Like so many veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, Hammond’s Bryan Jones still bears the weight of his experience after eleven years. Jones joined the Army in 2003 and was deployed to Iraq in the same year until 2004 with the 4th Infantry Division where he spent a year carrying out urban combat missions, raiding houses and was part of the unit that captured Saddam Hussein.
“I was actually on a tank, but we couldn’t use the tanks over there because of the city and urban element so we worked side by side with the infantry because of that,” said Jones. “We still did missions on the tank, but we were raiding houses and that kind of stuff because it’s not a tank war anymore.”
Transitioning back to civilian life after Jones’ year in Iraq was initially enjoyable but over time the adjustment became difficult and settling into a normal routine was not easy after a year of combat.
“At first it was just enjoyable to be home,” Jones said. “We didn’t have mandatory classes for after action and retraining to go back to the U.S. after my unit got back from Iraq. There were classes you went to but the teacher was a Vietnam or retired military personnel and he was happier than you were to have you back home. He would ask you if you had any questions, ‘no, okay you guys can take off, have fun and enjoy the rest of your day in America’. That was our training.”
“It wasn’t until 2006-07 that classes became mandatory,” said Jones. “I look back at it now and I talk to National Guardsman and they have a massive amount of retraining when they get home to be back in the civilian world again. They have to do these things, their whole unit, where, no I didn’t have that. You’re trained in the military to just go on with the mission and when you get back you’re just happy to be home. You don’t want to be in a classroom doing that. You want to be out enjoying yourself with your buddies.”
When Jones got back he found that dealing with the stresses of life and relationships along with the post-traumatic stress disorder he was going through was a tough hill to climb.
“My way of dealing with it was going to the local bar and drinking it away. Through that, I had issues, flashbacks or episodes. I had a really tough time transitioning back to the civilian world. I didn’t have the tools to help me with that. I started going to the V.A. but I didn’t stop drinking when I was working with the V.A. so the treatments were temporary. It would work for a month or two but through time I would end up falling back and having issues with the PTSD.”
In 2013, everything changed for Jones. He was involved in a severe accident on Highway 80/94 that he was lucky to survive and sent him to the hospital for two weeks.
“At that moment in my life I knew the drinking had to stop and I quit,” Jones said. “The accident was so bad that it made some people question how I survived. That moment had an impact on me to stop what I was doing right now and I haven’t drank since then. Since then I have been extremely successful in life. There’s not one part of my last that hasn’t been improved in the last two years.”
Things have gotten better every day for Jones since that accident. He’s part of a private security company that does provides security for trade shows and in January 2016 he will be filing papers to start his own private security company. He still has stress but through working with the V.A. Jones knows how to deal with these issues.
“I go to the V.A. every single month, I don’t miss my appointments and I do everything they ask of me because this is my life and I need to control it now. In the past, I was letting other things control me and I’ve learned how to deal with that.”
Providing security for trade shows means that Jones is always travelling and working in cities throughout the United States and this has had a profoundly positive effect.
“This is what I fought for and can appreciate now, especially being sober,” said Jones. “On a nice day the hair stands up on my arm and the back of my neck seeing this beautiful country and what it has to offer. That means a lot to me now.”
Jones’ will be submitting the paperwork to start a private security company that will provide security for a range of areas such as private businesses, work sites and trade show, which will be his main focus.
“I have some mentors that have helped me do this and my boss has been one of them. He’s really pushed me to do this because he sees my potential in the security field. He sees what I can accomplish. Years ago I never thought I would start my own company but I’ll start small and I know things take time but I’m passionate about it. It’s a blessing and a curse to have PTSD. I couldn’t get a job in law enforcement or for the government, but this gives me the chance to be my own boss and spend more time with my family. I’ve become more family oriented since I quit drinking. I have an awesome support group right now and it’s only getting stronger on a daily basis.”