Finding Purpose: A Veteran’s Journey
Most combat veterans would agree that they never imagined spending their lives in a carousel of medical appointments. How could they? Warriors are not meant to wither away in waiting rooms. They are supposed to lay it all out on the line and live in remembrance for generations to come. For many, this cold reality conceals the belief of ever being able to contribute as they once did, but sometimes being inserted back into chaos can be a quick reminder that they still have plenty more to offer.
Part 2: Shining in the Midst of the Storm
On the morning of September 20th 2017 the devastation of Hurricane Maria left the island of Puerto Rico in shambles. Not only did the category 4 phenomena destroy our precious tropical landscape, it also shifted the population’s mindset into survival mode. The uncertainty that ensued in the following moments brought despair upon the islanders as most families were left without power, water and communication.
Within hours an unprecedented humanitarian emergency demanded an urgent response. Military personnel from the National Guard & Army Reserves were summoned to leave their families behind. However, because of the lack of communication not everyone was able to report for duty immediately. It was at this moment that our forgotten heroes took matters into their own hands and began to do what they had done many times before.
Fight as You Train
For many civilians the aftermath of Hurricane Maria seemed like a nightmare that they couldn’t wake up from, but for veterans this is when countless hours of training began to feel like home. As military members we are constantly thrown into dire situations in order to test our mettle. We train as we fight and we fight as we train. There are no physical or emotional wounds that could ever erase the muscle memory acquired through years of experience.
With most of the rural towns being isolated by the lack of road access the delivery of supplies and medical attention became extremely strenuous. This gave local veterans an opportunity to spearhead relief efforts throughout their communities successfully. Their military experiences had made them understand the severity of the situation and without their instinctual actions many other lives could have been affected. For those treacherous moments instincts took over the situation and any limitation they might have had prior to this atmospheric event was compartmentalized until it was over.
The haze of what had just transpired began to settle in for the general population almost as quickly as the adrenaline of self-sacrifice started to wear off. Federal disaster relief agencies and a stronger military presence seemed enough for local veterans to comprehend that their “mission” was complete.
As the serene sensation of satisfaction fell upon them, the bitter realization that they just might have inadvertently overwhelmed themselves became apparent. Unable to suppress their emotions any further, related symptoms associated with behavioral health issues heavily exacerbated leading them to look for respite. At a moment’s notice the memory of innate heroism faded away as they were relegated to their realities once again.
The Warrior Spirit
Now that the island finds itself in a rebuilding phase, many veterans are making an effort to reinsert themselves back into the community in any which way they can. It’s hard to imagine that it took an atmospheric disaster for some to realize that they still have so much more to offer. Maybe this was the reminder that they needed.
What seemed like an impossible feat for some is a testament to the “warrior spirit”. That no matter the limitations (physical or emotional) the heart will move towards a swift and imperative conclusion to conflict, never away from it.
David J. Ortiz (MSW) is an Iraq war veteran educated in Military Behavioral Health. He is currently focusing his energy towards assisting service members in living well-rounded, productive lives. You can find him occasionally on Twitter as @balancedsoldier and if you want to read some of his past posts you can find them @ facebook.com/balancedsoldierlife/ Also, checkout his Instagram page instagram.com/balancedsoldier if you’re looking for motivational and uplifting content. Namasté