Army Veteran Jason Huskie is pretty breezy agreeing to a meeting. “Look for a short guy in a plain black hat.” He’s smart and low key. When asked about his profession, he easily launches into a description of Arms Dealer, one of the video games he’s produced. Released under the moniker of J.P. Huskie, his creation isn’t doing badly with almost 50,000 likes on Facebook.
“It’s a lot for one guy to take on, but luckily I have a team of freelancers around the world who help me realize each unique concept,” he says. “One of the hardest parts is consumer feedback on your art. Naturally, we get a lot of static from haters and tons of suggestions from excited fans. It’s natural when your fan base is made up in large part by young people with a lot to say.”
In addition to remaking Arms Dealer for the mass market, Huskie is working on a second game called, Spy Agency Tycoon. Thinking up game concepts comes to him naturally and his military experience gives him a storytelling edge. Enthusiastic about growing his business, Huskie is also very positive about his life in Brooklyn with his wife, a senior vice president at a Manhattan company. “The future looks bright to us,” he says, “as long as we have each other.”
The burden of a moral injury
Beneath his ease with words, Huskie also conveys angst, and clearly is carrying a burden. He says that in addition to physical and mental wounds, he also brought back an emotional scar, a moral injury.
Huskie joined the Army (2002) at 26, after leading a “bohemian” life traveling in an old Volkswagen up and down the East Coast. “I had many different jobs during this period. Each temporarily sated my thirst for learning and adventure.” He entered the Army, and quickly decided it was his life’s work. Deployed overseas, he served as a Combat Medic embedded with an infantry unit.
His experiences serve as a very powerful example of the moral injuries that can haunt soldiers like him who love everything about the warrior ethos, but come to be tormented by their own actions and inaction.
Committed by oath to save lives, Huskie has struggled to come to terms with the polarity between training to save lives and the new superseding priorities created by strong and emotionally charged situations outside the wire. “You come face to face with your own morality and loyalty. Until combat, I thought they were the same. You are sometimes put on the spot to make a hard call between keeping your safe and comfortable status as one of the “brotherhood” or choosing your humanity and putting it on the line.”
“I have worked through my feelings on this topic and am ready to share,” he says. It is his hope that others may find some comfort in knowing they aren’t alone in this struggle. “I have spoken with many other medics on this topic. Some chose to treat the enemies who just minutes before killed several of our own troops. They risked their lives and reputation by ignoring the angry posturing and indirect threats. Other soldiers who didn’t want the enemy to be medically treated right away would never make that decision if they hadn’t been traumatized in that moment. These aren’t bad people. No one should have to endure witnessing the violent death of their friends from just a few feet away. It causes temporary insanity in the most disciplined of men and women.”
Every week rethinking decisions
Huskie continues, “I also know medics who succumbed to the same shock and horror. They chose not to treat those who they felt could be a threat to others. Neither decision is wrong. It’s a personal decision and all I know have spent every week rethinking these decisions and many other hard times. These men gave it all on the battlefield and inside the wire every day. They say the medics carry the heaviest packs into combat, with full battle loadout and heavy aid bag.
“I would say that medics might also carry one of the heaviest burdens after their service is up. Remembering the patients you saved, and couldn’t save. Remembering the times you fired your weapon in defense of yourself and others. Wondering if each and every decision was right or wrong. And, to what effect? It’s taxing,” Huskie.
After sustaining serious brain and spinal cord injuries, Huskie was returned to the U.S. for treatment and recovery. Notwithstanding his misgivings about moments in service as a Medic, he wanted to return to combat. “I loved my job. I loved serving. I felt my life had a purpose.”
Huskie turned down a desk job and was honorably discharged in 2009. Having difficulty finding work, Huskie earned a business degree with his GI Bill benefits and worked for video game developers as a consultant. After establishing a reputation, he started his own studio.
Overwhelmed after separating from the military, it took a few years, but recently he found himself at VA’s Brooklyn Campus. He cannot say enough good about the care he has received to help him deal with PTSD and manage chronic pain without dependence on pain medication:
“I am currently receiving world class treatment at the Brooklyn VA hospital here in New York City. Like many combat Veterans I have a complex medical case combining physical and mental injuries.
“Through exceptional dedication and determination on the part of my caregivers, I am recovering well. After seven years of struggling to survive as a wounded warrior, the next chapter of my life is finally beginning. When I left the Army in 2009 I wouldn’t have guessed my future would be this bright. I owe it all to my family, friends and staff at VA.”