Brandon and K9 Kaya
Anger for unknown reasons, hypervigilance, constant anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, poor relationships with those closest to me, continuous thoughts and planning related to unlikely threats in public and at home, drinking too much, emotional numbness, isolation from pretty much everyone, no hope, no ability to feel happiness for myself or others, nightmares, self-doubt, guilt, continual pain and discomfort from stressing out all the time.
These are some of the things I have been given as a result of my experiences and the paths that I have chosen to take in my adult life. I don’t want anyone to feel bad for me, I chose this path, I wanted to do it and at times I enjoyed it, even craved it. I just hope that my experiences will help shed some light on what others in similar circumstance struggle with daily just as I have; and that we can learn to help people who need help before it gets unfixable.
I would like to preface my story by saying that I, in no way, get enjoyment out of telling it. I have a great deal of guilt about things I have been involved in and done, I don’t see myself as someone who has accomplished great feats and I often feel like a complete failure. I despise tooting my own horn as I have seen many others sacrifice and do so much more than I have, I feel unworthy of being celebrated and I have no desire to be.
I joined the Marines right out of high school in 2000, it was something I always wanted to do to prove to myself that I can do anything, I wanted to be challenged in ways that I never felt were possible for me. I excelled at my job in the infantry, was promoted quickly and took on a leadership role as a squad leader where other Marines were under my command. We deployed to Iraq during the initial invasion in 2003 and were the “Tip of the Spear”. When people ask what we did there I just simply leave it at ‘we did our job’. I don’t feel comfortable sharing much more than that, nor do I want to. I don’t exactly know why this is,
maybe because of my guilt and shame, maybe because I don’t want to revisit that time, as I type it my brain is already making me feel anxious and on edge. Maybe it’s because I don’t want to share it with people who were not there and don’t fully understand, I don’t know, maybe I never will.
I left the Corps after 4 years and moved back to Minnesota where I met my soon thereafter, wife. While engaged I coaxed her into joining the Corps again. So, the day after our wedding we were off for another 4 years. I deployed again to Iraq in 2006, this time as a helicopter mechanic. Since the wife did not want me to re-enlist into the infantry the next logical job for any grunt would be a door gunner on a Huey, think “Full Metal Jacket” with a mini gun hanging out the side. Well I am an aqua rock and probably never would have passed the swim qualification so I ended up just being a mechanic on Huey and Cobra helicopters. My second tour was very different than the first in that I never left the base but we were still subject to mortar attacks and casualties. I was extended multiple times but eventually came home in 2007.
Upon my return I drank heavily and was just generally a mean person, we sought marriage counseling for the first of many times. My enlistment ended and we returned to Minnesota to start a family. I wanted to continue to do exciting things and still had a desire to serve others so I decided to pursue a career in policing. I was hired on by a metro suburb shortly after graduating school.
Policing for me was many things: hard, ridiculous at times, annoying, rewarding (although this is very few and far between), challenging, boring, exciting, disturbing, comedic and eventually debilitating. I was involved in many incidents that contributed to my downfall, but much like my Marine Corps experiences I won’t share any here. All you have
to know is that they sucked and I didn’t have the ability to deal with them, for many reasons, in a healthy way.
What I will share is that during my policing career it became very apparent to those around me that PTSD had taken over my life and impacted me daily. I refused to acknowledge this for a long time and I continued to go downhill until one day I broke down crying in a heap on the floor and realized I was unable to go to work anymore. I had gone too far down the hole and I didn’t have a way to get back up, again this was for many reasons, many of which are very long winded (kind of like this bio) and would take too long to explain effectively. All you have to understand is that I felt trapped.
PTSD is something that has taken away many things from me: a career that I loved, friends that I worked with, fun memories with my family (because I was just a rude d*@# most of the time), my ability to cope with regular daily stressors everyone faces, my ability to feel emotion on a level that most people do, my ability to go in public and feel comfortable, restful undisturbed sleep, my hope and being able to just be happy.
I’m told this is a pretty depressing bio, I guess I’m just trying to portray what PTSD has been for me; where it has made me go mentally. Since leaving policing I have learned many tools and am doing several things to help try to lessen PTSDs impact on my daily life. I know that a dog is not a fix for PTSD but one of the tools in the proverbial tool box and I am looking forward to adding her to my tools.
I know people who have received a dog from Soldiers 6, and as my wife has said, nobody comes back and says that getting a service dog sucked. I am excited to start this journey, I’m excited to see and feel the positive changes that those I know have experienced. I guess I have some hope, I hope to be able to feel comfortable in public, I hope my
anxiety levels go down, I hope to be able to feel again, I hope to be happy, ultimately, I’m glad that this opportunity has allowed me to just feel some hope again.
Thank you to Ed and Dana and the many people who support Soldiers 6.