US Army veteran, 7 years, two deployments
I’m a specialist in the United States Army. I’ve been in the Army since January 2005.
The first reason I’m on profile is because I have a heart condition. I’ve had it ever since I’ve been in the military, but I didn’t really know about it until 2010, when I passed out during a battalion run here at Fort Hood. I blacked out completely and had to be picked up and carried off onto the side, where they gave me first aid. From that point on, I’ve had a series of tests done to determine what was wrong with me. The Army hasn’t officially found out specifically what is wrong, but they diagnosed me with syncope, which is pretty much passing out. I was put on red flag because I can’t really be in the heat or in the sun for too long, which excludes me from deployment. So my first profile says I can’t be in the heat, can’t pick up more than 10 pounds, can’t go higher than five feet, can’t do any combat training or anything like that.
I also have a temporary profile for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I still having lingering effects from that, from my 2006-2008 deployment and my 2009-2010 deployment. My second profile, for the PTSD, is that I can’t have access to weapons, can’t be deployed, and can’t operate military vehicles or anything like that.
For my heart, I had a total of five profiles, because they were temporary, before it got changed to permanent. And I’ve been on these profiles since September 2010. Each temporary profile I had lasted for three months.
Before the unit deployed, it made me break my profile pretty much every week. It was usually the NCOs who told me to break it. And they were aware of my condition, but you know, sometimes the military doesn’t care. They always try to find loopholes to where they can still use me. They find their loopholes, or they literally mind-fuck the profile to see what they can do to use me.
I’ve seen other soldiers forced to break their profiles plenty of times. Pretty much every day. Even when a soldier pulls out the profile, they still don’t really acknowledge it. I saw guys deploy in my unit who should not have gone because of their conditions. Often. I don’t know a specific number. But I do know of guys who’ve been discharged as soon as they’ve gotten back from deployment. Because they should not have been deployed altogether. A good buddy of mine actually has severe PTSD, and he was about to get deployed again. When he went to train he had a violent episode, so he just got out recently because of his PTSD.
In my early years, I saw NCOs make people go to SRP even though they shouldn’t be deploying. Not so much in recent years though, because of the fact that soldiers are committing suicide down-range, or soldiers are just completely burning down mentally.
Whenever I used to have to go to sick call, I’d get that scornful look from NCOs. And the stigma never really stops. They would say, “Oh, he’s weak. Screw him, he’s weak. He’s trying to find an excuse, he’s trying to malinger.” It didn’t stop me from getting help though, because at the end of the day, it’s my health.
I did deter other people in my platoon. They were so gung-ho that they put their health on the side, just to look better in somebody else’s eyes, when really they were hurting themselves. The stigma comes from NCOs, peers, all the way up to officers, even.
I ended up getting punished for stuff that was coming from my PTSD. In 2010, when we first got back from deployment, I came back to no money, no house, no nothing, because my wife—the person who I married and trusted—cheated on me and pretty much took all my money. And during that time, I was in a severe depression, along with coping with the PTSD, and I lost a lot of weight because of the stress I was under.
There were a lot of days where they were just saying, “Bowe, you’re fucking up. Correct it.” They never tried to ask me, “Alright, Bowe, what’s really going on?” It’s always, “Oh, he’s just a shitbag.”
It literally took until after I passed out—I think it was July 2010—where I finally broke down and told them I was thinking about committing suicide. I don’t really tell too many people that because there’s a stigma to it, but I was going through a lot at that time. Once I told them that, it seemed like the finger snapped and they were like, “Oh, this is really something serious that we’ve just been blowing off,” and I was able to have the time during the work day not doing something. I had the time to go to mental health, went to the doctor to get a physical done, so they could see where I was physically. I was in really bad shape.
After they found out about my heart, there really wasn’t a lot of treatment. There were mostly tests. I remember a lot of tests being done, and I did have surgery. That was October 2010. They installed a heart loop recorder into my chest. That means that if I were to pass out, there’s a remote that you can put to the device that’s in my chest, and you press the button on it, and it records or saves that recording of my heartbeat so the doctors can actually see with their own eyes what went wrong with my heart.
After the surgery, there hasn’t been any treatment. I’m just being Med-Boarded now. It’s really not something they can fix. It’s just something that I have to be careful with, in terms of what I do.
I’ve never received any training about the symptoms of PTSD. I’ve pretty much researched it on my own. They don’t talk about it enough. They do cover suicide, which is coupled with PTSD, but I haven’t gotten any specific training about how to cope with PTSD. We get a little bit of training on symptoms of TBI, but not often enough.
As far as the sexual assault training we get, people don’t take it seriously. The classes aren’t given by a professional. They’re just given by the NCO. We just watch a slideshow. Sometimes it’s hard for soldiers to keep their attention on subjects. The Army really does need to hire professionals to teach it and get the word out about how serious the subject is.