The US Department of Veterans Affairs says the number of veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD has nearly tripled just in the past 10 years.
There are now nearly 1-million veterans dealing with the symptoms of PTSD – including the “re-living" of traumatic experiences, an inability to relax and trouble sleeping.
All of it can make life unbearable for veterans and in some cases, their families too.
Lamont Rankin is still putting his life back together, after parachuting into Panama with the US Army’s 82nd Airborne Division back in 1989, during Operation Just Cause.
“Over 20 some years it haunted me; it led me into drug addiction because of the pain and misery,” Rankin said.
Rankin and witnessed soldiers and civilians being killed.
“You talk all this big boy stuff,” he said. “It's one thing to talk about it, but when you have to take a person's life, it's another thing. Nobody talks about the nightmares. nobody talks about the late night, cold sweats. No one talks about that pain and misery. It tormented me all the way until last year until I finally started getting some kind of relief.”
Now, Rankin and a group of veterans are taking more steps toward relief -- at the Maryland Center for Veterans Education and Training in Baltimore.
They got a visit from members of the new veterans charity organization "Valors Mission” – who talked to the veterans about alternative medical treatments.
“You bring home the battlefield it's still in your body,” said Valors Mission co-founder Jarod Bull. “And so one of the things that a lot of veterans have trouble doing who are coming home from war, they're just having trouble just staying, being still. Being OK just sitting here.”
For tens of thousands of veterans -- for years -- the solution has been simple:
“They'll give you a pill for this and there's a side effect,” Rankin said. “And then you've got to take a pill for that. And then you've got to take a pill for that for that for that for that. And then you look up and you've got 30-thousand pills. That's not doing you no good because then what happens? You've become a drug addict.”
Valors Mission is trying to change that approach.
“I believe there is this implicit promise made when you sign your name on that line,” said another Valors Mission co-founder, John Hill, of Bowie. “That promise includes that if you're going to send me across the Earth to fight and I get hurt you're going to take care of me for the rest of my life and you're going to ensure that my family is taken care of.”
Hill, Bull and the other eight founders of Valors Mission are all 100-percent disabled veterans.
“It adds a perspective that other organizations do not have because we have gone through the same problems, the same emotional roller-coaster as the veterans we are serving,” Hill said.
Valors Mission will help veterans navigate the VA medical system, and also be an advocate, helping them secure alternative treatments like yoga, acupuncture -- and meditation.
“This is what's effective. This is what's healing PTSD,” Bull said. “This is what's going to get veterans to where they need to be. But the social structure hasn't caught up with that yet."
The VA does offer alternative treatments -- but many veterans don't know that's the case. And often, those who do still have trouble accessing the care they need, as they struggle with the war they brought home.
“You're not responsible for what happened. You're only responsible for how you respond to it. And also remember -- you're never alone. You're never alone. You don't have to go through this by yourself. There's great programs out here and there's nothing wrong with asking for help,” Rankin said.
Valors Mission is a federally-recognized non-profit -- they just finished getting up and running earlier this year.
More information about the group can be found here.