The Mind Game Nobody Wins

Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune and Jacksonville city officials lay wreaths at the base of the Beirut Memorial wall in honor of lost troops during the 25th annual Beirut Memorial Observance Ceremony, held at the Beirut Memorial at the Lejeune Memorial Gardens in Jacksonville, N.C., Oct. 23, 2011. (Photo by Cpl. Miranda Blackburn)

Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune and Jacksonville city officials lay wreaths at the base of the Beirut Memorial wall in honor of lost troops during the 25th annual Beirut Memorial Observance Ceremony, held at the Beirut Memorial at the Lejeune Memorial Gardens in Jacksonville, N.C., Oct. 23, 2011. The 1983 bombing killed 299 American and French Servcemembers. (Photo by Cpl. Miranda Blackburn)

Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on Bonnie’s blog, http://bonnietierney.blogspot.com

Just before I left work on April 2, 2014, I heard about another shooting at Fort Hood and it took me completely by surprise. The last shooting angered me beyond belief because it involved a military officer who happened to be a psychiatrist and a terrorist as well. Why would that shooting affect me so deeply?

Nearly 31 years ago, while I was a young lieutenant on active duty with the Air Force and serving in Frankfurt, Germany, I was one of the officers in charge of the identification and processing of the 241 Marines, sailors and soldiers that were killed while sleeping in the Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon on Oct. 23, 1983. I will never forget my involvement and what I witnessed in the tents in order to send our troops home with honor and dignity. My life was changed forever.

I wrote a book, about my experiences after I left the military. I separated from active duty as a major with prior enlisted experience, just one year short of a full military retirement because unknowingly I had PTSD. I was deep in depression when I wrote my book and had suicidal thoughts, but I wanted to capture the craziness I was going through for the mental health community. Getting into the head of a soldier is like playing “The Mind Game.” Simply put, for the most part the troops won’t let you in because they are afraid. Afraid to tell you that they are not only suicidal but homicidal as well. I know because I played that game too.

This shooting at Fort Hood had to be different – or was it? Five years have passed since the last Fort Hood shooting and that’s five more years of therapy for me. I’m in a better place now because of the treatment I’ve received from the Department of Veterans Affairs mental health team, so I process this information differently.

Today, I’m extremely concerned about the welfare of all our troops, particularly those who have served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. They play the mind game well while on active duty. Unfortunately, many still feel asking for help would be a detriment to their active-duty careers, so they hide their concerns and issues, blow up at their spouses when no one is around, take it out on their kids or yell at their neighbors. Most have short fuses and are angered easily. Let’s not forget about road rage — let’s tailgate and piss off the driver who cuts us off, maybe even go as so far to follow them home. In my case, several years ago, I used my car as a weapon to pin some teenagers up against a snow bank when they threw snowballs at my car. I chased them down and threatened to shoot them the next time I caught them throwing snowballs at cars. Was my reaction reasonable? Absolutely not,- and it’s this type of behavior that will get me killed.

The shooter is dead. No doubt it had to end that way for the soldier after the shooting spree because in his mind there was no way out. In that situation we think there is no way out, but there is! I wished I would have contacted VA when I was on active duty and in my last year before retirement. I couldn’t bring myself to ask for help so I gave up 19 years on active duty and left the military. It took me a very long time to ask for help but I’m alive today because I did.

I wondered if today’s shooter was suffering from PTSD, had mental health issues and was equally as reluctant to ask for help. I wonder so many things now. Even if he didn’t suffer from PTSD, anyone who resorts to gun violence and taking the lives of innocent people is crying for help.

One final thought. Today’s troops are fighting a war in an urban environment. It’s not like the guys who fought in Vietnam in the jungle. Simply going through a door can be an upsetting event for someone who has experienced trauma; driving down the highway can trigger events too. Don’t play the mind game– nobody ever wins. Ask for help.

With a Heart of Love, Bonnie J. Tierney.

BonnieTierneyframe

 

Bonnie Tierney served on active duty with the Air Force, both in the enlisted and officer ranks, from 1973 – 1992. She holds a master’s degree in public administration from Troy State University. She is a disabled veteran currently serving as facilities management administrative officer for VA in Denver, Colo.

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10 Comments to “The Mind Game Nobody Wins”

  1. Olivia Miller Snapp says:

    Thank you for your service, bravery and courage. I am so sorry for the pain you and your loved ones have endured. I want to reach out and hug you and make everything OK.

  2. Since Vietnam I have considered suicide many numerous times. Sometimes on a daily basis. My experience was far from monumental in the witnessing of incidents, but my participation deeply affected that naive young hog farmer from Missouri. It has destroyed a marriage early on and affected nearly every job I have had during my life. I just never considered asking for help, because I volunteered to go and felt I didn’t deserve any extra money spent on me by my government. Even now as I approach 65 and need help with the cost of living, I am very reluctant to ask for help. And when I do look online for help I always run into barriers here at Grand Veterans Village that block my way, and discourage me very greatly, so I am even more reluctant to ask. I have never even thought of hurting another individual but have fantasized about destroying property many, many times.

    • Yvonne Levardi says:

      David,
      It sounds like you are having some difficulties. At the Veterans Crisis Line there are committed and dedicated staff to help … if you want someone to talk to please connect with them at 1-800-273-8255 and press 1 or visit veteranscrisisline.net for other ways to connect.

  3. Bonnie Tierney says:

    David,

    Thank you for responding to this article. I understand all too well the difficulties of my military experiences and I appreciate your honesty. At least you have reached out now to recognize there are some issues — I hope you will try again to work with the VA. The VA of yesterday is not like the VA today — people do care about you. As we get older, we tend to reflect on our past more often and it does appear you have some inner anger issues. I know those all too well too. We have a great deal of pride so sometimes that gets in the way of asking for help — step out of your comfort zone and try again. People at the VA do care about your health and as the post before me says — the veterans crisis line is always available too. You don’t have to be in dire straights to use it — trust me!

  4. herbmoore says:

    I have been waiting 5 months for my dd214. The new va?

    • Bonnie Tierney says:

      Read your post Herb and just wanted to say that the VA does not maintain your DD Form 214. You have to obtain those records if you lost them from the National Records Center, I believe in St. Louis Mo. Any records manager at a local VA can provide you with the address though. Hope the National Records center has your paperwork — and yes, it is a new VA.

  5. Dr. Hassan lost his cool. Now the Puerto Rico born Lopez lost his. Then Fort Hood will always remain the largest Army base in the Continental America. The country is evolving fast. The armed forces are trying to catch up since intergration in 1948. . New responsibilities. New realities. The pain will linger for ever. We all will endure for ever.

  6. Joshua Wells says:

    While reading my emails, I noticed the blog on the Marines that were killed, on that terrible day, In 1983. Ironically, after that incident , I was deeply affected by it, and am still today. It is great that this is being brought out, and not just swept under the rug.
    You see, I was a Corpsman, with the 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, Lima Company. 1/8 was our sister company. I too was stationed over in Beirut, with the Multinational Peace Keeping Force. I was just there 6 months prior to the bombing. Even scarier, was where the barrex was hit, it too was our Battalion Aid Station. I had gone in and out of there many a time to receive supplies. In fact I treated 2 Marines for exposure to Hepatitis,and took them to that same building.
    Like so many veterans, we are taught to bury it deep, and sometimes at what cost. First of all, God bless all the Marines who sacrificed their lives, so the rest of us can enjoy our freedoms today. I hope and pray the Marines who are serving now on foreign shores are safe from harm, and Thank all of them for a job well done. Semper Fi….
    Sincerely,
    Joshua Doc Wells USNRetired
    3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, Lima Company
    Beirut, Lebanon.

    • Bonnie Tierney says:

      Hey “Doc”,

      Thank you for your service to our country – the Beirut Bombing took a toll on so many — those that were there, the families who lost loved ones and those who helped behind the scenes to help identify them and return them home with honor and dignity. I travelled to the Beirut Memorial in Jacksonsville, NC this past year for the first time on the 30th Rememberance. I met so many people — the families, the Marines that were there that day — and while somewhat reluctant to go there, I ended up with many blessings in the face of such tragedy. I’m grateful I had the strength to attend the event which was very cathartic for me. I hope you are dealing with your issues as well. You at least acknowledge sweeping things under the carpet is not good. God bless and Semper Fi brother!

  7. Linda Rose says:

    Thank you for your service. I was in the Gulf War with experiences that have affected myself and others around me. “The Mind Game” was an exceptional title, so true. The VA does care about those affected more now than ever before, with treatment centers and counselors that can for the most part get patients back on track to normal as possible lives. Treatment can only go as far as the patient can process it, the struggle and don’t care to tell or talk about a trauma lingers as one tries to over come disabilities. Processes take time and one should not judge the lingering but keep trying to do the right and better thing in whatever life brings. “The Mind Game” will promise you much, but not maybe be as you think or like, thus help does bring about a bases on which to stand while you proceed to learn how to adjust in todays world honoring those veterans past, present and future. Let the monsters be the “The Mind Game” not the “Silent Killer.” Get Help!!!