Having grown up in northern Michigan, I got my first shotgun before I could drive a car. I spent many hours in the woods, enjoying shooting sports and hunting. In addition to my years of personal experiences with firearms, I had spent more than 10 years on patrol and 9 years as a SWAT operator.
I believed that I was more than proficient tactically, and really enjoyed the shooting sports. I spent thousands of hours improving my skills to ensure I was effective whenever I needed to be.
The question today is: How did I go from being a proficient cop to man nearly jumping out of his skin any time I hear something that sounding like gunfire?
THE TURNING POINT
Four years ago, I was ambushed while trying to conduct a simple traffic stop. The suspect vehicle was driving with no headlights at night. I was in the process of effecting a traffic stop when a man, unrelated to the stop, made a decision to attack me.
He pulled a .380 pistol from his pocket and fired. Although he emptied his entire magazine, only one round found its target – me.
The round that struck me, entering my body near my elbow and exiting near my wrist on my dominant shooting arm. I was able to draw with my injured arm, return fire, and strike the suspect twice, thus saving my own life.
Even after striking my would-be killer, he was able to get up, retrieve an AK47 and continue his attempts to end my life. Injured, bleeding, and outgunned, I was unable to stop the threat at that time.
He escaped but later died in a shootout with the FBI.
As I made mention earlier, I had spent thousands of hours perfecting my tactical skills to ensure I would win any fight. It was because of this training, that I was able to survive this ambush. However, I now found myself unprepared for the unexpected ambush which was happening to me, mentally.
Although my physical injuries healed, I was plagued by nightmares regularly. These nightmares did not allow me to sleep. The lack of sleep only increased the levels of anxiety and depression I felt daily. I also lived with an unbelievable amount of rage.
If I heard anything resembling a gunshot, I was put into an instant panic mode, believing I was having to defend my life, once again. The culmination of all these issues, led to what would become one of the darkest days of my life.
The day I prepared to take my own life.
For reasons I cannot articulate, I did not pull the trigger that night.
A NEW DAWN
Instead, the following morning, I awoke with the gun lying in the bed next to me with a round still in the chamber. Having sobered up, I realized I had almost created a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
As a direct result, I sought help from doctors. I also began reading every book I could find on the topic of PTSD, and I began speaking publicly about my experiences.
This is how Operation Enduring Warrior (OEW) found me.
Representatives from the organization reached out, making promises we all regularly hear. Their offers were promises of support, empowerment, and brotherhood. As many of us who struggle with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder would be, I was skeptical.
I had heard promises like these many times before, but I thought to myself, “I nearly took my own life, what more did I really have to lose?”
I agreed to let Operation Enduring Warrior bring me into their program as an honoree.
Since joining OEW in 2018, they have sent me to five different events across the United States. In each of these events, I found a level of support I had never experienced before. The men and women of OEW showed love, compassion, and most of all they lived by their promises.
Not a week went by where someone from the organization was not checking on me, encouraging me, and pushing me to find ways to heal.
For over a year after my shooting, if I heard anything resembling a gunshot, I was thrown into instant panic. Despite these issues, in July of 2019, I agreed to attend the War-X obstacle course race in southern Ohio.
This obstacle course race is unlike any other. It was meant to simulate a battlefield. There was small arms fire, sustained automatic gunfire, and explosions.
With the support of OEW I was able to face my fears, complete the course, and even picked up a firearm for the first time since I had been ambushed.
NO LONGER A FAILURE
Operation Enduring Warrior’s mission is to honor, empower, and motivate military and law enforcement veterans who have been injured while serving our country. Not only did they succeed in each of their stated missions, but they also showed me the healing power found in helping others.
I believe that I am standing here today, due in large part to the support I have found in my OEW family. While I continue to struggle with many symptoms associated with PTSD, Operation Enduring Warrior has shown me that I do not need to suffer alone. They are here to help me carry the burden.
On May 7th, 2016, I survived an ambush because I was prepared. I used all of my tactical training to ensure I did not lose the fight.
Now, as I write this, I believe it is only possible because Operation Enduring Warrior stepped in and helped teach me the necessary skills to survive a different type of ambush.
An ambush of the mind.
Do you know a wounded military or law enforcement veteran? Reach out: https://www.enduringwarrior.org/
“Above all, it’s about going home at the end of the shift … “
We couldn’t agree more.
Jeremy enjoys hearing from his readers – EMAIL
Get Jeremy’s new book, “My Brother’s Keeper: Relearning to Live with PTSD ” at Amazon by clicking the link HERE.
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