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How do former service members cope with one of the most stressful jobs in the military? Judy, Ty and Jamie, three female veterans who served in the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit, offer their Brief but Spectacular takes on post-traumatic growth and transitioning into civilian life.
One of the most stressful jobs in the military belongs to members of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit, or EOD.
In this week's Brief But Spectacular episode, in honor of Veterans Day, three female former EOD members now with the Boulder Crest Retreat in Arizona, a facility that specializes in post-traumatic growth, talk about their experiences and their recovery.
I was diagnosed with PTSD in 2004. They gave me the pills and said, "vaya con dios."
That's just what we keep telling us, is that we have PTSD, and it's not curable, and that they can just help us manage it.
I just didn't have the courage to tell anybody that I was struggling, until it just got to a point that I just couldn't hold it in anymore, and I would just — I was crying every day, and I don't even know what I was crying about.
Went in and wanted to be a medic, actually. And they had no medics slots open. So, I was like, well, let's see what you have.
One of the first things that popped up was EOD. I asked them, like, what's EOD? And he explained that we work with robots, we work with explosives. He is like, it's pretty much like bomb squad for the military. And I was like, so, I can do that, even if I'm a girl? And he's like, yes.
What they try to impress upon you is that one little mistake, even though it doesn't seem very large, could cost you your life.
When I was an EOD tech, they didn't have bomb suits or robots. You just had to walk up and engage.
At the time I joined the Marine Corps, it was 2 percent female, you know, but they didn't want any of us. We were congressional nuisance, and you consistently had to be proving yourself.
I mean, the male-to-female ratio in the military is already pretty imbalanced, and then, in EOD, even more so.
Boys will be boys. Sometimes, the things that entertain them are — I can't say that on camera.
It made me a tougher person. But and then it also made me this closed-off person that I eventually became.
I did 20 years in the Marine Corps. And so, after 20 years, you're kind of institutionalized. So then I had to transition into, what am I going do next?
It was such a strange transition for me, to go from living a life that was so structured, and I didn't really have to think about much. It was just, do your job, go home, wash, rinse, repeat, do it again.
And then, all of a sudden, I step out into the civilian world, and I'm back to just being Jamie.
I had three spine surgeries after I got out of — got back from my deployment.
And that was really hard for me. And so I got very depressed.
Just waking up in the morning and mustering the strength to just get out of bed to go to work, that was all I was — that's all I was capable of doing.
When you have more time and you're — more solitude and you think to yourself, then all this stuff starts coming up. And I realized — I said realizing, I need help.
The PATHH program was actually the first place they told us that there's nothing wrong with us, that any sort of traumatic experience you had could be used as an opportunity to grow.
They have a slogan here. It's, It's not you, it's just what happened.
When I first got here, and I saw — I don't cry about anything, but I haven't seen an EOD woman since 1981. I literally cried because I was like, they're really here. They do exist, these other EOD women that have struggles and issues.
While we have been here in Arizona, in the PATHH program, we got to do equine therapy. They told us that horses will reflect your emotions.
I'm up there, and I'm Jane Wayne. But then, when I was able to calm down, I'm like, yes.
The big horse is not a bomb. It's not going to hurt you. You can just be — go up and be gentle, and the whole idea of not everything in life is going to hurt you.
For me, it was just forgiving people who have done me wrong and forgiving myself for allowing myself to just get to this point of just absolute hatred of who I am. And that's what I'm working on.
My name is Judy Ellis.
My name is Ti.
My name is Jamie McCrary, and this is my Brief But Spectacular take…
… on post-traumatic growth.
Very tough to watch.
And you can find additional Brief But Spectacular episodes on our Web site. That's PBS.org/NewsHour/Brief.
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