before the war.god is salvation

Things didn’t miraculously change in a week or even a month. I had to learn how to live with my pain as well as my PTSD symptoms. Since I started actively working on re-building my life in 2014, I’ve become happier with the fact that I’m alive and I have a loving family that gives me support and things to look forward to every day.

Bitter

Descend

Being Panicked

Panicked – Not in My Vocabulary

It took awhile for me to adjust to civilian life after the Army. The whole world seamed to be out of place. There wasn’t an order to everything like the military and people ran around like little kids doing and saying whatever came to mind.

The one thing that really stood out the most is the way people would become panicked whenever something serious happened. Being panicked isn’t in my vocabulary. After 14 months of being mortared, shot at and receiving blown-up patients  in the middle of the night drove fear right out of me.

I’ve learned that nothing good comes out of being panicked. You don’t think straight and nothing will get accomplished as you’re running around like a chicken with its head cut off.

I’m not saying that I don’t get a little scared in sticky situations, I’m saying that I don’t let it control me. I have faith that God will tell me the right thing to do and that basically drives the fear right out of me and allows my brain to function properly so I can think straight. My wife and daughter sometimes think that I care about them because I don’t get panicked when they hurt themselves.  I care about them, I just know that they will be ok.

I’m pretty sure every medic who has a CMB (Combat Medic Badge) can think calmly under bad situations because of practice. Next time you find yourself in a panick just remember to take a deep breath, say a quick prayer and try to deal with it the best you can.

Panicked

important roles of a service dog

Important Roles of a Service Dog

These past few weeks have been extremely busy for me. Between appointments at the VA, cleaning the house, writing and doing yard work, I’ve had little time to relax. It’s really not that bad that my time is filled. This time last year I was a hermit never looking to leave the house unless I had to. I feel as though I’ve been blessed beyond belief this year and I’m the happiest I’ve been in a while.

I have noticed a change in my mood when I’m out in public without Tank. I forget things at the store because my anxiety is pushing me towards leaving as fast as I can. That leaves me with having to go to two different stores to get the items I missed. When Tank was with me I felt calm and I was able to think clearly. When my symptoms ramped up I would feel the pressure of his head pressing against my leg and that would be enough to get me out of my head and in the moment. All I had to do was lean down to pet him and the anxiety and stress inside was reduced.

I’m missing Tank being with me so much that I sometimes see or feel him when he isn’t there. Like the other day when I was walking through Target I started feeling overwhelmed because of too many people around. I thought for sure that Tank was on my right side, I even looked down to see if there was the slight chance of him being there.

Yesterday as I was driving home I started to get really bad road rage because of some dumb drivers. As I turned a corner I thought I saw the black of Tanks shiny hair and again I looked back like I always do to calm myself down. Instead of his pretty brown eyes staring back at me all I saw was an empty seat. Sometimes it feels like I see a ghost of Tank, it’s weird.

The only thing I can compare it to is the first couple weeks out of the Army. Waking up late freaking out like I missed PT formation, I even caught myself standing at ease with my hands behind my back while in line. It was odd readjusting to a life without expectations, responsibilities, forced exercise, and people who can relate. Or when someone you love either dies or leaves to go somewhere forever. It’s like you whole body goes through withdraws from that person because they where such an important part of your life.

I guess I’m sort of going through a withdraw. He has been such an important tool in my recovery that I’ve dependent on him to help me get through rough situations and bare being in public without sweating like I’m in a hot box.

I’ve learned that service dogs play an important role in the lives of people with disabilities. They become a part of who we are by being there whenever we need them, either for emotional or physical support. I never realized it until I was without Tank.

He will be leaving in a few weeks. I don’t think it will be extremely hard to deal until I pair with another dog. I have high hopes that it won’t take long. I’ve actually forced myself away from Tank for the past week, letting my daughter play with him and fulfill his need. that way I feel like it will be an easier transition. He doesn’t like it that much, if I don’t pay him attention he will forcefully place himself in front of me and stare me in the eyes whimpering until I ask what he wants.

I love Tank to death, always and forever. I will be ok without, one journey ending and another on beginning.

sinister chuckles-wadi-us-salaam

A Sinister Chuckle

Have you ever been with a group and fell like your left out when someone tells a joke and everyone gets it but you. You hear it but it doesn’t make sense because it sounds downright crazy, but everyone else is chuckling, so you must have missed something, right?

The first time I was assigned to an infantry unit on the front lines in Iraq I didn’t get most of the jokes my other squad members said. I was always left asking, “What’s so funny?” which in turn led to more chuckles and laughs.

HA! It didn’t take to long to catch on once we started fighting together day in and out.

After a few days I fell in sync with the team. Fighting to survive inside a cemetery with bombs blowing old skulls and bones on top of you makes you grow up fast. I had to catch on quickly in order to understand them so we could work better as a team.

Eventually, after weeks of fighting, death and destruction became normal. So normal that almost being shot warrants a laugh followed by the lust of the enemies blood.

The best way for me to describe this is to take you into that point in time of my life. I’ve taken a couple of pages from chapter 18 in my book Combat Medic so you can experience the raw side of war.

This scene is from the Battle of Najaf in the WADI-US-SALAAM cemetery, the largest in the world. Enjoy, and don’t hesitate to comment or ask questions.

“None of us wanted to keep going, but we had no choice. We took a quick break in a tomb to rehydrate. I squatted to the ground and finished drinking my third bottle of water for the day. My DCU’s were covered in salt crystals and dirt. It had been two weeks since I’d showered and shaved. I was so exhausted I could have passed out. I’ve never been worked this hard in my entire life and there was no end in sight. At times I felt like being dead would be a better option.

“Who’s up for a little target practice?” Martinez asked. Everyone chuckled except me; I must have missed the joke.

Martinez explained to me that we were going to try and lure people out with bait. Two people had to go out and start making commotion while the other guys watched for the enemy.

“Ok, pick a number between 1 and 20,” Martinez said.

I said 13; his number was 15.

“Damn,” Rodriguez and I both said; then we looked at each other. He smiled, “Gotta die someday, right?”

“Yeah, buddy.” Martinez said, “Don’t worry; they can’t shoot worth shit anyway.

“Glad it’s not me,” B stated before walking through the doorway to outside.

Rodriguez and I stood on top of newer graves in front of the tomb, in clear view for anyone in the cemetery to see. My heart started pounding, filling me with a burst of adrenaline. I’ve survived crazy shit all day; I should already be dead. Rodriguez started yelling, “Woohoo! Yeah!”

I joined in, the whole time moving my head scanning the cemetery for people who might come out to look.

Rodriguez pointed to the top of a tomb in the distance, “You think I can hit the nipple on the top there? The blue one?”

“Bet you I can before you,” I said.

B and Martinez spread out, watching for weapons fire. Rodriguez took a frag out and popped it into his grenade launcher. After taking a couple seconds aiming, he fired. Thump! It sizzled downrange and exploded off to the side of it.

“Damn!” he yelled, I laughed while loading a round. I took aim and popped it off. Boom! The building next to it exploded.

Fuck man!” I yelled loud, trying to draw attention. Rodriguez shot again and hit it. I pointed to another one, “The blue and yellow dome there.”

There was a building in my way as I aimed, so I jumped on top of a taller grave and fired. The top of the dome caved in.

“Fuck yeah!” I shouted.

As Rodriguez took aim to fire another one, bullets started flying around us; we jumped down as B yelled, “Three!” I stood up firing.

When I squatted down again, Rodriguez yelled at me, “Frag’em!” So I loaded a round, counted to three and stood up. I saw two people shooting; one in grey rags, another in black. I aimed and pulled the trigger, Thump!

74674357-70E9-4AC8-BB7B-A13225C5B3F7.JPG
M203- Grenade launcher (FRAG)

The round launched out and hit the tree right behind them. BOOM! It split in half, sending smoke and debris everywhere; I saw the guys fall.

“Fuck yeah! Yeah!” Everyone screamed.

“Yeah! Nice shot,” B yelled at me.

We started advancing towards them. Two of us laid down suppressive fire while the other two sprinted forward, leaping behind another grave. When I went to rush forward, there were a couple of graves knocked down in a pile blocking my way. I ran and jumped on top shooting; then jumped back down.

I looked over and saw that Rodriguez had to do the same, but when he jumped on a grave his foot went through. He fell headfirst trying to get it unstuck. I ran over and helped him get his foot unstuck. We both started laughing because he was on his head with his legs dangling in the air.

We got a couple graves away when the firing got heavier. Rodriguez took a grenade out and tried throwing it, but it slipped from his hand, falling two feet in front of him.

“Grenade!” he yelled; we both jumped behind a grave as it went off. BOOM!

I tried throwing one, but as my arm came forward it felt like I was throwing a 40-pound weight and it just rolled out of my hand.

“Grenade!” BOOM!

After it went off we laughed that none of us had enough strength to lodge grenades. I looked back at B, who gave us a go-ahead before firing off a bunch of rounds. We jumped up and made our final push forward. I was filled with a rush of adrenaline as we came up on their positions.

The only thing I saw was blood sprayed over the ground when got there.

Fucking got the bastards, I thought. Rodriguez pointed to his eyes then to a blood trail on the ground. It looked like someone had been dragged into a tomb. He pointed to the building. I nodded.

I took lead, quietly creeping towards the building. When we got to the door I took out a grenade and threw it in. After it exploded, Rodriguez kicked the door in and we stormed in firing. No one was inside, but it was filled with rocket launchers, mortar shells, and bullets; a weapons cache.

“We hit gold,” Rodriguez said.

Before I could respond a hole in the ground came into my view.

“Hole!” I yelled pointing my weapon at it. Rodriguez grabbed two grenades out of his pocket and threw them in. We walked outside as they went off. BOOM!

Rodriguez called the lieutenant to let him know about the weapons.

“Blow the shit,” the lieutenant ordered us. “If you can’t, I’ll push the building over.”

“Roger that,” Rodriguez replied. “Keep watch while I blow this bitch,” he said, walking past me into the doorway

“Got it,” I said.

I stood behind a large pillar next to a wall across from the door, a perfect position to take cover from the blast and still keep watch of the area. I waved to B who was with Martinez 30 yards away. He waved back and kept scanning the cemetery. Rodriguez took out a grenade, threw it in and ran out as it went off. BOOM!

“Fuck! They didn’t blow.” Rodriguez stated after walking back in. He came out and stood directly across from the door and shot a grenade in with his launcher. BOOM! The building exploded multiple times sending smoke and debris everywhere before it collapsed in.

Bullets started flying past me.

I fell behind the pillar while rounds rattled the wall behind me. Neither of us could see where it was coming from so we called it in. After a couple seconds we heard the lieutenant start lighting someone up; the Bradley’s gun was distinguishable from any other weapon. It pulled up a couple graves away from us. We jumped up and fired downrange while we ran over to the Bradley and jumped in.

I fell into the bench exhausted and panting. Rodriguez and I looked at each other, then bumped fists. We both sat trying to catch our breath and drink water. I just happened to look down and see that he was bleeding from his left leg.

“Dude, you’re hit,” I said, pointing. “What happened?”

He grabbed his leg and looked at it. There was a blood soaked hole in his pants. I made him take off his boot and pull up his pants. He had taken a piece of shrapnel in the shin. I took a field bandage out of my pack, opened it, and held pressure on the leg.

“Dude, I might have to send you back.” I said.

“Fuck no doc, I’m ok,” he said desperately.

I stared him in the eyes, not wanting him to get more injured by going out. “Are you sure?”

“I’m serious, it doesn’t even hurt,” he said. My leg started throbbing in pain; at that moment I knew how he felt. I should have said something about it but I didn’t want to leave; we still had a fight to win.

I held pressure on it for a couple minutes and saw the bleeding had gone down. Rodriguez begged me to not send him back; he stared me in the eyes.

“Please doc, those bastards are still out there. We’ve gotta kill them for Hunter.” I didn’t say anything; that’s been my driving factor since he got hit. I wrapped the bandage around his leg and told him to put his boot back on so I could see how he was with weight on it.

He stood up and walked around, “See, I don’t feel a thing. I’m good.” He wasn’t limping, so I told him, “Ok, but we have to get it looked at when we get back. Tell me if it gets worse.”

“Thank you bro,” he said. “I’ll tell you, promise.”

B3F2BC7D-B1D3-4635-8212-56162B88A9BD.JPG
My Army Commendation Medal.

img_0373

Chuckle

combatmedic.org (happy Tank)

Accepting the Inevitable

Happy easter everyone! First off I want to say thank you to Jesus Christ for everything he did for me, without him I’d still be struggling with life.

I really had an eye opening experience these past few days, something that I’d like to share because I think it will help people struggling with PTSD or any painful experience that was felt in life.

As you know there has been an active search for a family that can welcome Tank into their home. A great couple came along that thought Tank would be an awesome addition to their home. Tank had a play date with their dog Jack, it was like they knew each other from a past life they got along so well.

This past Friday I met with the couple without the dogs there. They were an awesome couple, better than I’d even thought they’d be. We shared stories of our dog’s antics and I told them as much as I could about Tank and his needs. They both work from home half the week and they are just know buying a three level house were Tank and Jack can run outside from the main level or down the second level deck.

It sounds like he’s going to have a better life than he’s had here. I’m so happy for him. I’ve been hoping that he’d find a good home so I won’t feel as guilty for giving him away, it makes it a lot easier on the both of us.

We hope that after they have Tank for a few months and I have another dog by my side, we can have visits. It’s good to know that I won’t have to say bye to him forever. Who knows, this couple could become good friends and we can see Tank for years to come.

I can’t say that the whole experience left me happy. I left the meeting with an actual time when Tank will be leaving. Walking out of the Starbucks into gloomy rain felt appropriate for the mood I was in. Something inside of my chest was tingling as I walked slowly through the rain towards my car.  Getting drenched wasn’t a concern, I didn’t even notice my pants were soaked until I sat inside my car.

Thoughts weren’t pouring through my head like normal, images of the whole meeting circled around instead. I imagined Tank in their home, the life  he’d have with Jack running around playing and digging holes.

I think my heart was the thing tingling, because now it burns a little with every jolt of my heartbeat. I guess I was really sad, I’m not that in touch with my emotions anymore, that’s why I can only describe the feelings that I get because they come on so sudden and leave abruptly.

5615500F-8FDD-4132-97CC-A84BCE701874
He’s cool just laying there.

I think the only times in my life I’ve felt like this was when I left someone or someone left me. I remember when my mom moved out and divorced my dad. We were on a trip with my dad and came back with all of her stuff gone. I remember not being able to talk to her and crying curled up in a ball on my bed for days. The same feeling of my heart being burned and torn from my chest… it almost that close.

Did I make the wrong decision to keep looking for a service dog?

Will I find a dog better than him?

I can’t stop those thoughts even though I know the answer… No, I didn’t.

Everything in life happens for a reason. Every struggle that I’ve faced has made me stronger in the end. I know that this feeling will pass and I know in my heart that it’ll work out for the best.

One day I’ll have a service dog by my side everywhere I go, a tool that will help me travel around to talk with people about how to live a better life with PTSD.

Tank has served his purpose for me and I hope his future is filled with love.

Jolt

Blind Leading the Blind

I want to take some time to explain a part of scripture in the Holy Bible that’s had a huge impact on what comes out of my mouth when talking to other people and changed how I viewed myself.

In the NIV version Matthew 15:1-16 Jesus teaches about Inner purity:

10 Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. 11 What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.”
12 Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?”
13 He replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. 14 Leave them; they are blind guides.d]”>[d] If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”
15 Peter said, “Explain the parable to us.”
16 “Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them. 17 “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18 But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20 These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”

What I took away from this scripture was that the foul language that came out of my mouth everyday defiled me. I was forced to view myself through Christ’s eyes and all that I saw was a heart full of anger, regret and resentment.

I never used to be as foul-mouthed growing up. Yeah I said a swear word now and again and talked bad about people, but that was nothing compared to how I was in the military at war. I blindly said  Fu**, Sh**, As*, Bit**…. you get the picture almost with every sentence I said. It felt good getting all that stuff off my chest at the moment, everyone in the military has a foul mouth. It became normal to me.

After I thought about how my heart used to be so innocent  as a kid and now it’s torn and dark because of my actions, I wanted to change. If I didn’t open up my bible to find answers to the situations in life I would have never been able to wrap my head around why I felt so dark all the time.

IMG_0396
The word that you speak comes from the heart. Keep it healthy.

It’s taking some time to eliminate crude remarks from coming out of my mouth, because it takes time to soften a hardened heart. I’m trying my hardest to let my light shine instead of spreading the darkness around. That’s why I say it is extremely important for anyone with PTSD to seek out God as best as you can to figure out how to cope in this world ran by sin.

“But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.” Deuteronomy 4:29 (NIV)

Blindly

Approaching New Territory: Tank & Jack


It’s been a few days since the last time I posted anything about Tank and I, but I have some great news! Tank’s meet and greet with the other couples dog was a success, they got along together like two peas in a pod. I love the fact that Project-Delta has taken the time to search for a couple that can give Tank just as much love as we can.

Watching the videos of Tank playing with Jack gave me a tingling feeling in my chest. I’m super happy to see him socializing so well, they played just like two kids on the playground. It looked like they even play hugged a couple of times. I loved seeing him so happy.

IMG_0337
Tank and Jack trying to get at the dog on the other side. LOL! So awesome to see.

For some reason I have a feeling that this was meant to be.

No, I’m serious.

To find a couple that has a dog almost the same age as Tank with the same characteristics goes against the odds so much so that I have to chalk it up destiny. I was meant to find Tank and he was supposed to help me connect with my emotions again.

Yeah it sucks that he is such an amazing dog with one trait that disqualifies him of being a service dog, but I know the love that we both gave to each other is serving a greater purpose.

Pretty soon my family and I are going to be meeting with the couple to talk. Everyone at Project-Delta says that we will hopefully get along great and that when they do decide to take him, we will still have opportunities to get together to see Tank. I think that’s important because I feel like I’m giving away my kid because they didn’t act right. I’d never be ok with it if I wasn’t able to ween myself off of him… Ha!

In time I know that I’ll get used to him not being next to me constantly, but hopefully, not long after, I’ll start training another dog. They’re in the process now of screening dogs for a potential pairing. By this time next year I’ll hopefully have a dog that’s certified so that I’ll have no limits to what I can accomplished.

I’ll be making videos of the whole process this time and I can’t wait to start sharing.

Territory

(function(i,s,o,g,r,a,m){i[‘GoogleAnalyticsObject’]=r;i[r]=i[r]||function(){
(i[r].q=i[r].q||[]).push(arguments)},i[r].l=1*new Date();a=s.createElement(o),
m=s.getElementsByTagName(o)[0];a.async=1;a.src=g;m.parentNode.insertBefore(a,m)
})(window,document,’script’,’https://www.google-analytics.com/analytics.js’,’ga’);

ga(‘create’, ‘UA-97032163-1’, ‘auto’);
ga(‘send’, ‘pageview’);