Soldier Recovering From PTSD Calls For More Attention

U.S. Army veteran James Tedford shares his experience with missing his unit in Afghanistan. James served in Afghanistan in 2009 with a 2nd Brigade out of Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Military.com shares his testimony. (Published Friday, Sept. 28, 2018)

Without the protective bubble of his unit, James Tedford describes taking on massive challenges that would consume most.

‘It’s been rough,’ said the 35-year-old veteran.

A recent graduate of Georgia Tech with an M.A. in neuroscience, Tedford finds himself attempting to live his dream as a neurologist. But he’s also very worried about losing the ability to get regular doses of opiates and citalopram, his prescription painkillers, as he awaits a new VA medication to help with PTSD.

On a crowded Tuesday night, Tedford talks about the challenges he’s trying to overcome in his real life after being part of one of the biggest fighting forces in the world: The 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division.

U.S. Army Veteran Josh Hindey speaks at the Hollywood Veterans Support Center in Hollywood, Fla. | F.o.e. Brian Bladins/Military.com

During his combat tours in Afghanistan, he was assigned to take on rocket attacks and bomb defusing through grueling squad and platoon operations. At one point, he lost three friends who were killed by Taliban snipers. When he returned home in 2009, he fought a brutal battle with withdrawal.

Tedford relies on a lot of pills, and sleeps a lot. All of which leads to addictions, despite plans to seek private treatment. And a growing number of veterans of the military are dealing with PTSD.

For starters, it involves the brain. There’s a growing link between a brain injury that results from a sniper bullet or an explosion, PTSD and biologic changes in the brain, according to Dr. Shirley Brandau, chief of the Psychological and Psychosocial Service of the Department of Veterans Affairs National Center for PTSD in Jacksonville, Florida.

“As you’re working on different aspects of the brain,” said Brandau, “you’re working with structural integrity that’s being affected, and that’s the fact that all kinds of problems with the brain are causing the structures of the brain to become stretched or destabilized or diseased or damaged. And you have a constant exposure to stressors, whether it’s your head or your face.”

But some of the symptoms of PTSD include disruptions in sleep that can last several weeks.

“For us with many of our students, who have been deployed but who also suffered from PTSD, that becomes a really hard transition to come home, because that was the first thing that would occur: ‘My sleep’s been disrupted,’ ‘I’m waking up feeling helpless,’ and on and on and on,” said Vicki Winton, who is executive director of the medical clinic at the Miami National Center for PTSD.

Despite the medical issue, there are people like Tedford, who want to keep the service and create stories of courage.

“We love to help those that need help, because we’ve done it for so long, and we want to do more for those that have come back, and need to rebuild their lives,” said Tedford.

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