LUBBOCK, TX - Shaun Slaughter of Lubbock was enlisted in the United States army in June 2000 and served through September 2012, when he was medically discharged.
He says he had a successful 12 years in the service, but when he came back home things were different.
Slaughter says after a year out of the service, he began to experience frequent night terrors, losing hours of sleep and feeling its effects every morning.
"When you can't sleep it affects the rest of your mood, the rest of your day, the way you interact with people," said Slaughter. "I was re-experiencing or dwelling on, or remembering unwanted memories."
Not realizing it at the time, Slaughter was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress. In addition to loss of sleep, he eventually turned to alcohol and even began to violently lash out.
"It was a form of self medicating, of trying to cope or if you will, ignore what was going on," said Slaughter. "I would wake up in the middle of the night, punching the head board, screaming. My ex wife would say that she had an escape route out of the bed because there would sometimes be violent outbursts while sleeping."
Both the night terrors and fits of rage continued, and eventually Slaughter found himself bars. Later, so did someone else: VetStar, a local veteran support group.
A representative from the group found Slaughter in a jail blotter. Realizing that he was a veteran most likely suffering from post traumatic stress, they reached out to help him. It wasn't until then, Slaughter realized he wasn't alone.
'VetStar was very instrumental in getting me, they wanted to see me get help," said Slaughter. "Right now I'm doing better today than I probably have in the past 10 years."
"You know as a commander I said I'd never leave anybody behind on the battlefield. This is a new kind of battlefield we didn't prepare them for," said Colonel Dave Lewis, a veteran and the director of VetStar. "So, it's important for us to be able to find and to be able to take those people and take care of them."
Col. Lewis says the organization has been able take in 1,200 veterans this year and help taken 90 of Lubbock's homeless veterans off the streets over the last year and a half. He says most of his staff are veterans and that that connection helps tremendously in reaching out to other vets within the community.
"That veteran to veteran connection, that veteran to veteran trust is so very important," said Col. Lewis. "We can't solve everything here, but we can at least point them to the right direction."
Lewis also founded the student veterans program at Texas Tech. The TTU Military and Veterans program is in its third year and works to serve student veterans who attend the university.
Ikaika Iuta is an army veteran and psychology senior at the university. He shares he began to experience symptoms also associated with PTS shortly after returning from service.
"When New Year's happened and all the fireworks started happening, I noticed that i got startled easily with fireworks and loud noises," shared Iuta. "If you've ever ben deployed or in the military and something seems off about your lifestyle or life cycle, go talk to someone. You might not know you have PTS until you actually talk to someone and get educated."
Slaughter agrees, reaching out to someone plays a vital role in ultimately getting help but also wants to encourage those who have veterans in their lives to reach out to them as well.
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