we are active duty, we are veterans, we are brothers.
I am a United States Navy Veteran. I was a Navy Fleet Marine Force Corpsman. I served 2 combat deployments in support of the Global War on Terror. I was never a high speed-low drag trigger puller. I was just a plain ol' medic trying my best to save the lives of our men and women. My last deployment to Iraq was awful. I was there for 7 months. From 2006 to 2007. Not a day went by that we didn't receive a casualty. Every single day. If it wasn't one of ours, it was one of theirs. If it wasn't a solider it was a civilian. I witnessed many things as a medic. Day in and day out, it became routine. Things that any human being should have never seen. Things you can never unsee. You see, I was at the receiving end of the end result of war. The devastation of an IED, the gunshot wound to the head, the body parts of a helicopter crash. All these things wear on the human psyche. This carnage took place in my mind after I had come back from that deployment. I had nightmares almost every night. I had nightmares of going back on deployment. I had dreams of the people that died there. I hated going to sleep and I became an insomniac. The military prescribed me my medications and I was sent to TAPS class and I left active duty after 10 years of service. It was weird to be out of the military and be on my own. The military had always hand carried us to everything we needed to do. Medical, Dental, going TAD, whatever it was, we had momma military holding our hand and guiding us to do things. We we get out, its like a baby bird getting kicked out of the nest. We are forced to fend or fly. Otherwise, we fail to thrive. We've seen the headlines. There are 22 warriors a day that we are losing. These are our brothers and sisters.
Fast forward to 5 years after I left the military. I was diagnosed with PTSD. I was out of shape. Drugged out on whatever medications the VA gave me and injured from lack of physical conditioning. My son had began training in martial arts. Brazilian Jiu jitsu to be exact. I was the 'soccer dad' that would always take my son to train and watch. Wishing I could try, but never having the will or self confidence. I had always admired my son for being dedicated and training so much. One day, my son's professor, João "Johnny" Faria asked me to train. I didn't think I could, but I wanted my son to look up to me. I thought "how cool would it be to train jiu jitsu with my son". So I did. From that day forward, I trained. I trained religiously. I decided I needed to get healthy. In order to get better with endurance, I needed to eat right. I order for me to concentrate and have a clear mind, I decided to go cold turkey with the medications the VA had gave me. The sessions were so exhausting, I was finally able to get meaningful rest. It was then I had realized that I had met and trained with some of the most amazing people. People that reminded me of being in the military. The camaraderie, the brotherhood I had missed so much when I had got out of the military, was now back again. I was able to train, talk, laugh and try to strangle these guys to death and at the end of the day have a beer with these guys. This is how I know that martial arts is a therapy. I know this because it has worked for me. This to me became a healthy alternative to treating my PTSD. I am living proof that martial arts can save lives. -Chris L. Navy FMF Corpsman
These are stories of our brothers and sisters that have been affected with physical and mental injuries sustained during the Global War on Terror. Not only are they a testament to the therapeutic benefits of martial arts, they are also a testament to the strength and will of our military men and women.
“I was honored to serve 3 tours in Afghanistan as a Navy EOD technician. My first was in 2010-11 with 3rd and 7th Army SF Groups in Kandahar, the second was in northern Afghanistan with TF Palladin (2011-12), and the last was back to the Kandahar Commando mission with SEAL Team 5 (2012-13). It was an incredible honor to serve my country and work along some of the greatest men and women that the United States and Afghanistan have to offer. Some of them didn’t make it back. Or, they made it back with other injuries: loss of limbs, traumatic brain injuries, or psychological scars. Possibly because of the fast turn arounds I had between deployments, I never took the time to check in with myself and see the psychological deterioration until I came home from the last trip in 2013. Everything began to crumble. Slowly, at first, and then more rapidly. I never wanted to turn to alcohol or pills. My father hung himself in 2012 while I was deployed and had abused drugs so it was something that I’ve always staunchly been against. So, I knew I had to find a healthy outlet. I came across brazilian jiu jitsu by chance. For me, I needed to always be physically and intellectually engaged. Jiu jitsu is the only thing that I’ve found that can counter the anxiety attacks, the rage, the pain...all of it. I know that every time I go to class and step on the mat, I will be humbled. Everyday. I’ve met incredible people through jiu jitsu. It has given me and even deeper sense of belonging than I could find in the military. I can say, with 100% certainty, that if I hadn’t found jiu jitsu, I wouldn’t be alive today. I believe that all combat veterans have different manifestations of combat stress, PTSD, etc. During a session with a therapist, I said that I left the best pieces of my soul on the battlefield. But, I believe that, no matter how little we have left, it's always enough to find joy again. It is my hope that if we can get one more vet to find jiu jitsu and give in to it, allow it to become part of them, then they will be that one step closer to feeling whole again. Oss!” - Damian J., Navy Master EOD technician
"My name is Rogan, I've served 2 years in the Republic of Korea Army and 4 years in the Korean Navy SEAL's. After I was discharged from the service, I started training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for spiritual enhancement and as a remedy for PTSD" -Rogan, Korean Navy SEAL