For one Afghanistan vet, honoring comrades isn't enough
"It's been tougher than anything I've went through over there," said Brody Welsh, his voice turning husky as tears welled up in his eyes.
"From the time I wake up until the time I go to bed, I have to deal with issues, from my back being screwed up, to sleeplessness, to these headaches," the Grand Forks resident said.
Welsh served as a sergeant in the U.S. Army 10th Mountain Division before he was medically discharged a year ago.
For him, honoring veterans today is not enough. Welsh wants people to understand the mental and physical sacrifices that service men and women make for their country.
During his five years and four months in the army, Welsh, now 24, saw three of his closest friends killed in action in Afghanistan.
Two years ago, his brother, Patrick, who also had served in the army, was killed in a car accident coming home from the Veterans Administration Hospital in Fargo.
Welsh said he believes his brother saw some rumble strips and overcorrected, thinking they were improvised explosive devices. "He was a victim of a car crash, but in my mind he was the victim from the fall-out affects of war."
It's not uncommon for veterans to have emotional problems when they return from combat duty, said Dr. Harold Rosenheim, a clinical psychologist at the VA in Fargo. "I think it's normal for people to return from a deployment and have a variety of adjustment difficulties."
An IED attack
Welsh retired from active duty suffering a major concussion during his second tour in Afghanistan.
"My truck was hit with an IED," he said. It happened July 21, 2010, and involved 120 pounds of explosives, he said.
On Oct. 22, 2010, after experiencing several months of severe migraine headaches and memory loss, Welsh was honorably discharged and had to leave the life of military service that he had loved.
"I didn't leave the service because I wanted to, I left because I felt I had to," Welsh said. He felt a sense of honor, pride and dignity and camaraderie when he served in the Army, he said.
Welsh is reluctant to talk to his family about his combat duty experiences and the devils he deals with every day.
"It affects my family life extremely," he said. "I'm a non-expressive sort of person. I just push through it. The Army has taught me to push through it." He does, though, greatly appreciate the support of his wife and parents, he said.
Welsh has sought medical attention from the VA in Fargo, and said staff there and at the VA satellite clinic in East Grand Forks have been helpful. He also attends a veterans' support group.
The VA offers a range of treatment options including medication and counseling services, Rosenheim said. Most veterans seeking assistance from the VA for their emotional problems get better, he said.
Some veterans also feel better eventually without help, he said.
Welsh, who wears a silver bracelet engraved with the names of friends killed in the line of duty, wants people to think today about the sacrifices veterans make.
"On Veteran's Day, they thank you and honor you, but on another side of it, they need to know how hard it is every single day to come back to this civilian world. It's not just like you get out of the Army and you come home and life is good," he said. "It's complete hell."
"I want people to know it's not just about honoring," he said as he touched the names on the bracelet, "it's about remembering guys who aren't with us anymore."
Since Welsh's return he's been grateful every single day to be able to hug his wife and son, he said. "I know my friends will never be able to do that."
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