Saturday, December 11, 2010

Combat catharsis

Telling your war story can be therapeutic — and a revelation

“The man on my right was killed and the man on my left was killed and I was alive in the middle of them,” said former Army Capt. Nate Self, describing his mission to help rescue a Navy SEAL in the rugged mountains of Afghanistan in 2002.

Leading a team of Rangers, his helicopter had been shot down. He describes fighting back the ambush from the mangled body of the twin-rotor Chinook, the brutal Taliban counterattack and the on-again, off-again airlift out of the battle.

“We had been fighting for over 12 hours. We had to wait for the sun to go down — it got very cold, the wind picked up,” he said, releasing a deep breath as if trying to warm himself against the memory. “We were all wet with sweat and melted snow and blood, and some of us started to suffer from a little bit of altitude exposure and sickness.”

Five of his Rangers would die on what he described as the longest day in his Army career.

The memories would haunt him like wraiths. After his third combat deployment, Self resigned, eventually locking himself into a room with a loaded pistol, fighting the urge to take his own life.

For a long time, he had kept the stories of war locked away. Healing came when those doors were opened. First in small groups in his church and later in writing exercises, he began to tell his story, eventually penning an entire book. And it has been in the very act of telling his story, he said, that he has begun to find healing.

The power of story {continued}

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