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Local Veteran's Story of Struggles with PTSD

While we support and congratulate our veterans today -- we also need to make sure they are being properly cared for after returning home from war. One of the leading causes of death right now for American military forces is suicide. Last year, more members of the Armed Forces took their own lives than those who died in combat. Michelle Kingston met one man who neared that reality, but found light in his darkest hour.
While we support and congratulate our veterans today, we also need to make sure they are being properly cared for after returning home from war.

One of the leading causes of death right now for American Military Forces is suicide. Last year, more members of the Armed Forces took their own lives than those who died in combat.

Michelle Kingston met one man who neared that reality, but found light in his darkest hour.

"He is normally outgoing, friendly, the life of the party, all his friends like him, so he was just so not him. That is when I realized there was something really, really severe going on," Byron Clark's wife, Jamie, said.

She remembers that night well -- the night she realized her husband of five years had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and was close to becoming part of a staggering statistic: 22 veterans commit suicide every day.

"I called the VA crisis line and I tried to get him to talk and he told them everything was fine and he hung up," Jamie said.

He wasn't fine.

Byron was hospitalized this past September, just days after this son, Avi, was born. Two weeks later, he was sent home with medication and homework.

"They had what is called a PTSD workbook," Byron said. "You start going through things and then, I barely got done with the first page and I went back into the hospital because it started opening up a lot of things that were, that had happened in the past."

Byron served six years of active combat during the Gulf War. He watched many people die right in front of him.

After returning home from war, Byron realized his outgoing personality was left overseas.

"Byron has gotten where he doesn't like to go out in town. He doesn't like to go out in public and he's been here for a long time, so he should be comfortable here," Jamie said. "But if we go to Walmart, he waits in the car and I go inside with one or both of the kids."

He does have one new friend, a lab-mix named Shea. He got her through "Train a Dog, Save a Warrior."

"A dog can clear the room for you," Byron said. "The dog can see behind you, can hear behind you, smell behind you. It gives you a little bit of a relaxed feeling."

She protects Byron and makes him feel safe. She also helps keep him active and out of the house. The two go on walks multiple times a day, but Byron is still anxious around crowds.

"I feel sad about the fact that I don't think he's ever going to be a fully functioning member of society the way he was," Jamie said.

He isn't able to stay employed and Jamie has had to quit her nursing job to stay home to care for Byron. They are working on his health one day at a time.

"When you talk to other people about it, you never want people think that your husband is dangerous around the children or not safe for them to be around or something like that and that is a lot of the stigma that comes with it, you know?" Jamie said.

"And that's the problem, I can go in a room and I can clean a room out and that's the scary part," Byron said. "I don't know when it is going to kick off - I don't want to be that person."

Byron's goal for 2014 is for everything to be better.

"That's the main thing for me," he said. "Go back to being normal."

Byron also wants other veterans suffering from PTSD to reach out for the help they need.

"Do it," he said. "Do it now because it is just going to get worse. You are going to end up hurting someone else or yourself. You've got to do it."

The VA crisis hotline number is 1-800-273-8255.
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