The Scourge of PTSD

Like most Marines who have served in combat or experienced extreme, life altering, uncontrollable situations, I suffer from the affects of PTSD. With help, I’ve learned that it isn’t necessarily the event itself that causes the problem, but how we choose to allow it to affect our well being that really makes the difference.

I first began to have difficulties shortly after my first tour in Vietnam in 1967. At that time I would rely upon alcohol and bravado to get past the worst of symptoms, and it seemed to be the accepted treatment. I would go through another year and a half in Vietnam and it was 1980 before I first seen a Navy psychiatrist at the New London Submarine Base while I was on recruiting duty in Hartford CT. In 1983 I tried an Air Force psychiatrist while stationed at McDill AFB with USCentCom. Both misdiagnosed the condition as “life circumstances,” gave me some pills, a slap on the ass, and on my way. After I had retired from the Marine Corps I sought help from the Veterans Administration, who insisted on inpatient treatment with a large group of mostly losers and malingerers whose strategy was to complete the 30 days treatment plan and be awarded 100% service connected disability. I left against medical advice after five days of absurdity and swore to never step foot inside another VA medical facility.

At last, in 2001 I found my saviors in Dr. William Reed and Social Worker Dick Hefley. Dr. Reed had actually once worked for the VA, but left in disgust of the politics of the system. Dick had served in the Army with the Americal Division in the I Corps of Vietnam. Through a combination of medication and talk therapy over a number of years these men literally saved my life. I would like to share with you what they taught me over several years.

The goal, if possible, is to learn how to accept and deal with the circumstances of your situation without dependency on medications to exist day to day. Here are those lessons:

1. Nothing can change what happened to cause your PTSD. History is written in stone and no one has the ability to go back and change it. You must learn to accept it and deal with it in as positive a manner as possible.

2. There is no magic pill that will make it all go away, or change your memory. Medication can be used to treat the symptoms and ease the anxiety while you work to deal positively with the problem.

3. Avoid at all costs the “poor me” attitude which often accompanies PTSD after a period of time. It will only make it more difficult to obtain true lucidity.

4. Talk about it, talk about it, talk about it!!! Only through talk therapy can you convince yourself that you can deal positively with the things that happen to you.

Of course, I realize that I am not a psychiatric practitioner and that every case and person is different to some extent.

By: MSgt Edd Prothro, USMC Ret. 1964-1984

Sgt Grit wants to hear from you! Leave your comments below or submit your own story!


  • MSgt Edd Prothro, USMC Ret. 1964-1984

    For some reason, the conclusion to my story did not get posted. Here it is:

    “The important thing is to keep searching until you find what helps YOU to deal with your demons. I consider myself to be one of the luckiest and fortunate people alive to have regained lucidity after many years, to be medication free and be able to deal with life on a daily basis. Writing, like talking, helps me to sort out the issues and put them in the proper perspective. I sincerely hope that this information will help you as much as it has helped me. Semper Fi!!!”

  • Nick 0311

    Operation Badger Catch, Feb 68, Along the Cua-viet Bad!! First went to VA 1971, At that time they did not know how to deal with us. Check my arms for needle tracks gave me some valium and sent me on my way. booze was the way i dealt with it. Like Harry I found the Vietnam Vets Outreach in the 80’s turned out to be a good move. Always lok forward to Group best therapy i get is talking to my group buddies. group is 3 Jarheads, Me (0311) 2 engineers and 4 army guys, one was a cobra pilot with 1st cav. Nick 0311, Lima- 3/1 P.S. Who would have thought that we would still be fighting a war at home!!

  • Harry 1371

    In 1986 I found the Veterans Outreach Center . Not affiliated with the Healthcare system. I still go to individual session and a group session once a week, though lately its been on conference call type meeting. tried video but it did not work for everyone. You’re not alone M/Sgt Edd. Good Story! SEMPER FI! Harry 1371

  • Murray Hermanson

    Good Story, Edd. That’s all I got to say. Murray 1371

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