My name is Sarah Yuengling I served in Fallujah Iraq 2004 to 2005 as a Navy Nurse. My dad died a few days after I arrived in Fallujah I was not able to go home. A couple of days later I was in the hospital standing over a patient with two corpsman when a rocket landed next to the barriers. No one was physically hurt but small little slivers of the concrete fell from the wall and my patient screamed “ my ears my ears”. It was a loud noise and I was really numb in side but also had no fear because I believed my dad was there in spirit at that time protecting me.
On the way back home in Kuwait I fell on the tarmac on my left side and injured my hand. I went to many surgeries and was on and off pain meds. I got out of the Navy in 2009 had one more surgery then went back to work again. I was on sleeping medications until recent. When I got out of the military I isolated myself because I had no emotion. I just shut down. I realized that I needed something so I joined the Wounded Warriors programs and they helped me so much and brought me back to feeling my emotions again.
I sought care at the VA because I could not sleep had some nightmares and affects that still haunt me like I feel scared at night I wake up at every little noise I hear. Loud noises feel like it goes right into my brain and it is actually feels painful. The loud noises from gun shots or fireworks causes a fight or flight feeling go thru my entire body. It is like a gush of blood rushing from my feet up to my head. I also have a poor memory recall at times. I have tried medication, cognitive behavioral treatment, group and Individual treat to help with my Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Military Sexual Trauma.
Last year Veterans day I realized I needed help. I was at a celebration for veterans when they had 21 gun salute. I was with a co-worker when I blacked out. I remember hearing one gunshot but not anymore. My co-worker said there were 7 shots. I realized yes I am a nurse but I have to ask for help because I knew something was wrong with my brain. I asked the VA to help me get hyperbaric chamber treatments because of the noises. They said they did not have any data that this would help. So I sought out an outside organization.
I was accepted by the Healing Heroes Network to get 40 hyperbaric chamber treatments. One day when I was at treatment I met a wife of a veteran and she told me about The 22 Project, that they funded a brain scan for her husband and the chamber treatment. I contacted Alex, The 22 Project founder and we spoke. I wanted to get information to help other veterans. He said he could help me and let’s do a brain scan on you and have you see the doctor with them. So I did the results did show TBI and the doctor explained everything to me. This helped me because I knew something was wrong and I wanted to get better.
MY NAME IS JAVIER GOMEZ, I AM A DISABLED VET DUE TO MY T.B.I., P.T.S.D. AND DELUSIONAL DISORDER. I SERVED AS A SNIPER FROM FEB 2004 TO APR 2010, WITH TWO TOURS IN IRAQ. I WAS HIT BY TWO I.E.D.S (IMPROVISED EXLPOSIVE DEVICE) AND AN RPG AMBUSH. THE RPG AMBUSH LEFT ME WITH FRACTURED RIBS AND A CONCUSSION LUCKY ENOUGH TO BE ALIVE. THERE MUST BE A GREATER PLAN FOR ME. I HAD BEEN BATTLING MY SYMPTONS VALIENTLY BUT FELT I WAS GOING NOWHERE; TAKING HEAVY MEDS SEEMED TO BE THE ONLY TOOL I HAD. I WOULD GET REALLY BAD ANXIETY ATTACKS THAT CONFINED ME TO MY HOME. FOR A WHILE I TRIED TO SELF MEDICATE BY USING DRUGS- THAT JUST TOOK ME TO THE WRONG PATH. I EVENTUALLY WAS HOSPITALIZED TWICE BY BAKER ACT.
ON THE SECOND TRIP TO THE PSYCH WARD, I WAS DEALING WITH STRONG FEELINGS OF GUILT, AND I WAS READING THE BIBLE AND CAME ALONG A VERSE THAT SAID IF YOUR RIGHT EYE CAUSED YOU TO SIN CAST IT AWAY, REGRETABLY I TOOK IT LITERALY, AND REMOVED MY EYE WITH MY FINGERS- IT WAS GRUESOME. SO YOU CAN ONLY IMAGINE THE KIND OF TURMOIL I WAS FACING DUE TO MY TIME IN IRAQ. LIKE I SAID, MEDICINE HELPED MASK THE SYMPTONS BUT NEVER CURED ME. I ONLY CONTINUED TO RECEIVE SECONDARY SIDE EFFECTS, AND SOME SORT OF QUALITY OF LIFE THAT WAS ACCEPTABLE.
THEY SAY A PERSON ONLY CHANGES WHEN THE WORLD BECOMES SO UNBEARABLE THAT YOU ARE CAUSED TO CHANGE YOUR WAYS. THAT IS WHERE THE 22 PROJECT COMES IN. MY BROTHER RAN ACROSS COL. COLMENARES AND DISCUSSED MY SITUATION AND GAVE HIM A CARD. MY BROTHER AND WIFE CONTINUOUSLY ASKED ME TO CALL HIM, SO I DID. HE PUT ME IN CONTACT WITH MR. ALEX CRUZ FROM THE 22 PROJECT.
IF YOU ASKED ME WHAT TO EXPECT FROM THE OXYGEN TREATMENT I WOULD HAVE TOLD YOU IT’S WORTH A TRY, ALL THEY’RE ASKING ME TO DO IS LIE DOWN AND BREATHE. WHO WOULD HAVE THOUGHT THAT WOULD HAVE HELPED. GRATEFULLY I ACCEPTED AND MY LIFE TOOK AN INCREDIBLE TURN FOR THE POSITIVE; I STARTED TO BATHE, I WAS ABLE TO HOLD A CONVERSATION WHICH SEEMED IMPOSSIBLE AT TIMES, AND GOT SOME SORT OF GRIP ON MY ANXIETY. IN THE PAST, I WOULD RUN OUT OF MEDS THAT I WOULD TAKE DURING ANXIETY ATTACKS NOW I DEFINETLY HAVE THE TOOLS TO COMBAT THE ANXIETY.
I NEVER LOST THE WILL, I JUST LOST THE STRENGTH, BUT I STILL PUT ONE FOOT IN FRONT OF THE OTHER, I GUESS SOME HABITS OF BEING A SOLDIER ARE HARDER TO GET RID OF. I AM FOREVER GRATEFUL FOR THE LIGHT THAT THE 22 PROJECT HAS GIVEN ME IN MY DARKEST HOURS, LIKE THEY SAY “I SEE THE LIGHT”. SO IF YOU ASK ME FOR MY ADVICE; I RECOMMEND IT. IF YOU CHOOSE TO IMPROVE YOUR QUALITY OF LIFE- JUST LIE THERE AND BREATHE, EVERYTHING WILL TAKE CARE OF ITSELF. IF YOU ARE SOMEONE WHO IS GOING THROUGH THIS, JUST KNOW YOU ARE NOT ALONE. THE 22 PROJECT COMMUNITY WILL BE THERE AS YOUR BATTLE BUDY IN LIFE. FROM ME AND MY FAMILY, ALEX, THANK YOU I AM FOREVER GRATEFUL FOR THE HOPE AND 2ND CHANCE YOU’VE GIVEN ME. I’LL BE HAPPY TO LET EVERYONE KNOW I AM TRYING TO HAVE OUR 1ST BABY.
A GRATEFUL SOLDIER,
My name is Mackenzie Verdi and I am a disabled combat Veteran. I served five years in the 101st airborne division as a Military Police officer. During my five years I did two tours in Iraq with the 101st Airborne Division. I grew in the ranks from a private in charge of a 50 cal. machine gun all the way to a Squad Leader in charge of 12 men.
The first time I deployed to Iraq I was a 50 cal. machine gunner. We were one of the first units to go into Iraq and break the Kuwaiti border. I was in a position where I had to act first. After long days full of action and at the same time not having communication from home, it was very hard to cope with on a day to day basis without the support of my family and friends around me. My second tour to Iraq was a bit different. Our unit was placed in the middle of Baghdad and we were in constant conflict every day. While I was in Baghdad I was a Squad Leader in charge of 12 men. It was a hard and long 12 months. We were constantly in battle with the insurgency. The things we saw and did you would not wish on anyone. But as you are trained it is you or them. We eliminated a lot of bad people off this planet. After my second tour of duty I received a Bronze star as well as an Army Accommodation award with a Valor device.
After returning home I had to deal with the thoughts, sights and smells I encountered over there. I would constantly be on high guard when I was out in the public. My mood went from always being the funny guy to an I don’t care attitude. My wife hated the person I became. I did not want to socialize nor did I want to hang out with anyone other than my comrades. My sleep was always disturbed by any little sound I heard as well as dreams that made me relive some of the things I did. I was definitely a changed person.
When I met Alex at the 22 Project and H.O.W. it changed me for the better. I started the Hyperbaric and after a good week or so I noticed I was sleeping a whole lot better and that my mood was changing. I had more focus throughout the day and my attitude was that of someone who cared. I started to go back to school which gave me a sense of direction and purpose. If it was not of these programs I do not know where I would be today. It has severely changed my life for the better and I cannot express enough thanks to these wonderful programs.