I'm finally truly proud to be a veteran.
When I returned from Iraq in late 2005, I spent a large portion of my 7 weeks of terminal leave sitting on my couch and drinking by myself trying to process what I'd been through and what was next. I found a job as a personal trainer after a few weeks and it was good for me at the time because I was forced to talk and I could be a workaholic, regularly spending 7 days a week at the gym. In retrospect, it kept me alive and moving but delayed the processing that I needed to go through because I was able to convince myself that I was fine, that I didn't have PTSD, and that I was stronger than most.
Now over a decade later with multiple jobs, a failed marriage, many failed relationships, and financial issues, I've come to realize that I needed more to be healthy. In the summer of 2016, I hit my lowest point and was depressed and seriously considering suicide for about a month. On top of relationship and financial issues, I have suffered from survivor's guilt ever since all those weeks drinking alone on my couch. Thanks to my family and friends, I was able to pull through, but I've felt vulnerable ever since.
In March of 2017, a guy from my platoon killed himself and it crushed me. I believe it hit me so hard because I'd been so close to that myself less than a year before. After posting something about him, a friend reached out and told me about MVP. Game changer. I've now found the family and camaraderie that I've needed since leaving the military. Between meeting with and helping other veterans and also our disaster relief efforts in Houston, I've rediscovered my sense of purpose and drive. It also helps when I dedicate what good I've been able to do to my fallen brothers. I'm finally truly proud to be a veteran. Proud that I came home and that I continue to survive. I'll never be the same person that I was before combat, but I'm finally ok with that.