‘Facing Stigma’ with Jason Redman

“My dad was in the Army and he had a chance to work with SEALs. Back then, you couldn’t find much information on them, but hearing my dad talk about how elite they were, I definitely knew I wanted to go down that path. I was very young when I enlisted in 1992 and went straight into SEAL training which is obviously very challenging. I just accepted that it was designed to be unfair, it was going to be hard, and I had to figure out a way to overcome it. After graduating and staying busy with pre-9/11 deployments, I got my commission and came back as a SEAL officer post-9/11. I deployed six times total during my service but we were very active in the War On Terror. In 2007, on my second deployment to Iraq, we were going after a high level leader in the Al-Qaeda organization. The initial target we wanted to take down was not there, but as soon as we were about to get out, we saw some activity another 150 yards away. As we moved on that target, the individual we happened to be looking for was with that person. We walked into a well-executed ambush and had a pretty intense firefight for about 30 minutes. I was pinned down in front and got hit, as well as two other team members. We called in a fire mission on our location and luckily we were able to take the enemy out before the medivac came for for the three of us. I was hit eight times between my body and body armor so there was some urgency as I was flown into Baghdad for stabilization. I was then sent to Balad for my head injuries and more stabilization before ultimately going to Germany and then Bethesda in Maryland. I was in and out of there for four years as I received forty surgeries all together. I tried to get back to be operational but they couldn’t fix my arm to where it needed to be: however, the SEAL team took care of me and allowed me to stay in and finish my career.

I definitely had a lot of anxiety and nightmares when I got home which contributed to not being able to sleep very well. I was self-medicating and like so many, I kept telling myself that I could fix it on my own. It really took my wife telling me that I was no longer myself or being an engaged dad or husband for me to realize I needed help. We had a great relationship so I knew if she was saying that then there was really something wrong. I went to our command psychologist and let him know I was really struggling. I started getting therapy and using some alternative methods like Stellate Ganglion Block treatment. I believe this mixed with a decrease in drinking and working out really helped me finally get back to being able to sleep. I also think it was the combination of all of these things that enabled me to get a handle on my PTSD. I had served 15 years when I got hit so by the time they finished all the surgeries, there wasn’t really a career path forward. I was medically retired and processed out after 21 years. My transition was made a lot easier because I was around the community even though I wasn’t operational. Due to the nature and intensity of the fire fight I had been in, I was asked to speak quite a bit within military circles. I would speak and someone would come forward asking me to speak again, and that carried forward into the civilian world. Then I got approval through the Naval community to write and release my book which opened more doors for speaking and ended up being a New York Times Best Seller. Despite all the ups and downs, I’m fortunate that I’m still married to my wife after 22 years and we’ve raised some well-rounded kids. I think we’ve done a good job despite all the adversity we’ve gone through. We still set the example of trying to make a positive impact on our kids.”