I'm Matthew, and I have Combat PTSD.
I went to Iraq on February 21st, 2003. My unit began the ground campaign that transitioned from Operation Enduring Freedom to Operation Iraqi Freedom. I was lucky. I didn't experience the things my brothers and sisters in arms had to after me.
But what I did experience, I hid. It affected every relationship in my life. I even hid from my own family. I withdrew and hid, because they wouldn't understand.
I wouldn't say anything to anyone for a reason. How could they know what I know and understand what I feel?
After more relationships fell apart, I realized it was my fault. I had a problem. So I went to rehab, and I was lucky to find a counselor who told me what I was thinking before I opened my mouth. Then she told me why. At that moment, I knew I wasn’t alone. She changed my life.
Around the same time, my stepmother asked me to paint a desk that had sat idle for four years in her garage. I did it. That was the first moment in 14 years I found peace -- true peace -- in my life. It was like watering your driveway.
My ultimate goal through CVRRMe is to teach other Combat Veterans to paint. If I can have one, just one, feel that peace, this will be worth everything. Other Veterans have had it worse than I have, but here, that doesn’t matter. Just one brush stroke, just one piece, just one moment of peace, is all that matters.