Nicholas’s Story

Posttraumatic stress disorder has been a big part of my life ever since my first tour in Iraq when I lost my best friend in my arms.  Not only is a member of the patrol, but I was also his combat medic, the one who was to take care of them and bring them back home. The nightmares were nightly occurrence for me and try to get help in the military for it, but all they did was push pills on me.  A short time after getting back from Iraq with PTSD was compounded with the stillbirth of what would’ve been my second son, and then shortly to follow after was my divorce. The lady I was married to as a soldier as well, which made it even harder thinking somebody who could understand PTSD and what I was going through still had no problem walking way for me.  Within a few weeks of my divorce I was moved over to a specialty school to be a medic there, we were short staffed and I would go in at 3 AM and work till noon the following day.  So getting help there was next to impossible and even cut into my sleep if I was to try to get help.  After living especially school I went and did a tour through Afghanistan, which again upon the request for getting help was just given pills.  Upon returning from Afghanistan during the reintegration physicals I was even told I was on enough medicine for sleeping that I should not have been in combat.  After getting out of the military, the adjustment to civilian life really took its toll on me and stuff got bad enough to where I wasn’t sleeping for three or four days at a time due to the fact I was scared to go to sleep because nightmares were so bad and the pills were working.  Started drinking way too much just like it pass out and get sleep and ended up with a DUI as well.  With not sleeping in the drinking checked myself into an inpatient clinic for veterans and spent close to four months there doing both alcohol treatment and PTSD treatment.  To this day I still go to a weekly group meeting and to individual therapy as well.  I’ve been on several different meds since getting out, and even had problems with meds making me have suicidal thoughts but yet the VA just kept giving me more and more pills.  It seems that the biggest answer for any of it to most the doctors in the VA system is here just try these new pills.  I know there’s better ways and more helpful ways of dealing with it and that’s something I want to become as one of the counselors who does the other ways than just pushing the pills.  The VA has rated me at 50% disability rating form of PTSD, even though I have a total of three suicide attempts, they keep telling me to make the next rating I have to have suicidal ideations.  One big factor that I’ve noticed in my life and in other people’s lives is a struggle with relationships, and this is a very true factor for me.  I’ve tried to have several different relationships but none of them seem to go anywhere or progress to a level to where I feel I can commit to them.  I’ve heard others say the same thing and it’s almost like we have a feeling of being dead inside when it comes to love.  As well as friendships I can say personally I have four friends that I talk to regularly, and just a couple family members that I can still communicate with.  PTSD has taken a big toll on several years of my life, and it’s a struggle every day my goal is to not only give myself better, but be able to help get other veterans better as well.  As well as I know in the strive to help other veterans I will continue to help myself and only keep growing getting better due to my helping of them.

Benjamin’s Story

Dear RJT Criminal Defense Partners and readers alike,

First and foremost, thank you for taking the time to review the admissions made by our service men and women, and myself for the scholarship award that has been generously offered to those who have made that sacrifice.

I am writing to request your consideration for candidacy for the award offered. I understand that the award will be granted to those who are most qualified and deserving. I would like to tell a little about myself so that proper weight can be placed upon my consideration.

At 24 years of age, I remember the day I got the pamphlet in my mailbox for the Army National Guard as fresh as ever. I had recently dropped out of highschool and obtained my G.E.D. I had no idea where my life was headed, and my options appeared to be bleak. With nothing to lose, I enlisted and went to basic training in February 2009, and graduated in July 2009. While my peers were walking across their high school graduation stage, I had accomplished something superbly more significant; I became a soldier. However, as with all great things it came at the cost of sacrifice, resulting in my current diagnosis of P.T.S.D.

This title of soldier is a unique burden, especially for myself. As I tell others, my previous lifestyle was unruly and I would likely be dead or in jail– in the absence of some other intervention– had it not been for the military instilling the qualities of leadership (L.D.R.S.H.I.P.): loyalty, duty, respect, selflessness, honor, integrity, and personal courage. However, I call it a unique burden because it is a sense of self that fellow veterans and I carry, a challenge to be the best we can be. For me, that means a lot of things. For example, today, as I continue my education I challenge myself to excel and make sure my peers excel. It is my sense of duty that drives my studies. This sense of duty has led me to my current degree, Associate of Applied Science in Paralegal Studies, so that I may begin my journey giving back to the community and help those who may be in their darkest hours, and who need someone they can rely on to protect them and enforce their rights. I see my education coming to an end when I attain my J.D. and can practice as an attorney, and serve my community once more by representing indigent clients as a public defender, as well as those who wish to immigrate to our country and live the American dream.

But not for my experience in the military, there is no doubt that my aspirations would be self serving, easily attainable achievements that overlook the inequities of our society. Again, but not for my service in the military, disparate livelihood and inequitable conditions would not expend my mental utility. Rather, it was seeing the community of Iraqis living in miserably meager conditions, children with empty water bottles begging for water, and even the Iraqi Army servicemen manning the checkpoints were without any provisions of necessity. That is a world I want to fight against, because I believe the power of the human spirit can overcome the most difficult of circumstances, but not without some support. Again, without the support of our military, I too would be living in miserably meager conditions, I am proof of what life can flourish when properly supported. Even though I enlisted believing I had nothing to lose, I never realized all that I would gain through my service.

It is for the aforementioned reasons why I have since dedicated my education, and soon career to supporting those who are in need. “Gods work” may be one way of putting it, as it is all seemingly impossible and infinitely honorable, but thanks to the military and the sense of duty I have carried from it, I am crazy enough believe in achieving the seemingly impossible, and that is what I will set out to do.

I am motivated not only to promote wellness and prosperity, but also to prevent the atrocities of war from occurring. The trauma I had endured is marginal in comparison to those who have sacrificed more, or those who live in the regions torn by war and brutality. Yet, it is still a mental burden that I would wish on nobody, resulting in a suicidal cynicism for a short time my first year back in a country so prosperous that people have to freeze water into little cubes and put it into their water just to enjoy it– a small sample of this cynicism. I could not imagine what catastrophe our fellow citizens would fall under if our country came under substantial threat. We have our safety and security knowing that rough and rugged men and women are willing to do our bidding for us. I rather not subject men and women to any such circumstance. Analogous to a child with chickenpox who is itching for relief, I liken our country and citizens at times of danger striking fear; except when America itches– or engages in combat– it historically causes more harm. This is ultimately my greatest ambition, as I recognized through my service, and the aftermath where I struggled with P.T.S.D. that it is the power of the pen, not the sword, that is almighty. As I enter my professional career as an attorney, I will be a voice that represents those who see combat engagements as callous and reckless solutions, as non-solutions. Albeit, the impact of an individual may never extend very far, I know that my mind will not allow me to rest easy if I do not make every effort to stem the tides of war and conflict.

Once more, thank you so much for taking the time to review the scholarship requests sent by others and myself. I am sure it will be difficult to choose, but I know that whoever receives it will be someone with a propensity for social wellness and prosperity, and for that I am grateful.



Betty’s Story

I was capable of doing my job in the army as a medical assistant until I was sexually assaulted by an officer on a date. I brought it to the attention of my company commander who handled the matter. I was asked if I wanted counseling but I declined. That was in the late 80’s.

I felt really sensitive to sexual remarks and innuendos from men in general. I was very humiliated and angry inside. I didn’t know it at the time but I developed post-traumatic stress disorder right there and then. I distrusted men and had problems with intimacy.

I did, somehow, married a Vietnam War veteran, fifteen years older, who was diagnosed with PTSD. He was taking the medication, Prozac. Living with someone like that was very difficult. He would self-medicate with marijuana and alcohol as well. A few times he would convince me to partake in bondage and whipping. I was in denial that I was in an abusive relationship. When I came to the realization that he was no good for me, I fled to live with my family and later ended the five-year marriage.

I had episodes of depression and became self-loathing. I drank a lot and it made me more vulnerable to men to take advantage of me. It was usually the bar or some dance club that I gravitate towards. I remembered once that I was raped in a strip club. That case was not reported to the police. I used to have nightmares of that scene.

My parents did not like my promiscuous behavior because I was with so many wrong men. I didn’t care about the consequences and eventually my mother threw me out of her home. I became homeless and I met others that are also outcasts. I had no female friends. I trusted no one.

While living in a homeless shelter I dated a man who later gave me a home. He helped me be seen by the staff at the VA clinic where I was treated for military sexual trauma. It was not easy for me to talk about it. After many therapy sessions I revealed that I had a second incident in the military where I was sexually assaulted by two other enlisted soldiers in my bedroom. I was tied, gagged and probed with a pool-stick. I never told anyone during that time. I can’t recall their names.

I often wondered if PTSD developed at the time I was having a gynecological exam for the army. The doctor said I was “immature” and laughed inappropriately during the inspection. He later asked if I had ever had sex and I lied and said “yes”. He said I was unfit to join. I was in pain for several days both physically and mentally. I was a virgin and was confused as to what I was supposed to do. Luckily, the recruiter coached me to pass the psychological exam to gain entry into the military.

I was trying to deal with the post-traumatic stress disorder on my own when I got out with an honorable discharge. I wasn’t able to maintain adequate employment. It usually lasts a few months. I always felt insecure and worthless. I once quit my job in hospitality due to the night watchman’s sexual harassment.

I am living with a little fear of putting myself in bad situations with the PTSD. I do have a wonderful nurse that would listen to me and I am taking medications for my mental illness. Physically, I have gained so much weight due to the pills. I have to diet and exercise. Even though I received a 70% disability rating, I am striving to lead a better life by acquiring new skills through a college education. My life is more calm and stable. I am hopeful that I can handle new challenges with courage. I wish for others to start healing and seeking help like I did.

Mark’s Story; PTSD and Me

Waking up in the morning used to be one of the greatest feelings in the world. A bright sunny day ahead of you, interesting people to meet and greet. All of that had to change at some point right? The perfect world answer is no, but in this this war torn world we live in, the world decided that I would no longer get to feel that way in the morning. Now it is a sluggish morning daze from the time that I open my eyes until the time they hit the pillow. That is mostly from the sleeping medication that I need to take so I do not wake up in a sweat with my heart pounding and my wife leaning over me trying to calm me down, someone give that woman an award for me will you? The sleeping is not the only problem that I run into now though. It is the constant watchful eye that I must maintain while I am out in public…which I try to avoid at all costs. That wouldn’t be so bad if I lived alone and had no one that depended on me for survival. My children need to go places and do things that normal kids do, you know go to the park and things like that. The only issue with going to those places is that my watchful eye never seems to quit. Where is the next threat coming from? That guy over there looks suspicious, I bet he has a gun hiding under his coat. That is just a small example of the things that go through my mind when out in public. It is an unnecessary burden that I would like to stop, but how? The one thing that always seems to brighten my day up no matter what the mood is my children. They are the apple of my eye and never cease to amaze me and put a smile on my face. The other option I have is therapy and really who wants to talk to a stranger about problems that they do not care about. Besides I live in Phoenix, Arizona, the worst VA hospital in the United States sits just 10 minutes from my house. If I was to try and go to them for help it would take me 9 months to get a new patient appointment, like it did the first time I tried to go there back when I was first Honorably Discharged from the United States Marine Corps back in January 2013. I know that my PTSD is not as bad as others and I am grateful for that, but this disorder does affect me and others greatly in a very serious way. This disorder is not only affecting Veterans it is also affecting everyday Americans also.  I believe that more awareness needs to be given to others like me and start the healing process. I have finally begun the healing process on my own, once I got health care that was out of reach from the irresponsible shadow that the Phoenix VA hospital casts. My mood has improved, my relationship with my wife has improved the terrifying feeling of being in public is still there just not as strong. I have even started to use that feeling of anxiety and panic and put it toward something positive, my school work. I have been working extremely hard to accomplish my goals in school so much so that I have maintained a 4.0 grade point average through my first two semesters of college. I will be applying for honors next semester and am looking forward to the challenge that awaits. The money from your scholarship will help me in numerous way that will help alleviate some of the stress that comes from the financial side of being in school and only working part time with a wife and two children. Thank you for your time and pleaser consider me for the scholarship.

Richard E’s Story

Ever since I have been out of the Army, I have dealing with my PTSD in my own way. The sub-contractors that the VA send me to, tell me that I do have a severe PTSD but like the others that you hear about with veterans losing control and bottling up their emotions of what they had to see and deal with. Mine, on the hand is the exact opposite with the exception on anger issues but very rare. The reason for I believe is that I talk about my experiences not to bloat or make myself look like a “tough guy” but relieve the pressure of my emotions. That something I have figured out throughout my employment with “rent to own” businesses due to having many interactions with other veterans. I have refused and denied any PTSD medication for the simple that I have lost an Army brother on a overdose of the medication. I have been blown up three times when I was in Iraq where my second IED blast was the worse out of all of them.

When I came into the Army, I had aspirations to serve 20 years then retire, then becoming a police officer with possibly of being SWAT team member. From there become a probation officer and on the side a being football coach at a local high school to mentor those young lives that were pretty getting into the real world. I got out of the military I had no idea what to do with my life, which very hard on me to cope with. I cannot pursuit all of my goals that I had planned out for, like being police officer and everything that follows that path. The only I can do now is become a football coach out of all my aspirations.

In the Army, I had a few nicknames that my “brothers” have given me like, “Ponch”, “Poncherello”, “Chips” from the TV show “CHiPs” with Erik Estrada but my favorite one is “Sapper Workhorse”. That nickname was given to me for my ability to carry my own weight out in the field or when we do buddy carries with someone to the same weight and still go on a full sprint. Now I can’t do anymore for my injuries to my back and neck, which is depressing to me. My injuries, depression and to top it off with a dash PTSD has taken a toll on me mentally and physical, I have gained weight because of it. It is almost like a snowball that you roll down on the top a snowy mountain and gets bigger and bigger as it rolls over snow but for me though it seems like that never reaches the bottom.


I have been married and it will be 10 years in January 2017. My wife and I have had some really rough patches in our marriage with my lack of interests on what we use to do. A lot of it has to do with my physical body but the rest is just more mental than anything else. I can say that we fought through or went around the issues but still exist in our marriage. With our almost 10 years we have brought to life our son and he is a Junior and I have great pride in him now that he is 6 years old. I only hope that he has pride in me and his name being Richard Estrada Jr. The thing is that I feel that I degrade that pride with my PTSD. Even though I have a decent coping mechanism to overcome it or to push forward but it is always will be in the back of my mind that I can’t help think that pride would soon diminish over time with my son. Every night that I step out onto my back porch to have a cigarette I would ask myself “Did serve my country well?” and repeat it again and again with the affirmation of telling myself “yes you did” but then I return to doubt.

PTSD is always being lifelong back and forth battle with yourself to reach no end, well that is what I believe. The one thing I can say and tried to apply into my own experiences is to embrace it, honor it, respect it and hope to overcome it but do not succumb to it.