The War Inside, Part 2 | VideoJuli McDonald | 1/11/2012
Just two weeks into 1st Sgt. Kevin Keefe`s 2008 deployment to Iraq, he suffered two herniated discs and a traumatic brain injury from a rocket attack. Despite the pain, he wasn`t going anywhere.
"In my mind, I had 182 soldiers, a commander that was my battle buddy. My soldiers, everybody, not depending on me, but we were part of a team to make sure we brought all these soldiers home," says Keefe.
And still fresh in his mind was his father`s death in a house fire right before his deployment.
"I was up, I was down. I was mad, I was compassionate. I was every emotion. Depressed. Every emotion in the spectrum," he says.
Keefe made it home alive with the rest of his soldiers. But his worst wounds were the ones you couldn`t see. His marriage had ended and he even considered suicide. Keefe calls his daughter his saving grace. After the deployment, Keefe remarried. He says although spouses can`t understand what a soldier has gone through, his wife is the best thing that ever happened to him. Keefe realized it wasn`t a weakness to ask for help; it would actually make him stronger.
"Why wouldn`t you want to be a better father? A better soldier? A better brother? A better uncle? A better worker? Everything. Why wouldn`t you want to be better?" he says.
Keefe doesn`t hide the fact that he sought treatment for his PTSD. Instead, he uses it as an example to give others courage, like one soldier who confided in him.
"He says `1st Sgt., I can`t deal with the deployment.` I said `well, have you talked to anybody?` He said `nah.` In his mind he though that it was a weakness. I immediately told him I go to a counselor. I take my medication and I sleep at night. I`ll never forget the look on his face. He said `you? You`ve done that?` I said `yeah I have and you need to, too.`
Keefe says many soldiers fear that by admitting they need help, they won`t get promoted or it will end their careers. But he`s been promoted twice since he was diagnosed, and it`s because he`s now a better soldier.
"If anything, it will extend your career because you will be that much better. You will be able to help your fellow soldiers, and you`ll be a better leader," he says.
Keefe says soldiers need to hold onto the battle buddy concept. Just like they take care of each other during deployments, they need to take care of each other after they come home, too.