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Transitions: A Warrior’s Journey to Recovery By John Roberts Marco Harrington was a strong soldier. A full-body X-ray revealed several bones that healed from breaks, for which he was never treated. Though these breaks happened in the past and were already healed, the fractures weren’t truly felt until the moment doctors discovered them – fractures that would eventually tear apart the final shred of hope Marco had of staying in the military. Marco is the youngest of six siblings and an identical twin. But of his large family, he was the only to enlist in the military. At age 22, Marco joined many of his friends who had already taken up ranks in the Army National Guard By John Roberts (ANG). He would later marry one of those friends and start a family. Military service came easy for Marco. As a well-minded youth, he wasn’t easily stressed, so he was able to thoroughly enjoy his basic training at Fort Jackson just outside of Columbia, South Carolina. Marco, now military police, was assigned to Grand Prairie Armed Forces Reserve Complex in Texas. Shortly thereafter, in 2008, Marco deployed to Iraq, working entry control points by checking vehicles entering and leaving the base for contraband. “In the next seven years of his enlistment, Marco crosstrained military occupational specialties and held multiple positions as a supply sergeant. It all came to a startling halt on a deployment to Egypt in 2015. Marco started having severe nightmares. “I woke up and felt like I was having a heart attack,” Marco said. “The hospital evaluations couldn’t confirm that I had a heart attack, but they also couldn’t confirm that I didn’t have one. I went back to duty, but it kept happening. Then, one day, we had a physical training test, and I passed out after running.” Marco was shipped out to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. “They didn’t know what was wrong,” Marco said. “I went through a cardio stress test, and they thought I was having anxiety attacks and had a panic disorder.” Without a firm diagnosis, Marco arrived back stateside to Fort Hood just outside Killeen, Texas. After supervised cardio workouts, the doctors discontinued his regular cardio stress tests believing that Marco had a very strong heart. 38

HOMELAND / September 2017

Joey Willis

Their focus quickly shifted to his nightmares. They started thinking it was just severe nightmares from past deployments,” Marco said. “So they started having me attend group and individual therapy, regular stimulus therapy, and began monitoring my brain activity. They thought stress and everything just finally caught up with me and that my brain sent a signal to my heart to stop.” Marco also began attending group and individual therapy sessions. Ultimately, he was diagnosed with extreme panic disorder with nightmares. “It got to a point where I couldn’t sleep anymore,” Marco said. “I was always on edge and uneasy. Still, they wouldn’t diagnose me with post-traumatic stress disorder because every time I was in public, I wore a smile. That’s just the kind of person I am.” Still, more and more symptoms arose. “They started seeing other problems with my strength,” Marco said. “I’m left-side dominate, but I was weak on my left side. I had back problems, neck problems, headaches – major headaches. I was having so many tests – MRIs and bone scans. Finally, a doctor stepped in and requested a full-body scan.”

Homeland Veterans Magazine September 2017  

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