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Tell your story: How to process your trauma through writing.

It’s easy to dismiss our lived experience. Oftentimes, we serve as our own worst critics. Cutting ourselves down at the first thought of doing something creative such as poetry or writing. Especially, if it concerns our Military service.


Benjamin Franklin once said, “Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”


This can easily be applied to every veteran and service member that has fought and lived to see the end of the wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Think about it, if just a fraction of us wrote our stories and shared them with the world wouldn’t that have a lasting impact? Wouldn’t the stories be powerful catalysts for change, for inspiration, and even influence the next generation that has to face insurmountable odds. All of these reasons are more than valid, but the most important reason you should start writing your story today is that it could help you finally heal your trauma.


No one makes it out of War unscathed, not even the logistician at BAF, or the S1 rep in Irbil ( I mean no disrespect, truly). We all come back changed. Some of us come back looking normal, but under the calm outer layer of bravado, is a deeply hurt individual that is trying desperately to make sense of the past 16 years of services. Far worse are the ones who wear their pain on their sleeve, making no effort to contain it, allowing it to infect every aspect of their lives until it’s too late. At some level, all of us are the same though and we could all benefit from a small dose of therapeutic writing. It’s even beneficial for people that are doing the work and talking to a therapist.


Disclaimer: If you are currently in crisis and need professional help. Please, use the following resources to get access to help immediately. Everything else can wait. YOU MATTER, YOUR FAMILY MATTERS AND THIS WILL BE HERE WHEN YOU’RE BETTER.

· Veteran Crisis Line : 1-800-273-8255 PRESS 1

· Veteran Crisis Text Line: 838255

· Veteran chat line: veterancrisisline.net

· DOD Safe Help Line : 877-995-5247

· DOD Safe Helpline chat: Online.SafeHelpline.org

· ER Mental Health intake: For emergency intervention and safety check


Even after we seek treatment, revisiting the past can be very triggering, so only take this on if you are confident that you can remain grounded in the present and utilize all of your tools to not let the experience overwhelm you.


The Devil, as they say, is in the details. When you start your writing project try to outline your project first and from there build out your story with as much detail and content. When I first started I could barely recollect the names of individuals and locations, but as I built out the story with the help of my outline, I was able to remember intimate details that I thought were lost forever.


I remembered Beezley and his dip-stained smile as he saved me and my crew after being left behind in a sand storm after our vehicle broke down. I remember thinking that I’d never forget him for saving my ass. I remember Soucy the quietest kid I ever met, still not panicking and remaining calm on the gun, almost as if he knew it’d be all right. Fast forward almost a decade later and I was in Afghanistan with Angel about to go on my first combat mission as a Green Beret. Nervous, excited, and only realizing minutes before “Kick-Off” that’d it be me and 30 + Commandos alone on one side of the Objective. Angel could see I was nervous, he walked over to me told me everything was fine and to trust him he’d be on coms with me the entire time. He said this with the calm cool demeanor of a Puerto Rican Action hero. He then removed a can of black spray paint from his pocket and started spray painting his white Nike Running Shoes. At that moment I was instantly transported back to the present and focused on what was occurring right in front of me.


“ Angel, what are you doing?” I asked calmly.


To which he replied, “Whites not tactical, black is much more tactical. Taliban don’t fuck around, they see the white, you done!”


He paused for a second and broke out in only the way a man that’s not afraid of anything could laugh. I had forgotten about that moment and thousands of moments like that. The moments where teammates, brothers, shared those little profound moments of life, humor, and laughter. I had relegated Angel to the back of my mind with the most prominent memory being his funeral just before I deployed back to Afghanistan in 2019.


The writing exercise is meant to help us heal, but it also serves as a powerful reminder that not every aspect of our past is necrotic tissue that must be cut out for the sake of saving the rest of the appendage. We also need to dig to remind ourselves of the good. Of the Beezleys that were there when we thought all hope was gone or the teammates like Angel., that are there to bring us back to the present with humor and kindness in the face of fear and the impossible.


Do the work, dig, bring it all out and give yourself the gift of remembering, both the good and the bad. Our stories deserve to be told, if not for us then do it for them. So that others may know how good men lived and died when we were young.

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