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Veteran Voices

The most common mental health challenges faced by veterans, active duty, and reservists include PTSD, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and moral crises like suicide or homicide.

Triggering events, nightmares, flashbacks, hypervigilance, and emotional detachment often cause us to feel ostracized or stigmatized within our peer groups. Internal struggles with trauma, guilt, grief, identity, and purpose can lead us to question our sense of self.

Fighting demons and mental health challenges directly impacts our outlook, interpersonal relationships, and our place in society. Ironically, the same cognitive control we give our demons can be equal to the degree of ownership we can regain over time.

Here’s how these veterans consciously shift their post-traumatic stressors to help fuel their daily spiritual and mental journey.

The Question: How are post-traumatic stressors helping to fuel your hero’s journey?

It’s a journey, for sure. Initially, the anxiety, stressors, and PTSD (along with other disorders / learned behavior picked up during service) can be almost overwhelming.

Through constant and conscious introspection coupled with a self-driven desire to be happy and healthy, I think the experience helps make veterans more resilient and compassionate once through the initial crucible.

What initially begins as a journey through the seven circles of hell eventually leads to a more focused and conscious decision to “live” our lives. Pain and adversity can enhance our everyday experiences and truly assist us in not taking every day we have for granted. Instead, we learn to be thankful and excited, even during times of tribulation.

The same process impacts non-veterans, but statistically, it seems more prevalent within the veteran / active-duty communities.

– R. Lee, USMC


When I retired from the Marine Corps, I realized that there was a stimuli vacuum and that I had no traction forward.

One of the Marine Corps foundational ethos is “Esprit de Corps.” I realized that this concept of brotherhood kept my demons at bay. I was too busy making sure I cared for my Marines to worry about my emotional state, avoiding the opportunity for my mental troubles to solidify.

After I retired, I was depressed—a leaf in the wind. I needed to look at one day at a time and walk on. I avoided unhealthy coping mechanisms like drugs and alcohol and embraced using my energy to go back to school and work outside, building a small farm.

I wanted to be depressed, but going to college with my son was too fun; it was an adventure. I constructively used my nervous energy, not just starting new hobbies but also leveraging purpose.

– S. Gersley, USMC


EDITOR’S NOTE: Josh Porthouse is currently a Marine Corps Reservist with 14 years of active duty. As a Team FireWatch Veteran Voices contributor, Josh works alongside other veterans to bring a personal perspective to relevant topics for today’s active and veteran service members.


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