Joey, a wounded warrior, largely credits his wife, who is also his caregiver, with saving his life.
June is National Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Awareness Month, with June 27 designated as PTSD Awareness Day. The goal is simple: To increase knowledge among the public about issues related to PTSD, to encourage those suffering from this affliction to seek help and to provide insights into caring for family members coping with PTSD.
PTSD doesn’t just affect those who are suffering from it, but those around them, too.
Recently, Joey and Lisa Willis, a military couple from Titusville, Florida, celebrated their 7th anniversary. Joey, a wounded warrior, largely credits his wife, who is also his caregiver, with saving his life.
At age 22, Joey joined the Army as a Military Police. After extensive training, his first deployment was to Camp Bondstill, Kosovo in 2001, Second to Kandahar, Afghanistan in 2003, Iraq in 2004, providing support for the cities of Baghdad, Falujia, under the Marine Expiditonary Forces commanded by General Maddis, Ramadi and Sadar City.
“After my last deployment, I was given the option to finish my enlistment or be medically discharged,” Joey says. “I chose to finish my enlistment and was honorably discharged 01/13/2006.”
During his time serving, he was blown up three times.
Joey recounts the incidents: “The first incident was in Falujia, around April 2004, where my truck was sitting on a cloverleaf just outside of the city limits. There wasn’t heavy fighting at the time. We’re providing security, and heard two mortars leave the tube. While in combat you learn quickly the sound of incoming verses out going. I yelled for my gunner to get down, and the next I remember hearing was my radio going off. I wasn’t sure what truck was calling me, but as soon as that one would break, than another one was calling me. I wasn’t sure how long I had been knocked unconscious. The two mortars hit next to the truck. None of us went to the TMP, because we didn’t have any visible marks.
“The second incident we had been on patrol for 15 minutes and a road side bomb went off towards the back of the vehicle. I was unconscious for a couple seconds. I asked if everyone was ok, they were good, and we continued on our mission. The next day I got on a plane to go home for R&R.
“The third incident was shortly after returning from leave. We were doing a night convoy escort and a road side bomb went off in front of my Humvee. Luckily, it was just a field artillery illumination round. After that I developed a light sensitivity and was pulled off combat missions.
“These events not only left Joey with some physical injuries, but more so, emotional wounds that he has been battling with ever since.
“Due to my TBI, I suffer headaches and massive pressure in my head,” he explains of the implications of the incidents. “Emotionally, I was disconnected from love and trusting people. I unconsciously replay events from war over and over in my head and handle stress completely different than most people. By putting my trust in Christ, it has helped me to deal with all this. Knowing someday he will return and take away all of my pain and suffering.”
Loneliness and a sense of isolation was also something Joey grappled with.
“I can feel alone standing in the middle of a family gathering,” he says. “Most of it is my fault, because for so long I didn’t share my feelings with my family. The only people I felt like understood me were my battle buddies from war and some close friends in Christ.”
He soon began to realize something, emotionally, wasn’t right with him.
“Once I got out of the military and began to struggle with trust issues,” he recalls. “I was always in a state of hyper vigilance. I had a job working a round Humvees and it really started to show that I was struggling.”
Married at the time, his relationship quickly began to crumble and he hit rock bottom when his two daughters turned their backs on him.
But, he never gave up hope when things seemed entirely hopeless “because the Bible is very clear that Christ never lets you go.”
There were two things which inspired him to also believe again — Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) and a woman, named Lisa who he met on the internet.
Lisa, an Army family dependent, had a good understanding of the invisible scars vets face.