FORT KNOX, Ky. – Many combat-experienced Soldiers can describe things that they’ve seen and survived which have had a profound effect on their lives. One recently-retired 1st Theater Sustainment Command Soldier tells his story about living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, obtaining mental health treatment, and keeping his security clearance.
People can develop PTSD after surviving a traumatic event. It is a mental health condition, which can occur after experiencing severe trauma or a life-threatening incident, like military combat and being deployed to a war zone.
Mental health treatment is available and Soldiers will not lose a security clearance for seeking help. Soldiers can continue a career in the Army while receiving mental health treatment for symptoms of PTSD.
This topic means a lot to retired master sergeant Seth Nuckols, former noncommissioned officer in charge of G2, and suicide prevention counselor for 1st TSC. Because he has seen many Soldiers end their lives by suicide.
He has told his story many times during suicide prevention training at the 1st TSC. He often described how a tragic event that occurred during combat in Afghanistan reemerged as what Nuckols referred to as a “disassociated event.”
“I was receiving treatment for my PTSD, and my doctor decided to take me off my medication when this happened,” the retired master sergeant said.
“I blacked out, and when I woke up, I found that I had placed a tourniquet on myself,” he said.
He believes his combat experiences contributed to his PTSD and recalled a battle where Soldiers died and were severely injured. Nuckols found himself applying multiple tourniquets to wounded Soldiers during the event.
“I’ve always maintained open communication about my treatment,” Nuckols said.
“Having a clearance, one, is a big deal, but even more importantly, is being able to maintain it.
“Because our adversaries take every opportunity to target us, so we’ve got to be able to be open and honest with those of us in the same uniform in order to be successful,” he explained.
With every new assignment or duty station, Nuckols went to behavioral health and retold his story. “Talking about it helps me to desensitize to it,” he said.
Talking about it also helps him to understand how his mind works, especially after living with PTSD for as long as he has. “If I can tell my story and make one Soldier understand, or one leader, or one commander understand that it’s okay to go to behavioral health. Then I’m all for that,” Nuckols said.
When he was a first sergeant in a training environment at Fort Huachuca, Arizona, he said that every one of the Soldiers in his unit knew that he was going to behavioral health. “I wanted to instill in the troops who I lead that it is not a problem,” the former suicide prevention counselor said.
“I’m not ashamed to go to behavioral health,” Nuckols stated. “It is for the things that I raised my right hand for, and what the Army has told me to do in support of that.
“That gives me the pride to stand up and say behavioral health is not a problem.”
He’s had days when he just wanted to lie on the couch, but his main support system wouldn’t let him do that.
“My entire family and extended family are all part of my support system,” he said. They all help in different ways.
His wife is a licensed clinical social worker. Sometimes she gets into clinical mode. “She can tell when I’m off, and I don’t even notice it,” he said.
He said that she doesn’t necessarily box him in, but she ensures that he is doing what he’s supposed to be doing. “She helps so that my mind doesn’t race to where I might have
Flash backs or hypersensitive awareness, or any of those types of different things that go with that PTSD diagnosis,” Nuckols said.
His daughter is another family member who helps keep him grounded. “My daughter is a lot like me,” he said.
“We’re kind of cut from the same cloth,” he described. “She’s checked me for raising my voice.”
His family support is a team effort. It hasn’t just been his immediate family who has been part of his support system and healing. “My sister-in-law and her husband are teachers in Indiana,” he said.
“They invited me, and I’ve gone into the schools to talk about my deployments and PTSD and suicide prevention.
“I do it to help remove that stigma and to help build that culture with our younger generation.
“I tell them that what you’re feeling is okay, and you have to be able to seek professional help,” Nuckols concluded.
Nuckols attributes completing his successful military career and maintaining his security clearance to all of the support which he’s received in the Army from behavioral health counseling and from his supportive immediate family, extended family and Army family.
His message to all Soldiers is to obtain behavioral health counseling when you feel like you might need it. “Don’t be afraid to get the help that you need,” Nuckols urged.
Any Soldier can simply go to behavioral health to obtain therapy. There are counselors, hotlines and chaplains available to help anyone who wants to simply talk. These folks can also refer and direct those in need to other resources.
Specifically for 1st TSC Soldiers, the Special Troops Battalion Chaplain Capt. Jeremy Davis is available to speak with at (502) 626-8710. The 1st TSC Military and Family Life Counselor Mark Denney is also available at (502) 626-8415 or at email@example.com. His office is located on the first floor of Fowler Hall.
Any Soldier, family member or civilian employee can also call the 24-hour veterans and military crisis line at (800) 273-8255.