"For a long time I locked the memories away in a room in my mind. I would sometimes touch the door, to make sure it was secure. It was always cold and whenever I opened it to toss in another memory, a biting wind would come roaring out. A wind that stank of diesel fuel, spent gunpowder, sand and death and carried with it my screams of pain, the voices of my soldiers struggling to save my life, and the beeps of a hospital."
— Armeni, Damon T.
I'd wrestle the door shut, lock it, have a strong drink (or five) and get on with my life. I had a wife to love, a family to raise, and soldiers to lead -- I didn't have time to deal with it. Then I got cocky. I thought I had it under control. In 2011, I went to graduate school. I had, for the first time, no pending deployment and no soldiers to train. I quit checking on the door, and so I missed it when the locks began weakening.
After graduation, I requested an opportunity to deploy again and was told I'd be going to Saudi Arabia. I thought, "perfect -- not a combat deployment, but a chance to get back into the swing of things."
But about two months before it was time to go, the door in my mind broke down, and PTSD came for me. It was a beautiful day. I was heading to meet my wife and kids for a handoff. On I-95, just before Fredericksburg, Va., the acrid smell of rocket propellant filled my nose. I could hear my soldiers telling me I'd be O.K., could feel my stomach tearing open again. I couldn't feel my feet, my hands were numb -- I couldn't breathe. Drenched in sweat, I managed to get my car off the road and call for help. First my wife, then an ambulance.