Bill Geiger credits Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) with helping save his family. How the military police officer was handling post-traumatic stress and other issues from multiple deployments created a chasm in his home life.
"Life changed quite drastically,” Bill said. “I was just angry, depressed, anxious, just the whole spectrum of the emotions. In my mind, I was somewhat OK; I didn’t mind being that angry.”
But his wife and children saw that anger differently.
“It wasn’t until I found out how badly those emotions were affecting my family that I realized something was wrong.”
Bill’s struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) started after he deployed to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to help interrogate captives who meant Americans harm.
“We used advanced interrogation techniques on a high-value detainee from Afghanistan.”
This high-profile role in the war on terror took a toll. At first, Bill did not know why he felt different.
“I can’t say it changed a ton after my first deployment because no one was ever there to explain this is what is happening to you. You just feel off.”
That feeling stuck with Bill for nearly a year, until he received orders to deploy to Iraq.
“Everything I had dealt with and everything in my mind from Cuba was swept back under the rug because I had a job to do.”
Bill went to Iraq with his unit without addressing his issues.
“What I felt from Cuba – the anger, being on edge, and a not-very-nice person – serves very well on the battlefield.
“It wasn’t until I got home after my second deployment that things started to unravel, and I had to figure out what it was.”
With issues at home building, Bill saw a cry for help from his wife, Sara. She left an email to their pastor open on the computer – pointing out their crumbling marriage. Bill got the message and vowed to make changes. But getting help was not easy.
“You would go to a civilian doctor, and they would throw you some pills with no diagnosis.”
The frustration of not being able to find proper help did not stop Bill; he was dedicated to saving his family. A push to access the assistance he earned led him to a new path toward recovery.
“A friend mentioned Wounded Warrior Project to me and invited me to an event with warriors.
“It was just amazing being around other veterans, being around the staff. I signed up for other programs – Soldier Ride and an outdoor mental health workshop.”
That workshop put Bill in touch with coping mechanisms and a new support structure. He learned to overcome challenges like a ropes course with the encouragement of other veterans. This is just one step in addressing PTSD for a warrior focused on getting better.
“I developed and learned new coping skills, new strategies, and again the camaraderie with warriors that were not necessarily deployed to the same countries, but we all have similar experiences.”
These workshops are just one of many innovations from WWP in its 15 years of serving those who sacrificed. By connecting warriors in challenging situations, these veterans work together to heal.
“You not only have skills you can use on your own, away from other warriors, but you also have folks you can call on.”
A separate phone call fast-tracked Bill’s recovery. This time, the call was an intake call for Warrior Care Network®, an innovative approach by WWP to address the invisible wounds of war.
WWP tailors its programs to the veteran population it serves in part by listening to warriors’ needs. Each year, WWP surveys every registered veteran. This warrior survey represents the largest annual collection of data of veterans of this generation. As a consistent trend appeared showing more veterans identifying with PTSD symptoms, WWP found a need for more quality mental health care.
“You hear people say Wounded Warrior Project has life-saving programs, and people may ask ‘Really, life-saving?’ We all know the number of veterans that commit suicide every day; it’s unacceptable. Wounded Warrior Project has programs to get you plugged in with other veterans, counseling, the list goes on. When they say life-saving, that is the truth.”
WWP launched Warrior Care Network® three years ago with an initial $100 million investment at four partner academic medical centers. Home Base, a Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital Program; Road Home at Rush University Medical Center; the Veterans Program at Emory Healthcare; and Operation Mend at UCLA Health all established intensive outpatient programs to provide world-class mental health care. These programs deliver more than 70 hours of clinical mental health care – more than a year’s worth of therapy – during targeted two- to three-week sessions, all free of charge.
While expanding PTSD treatment programs, Warrior Care Network treated thousands in its first three years through these intensive outpatient clinics and more traditional outpatient therapy sessions. In total, Warrior Care Network delivered more than 90,000 hours of clinical care to veterans in need. These efforts are just the start of the battle back home.
Bill was one of the first warriors to benefit from treatment. He experienced the challenges that come with intense mental health care, reliving the traumas he buried more than a decade ago. Mindfulness programs including meditation, yoga, and tai chi helped him center himself each night. Through Warrior Care Network, Bill learned to address his anger and handle stressful situations without exploding – finding hope to keep his family.
“It means a new life – by that, I am still the same person, I still struggle, but I have so many more tools and support. I know I can call on somebody if I need to talk.”
Wounded Warrior Project is transforming the way America’s injured veterans are empowered, employed, and engaged in our communities. Through programs like Warrior Care Network, that means a return to life before the battlefield for warriors and their families.
“It’s a whole-person, whole-family approach to deal with life while still living with the invisible wounds of war.”
Bill benefited from Warrior Care Network and other WWP mental health programs – and he knows others can too, if they just take a first, courageous step.
“Wounded Warrior Project is there for anybody who needs help. The one upsetting thing that I find is that veterans don’t take the step to look for help.
There is a stigma around mental health issues. By speaking out about the benefits of seeking care, Bill and other warriors are breaking through that stigma.
“I would implore anybody who needs assistance to step out and say ‘I need help.’ The help is endless – you have to be willing to look for it, then accept it when it comes.”
Learn more about Warrior Care Network at https://www.woundedwarriorproject.org/programs/warrior-care-network.
Contact: Rob Louis – Public Relations, firstname.lastname@example.org, 904.627.0432
About Wounded Warrior Project
Since 2003, Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) has been meeting the growing needs of warriors, their families, and caregivers – helping them achieve their highest ambition. Learn more: https://newsroom.woundedwarriorproject.org.