A Soldier's Struggle With PTSD
March 29, 2008
Stars and Stripes|by Tracy Burton
Army Spc. Brandon Garrison looks fine. He pulls his wife, Lily, close. He gives her a quick kiss on the cheek and wraps his hand over her stomach, carrying their first child.
Inside, Garrison fights a rage that consumes most of his days since returning from 17 months of combat in Afghanistan. It's a demon that shows no mercy and interrupts even simple routines like eating and sleeping. At any moment, halfway through a football game or in the middle of the night, he can lose himself to this evil.
This is his war now. A war that started on a battlefield a half a world away and has now embedded itself in his mind. Through nightmares, flashbacks, anxiety and fear, he battles this beast each day.
Garrison is among thousands of troops experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, as they return from Afghanistan or Iraq. The 21-year-old from northeastern Kansas is also part of a growing number of servicemembers whose well-being has been compromised in a system that's supposed to take care of them.
The most troubling challenges facing these troops include:
Psychological trauma and mental health care not always receiving the same priority as physical injuries.
Army claims of pre-existing personality disorders, which in many cases slash disability benefits and long-term mental health care for otherwise eligible combat veterans.
The enemy Garrison encountered daily in combat still haunts him. He sees the faces of his fallen brothers. He smells the dirty air, amid the blood. Screams of panic broken with hums of moaning pain lingers and the dust ensues yet another storm inside him.
That is until he finds his way back to Lily, and back to the life he knew before war.
"Without her, I seriously wouldn't be alive right now," Garrison said.
Garrison's platoon from the Army's 10th Mountain Division based in Fort Drum, N.Y., specializes in fighting in harsh conditions. In northeast Afghanistan they were stationed in Pech Valley Korengal Outpost, one the country's deadliest valleys.
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When PTSD is caused by combat, it becomes the war inside. This piece said "This is his war now." but the truth is, it is the whole family's war. It becomes the war of the wife or husband, to win, defeat an enemy that came home and heal a wound no one can see. Vietnam was my husband's war but it became my battle 25 years ago. My book For The Love Of Jack, His War/My Battle is on the right side of the blog and it's free. 18 years of our life together are in that book and all the changes we went through as mild PTSD turned into a raging war.
It is not just their battle to fight. It's up to us to help them fight for their lives when they come home.