Author's headshotDuring my eleven and a half years in the US Army Reserve, I deployed three times to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. After each deployment, I had varying issues. Trying to cope with the loss of friends and the realities of war, I was also trying to find myself wearing my other uniform as a citizen soldier. Active duty soldiers may only have to transition once; but I had to on four separate occasions, three times after combat. No one wants to admit they have problems, and I was no different, hiding in meaningless jobs and countless hours lost in bars.

After my third tour, I took an assignment training soldiers deploying to Iraq, Afghanistan, and Africa.  I will not say I found my time in combat comforting, but I knew what my job was.  I was well-trained and had years of expertise.  Ensuring soldiers were prepared for combat was a way for me to stay in the fight.  I had started dating my wife before I took this assignment, and she supported me whole-heartedly. Then, while training for a PT test, I suffered a knee injury and was unable to continue on this assignment.

I came back home to a woman who loved me unconditionally but could not recognize the man she fell in love with. During recovery from knee surgery, I became severely symptomatic with PTSD and was diagnosed with injuries to both shoulders and my other knee, which also would require surgery. I became so depressed I was barely functioning. I was a combat soldier staring down the end of my military career.

I went back to school in the fall of 2009 and found success there, but that is all I could focus on. My wife nearly left me, and it made me realize I had many things to be thankful for. She had seen me through several psychiatric inpatient stays, two surgeries, and two months away at a PTSD clinic. She is the glue that has held our family together, my rock, the reason I am still alive. While life still has its rough patches, she and my daughter are why I haven’t given up. I can’t give up. They are what I have to live for.

James Casey served in the United States Army Reserve and is a Mission Continues Fellow Alumnus. He lives in St. Louis, MO with his wife Rachel and daughter Lucille.

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Published on May. 11, 2012

Estimated reading time is 2.1 min.

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One Comment

  1. Bob Cass May 12, 2012 at 12:08 pm

    I can’t relate to in combat veterans but as a Vietnam Era Veteran there are things every one of us never talk about. We were served the same spit and words of “Baby Killers” as Combat Veterans but by adding the Era to our service it diminished our feelings of participation in the military in a time of war. Many of us were state side in direct support of Nam. When a GI ate an orange or reloaded his magazines my air wing had much to do with it. Our Aircraft Mechanics and Loaders made sure a certain chopper was loaded correctly on the then new C141 Starlifters. (Ole Droopy). Jeeps or trucks went in under smaller quantity but still they went. Then there was the gracious task of the hops from Nam to Japan, Guam, and back to the US via Alaska. On those planes were many many of our sick and wounded who were not going back into battle. Then there were those who made their final appearance in this world. So you see it wasn’t combat but when they put the Era on the end of Viet Nam they separated us from our real destination as soldier in time of war. Vietnam Veterans. 2nd class GIs. I’ll say one thing though. When George Bush 1 Kicked Saddam out of Kuwait in a few days and left in victory it warmed my heart. But it took Bush Jr to make it all messy and surreal again.

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