After struggling with PTSD, Navy veteran uses meditation, counseling to help others overcome trauma
- Year: 2013
- Length: 5:02 minutes (4.62 MB)
- Format: MP3 Mono 44kHz 128Kbps (CBR)
This Memorial Day weekend, veterans, families and communities across the US are taking part in events to honor soldiers who have died while serving in the armed forces. The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America is calling for a moment of silence on Monday at noon eastern when officials will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. For many veterans and their families, it’s also a time to find ways to confront their past experiences and to heal. It can be a long process marked by trauma but one that moves forward by a hard-fought hope for the future. Across the country, a network of veterans are reaching out directly to other service members with resources to help respond to PTSD. One of those groups is HopeforPTSDVets.org founded by Kevin Taylor of Wimberley, Texas. Taylor himself has spent many years struggling with his experiences when he was stationed with the US Navy on the USS Vincennes in the Persian Gulf in July 1988, near the end of the Iran - Iraq war. That July, Taylor was sitting at his air radar consul, when reports of possible enemy ships and aircraft came in.
TAYLOR: “Once they had done that, our captain, Captain Will Rogers asked for permission from Commander of Middle East Task Force for permission to engage these gun boats with our five-inch guns. It took a little while, it seemed like forever, twenty minutes I guess, before permission was granted and then we began firing our guns at these gun boats.”
At first, Taylor said, the command center was filled with the anxiety and excitement of battle, but that suddenly disappeared, when there was an indication that something went terribly wrong.
TAYLOR: “It was about twenty minutes later that we received a secure transmission from the commander of Middle East task force that Flight 655 from Bandar Abbas to Dubai was late in arriving. And it was at that point that the excitement at CIC turned to shock and we all began to grasp what had happened and what the implications were.”
MERINA: “And what you found out later, was that the flight that was struck down was a passenger Iran Air Flight 655 bound for Dubai?”
TAYLOR: “Correct, with 290 passengers plus crew.”
MERINA: “There was an investigation that followed, it cleared you of wrong-doing and identified a software error, but this still offered little relief to you.”
TAYLOR: “It really, it didn’t. In that situation, which I think is the definition of the fog of war, in an engagement like that, your training kicks in and you do what you were trained to do. I was actually command advanced a rank for my performance in that particular engagement, even though the results were tragic. And that maybe even compounded my guilt and shame of the incident, but I spent the next 20 years not understanding that it was post-traumatic stress but dealing with the symptoms of it and it almost killed me.”
Taylor spent the following years as what he calls a nomad through the Southern US, including becoming homeless, stints in jail, battling drug addiction and attempts at suicide. But it was in jail when he found meditation, a key practice he says that helped save his life, especially from the terror of post-trauma, which he describes as a river.
TAYLOR: “It takes you wherever it wants you to go, you’re caught in the current of it, the rapids. It tosses you to and fro and you have no choice in the direction you want to go. Meditation provided me the opportunity to step out on the bank and observe the river, without having to participate in it and when that happens you begin to have a choice. When you understand that you’re not your thoughts and emotions, that you can observe them with the opportunity to step out on the bank and observe the river without having to participate in it and then you cultivate a choice and once you cultivate a choice, then you can begin to find peace.”
Taylor’s Texas-based group, HopeforPTSDVets.org, uses meditation, reiki, mindfulness and art therapy to help veterans. It also conducts retreats and bring veterans together to from what it calls the Veterans Support Squad. To find upcoming events from Taylor’s group: www.hope4ptsdvets.org.