He witnessed first hand, my momma's pain both in love and in life, and also saw, more than I, her suffering until her death.
The very long custody battle that followed (my father vs. my step father), eventually came down to one thing. Where ever he goes I go. A recommendation that came out of many different reports submitted to the courts from various mental health specialists which basically concluded that if I was placed anywhere other than where my brother chose to go, I would run away.
My brother being thirteen by the time the custody battle was at the height of its ridiculousness, was able to make his own decision of where he wanted to live. With our father or our step father. He chose our step father. And wherever he went I followed.
I was proud of my brother, and would dare anyone to say anything bad about him. Talking about my brother was just as bad as talking about my momma.
So, to say that I have love for my brother is an understatement.
At 18, he joined the U.S. Marine Corp. He wrote me letters just about every month. Letters I still have to this day.
Of course, by this time childhood demons had taken over my life and I was living more or less as a drifter. Here one day, somewhere else the next. I was a rebel without a cause. But, I was smart. No matter where I ran away to, with who, and for how long there was always one place were anybody was guaranteed to find me, at school. So, there would be times where letters from my brother would come by way of someone else who would pass them onto me at school.
However the letters got to me I didn't care. Reading his letters, which usually began with 'Hey Big Head' and always included some dry humor whose corniness is what made it so funny, always put a smile on my face.
But, around 1990, the vibe of the letters started to change. The stories about the military life he lived on the base of Camp Pendleton soon became stories about the destruction he would witness in the Middle East. He was serving in the Gulf War.
He made it back alive, and unwounded. At least I thought. He had no physical wounds but the mental wounds would run deep. He didn't think he had a problem, and to this day he still feels he was not effected. But, being someone who has suffered mentally and emotionally the majority of my life, I saw it. The person twho had enlisted in the Marine Corp was not the same person that came out.
But, this isn't a story about my brother. This is a story about the 300,000+ military men and woman, who have risked their lives in combat, no hesitation, no questions asked, who have returned home only to fight another battle. A battle which many don't want to admit exists.
- Lifetime occurrence (prevalence) in combat veterans 10-30%.
- In the past year alone the number of diagnosed cases in the military jumped 50%- and that’s just diagnosed cases.
- Studies estimate that 1 in every 5 military personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan has PTSD.
- Approximately 300,000 veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars – nearly 20% of the returning forces – are likely to suffer from either PTSD or major depression, and these numbers continue to climb.
- An additional 320,000 of the returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan may have experienced traumatic brain injuries during deployment.
- 20 % of the soldiers who have been deployed just within the past 6 years have PTSD.
- Of the 85% of vets seeking treatment from the VA for PTSD, only 25% actually receive any treatment whatsoever.
- It can take a soldier from 6 months to 2 years to get into the VA system before receiving treatment.
Combat Veteran Suicide Rates:
- Veterans are more than twice as likely as non-veterans to commit suicide and the "Katz Suicide Study," dated February 21, 2008, found that suicide rates among veterans are approximately 3 times higher than in the general population.
- A document from the VA Inspector General’s Office, dated May 10, 2007, indicates that the suicide rate among individuals in the VA’s care may be as high as 7.5 times the national average.
- In 2008, the VA’s own data indicate that an average of four to five veterans commit suicide each day.
- Recent statistics show 18 veterans commit suicide everyday.
Our soldiers are returning home with wounds that we can not see. Serious wounds, debilitating wounds, wounds that need our help to heal. We should not ignore what they gave up for us, so that we didn't have to.
Twenty years after my brother returned home, I can honestly say with a great amount of certainty that he is doing very well. The same can not be said for many who fought beside him. The same can not be said for many who are still fighting.
Wounded Warrior Project
Warrior Writers Project
PTSD: A Soldier's Perspective
The Journey: Wife, Mother, Daughter, Sister, and life with Combat PTSD