Combat deployments can be a defining time in the lives of service members, the chaplain for the Pennsylvania Army National Guard’s 28th Infantry Division told Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support employees Aug. 25.
Lt. Col. Douglas Etter shared deployment stories of his own and other service members during a post-traumatic stress disorder workshop. Etter also works as the manager of Public and Community Relations at the Lebanon VA Medical Center.
“I think everyone who has been to combat comes back different,” said Etter. “You cannot be in combat and remain the same. I have family members all the time that verify that for me.”
Etter deployed twice in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, from 2005 to 2006 and from 2008 to 2009. Since his first deployment, he’s been working with veterans as a way “to go take care of my brothers and sisters-at-arms.”
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs National Center for PTSD, about 11 to 20 percent of veterans from OIF and Operation Enduring Freedom have PTSD.
“PTSD is when something happens to you or you witness something that happens to someone else and it involves extreme terror,” said Etter.
Army Brig. Gen. Charles R. Hamilton, DLA Troop Support commander, hosted the workshop as a way to help DLA Troop Support employees better understand PTSD and how to help those dealing with it be successful in the workplace.
“This is really about awareness,” said Hamilton. “In many cases, we need to be aware of what PTSD is all about and how it can affect anyone. The other part of that is that we have to be sensitive to it as well.”
Overall, human beings are resilient, and most service members are able to readjust to normal life after being in combat, Etter said. But Etter believes there’s an adjustment period for anyone who served in combat.
“All service members, when they return from a combat environment, have adjustment issues,” said Etter.
Army Sergeant 1st Class Marcus Jones, customer account specialist in Clothing and Textiles, attended the event and said it was important for employees to get a glimpse of what warfighters go through, especially since DLA supports them.
“It is something, when you have those memories and personal experiences, and to have somebody talk, not just to you, but talk to a broad audience and really get folks to think of how is my buddy to my right or left doing in response to combat,” said Jones.
Etter said there are various organizations to help those suffering with PTSD:
A military behavioral health unit for service members
Veterans Affairs for prior service members
The National Alliance on Mental Illness for others
“We want to recognize the symptoms if we can,” Hamilton said. “Or more importantly, we want to try and get that person to some type of professional help or encourage them to anyway.”