You know me as a singer/songwriter and a stay at home dad. The Stay At Home Rock Star. But did you also know that I am a veteran of the United States Army Infantry? My MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) was as a front line foot soldier. Qualified expert in most weapons, communications, basic medic functions. I volunteered right after the first Gulf War. I went in to be an Airborne Ranger. I was 18 years old.
I ended up serving my time in the MDW (Military District of Washington) area. I was a Sentinel at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery. I was honorably discharged from Active Duty in February of 96. I was fortunate to not have to serve in a combat environment. However, the reason I went in to serve my country was the opposite. To go to combat. Looking back now, I'm fortunate that I did not. I am proud of my service, I was available to get where ever they would send me. I was ready to fight and I was ready to die. I was also ready to kill.
For the first 15 weeks I was in a total immersion environment. Being programmed to think the way of the Infantry. To look out for the guy to the right and left of you. To be ready to give up my life for them. To be ready run into a hail of gunfire the life of a brother without the thought of my own safety. After the 15 weeks was the graduation.
And a completely different human being than anyone knew 15 weeks prior.
So why was it that, they would take the time to wire me into a lean mean killing machine but not take the time, 4 years later, to return me as an adjusted citizen, able to take on the tasks of civilian life. Where was the decompression? I have friends that I served with who could never quite cope with life back in the civilian world and turned to alcohol and ultimately took their own lives. There was nobody there for them. It's as if they were used up and spit out and forgotten.
Today, in a federal prison, sits a young man that served his country. As a US Marine. He served multiple tours in the Middle East, in intensely stressful combat situations. He experienced the horrors of combat and charged forward.
After returning to the states, the nation he served, the nation he wrote a check for in the amount of "up to and including his life", he experienced what numerous combat veterans experience. 50 years ago it was called Shell Shock. Today it's called PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Because of this experience this veteran committed a crime. And now he sits in federal prison.
Let me tell you why this doesn't sit well with me.
This man gave up the freedoms we enjoy every day to serve. He served honorably. But now the government just forgets about him? Here's what I would like each and every person to do.
Write your congress person. Tell them that you want to see implemented, immediately, a "decompression" program for those who serve our nation. There is a basic training coming in, there should be a basic training going out. It should be mandatory for all combat arms veterans and be done while in their last months of active duty service. It should be a program that helps these people adjust back to the civilian life they left behind. This time should be used to remove the edge from their psyche and reintroduce compassion that is devoid from combat training. And any of our service men that have experienced these problems and are now behind bars should be removed from these prisons immediately and sent to proper treatment facilities where a real rehabilitation process can occur.
I'm sending my letter now