COLORADO SPRINGS — June is PTSD Awareness Month, and according to a 2020 Wounded Warrior Project survey , 83% of the veterans the non-profit serves, report living with the symptoms of PTSD. The survey also found that 30% of those who reported had thoughts of suicide in the last two weeks, and one local veteran feels strongly about helping those suffering.
Jonny Benton served in the U.S. Army from 2002-2013. He says it was 9/11 that inspired him to leave college here in the Springs and start his military career. His father had served for 20 years, and he felt it was time to carry on that honor.
And during his time serving, he spent time overseas fighting for our freedoms in Afghanistan. Jonny is a true patriot, and he strongly believes in our American values. But when he came back from Afghanistan, he was battling severe PTSD that took a physical and mental toll on his life.
He says he fought in the deadliest battle in Afghanistan, the Battle of Wanat, and then returned to the United States just 10 days later. He did not remember going home. The last thing he remembers from overseas is a doctor's words. “Broken. We’ve beat you up too much physically and mentally and you’re no longer combat effective. You’re combat-ineffective,” said the doctor.
For Jonny, these words were painful because he wanted to stay in the U.S. Army to get to the 20 years his father had served. Upon his return to the United States, the PTSD symptoms started right away. He says it's important to make people aware of how serious PTSD is because the pain was unbearable.
“It’s devastating and it’s taking the lives of a lot of our brothers and sisters in arms. I hate to see that. These are people who went overseas and fought the good fight, and they’re coming home and they’re losing the fight. They may not have lost their lives in war, but the war eventually took their life. We need to have that conversation,” said Benton.
But the good news is, Wounded Warrior Project helped him through their projects, specifically Project Odyssey. This allowed him to get back to doing the things he loved before serving. One of the best things to help him combat post-traumatic stress is opting outside. The project has allowed him to go white water rafting, fly fishing, and even mountain biking in Moab.
“It’s been absolutely helpful and beneficial organization that’s come and in and stepped in at the right time for me in order to help me continue to strengthen my healing process as I move through this,” said Benton.
Jonny says the Project Odyssey program has left him with good memories so he can look back at pictures on a difficult day and balance out the bad. He says being alongside other soldiers has helped too and he encourages those struggling to contact the Wounded Warrior Project because they really can help. Everyone heals differently and they offer a variety of programs.
Jonny says talking to a therapist didn’t help him personally, but it can help others. For Jonny, finding the activities he loves has helped him a lot. While he’s still healing, he’s in a much better state now.
Anyone interested in getting involved in the Wounded Warrior Project, should visit here.