I stand in front of you on this stage with a smiling mask.
But give me a minute or two to unmask and ask,
What do you really know about post-traumatic stress?
Day in day out weight is oppressed in the hearts and chests.
Very little does one see his/her life as a personal success.
For adrenaline, many involve a life that becomes transgress.
Through time natural facial expressions and habitats change.
Insomnia becomes normal, even the bags under the eyes become rearrange.
Our moods are irritable, anxious, and estranged.
Nightmares, flashbacks, and reminders limits activities,
Fireworks are always ruining summer festivities.
Very rare can one ever overcome this particular sensitivity.
Frustrations and sympathy grows for the high number of suicides,
There are more of us alive than those who gave up on their lives.
The ones who are still breathing, still feel invisible to the world.
Many try to use humor and sex to cover up the actual feelings.
Instead of opening up, solitude is actual a comfort to hide the dealings,
Of strangers and family who fears the lack of knowledge and adaptations.
Truth, there is the misconception of medications, very rare do they improve,
Drugs and alcohol are the first things those who only want self-help turn to.
Natural healing & therapy is best suited for those who are desperate to move on.
We may look strong on the outside due to the imprinted war face,
Nobody ever takes the consideration, deep down fragile as a pencil case.
Doesn’t mean the survivors are more dangerous than a terrorist.
When it comes to the survivors of post-traumatic stress,
Majority find exceptions in the imperfections, a new strength.
That is the most important factor in an unfamiliar multitude force.
Even though my adjustment to civilian life has been a struggle, due to being consumed in today’s society by so many political opinions, and truths being revealed… it certainly has been a hard pill to swallow…
While most people gather, illegally and legally, I’ve kept my distance and silence, as well as decompress my mind, to gather my thoughts over this weekend as it reminds me of two things…. 1) my best friend at the time being KIA on June 3, 2007 (three days before my 21st), and the fact that tomorrow is legitimately my fifth year anniversary from being medically retired from the military.
Yet, there is still a pride in me for serving this country for the purpose of the bigger picture and not for myself, but for ALL the people in this country who chooses not to or simply can’t for medical purposes…
I continue to look at the positive things of serving like having the opportunity to embrace and experience so many various cultures and individuals through the battle buddies I’ve met over the years and the various global contractors and local people that I had the opportunity to befriend and worked with while in Iraq.
Also, without serving, I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today nor accomplish the things I’ve accomplished over my adult life…
While the mass crowd defines us a basic stereotype of typical sheep and murderers, I will not let those voices define me nor the good-hearted people I have come to serve and meet, who take the call to risk their lives for their own beliefs of serving…
What comes down to my reality vs. their reality, is that we all have a story, we all have educational value to share through our livelihoods and experiences, and we all can learn from one another… we just need to be able to have an open mind to learn from those who haven’t experienced a similar life than our own and that’s where empathy comes in…
Unfortunately, the majority of us, as humans, struggle with having empathy for the rest of the world, if not, our own country and that’s why we are in the “Divided States of America” we are currently in.
The relief of today was fulfilled with distractions and productivity while distancing myself from the crowds and social media, while I regain my attentiveness and confidence with my purpose and knowledge in the world during my five-day weekend and I’m only half way through.
Also, what helped me through today is having one of my battle buddies that I relate to reaching out to me today with his music playlist and amazing descriptive reflection of his day, because he knows how much music and storytelling gets me through difficult things.
Music is my life and it’s one of my biggest escape routes to just forget how things are now and let me replay the memories, good and bad. Music is also a great way to express what you are feeling here and now.
For me it’s essential to reflect back to the then and compare it to the mentality and growth that I’ve been working on today for myself and my future, and remind myself of who I used to be compared to the individual I am now.
When you see my playlist, you will see a lot of mixed feelings in this journey, but you need to realize a lot of soldiers go through a lot of emotional pain, physical pain, and spiritual pain, whether it’s on the surface or not.
Keep notes that this playlist is of my world and mentality back in 2006-2007. Even though I still enjoy all the music below today, does not mean I feel exactly the same now then I did back then.
First, I will give you my Top Ten of songs that symbolized myself, my hardships, and my mentality when I was in Iraq, also, these songs kept me straight throughout the year in the sandbox.
10. Blue Oyster Cult – Veteran of the Psychic Wars
9. Drowning Pool – Soldiers
8. Toby Keith – American Soldier
7. Tim McGraw – If You’re Reading This
6. AC/DC – Highway to Hell
5. Three Doors Down – Here Without You
4. Rage Against the Machine – Killing in the Name Of
3. Crossfade – Washing The World Away
2. Mark Schultz – Letters From War
1. Fort Minor – Where’d You Go
Here is the rest of my playlist that I have created for my Operation Iraqi Freedom soundtrack called “Boots on Ground” that’s created with some Country, a touch of Hip-Hop, and various Rock music.
*Warning: Another long ass post with very low resolution photos from the memory bank*
I grew up sheltered beyond measure, not seeing much beyond Wisconsin and half of Minnesota. I never encountered anyone darker than the Native American skin complexion until my first cousin once removed, Maxwell, was born. I was eight years old. So, growing up with very little diversity did two things. One, helped me accept all Americans regardless of color and background, and two, it still blinded me from the reality of our very own country, because of experiencing my very own discrimination in small town USA.
September 11th, 2001, I was fifteen years old. I did not know what the World Trade Center was until this very day. The day that would change America and the rest of the World forever. It was my loudest calling. As any small town White American, we grow up ignorant, but proud of our safe haven we call the United States of America, the land of the free. This is a moment I realized I needed to sincerely reach out to the rest of the world and educate myself.
It didn’t take long to talk myself into taking the military route, due to my spiritual beliefs beyond the illusion of freedom. September, 2001 brought to light in my life of a black and white factor, good verses evil. Yeah, I also wanted to see the world and get the hell out of dodge, but also fight the evil that displayed itself at the very beginning of our new millennium. I didn’t want to just prove to others of my ability of being somebody, I wanted to prove to myself that I could do anything I put my mind too regardless of everyone else’s doubts of my vision.
Before I headed to basic training after I graduated high school, I talked my mom and stepfather into helping me pay for a school trip to New York City my Senior year. I paid half and they paid half. I needed experience beyond the small radius I grew up in.
Luckily for me, they agreed. This was only three years shortly after the infamous date. I had to embrace ground zero, or what was left of it anyways. It was the reminder I needed on the reason I was serving. It pushed me to believe in the choice I already had made.
Now fast forward to my experience in the military. We served whichever was our commander-in-chief and we were NOT allowed to bring up our political beliefs, but instead focus on the mission right in front of us. Tunnel vision, so to speak. There are a plus side to it.
There was a plus side to the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy as well, regardless of how it was
flipped against those in the LGBT community in those days. We weren’t consumed of things out of our measures beyond what was right in front of us. I guess being a chameleon, so to speak, also has it’s advantages.
Unfortunately, I am well aware that not everyone has the same case as myself, but in reality with all the units I was assigned too and the individuals I met through the military, I never felt that no one gave a fuck about who I was sleeping with, men or women. The men I had relationships didn’t give a fuck about my previous ex-girlfriends.
Completely different from the environment I grew up with. I did felt ‘free’ regardless of the circumstances with the military. While, others were unlucky to have found themselves kicked out, at my time in the service, the most I got was a counseling statement for bringing up hardships with an ex while in Iraq (for those who don’t know what a counseling statement is, it’s basically just a slap in the hand for fucking up).
The military showed me a close knit crew outside a few episodes of soap operas and drama theater going on, but again, that’s everywhere in this world. There was maybe one instance where a douche-bag NCO was being racist towards our Puerto Rican brothers. He tried to write up a counseling statement for me sticking up for them.
Yes, I was very opinionated in the military and didn’t hold back if I witness something wrong and I didn’t give a shit about what rank that individual was. Ask any of my leaders of this factor of my persona (laughing). This dude was certainty on a power trip though. Still no regrets though. He wasn’t a leader in my eyes and that’s still my opinion today.
Other than that, I did not witness anything racism, especially towards my African American brothers and sisters I served with. Niave? Maybe. I was one of the few white soldiers always kicking it with my African-American battles though, when I wasn’t hanging with my Air Force guys.
Even at home, in my military environment, I didn’t witness any racism with my own eyes. Not saying there wasn’t, but I mean, I was going through my own issues to the point where it consumed my life, my small mind at the time. To the point where the civilian world, it was a complete stranger to me. I didn’t get what was going on due to my experiences in the military and my own discrimination growing up in small town, USA.
Even when the social issues were seriously rising, even under Obama’s presidency. I did not understand the issue. I wanted to, but I couldn’t help but question things like, “but we have Obama.” etc…etc… How is this going on? Why is this going on? I thought we got past this? Questions for days and days.
Like, I got completely uncomfortable and had lots of white guilt, because of how frustrated my friends were at me, and how mistreated they were with the system the country has in place. I will admitted, regardless of my life experiences, I was biased and uneducated as fuck to what truly mattered.
I wanted to understand, but my mind wouldn’t allow it due to my experiences in life. It didn’t take until a couple of my African-American friends actually literally dummy down the explanation for me, even with statistics. Somehow that helped shit click, which is weird, because I fucking hate math and suck at it with a passion (laughing).
Well now, it’s just beyond frustrated as fuck. I try to do my part to unify humanity and bring compassion in the world. Same as my original mission and purpose when I first signed up for the military, but it’s hard when over half of our humanity don’t give a rats ass about others than their own beliefs and themselves, especially Americans. Yes, I am calling my own country out. Look at the dynamic we are living in. We are not looked at as the best country in the world, we are a clown show for the world. Accept it.
This post also goes towards the ‘neo-liberals’ who want to categorize veterans as conservatives/Republicans/Trump-supporters, because of the trolls you see on social media that try to speak for us. This is why majority of Americans, not just veterans, hate political parties and association with the government, regardless of the choices we made in our lives. I don’t regret a moment of serving, regardless of my status of a soldier and the choices I made to retire the boots.
I am still proud to be from this country, this continent, regardless of our imperfections. I will not allow our history to define my patriotism as an American Viking. I will allow our history to endorse more compassion within to expose towards society to try to fix the now. We need to open up and realize, not all nations world-wide are not on our level of progression when it comes to laws and rights, but again we are far from perfect. It takes lots of years and change to see where we’ve been compared to where we have come. The only movement is forward.
One last bit, before I close this post. Believe it or not, plenty of us, veterans, are not brainwashed and can think and speak for ourselves. I still believe there are plenty aspects of this country that is far more beneficial than many nations on the world, regardless of the current shit show, but that’s another post for another time. Political rants exhaust me.
That goes for the current climate on both ends of the political parties. It’s time for a change, government. It’s time to give a shit about the people. It’s time for a change, people. It’s time to have less reliance on corrupt politicians who give no shits about anyone, but themselves. It’ll take a lot of work. It’ll be hard. Nothing is black and white, but nothing worthwhile ever comes easy.
For those who are too far ignorant to see reality and truth beyond the propaganda bullshit, and are stuck in your own alternative truth, I’ll pray for you.
My life has been filled with various darkness throughout. The cards I were given aren’t usually the ones that anyone would just take willingly. The lowest, darkest, and most irresponsible point in my life came in my early 20s.
It wasn’t until after my tour in Iraq that my life would be crashing down. Failed relationships after failed relationships, alcoholic abuse, and surrounding myself with invaluable individuals who used me for my money and popularity.
Post-traumatic stress got the best of me as I failed to mentally prep for my second deployment to Iraq. I was sent home early with no direction. I was working minimum wage at Subway and almost got evicted from my apartment due to rent not being paid. Then a blessing that turned into one hell of a life test. As I am just starting my treatment for post traumatic stress for the first time in my life, I got long-term orders to work in Fort McCoy at the Wisconsin Military Academy. However, I would fail the test.
Even when I found a decent job as a federal employer at Fort McCoy, I would just throw that hard earned money away to partying across the Upper Midwest. I was empty. I had no purpose. I was reckless. I didn’t realize the gift I had with my expressions and writing. I had nothing to live for. I went on years of this lifestyle until I got the call from my mother.
“Kenny is in the hospital…”
One of the few father figures I had in and out of my life (possibly my biological father), was sick. I don’t mean with the flu or even with cancer. Kenny had decades of this reckless lifestyle ahead of me, however the illness he lived with was covered up over the years for my protection, until that very moment in my life. All that was revealed was from a fall from a fucking ladder. A fucking ladder.
With heartache, confusion, and revelations, I turned to my best friend at the time. It was 2010. We both agreed it would be best if I would stop my bad habits. He took all my liquor I kept at his place and hide it. Quitting cold turkey with the drama that ensued was another failed test. My life, the same patterns, but with different faces. Something had to change. However, that was the time I was going blind, yet again, for love.
A lot of people who’ve come and gone in my life don’t know that I’ve tried quitting my party habits in 2010, however it was short lived, as my old habits resurfaced over the next two years. Even as I somehow completed my first college degree. Not sure how, as my days were either filled with drinks or hangovers. So how does this story even relate to any kind of film you may ask? Let’s just say I shook hands with the devil during those years of irresponsibility.
2012 came. Curiosity grew. Still struggling without structure in my life. I took a year and a half away from the uniform at the time (still on contract though through the Inactive Reserve), and decided to join the active Army Reserves in McCoy. I wanted to be a different soldier. To find new motivation, I gave into another La Femme Nikita marathon, but nothing was biting. I was urging for something more. I was seriously outdated with every cast member’s work, so I researched and what did I discover? General Romeo Dallaire’s (ret.) story:
This project really spoke out to me as a warrior with Post Traumatic Stress and having Roy Dupuis to play General Dallaire drew me to the project even more. Why? Roy gave up drinking and the party lifestyle prior to filming the television series, La Femme Nikita. This film project had me look up to him even more than I already had growing up. It was the ticket to my next chapter. To actually live life to my fullest ability, but first I had to work through my unsteady roller coaster after years of learning to not feeling a damn thing outside of alcohol.
Today, I may be a work in progress after decades of untreated chronic PTSD piling up in my life since the age of four, but I wouldn’t be where I am today with the perfect ingredients that have helped me along the way. That includes my military family that got me into and helped me with equestrian therapy and my medical board process to be retired from the military, the advisors and mentors that assist my needs when it comes to my mental health, and the friends that allowed me the opportunity to meet the biggest role model in my short complicated life. Most importantly, Roy taking on the role of General Romeo Dalliare (ret.) wholeheartedly.
With all of this and how my life sorted itself out, I do not use my PTSD as an excuse to fail in life, but as a motivation to keep my purpose alive. Without these struggles, I wouldn’t have resorted to storytelling, and discover art and entertainment as part of my therapy and passion. I know exactly what my triggers are for my anxiety and stress disorders. I know exactly what hobbies and interests I can benefit to improve my behavioral habits. I am more of myself today, because of watching Shake Hands With the Devil and admiring Roy Dupuis’ career. He’s one of the main ingredients in my survival and being as successful and courageous as I am today.