August 30, 2010

When PTSD Wins: A Veteran's Prayer - Battlefield of the Mind

We wage a raged filled battlefield ringing across our mindscape's eye; at times I witness up the periscope as the field of vision erupts with wreckage strewn across the grounds - not back in the place of death and decay, but at home - we brought it home.

I left everything that was good in me back there; I return there where I desire most to be, the me who I was before the me I am today. When I try and tap into the good part of me, the thing that took over me - has a death grip on my soul. I wage a battle today for my subconscious control that intercedes rather objectively when in spirit I pray for others and in deed serve others.

When do I who fought and continues to fight receive the help that I so greedily gave away? I pray this in His name.

August 27, 2010

To Whom It May Concern

I am a combat veteran of the first Gulf War and have been living with the debilitating effects of Combat PTSD for 19 years. I am 30% service-connected for PTSD and will soon receive an increase of at least 50% if not 70%. I have been under a psychiatrist and therapy for the last 5 years and still keep getting worse, I have flashbacks and hallucinations - both audio and visual continuously, I can tune it out sometimes but it it still swirling around me all day. I feel the need to hurt myself and other people, the anger and rage has returned along with the PTSD monster - I need help, I am asking for help. I keep asking for help and they give me another appointment.

I have an appointment on Sept 2 to sign papers for admission to an inpatient program, both my doctor and therapist think I need to go. But, from research I have done the waiting lists for most VA inpatient hospitals are beyond 2 to 4 months. I cannot wait that long, I need stability now. My mind is playing tricks on me, it is descending into oblivion and I can see it playing out over and over. The vivid combat scenes rage through my head, rolling along the crushing weight of treaded metal - fire ablaze everywhere. I should not be alone with my thoughts, but here I'll sit. Because I fear to take myself with me when I go anywhere.

I need a stable holistic environment to heal in, I am seeking help...I do not know if I can hang on much longer.

August 25, 2010

Combat Vet Remembers More of the War: Jumbled Memories

This takes part after my formation took enemy artillery, where one of our BFV's lost their track and I disobeyed a direct order from both my TC and my CO. I saved our guys lives that day, but we took a multitude more in return. The story picks up from here.

We had boxed the enemy tanks in, after my unit withdrew from the line of engagement the tanks were brought up and began firing into the hemmed in enemy tanks and support vehicles. Our A-10 Warthogs were strafing them into the dust as we lobbed round after round of sabot metal punching spears, erupting into forced infernos where molten metal and steaming entrails form a fiery vaporizing spray. Erupting upwards hundreds of feet or so; turrets flipping end over end and fire blazing everywhere. I can hear the whole battalion over my headphones reporting the grim realities, friendly fire report comes in.

Now we are terrified somewhere in our minds that the pull of the trigger is killing my own; we must compact our overseer part whom questions so much and rely more on training than ever before. Thus cementing the thing blocking us today; the primitive mind becomes stuck as our way of engaging everything and everyone, where the capacity of engaging in mayhem lies. Some of us have tried to wrest away from the passion of vengeance and the kiss of ruination, to no avail as her talons dig deeper and we resist but the seduction of darkness and damnation lies hidden in all the shadows.

Ah, the smell of death at high noon as we sift through the hollowed detritus of war.

August 22, 2010

Prayer and Community: A Shelter from the Heat of the Day

Photo by Scott Lee
When I need inspiration I will pray on it and then turn it over to God and forget it...outside of writing it down, well usually, lol. I find most of my inspiration through conversations with other vets and advocates, God gives it to me through others, it is up to me to listen for the answers I prayed to God on and he returns my honor of Him and blesses me as he feeds me inspiration through the mouths of others in my community.

Praying and community; it all comes down to the most successful tools I have ever learned.

August 21, 2010

The Desert Storm Myth

When I first had to prove my combat experience and therefore my stressors, to finally receive my benefits, I had to research what the hell my unit did so I could piece my memory together with the After Action Reports. Upon my research I came across a website run by a Desert Storm Vet and found this account of my unit's three campaigns, of the 1st Armored Division, Delta Company, 6th Battalion, 6th Infantry, I was on point for the 3rd Brigade and we took the brunt of combat.

It was not a Desert Storm, it was a storm in Hell.
The 7th Corps under Lieutenant General Frederick M. Franks, Jr. was composed of the 1st British Armored Division, the 1st US Armored Division, the 3rd Armored Division, the 1st Infantry Division, and the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment.

...On the US 7th Corps' right flank, the British 1st Armored Division continued to maul the Iraqi 7th Corps.3 In the center, the 2nd US Armored Cavalry Regiment led the 3rd US Armored Division and 1st Infantry Division towards the Iraqi Republican Guards. On the 7th Corps' left flank, the 1st Armored Division captured the large Iraqi supply installation at Al-Busayya (that stored food, water, medicine, fuel, repair parts, clothing, etc.) and then turned east, almost on line with the 3rd US Armored Division.

...The three armored mechanized divisions included the Tawakalna Division, which fought against the entire US 7th Corps as described in this article; the Medina Armored Division, which battled the 1st US Armored Division on the afternoon of 27 February 1991 west of the Al-Ruqta oil field; and the Hammurabi Armored Division, which fought against the 24th US Mechanized Division at Al-Tawr al-Hammar, on 2 March 1991, after the cease-fire.

...The Tawakalna Mechanized Division of the RGFC was positioned about 25 miles west of the Kuwait border, located exactly in the center of the US 7th Corps' sector; The Tawakalna was probably the best division in the Iraqi Army. It had fought with distinction during the war with Iran and was one of the lead divisions in Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait in August 1990 (4). Its two mechanized brigades and one armored brigade were equipped with the most advanced equipment available in the Iraqi Army, including 220 T-72 tanks and 278 infantry fighting vehicles. On 25 February it had moved into a blocking position west of the Iraq Petroleum Saudi Arabia (IPSA) pipeline about 80 miles from Kuwait city. In spite of the air campaign, most of this division was in position and ready to fight when the US 7th Corps arrived on 26 February 1991 (5).

...With the destruction of the Tawakalna Division, Franks was able to focus the combat power of the 7th Corps towards the other heavy divisions of the Republican Guard Forces Command. Although part of the Medina Division would stand and fight against the 1st US Armored Division, the Iraqi high command ordered the Hammurabi Division to start moving north, across the Euphrates River and away from the American attack in the west. The Tawakalna Division's defense gave the remainder of the Iraqi Army in Kuwait the time it needed to evacuate most of its mechanized forces to Basra.

...When the confusing mêlée was over, the 1st Division tanks discovered that they had destroyed five of their own M1 tanks and four Bradleys. Six brigade soldiers perished in these attacks and thirty others were wounded.

...While most of the Tawakalna Division commander's attention was focused to his division's front, its right flank was about to be attacked by a fourth American unit, the 1st Armored Division. Major General Ron Griffith's primary military target had been the Medina Division about thirty kilometers father east (54), but one battalion of the Tawakalna's 29th Mechanized Brigade occupied positions in Griffith's 1st Armored Division's zone of operations (55). That Iraqi battalion lay directly in the path of Colonel Dan Zanini's (one of Griffith's three maneuver brigades) 3rd Brigade, 1st Armored Division (my unit baby, in the path of the Tawakalna Division!!!!!!!!!!!!!, we actually received credit for fighting all three Republican Guard divisions, 56).

August 20, 2010

Combat PTSD Vets Return to Combat: Easier than Coping Back Home

Comment from a reader on July 24, 2010 from the same dang awesome post I wrote on November 11, 2009. It shares with you a more complete picture or a typical face of Combat PTSD Home and its members; we are the Families of the Combat Veteran.
Scott, your blog has been an unbelievable insight into combat PTSD and given me so much to think about. Thank you. My friend came back from Afghanistan a few months ago and has found it quite difficult to re-adjust but I only realised how much he was suffering during a huge drunken breakdown a few weeks ago. I felt so helpless I didn't know what to say or do but I held him when he cried and left him alone when he asked.

The next day when he had sobered up I asked him how he was feeling and if he wanted to talk about it but he said no and I didn't want to push him. And then a few days later he said that he was going to apply to go back to Afghanistan. I was speechless. He said life was much simpler there and of course I have no comprehension of how it is over there but I really wanted to say I didn't think it was a good idea. But didn't feel like I had any right to say anything so I have kept silent. A few days ago he told me he put his application in and I was so upset, is there anything I can say? I know he is suffering and now from reading your blog I have a small idea just how much, I don't want him to feel even worse.....
My response,
Amy, this is a tough situation. First of all you will probably not be able to talk him out of it. Second, unconditional love is just that we love them, but we cannot and do not try to control them. This will put them on the defense and no one wants a combat vet on the defense receiving mixed up signals.

He will keep opening up, it took me 19 years for me to finally open up and talk about my combat experience, many will never talk about it.

This may not make much sense to someone who has never experienced it, but he will feel worlds better back in the battle-zone. He knows the risks, dangers and never goes without backup. He does not have to look over his shoulder, because his squad mate has it covered. He is told when to eat, drink, shit and sleep. He knows what to expect everyday for the next 365 days and he will never feel alone there.

I still feel the powerful bond I forged with my battle buddies that I will never forget. I long for their company as much today as when I left the theater of war. If I could go to war today, I know that my PTSD symptoms would vanish, as your veterans will if he goes back. This is an issue worth studying and researching as this trend is spreading. Our soldiers are on average 4 and 5 tours of duty.

August 19, 2010

Friends, Deployment and Community

I never realized just how important it was to be a good friend until I almost lost mine. You see, "L" and I have been friends for over 20 years. We met in elementary school and lived one street over from each other growing up. In high school I was self absorbed and had no time for other people's problems. I was so concerned with being popular and fitting in, that it was easy for me miss how many people I hurt, including my dear friend "L". After school, somehow she still managed to be my friend and I still treated her carelessly.

It wasn't until after my 1st marriage failed and I was left a single mother with no one to depend on that I started to really see what a great friend she was. She helped me to sell my wedding rings so I could file for my divorce. Her Hubby even went with me to the courthouse the day my divorce was finalized. When my Hubby deployed, she researched and found me the cheapest highest quality tires when mine were no longer drivable. She drove me around her town to get the tires replaced and aligned. She had me spend weekends to make sure I got out of the house after I lost my job. She took my daughter for weekends so I could have time to myself. Whenever I have needed her, she has always been there. I can't tell you how thankful I am that she has stuck by me all these years and the invaluable lesson she taught to be a good friend.

In the last few years, I have been lucky enough to find 2 more amazing friends who have helped me through some of the hardest times in my life. "K" and I met when I was a clerk at a drugstore and she was my manager. That was almost 15 years ago. Our friendship has been seriously tested over the years. We have the same ex husband and lived together for 6 months and that almost ended our friendship for good. But, we were strong enough to get past it and we are closer than we have ever been. During my Husband's deployment, she helped shovel the driveway, clean my house, and fix me food when I couldn't get off the couch after falling down the stairs. Even when she was going through a grueling breakup she was still there. She is an angel.

Fight the Combat PTSD Monster

Drawing by Scott Lee 1991
Comment from a reader on July 21, 2010 from the article, hey hey you guessed it! Combat Veterans Bring the Monster of War Home: The Story of SGT Travis Triggs (not doing the link again...I know I could have done it by now...but...never mind.

Anonymous said...
I fight my monster every day....sometimes it gets the upper hand and I add to the problems I already have. I fight every day to keep sane, to be "normal", to keep my job and keep my family intact. I fought well in Iraq...and won. I am still fighting, but feel I am destined to loose this fight. God, how I want this monster to go away.
My Response,
Anony, Go the VA, yes they can suck big time sometimes. But, if you read in these sections under Resources for Soldiers, Veterans, Families and Loved Ones you will be able to get the hep you need:
You might be able to find some help along the way in reading here, if nothing else you will understand yourself better (Beware - Understanding why we do what we do will not change any of this...).

I have been where you can make it home if you keep working at coming home everyday. We say 'Welcome Home' to our brothers and sisters in arms because the battle never leaves us, as we return home from combat everyday of our lives.

Your monster is not just your is the monster of all Warriors, we should carry it together. You are not meant to carry this burden alone, come home to your brothers and sisters. Seek us out in your community, we are there waiting for you.

The guilt and shame we carry we can share in and begin to heal.

August 18, 2010

We Gave the You, Joe Public the Right to be Condescending and Judgmental

This comment came from a reader from the article Combat Veterans Bring the Monster of War Home: The Story of SGT Travis Triggs, I tear Anonymous a Kentucky Fried Ass Whooping!
One cannot take human life (murder/kill) and remain normal. It is impossible. Life is sacred and it is a gift given to us by God. No one has a right to kill another. That is why we have the commandment, "Thou shalt not kill" regardless of what governments, or individuals tell us.

We reap what we sow. It is painful indeed.
We reap what we sow?

sow - to scatter (seed) over the ground for growing. To spread (land, for example) with seed. To strew something around or over (an area); distribute something over. To propagate; disseminate: sow rumors. To scatter seed for growing.

sow (one's) oats/wild oats, to indulge in dissolute or licentious behavior, especially to be sexually promiscuous, when young.

Usually used of men (from

Now, to employ such a devious and licentious projection (psychological term...go look it up) onto Combat PTSD Veterans labeling them as deviant. Now, I must ask you this. Do you know the suffering of a Combat PTSD Veteran who by no action of their own, barring signing a piece of paper, who feel the burden of a nation on their shoulders and nowhere to go because the system is already overloaded with Combat Veterans. It has been estimated by the Federal Prison Bureau the 10% of the American jails and prisons house veterans. The last time the incarcerated veteran population was in double digits was 10 years after the Vietnam War. We are now in double digits and the war is not over!

We do no have enough resources to help our warriors come home safely...never mind who started what and your personal opinion of the war. These men and women are not some hard statistic for you to say "Damn shame, they got it coming though for what they did says so in the bible."

They gave you the freedom to be condescending and judgmental! Painful indeed? Seriously? Sounds like you have no idea what such pain feels like, talking about it in such a flippant and caviler way!

August 17, 2010

PTSD is a Demon: First It Invades the Veteran, then the Family

Reader's comment on August 1, 2010 from the article Combat Veterans Bring the Monster of War Home: The Story of SGT Travis Triggs
For the life of me I cannot figure out why our government and the general public is not willing to do more for our Veterans.

PTSD is a demon. One that not only invades the mind of the soldier, but the mind of every individual that loves the soldier. It eats at the heart of the wife who watches her husband pace the living room without any explanation for his restlessness. It eats at the innocent soul of the child that watches their hero throw a toy across the room that startled him with it's sound.
Being an Army wife was not easy when he was away. And now that he has been safe at home for 4 years, I find myself wondering if it would have been easier if he had not made it. I know this is awful to put in writing. I understand that every wife or husband that has lost their soldier would do anything to have them back in any shape or form. I only mean to reflect on my personal 4 year struggle to be the "perfect" wife to a struggling hero.

Life has become littered with invisible obstacles that never seem to get easier. I feel for every soldier, every wife and husband, every child, every parent, every friend of a soldier. I pray that one day everyone will be fighting for our soldiers the way they have fought for us.

Combat Vet Girlfriend Finds Hope and Support at PASP

Photo by Scott Lee
ACK Girl said...Another comment from More Stupid Crap to Say to a Combat Veteran from February 18, 2010 12:12 PM (24 comments and growing),
I have been dating a veteran of the Iraq war for approximately 6 months now and I see how his PTSD effects everything aspect of his life. He was very forthcoming with his struggle right from the start. I thought I had a reasonably decent grasp on what I was getting involved with because my father was a war veteran as well. I was used to not being able to make loud noises, walk up behind him without warning, ask questions about his experiences (my father taught me to listen to the information offered but to never ever ask questions of a veteran), etc.

My father was a loving man but not an emotionally expressive one until the tail end of his life. It took the passing of my mother for him to finally let down some of his guard and show some real emotion. It was in the 9 years between my mom and dad's passing that I finally got to know my father as the man he truely was. He was wounded still, decades after he served in WWII. He struggled with his own deamons and yet he was still infinitely proud to have served his country. To him, it was his greatest accomplishment.

When I met my boyfriend there was so much about him that reminded me of my dad. He had all of the qualities that I loved about my own father. He is proud yet humble. He is strong yet vulnerable (not that he wants to show that, but I have seen it). He is wounded yet he carries on. I admire him in ways he will never know....the same way I admired my dad. I see his struggle with his PTSD and I wish I could help somehow. All I can do is listen when he wants to talk and do my best to not do the things that I know will set him off (like walking up behind him unexpectedly, discussing politics, religion or the war (any of them, and things like that).

We have had a hard time with certain aspects of our relationship but I know in my heart that he is a good, honest and loving man. I also know that he is deeply, deeply wounded in ways that I could not begin to imagine. So I will patiently work through the bumps with him because I believe in him. I believe in all of our veterans and service memebers. I owe my life to them, I owe my freedom to them and I owe my undying support and gratitude to them. It was an honor to have been raised by the man I called daddy. It is an honor to share my life with than man I call "honey". It is an honor to be an american citizen and I am fully aware of the price that has been paid and will be paid by those who defend our freedom and liberties.

Thank you for this blog. It helps to read these posts to gain better insight into how to help and support the veteran that I love so dearly.

August 15, 2010

Symbols of War, Responsibility and Remembrance

Another comment by a reader that I find should be included in our main pages. This one is from More Stupid Crap to Say to a Combat Veteran, one of our readers favorite to comment on.
OEF Combat Vet Wife says,
I have read your blog and keep returning to it. You have an insight that helps me. My husband is and OEF vet with ptsd. He does not talk much and obviously I will never understand the experience he or any of you vets have gone through.This blog helps. However, this comment "We do not wear our military memorabilia because we want people to ask us about them, we wear them to remind us of shit we will never be able to forget. If you cannot understand that then you have no business asking us about anything." leaves me a bit uneasy (for lack of a better word).
Photo by Scott Lee
When ANYONE wears any kind of symbol, saying, whatever it invites people to read, to notice and sometimes to talk. I do get wearing something as a reminder (I wear specific jewelry to remind me of those who have passed). I get to see it everyday but no one is any smarter about it. I do hope you will consider my comment and not get as upset when someone recognizes something you have on. For the most part, they probably mean no harm.
Again thank you for writing this blog.
My response,

August 14, 2010

Combat Vet Seeks VA Inpatient PTSD Treatment Hospital 19 Years After Combat

I am on a waiting list to go into a Combat PTSD Inpatient Hospital, some of the numbers being thrown around are 30-90 day waiting period...Seriously? Really?

It should come to no surprise to me - well, until I have to go through the damn hoops with the VA, AGAIN! I will keep everyone posted - Talk about fucking barriers to care...fuck me.

Upon admittance I will not be writing at PASP for up to 3 months, my therapist thinks it is important that I focus on me.

The VA: Protect the Budget Policy Breeds Barriers to Care for Veterans

Photo by Scott Lee
On August 19, 2009 at 2:22 PM, I had a conversation with a Combat Veteran's Mother pleading for help with the criminal charges her Combat PTSD son received during a flashback. Incarcerated Combat Vet Mom makes a critical connection on why so many veterans are not receiving the care they scream out for in the night.

Anonymous said,
My son is just begining to show signs of something after being placed in jail for domestic violence and robbery II. He's been in jail for over 4 months with a bail high as the sky and the VA Med Ctr not willing to accept him with a felony charge. My son, who was bail out 2 times in one week was place there for allegly attacking the victim again. My question is, he's wanting the bail lowered so we can get him out. Can I trust him?
Scott A. Lee said,
I would like to direct you to a woman who has been going through a similar situation. Her name is Sue, click here, her email is on her blogger profile.

I have been talking to her for about a year now and she has come a long way and making the best of her situation. She has become active in this area of concern and has gained some wisdom and insights that may help you.

August 12, 2010

Unknown Soldiers by Joe Garland, WWII Veteran

I recieved this comment on The Combat Veteran and Police Assisted Suicide on November 25, 2008,
Scott, sometimes it takes a long time to recognize that we have PTSD. My preface to my new book, Unknown Soldiers, (see below) is an account of my situation. I've finally written my place in history and that of my comrades from my point of view as a participant. My new book, "Unknown Soldiers," is a memoir of my days as a soldier serving in World War II in Europe.

Even as I, at eighty-five, close the book sixty-five years later, I confess in the recollection of it all to a tinge of what we now call post-traumatic stress disorder. No, none of us purposed our death when we purposed our services to President Roosevelt and to our country back in the 1940s.

This book was embarked upon in March 1943 in the form of a journal—a catch-as-catch-can record of whatever lay ahead of me, a bottom-of-the-pile volunteer in the United States Infantry when the USA was viewed as the last hope of a more or less civilized world grappling with the most evil force in the recorded history of mankind. Six months after I signed up for battle, not long after the Allied invasion of Italy, I landed in ravaged Naples with the first contingent of American casualty replacements in Europe and was assigned to the Intelligence and Reconnaissance Platoon of about thirty front-line scouts and observers in the 45th Infantry Division's 157th Regiment, already baptized in the battle to drive the Germans from Sicily after their expulsion from North Africa.

August 9, 2010

Marine Widow Lost Her Combat Veteran to Suicide: Icarus Syndrome

Photo by Scott Lee
I received this comment on January 26, 2009 at 10:41 AM on an article I wrote, We Cannot Make it Through the Confines of Our Minds Without the Help of Others, it went viral on January 23, 2009 the day I published it. Here is the comment,
After watching my father, a 16 yr. Army WWII veteran, my uncle, a WWI Navy veteran, my husband, Marine Corps '68 in country, cousins, brothers-in-law, and friends, then reading correspondence from my great-grandfather after the Civil War, I have been left with an understanding of that life-altering change that you speak of that leaves ordinary life and its mundane, trivial worries a shadowy caricature of what you feel life is supposed to be.

Perhaps it is a chemical alteration the body undergoes, the pharmaceutical companies will be happy to help, but perhaps it is a more profound change, spiritual if you will. If you can find a way to channel that omniscient feeling into making our society function optimally, there would be a chance for us.

August 1, 2010

PTSD and Incarcerated Veterans

Hello! My name is Jamie Keyes, and I am the mother of an Iraq war veteran who has PTSD and is also in prison due to a PTSD related incident. I really don't know exactly how to start this blog other than to say that my son's service in the military, PTSD and subsequent incarceration has really sent me on a long and painful journey, but given me a new mission in life. That mission being a part of educating our country of the plight of our returning veterans and soldiers, so that the appropriate changes can be made to better support them.

Because of my advocacy and experience with these issues, I have been given many opportunities to reach out to the families of veterans who have PTSD and unfortunately been arrested and thrown into prisons all over this country because of their service to this country. On any given week I receive calls from many desperate family members who's young veterans have come home suffering the unseen wounds of war, fallen through the cracks, and ended up in prison. I have heard all their stories, and despite the different circumstances surrounding the arrests of their loved ones, the stories are all the same. It begins with the soldier who is still in the military. Commanders and those who are supposed to be taking care of their soldiers are not paying attention to the signs of distress or responding appropriately.

There is no seamless transition from the military to the V.A. and many of them are sent out into the civilian world having to fend for themselves. If they do make it to the VA, they are not taken care of in a timely and appropriate manner, and many end up in prison or morgues all over this country. Currently there is no way of telling how many of our current conflict veterans are in jails and prisons all over this country because there are no studies on the numbers, or ways of keeping track of them. I will tell you this. It is at epidemic proportions and the citizens in this country would be shocked if they really knew how many of our young soldiers were incarcerated due to their PTSD.