It started sophomore year in college during a Tuesday afternoon sitting in Marketing 100. I decided to journal my stories from 2 deployments in Iraq. I always wanted to write a book but this was different. I knew the last couple years being out of the service was a difficult road for me. I had dealt with bouts of isolation, irritable aggression and at one point felt better off just sitting in my downstairs apartment at my mom's house due to being scared and afraid of being in public. The wars took their toll on me mentally and with the long wait times at the VA in 2009 being around 30 days before I got to see someone, I looked to writing to somehow become a stopgap and sense of release for me.
The journaling of my stories went from a couple paragraphs into 8 hour sessions for 6 months every day, trying to find some sense of what war was, what it had done to me, and how was I supposed to feel like I was part of society again. Through a 3 year tumultuous journey of penning my thoughts, having friends of mine read about the war and revealing I had been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress to them, the journal turned into a short story memoir called The Sandbox Stories of Human Spirit and War.
While becoming a published author was an incredible accomplishment for me, writing those stories did more for me than seeing my book on Amazon or speaking in front of groups about today's veterans. It gave me an outlet, somewhere I could go to release without fear of criticism. There are no boundaries when writing. Being a veteran of the Iraq War, there were things that when I first signed my enlistment contract I had never heard of such as Post Traumatic Stress or veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan would have the most difficult time finding work that was not only substantial but meaningful. No one tells you that serving your country comes with consequences. I knew for years that upon my honorable discharge from service, I was not the same person I was before I went overseas.
Now it's not necessarily a bad thing that I am no longer the person I was during my first year of the Marines but I wouldn't have known that it was ok to be a changed person had I never written my stories. With the amount of problems faced by transitioning veterans, other forms of therapy such as writing need to be promoted as a way to deal with the everyday stresses of life and gain perspective. War is an incredibly difficult experience and to add the experience of war without finding a way to channel it has contributed to the alarming rate of the mental health epidemic, financial burden faced when leaving service. Writing can be the most valuable of solutions that can give the military community the tool needed to deal with the trials and tribulations of deployments.
A study by J.W Pennebaker and S.K. Beall titled "Confronting a Traumatic Event Toward an Understanding of Inhibition and Disease" was conducted to see the health benefits of writing involved college students writing for 15 minutes over 4 days about their most traumatic or upsetting experiences while the control group wrote about superficial topics. Those students that wrote about their trauma showed significant improvement in self assessing their physical and mental well-being 4 months later. Since the beginning of the wars on terrorism, many veterans have penned their memoirs, contributed to short story collaboration, and been able to share their stories publicly. But in terms of primary treatment, writing and other forms of alternative therapies are still being seen as supplemental rather than as the solution.
Everybody loves a good story. In fact, grandpa's war stories regardless of how many times you have heard it never get old. The intricacy of war and stories of camaraderie, family, and horror have intrigued our society for generations. Some incredible literature has come out from war experiences such as The Things They Carried, Unbroken, and The Yellow Birds but still writing has not been promoted for a way to treat the mental and physical well-being. The 9/11 generation of veterans and the military community as a whole has a chance to bridge the military civilian divide. They have to tell their truth, the whole story, and nothing but it.