Coping with post traumatic stress
Jason Poudrier, a Purple Heart recipient and former 3-13th Field Artillery Soldier, reads from his collection of poetry "Red Fields" April 20, at Cameron University. Poudrier writes about his experience in Iraq as one way to deal with post traumatic stress.

FORT SILL, Okla.-- A veteran opens up a book and in front of family, friends and fellow Soldiers, he spills out his experience of the Iraq war word by word.

"When a Soldier is overseas, although it's stressful, life is simple. You have your M16, you have your gas mask and you have to eat and you sleep," said Poudrier. "You go back to basically animalistic instincts and you get used to that. Then you come back here and you have to pay the bills, the dog threw up on the carpet and all of a sudden everything triggers you," said Poudrier.

Jason Poudrier was in 3rd Battalion, 13th Field Artillery in Iraq, when what ended up being friendly fire took the lives of three Soldiers in his unit and put shrapnel into his body.

"I hopped out onto the ground and next thing I knew I was face up in the sand closer to a launcher that had shot a rocket and at my feet were flames," said Poudrier.

"How'd you get wounded is a difficult question for me because most of the time I just say an explosion," said Poudrier. "I wasn't taken out by an enemy, you know that would've been OK ... no it was friendly fire. Yet, everyone thought they were shooting an enemy at the time it happened."

He received the Purple Heart, which gave him mixed emotions along with survivor's guilt at coming home, when his friends couldn't.

He releases the weight of those memories with poetry. He has published two collections of poetry, "Red Fields" and "In the Rubble at Our Feet."

(Excerpts from poem: Baghdad International)
The ninety-four left of 3-13 Field Artillery, Red Dragon Battalion,
drove over bumps by night, bodies by day;
then in the afternoons, they bagged
the scrunched, scorched remains from yesterday's artillery fires,
to clear their claim of the Baghdad airport.
...
They entered another damnation
full of divorce decrees, drugs and broken bank accounts;
some brought the death back with them,
just as we all brought back our badge,
and their families got to go through it too.
Few returned to a moment's awkward embrace
of a family knowingly never understanding.
But each of the ninety-four still had each other
until car accidents, drug overdoses, and return deployments
began to pick them off like a sniper, one by one.

When Poudrier first returned home he thought he was fine. He made the Fort Sill Army 10-Miler team in 2003 and was NCO of the Quarter with III Corps.

"Basically I was just blocking everything that did not have to do with the Army. I hadn't been sleeping well and my whole life came to be what was at work and I came home and just had nothing left. And a lot of it was when I was at work I was getting triggered every day and not even knowing it."

Poudrier said his post traumatic stress had gotten to the point where he would black out and before he knew it he even had a Soldier up against a wall. He had lost control, so he went to mental health for help.

"You're trained that weakness is not good, but at the same time you're taught to take care of yourself. It's a struggle."

He volunteered to deploy because he felt he hadn't finished his mission overseas, but was kept from going because his first sergeant found out he had post traumatic stress. He tried everything he could by going through his chain of command and even spoke with the commanding general. They gave him an answer he didn't want to hear, but that he now realizes was necessary.

"On my way out I had an E-7 who was a huge influence, you know former drill sergeant, and he actually came up to me and said 'Stop the battle.' He saw how much it was affecting me. When he said that I realized wow this guy is saying that I'm getting out of control. Even the NCOs, the good ones, will understand what is going on with you."

Poudrier also tried to become an officer, but was not allowed to. After much frustration he received a discharge from the Army for medical reasons.

"I really look back and think realistically God was looking out for me and basically taking care of me when I wasn't taking care of myself," said Poudrier. "If I'm doing everything in my power to accomplish something and it doesn't happen then it wasn't meant to be, but you have to try, and I was trying everything in my power."

Afterward, Poudrier went to school and began his life after the military going through different trials and finally realizing how to cope. He said talking to someone is very important and for him, seeing a doctor has helped him get through the worst times. He is now married and an English teacher at Lawton High School.

"While you're overseas your service is more important than yourself, but when you come back you need to take care of yourself in order to live."

Page last updated Thu April 26th, 2012 at 00:00