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March 14, 2013

Battles beyond the war zone U.S. Army E-4 Specialist Cody Jones while serving with his combat unit in Afghanistan. ​Courtesy photo

Veterans returning home deal with mental trauma By Sara Van Cleve


eturning home from deployment is a time of great joy for families, but once the elation fades, other emotions often kick in for service men and women. “One of the hardest things is you remember the day you stepped off the plane and your whole family was there or whoever was there to greet you when you first came back, and you remember how happy you were, and that’s part of what makes you flip back into depression,” said Army Spec. Matt Spradley, who was deployed to Afghanistan in 2010-11. “You go ‘Well, holy crap. Is that the happiest I’m ever going to be? Will I ever feel as happy as I was that day?’ and it makes it really hard to deal with anything really,” he said. The range of emotions for returning soldiers — from happiness to sadness, from guilt and fear to anger and frustration — is just one issue facing America’s service people. “You look at things differently — every-

thing,” said Army Spec. Cody Jones, a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 200809. “Your family, your friends, the world in general. Everything is Twelve different.” Topics Retired Air Force Chief MasWeeks ter Sgt. and counselor This Week: Post-Traumatic Ken Van Stress Disorder Holbeck with Warrior Counseling and Consulting in Colorado Springs often works with veterans, soldiers and their families and said returning from deployment can present a slew of difficulties. “(They can experience) reintegration problems, adjustment disorders, problems with sleep, substance abuse, relational problems, excessive fatigue, financial problems and symptoms associated with trauma — avoidance, hyper vigilance, anxiety and depression,” Van Holbeck said. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, 11 to 20 percent of veterans return-


Michelle Benavidez embraces former serviceman Army E-4 Specialist Cody Jones in his living room in Golden. Jones is struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder. Photo by Andy Carpenean ing from deployment serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom meet clinical requirements for a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. It is a common misconception that all soldiers have PTSD, Van Holbeck said. “If PTSD has become common for a lot of soldiers, it’s because our military is much smaller than in years past,” said Van Holbeck, who served in the Air Force for 30 years and was deployed numerous times. “I don’t think the leadership in Pentagon in the early ’90s envisioned future wars lasting over 10 years, nor did they envision

low-tech fighting. The result is fewer boots on the ground available to fight a long, protracted conflict. The more a person is exposed to trauma, the more likely they will be diagnosed with trauma or post-traumatic stress disorder. It’s all about numbers today.”

Returning adjustments

While not all soldiers and veterans are diagnosed with PTSD, Jones and Spradley said they know many who are, or at least experience trauma symptoms after returning. Battles continues on Page 8

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