Trust and #PTSD: Why the VA needs to employ more Veterans

Damn that’s some good intel…

It’s hot.  The meeting room is stuffy and we are only through the first half of the briefing.  It was, as expected, a busy week patrolling the streets.  Things that go boom, and how to find them before they blew up were always high on the priority list.

“Well, we figured out why the intel on the the IED’s was so accurate…” the S2 briefed.

Cue giant graphic picture of dead Iraqi.

“Turns out Mohammed was planting them to collect our rewards…”

Here is where I create a metaphor: Imagine some athletic Spartan with a chisel and a huge Thor-like hammer chipping away at a beautiful piece of marble.  The word TRUST emblazoned on the front.

Every day I spent in combat that Spartan hit the marble.

Lost in Translation

There were often not enough translators to facilitate our missions.  We had US Contractors with security clearances and in country scrubs that we needed to keep the communication flowing.  We were constantly rotating through the translators.  One translator in particular left an indelible mark.

We paid him, fed him, and protected him.  Sh!t, I can safely say our guys saved his life on more than one occasion.  We found him on a non-issued phone more than a few times.  Those instances started to coincided with our attacks.  We compiled a case, and when we had enough data, ran his phone.

He was a mole.

His deception led to the death of one of our Soldiers.

It took tremendous control not to beat him to a pulp and execute him.

The Spartan took extra swings that day…

Aliens and a Pile of Dust

I always got a kick out of reading Star, US Weekly, and People magazine.  When you return from a patrol, you are dirty, tired and still have hours of work in front of you, reading about Alien life on Earth while taking a crap is a good distraction.

Aliens.  That is what celebrities and civilians were in Iraq.  Latest fashions, who dumped who, who is pregnant, who had surgery…  Who gives a sh!t.  I had the same three uniforms and three sets of boots for an entire year.  If someone went away for surgery, it was usually after they got hurt and we would see them when, and if, we got home.  It was very easy to see that people in the magazine, and what people cared about, were very different from my ten tan t-shirts and me.

By the time I got home, my block of trust was a pile of pebbles and sand.

The Familiar

Since I have returned, I have softened in my approach, but I gravitate towards my military friends, and stick close to my family.

New friends?  Maybe five.  Of that group, how many have no military experience?  One.

If you are not a Veteran, and I did not know you before I went to Combat, I have a hard time trusting you.  Nothing personal.  It’s just a feeling that has evolved over time.

When it comes to PTSD treatment, I faced this trust problem countless times at the VA.

Too many non-Veterans. 

I understand that specialties and job qualifications must be filled.  But, there needs to be less of a gap.  There needs to be more paid interns or consultants that just work with the VA and are Veterans, especially to help tear down the trust barrier.

Overcoming the stigma of PTSD is one thing.  Trusting others with that stigma is something quite different.

If I sit and evaluate my trust, I am much better than I was six years ago.  I don’t avoid people as much.  I can at least engage in conversation.

For the crop of new Veterans that has not engaged the VA and is just beginning the integration, it will go a long way to have a few more Veterans around.



June 27th is National PTSD Awareness day.  Please share this blog and others.

2 thoughts on “Trust and #PTSD: Why the VA needs to employ more Veterans

  1. Juliza Ramirez-Wylie

    I completely agree with what you are recommending. The military recognizes the importance battle buddies and cohesion for training and combat. The battle buddy system is part of our permanent armor. It is both part of the #PTSD and its antidote – as PTSD is further complicated by grief due to loss. I would love to see the VA sponsor training events/scholarships for veteran mental health professionals seeking careers in the VA.

  2. Diversityp

    Sometimes we all feel like a stranger in a strange land. Lots of us want to help and by you explaining how we can makes it a lot easier. Thank you

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