Possible link to PTSD in mass shooting leads local veteran to open up about mental struggles

By Japhanie Gray - Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - After officials stated that post-traumatic stress disorder may have played a role in a mass shooter’s decision to shoot up a nightclub in California overnight, one local veteran suffering from PTSD is raising awareness and offering help to other veterans.

Tony Roman, chapter commander for the Military Order of the Purple Heart in San Antonio, knows all too well about PTSD after serving in the Marine Corps from 1968-1970.

“I have seen many veterans who suffer from PTSD,” Roman said. “Some handle it one way and some handle it another.

Roman said he was struggling and turned to self-medication and alcohol to overcome it. He said nothing worked until he met one doctor and started helping others with PTSD in 1995. Now, he wants everyone to understand the severity behind the disorder.

“You look at our veterans, and even if they do not look like something is wrong with them, they are dealing with a wound that cannot be seen,” Roman said. "One veteran told me he parked in a Purple Heart parking spot and he got out and someone asked him, ‘What is wrong with you? There doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with you, so why are you parking there?’ “He told me it made him sad because, while he was serving, he was faced with a concussion from an IED, which caused him PTSD. That citizen, who was ignorant, broke his heart.”

Roman said the biggest thing veterans face is civilians not thinking before speaking.

“You have no idea what these men and women have been through,” Roman said. “You have to be careful with the things you say because sometime it can be very offensive and trigger a person suffering from PTSD. They have to realize that they are having the freedoms they have because of these men and women who put their lives on the line the way they do.”

Roman said with his experiences talking with other veterans and his own, he knows sights, sounds or even smells can trigger someone.

“A vet driving down the road sees litter of some sort on the highway can trigger their fears against IEDs,” Roman said. “Firecrackers can trigger a person and even a meal. For me, serving in Vietnam, it is rice.”

Roman said the biggest unknown is knowing when a trigger can happen.

“You have no time to stop and process things,” Roman said. “There are combat brothers and sisters dying, and you've got to keep going. All of these feelings of fear dread, mourning and everything, you've got to put it in a little capsule, put it in the back of your mind and forget about it. But when you get back to the real world, you start feeling all of these feelings and people don't understand why that person is different from what he was a few minutes ago.”

Some symptoms of PTSD include:

  • Re-experiencing trauma through intrusive distressing recollections of the event, flashbacks and nightmares.

  • Emotional numbness and avoidance of places, people and activities that are reminders of the trauma.

  • Increased arousal, such as difficulty sleeping and concentrating, feeling jumpy and being easily irritated and angered.

Roman said the best treatment to have during recovery is to admit that you are sick and need help. He said it is also better to speak with someone who has been there.

“Combat vets, male or female, are reluctant to talk to civilians because they don't understand, but we talk to each other and there is no sense of judgment,” Roman said.

He said that it is important that citizens be educated as well.

“Be gentle and don't judge, because you have no idea what these troops have gone through,” Roman said.

Here are some ways to help treat PTSD symptoms:

  • Take care of your body.

  • Find ways to deal with your flashbacks.

  • Seek professional treatment.

For more ways on how to deal with PTSD and even ways you can help a loved one suffering from PTSD, click here.

Copyright 2018 by KSAT - All rights reserved.