What does one think when they see a veteran? Crazy, probably on drugs, a for sure alcoholic; all of these preconceived notions about veterans are often talked about, but nobody really speaks about what are the causes of these challenges. Post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is one of the number one psychological disorder that most veterans face since coming home from war.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Kenneth Bowen, an EMU journalism student and a young Veteran. Ken won a purple heart for his duty in the Marines. He was a Sargent, but was medically retired in 2010 due to an injury that prevented him from serving. He did two tours, the first was noncombat, and the second was in Afghanistan where he was wounded. During active duty, Bowen witnessed many deaths of, not only his comrades, but his old self as well.

“The pain of war was a lot for people to deal with” said Bowen. One cannot imagine what these soldiers witnessed on a day to day basis. The media can only cover so much, yet actually experiencing it is overwhelming. Bowen also was aware of many suicides and PTSD that was happening amongst the group of soldiers he was around. He said that “the damage soldiers did on themselves were apparent and suicide seemed like an undertone”. Of course war affects everyone differently, but the high rate of suicide during training is a little intense. Most could not handle it. Bowen explained that the men he was working alongside were only 18 and 19 years old, a huge responsibility given to such a young person. The legal drinking age even starts at 21, yet an 18 year old is given the responsibility of someone’s life in war, it is a hard pill to swallow. Ken was 21 when he joined the military, and 24 when he was wounded. He was considered one of the older soldiers. He says that his age definitely helped him deal with things a little better.

So how did Ken overcome the pains of war? He says that his accident was one of the main reasons. He was wounded because the truck that he was in ran over an explosive and blew up, he was the only survivor. He explains that he had to prove that God didn’t make a mistake keeping him alive. He said that he “didn’t want to be labeled as a disabled veteran”, so he had to get better. In recovery he met the families of the deceased people that were in the truck with him. He felt guilty and didn’t want them to think he took his life for granted. This helped him recover and finally go back to school. Attending EMU was also a great outlet for him to get his mind off of things. Being involved and getting homework done helped him feel accomplished.

Ken definitely experienced so much in such a short period of time. He says that transitioning to civilian life was not easy, but he would do it all over again. Throughout all the suicides, and PTSD that he has experienced, he still manages to remain positive and tell his story. He says that “PTSD affects people differently”, and that he is more open to talking about it than most. Ken said that serving in the war changed him. He used to be playful and a practical joker, but these days he is more serious and felt that he had to be. He wants to stop all the assumptions that people have about veterans and war in general. Ken said that you never know who is a veteran. These men and women have literally risked their lives for our country, and speaking with Ken I have a new found respect for all veterans and all soldiers serving our country.