September 11 anniversary: Support the military men and women suffering from PTSD

Like most people, I can remember exactly where I was on September 11, 2001. It is a memory I re-visit often because that day drastically changed my life.

As one of the 2 million individuals who have served in the War on Terror, I will think on 9/11 this year of all those who were tragically lost, but also of its unspoken side-effects -- the thousands of military men and women who not only subsequently fought for our nation but who are now lost to themselves because of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

In 2001, I served as a Force Recon Marine in the Marine Corps Reserves in Mobile, Alabama, and also worked as a police detective in Louisiana.

Life after 9/11 has been a journey of great sorrow and new purpose. For me and those like me, life will never be the same.

I had worked all night, so I laid down in my bed on September 11 and immediately fell asleep.

I was awoken -- after what felt like just minutes later -- when my brother-in-law called to tell me someone had just flown a plane into the World Trade Center in New York.

I got up and turned on the television. Headlines flashed on the bottom of the screen as I watched a plane crash into the first tower in utter horror.

Like most, I experienced a wave of emotions – shock, anger, sadness. But more than anything, I just wanted to reach out and do something as the events of the day unfolded.

Within a month, I went on active duty. I was certain I would deploy right away, but I didn’t. 

By 2003, I was stir-crazy to deploy, and I got my wish by getting selected for a special Joint Special Operations Command Task Force. 

By 2007, most of my life had been consumed with deployments to Afghanistan.  Despite the personal satisfaction of serving my country and helping the oppressed people of Afghanistan, the events of 9/11 were the beginning of my self-destruction. 

I had succumbed to the fatigue, anxiety and overall stress that comes with such a lifestyle, and in April 2007, I was diagnosed with severe PTSD. It was a death blow to my ego and purpose in life as a warrior, and I was in complete denial.

The downward spiral would lead me to a rock bottom that almost cost me everything.

I struggled with suicide and depression and nearly lost my family to divorce—common problems for veterans suffering from PTSD.

For the military men and women suffering from PTSD, though their battle overseas is finished, every morning they face a new enemy all by themselves.

PTSD is nasty. Thousands of cases remain untreated, and more veterans are diagnosed with the disease daily. Studies show that every day 22 veterans commit suicide, and there is a 85 percent first enlistment divorce rate.

Unfortunately, what happened next in my life is not so common. That rock bottom became a new foundation to rebuild my life.

With the help and support of my family, friends and most importantly my faith, I experienced personal healing, the restoration of my family, and a new purpose – sharing hope and healing with others.

Life after 9/11 has been a journey of great sorrow and new purpose.

For me and those like me, life will never be the same. I have experienced great trials and pain, but through it I have found a new purpose.

Had it not been for 9/11, I would have never suffered from this awful disease, but I also would have never been able to help so many people.

But there are still so many suffering.

May we serve as warriors for those warriors who fought for us, giving them hope and healing after they come home.

Chad Robichaux is the vice president of Serving California’s veteran affairs, the founder of the Mighty Oaks Warrior Programs, a United States Marine Corps Force Recon Veteran and a PTSD survivor. He is also the bestselling author of “Redeployed: How Combat Veterans Can Fight the Battle Within and Win the War at Home,” a board certified counselor, and a former professional mixed martial arts world champion featured on NBC’s "World Series of Fighting."