“For those who fought for it, freedom has a flavor the protected will never know.” -Unkown Soldier at the Battle of Khe Sanh
It has been a few weeks since I’ve had the time to sit down and write; but the reason has been a good one – or so I hope you’ll think.
Several months back I was approached by the Veteran’s Center in Springfield, Missouri. They explained a new certification the Missouri Department of Mental Health recognizes, and this same “title” is one the VA is trying to capitalize on to help veterans of the United States military, and in particular veterans of foreign wars.
A “Peer Specialist” is one who is certified through the Missouri Credentialing Board after training and testing, similar to a counselor, but with one caveat: the Peer Specialist has experienced the same issues psychologically that they are helping others with.
In my case, the issue is Post Traumatic Stress (commonly referred to as PTSD), from experiences I had in Iraq and some elsewhere. I completed the training and am preparing to test for my board certification. I truly look forward to helping other veterans (emphasis will be put on Iraq and Afghanistan Vets) who have come home to find a different “self” and need encouragement dealing with the issues they face.
I am also humbled to know the Veteran’s Center sees me as having made enough progress with myself to be able to help others.
But that isn’t what this post is about. What is it about is the humbled spirit I have after being with two Vietnam Vets and one former Navy SEAL for a week. These guys reminded me of the fact that while I may have my experience, to know what they went through truly makes me feel honored to have served under the same flag and for the same country these fellows did, albeit at different times.
While humbled and honored, I was encouraged. To be around these guys that carried themselves as former service members often do (confident, secure, and not to be messed with), I found that underneath I was with a group of loving, caring, understanding men that truly want to help those that still struggle with “demons” from experiences in war.
The experience made me see hope in mankind that I often miss because of the rough and grueling schedule I have, and I’m sure most of us have. It reminded me of a thought I had several times after coming home from 47 missions in one of the more rough areas of Iraq: “War, it will definitely show you the worst man has to offer; but it also shows the best man has to offer as well.”
I don’t know if there is a specific intent in this post other than to say that the experience I had with the guys I was with while we all trained to become Peer Specialists reminded me of the camaraderie and esprit de corps I often miss – feelings that are only shared by those who experience situations in which life depends on one another.
Moving forward and being in the position I’m about to be in, I sincerely desire to make a difference in the lives of those who can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel because of the barriers in their way from the experience they had… it may have taken me six years, felony charges, a lot of money and humiliation to realize it – but the light is there and it is attainable.