August 12, 2009

Live Honoring America's Fallen

By CJ Crisham

As you can tell, I haven't been writing a lot lately. To tell the truth, I haven't really felt like it. But, I've also been busy with a training week. We worked through the past two weekends and I'm REALLY looking forward to this Saturday for my first day off in a few weeks. I'm not complaining though. Guys in Iraq and Afghanistan go months without a day off.

Today, I had my second appointment with my psychologist. Originally, he was going to complete a command assessment, but I have to go to another post in Georgia for that. Not really sure why and neither is my doc. But, I'll do whatever it takes. The road time will be much needed.

What I don't want to turn this blog into is a constant repetition of PTSD issues. There's a lot going in the military and national security world that needs to be talked about – like the release of GITMO detainee Mohammed Jawad to Afghanistan. Jawad is accused of attacking two American soldiers and their Afghani translator in Afghanistan in 2002 by tossing a grenade at them. Instead of getting myself all wrapped up in that, I'll publish what Vets For Freedom Chairman, Pete Hegseth, said about the release since I agree with him on this:
The lives of our troops and the safety of our nation should be of paramount concern to the Obama Administration, not an afterthought. Today’s decision to release yet another trained terrorist shows a lack of consideration for the risks our war-fighters take to help bring insurgents and terrorists to justice.
Jawad’s treatment as a prisoner was unfortunate. However, his treatment does not exonerate him from throwing a grenade at American troops. America cannot afford to have terrorists released back to the battlefield and rejoining the fight to kill Soldiers and Marines, all for the purpose of appeasing a campaign promise.

Having served at Guantanamo Bay and in Iraq, I witnessed the cause of radical Islamists on two vital fronts. I saw how my fellow soldiers risked their lives in battle to capture these terrorists and the hard work and professionalism it took to hold them at Guantanamo Bay. Additional releases such as this will make the continuing mission of our troops far more dangerous and deadly.

Anyway, I've been officially diagnosed with PTSD, something I wasn't exactly happy about. Why? I just want to go on living my life. I've been pretending nothing is wrong with me for years and suddenly there's a name attached to it. I spoke with my doc today about anxiety, anger, stress, and depression. I won't go into all the details, but wanted to focus on something he told me just before we ended.

What is the leading cause of PTSD in civilians in America? It's an interesting question because most people don't think about PTSD as a civilian issue. Yet, it is. The difference is in how civilians deal with it. The number one cause of PTSD in civilians is a car crash. Yet, most people don't exhibit signs of PTSD. Why is that? When a civilian survives a catastrophic event like a violent car wreck, they still need to get places. They get a new or used car to replace the wrecked one and continue on with their lives. It's hard at first, especially when they see similar cars to the one they were driving in or the one with which they crashed. Or when they pass the location where the wreck took place.

However they do it, the fact that they continue to face their fears of driving out of necessity helps them to overcome the root causes of PTSD. Eventually, they learn not to be afraid of driving because they are doing it so much without incident and their symptoms slowly disappear. So, I told him, the answer is simple. I just need to go back to Iraq, right? No. I need to confront those events (or spikes) that have contributed to my PTSD. How can I do that? The same way I did it when I started this blog five years ago – by writing.

I've published an edited version of my journal before, but I've never written about those events in detail and some I didn't publish at all. I'm not sure how I'm going to do that publicly or if I even want to, but I've decided to write my experiences down privately. One day, like my journal, I hope to publish it for others to read and identify or find solace with.

So, CJ, what's with the title? I have a LOT of survivor's guilt that I've lived with for years. I ask that question often about why did I come home? If there is a purpose behind it, have I served that purpose already? If so, then what? That's a lot of pressure I've put on myself. All I can do is follow the advice of the magnet I keep on back of my van: "Live Honoring America's Fallen."

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