Danny Valdez said besides Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, there’s a disorder plaguing service personnel that they may not realize is a problem.
“A lot of veterans and service members are looking for answers. How can I have been so good at being a military person and then have my life completely fall apart when I come home? I believe that we need to look at other components other than PTSD. By no means am I discrediting PTSD. I believe it's a problem for people but it's not the only problem. There's more to this than trauma,” Valdez said.
He addresses this issue in a book he wrote, PSAD: Post Service Adjustment Disorder.
”PSAD, the actual definition I have given it, is the complete mental breakdown and incompatibility, both consciously and subconsciously, of a military service member in transition back to civilian culture,” Valdez said.
Valdez shared how he lost his sense of identity when he left the military. He joined the Marine Corps right after high school. He said the military lifestyle was all he had come to know in his life.
“I was part of something that less than two percent of the country can do. There was a lot of honor and a lot of pride,” Valdez said. “I was good. I was successful. I never thought that I would be in such a bad place within one to three years.”
Valdez was honorably discharged from the Corps and said he was met with layers of disappointments when he returned home. He said there was no preparation given to him on life outside the military. Valdez begin to doubt himself. He couldn’t succeed in jobs or in social settings. Valdez said he ended up coping with his struggles in negative outlets. He got into criminal activity and even became homeless.
“Work etiquette, civilian etiquette, proper demeanor, proper language, the way we speak. It's all different. As a person who found themselves in the Marines, to come home and be a civilian, I can't be a Marine anymore. I didn't know what to do,” Valdez said. “I went from hero to zero.”
He’s hoping his book will not only help veterans identify their struggles but influence change in the government. He is asking veterans to share their own experiences of transitioning into civilian life.
Valdez also wants veterans' friends and family to send in their stories because they are affected as well. Valdez’s e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org. He wants to collect the testimonies as part of his research to share it with the government.
“This needs to be integrated into outgoing service personnel. It needs to be integrated into veterans programs to first off, start by warning service personnel: 'look these are the things that are going to change for you. Your culture, your life, your pace, you need to be aware.' We can start there and develop it as it grows,” he said.
Valdez is pursuing a degree in psychology at the University of the Incarnate Word. His book PSAD: Post Service Adjustment Disorder is available on Amazon.