MIAMI – According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, up to 20% of Iraqi veterans develop post-traumatic stress disorder. And that number is expected to rise as troops return home to civilian life.
In an effort to cope with PTSD and start the healing process, one group of soldiers have taken the stage.
"I deployed in 2004, to Abu Ghraib prison, Iraq," said Anthony Torres, Army veteran and executive director, writer and performer with Combat Hippies.
Torres was part of a mental health team sent to help U.S. troops. He didn't realize until years later that he suffered from PTSD.
"Things like hypervigilance, sensitivity to sounds, anxiety, depression," he said.
Torres started a writing workshop for war veterans. The workshop turned into an ensemble of Puerto Rican military veterans sharing their experiences through spoken word.
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Hipolito Arriaga, who is an actor and writer for Combat Hippies, suffered from PTSD when he returned from Iraq.
"I was pushing people away, I wasn't talking, I was isolating. And, I can't just sit home on the couch and disconnect from the world; I have to come here and work," Arriaga said.
The show, "Amal", is a raw look at war, death and drug addiction.
"Every time we go in, we shed tears, and those tears are real," said Angel Rodriguez, a Vietnam Veteran, actor and writer with Combat Hippies.
Combat Hippies help veterans through the healing process and encourage others coping with trauma to do the same.
"I'm doing this not to perform, but to save my own life," Arriaga said.
The show is made up of a mix of spoken word, live and recorded music.
The Combat Hippies are on a national tour and have played cities like Miami, Denver and Milwaukee.
For more information on the theater company and upcoming shows, click here.