Since our troops have been returning from the War on Terror, many of them have been finding many different ways to deal with living with the after effects of having deployed to combat, namely, dealing with P.T.S.D. Many have found solace in animals, such as P.T.S.D. service dogs, while others have taken up new hobbies like fishing or fitness. For Andrew R. Jones, a former Marine who took part in the shock and awe campaign in the opening stages of the Iraq War, having served as an 0351 (Anti-Tank Assaultman) with Fox Co. 2nd BN 23rd Mar attached to 1st Mar Div. RCT-1, comfort has come through writing.
Jones took part in fighting from the Kuwait/Iraq border all the way to the eastern portion of the capital city of Baghdad. Before his action in Iraq, he had taken part in Operation Noble Eagle in 2002 as well as Operation Peace Shield in Ukraine, 2005.
A man with so many experiences, who participated in perhaps the bloodiest, most active part of any war in modern history, has many ghosts behind his eyes. Sleep doesn’t always come easy, and inner peace is a luxury he wishes he could afford on a regular basis; but to come home and ‘get over it,’ or be able to ‘leave the past in the past’ is a struggle for Jones as much as any other combat veteran.
Fortunately, he has his writing. And he’s damn good at it! But don’t take my word for it. The proof is in the pudding. Have a scoop:
By Andrew R. Jones
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder PTSD,
This is the label they have placed on me.
Along with a mild Traumatic Brain Injury
Caused by the blast of an RPG.
I began to think, what’s wrong with me?
Why do I continue to see what I have already seen?
Or hear screams that have already been screamed?
I bleed blood I should no longer bleed.
What’s wrong with me?
I have a disorder they tell me.
A disassociation from society.
A disagreement with how to be.
A dysfunction with how I see.
There is nothing wrong with me
I have become what I am meant to be.
After experiencing war and tragedy
My actions should be labeled Normalcy.
This poem, “My Label,” is just one of many of Jones’ work that shows how his deep insight, combined with his talent and a desire to heal has been helping him do just that, and he’s been helping many other veterans who follow his work do the same.
Jones says he joined the Marines as opposed to any of the other branches of service because of pride. “I knew I wanted to be in the Military since I was 14,” he says. “The pride, confidence, and motivation I saw in the Marines I met always inspired me and left me envious. I felt the Marines were the toughest branch of service, and if I was going to join the Military I didn’t want to feel like I could’ve done better.”
He looks back on his time in the Marines, saying, “When I first got out, I felt as if my time was done. I served my time, fought my war, trained younger Marines and decided it was time to walk away. Many times in the first few years I thought about re-enlisting. But I was on my second marriage with two children and wanted to be able to focus on my family. In the end, that didn’t pan out the way I had hoped, but I am happy with where my life has ended up today.”
Jones first took to writing in 2008, when so many thoughts and memories in his head felt as if they simply could not stay there safely. He knocked out more than forty pages, bleeding his heart and soul onto the paper, and he found that once he had, he’d come to a place of peace.
Similar feelings overcame him in 2011 and again, he turned to writing. “A specific incident in Al Gharraf was plaguing my mind and nightmares,” he says of that time. “I decided to once again sit down and write. I started seeing a PTSD Counselor and with the support of my girlfriend, now fiancée, I was compelled to write more. I started taking classes at community college and received my first publication with my story, Al Gharraf.
“I feel I have the ability to put into words what many veterans and their family members cannot,” he says of how he views his writing can help others. “I have opened my heart and become vulnerable, sharing my thoughts, dreams, emotions and parts of my life I am not proud of. I pray that through my actions, I can motivate and inspire others to follow my example and begin their journey of healing. Once more veterans begin this journey, society will be inspired to open their eyes to our struggles, gain an understanding of what we endure, and be able to feel empathy towards us instead of fear.”
Jones is currently a student at Glendale Community College in Glendale, Arizona, and he plans to transfer to Arizona State University to pursue a Master’s Degree in creative writing. Afterward, he plans to create and participate with sincere veteran’s groups to further the opportunities available to combat veterans.
In regard to advice for people dealing with combat veterans suffering with P.T.S.D. and veterans themselves, he says this: “A lot of people reach out to me and ask how to handle their husband, brother, son or good friend who is a combat veteran. They want to know how to make them get help and how to make them better. My answer is always the same. You can’t make them get help. It has to be their decision to get help. The best thing a loved one of a combat veteran can do is love them. Continue to show them your love and support and remind them they are strong and they have a good heart. They won’t believe you, but if you consistently re-enforce those thoughts, it will make a difference. Guide them to places and people willing to help, but allow them to make the move to reach out.
“As for fellow vets, you are not alone. You are not the only one crying or waking up to your own screams and night sweats. You are not wrong for feeling the way you feel. There is no shame in getting help. Our war is now here at home and in our minds. We need to have each other’s backs now, just as we did on the battlefield.”
Jones is currently working on a couple of upcoming publications that feature his work and the work of other veterans.
You can view Jones’ other work on Facebook.
Keep writing, Andrew, so that we can keep reading your wonderful work!
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