JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO, Texas —
Service members returning from deployment step off the plane with additional stressors picked up from being in combat. They can struggle with feelings of guilt, anxiety, post-traumatic stress and many other emotional and internal conflicts not seen by the naked eye.
Soldiers and civilians assigned to Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston had the opportunity to listen to post-traumatic stress expert and motivational speaker Bob Delaney at the Fort Sam Houston Theater Dec. 2.
Delaney joined the New Jersey State Police and was recruited to go undercover with the FBI where he infiltrated and took down 30 members of the mob. After completing his undercover work, he went through the effects of post-traumatic stress. He sat down with another officer who knew what he was dealing with.
“One of the things we really stress is that peer-to-peer conversations are the first line of defense to post-traumatic stress growing to be post-traumatic stress disorder, is talk about it,” Delaney said. “But what happens more often than not, we make believe it doesn’t bother us. We minimize it and those are the kind of conversations we hope to have today, to create that grassroots movement of peer-to-peer conversation.”
Delaney says it’s okay to have emotions. Service members are warriors, doing what they’re trained to do when the bell rings. Yet when they’re in a safe environment, speaking about true emotions is healthier.
“Don’t think of it as a mental illness, it’s a human condition. Sophocles wrote two plays about the warrior not knowing how to act when he came home from battle and look at how many years ago that was,” Delaney said. “After World War I, we called it ‘shell shock,’ we called it ‘battle fatigue’ after World War II … we’ve had a term for this.”
Post-traumatic stress isn’t exclusive to service members. It can come from being in a car accident, home fire, natural disaster or being a victim of an assault, Delaney said.
“There’s a stigma that takes place. We don’t understand it and anytime something is fearful to us, we push it away rather than embrace it,” Delaney said. “There are so many stories that are rich within the military that would help all of us its getting those soldiers to talk about their experiences.”
Although not being a service member himself, Delaney finds that by sharing his story of being in law enforcement and working with the
National Basketball Association, those are organizations that service members are able to relate to.
“I liked this a lot better than the standard PowerPoint presentations,” said Spc. Benton G. Cosper, an Army North geospatial engineer. “His story was compelling and good to connect with on a personal level. I liked the message he was sending. Talking to battle buddies is important.”
“The big thing for Soldiers to know is to make sure you have someone that you can talk to that is going through the experience with you or has already been through that experience someone that knows what you are talking about,” said Sgt. 1st Class Donna M. Hunter, from the Army North surgeon’s cell. “It helps to just talk about it and let it out instead of bottling it up and having it cause issues at home with your spouse or kids.”
Delaney credits the exercise he got running up and down the court as a high school referee in New Jersey as helping him start to recover from his undercover work. He parleyed that into a successful career in the NBA.
Delaney spent the last 30 years speaking before federal, state, county and local law enforcement officers and agents throughout the United States, Canada and Europe. He has also talked to service members throughout the United States and overseas in combat environments. He has helped many to understand and identify symptoms of post-traumatic stress and the impact it has on the individual and the ripple effect to family and friends.