Scenes of war can be hard to forget and flashbacks of combat often come back after troops return home. Counselors say this can cause post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.
It's an enemy within that's doing battle with more and more military members every day
Counselors and Military leaders say PTSD can be hard to diagnose, Symptoms are mostly mental and can include fear, aggressive driving, night sweats, paranoia and anger. Although this has been a side effect of war for more than a hundred years, most troops refuse to talk about their issues because of the way other veterans were treated in the past. Former Army Corporal Cliff Malone says he was raised to believe Vietnam War veterans had shell shock. He and his friends were told to avoid them, which made him afraid to admit his problems as a veteran of Operation Desert Storm. "When I found out I had PTSD I didn't tell anyone. I didn't want anyone to know I didn't seek treatment because I didn't want people to think I was crazy," Malone says.
But like many veterans, flashbacks and rage made it hard for Malone to adjust to normal life. His memories of combat also made it impossible for him to sleep through the night, so he turned to dangerous habits in order to cope.
Former soldier Miguel Guigni served in Iraq in 2005 and says his PTSD made it hard for him to concentrate. Although he entered the military in order to help pay for college, after war he ended up dropping out of school. Neither of these men believe they would have made it without the help of the Volunteers of America's Veterans Transitional Living Program. They lived here for two years, gaining treatment for their problems with PTSD and substance abuse and learning to adjust to civilian life. Soon, they'll become home owners thanks to the Fuller Center's Veteran's Housing Project. They say they feel lucky to have found help, but know that isn't the case for all veterans. Their advice, don't be afraid to speak up. Tell someone if you're having problems, before those become too big to handle on your own.
If you or someone you know is experiencing problems with PTSD, call the Veterans Crisis Hotline 1-800-273-8255 and press 1. You can also contact the Overton Brooks VA Medical Center at 318-221-8411.