• Thanks for stopping by. Logging in to a registered account will remove all generic ads. Please reach out with any questions or concerns.

Charla Huber: Thank you for your service, Desmond James

daftandbarmy

Army.ca Relic
Reaction score
3,021
Points
1,060
Just in case anyone was wondering if 'the civvies' still care about the CAF... I think the answer is 'yes' in this case.

And I wasn't aware ,until now, that June 27th is PTSD Awareness Day...



Charla Huber: Thank you for your service, Desmond James


TC_264561_web_DYYK0344.jpeg


Desmond James was a public affairs officer for NATO Mission Iraq. Now hes living with post-traumatic stress disorder and working through his experiences on a healing journey. OR-8 Okan Baris, Turkish Air Force

My entire life, I’ve heard the phrase “Thank you for your service,” and I’ve said it many times, but it wasn’t until I met Desmond James that I really understood what it meant.

I met James in 2018 when I started working toward my master’s degree. He was in my cohort.

James lives in Langford, but at the time was working out of Ottawa. Over the two-year program we worked on a few projects together and I knew he was in the Royal Canadian Navy.

When we were in class together, he dressed casually, and I automatically, inaccurately, assumed he was working in an office job.

Near the end of our program, James let us know he would be deployed to the Middle East, but could not disclose his exact location. He also said he would continue working on the degree while abroad. I heard these words, but I didn’t fully comprehend what his experience or role would be.

I know now that James was a public affairs officer for NATO Mission Iraq.

During his deployment, we were working on a group project with a few other classmates. We would have team meetings over video conference, and we would see James in his uniform and his surroundings in Iraq. It felt like he had transformed into someone else. It was a lesson to me that there are many different layers and experiences to the people we know that we are not always privy to.

As our weekly team meetings progressed, James’ situation turned into a scary territory.

“It was a non-combat mission that suddenly switched gears,” James explained.

He was telling us about bombings, rocket attacks, attack helicopters flying overhead, the arrival of the U.S. Army and Marines in the region and a possible evacuation.

He was telling us this so we would know he might be late with his assignment contributions. As a team, we only cared about his safety and let him know we could cover his obligations. He declined our offers and still delivered.

I’ve had other friends in the military, both Canadian and U.S., and they’ve told me some scary stories, but somehow seeing and hearing James share his experiences in real time hit me hard.

I would go to work and think about him and worry for his safety. I would wait for our team meetings, hoping he would join so we would know if he was OK.

This past week, I read an article James wrote on his experience living with post-traumatic stress disorder and his healing journey. Reading his words brought me back to that time.

“I’ve had symptoms of PTSD for years. I didn’t know that’s what it was — I just thought that is how people lived,” James said, explaining he was also deployed to Afghanistan in 2006.

Over the years, James said he had friends and military professionals suggest he seek help for PTSD related to his deployments, which he eventually did, but he still did not fully understand the severity and impact it had on him.

“My PTSD was caught during a post-deployment screening in July 2020,” said James, adding he is grateful for the level of support he is receiving from the military. “I know that not everyone in every profession receives the amount of support I have received.”

In his recovery, James said he is living day by day and working through his experiences.

I want to thank James for his service, and for teaching me the real meaning behind the phrase.

June 27 is National PTSD Awareness Day.

Charla@makola.bc.ca
Charla Huber is the director of communications and Indigenous relations for M’akola Housing Society.

 

Weinie

Army.ca Veteran
Reaction score
1,037
Points
1,010
Just in case anyone was wondering if 'the civvies' still care about the CAF... I think the answer is 'yes' in this case.

And I wasn't aware ,until now, that June 27th is PTSD Awareness Day...



Charla Huber: Thank you for your service, Desmond James


TC_264561_web_DYYK0344.jpeg


Desmond James was a public affairs officer for NATO Mission Iraq. Now hes living with post-traumatic stress disorder and working through his experiences on a healing journey. OR-8 Okan Baris, Turkish Air Force

My entire life, I’ve heard the phrase “Thank you for your service,” and I’ve said it many times, but it wasn’t until I met Desmond James that I really understood what it meant.

I met James in 2018 when I started working toward my master’s degree. He was in my cohort.

James lives in Langford, but at the time was working out of Ottawa. Over the two-year program we worked on a few projects together and I knew he was in the Royal Canadian Navy.

When we were in class together, he dressed casually, and I automatically, inaccurately, assumed he was working in an office job.

Near the end of our program, James let us know he would be deployed to the Middle East, but could not disclose his exact location. He also said he would continue working on the degree while abroad. I heard these words, but I didn’t fully comprehend what his experience or role would be.

I know now that James was a public affairs officer for NATO Mission Iraq.

During his deployment, we were working on a group project with a few other classmates. We would have team meetings over video conference, and we would see James in his uniform and his surroundings in Iraq. It felt like he had transformed into someone else. It was a lesson to me that there are many different layers and experiences to the people we know that we are not always privy to.

As our weekly team meetings progressed, James’ situation turned into a scary territory.

“It was a non-combat mission that suddenly switched gears,” James explained.

He was telling us about bombings, rocket attacks, attack helicopters flying overhead, the arrival of the U.S. Army and Marines in the region and a possible evacuation.

He was telling us this so we would know he might be late with his assignment contributions. As a team, we only cared about his safety and let him know we could cover his obligations. He declined our offers and still delivered.

I’ve had other friends in the military, both Canadian and U.S., and they’ve told me some scary stories, but somehow seeing and hearing James share his experiences in real time hit me hard.

I would go to work and think about him and worry for his safety. I would wait for our team meetings, hoping he would join so we would know if he was OK.

This past week, I read an article James wrote on his experience living with post-traumatic stress disorder and his healing journey. Reading his words brought me back to that time.

“I’ve had symptoms of PTSD for years. I didn’t know that’s what it was — I just thought that is how people lived,” James said, explaining he was also deployed to Afghanistan in 2006.

Over the years, James said he had friends and military professionals suggest he seek help for PTSD related to his deployments, which he eventually did, but he still did not fully understand the severity and impact it had on him.

“My PTSD was caught during a post-deployment screening in July 2020,” said James, adding he is grateful for the level of support he is receiving from the military. “I know that not everyone in every profession receives the amount of support I have received.”

In his recovery, James said he is living day by day and working through his experiences.

I want to thank James for his service, and for teaching me the real meaning behind the phrase.

June 27 is National PTSD Awareness Day.

Charla@makola.bc.ca
Charla Huber is the director of communications and Indigenous relations for M’akola Housing Society.

Des is a good friend of mine. I talk to him about once a week. He is getting better. (y)
 

dimsum

Army.ca Fixture
Mentor
Reaction score
979
Points
940
This past week, I read an article James wrote on his experience living with post-traumatic stress disorder and his healing journey. Reading his words brought me back to that time.
My Google-Fu is weak right now - I can't find that article she is referring to?
 

Weinie

Army.ca Veteran
Reaction score
1,037
Points
1,010
My Google-Fu is weak right now - I can't find that article she is referring to?
Here is the content that Des posted in the PAO newsletter. It doesn't get more poignant than this:

ON A PERSONAL NOTE OSI, PTSD, and me



Cdr Desmond James In part, I wrote the article below to help others who may be in a similar situation. If you are, I urge you to seek help. Keeping your foot on the gas only works until the tank runs dry. It was the second Mental Health professional I had seen since returning from Baghdad, Iraq, who said something about me that hit home: “You are like a shaken bottle of pop about to explode.” Those words described the way I was feeling inside since coming back from Afghanistan some thirteen years earlier. Back then, I had gone through multiple near-death experiences, watched people suffer or die numerous times, and nearly killed someone myself in order to protect the team, but I put those memories into a mental lock box and threw away the key. I had no intention of ever peering into that box again. However, the feelings had only worsened as I worked in numerous high-stress situations and environments, sometimes going days and weeks on end with as little as two hours of sleep each night as I dealt with warship fires and collisions, hurricanes and earthquakes, accidents and multiple death events, and of course, ethics and politics. People around me knew something was wrong in late 2016, but as I said to another CAF member at the time, “I am going to just keep my foot on the gas and push through”. I just ignored or joked around about the stress signals being sent my way. After all, I was a PAO and there was no way I could have a stress injury. That was for only reserved for combat troops right? Wrong. So…very…wrong. I was in so much denial that I stayed on the imaginary bus as it barrelled down the highway towards the construction barriers which signalled the end of the road. The end of the road should have arrived on 23 Jul 2020, following a medical appointment at the base clinic in Esquimalt. Even after medical professionals told me what was happening to me, I was determined the keep my foot on the accelerator, again thinking I could just push through. I had done that numerous times before, so why was this any different? The wheels came off the bus a couple of months later, putting a stop to my insane efforts. My unconscious brain simply flicked the ‘off’ switch. As my doctor described to me at the time, my unconscious brain made the decision that my conscious brain would not. “The brain is a remarkable thing,” she said, in way that was meant for me to deeply digest her words. Fighting my unconscious brain’s efforts, I flicked the switch back ‘on’ and pushed hard to get the bus back on the road as quickly as possible. I threw myself into a fitness regime that saw me doing long and varied workout sessions, focussed on the mantra of “healthy body, healthy mind.” I started doing communication-related projects and made mental plans for my eventual return to Ottawa. My psychologist cautioned me against doing this but I felt as though I needed to get back to work, to that safe space where I was comfortable operating and functioning. I was falling back into old habits but refusing to see it. I was determined to get back to work sooner than later. All that changed in early December, after a week of increased drinking and being plagued by restless nights, stressful dreams, and flashbacks. I finally made a call to the emergency OSISS phone line. During a two-hour meeting the next morning with the local OSISS coordinator and CAF veteran, I repeatedly and exasperatedly blurted out the phrase “What the f**k am I doing?” He responded knowingly, and I finally accepted that I have a debilitating stress injury; one that needed time and effort from me in order to heal. The next morning, sitting in my car looking out over the ocean outside CFB Esquimalt, I made an emotional call to Col Perreault. I needed the help and stability that the Transition Group could provide. As always, he was understanding and supportive. In fact, we are very fortunate to have a high level of support from our top three senior CAF PAO leaders. “Take good care” isn’t just a routine salutation; it means something. Over the next weeks, I felt relieved, even “normal”, and moved through my days and nights with less symptoms. I felt like I could go back to work again. When I got the call over the Christmas holidays to put together the PA portion of the CDS transition binder, the shift into the job felt nearly seamless. While I could feel pressure and anxiety building, it was okay (so I thought) and I was doing what I loved! It was also an experiment of sorts for me: I wanted to see what I was capable of doing for work. The results of my experiment came in during the 3 days after I completed the transition binder work. I had pulled hard on an elastic, experimenting with my brain in this case, and it snapped back with vengeance. My emotions were a wreck, I could not concentrate, needed to keep moving or active all the time and needed to be away from most people. Nightmares were ever present and sleep was very hard to come by. I was that shaken bottle of pop again, but I needed to deal with it and avoid just putting things into a mental lock box. In reality, with continued stress and pressure, that box would either pop open or explode by itself. In order to avoid those outcomes, I would need to slowly open the box, with the aid of medical professionals, and navigate my painful memories. So 2021 will see me embark on a new journey as I start to build a new normal for myself. With the right attitude and dedicated supports, I’ll be back into the PA fold, only this time it will be when my unconscious mind and body tell me I am ready and not when I tell them that I think I am ready
 
Top