color: SOME SOLDIER'S MOM: Those who left the battlefield but brought the battle home

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Those who left the battlefield but brought the battle home

When Noah deployed for his first tour in Iraq, there was no describing the worry. It was intense. It was consuming. It permeated every minute of every day. Like our skin or our heartbeats, it was with us and around us and in us no matter what we did or where we were.

When he was wounded, the worry was like a crushing weight on us. Even when we knew his injuries would not be fatal, the worry of what the future held for Noah was a new kind of worry, but one we told ourselves that we would gladly bear.

After Noah was well on his way to physical recovery, it was apparent to us that the person we had raised and known -- the bright, witty upbeat spirit with that generally cheery personality and always optimistic outlook -- was not the person that returned from Iraq. Of course, we know that if war did not affect a person, they wouldn't be human; but as my girlfriend S. might say, "if it wasn't the same face and the same name, I'd swear on a stack of Bibles that this isn't my son."

Noah was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder shortly after he was wounded; at the time, however, the treatment of his physical wounds took precedence. And the deaths of so many in his unit while he recovered -- especially the deaths of five of his squad in a single attack -- seemed to numb him for a while. We recognized the short temper and his quick anger as signs of PTSD... and he admitted that sleep was hard to come by and interrupted by thrashing and nightmares when it did come. We encouraged him to seek treatment... and we worried.

Noah recognized that he was "messed up" (his words) and figured he needed help for the PTSD and shared that with his [now former] NCO, Sgt. M -- who would always dismiss his concerns with, "Suck it up and drive through it... everybody has PTSD." So Noah sucked it up and drove on... thinking that time would make it better and that he could handle it on his own. That's what most 19 and 20 and 40 year old soldiers tell themselves. Many of his buddies were doing the same: sucking it up and driving on.

It went on for many months until Noah could take no more of the escalating "dark thoughts", nightmares, depression and crushing panic and anxiety that ruled his existence and he sought counseling. After some pretty harrowing episodes which left us (his parents) distraught and shaken, he was admitted for inpatient care. After a number of serious setbacks and the doc trying more drug combinations than we thought possible, he was discharged after 8 weeks. He refused the opportunity to seek a medical discharge and returned to duty.

Noah has continued treatment but the medications have not been totally successful in controlling his PTSD and he is still beset by this illness. Contrary to the WaPo's assertions of "combat-addled" or the "drugged up" profile they'd have you believe (and yes, there are some), for the many soldiers we have become acquainted with being treated for their PTSD, the medications allow them to exist with some normalcy in their lives while they heal. And since there is no single drug or treatement for the complex array of the human brain's responses to trauma as significant and repetitive as WAR, a combination of drugs is used to treat the menu of symptoms that may present in each individual: nightmares, insomnia, anxiety, depression. If those writers had done even a small amount of research, they'd have known that those drugs help soldiers survive. It is a daily battle and we follow Noah's closely. Because of the instransigence of Noah's PTSD, late last week Noah's doctors profiled him as "no go" and he will not deploy to Iraq with his unit next month.

And he may not be able to stay in the Army. Noah was initially upset about it; he understands the "no deploy" profile (he admits that he is no shape to go despite his best efforts), but he has wanted to be a soldier for most of his 21 years and the idea of leaving the Army has been very hard for him to accept. And he adds to that his desire to continue with the "joes" he has trained so hard with and helped train in preparation for this deployment.

It's an odd position for us to be in: we hurt for him because his disappointment is so heavy at the moment, but at the same time, as a mom, I cannot say that I am sorry that he is not going back to Iraq.

We are so proud of Noah for what he has accomplished and what he has survived -- and even prouder because of his desire to carry on even with the PTSD... and in light of his first "experience" in Iraq... and this battle which he has fought exhaustingly for more than a year... one we have no doubt in which he will prevail. We and his entire family will be with him every step of the way.

And, yes, we still believe in our troops AND their mission. We have one son "home" but we still have 150,000 sons and daughters still deployed (including a bunch of Our Guys).

Remember those who have left the battlefield but now fight the battle at home.

Copyright Some Soldier's Mom 2007. All rights reserved.

* We have become somewhat conversant in the Army's "system" regarding the treatment and the attitudes reagrding PTSD. There will be a much longer and more detailed post on this topic in the future...

28 Comments:

At 2/22/2007 9:47 AM , Blogger kbug said...

This must be very difficult for Noah...and for you. I know as a mother you are glad he's not going back now, but I also know as a mother the pain you feel for him that he can't go back now. Only another military mom could really understand the mixed emotions you are feeling at this time. I'm so very sorry that he hasn't been able to find peace yet, and will pray that he finds it soon. My best to you all.....

 
At 2/22/2007 2:13 PM , Blogger Stacy said...

Another wonderful post from you. This is a very touchy subject, and I know that it had to have been very difficult for you post. You are such an inspiration to us all. I don't know where I would be right now, if it weren't for you.

You are the one person that truly understands what we as parents go through, and I thank you so much for always being their each and every single time I have dialed your number, no matter what time of the day or night. You have always helped me get through those very dark days.

Please know that we are all thinking of Noah and the rest of the family. I know that a load has been lifted from your shoulder, at least for now.

We can only hope now that things will fall into place, and he can get on with his life.

 
At 2/22/2007 7:31 PM , Anonymous 1st Cav Mom said...

I understand your pain. God Bless all of you and especially Noah. It's is hard to be an Army mom and hard for our children also. They have fought the great fight and as those that love them we have too. If it is Noah's wish to remain in the Army; I think that he should have that opportunity. He deserves the right to have the necessary time to heal. He has paid a heavy price to have the opportunity to have the time needed.

You are all in my thoughts and prayers.

A big Texas Thank You to all of you.

1st Cav Mom

 
At 2/22/2007 7:43 PM , Blogger StoicMom said...

Thanks for that post. I know it wasn't easy. My son has begun to change and he hasn't even left yet. Just the preparing for war seems to have changed him. I wish Noah the best and I'm glad he's getting help. The military says that they offer help, but the stigma attached to getting help is always there. My son says you get looked down upon if you can't handle the stress. It's a sign of weakness. Noah has a long road ahead of him. He'll need our prayers.

 
At 2/22/2007 8:22 PM , Blogger 8675309 said...

Hi -- been lurking here for a while, and you're on my daily reading list. :) I'm a civilian, so I can claim no first-hand knowledge of what you're going through, but I can say that I am always, always grateful and always, always in awe of those who send their loved ones off to war and love them so steadfastly through the pain.

God bless you and your family -- Noah is in my prayers, along with the rest of our troops, whether they're fighting there or here. Thank you all for your service.

jenny in Los Angeles

 
At 2/22/2007 9:15 PM , Blogger Army Wife said...

I am going to join with the rest of the folks saying here...that you have taken a taboo subject, and turned it into what your personal experiance has been...

PTSD, and traumatic grief. Noah has certainly experianced more than most of us will ever know. I pray fro him daily. Thinking of you and yours.


well said.

 
At 2/23/2007 3:48 AM , Blogger Monica said...

I realize you and I didn't agree about the other mom who's son has PTSD but I wanted to offer you some support.

A twist on what your girlfriend S says...a different name and a different face and this post is my son. In his case, when I talked to his Chaplain who took this to his First Shirt...he was told not only to suck it up but yelled at over it. His extreme possessiveness over his sister--the smile that no longer reaches his eyes--the friends he lost--the nightmares-especially the one merging his two realities.

I and others like me have been fighting a hard battle and all I can say is that it finally took sharing cell phone numbers with a couple of very high up people in the right state to the northeast before someone paid attention.

The women I have become friends with who share this new life with an unwelcome new family member--the PTSD...we are learning more about this so that it becomes less taboo. With the very real possibility of as many as 1 in 3 coming back with it, I'm involved in a program to help civilians learn the symptoms...so they know how to respond should a simple traffic stop result in a stressor.
Excellent post.

 
At 2/23/2007 4:47 AM , Blogger FbL said...

SSM,

I'm so glad and impressed to see you sharing your and Noah's story here. Please give him a hug for me and let him know that he's in my heart and my prayers as he faces this challenge.

 
At 2/23/2007 7:03 AM , Anonymous Melinda said...

Thank you for, once again, talking about all sides of service and for sharing your personal experience with the rest of us.

We are so very proud of your family and for Noah. We appreciate so much all he has given and I will say here and anywhere that I am willing to give what I can to help Noah and whomever else who serves and needs that support.

You know where I am. {{Hugs}}

 
At 2/23/2007 8:26 AM , Blogger David M said...

Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 02/23/2007
A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention.

 
At 2/23/2007 9:16 AM , Anonymous yankeemom said...

Thank you for speaking about PTSD in such a heartfelt way ~ Know that my prayers are with Noah and you all.
This is such an important area in the care for our returning combat vets. It's a fact of their lives and we as the community they come home to need to be aware of it and make sure they get the help they need.
And to make sure that this condition is not used to just score political points.
Please tell Noah that he does us proud and bless you, Carla, for all that you give.

 
At 2/23/2007 12:07 PM , Blogger Kat said...

((((HUGS))))) Thank you for this post... thank you for sharing this painful journey with us... You are always in my prayers and thoughts, always...

~THE SILENT WAR~

Their battle is over
They're home at long last
Bullets and bombs
are a thing of the past

Happy reunions
Smiling faces
Safely they return
To familiar places
To their old lives
to begin anew...

But in the dark night
The Soldiers still fight
to drown out the sounds
and sights they see
Visions so real, and
Memories so harsh
Echoes of Battle
Rage on in their Hearts
Everything's the same
But different somehow...

Our Heroes still need us
Just as before
Don't forget them -
Stand fast with them
As they fight their Silent War.

Copyright 2007 by Kat Orr.
All Rights Reserved.

 
At 2/24/2007 6:13 AM , Anonymous Just_A__Grunt said...

It sounds like what your son is suffering from is more closely associated with a condition called Survivors Guilt. He lost so many in his squad while he managed to escape "only" wounded. He has a tough road ahead and let me give my 2 cents worth. Have him seek out an American Legion or VFW club. The old timers sitting around the place are some of the best couselors in the world when it comes to helping guys with this. Mostly because a lot of them are from the "Been there, Done that, and I got the T-shirt" crowd.
I hope your son is able to work through this and as much as I hate throwing medication at problems I know they are a necessary evil at times. It is alright for him to be angry and depressed, but it must be directed for good.
Anyway I don't have anymore knowledge on this then I do quarterbacking a team in the Super Bowl I just want to add my voice to the crowd letting y'all know there is a light at the end of the tunnel and it aint a train.
Take care and God Bless

 
At 2/24/2007 7:27 AM , Blogger Soldier's Dad said...

My daughter is in the same boat as Noah. That Combat Action Patch she came home with has a heavy price attached.

She's been home for 18 months now, and she really hasn't "found her way home yet". I'm just thankful that she has managed to find a Vets Center that was actually interested in her well being rather than beauracracy.

Tell Noah's Sgt that the nations homeless shelters are filled with Vietnam Vets that "sucked it up".

 
At 2/24/2007 7:37 AM , Anonymous LL said...

SSM,

I have a friend who is a Vietnam era Vet with PTSD, and 40 years later, he still has nights when he can't sleep. He recently went through a period of about two weeks of sleepless nights. It had to do with an anniversary.

This is an internal battle that your son may fight for the rest of his life, but as my friend says, "It's a matter of learning to cope with it and recognizing that we can deal with it and not let it rule our lives."

Your young man and YOU are in my prayers. May God pour blessings upon your family.

 
At 2/24/2007 8:45 AM , Blogger Pam said...

Thank you for this post, and for sharing all of this with us. There's no way for most of us to understand what Noah, and all of you, are going through. My father-in-law went through a great deal after coming home from Vietnam. Please know that Noah and your family are in my thoughts and prayers, and my heartfelt gratitude goes to you and to Noah for all that all of you have given - and will give - for all of us.

 
At 2/24/2007 2:23 PM , Blogger David said...

I have seen this in similar situations. He undoubtedly feels some guilt as to his being chosen for survival. He has been chosen to represent his comrades who were sent on without him.

He has been given another mission. How he handles it will determine his future. His comrades in arms have placed their collective memory in his care.

Whatever he decides to do with this task, he will do the best he can. Maybe your family can find some hope from Shakespeare who said it best!

St. Crispen's Day Speech: William Shakespeare, 1599

That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man's company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is call'd the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam'd,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian.'
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say 'These wounds I had on Crispian's day.'
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb'red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
Make him a member of the gentry, even if he is a commoner.
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

Before the Battle of Agincourt,
25 October 1415

Shakespeare
Henry V, Act 4, Scene 3

Peace and honor are yours at great cost and humility!

Prayers and Thanks for your sacrifice! My family sleeps safe at night because of you and yours!

David

 
At 2/24/2007 6:41 PM , Blogger Helen said...

This is my first visit. What a powerful post. I feel sad and proud. Noah and your family will always be in my prayers. I hope he knows how much we care.

 
At 2/24/2007 6:50 PM , Blogger TheNewGuy said...

As an ex-military doc, and one who has had the occasion to counsel combat vets and police officers who have been forced to kill in the line of duty, there is a book you need to get for him. Note: I have no connection with the author, aside from having met him at a conference.

It's entitled "On Combat." The author is a retired Ranger and West Point psychology professor; Lt Col (Ret) Dave Grossman. You can buy it on Amazon (his previous work, "On Killing," was nominated for a Pulitzer)

Your son will find it eye-opening.

 
At 2/24/2007 9:42 PM , Anonymous jewelryjane - another first cav mom said...

Noah is wise to share his feelings with his parents and others.My son and I had some talks about this before he shipped out.Burdens shared are burdens made lighter.
Thanks to Carla and others who share the burdens of sending a child off to war.

 
At 2/25/2007 9:30 AM , Blogger Viper1 said...

As someone also diagnosed with ptsd, I know you and Noah have a long journey ahead of you. It sounds like you are well underway and making the right decisions, I wasnt a big fan of the pharmaceutical therapy since I thought it did more to mask the symptoms than treat them, but thats just me. Its a brave and noble thing to bring this to the public eye and you are to be commended for doing so. I wish you guys all the best in finding a way through it together.
V1

 
At 2/25/2007 2:22 PM , Blogger Cheryl Lee Patrick-Nussberger said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 2/25/2007 6:28 PM , Blogger Tracy said...

powerful post. Your son and your family are in my prayers.

 
At 2/25/2007 10:24 PM , Blogger Uncle Jimbo said...

Carla,

Email me and let's talk about all this.

jimbo@unclejimbo.com

Seriously,

Uncle J

 
At 2/26/2007 6:10 PM , Anonymous Irish Gal said...

God Bless him and your family. My lousy two cents is get him to talk, however, you can, get it out of him. Luv to you and your family...

 
At 2/27/2007 2:55 PM , Blogger Some Soldier's Mom said...

Cheryl Lee, Our deepest respects and sympathy on the loss of your beloved son. No greater love hath he... I cannot begin to fathom your pain and am at a loss of the words that would help bring you peace. Thank you for taking the time to write encouragement to our family.

 
At 2/27/2007 4:22 PM , Anonymous Call Me Grandma said...

SSM and Noah, I thank Noah for his service to our country. I pray that God will bless him with all that he needs, and God knows exactly what that is. Thanks Noah for your service.
Now the mom in me speaks. I am glad you are not going back to Iraq. I pray for the day each and everyone of our troops are back home. I pray for the day that peace reigns in every corner of our world.
Now SSM you can breathe just a little. Prayers going out to you all.

 
At 2/28/2007 10:56 AM , Anonymous Teresa said...

Up here in Massachusetts, there is a yoga studio nearby that offers a special class for Veterans. The men I saw attending were of the Vietnam era and had been battling PTSD all along. Yoga International Magazine wrote an article about the class last year.

Maybe, if Noah is interested, you could check out local studios in your area and see if they offer similar classes. It would be in the nature of one more thing to help in his fight to work through this.

If you'd like a copy of the article (I'm having a hard time finding it online anymore) email me. I have a copy in a Word document I can send you.

technicalities@charter.net

 

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