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Veterans Day, PTSD, and why I've learned to Like Tim Kennedy



I'm a veteran. I was a US Army Combat Medic and I served two tours in Iraq. I also have PTSD. It's been a while and I'm healing. I don't jump at loud noises [much]. I still don't feel comfortable in large crowds, but I manage my irritability better. It never goes away, though. You always carry the experiences of war and combat with you. The way I describe it is when you get on that plane to leave, to go home, a part of you stays ther fighting and you're never going to get that piece back. I wasn't one of the cool kid, special ops guys. I was a straight leg Grunt. I started as an Infantryman and reclassed to Medic. I make sure to mention this because the way some people talk everyone was a Navy SEAL. Not me, though. My experiences aren't that different that thousands of other vets; worse than some, not as bad as others and it is what it is. Not everyone saw combat. I don't think much of people who talk up their experience. The way I see it is cooks don't need to be hardcore. They need to keep the warfighters fed. Same with the pay and office bound guys. You don't need to dramatize what you experienced; it's enough to have done your job well and support those who needed it. Being in combat is not a requirement to be a good, professional Soldier.

The Special Forces guys are rockstars in the military. All the young grunts wanted to be them, myself included. When you're around them, you're in awe, but as you progress and mature you start to realize that the SF guys generally fall into two camps: laid back, chill dudes who are cool as can be and always willing to teach what they know and complete douchebags who, despite being great warfighters, just fail at life.

All this to say, I don't give vets an automatic pass for being one of my own. You can be a vet and an asshole and too many of us fabricate or distort their experiences. I also don't look down on people whose job was not to be involved in combat operations. My respect is earned from being damn good at your job.

Tim Kennedy can be a controversial figure at times. I think he tweets a little too much and it seems kind of forced. Other times, he's genuinely funny. I've never been a big fan of Kennedy as a fighter, but respect that he's well rounded enough and enjoys being a fighter. I do respect that, in the same way I do Brian Stann, that he doesn't wear his service as a chip on his shoulder demanding respect and deference for that reason alone. I think he handles his public status in that regard pretty admirably. There is an interview he did and I wish I could find the video. I don't know how recent it is as I caught it in passing while on duty and in it he discusses PTSD. One of the things he mentions [paraphrased based on my memory] is that regular people don't get it, the emotional trauma of war, and they're not going to. You simply can't unless you've done it. He goes on to say, that's not a bad thing. That's not something people should have to experience and as long as you recognize that and are just willing to be there for your friends and family who have, that's enough. it was refreshing to me to hear that stated publicly. I don't think this topic is a big enough part of the big conversations that happen in the US and I enjoyed his candor and humility about it. Fortunately, my wife discovered that tip long back when I needed it.

Anyway, with Veterans Day coming up, reach out to your loved ones who are vets. For the recent vets of Iraq and Afghanistan, the wounds are still pretty raw. I'm not ashamed to admit I still cry. For those that had traumatic experiences, we have our own individual memorial days. If you've got the time, get involved with veterans issues. Call your representatives and advocate for better treatment and more VA funding. If nothing else,reach out. Remind them they're loved. Remind them they're not alone.

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