When I returned from Iraq, I thought the scariest moments in my life would be those I survived while deployed. Boy was I wrong. It was when I found myself face-down in a mud pit, in the middle of a pigpen in State College, Penn., running from insurgents that I thought were chasing me. This was the realization for me that I hadn’t survived.
I realized I needed help and when I reached out, it came in abundance. I was surprised to discover how supportive my Army Reserve unit was through this process. In fact, it became a bonding experience between my first sergeant and I, who said he was also seeking help. He told me it was the best decision he could have made.
I discovered there is no shame in admitting I was in trouble and needing help. In fact, I earned more respect from seeking treatment and facing my problems head on than I ever had while failing to be the non-commissioned officer (NCO) I wanted to be. Never once was I disciplined for my actions. Instead, my company asked what they could do to help and commended me for being open and honest about my experiences.
Last year, my unit asked me to assist the company commander in leading our suicide stand down because they saw what younger soldiers had gone through, respected me, and thought they would relate to my guidance on such a serious topic. From there, support continued to grow as I gained even more battle buddies in every aspect of my life. Soldiers approached me in the halls or at my aid station thanking me for sharing my story and asking for help with their own struggles.
I am winning the battle with post-traumatic stress disorder and by sharing my story, I am helping others do the same. Our stories need to be shared with anyone who has struggled or may struggle in the future, so they too can get help for the invisible wounds of war. I have witnessed outreach work repeatedly through initiatives like the Real Warriors Campaign, launched by the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury. I know this campaign is saving lives.
Getting help isn’t a sign of weakness—it’s a sign of strength. Reaching out for care made the difference for me; it made me a more resilient soldier and a better NCO.
Visit www.realwarriors.net for more about Staff Sgt. Krause and to learn about the tools and resources available for service members, veterans and families coping with the invisible wounds of war.
The DCoE Blog features information on psychological health and traumatic brain injury issues as well as personal stories and reflections from people within the military community on these topics.