My greatest passion is listening to Veterans, learning, and discussing the different aspects of Veteran life.
I have a unique perspective and understanding of the Veteran experience. I was a Mental Health Specialist in the Army. When I deployed to War in Iraq I was on a small team of three, two counselors Brock and I, led by a psychologist Pete. Our mission was to maintain the mental stability of more than 20,000 soldiers. During that 15 month deployment I personally counseled around 3,000 soldiers. The therapeutic solutions I was trained to use proved false, a logical starting point at best. It was clear that I had to figure out the path of healing for my brothers and sisters. Story after story I listened, desperate to understand and striving to guide each warrior as best I could.
In between counseling I minorly assisted medics at the medical station that we were located, just inside the gate. I witnessed the medics there process hundreds of traumas from gunshot wounds to blown off limbs. Those Docs saved the lives of so many. On rare occasion I would assist with remains recovery, for it wasn’t only the wounded that came to us. It kept me from becoming complacent. Life and death, blood and trauma… then back to listening to the stories, guiding through the darkness. Always vigilant to my mission.
There is only one reason I survived that War. Laughter. Pete, Brock and I would take every chance we could to tell jokes, laugh, sing loudly to rock music, tell crazy stories, and laugh some more, sometimes for no reason. We would get props, wear wigs and stupid fake teeth and dance on top of the T-wall with our pants down, anything to make each other laugh. It was our way of surviving.
After Iraq we all got out of the Army and returned ‘home’. For a while I worked with Veterans as a trauma counselor, which was good because I got to listen to Vets of different eras. It gave me a few more pieces of the puzzle and widened my perspective. But I didn’t even make it two years before I burnt out completely and had to quit.
In the civilian sector I faced a whole new War. Fighting against the demons that I carry. I began to understand the burden of sacrifice. The War we face in the civilian sector is different, mostly because we didn’t have each other around anymore. Brock and Pete were working with Vets too, but we all ended up alone on our missions. Over the years the laughter grew silent. The burden got heavier. The demons grew louder. Then, like so many of my brothers and sisters, I got the call. In January of 2013, Pete had taken his own life. He lost the battle with his demons.
I made an oath then. That I would find a way to explain the perspective I’ve gained. That I would help unite my brothers and sisters and describe our path of healing. And I knew I had to do it with the greatest weapon I’ve ever known. Laughter. Truth through comedy. The only way we will survive this internal war is if we unite together, encourage each other toward growth and healing, and laugh our way through the darkness.