Get Inspired Into Healing

From Homicidal to Hopeful | Soldier Story

I was a brand new major in a brand new Army Reserve unit—well, a new unit to me. I was one of three officers in the whole 20-person detachment. I noticed that one of the sergeants was angry all the time. When I inquired about his life and his past, I discovered he was a combat vet (active duty Marine), a civilian police officer, and getting a divorce.

He was wound up so tight that he could burst at any moment. I asked him what was one thing I could do to make his life a little less stressful. “Help me with my awards, ma’am. I have all these Marine Corps awards that I rightfully earned but when I wore them, an NCO from my last unit looked up my paperwork, said they were unauthorized and tried to get me in trouble for wearing fake awards!” I could tell that those awards meant a lot to him because he was proud of his active duty and combat service, as he should be. “Okay, I’ll help you,” I said. I Googled to find the Army Regulation on awards, pressed Control-F to find the paragraph on other Service awards, and then told him what paperwork I needed to verify his service. He gladly brought in all that I asked the next month, and I prepared the memorandum that “vouched” for him to the Army. Within 30 days, his paperwork was straight and he was a happy camper.

The Soldier Story could’ve ended right there and be a win, but I was really interested in gaining his trust so that I could help him more.

I asked him to grab lunch with me, to which he agreed. At the diner, I pulled off my rank as I said, “I’d like to talk to you person-to-person for a moment. I’m concerned for you. You are going through a LOT of stress right now, and you look like you’re about to pop. I think you’re a good Soldier and a good person. I don’t want to see you on the news one day emptying an M240B clip into a sea of civilians from the top of a tall building.” He was silent, a little shocked, but he was listening. “I want you to get a counselor, someone to help you release all this pressure built up inside. You deserve someone who is on your side, who listens to how the world is affecting you. Someone who will support YOU.”

Still a little shocked, he quietly agreed to find a counselor. Honestly, I didn’t know how he would react, but the fact that he didn’t tell me I was wrong, and he didn’t play the tough-guy machismo card that so many Soldiers do, leads me to think that I was right on the money.

I didn’t see him the next drill, but at the one after that (two months after our intervention), he was a different person! Much less stressed, much less angry, sounding more hopeful about the future, and even cracking jokes from time to time. When I asked him if he found a counselor (to make sure he wasn’t “faking it” on my account), he said yes, and explained a little about how it was helping. That was all I needed to know—that he was getting the help he needed to live his life with hope, again.

What about you? When is a time you have been in an intervention that significantly changed the course of someone’s life?

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