In my darkest hour those who stood by my side will forever hold a place in my heart. When I returned from Iraq my mind was mentally broken. I was physically and spiritually broken. Each day I woke up to just go through the motions. I had no happiness left in me. And most nights I drank myself to sleep just trying to numb my mind, to try and find a dreamless night. The pills the Army put me on we’re slowly turning me into a Zombie. I found myself destroying friendships, destroying my marriage and ultimately destroying my body. When I answered the call to Service for this great country I was filled with young and foolish dreams of glory on the battlefield, and even longed to prove myself a warrior. A fool’s dream indeed. I always told myself my mind is too strong to be affected by what I may have to do, or what I may see. I am simply not weak in the mind. But this was wrong; taking life had no glory! And it did not fill me with honor. It filled me with remorse and with moral injury.
Scared to this day, I do know now that all I endured was for a reason; it would shape who I am today. And without these injuries, both moral and physical, I could not stand here today; I could not be the uplifting voice to my brothers and sisters in arms; I could not bear their burdens. So, I am proud of my trials and my tribulations. Because of them I have Honor and I have found glory that fulfills my heart. I’ve been asked the defining moment when my life started to change. Though I see no clear answer, it was not a single defining moment but many. It was not a just a wake-up call that set me on a path of redemption. It was a series of events that I will share.
After two years of being home from Iraq–two long years of torment, I found my only release of stress and worries was to be dropped off 100 miles from my Post. I would slowly work my way through the wilderness back home. One night I had an encounter with a bear two hours from dusk, and could not find a safe place to camp. I drove my ATV into a small town and found a camp ground. I pitched my tent, cooked dinner and had a glass of wine. A few hours later I took my sleeping medication, Ambien–one of 23 pills I took each day. Exhausted, I laid down and fell asleep. Like most nights, my dreams would haunt me and cause night terrors; but this time my dreams became a reality. I woke up some time later with my head hanging off what I thought was a table. Quickly looking up, I saw blood covering my body and two EMTs frantically moving around. I was strapped to a gurney. Still very much out of it I asked what has happened! He replied, “You have been shot. You need to relax!”
I can only remember flashes of coming in and out of consciousness, being rushed through hospital doors and then waking up 150 miles away in a hospital bed. Still in shock and with a gunshot wound inches from my head I panicked! The nurses rushed in and a doctor came and explained all that happened. I had been sleep walking the night before and had an unloaded handgun in my hand. Though I never fired the gun a State trooper immediately shot me.
To this day I have no memory other than flashes of the nightmare I had been in. I have been told that the State troopers lights had triggered me. In my nightmare I was in a confrontation with the Iraqi Army where there were many lights flashing. I woke up to another nightmare I’d have to face–looking at legal issues on top of all my PTSD issues. I just wanted to die.
Throughout the investigation the Judge and detectives learned of the PTSD and that the sleeping pills had done this to me. They also found that my character and my military record were unblemished! They knew that I would never have been so careless. They began to understand that before them was a broken Soldier who needed help. And I thank them each day! I was given probation to make certain that I would receive the help I so desperately needed. This defining moment would kick off a series of events that made me who I am.
The following year I was medically retired from the Army because of the multiple injuries sustained in Iraq. I was given a flag and a pin and told “Thank you for your service!” I was left to find my way in life.
Still battling mental depression and enduring surgery after surgery, I came home to this place I call home—Bedford. Life had not become easier; my life with my family was in shambles. And I went through every PTSD treatment the VA had to offer. Feeling helpless and exhausted from this fight I decided to end my fight. I took an entire bottle of a sedative that would kill a rhino–followed by a bottle of whiskey.
Truly God Saved me! I spent the next three days in a comatose state. When I awoke later I simply broke down further. I could not even complete the suicide. The Weeks went by and again I had just had enough! I had made the decision that I would end my life with a bullet. I made my plans I wrote my letter.
But then something happened. When I left my post in the Army I left the only therapist I had ever connected with. She called! She said, “Tim! I am going to a place called Warrior Camp! I think this would be a good thing for you! And I would love to see you.” In some odd way we always had a weird connection. I agreed to go; at least no one could ever say I didn’t try everything!
It was at Warrior Camp that I finally began to heal. I found myself! 10 straight days of intense EMDR, yoga and Equine assisted therapy changed my life forever! For the first time in years my heart felt something! Excitement!! Relief and a shred of hope. As I found myself on my knees in tears, my heart and my soul began to heal. I was breaking down the walls I had surrounded myself with. And after years of taking pill after pill I was able to slowly stop taking them. When I arrived home, I continued my therapy and strived to mend my marriage. I began to open up about what had happened to me. All that I had done. The Director of Warrior Camp asked me to come and help with another camp; I quickly agreed.
The next step in my life was about to forever change me. By helping these Veterans, I helped myself; my passion had quickly become trying to save my brothers and sisters from the road I had gone down! While working at Warrior Camp I opened up and spoke to many Veterans about my experiences and the pain and trials of my life–and how PTSD changed my life. I told them about my experiences of healing from moral injury. I had never spoken to crowds but found my testimony could help my fellow soldiers. For the next year or so I’d travel across the country to give my testimony. My testimonies were captured on film geared toward helping Veterans.
Warrior Camp saved my life and created a new life for me. When I finally came home I looked around and realized my home town had nothing. We had no resources; we had an American Legion and VFW and that was it! Right then and there I decided my mission was to bring Veteran Services to this area. Knowing we had so many Veterans In need, I called the Bedford Township Hall and talked to our Supervisor and Deputy Supervisor. I asked if we could create a committee for Veterans. They quickly jumped on board and the first Bedford Township Veterans Committee was formed! A few hand-picked individuals and I went to work on what would be a game changing Veterans Organization. Soon it became clear that we could not function as a government entity and we left the control of the Township Board, on good terms I might add.
With an understanding that we simply couldn’t accomplish our mission under Roberts Rules, we created a 501 (C) 3 non-profit and immediately went to work on fund raising, which was very successful. My good friend owned a building in Temperance and offered it to us at cost. He has a great passion for Veterans and wanted to help us. This was the beginning of the Bedford Twp Veterans Center! We slaved away for months preparing the building and had our grand opening in March of 2018. Since the creation of the Veterans Center, we have consistently thought outside-the-box and created program after program to help our Veterans. And to date, I can find NO other Veteran Center that even begins to offer what we do. But I must say, it is because the of the hearts of the people in Bedford Twp that are able exist. We do not get Tax dollars! We rely 100% on donations from our wonderful citizens, and they have NEVER let our Veterans down.
If you would like to support us we have many easy and cheap ways that you can personally help save and change the lives of so many Veterans.
To sum up why I wrote this, it was in hope that a Veteran going through the hell I went through will read this and see that, even as dark as the road may be, there is always a light and its brightness can and will shine through! You must only be willing to lift your head and look for it. Because I promise you, my road was dark, it was long and it nearly killed me many times. Do not give up! Do not lay down and die! When all else is lost you will always have the light of the Bedford Twp Veterans Center! We will never leave a fallen Veteran; we will bare your burden. Let us carry this weight so that one day you may carry another’s. We as warriors have an incredible way to fight through the worst of odds and the darkest of times. We are our Country’s hero’s! And you must never forget–it was you that stood and said “I will go.” Your strength and honor will forever be yours. Do not lose sight of this! Always fight! I will say this to all—ESSAYONS–“Let us try.” I am humbled and honored to serve you all. And serve this township.
“Bleed with me and you shall forever be my brother.”