Anonymous and K9 Koda
I was enlisted in the United States Army Reserve for 8 years from 2004 to 2012. In that time, I deployed to Iraq and Kuwait. Prior to my enlistment at 17 years old, I had some sexual trauma in my early home life. Immediately prior to my deployment to Iraq in 2006, my father was brutally murdered by a family member. Overseas I worked as a Military Policeman working with the local Iraqi Police as part of a Police Transition Team. We mainly guarded police stations in Iraq, performed foot patrols of the city and assisted in paramilitary training of the Iraqi Police. A friend and fellow soldier was killed in action overseas shortly before we were scheduled to come home. It was a convoy that I should have been on but was detached from my unit at the time. I take on a lot of survivor’s guilt from that.
After returning home, I tried to continue like life didn’t happen while I was gone, but it did. I tried to control the world around me, but it wasn’t mine to control. I found it hard to sit in a restaurant if I couldn’t see the door. I refused to go downtown because of the busyness, and I still haven’t been back to a sporting event or concert. I became easy to anger and was uncompassionate. I was impulsive, isolating, manipulative, and defensive. I was eventually diagnosed with PTSD, Anxiety, and Depression and went through a divorce and foreclosure in the 2009 recession. I have been on multiple series of anti-anxiety, anti-depressants, and insomnia medications; however, I discontinued those as they made me feel numb and entirely emotionless/unhuman. I’ve been working with psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, and nurses throughout the past 10 years and have come a long way. I am currently working with a telehealth therapist outside of the V.A. and continuing with several therapies including CBT and EMDR.
I am now working in management for a technology company and enjoy camping, aviation, nature, photography, and animals. I have a 14-year-old daughter who has the kindest heart I could ever imagine.
However, there are still things I am not effectively managing. I hide what is going on inside and put on a mask to show to the world that I am strong, independent, successful, and well adjusted. However, I feel unworthy of making it home from Iraq and I feel worthless and alone. I have periodic anxiety/panic attacks which if I don’t catch early, spiral into debilitating depression. It was during one of those downward depressive spirals that I went to one of my Lieutenants’ houses and met his service dog in training. Two of my former commanders came over as well to support me in my dark place, and one of their dogs even interrupted me as I was starting to have an anxiety attack. It was at that moment that I knew this would be good for me. I could pour myself into a puppy who would love me and be there for me when I didn’t even know I needed him.
I am looking forward to working with Soldier’s 6 and my golden retriever, Koda, which is a form of Dakota, meaning friend or ally in the Dakota Native American language. I still feel unworthy of the help Soldier’s 6 is offering, but I am already eternally grateful they are here.