PSAD Ex-Marine wants to aid troubled veterans

By Jake Fortune

The sun is rising in a foreign sky as it sets at home in the west.

Equipped with full combat gear and headed towards the front line, all that can be felt is a sense of pride — pride in defending one’s country, in keeping to a creed, in being trusted and respected among your comrades, in being a soldier.

This is a feeling Danny Valdez, 42, a sophomore psychology major at the University of the Incarnate Word, said he felt often while serving six years in the Marines.

However, after returning to the States, Valdez said he met some personal triumphs and downfalls — the latter being the first to occur. He fell into drug abuse, depression, anxiety, and a general confusion. Valdez said he experienced what many veterans do upon returning home — a loss of purpose.

Valdez said it took him nearly a decade to find his footing in a world that looks at the veteran before the person. But he hopes to bring both himself and as many veterans as possible into a synergetic state with society once again with his research and book, “Post-Service Adjustment Disorder: A Different Perspective on Why a Veteran Falls Apart.”

So what exactly is PSAD, and what does it have to do with the struggles of the average veteran in the United States? PTSD or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder has been the standard method of diagnoses for returning veterans. But it is becoming clear that PTSD is not the only solution.

Veteran suicide, homelessness and mental illness rates are not decreasing. Nearly 11 percent of the adult homeless population are veterans, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Valdez said there has to be a different perspective missing on this issue, and for him and many others, PSAD is that missing perspective.

PTSD is largely concerned with trauma, which is an emotional response to a terrible event. While there are veterans who have trauma and are affected immensely by that trauma, there are many other veterans who experience an entirely different problem upon returning home to their loved ones — a problem involved with adjustment.

To explain why PSAD would occur at all, context must be given regarding the training of the average U.S. soldier, Valdez said.

With most U.S. servicemen and women entering the military at age 18, usually just out of high school, they follow a completely different path than the average citizen with completely different lessons, obstacles and learning experiences.

Valdez writes in the first chapter, “The Life,” of his book: “From the moment a person is taken off the civilian bus and flung into boot-camp mode, a massive overload of culture shock is instilled.”

Through ages 18-25 for a service member, the average person is taken out and the soldier is placed in.

These soldiers learn how to clean their bunk, what their rifle is and how it works, the blast radius of different explosives, things necessary to save lives, to save one’s own life and to maintain a sense of order and complacency amongst the chaos of active service.

Because of the difference between servicemembers and the average citizens between the ages of 18 to 25, many veterans return home and fall into a state of disillusion.

“The Marines shaped me and made me into who I became,” Valdez said. “Fast forward four years later to when I come home, and I still have this mentality that I haven’t changed. I’m still Danny but I’m just more sure of myself, more confident in myself. That was as far as I thought the change had gone inside of me, but I did not realize that that I am not ‘Danny, the high school guy’ anymore that everyone knew. I am not the Danny that got on the plane years ago. I am a Marine.”

Once a soldier becomes a veteran as he or she returns home, the part of them shaped by their service is not completely gone, and it clashes with the expectations, nuances and requirements of society, Valdez said.

This internal and external conflict is the core of the philosophy of PSAD, and as Valdez writes in his book, “I am a firm believer that every veteran will face PSAD in one way or another and on many different levels of severity from mild all the way up to severe.”

So, what can be done about PSAD by the average person?

Spreading awareness of the concept is enough, but beyond that there is a change that must occur in the way people think about veterans, as well as a change in the way programs help veterans adjust to civilian life, Valdez said.

Tasks such as holding a job, being financially responsible and staying true to commitments — which may include seeking professional help — can be difficult for a veteran who might be suffering from PSAD to accomplish.

“To start, research must be developed and conducted to obtain a much clearer interpretation and understanding of PSAD,” Valdez said.

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