Army veteran shares personal experiences with PTSD
The Tribune-Democrat April 23, 2022
Johnstown, Pa. (Tribune News Service) -- Not long ago, in December 2018, David Kendrick Jr., an Army veteran, was in a dark place, filling out a suicide prevention safety plan.
It listed his red flags, coping strategies, contacts who could help in a time of crisis and tips for making a safe environment. He was facing legal trouble, haunted by nightmares, battling alcoholism and dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder, which grew out of his military service in Iraq.
Kendrick, a Georgia resident, shared the document with approximately 50 people who attended a presentation about military trauma and PTSD, hosted by Behavioral Health of Cambria County, on Friday, at the Central Park Complex in downtown Johnstown.
He provided a copy to a trusted person, his sister, shortly after originally making the list.
“It means a lot to know yourself,” Kendrick said. “And, then once you know yourself, you give it to somebody that knows you just as well and you can share that suicide prevention plan, so you can still be here and doing things, like share the stories that I am today. We come from a small demographic, but we make a big impact.”
Kendrick, at 20 years old, was shot in a sniper attack. Fourteen surgeries later, he still has physical ailments resulting from the wounds that earned him a Purple Heart. There were mental scars and difficulties adjusting back to society, too.
As part of his treatment, Kendrick used Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, a form of therapy in which the patient does small actions, such as eye motions, to help dampen the effect of a stressful memory.
“Doing that, it put me right back in that area of getting injured,” Kendrick said. “What it did for me was help me get over getting shot by the sniper. I never got to put a face on that person who shot me. And, through that therapy, I did. It doesn’t sound nice, but
I got to eliminate the target that took me out in 2007. That’s what that therapy did for me. It let me know that ‘Hey, this guy’s no longer a factor in my life.’ “
He now shares his story as a professional speaker, helping other veterans dealing with similar issues and their supporters.
“There are a lot of grown men now, who were once kids like I was back then, who have these life-long injuries and are kind of forgotten about now,” Kendrick said. “The war was so long ago. A lot of people don’t even remember the sacrifice and how hard it was in 2007, 2008, 2009, so it means a lot to educate the audience, especially people who work with veterans and the trauma that veterans go through.”
Kendrick spoke about how fast PTSD can develop, EMDR, his time in trauma units, family relations and veterans court.
“He was an excellent speaker,” Rebecca Valle, an executive assistant with Behavioral Health of Cambria County, said. “We were very happy to have him.
“We thanked him for his service and thanked him for sharing his story with us.”
A cross-section of people who work with veterans going through difficult times — police officers, social workers, therapists, nurses, trauma specialists and advocates — attended the event.
“I think it’s great any time a veteran shares their experiences, no matter what they were, because it’s a pretty unique insight. ... It’s always helpful, especially when you have a roomful of people who are helping the entire community, and they’re going to interact with veterans at some point,” Josh Hauser, community operations director for Veteran Community Initiatives, said. “And to have that insight, it’s a great thing.”
Dave Sutor is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 814-532-5056. Follow him on Twitter @Dave_Sutor. (c)2022 The Tribune-Democrat (Johnstown, Pa.)
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