Marines Magazine

The Official Magazine of the United States Marine Corps

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Not all Wounds are Visible

Many service members express comfort in being deployed, which can be a sign of difficulty adjusting to life at home.

For more than seven years, the U.S. has been engaged in a two-front War. While the physical casualties of that war continue to be tallied, the total number of victims claimed by the Global War on Terror may never be certain.

Arlington, Va. – There are service members that return from the rigors of deployment to silently suffer from a myriad of symptoms provoked by Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, an anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to a terrifying event. Symptoms of the condition can arise days or months after the trauma but the personal nature of the disorder makes it relatively easy to go unnoticed.

As symptoms continue untreated they can significantly hinder a service member’s military career and personal life.

“The stigma that surrounds psychological health problems and accessing needed care can be a significant barrier to seeking mental health services for military personnel,” said Army Brig. Gen. Loree K. Sutton, M.D., director of the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury.

There are many factors that discourage service members from seeking psychological health services, said Sutton.

Fear that their unit will be less confident in them and fear of damaging their career are two of the most common misconceptions.

As a Marine who suffers from PTSD, Sgt. Joshua Hopper said he recognized that sense of apprehension all too well. Hopper was a squad leader with Company I, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, three months into his third deployment when he noticed a difference in his demeanor. His symptoms of the condition intensified when he returned to the U.S. He began having nightmares, drinking heavily and distancing himself from his family, yet he adamantly avoided the thought of going to seek treatment.

“I thought if I got help people would think I couldn’t handle being [an infantryman,]” said Hopper. “I didn’t want the Marines I was leading to look at me as possibly being weak.”

It took nearly eight months for Hopper to admit that he had a problem. He sought help and received inpatient treatment at Veterans Affairs Medical Center Martinsburg, W.Va.

“It was a very humbling experience and it changed my life completely,” said Hopper, who is now an intelligence specialist with the Marine Corps Special Operations Command at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., and has been selected for the rank of staff sergeant. “I have never had anyone tell me they think any less of me for getting help and being open about it.”

The Gleason, Tenn., native said he hopes to inspire Marines to seek treatment if they are suffering from the condition by sharing his personal experience as a spokesperson for the DCOE’s Real Warriors campaign which encourages service members to increase their awareness and use of available resources.

“I don’t care how many times you’ve been in combat, how many ribbons and medals you have, if you’re a sergeant major or a private first class, you’re still human,” said Hopper. “You can have problems, admit that and get help for it without being black labeled.”

Like Hopper, Sgt. Daniel Hernandez, Wounded Warrior Battalion-East, has turned his life around after being treated for PTSD. He said his progress has been slow but he has a renewed thirst for life.

Sgt. Daniel Hernandez, Wounded Warrior Battalion East, has turned his life around after being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder. Although his progress has been slow, he says he has a renewed thirst fir life. He recently completed a Bachelor's degree in business management and aspires to be an orthopedic surgeon.

“[Treatment] has given me a life that I thought I would never have. It has given me the [desire] to succeed,” he said.

Hernandez has recently completed his Bachelor’s degree in business management and aspires to be an orthopedic surgeon. The man that once suffered from survivor’s guilt, unprovoked fits of rage and hyper vigilance, credits his change to Lt. Col. Tommy Scott, his former officer-in-charge.

“If it were not for him and his leadership, I would not be the person I am today,” said Hernandez.

Although there is a plethora of treatment available, not everyone can be victorious in their battle against PTSD without long term treatment.

Lt. Col. Chris Jackson, branch head, operations and training, Security Cooperation Education and Training Center at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., said he remembers Staff Sgt. Travis N. Twiggs as one of the cornerstones of Company G, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment.

“He was well known throughout the entire battalion for his competence and initiative,” said Jackson. “He was motivated and was the Marine you absolutely wanted beside you in combat.”

Jackson said he had no knowledge of the troubles brewing in Twiggs’ life.

In a letter to the Marine Corps Gazette published in January 2008, Twiggs said he began to notice changes in himself a month after returning from his second deployment. Yearning to get back to the fight, he approached his wife about his feelings and they agreed that he would return to Iraq with his Marines.

“From that day forward my symptoms went away,” he said. “I was going back to the fight, back to the shared adversity where the tempo is high and our adrenaline pulses through our veins like hot blood.

“It is in this place that there is no time for PTSD.”

Twiggs said he began questioning his leadership as he coped with the death of two of his Marines. He wondered if he had trained his men to the best of his ability. His condition got the attention of his sergeant major who referred him for treatment before he departed on his fourth deployment.

Upon his homecoming Twiggs was again be greeted by his symptoms. Not understanding his condition he began drinking heavily and the situation worsened. After two hospital stays, Twiggs was referred to and successfully completed a three-month long program offered by the Department of Veterans Affairs. He went on to be an instructor at the Marine Corps Martial Arts Center of Excellence.

Twiggs charged the Corps with taking a proactive approach to PTSD.

“We have got to make our Marines and sailors more aware of PTSD before they end up like me,” he said. “One of our leadership principles is to know our Marines and lookout for their welfare. They deserve this, and we owe it to them.”

Although it seemed he was slowly getting his life together, the 36-year-old, father of two, tragically lost his battle against PTSD in May 2008.

“I believe Twiggs developed PTSD because he served multiple back-to-back deployments with little to no breaks in between,” said Jackson. “He was a casualty of his success. That is when a commander has to step in and do the right thing by putting the individual ahead of the unit.

“The unit will suffer for a short period but it will recover after adjusting. The individual will not be as fortunate, as Twiggs’ case illustrates.”

The negativity associated with PTSD continues to discourage service members from opening up about their condition. But, Twiggs’ story can be a sobering reminder that PTSD requires professional treatment, command involvement and Corpswide awareness.

“Marine Corps leadership must understand that if a Marine has a problem they need to get the proper care and there shouldn’t be a stigma attached to it,” said Sgt. Maj. Carlton W. Kent, sergeant major of the Marine Corps. “Anyone can have PTSD after seeing the horrors of combat and we need to ensure we take care of any problems they may have and get them back in the fight.”

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  • http://www.awschade.com AW Schade

    Great story!  I am a Vietnam Vet, still able to man the lines and kill if need be, and it took me 35 years to realize I suffered from PTSD.  Yet, I still have the Corp mentality – Semper Fi!  I hope my story “Demons of war are Persistent” helps
    one warrior recognize & break the stigma of PTSD. Read @ .

  • Sarazwork

    I have PTSD from working as a Paramedic for a number of years, from being a hostage negotiator, and from being a battered spouse.  I know it’s not the same as being in the military but the PTSD symptoms are the same, are as long lasting and they are just as life affecting so hear me out.   

    I sought treatment through counseling and various therapies which helped UNDERSTAND the problems, but the memories never really abated completely.  Things would trigger them and the adrenalin would rush back leaving me shaking and nervous for hours. 

    THEN I participated in a research study for a medication for PTSD.  They gave me some kind of  medication and what a shock.  The medicine controlled it for me. The doctor explained that the medicine blocks the adrenalin.  The symptoms: flashbacks, nightmares, instant trigger responses completely disappeared!  

    That’s when I realized that those memories were imprinted in some part
    of my brain
    as a chemical response to stress.  Adrenalin is a survival
    response to severe trauma, fight or flight.
    Understanding the event and the triggers of PTSD isn’t enough. 

    PTSD isn’t a character flaw.  It’s just like adult onset diabetes where too much fat and sugar overloads your pancreas triggering your insulin system to run out of control, too much stress causes your adrenalin system to run out of control.  Repeat the pattern often enough and it becomes hardwired and irreversible. 

    I could watch movies with scenes in it that otherwise would have left me with nightmares and flashbacks or left me shaking for hours.  Noises, and ambulance sirens no longer left me on an adrenalin roller coaster. Cars backfiring don’t upset me and make me want to drop and seek cover.  Hostage crisis scenes don’t leave me in a complete adrenalin alert spinout.  

    Be cautious before running off to ask your doctor for medicine because the studies aren’t done.  But the right medicine is a GODSEND. 

    Unfortunately, it seems that because I have asthma and so I can’t use the full dose, but I can use some of it so believe me, I am taking the medication because any control is better than none. 

    Just my two cents.

    Sara

  • Mariselcalarion

    marine have a good life wherever they go they are still have happiness , i love marine life.  because they are a rockstar like me too. hahah

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mary-Suttles/100002463429524 Mary Suttles

    hang on for one more moment. one more hour.  I feel for you, for the tears of the years of unspoken chores we never thought they’d demand. now alone in the depths of the foxes sand. I scream a silent howl as my head and heart pleads no more.!!  skinned elbows on weakened knees,  shaking hands cover my sobbing eyes that bleed the memories, i think alone bare. in my silence and behind my smile. I walked the forbiddened words that echo with every thought or step the rest of my life.     For you I Scream inside had to do. But i In War for my country, for ALL! !  i i dont like what i had to do or see or be.   Its not alright, i will never be the same. Look into my eyes, into my heart. I am Cold and you wonder why I just dont move on and forget. Adjust Are you people for real?                                              This I reach my hand and heart to help you know You are not alone. take my hand, bring your tears and let them flow. my love, my compassion, my detestable heartwrenching memories reach to yours and say STAND!!!   If you can’t reach to me,  use my strength, use my hand or use My God   He is The Almighty of all.  We With Love, With the memories that make us United to help My Brothers or Sisters STAND in the Face of Death the raging war within that never stopped after i was sent home.    I Love you All. Thank you from the very depths i feel…….  Mary

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Stephen-Townsley/1315621342 Stephen Townsley

    I wish the Marine Corps had understood PTSD back inthe Vietnam era. My Dad did 2 tours and he definitely had it. Unfortunately, so do I as a result of a traumatic accident. It is hard for people to understand.

  • Richardmarang E-2-12 3mar

    This sounds like what I have been dealing with from 1967 when I returned from Vietnam

  • John L Jones

    Mr. Tim Karr,
    Could you kindly contact me, in regards to your
    unit in Vietnam.

    Best Regards
    John Jones

  • Robert Fleming

    Semper Fi Brothers,
    I myself have battled PTSD for some 4 years since my return stateside. I have made substantial treatment but I still have my days where I am still left in the dark and not ready to face the civilian world. But I can tell all of my brothers that it is a battle that can be overcome. It will take time and it will hurt like hell but it will be okay. I hope that all of us can learn to live and cope and weather the storm so to speak. There is light at the end of the tunnel. We are the only ones that will truley understand what makes us tick. Never give up and fight and you will start to see results. God Bless Marines. Semper Fi

  • Tim Riley

    I too suffer from PTSD and have felt the effects of sleeplessness, self medicating and anxiety. I am working with a local treatment provider in an attempt to make treatment more available for returning vets. I have seen, firsthand, the devastation we can bring to the homefront and am trying to get the VA involved in more Domestic Batterers treatment. Substance Abuse is a major problem for returning vets, but the wives, girlfriends and children bear the brunt of our suffering. Please watch out for each other and talk to the family members of vets. You will be amazed at the stories they tell, especially the children.

  • GLADYS23Carey

    Make your life time more simple get the personal loans and all you require.

  • Ria

    Hi ~ I’m a civilian and I don’t know first hand about combat or the aftermath. I just wanted to say “thank you” to all of you. My family and I have always supported the military. My future brother-in-law is a Marine, active duty. I’ve always loved the Marines, and now, I’m Marine AMPED… :)

    I don’t know, maybe knowing people care will help keep the demons like PTSD, away. People do, lay people, care so much and are so thankful for ALL of you and FOR ALL YOU do…

    Be at peace ~
    Ria

  • TIM KARR

    THIS IS GREAT STUFF ON A MARINE WEB SITE. THE EVENTS THAT TRIGGER THE RESPONSE IN EACH INDIVIDUAL ACTUALLY REWIRE OUR BRAINS AND THE PSYCHOLOGICAL IMAGE OF THESE EVENTS IS ETCHED IN OUR BRAIN. THEY ARE ALWAYS THERE JUST UNDER THE SURFACE WAITING TO BE TRIGGERED BY THE NEXT EVENT THAT SETS THEM OFF. HAVING SERVED WITH THE 632ND MEKONG MEDICS 632ND CSGP 7 TH AIRFORCE PACAF BINH THUY AB BINH THUY RVN 1969-70 I EXPERIENCED THE MEDICAL END OF COMBAT. AS A NINETEEN YEAR OLD DEALING WITH SUCH UNNATURAL STRESSORS OF TERRIBLE WOUNDS AND THE SUFFERING OF FELLOW SOLDIERS IS MORE THAN MOST MINDS CAN COPE WITH. THE EVENTS ARE SUPRESSED AND DISPLAY THEM SELFS AS PTSD AND THE NEGATIVE ACTIONS THAT ARE PTSD. I FOUND MYSELF DRAWN TO MORE ACTION AS AN EMERGENCY ROOM TRAUMA NURSE AND COMPLETELY GOT IT OUT OF MY SYSTEM. BUT THE SIDE EFFECTS ARE STILL THERE. AFTER 12 YEARS ACTIVE DUTY I SEPERATED 12/1980. I STILL MISS THE MILITARY. AFTER 16 YEARS OF NOT DEALING WITH THE OBVIOUS I SOUGHT HELP AT THE VA IN FRESNO,CA I ENCOURAGE EVERY MAN AND WOMAN ACTIVE DUTY AND PRIOR MILITARY TO SEEK HELP AS SOON AS YOU REALIZE YOUR LIFE IS BEING IMPACTED BY PTSD. ACTUALLY IT IS THE STRONG PERSON THAT SEEKS COUNCIL TO STAY BOTH PHYSIACALLY AND PSYCHOLOGICALLY FIT PREPARED FOR DUTY. OUR MOST VALUABLE ASSET OUR TROOPS NEED TO BE ENCOURAGED TO STEP UP SO THAT THEIR MILITARY CAREERS AND PERSONAL LIVES ARENT DESTROYED. GOD BLESS OUR SERVICE MEMBERS AND GOD BLESS AMERICA. TIM KARR SSGT INDEPENDANT DUTY MEDIC USAF

  • Will Fraser

    My name is Will Fraser. I graduated from NROTC U South Carolina in 1973 and served six years in the Marines, medicaled out as a Captain 0302 in 1980. I suffer from anxiety disorder and depression and had symptoms of this early in the marines despite gradiuating 7th of 235 from my Basic School Class
    3-74. There was at that time, mixed responses among Marines and officers to marines who might have
    psychological issues related to stress. Many saw us as unfit , some made sure to express their disdain.
    I am quite proud of MY service and having spent the past 30 years getting medication and assistance through the veterans Administration after being medicaled out with a minimal 10% service connected disability I can say its likely that many marines are carryin g these disabilities into civilian life with insufficient assiatnce from the military. Having these types of problems is the antithesis of what it means to be a US Marine, and if they can’t be handled expeditiously, the Marine will find him or herself
    out of active duty as commanders just can’t carry service members with insufficient ability to do their jobs.
    My only comment on the issue is that commanders and medical personnel need to recognize that this stuff is the real thing and that a hard charging marine doesn’t lose the edge because he wants to consciously not perform. Everyone has a threshold and once the Marine has crossed it, its best to help him move on with his or her life positively. recognizing symptoms while still in the ranks and getting help rather than abusing the Marine is the mark of a good leader. Its too bad but the facts are, humans can break down. It doesn’t mean they’re weak or BAD Marines. Just having trouble absorbing the realities they have lived with.
    I’m concerned the Marines aren’t really watching this the way they should. There were lots of field grade and company grade officers I knew who were abusive once they knew I had been hospitalized for
    psychological reasons.
    That culture probably needs to change.
    William Fraser 2nd Bn 3rd Marines, and 9th Marines, 1974-1977.

  • Margit Beasley

    To Larry Williams,

    This may sound silly, but have you looked for him on Facebook or MySpace? I will pray for you in your quest to find your friend. You may be exactly the person he needs to help in his battle against PTSD. I will also keep him (and all of our military) in my prayers, for their continued strength in fighting PTSD. It breaks my heart that after giving so much of themselves in protecting our freedom, that they must then continue to fight within themselves.

    Prayers and blessings to you and our military (past and present)
    Margit Beasley

  • Wingman Project

    Larry,

    That does sound like a dilemma. Hopefully the parents will contact you if he comes back home – either after his tour, or before he leaves for a post in Germany. We know it’s difficult to have lost contact with him – the anxiety and prayers on his behalf – but many branches of the military are increasing awareness of PTSD and other issues, so hopefully another Wingman will keep an eye out for him while you are unable to. Please keep us posted here at the Wingman Project – we’ll have our fingers crossed for both you and your buddy! .

    Wingman Project

  • Larry W. Williams

    Wingman Project – THAT gentlemen, is my very dilemma. I have lost contact with him, and am now afraid he will not contact me, even if he’s left Afghanistan. He told me that this time he planned to stay career military, and apply for a post in Germany after his Afghanistan tour. Early snaffoo examples – he said he gave my numbers to his parents so they could let me know if anything happened to him; stupidly, I did not get their numbers (divorced, in Nevada & California). He gave his old cell phone to a cousin in New Jersey, with whom I’d text occasionally, but he let the cell phone contract expire & I did not have any other number for him either.
    I am aware that those suffering from PTSD often deny they have a problem, or, shut down relationships to avoid facing those problems….sort of like, out of sight – out of mind. Deny it and maybe it will go away. I have never had a friend with whom I feel like I am so close to and know more about than myself, and yet at the same time, know almost nothing about, as he is the most private individual I have ever met. He is a true enigma. And yet, he is my David, and I his Jonathon (1 Samuel – Old Testament). Suffice it to say, there is NOTHING I would not do to help him………IF I knew where he was.

  • Richard L Graves Jr

    I am a USMC Veteran, I have suffered through PTSD for the last 30 some years. The city of Carlsbad, NM is trying to get a Veterans Care Center going. I have had some success starting it off. Our states, Federal, State and Local politicians support my endeavor. Realizing this is an election year, I truely believe they want to do something to help though. Thus far I have managed to coordinate efforts of both parties to see what assistance they can offer. This is the year to do it. Elections, if a party resists, we Veterans make up a HUGE voting base. Our voice will be heard!! Sometimes WE have to do it on our own, getting the proper care. We wrote the blank check for our lives, too many of them have been cashed! Remember all those who have gone before. The Beirut anniversary is upon us. Please start something your self in your community, if we do not ‘take care of our own’ no one else will. WE have to prepare for the current armed forces coming back from the current conflicts. Semper Fi! to all my brothers and sisters out there and Happy Birthday. Remember, lest they never forget. Respectfully submitted SGT R L Graves ’80-’87

  • Wingman Project

    The goal of the Wingman Project is to reduce suicides among military members and their families, particularly ANG, through human outreach, hard-hitting media, and training.

    Larry, often times the person who is in the perfect position to help is the person who doesn’t think they can do anything. If you are still in contact with him, ask him directly how he is doing, if he is seeking any help. There are many resources out there for the person who wants to help, but doesn’t quite know how. You can view our website for intervention information, or check out realwarriors.net. Our soldiers need Wingmen like you to notice the changes that PTSD and TBI cause, and intervene to help them.

    Wingman Project

  • Larry W. Williams

    My best friend in the whole world is in Afghanistan….(I think??). He deployed on 4/3/09, and I lost complete touch with him around November of that year. He was a two-tour sniper in Iraq, with 28 confirmed kills, and re-enlisted for Afghanistan, knowing he was battling PTSD. This article hits me very hard, because it is exactly what we talked about just before he left. I have been looking for him for months via military friends, AFN Afghanistan, Missing Buddies, etc., etc. However, inasmuch as I am not a relative, I have had no success at all.
    As the article so aptly describes, far be it from me to be any more specific than I already have been in my inquiries, because I would NEVER jepordize his career, cause a (percieved) loss of confidence of his comrades in arms, etc., etc. Yet, at the same time, I am torn, because I want to scream from the rooftops that someone, ANYone, help him….please! I love this guy. I’d switch places with him in a New York minute if I could, to give him the opportunity at a full and complete life.
    Kudos for an article that articulates so well what these guys are going through!

  • CPL. Steven Diaz

    The mission of Hidden Wounds, a non-profit organization, is to provide peace of mind and comfort for military personnel suffering from combat stress injuries such as PTSD, TBI, and other psychological post war challenges until such time as the Veteran’s Administration or the Veteran’s Affairs agencies are prepared to deliver long-term services to our clients through government programs. Hidden Wounds also seeks to save lives through fundraising efforts that allow Hidden Wounds to provide counseling and act as a liaison between counselors, veterans, and families, and to provide publicity to dispel fear, lower the stigma, and grant the will to overcome emotional and psychological challenges to our military heroes.
    Hiddenwounds.org

  • C/SSG Jenkins

    Hello im joshua jenkins i live in gardnerville nevada and im in jrotc. Id like to say thank you to all military personel and from the dhs tiger battalion we love you all ARMY STRONG TIGER PROUD