I thought I would take the time to update this blog and really spell out everything Eve Online has done to help me as a Veteran with post traumatic stress disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury. Please bear with me the details may go into some length but after getting the chance to go to a legitimate “Eve Meet Up” at Eve New England and get the chance to explain to some non veteran eve players I thought spelling all of this out so I can get it out to the wider audience of Eve Online was a worthwhile goal going forward with this project to illustrate how helpful it can be for people like me.
My first experience with Eve Online goes back to 2007 when I made my first character. It was all so new but I didn’t have any real bearing in game and my schedule and the games complexity meant I wouldn’t be continuing to explore New Eden.
In July of 2008 I was deployed to Kunar Province Afghanistan as part of “Task Force Duke”. Being a member of Charlie Co.1st Battalion 26th Infantry Regiment (The Blue Spaders) we were put on a small combat outpost called “Seray” manned by 30 U.S. personnel and a platoon of Afghan National Army. What proceeded was a year of the hardest fighting seen in the Global War on terror with casualty tolls putting our Battalion at the top of the sustained casualty list of units during Operation Enduring Freedom 8-9 (not exactly a list one wants to make it on). We fought to defend our small outpost which was one of the first stops for foreign fighters pouring through the Pakistani border during that time. During the fighting season we would be attacked 3, 4, even 5 times a day with small arms like AK47’s and PKM’s to large munitions such as the Russian SPG-9 (an anti tank rocket) and DShk (Russian made 50. cal Machine gun) with armor piercing rounds to very large munitions like the Chinese made 107mm rocket. It was quite the experience to say the least and more than a few times I was knocked around by explosions which caused traumatic brain injury (I would find this out when I got home). After that year I was happy to be home and ready to celebrate making it out alive and ready to live my life, day number 2 back hom I went to a movie and in it there was a 50 cal. machine gun firing in it. That’s when I had my first experience with Post Traumatic Stress my brain kicked into go time thinking it was in a dangerous situation based off of the sound of a 50 cal. being fired (really well recorded sound might I add ).
The following is my train of thought and hopefully should give some insight to how some of this goes if you haven’t experienced it.
WHAT THE FUCK ! ? …… I need to find cover ! How did I not see this coming ! I’m usually always ready for this ! I must have been caught being lazy I didn’t see any spot where I could be engaged by a 50 cal. from ! Fuck fuck fuck …. I need cover where the fuck is all the cover? How the fuck did I let myself walk right into a place with no goddamn cover!? Wait a minute my wife is here !!!! How the fuck did she get here ?!!! I’ve got to get her someplace safe ….. shit shit shit…..where are my guys? why aren’t they returning fire? why aren’t they calling out distance and direction to the target? WHERE IN THE ACTUAL FUCK IS MY GODDAMN WEAPON!!!!!!?Holy shit I’m all alone it’s just me and my wife… This must be some kind of nightmare. It can’t be real?can it? O god please don’t let this be real….. I thought I was home.. This isn’t supposed to be happening at home we left the war back in Afghanistan.. Didn’t we?
This all took place in the matter of seconds inside my head and physiologically adrenaline started coursing through my body my heart began to race my palms got sweaty in a response to the brain thinking it was in physical danger blood retracted to my torso in an effort to keep as much blood in the vital regions of the body in case I was damaged or shot or lost a limb causing my face to turn white as a ghost. I was holding my wife’s hand and accidentally squeezed it causing her to look over and see me losing my mind. I said to her “something is wrong.. Something is very wrong I don’t know what’s happening”.( Later I would find out this incident has caused my wife anxiety about going out in public with me and being afraid that something would go wrong while out.)
We shrugged this off as something that would go away the longer I was home this would get better it’s just so soon after getting back that’s all. Turns out it wasn’t and this is something I would be dealing with for the rest of my life. I moved to a new duty station with my unit and got to the task of training new soldiers the ways of the Spader Battalion and preparing them for a future deployment to Afghanistan less than a year later. Now in this time I had a hard time getting out and being hyper vigilant while at the grocery store or anywhere else. To the point where I really didn’t go anywhere but I was working so much that “it wasn’t a big deal right? I mean it will go away with time that’s what they told me.” A year after we would find ourselves at the National Training Center in Ft.Irwin CA doing our pre-deployment train up and certification to go.
This would be another milestone in this journey. It was the first night of the 2 week combat simulation (basically roleplaying being at actual war) and one of the Controllers of the training tossed 3 or 4 artillery simulators right by my tent that I was in. My battle brain ticked on and took over. I mean took over, my body was going through the exact motions I had done so many times responding to an attack in Afghanistan. Picture watching a movie play out in first person view while wearing an oculus rift , no control just watching it play out. My body was acting on muscle memory while I watched due to the initial shock of thinking it was back in Afghanistan. One of the controllers noticed some strange behavior (I’ll leave it at that) and pulled me out of the training. I got pulled out to go see the Psyche doctor they had there and when we returned home from training I was pulled out of my unit and they were deployed the next month. One of my soldiers I had trained was killed by an IED and I spent that whole year getting medically retired from the Army on a cocktail of anti psychotics and anti depressants. Faced with the prospect of not being an Infantryman ever again I freaked out and tried pushing my wife away from me almost causing us to get a divorce. I was spiraling through a really dark place filled with self doubt , self loathing for being so weak that I was getting kicked out because I had Post Traumatic Stress, and having a conflict of identity. I medically retired from the Army in October of 2012 and headed back home for the East Coast.
I was no longer in the Army I was no longer someones NCO or Team leader I was no longer me or so I thought. I tried the meds for about a year. They didn’t help they gave me a horrible quality of life and put weight on me that I never had before in my life. I started looking for something to do with my time and I had a bright idea.. Eve Online! It was supposed to be hard core it was supposed to be something I could really put some time into. I started a new account chose the name J Mcclain (since I’m a big fan of die hard and yes I know it’s not spelled right lol ).
I tried out high sec for a month and it was boring for me so I looked around and found Gallente Faction Warfare. That’s where my real fun began , and little did I know that’s where my help began too. I began when Gal Mil started taking systems away from the Russians in Essence trying to sweep the war zone. I was in my cheaply fit frigate and jumped on the Gal Mil Team speak and hopped in the fleet that was fighting in the plexes. As that first weekend passed I starting talking with one of the guys leading the effort System shark and come to find out he was a British Royal Army Veteran. I jumped corps to join him in his effort seeking that Veteran connection and someone who I could talk with. He was extremely positive and in the weeks to come we shared war stories and talked about Army life and all the things in between. It was great jumping point for me to be able to get into conversations with new people and feel like I belonged to something, I belonged in Gal mil. come to find out there were a whole mess of other veterans in there that I would come to know and share stories with. I got motivated by system shark to start going to the gym again I had stopped taking the pills that had made me feel terrible, I started to feel like I was me again.
It dawned on me that what I was missing that could make me feel whole again was a community , veterans I could talk things out with. It was during Eve Vegas that I had gotten the Idea to start “Best of Us” channel in game and I called upon Harrigan VonStudly who I had listened to on the Podside podcast and asked him to talk to FrFrm pukin who was the host of podside if he would help me out to get the ball rolling and the word out about a channel and community effort for us so we could have a place to talk to other vets and hopefully get some help out of the effort. p[ukin was an amazing help and supporter of the effort since he was a military veteran himself and had his own run in with mental health problems. I started making the rounds of Podside podcast , High Drag podcast , the Wiggles show, and the Open Comms show. I found a great and welcoming community here doing podcasts and have developed some friendships with many of the great guys who do it.
This past March I was doing better things weren’t as bleak and I could see improvement. I found out there was an Eve meet up in Boston and thought about going but wasn’t certain if I was quite ready to go into a major city with out the company of my wife to help me when things got bad for me. Time came and we found out CCP Guard was going to be there and Dirk Macgirk and shadow and light were going as well. Dirk offered to let me crash at his hotel with him and I was off for the first time by myself going outside the house for an extended period of time for the first time in almost 2 years since getting out of the Army. The ride there nearly gave me a heart attack and I thought about turning around several times but I made it to the hotel to meet up with dirk. Meeting him in person for the first time was a seamless transition and after stashing my stuff at the hotel we sped on our way to the Bar to meet Eve Nerds. The bar was crowded beyond belief , at least for me, and things were very uncomfortable. Then Shadow and light showed up and we started talking and having two people be there who knew how it was a struggle for me to be there who were watching out for me went a very long way to helping me feel like it was safe for me. I got to meet CCP Guard who was an absolute riot , we got drunk crashed some birthday karaoke party and really enjoyed ourselves.
I came home the next day truly excited and feeling like real steps were made. I found out once I got home a friend I had deployed with had overdosed trying to self medicate the effects of Post Traumatic Stress. I knew it was a serious problem and had seen this happening in the ranks but now it had just become so real that I didn’t know what to do with myself. This was a person who is so integral to my life changing experience and most memories I have of the good times while at war that I couldn’t process it. I redoubled my efforts and focused on more awareness of veterans suicide and have been trying to go forward with the project to get to more people since.
I have just returned from Eve New England this past week and I must say it was a resounding success. I had a great time meeting all sorts of Military Veterans as well as getting to see CCP Guard again and meeting CCP Rise for the first time.I had the unique opportunity to explain what this project is and what I hope it can accomplish to not only CCP devs but people who had no idea we existed and made new friends in the process. It was a great and welcoming environment with truly great people. It was an experience that has brought me one step closer to taking back my life and providing me the ability to reach more people that I can help.
That was how Eve Online and it’s players have helped me and continue to do so. Thank you to all the people who helped me start this and to CCP for the shout outs and Rise and Guard for letting me talk their ear off spreading the word this past week.