Stress of combat left soldier a nervous wreck
November 13, 2013
A former soldier who conducted two tours of duty in Iraq gave a Tedx talk last month from prison where he described how the army taught him to harness an uncontrollable rage and how it ultimately led him to become, what one judge termed, a “threat to society.”
In an October video posted of a TEDx correctional facility talk, Army veteran Andrew “Sarge” Chambers gave a heartfelt account of his difficult transition to civilian life after the events of 9/11 convinced him to march to war.
Chambers, who is from Pickerington, Ohio, depicted one memory in which he awoke to a chaotic battle scene and gunfire, and remembered being astonished to hear someone laughing through it.
“In the middle of all this chaos, I could hear somebody laughing and I thought to myself, ‘Who could be laughing at a time like this?’ and then I realized it was me laughing,” Chambers said. “I felt like I was finally losing control of that rage they taught me to harness.”
Following his first tour, Chambers says the Army asked for volunteers to stay for an additional length of time, for which he says he volunteered as he was not married and did not have children.
Chambers recalled losing seven fellow soldiers during his second tour, in which he and others would find and neutralize roadside IEDs.
He says when he returned to the United States, the stress of combat had left him on edge.
“I was paranoid. I carried a pistol on me at all times. I assessed the threat level of every person or place I came in contact with,” Chambers stated. “Driving through my family’s neighborhood, I drove in the middle of the street in fear that the side of the road was gonna blow up and kill me.”
Chambers recollected seeking help from the Veterans Administration and being prescribed a sleep aid, but says the medication did little to quell his inner rage.
Then one night, an argument erupted over a girl. “Someone pulled out a knife and I snapped.”
“I pulled out my pistol. The prosecutor said I moved through the room in a tactical manner, clearing the room, laid everybody on the ground. I took the knife from him and I began beating him.”
The army vet was charged with attempted murder, as well as other charges. “When I went in for sentencing, my judge told me, ‘Mr. Chambers, your service is a double-edged sword. Your time in Iraq makes you a threat to society and I have a civil obligation to lock you up.’ I received ten years and here I am today.”
The veteran’s story shines light on why many enlistees contemplate and commit suicide as an alternative to coping with pent-up, carefully-stoked rage. It also shows how the establishment casts the mental health needs of returning veterans by the wayside, and deems soldiers threats once their honed warrior instincts surface.
Chambers says he hopes his story brings insight to the mindset of military veterans, and urges people to “Find a veteran and listen to his story. A lot of us just need someone to talk to.”
The speech was given as part of a TEDx correctional facility series, which showcases stories about “incarceration and reintegration.”
According to the video’s YouTube description, parts of Chambers’ speech will be included in the documentary “Operation Resurrection: The Warrior Returns.”