Jason Warford's story begins in 1995. There was hope after the bloody, ethnic civil war in Bosnia. After years of violence, a peace agreement has led to free elections. Those elections are being supervised by NATO troops.. and placed among a Nordic-Polish brigade, Jason was the lone American.
"We couldn't go anywhere without a fortified vehicle convoy. You never knew when you were going to get pot shots taken at you," Jason said.
"I was the only American in this town called Prenuojia (sp). and there was a time when the crowd got out of hand and training kicked in and to this day I hate the fact that it did."
As the crowd began to riot, a young boy stepped toward Jason. He was carrying a grenade.
"I told him to stop and he didn't listen.. he didn't understand me. and I couldn't see if that pin was pulled or not and whenever he raised his arm instinct took over and I raised my weapon and fired," Jason said.
"I took the life of a little boy. And all he wanted.. He wanted to trade me a grenade for some water. But at the time I didn't know that. And ever since that day, I've had issues with nightmares and going into crowds."
And that's how it begins for so many. And the effects of 'the silent suffering' are staggering. 18-veterans commit suicide in this country every day.. one every 80-minutes. Add to that countless violent crimes..drug and alcohol issues..problems holding jobs.And that leads to problems at home.
It took 13-years for Jason to tell his family what happened.
Leila Levinson is the founder of veteranschildren.com. She spent years studying the effects of PTSD on families.. leading to her book, titled 'Gated Grief'.
"Many veterans believe that the only way to protect their children from the horrors that they've seen is through silence. What I saw was, how critical it is for a veteran to believe they can speak their truths. They can speak their stories. Telling the story is the single best way to remove the barriers, the gates, the walls that silence creates", said Leila.
But Jason said, "I talk to friends now who still don't want to talk about it because it's hard."
But the Veterans Administration is beginning to recognize the scope of the problem. They'll spend $600-million dollars this year on treatment. And local counselors are putting that to good use.
"They have anger management classes, they have one-on one counseling, they have group sessions, they have a group that comes in, they teach you how to act on your emotions", Jason said.
"We just need to get the word out there that there are people that will help you. Just don't hold on to it. Don't sit on it. Find an avenue to release that energy. Don't keep it built up or it'll ruin your life. Like I almost ruined mine."
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Click here to watch Part 2.
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