According to the PTSD Foundation, one in three returning troops will suffer from some type of post traumatic stress symptoms. Hamden native and current Cheshire resident, Justin Nash, served in Operation Enduring Freedom and battled PTSD for years.
For Nash, the road to finding peace has been a long one.
“There’s times in life that you just wish you didn’t see what you saw,” said Nash.
Nash graduated from West Point in 2001, just months before 9/11. As a First Lieutenant in the U.S. Army, he knew he’d be fighting at the front of the battle. He deployed to Afghanistan in 2003 and led 33 men in combat.
“My unit, my battalion, was really the entire eastern corridor, and I had men down in Chapman Air Base, men in Asadabad, Nangalam,” said Nash.
For 2 1/2 months, Nash served in a special forces team. He calls it the best of times, and the worst of times.
“That was some pretty exciting times. There was about 19 of us in this very, very remote desolate area. I went 56 days without a shower,” said Nash.
In all, he spent 12 months overseas. He and his men share memories no one else can comprehend. Some of them good, some of them horrifying.
“I had played a game of spades with a group of soldiers from Scout Platoon, and we all shared a dip and played spades. You know, life was good,” he recalled.
After the game, Nash flew off to Bagram in a Blackhawk. The other men went on a mission to find weapons the Taliban had stashed to use against them.
“Something happened and the cache exploded and nine of our soldiers were killed, all three of the guys I was just playing spades with,” he said.
Nash returned home in June of 2004. The sights and sounds of time spent at war would haunt him for years.
“I didn’t think anything was wrong. I didn’t think there was anything bothering me. I didn’t there were any demons,” said Nash.
To his family, though, the changes were immediate. The Justin they knew before he had deployed was gone.
“I noticed he was very edgy, agitated, and constantly on guard. He would go to sleep for like 2 to 3 hours, wake up. I’d hear him moving around the apartment,” said his brother, Corey Nash.
Nash battled Post Traumatic Stress Disorder for years.
“My previous life, I was much more laid back. I was easy going, mild mannered, cool as can be. Now, I’m, it’s a snap,” said Nash.
He says the PTSD spiraled out of control and hit bottom in 2010. An ill-fated suicide attempt served as his wake-up call and he knew it was time to fight back.
“Through a lot of therapy and working with lots of vets, I’ve found a much more sense of peace,” said Nash.
Nash founded Til Duty is Done, an organization aimed at helping vets overcome the pain Nash himself knows all too well.
“Their structure, their discipline, everything that they knew as sound level playing field is gone,” said Nash.
Til Duty is done helps vets with the basic needs for success, like food, clothing, shelter, and a support network of people to help keep them on track. It’s also given Nash new life as well.
“It’s been years since I’ve seen him laugh the way he laughs now. And it’s been years since I’ve seen him smile and be genuinely happy the way I see him smile now,” said Corey.
Nash says he’s a fortunate man. He’s now married, with six kids, and has found professional success.But, he says it’s not about himself. It’s all about paying it forward.
“It’s not about me. It’s not about Til Duty is Done. It’s about our vets, and that’s where I try to focus,” said Nash.