The Precipice of PTSD

https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/111801292/posts/2728

The Precipice of PTSD

Most people don’t understand PTSD, 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 worst 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 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.”

Intermission Story (3) – Cpl. Delmer R. Beam & PTSD

 

https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/40099923/posts/9947

Taken from the book, “Soldiers Stories: A Collection of WWII Memoirs” with permission by Myra Miller; written by Marshall Miller.

War Stories don’t always end when the shooting stops and soldiers return to civilian life.  The family of former Army Corporal Delmer Beam can tell you all about he horrors of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Cpl. Beam;s separation papers list him as a “Combat Infantryman” in the Army’s 6th Division, 1st Infantry Regiment, C Company.  His WWII experiences started in 1939, as a 17-year old, at Fort Jackson near Columbia, South Carolina and stretched into August 1945, after several years of bitter fighting in the South Pacific against Japanese forces at New Guinea and the Philippines.

Delmer’s wife, Gladys, told her children, Lonnie, Roger and Lana, that the father they came to know after the war was nothing like the “joyful, fun guy” who gave 6½ years of his life – and numerous difficult years beyond – to the cause of freedom.

Gladys said the war destroyed her husband, both mentally and physically.  In the mid-1960’s, Lana said he submitted to shock treatments at Mount Vernon Hospital to calm down his combat issues.  The children couldn’t understand why they weren’t allowed to shoot fireworks on the 4th of July.

The few stories Beam told about his experiences were tough to hear. Like the one where soldiers were ordered to shoot thirty rounds of ammunition every morning into the surrounding trees to protect the camp from Japanese snipers, who would climb high to get maximum angles on their targets.  Once, Beam recalled, several soldiers were killed by a sniper, even after the morning strafing.  After an exhaustive search, the sniper finally was located hiding in a water canvas bag hanging from a tree.  He had crawled in, poked a small hole in the canvas and shot his victims with a pistol.

Japanese marksmen and fierce fighting weren’t the only obstacles thrown in Beam’s path.  Malaria was a difficult burden and an attack from scrub typhus mites nearly killed him.  Delmer told his family he got so sick from the mites that he was presumed dead while lying on a stretcher on a bench.  Someone saw him move however and he was transferred to a hospital ship.

His son Roger, chronicled his memories of his Dad’s experience :

As a young boy, I was always enamored with army war stories.  I would ask him about the war many times.  Only on a very few occasions would he talk about it.  It is strange how I can remember some of the stories he told me when I can’t remember what i did yesterday….

He said he saw GI’s almost kill each other over a piece of chicken wire.  The reason is that they would stretch the wire over their fox holes so the Japanese hand grenades would hit the wire and bounce back before it exploded.  It rained every day in the jungle and was very hot and humid…

He told me about his best friend, a young 19-year old from Hope, Arkansas.   While they were being attacked one day by Japanese, my Dad kept telling him to stop sticking his head up over the embankment they were behind, but the young man kept doing it until he got hit in the head and died in my dad’s arms.  This has always made a picturesque impression on me…

I know he was haunted the rest of his life about what he went through, just like so many others.  He was a good dad and even got better the older he got… Dad never met a stranger, he would talk to anyone.

Despite his health issues, Delmer spent his post-war years in Dixon, Missouri, and worked at Fort Leonard Wood as a fire inspector.  He died in 1991 at age 70.  His daughter had these words to remember her Dad:  I guess the most uplifting thing about my dad was… he really believed that he survived when others died because God wasn’t done with him yet.

From Beam’s grandson, Roger Beam Jr., :

My grandpa Delmar told me this story several times as a small boy.  I think he always got a kick out of it and was probably one of his “better” memories of the war.

He told me of the time his squad was out one evening climbing around the sides of trees collecting peppers that they used to flavor basically all their food.  They had rifles slung and arms full of peppers.  As they came around a tree, to their shock and surprise they ran into a squad of Japanese soldiers doing the exact same thing!  He said the resulting chaos was both terrifying and hilarious, as both groups scrambled away.  Not a shot was fired and they saved their peppers!

In the midst of such a horrible time for my grandfather, it does make smile a bit remembering how he smiled when telling this story.

Click on images to enlarge.

Why I Explain My PTSD by My Symptoms

Explain PTSD symptoms - your specific symptoms - to friends. Explaining the specifics of your PTSD symptoms can reduce stress and ease symptoms. Find out why.

https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/traumaptsdblog/2017/05/why-i-explain-my-ptsd-by-my-symptoms/

It can be difficult to explain posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms to friends, but it helps me to do so. PTSD symptoms include an array of possibilities such as anxiety, depression, panic attacks, difficulty bonding, addiction, insomnia, and dissociation. People experience PTSD in very different ways, based on their trauma history, resilience, supports and a myriad of other factors. So here is why I find it beneficial to explain how my specific PTSD symptoms manifest themselves, and why you might too.

Explain What PTSD Symptoms Look Like to Friends

Many people have a narrow definition of PTSD. With so many veterans developing PTSD, it is understandable that a common perception of PTSD involves someone who has been in a combat situation. However, PTSD is not choosy. It impacts the military, emergency response personnel, victims of abuse, witnesses to abuse, and other individuals who have experienced significant trauma.

When I tell someone I have PTSD it is because I want them to understand me better. I want them to know that at times I might appear spacey or inattentive, react poorly to sudden changes in routines or plans, become hypervigilant in unfamiliar spaces, and seldom get enough sleep. In explaining my PTSD symptoms, I hope to set the stage for supportive interactions when my symptoms manifest.

If you find yourself avoiding situations or backing out of plans at the last minute or you feel trapped at times because you become anxious or agitated, it might be a chance to share some of your symptoms with friends and talk about how they impact you when they appear. It doesn’t even require much detail. For example, I tell friends, “I am hoping to come to your party, but I often get very nervous thinking about being around strangers, so I may not be in the right frame of mind to be there.”

Explain PTSD by Symptoms to Reduce Them

Once I began to explain my PTSD symptoms to my friends, something interesting happened. I found myself attending more functions, more comfortable asking someone to repeat themselves when I had lost focus on the conversation, and more able to respond to last-minute requests by taking a few moments to process. My friends and acquaintances have even begun to show me support by giving me advanced notice for changes, inviting me to arrive at gatherings early, or asking me if I need a break or would like to get some fresh air when we are in tight spaces.

By sharing my triggers and reactions, I have made it easier to join in activities. I find that knowing I have a way out of an uncomfortable situation that those around me can understand removes a significant amount of worry. When my stress is lower, my symptoms are more in control.

Do you have any thoughts on this? How much do you explain to friends and family about your symptoms? Please join in the conversation by leaving a comment below.

PTSD Treatments: PTSD Therapy, PTSD Medications Can Help

Post-traumatic stress disorder treatment consists of PTSD therapy and PTSD medication. PTSD treatments are often combined for the best outcome.

https://www.healthyplace.com/ptsd-and-stress-disorders/ptsd/ptsd-treatments-ptsd-therapy-ptsd-medications-can-help/

PTSD treatments that have been scientifically validated can be very helpful in reducing and/or alleviating the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD therapy and PTSD medications are effective treatments for those experiencing this severe anxiety disorder, developed after a traumatic event. For PTSD treatment, these techniques are usually combined for the best outcome (What is Posttraumatic Stress Disorder [PTSD]?).

Because many psychiatric illnesses commonly occur alongside PTSD, they may also need treatment. Many people with PTSD also have issues with substance abuse (drug addiction information); in these cases, the substance abuse should be treated before the PTSD. In the cases where depression occurs with post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD treatment should be the priority, as PTSD has a different biology and response than depression.1

Post-traumatic stress disorder can occur at any age and can be caused by any event or situation the person perceives as traumatic (PTSD in Children: Symptoms, Causes, Effects, Treatments). About 7% – 10% of Americans will experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at some point in their lives.

PTSD Therapy

Several types of therapy are used in the treatment of PTSD (PTSD Therapy and Its Role in Healing PTSD). The two primary PTSD therapies are:

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for PTSD focuses on recognizing thought patterns and then ascertaining and addressing faulty patterns. For example, faulty thought patterns may be causing the individual to inaccurately assess the danger of a situation and thus react to a level of danger that isn’t present. CBT is often used in conjunction with exposure therapy where the person with PTSD is gradually exposed to the feared situation in a safe way. Over time, exposure therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder allows the person to withstand and adjust to the feared stimuli.2

EMDR therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a technique that combines exposure and other therapeutic approaches with a series of guided eye movements. This PTSD therapy is designed to stimulate the brain’s information-processing mechanisms in an effort to reprocess the traumatic memories so they can be integrated into the psyche without the associated anxiety. (Watch an interview about EMDR Therapy Self Help Techniques for Trauma Relief)

Other therapy techniques used in PTSD treatment include:

  • Family therapy
  • Play therapy
  • Art therapy
  • Relaxation exercises
  • Hypnosis
  • PTSD Support Groups
  • Individual talk therapy – particularly for those with trauma from abuse or from childhood
  • Anxiety management

PTSD Medications

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) medications can often be used to alleviate the physical symptoms of PTSD enough so that PTSD therapy has a chance to work. Several types of PTSD medications are available, although not all are Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Medications for PTSD include:

  • Antidepressants – several types of antidepressants are prescribed for PTSD. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the primary type. SSRIs have been shown to help the symptoms associated with re-experiencing of trauma, avoidance of trauma cues and over-awareness of possible dangers (hyperarousal). Both sertraline (Zoloft) and paroxetine (Paxil) are FDA-approved antidepressant PTSD medications
  • Benzodiazepines – tranquilizers most frequently prescribed for the short-term management of anxiety symptoms. This type of PTSD medication may relieve irritability, sleep disturbances and hyperarousal symptoms. Examples include lorazepam (Ativan) and diazepam (Valium).
  • Beta-blockers – may help with symptoms associated with hyperarousal. Propranolol (Inderal, Betachron E-R) is one such drug.
  • Anticonvulsants – anti-seizure medications also prescribed for bipolar disorder. No anticonvulsants are FDA-approved for PTSD treatment; however, those who experience impulsivity or involuntary mood swings (emotional lability) may be prescribed medications such as carbamazepine (Tegretol, Tegretol XR) or lamotrigine (Lamictal).
  • Atypical antipsychotics – these medications may help those with symptoms around re-experiencing the trauma (flashbacks) or those who have not responded to other treatment. No antipsychotic is FDA-approved in the treatment of PTSD but drugs like resperidone (Risperdal) or olanzapine (Zyprexa) may be prescribed.

Novel pilot studies also suggest that Prazosin (Minipress, an alpha-1 receptor agonist) or Clonidine (Catapres, Catapres-TTS, Duraclon, an antiadrenergic agent) may also be helpful in treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

article references

Living in PTSD Recovery and the Myth of a Cure

Living in PTSD recovery isn't the same as being cured of the disease. It's important to understand the difference. Take a look at this.

https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/traumaptsdblog/2017/06/ptsd-recovery-and-the-myth-of-a-cure/

I lived with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for almost 22 years before I received treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder. After five years of therapy, I healed enough to consider myself living in PTSD recovery. However, I still have symptoms that require maintenance, depression being the most notable. No magic formula exists to cure PTSD, but I have coping skills to manage my symptoms. Let’s look at the reality of living in PTSD recovery, and the myth of being cured.

Living in PTSD Recovery Is Not Like Being Cured

To the average person, curing an illness means you eliminate it entirely. I once broke my thumb. After a trip to the doctor and a few weeks of medical care, it healed completely. Once cured, my broken thumb was gone. It wasn’t suddenly going to break again on its own. With PTSD, there is no guarantee that once controlled, the symptoms will never return, even if months or years pass between occurrences.

By saying we live in PTSD recovery, we can acknowledge the reality that a mental illness relapse is possible, and the need to practice self-care consistently exists. For myself, this includes taking my medication, keeping my stress levels under control, and avoiding triggers.

I learned the importance of this mindset several years ago. I felt fully healed, so I stopped taking my medications. Unfortunately, a few weeks later, I encountered a particularly challenging trigger. As a result, I relapsed and experienced a dissociative fugue. I had not understood the long-term maintenance needed with PTSD.

Living in PTSD Recovery Symptom-Free

Symptom-free recovery is possible. It doesn’t mean you are done taking care of yourself. Here are some tools that are my essentials for continued PTSD recovery:

My most debilitating PTSD symptoms have been in remission since my fugue. I continue to follow my recovery plan and seek help at the slightest concern of a relapse. While it has been a long stretch of symptom-free recovery, I know my PTSD still exists, and that’s okay. I don’t need a cure. I need to use my resources to stay on track.

I’d love to hear from you. Have you faced roadblocks to recovery? Do you have supports or tools you use to stay on track? Please let me know in the comments below.

Understand Trauma-Informed Care to Improve PTSD Therapy

Understanding trauma-informed care can assist you in making the most out of your PTSD treatment. Here is what you need to know about trauma-informed care.

https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/traumaptsdblog/2017/06/getting-the-most-out-of-therapy-for-ptsd/

In the field of mental health, the phrase trauma-informed care refers to a set of standards practitioners follow when treating individuals who have experienced trauma. Trauma-informed care reduces the risk of causing inadvertent harm to or retraumatizing people with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Understanding the basics of trauma-informed care can help you make the most out of your PTSD therapy.

Understanding Trauma-Informed Care Improves PTSD Therapy

There are six parts to trauma-informed care. When I first discovered them, I realized my assumptions and insecurities about therapy were keeping me from expressing things that would benefit my recovery (Does the Stigma of Therapy Keep You from Getting Help?). Here is what I learned about these six areas and how they helped me become more involved in my treatment and get the most out of my PTSD therapy.

  1. Safety
    Providers want us to feel safe, physically and mentally. They strive to provide settings where we will feel at ease and best able to communicate. Tell your provider when something makes you feel uncomfortable. For example, I dislike heights and asked that the shades be drawn in my therapist’s office because it was several floors up and made me nervous.
  2. Trustworthiness and Transparency
    Providers should be happy to explain how their office runs as well as the policies they have in place. When I began therapy, I worried that some of my questions might be rude. In reality, they were all very understandable concerns. Asking why there is a locking door between the waiting area and the offices, how the staff is trained to react if someone becomes violent, or what will happen if your therapist believes you may harm yourself are all examples of policy-related questions.
  3. Peer Support
    Part of trauma-informed care is acknowledging that people who have experienced trauma can benefit from sharing their trauma stories and experiences with each other in a safe environment. Some agencies employ peer navigators who are available to coach us through situations that they have dealt with firsthand. If your service provider doesn’t have any peer support options, talk to them about what is available in the community.
  4. Collaboration and Mutuality
    We’re all in this together. Healing happens in relationships and includes every person we encounter in the therapy environment: therapists, case workers, clerical staff, housekeeping, administrators, and peers. We should feel comfortable and supported by every person we come into contact with, and it’s okay to express concern to trusted staff if someone makes you uneasy or acts in a way that upsets you.
  5. Empowerment, Voice, and Choice
    Your provider’s first resource is you. You guide your treatment, and your provider should give you options, not instructions. Providers have an understanding that you should be making the choices, but it helps when you let them know you’re ready to make decisions or when you feel lost and need extra guidance.
  6. Cultural, Historical, and Gender Issues
    No matter what your cultural identity, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, or religion, you should not only feel welcome unconditionally as you are, but your therapy should embrace your identity and include it in meaningful ways. Make sure your therapist knows what is important to you.

Brain Change and PTSD: Proof Recovery is Possible

Trauma impacts the brain, makes changes in the brain, that lead to development of PTSD. Can new positive experiences change then brain? Find out.

https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/traumaptsdblog/2013/01/brain-change-ptsd-proof-recovery-is-possible/

In regard to PTSD, I’ve heard so many times – from both survivors and clinicians – once you’re broken you can’t be fixed (Three Ways Trauma Affects Your Brain). Really? I find that hard to believe.

And now, there’s proof that’s all a bunch of baloney.

Your Brain Can Change and Recover From PTSD

In my own trauma recovery, I got to a day that things seemed so dire and destined never to change that I almost gave up. And then a little voice inside me said, Go dance. Ridiculous, right? Not really. Dancing made me feel free, transcendent, joyful and very in the present moment.

I listened to that little voice and signed up for dance classes every day of the week. Seven straight days of every week of every month, I danced every day for four months. I stopped working on my PTSD recovery and just chased after the good feelings that dance brought me.

I didn’t know it, but I was doing something years ago that science today proves works: I was creating positive experiences for myself that trained my brain to rewire. And you know what? It was fun! Not only that, all of those good feelings became addictive. I couldn’t get enough.

Trauma impacts the brain, makes changes in the brain, that lead to development of PTSD. Can new positive experiences change then brain? Find out.In addition to shocking me with the fact that I could actually feel joy (I had long suspected that would never be possible for me) all of that good feeling translated into a new strength and courage that allowed me to go back into the work of PTSD healing. This time, I finally and completely got the job done.

A few years after my  PTSD recovery, I went to the annual trauma conference in Boston. The focus of the conference was heavily in the direction of the emerging neuroscience research. A lot of it proved how with MRIs and fMRIs we can actually see how PTSD impacts and changes the brain. Which got me to thinking….

If trauma impacts the brain in such a way that we develop PTSD, meaning the experience of trauma causes the brain to change, then can’t a subsequent experience also cause the brain to change? Was that, in fact, what I had done with all those positive hours of dance experience? Maybe. I cornered a neuroscientist who had presented at the conference and asked him point blank:

If neurological PTSD symptoms come about in response to a powerful psychological experience, is it possible to reverse those neurological changes by engaging in an equally powerful opposite experience?

“You mean, instead of experiencing trauma, experiencing a powerful bliss?” David asked. I nodded. “Yes.”

David didn’t even hesitate: “Yes. Definitely. If you could induce an equally powerful inverse experience, it would impact the brain and cause neurological changes.”

Huh. What do you think about that? A scientist, someone hardcore and a stickler for proof, unequivocally said that the brain can change. In fact, what I came to learn later is that not only can the brain change, it is hardwired to change. You are genetically built for your brain to change again and again and again until the end of your life.

Now, doesn’t all that just make you begin to think about recovery in a whole new way? You are perfectly fine. Your neuronal pathways and activity just needs to be changed. Work? Of course. Doable? Eminently.

Michele is the author of Your Life After Trauma: Powerful Practices to Reclaim Your Identity. Connect with her on Google+LinkedInFacebookTwitter and her website, HealMyPTSD.com.

What not to say to a combat veteran

 

https://crumilitary.org/what-not-to-say-to-combat-veterans-and-why/

This is a general guideline put together by former Sergeant Andi Westfall, who served with the National Guard as a medic during Operation Iraqi Freedom and who suffers with PTSD. These tips will be useful when interacting with a veteran and should not be considered absolutely true for every veteran. Each Soldier, Marine, Airman, Sailor or Coast Guardsman who has been deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Somalia or any other combat theater, has had a different combat experience. How they deal with their experience will vary depending on age, culture, faith, gender, community support, or lack of, and the presence of or lack of a family and/or social support system. A combat veteran is not the same person they were before being deployed to a combat theater and how the civilian population interacts with them can either help or hinder their very difficult transition.

  1. Did you kill any anyone?

    It would seem that common sense would deem this an inappropriate question, however this question is asked a lot. What purpose does this serve the individual asking this question knowing this about the veteran?

  2. What was the nastiest or most disgusting thing you saw over there?

    If the veteran wants to share this kind of detail they might, but ONLY after trust has been established. However, the chance they will want to relive the details of those events, which might be very traumatic, could be slim to none.

  3. Are you glad to be home?

    Consider for a moment what these words could be asking: “Are you glad that you are no longer in a situation where you are getting shot at, missiles being fired at you on a regular basis, the threat of your vehicle being blown up every time you get in it, sand storms and 140 degree temperatures?” It is also important to be aware that the veteran’s homecoming was more traumatic than being at war. Some come home financially desolate because the person they trusted to take care of their finances spent ALL their money. Others come home thinking they will be welcomed by their spouse only to find they have been unfaithful, usually with someone close to them such as a brother and/or best friend, and they are being handed divorce papers. Unfortunately this happens quite often.

  4. How are you doing?

    This question should really only be asked when you are willing to stay and listen to the answer. Most likely the veteran doesn’t know how they are doing and definitely may not know how to express it. It is okay not to know what to do with the answer because there isn’t anything you can say to fix it or make it better. Just being there so the veteran can “debrief” for just a moment can be enough.

  5. Did you see the news…? (And then proceed to go on and share what gruesome thing that has just happened in Iraq and/or Afghanistan, or how many Americans have been killed.)

    The veteran has “lived” the news and doesn’t need to relive it through the present media and certainly does not need to hear about it. The war is very personal to the veteran and most likely they know people still fighting and dying over there.)

  6. Do you feel guilty about what you had to do over there, i.e., kill another human?

    Just about any combat veteran will have some measure of guilt. Those who make it home alive, although grateful, have survivor’s guilt. Those who participated in direct combat had to make decisions that ultimately resulted in taking human life, to include women and children. These individuals generally have tremendous guilt but may not know how to identify it let alone admit it.

  7. Do you want to go get a drink?

    This generally becomes a BIG problem later so do not be the one to help them start self-medicating and on the path to destruction with chemicals. Coffee is a much better addiction and easier to quit.

  8. Do you want me to pray with you?

    This should be automatic. You may not know what to pray for but the Holy Spirit knows what the veteran needs and will direct. And, the veteran may be very angry at God and the last thing they want is to commune with Him. So be discerning: if he/she says no, honor that – and don’t ask “Why not?” unless you have already established a strong relationship of trust.

  9. What do you think about the U.S. being over there and don’t you think we should get out?

    It is not a good idea to get started on the politics concerning the hell they were sent into and have just come out of. Their perspective, because of experience, is going to be very different than the average civilian getting their information from CNN.

  10. What do you think of Obama? Bush?

    Just a good idea to stay away from these types of questions! If they want to talk about it, let them bring it up. But, be prepared to hear a point of view you might not agree with. They have a different perspective because of their experience that has shaped their point of view.

  11. Do you think God could ever forgive you?

    There are people out there who are extremely opposed to the war and blame the military for the destruction and loss of life they see on TV. These individuals seem unable to distinguish between their politics and the individual Soldier. The veteran will have some measure of guilt no matter what their job was, so do not make it worse by helping them along with the notion they can never be forgiven for the things they had to do to protect themselves and their battle buddies.

  12. Did you see any dead bodies?

    Again, if the veteran should want to share this very intimate detail of their deployment they might. However, this may occur after time but be prepared that they just will not share.

  13. Do not tell a veteran that you understand what they are going through and then share a story of when you hit your thumb with a hammer.

    There really is no way to completely understand going to war unless you have also “been there, done that.” There really is no experience you have had that can come close to the stress, terror, guilt and just plain hell of this type of event. However, God can use your trauma to extend compassion and empathy, which does not always require words. You don’t have to understand what they’ve been through, but to recognize this was something incredibly painful for them will show the veteran that you do care.

  14. DO NOT, even in a joking manner, tell a veteran that they should be grateful they made it home alive, they didn’t die “over there” and they need to get “over it” and be happy.

    There is already a VERY good chance that they wished they had been killed in action. Coming home is much more difficult that actually being in combat. The veteran knows what is expected of him or her during the heat of battle. They rely on training and the instinct to survive. There is no training manual for coming home and there is no debriefing that can fully prepare the veteran for how difficult it will be. As a result many desire to go back to Iraq or Afghanistan because they know who they are and how to survive in the civilian world. Then there are those who cannot deal with these pressures and consider suicide as the only option.

No Longer A Victim

Featured Image for No Longer A Victim

Return to “The Six Man Project”

WAR IS HELL…

It is reported that the first person to utter those words in a public address was William Tecumseh Sherman, the famous Civil War Union General.  He said to the 1879 graduating class of Michigan Military Academy, “You don’t know the horrible aspects of war. I’ve been through two wars and I know… I tell you, war is Hell!

Dr. Stu Weber, a former Vietnam War Special Forces warrior, served as Group Intelligence Operations Officer in Vietnam, receiving three bronze stars for his service.  Later, while pastoring a church for over thirty years, he wrote often about war.  In the afterward of the book, Two Wars: One Hero’s Fight on Two Fronts — Abroad and Within, he wrote:

“‘To those who have fought for it, freedom has a flavor the protected can never know.’ I’m not sure who made that statement, but it rings true. That’s the bright side of being a warrior, the good news — a quiet gratitude for life, lodged deep within a warrior’s soul. Beauty, innocence, peace, family, faith, and the simple joys of life possess an extra measure of fragrance and flavor for those who have risked everything to defend them.

“But being a warrior has a dark side, too.

“The old Negro spiritual says it well: ‘Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen.’ Many servicemen and women who have logged time in combat would say the same thing.  Nobody knows.  Nobody gets it.  Nobody has any idea what it’s like.

“Nobody, that is, except another warrior.

“Where there is a battle, there are wounds, and where there are wounds, there are scars — scars of the body and scars of the soul. In one sense, this is the story of every warrior who has lived through the shock and violence of combat.”

Simply said, war is hell; a deeply spiritual event that wounds the soul.  After the first recorded murder in Scripture, God’s response underlines the spiritual aspect of life and death, “And the Lord said, ‘What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground.’ (Genesis 4:10)”

Within the military, we have taken special care in the long and arduous preparation of our warriors.  We prepare them mentally with the best tactics, physically with the best PT, and emotionally with the most up-to-date simulations and practice field exercises.  But spiritually?  We have not done nearly as much.  As a result, a gaping void resides in many of our warrior’s hearts. Their souls have been pierced and have not healed.  War changes everyone and no one comes home the same as they left.  Perhaps that is you.

Spiritual War

We are involved in a cosmic spiritual battle that far eclipses the battles portrayed in the Star Wars movies.  This is real and involves the principalities and authorities who govern our world.  This war has been going on much, much longer than our present engagement against the forces of terror.  It began even before Adam and Eve first sinned.  The Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 6:12 (ESV), “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

Who are the Commanding Generals of these two forces?  The Lord God Jehovah and Satan (the devil, or the evil one).  Don’t ever doubt there is a devil.  Doubting his existence is one of his best weapons … any army would desire the opposing forces to doubt or be unaware of their presence.

Jesus spoke specifically of the enemy’s singular strategy.  He said in John 10:10a, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.”  He is seeking through the three distinct parts of this strategy:

  1. to steal:  What is he interested in stealing?  He wants to continuously steal from us our awareness of God’s presence, of God with us. With the loss of the knowledge of His presence, we also lose our joy and peace.
  2. to kill:  If the evil one is successful in stealing our knowledge of God being with us for a sufficiently long period of time, he will more than likely succeed in killing our faith.
  3. to destroy:  What does the devil want to destroy?  He wants to destroy our core values; our worldview.  If he is successful, then the world doesn’t make sense to us. This can be closely followed with the conclusion that life doesn’t make sense, and isn’t worth living.

To illustrate these three points, let me tell you another story, about a very courageous warrior by the name of Nate Self.

Nate Self’s Story

Wikipedia describes Nate Self: “Self graduated from West Point in 1998. After becoming an Infantry officer, Self deployed to Kosovo and was then selected to serve in the 75th Ranger Regiment. As a platoon leader in the Rangers, he deployed to Afghanistan shortly after 9/11 as part of a Special Operations task force with a mission to kill or capture Taliban and al-Qaeda’s top leaders. Self commanded a Quick Reaction Force to rescue a missing Navy SEAL during the Battle of Takur Ghar mountain. For his actions during the battle he was awarded the Silver StarBronze Star and a Purple Heart and was invited to attend the 2003 State of the Union Address.”

Nate tells the rest of the story:

“Today, my pistol is rusted, my medals are misplaced, and my uniforms don’t fit.  I don’t even wear any uniform anymore — I have been discharged from the Army. And yet, I still fight. I fight in a war of my own, battling an unseen enemy. I dream of combat every night, I see the faces of those I lost under my command, my anger rages. My shrapnel wounds have scarred over, but my emotional and spiritual wounds are still open. I led a battle I’d been training for my whole life — and it changed everything.”

How did he get there?  After all, Nate Self was a man of a strong faith.  He wrote regarding his first deployment to Kosovo,

“I dealt with death up close and personal as we tried to prevent ethnic cleansing and intimidation. After several dangerous situations, I came to believe that God was in control of everything, and that included my safety. I believed that I would be safe as long as God had a plan for me. Some of my soldiers showed indicators of emotional and psychological stress in the environment, but I believe my relationship with God was protecting me from mental, emotional and psychological harm … God was blessing my time in the Army through successful missions and favor with commanders.”

Not long after that successful deployment, Nate was selected to be a Ranger. Fifteen months after he had been assigned a platoon of Rangers, on New Year’s Eve, 2001, his unit joined a special operations task force with the mission to kill or capture al Qaeda’s top leaders in Afghanistan.  Three months after joining Task Force Anaconda, they received their first mission.

A U.S. Army CH-47 Chinook heavy lift helicopter takes off from Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan.

The Battle of Takur Ghar

On March 4, 2002, Nate and his men were sent to rescue Neil Roberts, a Navy SEAL who had fallen from his helicopter on top of a mountain in SE Afghanistan. The mountain was named Takur Ghar. Roberts was surrounded by al Queda fighters.  It was Nate’s job to get him out.

Just the night before, Capt. Self had been leading a Bible study on Psalm 121, “I LIFT UP MY EYES TO THE HILLS—WHERE DOES MY HELP COME FROM? MY HELP COMES FROM THE LORD, THE MAKER OF HEAVEN AND EARTH….”  They were going to seek to be God’s help to that SEAL.

Nate wrote later that his faith was tested that night … his helicopter was ambushed, and shot down. Four of his warriors were killed within seconds, including two who had been in that Bible study. That rescue mission rapidly became a survival mission but, despite that overwhelming fire, Nate felt that God was protecting him. He didn’t fear for his life. He wrote, “I still felt that God was right there with me …” He was reminded vividly of Psalm 121. He was involved in a mountain fight of his own. He remembered later that he had called out to God audibly during the early part of the battle, and he knew God was there.

Because he knew he was in God’s hands, he was able to perform with courage and strong leadership.  His Silver Star citation reads:

“Captain Self’s valorous actions while in direct contact with enemy forces and in the face of extreme duress during the successful rescue of Special Operators contributed immeasurably to the success of the mission and the saving of additional lives. While exiting the aircraft, Captain Self was severely wounded in the thigh. With total disregard for his well-being, he fought to the first covered and concealed position, engaged the enemy with his weapon, gathering remaining combat-effective Rangers, and began calling close air support on enemy locations. The gallantry displayed by Captain Self during 18 hours of combat is in keeping with the highest standards of valor.”

In the end, they had beaten overwhelming odds and enemy forces and, at the cost of six American lives, recovered Neil Robert’s body. Upon Capt. Self’s return to his Afghan base, senior officers praised him and his men. “It was unbelievable the Rangers were even able to get off that [mountain] and kill the enemy without suffering greater losses,” Lt. Gen. Franklin Hagenbeck told the Washington Post in May 2002.

“His men say Mr. Self never lost composure. He always seemed calm. He never second-guessed himself,” says Mr. Walker, one of the soldiers who fought alongside Self. Another soldier, David Gilliam, says he and his fellow Rangers never even knew Self was wounded.

When Nate returned from the deployment with his Rangers, he began receiving high praise for his service. He was awarded the Silver Star, Bronze Star and Purple Heart. His leadership was presented as the best example of how to conduct combat in the midst of overwhelming odds and on difficult terrain. He was honored by President Bush at his State of the Union address in 2003. Until that time, he was the most highly decorated officer in the War on Terror. On the outside, he was receiving high praise and attention but on the inside ‘my deep unseen wounds began to fester.’

His Battle Inside Intensifies

After he received orders to attend another Army School at Fort Benning, his men blessed him with the gift of a commemorative Colt .45 pistol.

During that six-month course, he became withdrawn and antisocial with his peers. He said, “What came out of the combat experience was that it caused me to withdraw, with my tight personal relationships with my family and with my wife. It caused me to distance myself from them because I didn’t want them to be a part of what I had seen and done.” Perhaps you feel the same way.

Unfortunately for Capt. Self, within six months of graduating from his course, he was on his second tour overseas in as many years.

This time he was deployed to Iraq: to Mosul which is on the outskirts of Nineveh, where Jonah in the Bible was told to go and warn the Ninevites to repent.  Jonah chose instead to flee from God in anger and fear.  The evil one was working on Capt. Self’s feelings and thoughts in a similar way.

With his unresolved feelings about the three men he ‘lost’ in combat, he started neglecting his prayer time and regular Bible reading. Without that positive spiritual input, he found himself imagining things … to the point of experiencing intense fear.

  • This was objective 1 of Satan’s plan … stealing from Nate the knowledge of God’s presence which then led to a loss of joy and peace.

He writes of this time, “I began to doubt God’s ability to protect me. I began having intense nightmares concerning my family’s safety. I knew that after three dangerous deployments, I was stacking the odds against my survival. My fear crushed my faith.”

  • This is objective 2 in Satan’s attacks … to kill Nate’s faith. 

“I slid backwards into a dark season of running from God — devoid of prayer, fellowship and time in the Word. I decided to act on my own. I decided to leave the Army.” He did so in 2004.

After Discharge

As time went on with his continued refusal to talk about what was bothering him, he gained weight, stopped taking care of himself, and became acutely depressed. He wrote, “Questions and doubts ravaged my mind. Why did I survive and my men die? Why did they send me there? Why does God allow such terrible wars to happen? Why can’t I feel anything?” He was a highly decorated warrior and leader yet he anguished in the after effects of the war. He writes, “As a prisoner of an unseen enemy, I asked myself one more question: ‘How should I kill myself?’

  • The true enemy was close to achieving his ultimate objective of destroying Nate Self.

“I realized I was about to lose everything: my marriage, my family and even my life. I had led a daring rescue mission and found myself in dire need of rescuing.”

He wrote in a journal about how much he hated himself, and wondered why his marriage was still working, since he wasn’t the man that his wife married. He even found himself messing with his pistol and considering it as a solution because the man he used to be was gone. He remembers thinking that he wanted “to kill the man who took his place. I was ready to sever my relationship with the whole world, by way of suicide.”

He said,

“At more than one point in time, I sat alone with the pistol my Rangers had given me as a gift and I held that pistol alone thinking about using it on myself and I was only thinking about what I would leave behind for a legacy as a father and a husband, knowing that I would be leaving my wife’s and sons’ lives much worse.

“Then I began to resort to dreaming and fantasizing about death because it gave me comfort. And that is a completely morbid perspective, which is also unhealthy and sinful, but that was where I was.”

But his family wouldn’t let him continue down that path of destruction. They didn’t abandon him even as he wrote about the Lord, “Still, I’m not sure if God is even here anymore. I’ve rejected him, walked away, too many times. He has every right to let me burn.”

The Road Back

The critical tipping point for Nate came when he was about to become an unemployed veteran. He writes, “Julie and I got on our knees. We prayed. For the first time in almost a year I cracked open my Bible [emphasis mine]. Even if God had abandoned me, I would cry out to him. I was broken. I searched for answers. I retraced my path over the past year; over my time in Iraq. What had gone wrong? I had been in Mosul, in Nineveh. It was bad for me there. That’s where I got scared. After all I’d been through in Kosovo and Afghanistan, I got scared in Nineveh. I started running away from God in Nineveh. Just like Jonah.”

“I lay broken in front of my Savior Jesus Christ.  I began to look for encouragement in the Bible and it was there.  God used a small group of heroes — my family, along with a few Christian brothers — to seek out and rescue the man I once was.  They pulled me out of the clutches of despair and walked with me along the path of healing.  They found a Christian counselor — a retired Army chaplain to minister to me.  They helped me get help at the Veteran’s Affairs hospital … But most importantly, my return to faith in God resulted in my recovery from [PTSI].” (see ‘PTSD vs PTSI’ below)

Nate is no longer a victim of the real enemy … because he reached out to God right where he was.

Instrumental in his healing was his return to studying the Scriptures, because God’s word is truth (John 17:17) – not just true, but truth – to correct the lies the devil had led him to believe.  He also spent time in writing therapy, talking extensively with his wife Julie, with other veterans, and then telling his story of healing to others.

Lessons Learned

“I found a deeper appreciation of God’s sovereignty (control), His willingness to suffer with us, and the power of forgiveness. I believed once again that I had nothing to fear, and I recognized that fear was a tool in Satan’s disassembling of my faith. I saw examples of in the Bible of God’s redemptive power — that whatever Satan meant for evil, God has used for good (Genesis 50:20). I saw that war was part of God’s plan, that the Lord is a Warrior (Exodus 15:3), that even King David suffered the effects of killing and combat, and that God could restore everything in me… He wastes nothing.” — Nate Self

God doesn’t waste pain.

If you are in pain from the past battles of life and death, He doesn’t want you to continue in pain. He is the God of all comfort.

Nate blames himself for not getting help sooner. “If I never asked the Army for help, it’s not their fault,” he says. Except for a two-hour group session with the battalion chaplain immediately after the battle, he didn’t talk with anyone about the emotional fallout from the fight while he was in the service. That is something he regrets, and if he had pursued personal spiritual counseling in particular to help him with the rigors of his combat losses, he perhaps would have escaped from the clutches of the evil one sooner.

Do not forget the formula that the evil one uses continuously: ‘the thief steals, kills and destroys.’ He seeks to:

  • steal your perceived knowledge of God’s presence (which results in loss of joy and peace),
  • which leads to killing your faith,
  • and then to destroying your legacy, spiritual life, and even your physical life.

Nate now recognizes that progression in his life, and wrote,

“Just as we try to isolate an enemy, Satan does that to us — to make us feel alone, isolated, cut off — and to behave in ways that create isolation for ourselves …  In some ways, that was caused by my inability to communicate with loved ones about these experiences — so the isolation was years in the making.”

He sees himself running away in Nineveh, when his Bible was buried in his duffle bag, and his fears began to get out of control.  “Ignoring God through tough life experiences is a huge mistake.”

Are you experiencing the same battles now that you are home?

Don’t hesitate any longer to reach out for help because war changes everyone; after all, who wouldn’t be changed by going through hell on earth?  Seeking help is not a sign of weakness … it is sign that you are wise and courageous.

Resources

The books listed below are available in the CruMilitary.org store.


Adding Insult to Injury: PTSD vs PTSI

Dr. Jonathan Shay, who has over 30 years’ experience counseling individuals who have sustained the hidden wounds of war and combat trauma, has spoken out to eliminate the term Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder to describe inner combat trauma.  Instead he has written and fought quite extensively for a better title, Post-Traumatic Stress Injury.  He wrote,

“For years I have agitated against the diagnostic jargon, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), because transparently we are dealing with an injury, not an illness, malady, disease, sickness, or disorder. My insistence comes from awareness that within military forces it is entirely honorable to be injured, and that if one is injured and recovers well enough to be fit for duty, there is no real limit to one’s accomplishments, even if a prosthesis is employed. Witness the honored career of General Eric Shinseki, who lost a foot in Vietnam, and eventually retired from the U.S. Army as Chief of Staff. We do not describe him as suffering ‘Missing Foot Disorder.’”

As such, we will include the term, Post-Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI). (We will leave “PTSD” in the articles in order to facilitate useful searches.) We urge you to do the same. We can and do recover from most injuries. The same is true for PTSI. So be encouraged if you find yourself suffering from some or all of the symptoms of this injury.

 

Test of Faith

Image result for black hawk down

https://crumilitary.org/test-of-faith/

The incident in Mogadishu, Somalia, made famous by the book and movie, “Black Hawk Down,” changed my life.

It all began after high school when I visited an army recruiter. I asked, “What do you consider the toughest job in the army?”

“Being an Airborne Ranger,” was his quick reply.

“That’s what I want to be.”

Goals

I had two goals when I joined the army. One was to see how good my training was and the other was to test my faith in God. I knew the best way to accomplish these goals was to go to war.

In the 1989 invasion of Panama, Operation Just Cause, and later in Kuwait, Operation Desert Storm, I was shot at and placed in many dangerous situations. But I never thought I was in danger of losing my life.

Somalia

This all changed in 1993 in Mogadishu, Somalia. The United Nations had been handing out food to the starving people in this East African country. There were several warlords in Somalia, and most of them had no problems with the U.N. One, Mohamed Farrah Aidid, saw the U.N. as a threat to his power. He began to ambush and kill U.N. workers. In one raid he killed and mutilated 24 Pakistanis.

The goal of my unit, Task Force Ranger, was to capture Aidid and bring his key men to justice for the death of those Pakistani workers.

Prior to our final mission on October 3rd and 4th, Task Force Ranger had conducted six successful operations. Everything had gone exactly as planned. But on that seventh mission, generally referred to as Black Hawk Down, things changed.

The Convoy

I was a 24 year old squad leader and placed my nine men in two Humvees. We led a ten vehicle ground convoy into the city. The job of the convoy was to retrieve the Rangers and Special Operations

Forces who had been dropped by helicopter onto the roof and in the surrounding alleys of the target building. We were to return them and their prisoners to our base.

The operation went exactly as planned with one exception: a Ranger, Todd Blackburn, in a Black Hawk helicopter, missed the slide rope and fell 70 feet to the ground. He hit his head first and our medics felt he would not survive unless he received immediate special medical care. As soon as I arrived at the target building, my commander called and told me to take Todd back to our base at the airport.

We loaded him into a Humvee and with my two vehicles around him we began to make our way back to the airfield. Mogadishu is about seven miles by two miles in size and one and a half million people had gathered there from all over Somalia to be fed.

Read Sergeant Struecker’s booklet, “Bullet Proof Faith,” to learn how he found God’s help in this extremely stressful situation.

(Excerpted from “Bullet Proof Faith.”)