This vet's son made an app to help with his PTSD nightmares - We Are The Mighty
Veterans

This vet’s son made an app to help with his PTSD nightmares

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can be caused by a myriad of traumatic events like car crashes and losing a baby during childbirth. However, combat has brought PTSD to the forefront of modern medicine. Known before as shell shock, the National Institute of Health estimates that over 500,000 veterans suffer from PTSD. Furthermore, the VA shows that 52 percent of veterans diagnosed with PTSD experiences nightmares that occur fairly often. This is in stark contrast to the 3 percent of the general public who have been diagnosed with PTSD and experience frequent nightmares. The son of one veteran decided to do something about it.

Tyler Skluzacek remembers his father as fun and outgoing before his combat tour in Iraq. When his father, Patrick, returned in 2007, Tyler said that his father had changed. Patrick was haunted by nightmares of commanding a convoy in Fallujah. He would sweat and thrash violently in his sleep. The nightmares were so terrible, that Patrick feared even closing his eyes. To help him fall asleep, he turned to alcohol and medication. This negatively affected his life in every aspect. “[I] pretty much lost everything,” he said. “My house, everything, my job, everything went.”

In 2015, Tyler was a senior at Macalester College in Saint Paul, MN when he learned about a computer hackathon in Washington, D.C. The event brought developers from across the country together to develop prototypes in order to solve a specific problem. That year, the event focused on developing a mobile app to help people suffering from PTSD. Personally motivated to take on the challenge, Tyler saved up the money and bought a ticket out to D.C.

Tyler put together a team of developers to program a specialized smartwatch. The device would detect the onset of a nightmare by monitoring the wearer’s heart rate and movement. The concept was inspired by service dogs who are trained to recognize the signs of a nightmare and nudge or lick their human awake. Tyler said that the trick was to provide “just enough stimulus to pull them out of the deep REM cycle and allow the sleep to continue unaffected.”

Tyler continued to develop the software for his device by testing it on his father. Though Patrick agreed, early trials were very rocky. The watch would sometimes scare Patrick awake and, because he wore in full-time, Tyler received some surprising data. One time, while using an air hammer, the smartwatch indicated that Patrick’s heart rate was over 6,000 beats per minute. “I was terrified,” Tyler recalled. “Watching someone’s data 24/7, I feel like is a lot like having a baby. I don’t have a baby. But you’re suddenly very concerned at all hours.” However, with determination and some fine-tuning, Tyler perfected the software.

This vet’s son made an app to help with his PTSD nightmares
The app is compatible with Apple Watches (NightWare)

By learning the sleep patterns of the user, the algorithm customizes a treatment to interrupt nightmares more appropriately and efficiently. “It was night and day when I put that watch on and it started working,” Patrick said. “The vibrations were little miracles.” After years of suffering from PTSD-induced nightmares, Patrick has found relief thanks to his son. He has since remarried and is working as a mechanic again. Though not cured of his nightmares, Patrick has control over his life.

Tyler’s invention is set to help more people like his father cope with their own PTSD. The software was purchased by an investor who started a company called NightWare. In November 2020, the FDA approved the app to treat PTSD-related nightmare disorders. The app is compatible with Apple Watches and is currently undergoing clinical trials through the Veterans Health Administration and the DoD Military Health System.

Articles

6 reasons why veterans would gear up and head back to war

As veterans, we’ve all thought about signing back up at one time or another. But what would it take to truly get us back in uniform, to don all that heavy gear and take the fight to the enemy as we’ve always done?


Though we all have to take into consideration all the formations, bull-sh*t we receive from the chain of command — and let’s not forget all those wonderful uniform inspections. Everyone loves those.

With all the crap that comes with serving, many veterans still miss some aspects of military life.

Let’s gear up and go to war! (Images via Giphy)

Check out our reasons why we would gear back up to take on the bad guys.

1. If another major terrorist attack happens

The Sept. 11 attacks stirred up patriotism in millions of Americans, and some joined the military during that period just to get a little revenge.

I represent ‘Merica! (Image via Giphy)

2. For a huge bonus check

Everyone wants to line their pockets with extra beer money.

And a case of beer! (Image via Giphy)

3. If your military family went as well

The military brother and sisterhood have a very tight bond, you f*ck with one brother or sister — you f*ck with whole while family.

You said it girl. (Image via Giphy)

4. If you just couldn’t find a good enough job that suits you

Because office work just didn’t satisfy that inner combat operator in you.

These guys were all former snipers. True story. (Image via Giphy)

5. To feel that combat adrenaline rush again

Shooting and blowing up the bad guys makes an operator feel great about themselves. It’s a morale booster.

He nailed every shot too. He’s that good. (Image via Giphy)

6. To get some adventure

Post-military life is hard to adjust too. Sometimes you just want to leave the homeland and get back into the sh*t.

Can we go with you? (Images via Giphy)To all of our military family already forward deployed — we salute you.

Can you think of any more reasons to throw those cammies back on? Comment below.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Medal of Honor recipient directed a counterattack his first time in combat

Soon after graduating high school, Harvey “Barney” Barnum, Jr. joined the Marine Corp Platoon Leaders Course, where he learned various military infantry tactics. Once Barnum earned his degree, he was given an officer’s commission in the Marine Corps Reserves and sent to the gritty jungles of Vietnam in 1965.

On December 18, Barnum and the rest of the Marines were patrolling in the Quảng Tín Province of South Vietnam. Unbeknownst to Barnum and his men, as the Marines moved deep into the enemy territory, they were walking into a vicious trap. The Vietnamese troops had dug themselves into the nearby terrain and waiting as nearly three companies of Marines walked by, headed toward a small village.

Then, a firefight broke out, first striking the Marine’s rear position and moving to the front of the patrol as the grunts entered the enemy-infested village. What happened next, no first-timer would ever expect.


This vet’s son made an app to help with his PTSD nightmares
Barnum takes a moment for a quick photo op while stationed in Vietnam.

The initial attack severely injured the company commander and the radio operator. This deadly wave was Barnum’s first taste of real combat — and his training kicked in immediately. He went and retrieved the radio, calling for heavy fire support.

Barnum also dashed out of his position to recover the company commander and move him to safety. Moments later, Barnum’s commanding officer died in his arms. With all the men looking for guidance, the young Marine knew it was up to him to assume control and direct a counterattack.

After passing out orders, the Marines laid a curtain of gunfire onto the trench line from which the enemy had so much success earlier. Barnum picked up a rocket launcher and fired it three times at the enemy position. That was the signal the attack Hueys needed.

This vet’s son made an app to help with his PTSD nightmares
U.S. troops load up on a Huey during the Vietnam War.

After running out of rockets, the Marine officer directed the Hueys above towards targets to nail — and that’s just what they did. This airborne attack freed up some terrain, allowing the wounded and the dead to be transported out. Although still surrounded by enemy troops, Barnum choreographed each squad as they moved from the hot zone.

In roughly 45 minutes, the men found safety.

1st Lt. Harvey “Barney” Barnum, Jr. was presented with the Medal of Honor on February 27, 1967, surrounded by his fellow Marines at the barracks.

Articles

How this one-armed Union soldier became ‘The Bravest Among the Brave’

Philip Kearny would have been better suited serving as a knight on a medieval battlefield than fighting in the age of gunpowder. Although he received an inheritance of around one million dollars in 1836, Kearny abandoned comfy civilian life and joined the army in search of glory.


Kearny savored war and was universally recognized for his reckless and heroic deeds, winning the French Cross of the Legion of Honor on two separate occasions. The loss of an arm in battle did not slow him down one bit, and, until his untimely death, his mere presence on the battlefield inspired the men under his command to phenomenal feats.

This vet’s son made an app to help with his PTSD nightmares
Philip Kearny, Union Soldier.

Born into a wealthy family in 1815, Philip showed the first signs of his attributed rash behavior as a youth, terrifying his father with his wild horse riding stunts. While in college, his grandfather pleaded with the rambunctious boy to pursue a religious vocation.

Kearny wanted no part of this pious lifestyle, yearning instead for glory on the battlefield. He entered the U.S. Army in March of 1837 as a dragoon with the rank of lieutenant.

In 1839, he was permitted to travel “on special duty” to France to study cavalry tactics in Saumur. He accompanied the Duke of Orleans to North Africa as an aide-de-camp. The American lieutenant impressed his French allies, one account noting that, “I have often seen him charging the Arabs with his sword in one hand, his pistol in the other, and his reins in his teeth.”

For his gallantry and fortitude during these operations, the American was awarded the Cross of the Legion of Honor — he had to decline it due to holding rank in the U.S. Army.

He returned to the United States in the fall of 1840, and led a cavalry company during the U.S.-Mexican War. At the Battle of Churubusco, Kearny led a hell-for-leather charge to pursue retreating Mexican soldiers outside of Mexico City, spurring his horse over the enemy’s ramparts. Kearny’s men were forced to fall back when they overextended the pursuit.

A well-directed round of Mexican grapeshot crushed the bone of Kearny’s left arm between his shoulder and elbow. His gory figure managed to escape back to friendly lines, collapsing from the loss of blood and sheer exhaustion.

Also read: These 12 facts might give you a new perspective on the Civil War

Franklin Pierce, future president of the United States, then serving as a general, held Kearny’s head still as a surgeon amputated his mangled left arm. He was shipped back home to recover, received promotion, but sat out the remainder of the war. The pinned up left sleeve of his uniform became his trademark for the remainder of his military career.

Bored with uneventful frontier duty, Kearny resigned from the army in 1851. In 1859, he offered his services to Emperor Napoleon III. The one-armed American fought at the Battle of Solferino “in every charge that took place,” clenching the bridle of his horse in his teeth and wielding his sabre with his remaining arm.

For his gallantry, he was awarded the Cross of the Legion of Honor for the second time, which he accepted.

This vet’s son made an app to help with his PTSD nightmares
The tomb of Philip Kearny at Arlington National Cemetery. (Photo via wiki user Jtesla16)

Following the outbreak of the Civil War, he received an appointment as a brigadier general of volunteers in July of 1861. At the Battle of Chantilly in September of 1862, the noble soldier’s life came to an abrupt end. He stumbled into a Confederate picket line and was shot and instantly killed when he attempted to flee.

His luckless death was a shock to men on both sides of the conflict. The next day, in a show of respect, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee sent Kearny’s body back to Union lines under a flag of truce. Upon receiving word of Kearny’s death, his old superior, Gen. Winfield Scott, exclaimed in a letter, “I look upon his fall, in the present great crisis of the war, as a national calamity [his own italics].”

Today a towering bronze statue of “the bravest among the brave” stands guard over the grounds of Arlington National Cemetery.

Veterans

4 Badass skills veterans bring to civilian life

Most of the news about combat trauma and PTS(D) is bad. Those of us who slogged through nasty deployments are often seen as ticking time bombs. Civilians tend to throw out a “Thank you for your service!” before scurrying away.


Also Read: 15 Unforgettable Photos From Operation Desert Storm 

Combat isn’t necessarily bad, though. We all know that, but it’s hard to communicate to people who lack exposure to the military. There are questions that naturally pop up, and we need some answers.

What does it say about us that we survived? What happens when we make it back home?

Retired Marine Gen. Jim “Mad Dog” Mattis sees the benefits, not the costs. Last year at the Salute to Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans in San Francisco, he talked a lot about Post-Traumatic Growth, not Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Mattis knows that the public emphasizes the negative experiences. Many people are tempted to think of combat vets as broken or suffering. What they ignore, he says, is that we come back stronger than when we left. We are challenged by war, forced to grow and adapt, and return as a more kick-ass version of ourselves.

Combat vets are survivors. The mindset and skills we pick up in war are incredibly valuable no matter what we choose to do after taking off the uniform.

Badass skill #1: We are better able to multitask, especially in chaotic environments.

This is a no-brainer. It’s the foundation of every infantryman’s “shoot, move, communicate” skillset. Where else are you expected to maintain awareness of your environment while simultaneously communicating with other units and assets in an area?

Badass skill #2: We have higher tolerances for stress.

There are a lot of people who think they lead stressful lives. Traffic, emails, complaining kids; all these things can seem like stress until you deploy for 7 to 12 months at a time. We may get annoyed by life, sure, but who doesn’t? The difference is that combat vets function better when things get really nasty, not collapse under the strain.

This vet’s son made an app to help with his PTSD nightmares
Photo: Staff Sgt. Daniel Luksan/US Army

Badass skill #3: We aren’t intimidated by difficult work.

It’s hard to find something more challenging than combat. There is the grueling months of the work-up, the separation from friends and family, and then the slow and steady grind of the actual deployment. Many of us repeat this cycle again, and again, and again. After that you can be pretty confident that life isn’t going to throw anything at you that you can’t handle.

Badass skill #4: We can adapt to new tools and technologies.

Despite what a lot of people think about military technology, we get to use some pretty cool stuff. More than that, the gear is constantly changing, sometimes even during deployment. We have to be adaptable – willing to learn on the fly. Quick on-the-job training is incredibly valuable for many jobs.

William Treseder served in the Marines between 2001 and 2011. He now writes regularly on military topics, and has been featured in TIME, Foreign Policy, and Boston Review.

NOW: This Group Works To Salvage Good From The Ultimate Tragedy Of War 

OR: 18 Terms Only Soldiers Will Understand 

MIGHTY TRENDING

President Trump releases PREVENTS roadmap for ending suicide among Veterans and all Americans

On June 17, 2020, President Trump released the President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End a National Tragedy of Suicide (PREVENTS). This landmark nationwide plan engages Americans in a nationwide effort to prevent suicide, connect Veterans and others at risk to federal and local resources, and facilitate coordinated research on suicide prevention.

“My administration is taking steps to ensure that the men and women who bravely fought for us when they were called will be given the care and attention they need during some of their darkest hours,” said President Donald J. Trump.

The roadmap is the result of an Executive Order that President Trump signed on March 5, 2019. It calls for several steps to advance this critical national goal, many of which are already underway:


National Suicide Prevention Activation Campaign

This summer, the PREVENTS Office will launch a nationwide public health campaign aimed at educating Americans that suicide is preventable. It creates awareness of mental health and suicide prevention best practices with a call to action for ALL Americans to take the PREVENTS Pledge to Prevent Suicide.

Improving Suicide Prevention Research

Too often, we focus on a one-size-fits-all approach to suicide prevention that fails to take into account an individual’s specific risk factors. As a key element of the roadmap, PREVENTS will launch the National Research Strategy to accelerate the development and implementation of effective solutions to help prevent suicide among Veterans and all Americans.

Building Partnerships

The PREVENTS Office has built relationships with dozens of organizations across the country. These include Veteran and military service organizations, faith-based groups, universities, non-profits, corporations, small businesses. It also includes state and local governments to share best practices for promoting mental health, to ensure awareness of and access to federal, state, local and tribal resources.

“The release of the PREVENTS Roadmap is a critical step in advancing the national priority of preventing suicide in this nation, but it is only a first step” said PREVENTS Executive Director Dr. Barbara Van Dahlen. “With our Veterans leading the way, we will engage all Americans as we fully implement the PREVENTS Roadmap. Together we will prevent suicide.”

For more on PREVENTS, please visit: https://www.va.gov/prevents/.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

Veterans

Army veteran looks back on service while paying it forward

In 2006, Afghanistan saw one of their most violent years of war. TIME Magazine’s photo of the year wasn’t a celebrity, it was United States troops after battle. Veteran soldier Matt Nauss was there. 

Nauss was adopted after his birth parents lost parental rights due to drugs and abuse. He grew up on a farm, one of five other children. The military was his way of moving forward in life and affording college. “My brother and I, we both joined the Army at the same time. He’s my twin,” he explained. “I was in AIT [Advanced Individual Training] when 9/11 happened.”

That changed everything. “I ended up in Iraq when I was 19 years old,” Nauss said with a laugh. He did get to see the world, though, like he hoped. After being a recruiter a few years, he was assigned to Special Operations Command in Tampa. “Once I was assigned to Special Ops, that was it. I was there for my whole career.” He had the opportunity to travel to 30 different countries.

Matt Nauss

In 2006, he was deployed to Afghanistan. Nauss had no idea what was waiting for him there or that it would follow him for the rest of his life. Jake Tapper wrote a book about the Outposts in Afghanistan and the hell the troops endured. Made into a major motion picture, The Outpost shows you one of the most horrific battles. But long before Outpost Keating and that film’s events viewers see reenacted, Nauss lived through the initial attacks that started it all. 

Two weeks into his Afghanistan deployment, it was on. “We had nothing, sleeping on the ground in sleeping bags. The bugs were destroying us,” he said. “After those initial weeks of quiet and nothing happening we got attacked by almost 360 degrees. 15 RPG’s within 30 seconds and that was just the initial attack. It was about five and a half hours of small arms fire. Two of my soldiers got injured and had to be airlifted out. After that day, we got attacked every single day. It never stopped.”

The TIME picture seen around the world happened after another battle the first month his boots were on the ground. One of the injured soldiers laying in the gator was their platoon’s only medic. Nauss can be seen holding the IV fluids up and caring for those who were injured. “You see that picture? That happened half a dozen times…some stories – they don’t make it to print,” he shared.

The United States Armed Forces suffered seven straight years of high casualties and deaths after that battle. In Afghanistan alone, we’ve lost 2,000 service members since 2006. The cost of war is high and those who survive without physical injury aren’t left unscathed. 

In December of 2013, Nauss decided to leave the Army. “They were going to send me out in the middle of nowhere with a team. I couldn’t do it anymore…I was suffering from PTSD, it took me three or four years to get that from the VA. Regardless of that, I was suffering from it the entire time,” Nauss said. 

When he got out of the Army as a Staff Sergeant, his transition wasn’t good. “I don’t think I made the right choices and I don’t think they prepare you,” Nauss said. He shared that he went on over 50 job interviews with no success, eventually losing a home and facing harsh challenges. There was a bright spot in all of this toughness, though. Jay Peak.

Jay Peak is a mountain located five miles from the Canadian border in Vermont known for challenging ski and snowboarding runs on one of the highest peaks while offering its visitors the magic of a small town. For a veteran like Nauss processing through his PTSD, it brings healing.  “It was a release for me. The peace and quiet with the ability to focus on the outdoors while snowboarding, it was great therapy for me. It detaches you from everything,” he explained. 

Through some networking, Nauss was eventually able to find employment. His efforts grew that company’s revenue to 14 million. A few years later, he was ready to start his own business. An IT in the Army, he knew his way around technology. 

“I started Modern Business Consulting which has transformed into Dolomites Consulting Group,” he said. The company offers business strategy, web design and so much more. Now located in the heart of Downtown Tampa, Florida, it boasts 3500 square feet of cowork or executive office space. He and his veteran business partner didn’t stop there, though. They have another office opening in Jacksonville and later on in 2021, Seattle. 

Matt Nauss

Nauss hopes to bring his opportunities and success to other veterans, offering internships to those transitioning. “I wanted to create DCG for these kids getting out who have skills and jobs that don’t necessarily transition to the civilian sector. They are going to be at a serious disadvantage. They need something to fall back on,” he explained. “DCG is by veterans, for veterans and ran by veterans…you’re in an environment where you can be comfortable, we are all prior military…I actively look for veterans to work with.”

His focus other than his business and close relationships is paying it forward. “I ask companies all the time what they are doing to give back…You are taking from the community, they see that. I am a strong believer in giving back,” Nauss shared. Part of his give back? Bringing the he peace found at Jay Peak to other veterans.

“Why not share this experience with everyone? I went from thinking about just buying a place to alright, let’s make this a project,” he said. Nauss is actively scouting property in the Jay Peak area to develop into a retreat and program for veterans suffering from PTSD.

Although he is forever impacted by his experiences at war, Nauss wouldn’t change anything and tries not to hold onto his past experiences. These days, he’s looking forward to the future and hoping to help other veterans on their path of doing it too. 

To learn more about Dolomites Consulting Group, click here.

MIGHTY TRENDING

‘Lone Survivor’ Navy SEAL went ‘John Wick’ on the guys who killed his dog

It was a regular April night around the Luttrell home near Huntsville, Texas. It had been five years since Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell fought the 2005 firefight with the Taliban that was portrayed in the film Lone Survivor. Since then, he received a Yellow Labrador puppy to help him recover from the unseen wounds of the war. He named the pup Dasy, an acronym of the names of his fellow SEALs — the ones that didn’t survive the battle.


A shot rang out throughout the area of the house. Luttrell sprang into action, grabbed a 9mm pistol, checked to see if his mother was alright, and then ran outside to check on Dasy. He found the puppy at the end of a trail of blood.

“When I saw she was dead, the only thing that popped into my head was, ‘I’ve got to take these guys out,'” Luttrell told NBC News.

This vet’s son made an app to help with his PTSD nightmares

Dasy was just four years old when gunmen shot and killed her.

(Marcus Luttrell)

He then spotted a suspicious vehicle nearby and tried to sneak up on it with a 9mm pistol. When he was 25 yards away, the car left — and Luttrell hopped in his pickup in hot pursuit.

“I saw my dog in a ditch and two men standing outside the car,” Luttrell said. “I could hear them laughing.”

He called the local emergency line and warned the 911 operator that he was chasing the men who killed his dog.

“I told them, ‘You need to get somebody out here because if I catch them, I’m going to kill them,'” Luttrell told the operator, according to the Houston Chronicle.

The Navy Cross recipient stayed on with the emergency operator as he chased the gunmen across three Texas counties in a 40-mile, high-speed chase. Luttrell was still recovering from a recent surgery but it didn’t stop him from attempting to catch the fleeing suspects.

Dasy was more than just a therapy dog to Luttrell. The four-year-old dog helped Luttrell at a time when he wasn’t talking about what happened and had trouble sleeping. Dasy wasn’t just a pet, she was like a daughter to the former SEAL.

Luttrell’s pickup truck couldn’t keep up with the car in which the suspects fled the scene, but the Texas Rangers eventually stopped the vehicle, arresting two of them for cruelty to a non-livestock animal and the driver for not having a license. According to the Rangers, the shooting was the latest in a series of five dog killings in an area Luttrell describes as “the middle of nowhere.”

When Luttrell arrived on the scene, he immediately confronted the suspects, demanding to know which of them murdered Dasy. According to Luttrell, they started talking smack.

“Marcus is trained to do certain things; he fell back on his training,” a Texas Ranger told NBC News. “I wouldn’t advocate to the general public to do what he has done — to follow them at that rate of speed.”
This vet’s son made an app to help with his PTSD nightmares

Luttrell and his new therapy dog, Rigby.

(Marcus Luttrell via Facebook)

Alfonso Hernandez and Michael Edmonds were convicted in 2012 of shooting Dasy with a .357 pistol that night. The conviction was later upheld by a Texas appellate court. Edmonds turned on Hernandez, pleading guilty and testifying against him. Edmonds received five years probation while Hernandez received the maximum sentence, two years confinement and a ,000 fine.

Luttrell said losing Dasy was a huge setback in his life but he soon had another therapy dog in his life, another Yellow Lab named “Rigby.”

Veterans

Veteran shares story of hope, thanks to K9s for Warriors

Dogs have long been known as “man’s best friend” but it wasn’t until recently we knew how vital the connection and companionship would be. K9s for Warriors is saving lives because of it. 

When retired Army National Guard Master Sergeant David Crenshaw enlisted in 2000, it was a lifelong dream realized. He was in the middle of Army Basic Training when the planes hit the World Trade Center and life was forever changed, for everyone. When he wasn’t drilling, Crenshaw was a volunteer firefighter.

He was deployed to Iraq in 2004, which had been invaded by U.S. troops the year before. Crenshaw was Military Police and assigned to Personal Protective Detail. Although he returned home 15 months later thinking he was fine, he wasn’t. 2005 began a slow decline, one which he never anticipated. 

crenshaw

“I’m from the northeast right outside of New York so 9/11 had a huge impact on me,” Crenshaw shared. “It’s just one of those stories of a kid in America who wanted to go do his job. You do your job and what’s asked of you over there…I remember someone telling me if I ever wanted to do anything else not to tell them [the Army] I was having any mental problems.”

So he stayed quiet. Once he returned home, he became a 911 dispatch operator until he left to become a firefighter in 2006. A year later he went to the academy and became a police officer. It was a role he’d hold for seven years. In 2010 he began his new job as an instructor for the Army’s Officer Candidate School. 

crenshaw

In 2014 he made a move from the police department to the prosecutor’s office in order to do special investigative work. Crenshaw spent almost a year undercover with the gang and narcotic operations. It took its toll. 

“It started to play on me. Morally, it wasn’t who I was as a person. It also started to affect things that were happening around me. All the symptoms that come about with PTSD like the hyper vigilance, paranoia, always on guard – all that stuff was being amplified,” Crenshaw explained. His mother was also diagnosed with stage IV cancer during this time. “I didn’t realize this was PTSD, I thought it was just the stress of the job and my sick mother.”

It was toward the end of the investigation when Crenshaw began to realize something was wrong. A VA appointment would lead to being labeled with PTSD, but highly functioning. Unfortunately, all he heard was the past part of the diagnosis.  “About a year to the day, I had what I like to call my fall from grace,” he shared. 

During this time he became his mother’s hospice caretaker and watched her pass away. Simultaneously, he was in the middle of a divorce and a contentious custody battle. “The day she passed, that’s when my PTSD skyrocketed,” Crenshaw shared. “ I know of the process of how they remove the body. All I kept thinking about was Iraq and the two bodies we put on the helicopter.”

This would lead to thinking about death every time he knocked on a door with SWAT to execute a search warrant. With Crensaw always being first in, he knew the risk. “I kept saying, ‘Is this going to be the day I catch it?” but I was saying it almost with a sense of relief,” he said. Things got progressively worse, leading to an altercation with his now ex-wife. 

His fall, as he called it, led to losing his job with the prosecutor’s office. “It was actually a load off my shoulders but it was short lived because then it became a fight for my life,” Crenshaw shared. He credits K9s for Warriors helping to save his life, thanks to his service dog, Doc.

From the moment they were paired, Crenshaw felt the connection. He realized it that first night by watching how Doc calmed him before he even knew he was becoming anxious. His life was forever changed. “He’s wearing all of my stuff. My burdens, worries and anxiety,” Crenshaw shared. “PTSD was a weight at my ankle holding me down. It’s no different than a drug or an addiction, it really does sit there and lie in wait.”

Crenshaw is open in sharing he’ll never be cured from his PTSD, however, Doc’s continuous presence manages it and allows him to lead a new and fulfilling life. But the path to getting a service animal isn’t easy and often comes with long wait times. It’s something K9s for Warriors is hoping to change. 

The PAWS Act (Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers) was reintroduced into Congress on March 3, 2021. K9s for Warriors, the largest provider of service animals to veterans, is backing it. If passed, it would require the VA to provide grants to pay for service dogs for eligible veterans. “I hope the PAWS Act is just the first leg…We need to find a way to come together and make one loud unified voice on this,” he said.

Although Crenshaw was quick to point out his incredible mental health team at the VA, he was also open about the problems and continued barriers. Namely, the unending prescription pills fostered onto him for his symptoms. All of which he no longer has to take, thanks to Doc. 

The endless bureaucratic red tape and fight Crenshaw endured for his medical retirement, mental health support and to get Doc was exhausting, he said. Although he made it out the other side, he wasn’t unscathed from the experience of seeking help. It’s a fight many veterans give up on. 

“My main goal in life now is to just be here for veterans and cops, too,” Crenshaw said. “It’s amazing how many cracks there are and how many barriers there are from the military to the VA and even in the civilian world with the understanding. So, wherever and however I can advocate for them… I will.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

5 ways a grunt’s resume is more valuable than a POG’s

One of the biggest drawbacks of being in the combat arms is a perceived lack of post-service opportunities out here in the civilian world. A recently released grunt might take a look through job listings, see a laundry list of requirements, become convinced that applying is a pointless effort, and send themselves into a downward spiral. We’ve seen it happen too many times — we all know a brother- or sister-in-arms who has fallen down this hole.

This misconception couldn’t be further from the truth. The truth is, there really isn’t much of advantage to being a former POG over being former infantry when it comes time to find a job. Unless that guy who was a computer analyst in the Army is specifically going into a civilian computer analyst job, you’re both on even footing.

In fact, when you cut away the military jargon from your resume and translate your skills into something a civilian employer can read, the grunts actually have the upper hand, based solely on the day-to-day lifestyle of combat arms troops.


This article isn’t meant to discredit a support troop’s career path. All troops can pull useful information out of this article, but it’s intended mostly for the grunts who don’t realize their true potential.

This vet’s son made an app to help with his PTSD nightmares

It’s best if you let your resume do the talking…

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

Your awards are proof for all the “fluff” in your resume

Let’s be honest; everyone is going to add some decorative fluff their resume. Employers expect this and have to weed through said fluff to get the heart of the issue. Even if you don’t embellish a little on your resume, prospective employers will assume you’re fluffing it up. It’s just how these things go.

Typically, grunts don’t have awards tossed to them like candy, so when they get one, it means something. So, if you’ve got it, flaunt it. Go ahead and mention why you were given the award; that’s the real impressive part.

This vet’s son made an app to help with his PTSD nightmares

Deployment stories usually do well with civilians who have no idea what life in the military is actually like.

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

Your deployment history can solidify your communication skills

Writing about your deployment history is, in a word, complicated. Unfortunately, there’s a stigma associated with veterans of combat zones. Some employers unjustly see veterans as unqualified because they assume we all have post-traumatic stress and are difficult to work with — despite the fact that that’s discrimination clearly forbidden by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Still, civilian employers, no matter the industry, are looking for three key traits in an employee: Communication skills, leadership potential, and management ability. There’s no question that a deployment checks these three boxes. If you’ve deployed, then you have a proven ability to “communicate with a team and higher-ups under extremely stressful conditions.”

This vet’s son made an app to help with his PTSD nightmares

They don’t need to know about your salty attitude until you’ve been on board for several months.

(Meme via CONUS Battle Drills)

Your leadership skills are needed for promotion in civilian workplace

Employers want a new hire for one of two reasons: They’re either looking to fill a vacancy to complete a specific task or they’re trying to bring someone on for the long-haul, someone who will rise within the ranks and remain loyal to the employer.

Support guys, like that Army computer analyst from the earlier example, might be a shoe-in for that one entry-level position, but it’s the grunt they’ll be looking at for the long-term. Grunts take on leadership roles from the first moment they’re assigned a boot private to babysit watch over. What the civilian employer wants to hear is that you “oversaw and aided in the growth of subordinates over the course of several years.”

This vet’s son made an app to help with his PTSD nightmares

Civilians won’t know that you were volun-told or needed to make rank. It just sounds extremely impressive to the uninformed.

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

Your military schooling is tangible proof of management skills

In every complete resume, the final portion is reserved for educational history. Typically, this is where an applicant lists their high school diploma and college degrees, but it’s also used for technical schools and any kind of additional education. Good news, grunts: this is also where you put those random schools you were sent to.

Officer Candidate School and NCO Academies definitely count. Put those on there. Plus, most NCO schools are given overly “hooah” names. Go ahead and tell me what sounds better: “Warrior Leader Course” or “Los Angeles City College?”

This vet’s son made an app to help with his PTSD nightmares

Follow wherever your heart takes you. You’ll find someone out there willing to pay you money to do it.

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

Your college degree will cover down on anything else missing on the resume

At the end of the day, your military experience looks good and it makes for a great topic of discussion during the interview, but you can’t expect anything more than a foot in the door if you don’t meet the required qualifications.

Thankfully, using that GI Bill that you earned can help boost your odds in any field you’re pursuing. Once you’ve finished your degree, the job market is ripe for the picking, and your military service will give you an edge over the competition.

For further instruction on how to best translate your military history into a fantastic civilian resume, please check out this article by the folks over at Zety. They’re professionals who dedicate themselves to this very subject. It’s a great read.

Veterans

Pin-Ups for Vets ‘brings out the bombshell’ in a military caregiver

Gina Elise of Pin-Ups for Vets did it again.


Her non-profit organization helps hospitalized veterans, sends gifts to deployed troops, and supports the spouses and families of service members.

Recently, that support went to Melissa Comeau, an advocate for military caregivers and wife of U.S. Marine and Purple Heart recipient Stephen Comeau.

This vet’s son made an app to help with his PTSD nightmares
Melissa and Stephen share a tender moment together. (From Melissa’s book, Sleeping With the War)

As a full-time caregiver to her husband, Comeau had little time to focus on her own wellbeing. So Elise decided it was time for a little pick-me-up in the form of a full-fledged makeover in classic Pin-Up style.

“When I first met Melissa, I could tell she was very special, and I wanted to do something to show our appreciation to the caregiver of one of our Marines,” Elise told We Are The Mighty.

When Comeau’s husband Stephen left for his fourth combat deployment, she prepared herself for the worst — but it never occurred to her to prepare for him to come home with a brain injury.

When he returned, Stephen was diagnosed with multiple combat injuries including traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, osteoarthritis, and degenerative disc disease.

Together, Melissa and Stephen researched his diagnoses and soon discovered that there is a significant difference between being a supportive wife and being a caregiver.

“I didn’t know I was a caregiver. I just thought of myself as his wife, doing what anyone would do,” Comeau explained. “But once I learned about that word, it opened up a new world.”

Comeau became a fellow for the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, which helps strengthen and empower American military caregivers, and now works at the Military and Veteran Caregiver Network, helping people identify as caregivers sooner and providing them with peer-to-peer support and assistance.

After meeting Comeau, Pin-Ups for Vets’ Elise knew she wanted to do something to show her appreciation.

This vet’s son made an app to help with his PTSD nightmares

So Elise delivered a pin-up makeover for Comeau — complete with classic hair and make-up styling by Ana Vergara, vintage-inspired dresses by Voodoo Vixen, and a professional photoshoot by Jason Holmes of Retro Dolls.

This vet’s son made an app to help with his PTSD nightmares
Bombshell, indeed! (Photo by Jason Holmes)

Elise couldn’t wait to reveal Comeau’s pin-up look.

“It was a special moment when Melissa first saw herself in the mirror,” Elise said. “How we appear affects our confidence and this makeover brought out Melissa’s inner bombshell. I could see the shift towards happiness and excitement in that moment.”

According to Comeau, it’s tough to look after yourself when you’re focused on caring for others. As a mentor, she teaches, “If you take care of yourself, it makes you better for everyone. It all starts with you — and if you don’t nurture yourself, you’ll burn out.”

That’s why Elise was inspired to reach out to Comeau.

“I always want to bring awareness and attention to military families and the sacrifices they make,” Elise said. “Our military would be impossible without support from loved ones and it’s important to acknowledge that.”

Veterans

6 ways to go full civilian after getting out

Attaining the DD-214 is a dream come true for some service members. For the first time in years one has unrestricted freedom. No more can someone deny your vacation days or send you to the brig for smoking a plant. You’ve fought hard to earn your freedom. America is jam-packed with so much freedom that its hard to decide where to begin at 1st Civilian Division. Here’s a hip pocket class on how to go full civilian after getting out.

1. Find yourself

You gave the military the best years of your life and it shows. A recently separated troop will talk endlessly about the service, stories of other troops and will ramble on about their adventures. It’s natural. However, civilians will not be able to relate. The first year of separation you will get to know all kinds of people. In the military you’re surrounded by troops who are guided by a strong moral compass, in the civilian world, that is not the case. Finding a new group to grow with and trust will take time.

Take your time to discover things about yourself by doing things you’ve always wanted. Scratching a few items off your bucket list is a good way to get the ball rolling and you’ll have new things to talk about with civilians. Some troops dye their hair, wake and bake, go to college, get a pet, start a business, etc. There are no limits to what you can and can’t do. You have the freedom to succeed, but buyer beware, you also now have the freedom to fail. Enjoy the world you helped protect but watch your six, too. Joining a veteran organization such as Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America or Veterans of Foreign Wars can help ease the transition by speaking with other veterans.

civilian beard
Nice.

2. Grow a beard

We all did it. Some of us grow a lion’s mane and other grow patches. Let ‘er rip! There is a massive online community for beards and civilians love them too.

3. Now that you’re a civilian, give the gym a break

Exercise is key to living a healthy life but now you can civilian it. In the service, physical fitness is mandatory. The stakes aren’t as high anymore. You can work out a few days a week, go ham and body build, or trash the whole routine. You’re the battalion commander of your life. I do a very light exercise routine a few days a week. When I was in the infantry, we would work out twice a day, five days a week. I’m done.

4. Get an unauthorized tattoo

civilian tattoo
The tattooed forearm of a sailor assigned to the Naval Training Center, Recruit Training Command.

You can get sleeves or your legs done now. Another benefit to becoming a civilian is you do not have to photograph your tattoos and hand them over to Uncle Sam. Don’t do anything crazy like getting a face tattoo for obvious reasons.

5. Take part in civilian fads and challenges

Give life a chance and participate in the fun everyone is having. Yes, fads and challenges are corny but when you do them with friends and family they’re fun. They are a great way to create new memories and you’ll have the videos and photos to look at years down the line. Even if you’re not into those sort of things its also a good way to keep tabs on your children from doing something dangerous – like the Tide Pod fiasco.

6. Register with the VA healthcare system

One very important step to becoming a civilian is to register with the VA Healthcare. It is an invaluable resource and its free. Over the years the VA has been improving the quality of care it renders veterans. In an emergency you can always visit the Emergency Room and enroll after the fact but its best to not put this off. The VA offers services such as disability ratings, a primary care doctor, eye exams, ER and urgent care, pharmacies and so much more. Civilians with pre-existing conditions pay an arm an a leg for what you’re eligible for. Take what is yours, you earned it.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The USS Intrepid will muster its old crew for its 75th anniversary

The USS Intrepid is now permanently moored in New York City, where she’s been a museum ship since 1982. But her career stretches way back to World War II, where she was one of 24 Essex-class carriers built to fight the Japanese.


This vet’s son made an app to help with his PTSD nightmares
USS Intrepid burning after taking two Japanese kamikaze strikes.

Since then, she’s supported operations in the Atlantic Ocean, the Vietnam War, the Mercury and Gemini Space Programs, the U.S. Bicentennial Celebration, NATO operations, and — as a museum ship — an FBI operations center for responding to the September 11th attacks on New York City.

A lot of men and women have graced the decks of the “Fighting I.” Now, the Intrepid is calling them all back. Below is an announcement video of former crew members, calling their fellow shipmates back to the ship.

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Aug. 16, 2018 will mark the 75th anniversary of the commissioning of the Intrepid, now home to the Intrepid Sea, Air, Space Museum in New York City.  To mark the occasion, the Intrepid Museum is putting out a coast-to-coast “all call” for former crew members to reunite for its 75th Commissioning Anniversary Celebration Weekend from Thursday, Aug. 16 to Sunday, Aug.19, 2018 aboard the vessel.

For some, this will be the first time they’ve been aboard their ship since they left the service.

Intrepid was actually scheduled to be scrapped after its decommissioning in the 1970s, but a campaign, led by wealthy NYC real estate developers (and devotees of the U.S. Armed Forces) Larry and Zachary Fisher (who also founded the Fisher House Foundation), raised millions to refurbish the ship and establish the Intrepid Sea, Air, Space Museum.

This vet’s son made an app to help with his PTSD nightmares
The Intrepid moving to New York City.

The museum is a non-profit, educational institution that also features the space shuttle Enterprise, the world’s fastest jets, and a guided missile submarine. Through exhibitions, educational programming, and the foremost collection of technologically groundbreaking aircraft and vessels, visitors are taken on a journey through history to learn about American innovation and bravery.

To learn more about this weekend and for registration information, former crew members and their family members can visit www.intrepidmuseum.org/75 or email fcm@intrepidmuseum.org.

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