Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is caused by a vast array of traumatic events and can take many forms. The stories of the four individuals profiled here illustrate how PTSD’s symptoms and solutions are as varied as the people it affects.
For Roosevelt Ray, it was his experience as a young recruit at Fort Ord in 1971. Ray recounts escalating racial tensions during basic training. An accusation of attempted murder landed Ray in military prison for months. The charges were eventually dropped and Ray was discharged. Although he hadn’t deployed to combat the trauma was there.
Staff Sergeant Sabrina was sexually harassed by her CO during an overseas deployment. When she lodged a complaint she was separated from her unit while the investigation progressed. The military is built in part on the strong bonds between soldiers, and Sabrina felt shunned and betrayed by those she trusted the most, compounding the trauma she was already experiencing.
Robert Vessels always knew he wanted to join the Army, which he did the moment he graduated from high school. Vessels deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq at the height of combat operations. He came home filled with feelings of disillusionment, hopelessness and guilt. He isolated himself in his room, drinking, playing video games, emerging only for meals.
Columbian born Diego Camargo was living the American dream when 9/11 happened. He decided to do something, and after improving his English he joined the Marines in 2003. His career took him through 3 deployments to 5 countries and he came home with PTSD and a host of physical injuries. Camargo’s training was so ingrained that during his 8 years of service he didn’t feel any trauma. He was on automatic pilot, doing what needed to be done. It was only after re-entering civilian life that he noticed feelings of isolation and not belonging.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder has many faces and the cure is not one-size-fits-all. Diego Camargo found solace in photography and the adoption of a rescue dog. Robert Vessels solved the isolation problem by packing up his belongings and moving in with an Army buddy. Once that was resolved he was able to go to school and embark on a career. Sabrina is undergoing therapy. She is still struggling, but knows what she needs to do to manage her PTSD. Roosevelt Ray found comfort in his church and community in the National Association of Black Veterans.
Garrett Combs, a veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan who lives with PTSD, produced and shot these 4 video shorts.
PBS NEWSHOUR “WAR ON THE BRAIN” IS SUPPORTED BY Cohen Veterans Bioscience.