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Army vet with PTSD shares story on awareness day

Published On: Jun 27 2013 11:57:46 PM CDT

Caleb James reports.

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho -

Thursday is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Day.

It's meant to increase understanding of the condition, more commonly known as PTSD.

Many of our nation's military veterans live with the disorder, after experiencing trauma on the battefield.

Retired Army Sgt. Jesse Williams lives with PTSD after a horrifying accident during his third deployment in Iraq.
     
He hopes his story will help others help their own loved ones who struggle with the disorder.

"We were in charge of escorting convoys of semi-trucks full of supplies that we'd escort up into Iraq," said Williams.  
     
Sept. 21, 2009 started off as the most usual of days for Williams. In the blink of an eye, everything changed.
     
"My truck was stopped at a turn-off point," said Williams.

As his truck stood motionless waiting for a convoy to pass, an impaired driver of one of the semi-trucks in line lost control.

"He went off the road, and then came back on to the freeway."

The semi deiver slammed into Williams' Army Humvee.

"I went into the windshield, and I was out," said Williams.
 
Three weeks later, Williams woke up.
     
"About 44-percent of my skull had to be removed," he said, showing a photo of himself with his skull caved in dramatically.
 
The next few months were full of surgeries.

If not for a scar, a fine line across the left side of his head, William's injury is invisible -- at least on the outside.
     
There are limitations now because of his brain injury, but he says the strongest affects of his accident have been psycological.
     
"Crowds. I have a very difficult time being in very loud, crowded, enclosed places," said Williams.
 
Lisenced clinical councilor Joann Koester treats many veterans with post traumatic stress in her Idaho Falls office.
     
"Very common, extremely common," she said of Williams' symptoms.

Koester said PTSD sufferers are often wary of crowds, and other high stress environments.
   
"I've been treating a returned vet and he had intrusive memories, he had flash backs, he was extremely anxious," she said.
 
Koester says despite the severity of symptoms, PTSD can be treated. The first and most important step is often the most overlooked.

"Ask the person who's suffering what would help," she said. "Different people have different needs. Support them in going to therapy."
 
Williams said he has his own room in the house to decompress. He takes a lot of extra quiet time these days. But there's one thing that's helped him recover more than anything else.
     
"Keeping the communication with your family and friends," he said.  

Williams now refers to the day of his accident -- Sept. 21 2009 -- as his "alive day."

If you or someone you love is struggling with the symptoms of PTSD, you can visit http://www.ptsd.va.gov for links to local resources.

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