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A Never-Ending Battle: A Soldier’s Ongoing Struggle with Combat PTSD Kindle Edition
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I identified with the demoralization and shame that follows repeatedly losing your temper, even though every last time you did you made a promise to react differently next time. He doesn't go into what happens in the brain when you're triggered and go nuts, but that wasn't part of his story. (When the survival brain is activated by a trigger, the thinking brain goes dark. They've done scans to show this. You don't have the same access to logic and your normal rationale when you're flooded with stress hormones. That helps the demoralization somewhat.)
I would love it if the government would give every veteran whose seen action a copy of this memoir as well as a book like Peter Levine's Waking the Tiger, which explains what happens in the body and brain as a result of repeated exposure to trauma. It's an involuntary reaction. PTSD is a normal response to abnormal conditions. I won't hold my breath for the government to take me up on my suggestion.
For me, somatic therapy and Trauma Releasing Exercises were helpful in releasing the trauma energy that did not get released after the episodes of trauma. Group therapy was helpful to this author. One-on-one, not so much. Same for me, 1-on-1 was a waste. A twenty-five year waste. Ah well...
Patrick tells you up front that he had deeply repressed his memory and as he reconstructs his time in the army he will take the reader back to that time in a simple but real way. Starting with his trip to the induction center where he watches a group of men being told that they are going to the Marine Corps, Patrick hopes that his computer skills will give him a nice job away from combat.
The army teaches him his first lesson in military logic by assigning him to the infantry. After his MOS training, he is offered additional training in a new program designed to prepare men for leadership as infantry sergeants. Known by others as the 'Shake and Bake' sergeant's school, Patrick gives an excellent look at a forgotten piece of military leadership history. At the completion of his training, after a typical CF medical screwup regarding his injured ankle, he boards that plane that takes him to war.
After the usual paper work, Patrick is assigned to E-1-5 Cav, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile), the army's answer to the battlefield mobility of the enemy. E Company is the latest organization change and is made up of mortars. Surveillance Radar and a Recon Platoon. Patrick is assigned as a recon squad leader, one of the toughest jobs in the army. He gives realistic accounts of patrolling the hills of I Corps looking for the NVA regulars. He describes in detail the ambush patrols and the aftermath of one where they lost men thanks to a eager beaver 2d Lt who ordered the enemy bodies searched before it was safe to do so.
After six months on the line, Patrick is reassigned to a psychological warfare unit after a confrontation with his company commander over what he determined to be an unreasonable order. There he took part in 'winning the hearts and minds of the people' operations and participating in leaflet drops from a helicopter while a Vietnamese spoke into the public address system encouraging the VC in the jungle below to surrender. He was shot down on one of these flights and was only saved by the skillful pilot who brought the ship back to the airstrip.
Patrick went home after this and returned to civilian life. While he was never spit on in the airport, he did notice that as soon as he told someone about being in Vietnam that person would become impersonal and withdraw from any friendship. After several of these kind of experiences, he learned to bury his military past and get on with life. He was changed but he didn't really know how or what he had become.
Ten or so years after his discharge he realized he couldn't remember anything about Vietnam. As he began to try to remember he begins to describe in great detail what is now called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). His long journey of remembering what happened to him and his buddies in Vietnam leads him into a raging case of PTSD. He looses interest in his work and goes from job to job. His marriage suffers but his wife and kids stick by him. Eventually he finds his way to the Veterans Administration and there he documents in great detail the procedures that vets must go through to get help for what I call the mind cancer that many combat soldiers contract.
Patrick's experiences with the VA are a must read for any veteran. He has been there and if you are a combat veteran you might want to read this book to see what are the symptoms of PTSD and what is available to help you and some of the pitfalls. One of the things he mentions is the fact that most treatments include anti-depressant medication. I would advise you to avoid using them because the side-effects often include suicide which is taking veterans away in record numbers. Since I was healed from my own case of PTSD and do not take medication or receive PTSD disability, I am able to say that the VA can't heal you but perhaps they can help you and at least you may be able to get them to compensate you for you nightmare.
I found Sergeant Howard Patrick's book to be an easy read. I identified with much of his army experiences and believe that his story is the real deal. It is a must read for the young veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq.
Gregory H. Murry
MSG, U.S. Army (Ret)
Content With My Wages, A Sergeant's Story: Book I-Vietnam
This book needs to be read, not just by veterans with PTSD and their families but also by current military personnel and anyone contemplating military service.