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A Call to Service After 9/11

SEPTEMBER 11, 2018 | 3-minute read

Nathan was just 17 years old on Sept. 11, 2001, when he saw the devastating news flash across the television — the World Trade Center had been hit by a plane.

“I was angry and frustrated, like many other Americans were,” he remembers.

Nathan had graduated from high school early and was still figuring out what he wanted to do next. That fateful day’s events made up his mind: “Somebody’s got to do something,” he recalls thinking. “So that’s why I joined [the U.S. Marine Corps].”

After eight years as a combat engineer and three deployments to Iraq, Nathan looks back proudly at his military career. “If I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it right,” he says.

But the transition to civilian life was tough. He felt like a stranger in his own home. He missed being around other Marines. He isolated himself from friends and family, spending time alone on his computer. “My wife [and] my kids didn’t understand why I was different. And I didn’t understand them anymore,” says Nathan. “So I pulled away when I got out. I thought it was everyone else’s fault that they didn’t get me.”

The difficult memories of his combat experience took a toll on Nathan. Looking back with 20/20 hindsight, he says that his symptoms of PTSD affected him immediately after he returned home.  His wife urged him to reach out for support. “She said, ‘Look, either you get help, or I get out,’” he remembers. “I did get help.”

I have a family now. That’s my new mission. Nathan

Nathan found support at a local Vet Center, where he and his wife received marriage and family therapy. The experience helped him understand his PTSD — why he feels the way he does and how he can cope. “Now that I understand [PTSD] better, that was my first step in creating a better household.”

“I have a family now,” Nathan says. “That’s my new mission.”


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