Posted on Feb 23, 2015
PO3 Aaron Hassay
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I read an article National Geographic "Healing Our Soldiers" Art Therapy Mask Making that will sort of like make you think a bit, brave or whatever you want to call it men and women, who have these masks.

Here are the masks.
https://www.pinterest.com/peoplesart/art-therapy-with-veterans/

And then I realized, I have a mask. Look at my picture. I was proud of my battle wounds hospital, me against like 10 guys, brave soldier I am to take on any and all. I got kicked in the face. That did not deter me. I only learned my lesson not to fight more then I could chew in unwinnable circumstances. But I am lucky I did not get injured worse. I never blanked out. But I have before, memory loss kind of stuff, from many an altercation. To many to count. I was more concerned with protecting my pride, my weakness inside, my little man, my personality, my belief in myself, and anyone who pushed my buttons would get some. I lost all my jobs, longest job being 1 year, through some kind of conflict at work, and lack of focus, lack of trust, lack of direction, lack of belief in future, lack of showing up on time, loosing interest, angry bitter, hating things, and lack of performance. I even threatened to kill a boss, as I just snapped when I felt he put to much pressure on me.

Then, this whole time, in all these episodes, even in the suicide hospital cutting myself, all the psych notes during and after, in denial, not wanting to admit, that I was injured, and just wanted to believe it was a passing moment, that by the way had been goign on for years, and the depression was mind numbing being so broke on average, no future I could manifest myself, feeling like I did not belong in society or that no one valued me.

And where did all this crap come from. I was a team player. I was a varsity athlete in high school. I was a team leader. I was getting medals. The younger junior varisty looked up the me at times. I was always a team player playing team sports and mostly really succeeding. I scored 70 on the ASVAB. I was awarded best recruit award at bootcamp graduation meritorious advancement 1994 Bootcamp 18 years old, I accepted and excelled, only dreams of success to continue what I was used to. Hard work equaled success. I was going to break the mold of the man in the family. My dad was gone when I was 10. My mom Sister and Brother should see a young man, me the new male in the family be a shining light. I could support my mom somehow possibly. I wanted to share. My mom had struggled single, no child support, and we would be in homeles shelters, sharing rooms, bouning around place to place, room to room, until she met a guy for a few years, and we settled down just in time for my High School years.

But what was this enlistment, the SEA and AIR MARINER enlistment the Recruiter sold me? I do not know. I just know it will allow me to go to college, and be in the military at the same time. All the literature he gave me sold me. He was nice. He was cool. He was simple. I was dreaming of GI JOE, Cool, Strong, Athletic, Go Getter, Military, Patriotism, Going where no one ever thought Aaron could go. I signed up 8 years. I had never experienced manhood or adulthood making decisions like this before. But this is my government. And they would only do me well, and have well thought out programs, and I was going to give them my all.

But, why did they, not teach me a single thing in bootcamp about being a reservist and what that life would be like? Why did they not teach me about atrophy of skill sets, that can not be maintained, well, at only 2 days a month of putting the uniform on and reporting for duty, after bootcamp.

They did not prepare me, how to succeed in use those 2 days, to fit in with guys, in a command of guys, who live it breathe it daily, on their COMBAT SHIP.

There was no limited duty expecations or limits on what I could or would be commanded.

All the watches I would qualify for, for the first time ever, and stand for the first time ever, which normally take full time sailors an unknown amount of time to master and sign off on and learn and live and become proficient in and second hand at and be able to teach someone else as a master climbing the ranks like everyone else normally is doing, and there for develop a sense of pride ego and professionism, acceptance, belief in yourself, belief in learning, feeling safe with expectations, all that full time training of watches and knowledge would for me, and no one else on the ship, as the only sailor with no experience full time, making it a requirement that all that be squezzed into 2 days, because they had to get there ROI in me, Return on Investment, some Wall Street term used now now, by the DOD or DON Term, when discussing how to use reservists in the new TOTAL FORCE structure, that relied on Reservist not to train as a group unit for mobilzation alone as a group in the cold war and force build up of the 80s, but now the Reservist is thought of every IDT inactive duty training as being a pressure release valve to do what the AD is doing, augment them, do hazardous duties, in full line and expectation and professionalism as them, to relieve them of standing as many watches, or do maintanance for them on there Ship using powerful Air Powered Machinery, in the downsizing years of the NAVY mid 90s.

I joined in 1994. All I would know is the years of squeezing water from rocks, get more from less, missing parts, downsizing, with the same operational load and deployment, and expectations before the Downsizing.

The reservist now were seen as a buffer to take up manhours in hazardous condtions, mental and physical, to take off pressure as much as possible, in support the Gaining Command, for that term ROI to be fullfilled.

But what really happened is that personal training for rate advancement and training for professionalism, called an ITP or INDIVIDUAL TRAINING PLAN, that made specialized skill and training courses for personal development based on the schedule and available training of 2 days a month, and what can be expected without causing undue stress of overload, was stripped down and away just to teach the most basic of basic training for a few watches, no personal development programs beyond that, as the rest of the time was Manhours to be spent being commanded by the Gaining Command to do work for them as deemed necassary to give their guys time off, including hazardous duties, all learned and squuezed into 2 days with no leadership once you depart after 2 days with 4 weeks approximaly before the next big fight, do it all again, not being recongnized is that atrophy of the last 2 days or training 4 weeks previous does degrade, instead of full time availability and leadership available for direction.

All this is considered stress by the way. And it is stress for an 18 year old Sea and Air Mariner, with pride ego desire to succeed, going to college to become an officer, with dreams of a career, that by now would of included a family and a retirement from 20 years in, gone fast, at 38. But I can not tell that story.

Stress of 29 days of a 31 day month, being shoved into just 2 days of lazer beam focus, with full expecations of succes, or you are considered weak, a 18 year old, open to the world, and especially his brother hood, team the navy
for SELRES and most importantly for the very very few of possibly a couple thousand of sailors in those years, that did not have any prior full time experience


2 days, every month, Gas Turbine Engines Full Blast, Mooring Line Handling duty with the possible real knowledge shown in training videos even in bootcamp of SNAPBACK When the this small line, holding the gigantic ship to the pier BREAKS and snaps back at lightning splitting you in half as you are directly holding it under tension, creak creak creak, getting scared upset, thrown right into it, first duty, that is common and expected daily practice of the full time guys, but me just 2 days a month, have a impossible task of lowering my anxiety due to my mising experience, feelign squeezed and commanded, to do things, that are hazardous with no acknolowledgement of my severe experience level disparity of 2 days a month compared a full time sailor. I was not trusting of my new team, and hand nothing to offer, and nothing i could ever get better at, but full expecations to take part in Real Life battle stations, running around the ship, shown the same watches a few times, feeing pressure to say I did learn what was shoved on my plate as I did not want to seem slow, the basic watches just so I had something to do, in the middle of the ocean for 2 days night and day, during battle stations, simulated Battle, Damage Control, Hi Stress Battle Real life testing, at full time pace

because I am a reservist, starting at 18, first thing I would know is Bootcamp, and they never teach you what the life of a Reservist is or would be, no leadership or expectations, but they teach you just like the 99.9 percent of others who are going full time and you only learn and expect that same level of pride and success and acceptance and acknowledgement

Now I challenge any AIR FORCE ARMY MARINE who can compare similar units or
experiences.

And then, on the ship, I was introduced as a RESERVIST. Although there are not signifying marks saying RESERVIST on my uniform ever. And being a RESERVIST, with nothing to bring to the table, but an open book, no qualifications, no experience to leverage, on an open mind with an expecation of leadership who wold maximize me desire to learn, in a way that I could do so safely,

But on a stressed out, full time command, short of manpower already, in the years of downsizing, Most if not all thought I was a waste of time, and better to be marginalized and limited in personal training to even learn how to tie Knots taught in the BMR

That emptiness and stress and the abillity not to learn, and not succeed, and not become a professional, but always feel like a looser, with nothing that I was gaining that I could share proudly, in a Full Time ACTIVE DUTY ship, as far more important to me then the general education, that I had to manage.

But I would find myself overwhelmed trying to catch up with reading rate manuals at home alone from the ship, taking time away from college courses, that take a lot of time.

And when I was done with a weekend at sea, I would come back drifting to 1 side, with sea sickeness almost always, that would last days if not a week til I felt steady again.

I was labeled and introduced as a Reservits, or CODE NAME WTF WASTE OF TIME to the command, and a suck on training resources and time and focus from leadership.



But I am no reservist. I am a united states sailor, a human, who put his life on the line for my country and your country and was put in impossible training or lack of training circumstances, that I am challenged to find another sailor that shared the same experience and for the last 2 years have not found 1 online or anywere else, and i never fought and never questioned, and never blamed anyone at this rubix cube unsolvable.

But, how was i not to get disgruntled upset, unable to see progress, falling behind, comparing myself to the same aged full time guys in uniform every month, workgin side by side with them and they had adapted well, and had friends between them cliques in there groups, and also security and ego and self accomplishment in moving up the ranks as a normal sailor does in the command. But I was stuck. Over 4 years, I stayed like the recruit who showed up and within 6 months or shorter possibly much shorter be qualified in the same things I did accomplish getting signed off an standing in 2 days a month over the first year being there and stuck at no further advancement or shadowing aloud to learn anything but the most basica of basics, which included a lot of hazardous duties at the lowest levels of experience, never to be able to remove myself, like the rest could with hard work, stuck for 4 years 18-22, the most vulnerable times for a young man to identify and build himself. Add the weight on of pressure and desire in the military TO SUCCEED and everything is wrong and falling apart.

And I know up you probably now this, that after I got my ass kicked sad depressed at sea going to hawaii by the only e9 command master on the ship, highest enlisted, who is supposed to be looking out for the enlisted, he kicked my ass, when possibly I did not respond correctly to him about my mentaliity the stress I was taking on, finally breaking down, in 1998, 21, and he threatened how easy it would be for him to basically destroy my career and remove me from the navy all together, and all just for 200 a month, and no health care benefits to access mental health on my own off the ship, with out the ship knowing, as a reserve enlistment with no VA Veteran Prior Vet Status, does not get VA access with orders less then 30 days, ever. So I was completely reliant on the ship to write a referal. And the ship when I complained of anxiety symptoms 1997 physical they did not even take a blood pressure reading. 1998, I was loosing my FIance and having troubles cold and unsure and very confused about my future, and the navy was not in my dreams anymore after the attack on the ship the last straw that broke the camels back of a young man who dreamed different a few years earlier. I tried to join the ARMY with my selres units agreement and signed off on ddform 368. And the ARMY accepted me, and during processing, I was DQd spine muskoskeletal and PSYCH. Read COMORBID CONDITIONS linking PSYCH and MUSKSOSKELTAL work together. ANd the ARMY never got me any support. MEPS never got me intouch with support. I was given no directions, beyond 1 phone call to notify me of the failure, a short talk, confusion, madness, blindsided on my end, empty confused, and chilled on my end and more definite sickening deep sad depressing terms when I finally realized the ARMY shut the door due to illnesses I was not treated for. And they hung up the phone, my recruter did, never to talk to again. I reported 6 months same hazardous duties, same ship, same guys, same e9 I hated and was despising of, until I transfered off into a new command, my last command, where my evals shot up, a shore command with all part time drilling reservist, no Full Time guys to make fun or overwhelm me for the last 2 or 3 years before I was honorably discharged 2002.

But i was not given a separtion physical, or TAPs from the VA, and my 8 year enlistment being a deployable war asset every day of those years on short notice, training in combat ship the first 5, would not earn me a DD214, a very basic important document, to prove, that I could even get a discount cup of coffee based on VET Status.

2004 I hear someone found me missing dad since 10 still alive on the east coast. I was already sick myself, and this was indeed news, but I knew inside he was sick so his support would not be something to count on.

2005 homeless broke jobless suicide self injury cutting never told the doctors I was in the military


I even tried to start a non profit, working with inner city youth, trying to leverage my handyman skills that I developed to barter for housing to not be homeless and people would not hire me directly as an employee, and hire kids that no one else would hire, that really wanted to succeed, as all the ones I worked with had been incarcerated at one time, but no one in society was givin them second chanced to mentor them, doing handyman work when the economy was good, and people were hiring to remodel or rehab bad properties to flip them 2007 2008. I got a letter of recomendation from the City, from a council member saying what a nice thing I was trying to accomplish workign with at risk youth, and I still have the letter with the cities letter head today some 7 years later.

My tools were stolen in a bad part of town 2008, I fell apart again, never to recover.

2009 I help my dad drive across the country from Virginia, he settles in Los Angeles, he is a 100 percent service connected Vietnam Vet with untreated PTSD and exposure to AGent Orange I am supposing, but he wont talk much about it.

We never get close. We are both different. He is ashamed of me. I still dont talk about my miliary expeirence, or the assault especially still hidden in me I tried to forget, thinking it would do no good to remember, as getting beat up by someone really can not help in any substanitive way only can make things worse in reality. I am livign bartering for rent pretending one day I will get my life together, and I dont take his advice or anyones advice well, as I think they are trying to control me, and I find fault in there conclusions.

I meet a girl long distance internet. I decide to move back to San Diego, and follow this girl. I get engaged. I want kids. My first fiance dumped me at 22 when i had PTSD from assault and did not tell her and I was acting really cold different confused a mess and beligerant and a mess.


2009 October to December Mom has a stroke during heart in and out procedure to fix a fluttering heart condition mom passes away in my arms holding her hand at the hospital.
a girl i was dating and wanted to marry dumped me soon after

I was drinkng drunk before noon after that.

2011, I applied for ssdi completely a mess. And I was awarded no denial

900 a month and finally access to health care. I never told the SUICIDE hosptial or the SSDI I served honorably I never told them I served at all. as all that I trid to forget the day I left base with a discharge paper in my hand that I assumed said less then honorable, and was ashamed by the ARMY DQ and I thought in my head the NAVY just let me keep on going, and I made this fake world explanation in my head to make sense of missing help after the PSYCH dq, that was embaressn to say the least and a shock out of left field, but was really true, testimony to my streeet fights I was getting in at the time, and I was scared interanally I was going to get in a fight with someone in ARMY bootcamp, but that was worth the risk to get out of the navy where I felt sick trapped overwhelmed and hopeless, help me and not discharge me in a negative way. But you know what, the navy never did anything. And I think they never knew. They never questioned me why my Transfer never was completed. It took months to process that thing. ANd they forgot about it all in the shuffle.

But letting me serve, and not treating me, and letting me return to a place, a ship I was trying to remove myself from, and telling me I had a psych problem, but no follow up , that stopped a transfer to the ARMY really disturbed me and made me suspicous and desusional confused and more worse things.

But I never complained.


But in 2013 reading the VA web site, it listed PtsD CAUSED by Assault personal mental physical and
sexual all causing PTSD. And PTSD causes a very combative self protecting person who will get in fights, hence, that ass whooping I could not remove myself from, e9 to e3, i started to actually look at things with darkness from that point on, and trusting my own team was actually evaporated, as I can still recall the day after the ass whooping he laid on me, he in front of other guys my age, told me to go look for something that was not real around the ship, and when I got to the quarter Deck they laughed at me and then when I returned. the other guys my age went along with it, and when you are the victim and singled out, and made to look like an ass..it is easier for weak minded assholes your age to pile on..and act like bullies...and still remember that..i as the only sailor, the most inexperienced, least of medical care, on only 2 or 3 days and a few weeks every year starting at 18-22, every month, forced to think I could or should fit in. ANd not fitting in flew in direct confrontation the learning I had grown up with in school team sports and bootcamp where I excelled and was indeed accepted.
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Responses: 3
PO1 Donald Hammond
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I've heard of video games helping too. Of course there are therapy animals. When the night seems so long, sharing it with a pet who loves you unconditionally is amazing.
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SMSgt Dr. G. A. Thomas
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Edited 6 y ago
PO3 Aaron Hassay I don't have one but I heard they are wonderful tools for the toolkit:)
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SPC John Schembari
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My therapist has me writing! I have some amazing little stories that just seem to flow out of my mind. I have never written before. plus i do have a therapy dog Jasmine a 2 year old Golden Retriever sure helps me with this shutdown
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