Light The Fire

Over a year of 5-10 minute phone calls, letters, care packages and never-enough time to say the things that matter most disappeared when we landed.

Crowds lined up to greet the men and women that fought for their lives for 15 months overseas. It was great to see my sisters and brothers happy to see their families. Tears flowed and faces spread in joy as reunited couples and family ran into each other’s arms. Military poise disappeared as children jumped into their parents embrace for the first time in countless months.

Even the most stoic cracked a smile while walking into customs. Later, dropping the duffle bags in our brand new barracks felt like dropping off the armor from a long day of patrol.

Here I am. I feel the same. So… what do I do now?

So began the journey down path after path looking for truth to questions demanding answers. What does a war machine do when at peace? It begins attacking itself.

For a long time silence is a Veteran’s best friend. The voice that we proudly shouted for all to hear becomes muted. Not by circumstance but by choice. The return home is a journey into the mind and thoughts that never cease.
Life, an ever-shifting gallery of movie scenes to engage with that we must go through. It’s been 8 years since I left Iraq. Headphones in, I sat back and took a deep breath. Dog Day Sunrise blared in my ears as the engines roared to life.

We did it and everything was alright.
For a time…
We went home to a world that passed us by.

People and social situations are lost on many veterans when returning home. This was a curse apparent every time I looked in the mirror. Laughter and hanging out for the sake of company seemed so foreign after 15 months inside a war zone. For years afterwards human interaction was difficult and silence my best friend. It was better that way… easier for all involved.

Sensory Overload

“The world’s too big, mom!”
“So make it smaller.”

Mission: Light the Fire

We are ready. Take a look at the news and see the movement of our people. A nation has been reminded that Veterans have a voice and when we unite we are capable of great things… of change.

Light the Fire.

Inside all of you. To feel as you did before the military. We’ve all experienced the trials of connecting to another human after some of the things we’ve seen or done.
I was there. You were too.
At the time when you were supposed to be stoic and calculated, when reality was a mixture of adrenaline, laughter, horror, sorrow, and joy at having lived… why is so it hard to feel the same on a regular day?
Light the fire inside anew. Find that resolve and hold tight. Then let go. The first time is the hardest. Let go. Breath again.
Just let go…
Now feel the fire again inside. Your purpose is what you choose it be.

Emotions are a finicky thing when training takes over. However a good soldier knows that it’s only following orders. Like the body after the mind sends a signal in double time; electrical signals and hormones and molecules floating along to initiate a body response to ensure you survive the weapons song.

End of the day the truck always rolls on.
Truthfully, Veterans are not broken or sad or lost and found or looking for handouts. Our lives are just experienced from a bell curve. When your life is on the line there is never a moment that will compete for the surreal, heightened experience that is imprinted in your memory for the rest of your life. As hormones, endorphins and cannabinoids rush through your body the memories are imprinted deep into the biology. It’s the mammal that remembers how they survived that wins the game of life after all.

Purpose is essential to experiencing life.

“Sgt. Reynolds is down!”
Rounds snapped and whizzed over our heads as our section Sergeant fell to the ground. His helmet violently whipped back… like our wits after acknowledging the perimeter gap.
Shift. Adjust fire. Engage. Cover. Reload. Repeat.
When training takes over you’re just along for the ride.
Suddenly, Sgt Reynolds stood up…

He took off his helmet in the middle of our firefight, looked down at it, then tossed it aside along with his rifle.

Pulling his sidearm he advanced towards the enemy.
“Cover Sgt. Reynolds!!!”
Cover. Shift. Adjust fire. Engage. Reload. Repeat.

Truck Don’t Stop.

PTSD is knowing that no drug or life experience will ever compete with the experience and emotions combat drives through your body.

I was fortunate when I returned from Iraq to have brothers to speak to. They understood why I turned down beers because I could feel my triggers kicking in. We all understood. Some of us talked. Others stayed silent. All of us gave moments their proper silence.

It isn’t just the pills the VA shoves down our throats nor is it the lack of understanding in America of what it means to go to war and return like we’re alright. It’s the loss of cohesion and bonding with the person to my left and right. Knowing I could my turn my back and they were my keeper is what got us through deployment.

PTSD is not just a disease. It’s avoiding normal life.

Why? We were trained to be the highest operators of a singular purpose. When you are thrust into a world where that skillset is no longer needed you lose a sense of self. You refuse to let others see the machine at full efficiency because they can’t handle it. They don’t understand. PTSD is avoidance for safety because we all accept at one point that we do not have 100% control. It scares us and makes us run away from those who would care most. That’s what PTSD is.

In varying degrees we all go through this. Yet, civilians don’t tend to tend understand how that feels unless they’ve through a traumatic experience themselves.
We as Veterans should not be looked at as in need.

We simply need the space granted through understanding to breathe.
What does it mean to you?
Perhaps something you do or would like to achieve? Is it your children or family? Do you feel the need to live, sleep and breathe one singular desire in life?
Soldiers live for purpose. We die for purpose. We train and drill non-stop for purpose. Through action and words we devote our entirety to purpose. That is what it means to be a soldier. To be a part of something bigger than ourselves so when we wake up the day is greeted with a quick start and action.
There is never a time you will feel more alive in your life than when chaos surrounds you and you are ready and willing to embrace it at the drop of a pin. That is what it means to live for purpose.
What happens when a soldier leaves and enters the civilian world again?
We begin jumping from idea to idea looking for the one that might make us happy. We become ultra DO-ers mastering skill set after skill set and upgrading our tool kits. If we work for someone we become the most productive member of their team constantly optimizing and evolving systems in the workplace. We don’t want to get promoted to the top because it’s a power struggle or because we feel entitled to the position.
It’s an act of service. A Veteran employee is one of the sharpest minds and diligent set of eyes for improving your workplace that you will ever have. Work smarter not harder is not just a phrase we all did thousands of pushups for.

PTSD is accomplishing great things by striving for ever-increasing greatness yet never feeling total happiness with your accomplishments. The switch just doesn’t turn on the way it used to.

My mission through Southwest Healing Group is simple.
Utilizing holistic knowledge and emerging science as our guide we will help Light the Fire inside. To find their purpose and brotherhood once again.

We are Veterans. We are people. We are family to soldiers lost. We are combat tested and professionals to the highest degree. Our team is dedicated to serving those who are in need through action. Words are throwaways. Showing up is what matters most.

For our Veterans we act. For patients in need. For progress we unite.
It’s time to focus on the solutions instead of over scrutinizing the problem. Energy in is energy out after all.
That is why Southwest Healing Group was founded. We believe that healing begins with intention and applying attention to the right actions. This website is the evolution of the lessons we learned in 2016. We brought 232 attendees to an event celebrating education and unity in support of our Veterans.

The discussions, friendships and outpouring of support for our endeavors turned the original vision into something even greater.
We learned the stories of our heroes fighting for their right to medicate with cannabis. We learned from Veterans and cancer survivors what it truly means to have cannabis in their life. In the words of Sarah Bargas, R.N., “The doctors told me I had 6 months to live. Three years later, not dead!”

You can help. Southwest Healing Group is centered around a strong voice and vision. We will hold regular events for community growth, support meetings and broaden the community and Veteran understanding of what PTSD is and how it can be overcome.
Want to help us reduce the dozens of Veterans dying every day? Start by sharing this blog!
Support us by signing up for a membership, donating funds or time, sharing our message through your social page or e-mailing us to share an idea to help our Vets. We are people helping people. Join the tribe and help.

Dan Schmink
President and Founder
Southwest Healing Group

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