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2018-07-05 / Voices

If You’re a Native Veteran Suffering from PTSD You Should Read This

By Oitancan Mani Zephier, Former Sgt. U.S. Army Combat Medic, C Co. 7/25 MSB & C. Co. 3/25 BSB

Forward Operating Base Salerno, Afghanistan 2004- 2005: this was a lifetime ago. I served as a combat medic. The experience changed my life. They are times in my life I cannot forget even 12 years later.

When I was 1 or 2 years removed from the military I ran into one of my uncles who was a Marine Vietnam Veteran. I heard many war stories from him. For example, while they were looking at the dead enemy’s faces on the battlefield they picked one guy’s lifeless head up by his hair and he was the barber that cut their hair the day prior. It was nearly 50 years after the war when I ran into him in Hot Springs, South Dakota, several miles from where I thought he lived. I asked him what he was doing in town. He responded, “I live here now. I moved here to be closer to the V.A. Hospital. One day I put my head on my mom’s lap and started crying remembering the things we did in Vietnam and I couldn’t stop.” That hit very close to home because I knew the feeling. I took this lesson from an elder veteran very seriously. I was only 2-3 years from my experiences in the war. I didn’t want to be him in 50 years if I would be lucky to live that long. I did not want to be crying about my experiences 50 years from now. I decided then that I wanted to heal.

Coincidentally at about the same time, I ran into one of my grandmothers at a ceremony. She said “hi, grandson” and gave me a hug then said something that shocked me. She said, “I can see on your face you’re still hurting. I will pray for you.” That caught me off guard. I thought I felt pretty good. It was an eye-opener.

Prior to this, I heard from my dad Rick Two Dogs of the ceremonies that his father went through to heal from World War II. They are Lakota ceremonies and to many, they can be scary and very difficult to do. They are difficult to do but my character doesn’t let that stop me. It was about a year prior that he told me the things I needed to do to prepare for these four ceremonies. I was afraid that I couldn’t remember the items I needed to make. I talked to my other dad, Warren, Sr. and told him I was afraid I didn’t remember all the items. He said, “pray about it.” That’s what I did and slowly those items I was told to make came to mind. They were to be made a certain way. I’m not going to list them here. They are sacred items.

I began the tasks of building these items and preparing for four ceremonies over the course of the next two years. That’s how long it took me to complete them. It involved things I had to do in the Wiwang Wacipi or Sundance ceremony and while on Hanbleceya or Crying for a Dream, the hill, while fasting and so on.

When I completed them, I felt my mind relax. I just wanted to stay home and take care of my children. Prior to completion, I was trying to reenlist. I almost went back in as a flight medic. I felt like the war was where I needed to be. In my first enlistment, I even planned my funeral with my wife because I planned on dying in the war. I joined for one reason. I wanted to go to war and fight. I almost did die too, but that’s a story for another day. My spiritual path kept me alive and redirected my life. Our actions surely do determine our path in life. This was about 2006.

The ceremonies weren’t a cure-all. It was like a jump start with various maintenance checkups and tune-ups in the form of our sacred ceremonies spread out over the last 12 years. Now fast forward to present time years and life is good. I’m still alive. My family is all healthy and alive. What more can you ask for? My babies are growing up. I have no regrets.

If you’re a veteran and in these shoes remember one thing. You are not weak because you ask for help you are strong because you ask for help. Realizing you need help is the first step. Get to that point first. We can all use a little bit of assistance in life. Do not let people or society shame you into thinking you’re too good to receive help. Remember, you are loved. You have to love yourself to be better than you were yesterday. You have greatness in you. Seek it.

If you need more inspiration and positivity in your life follow me on Instagram and Twitter as @OZinspires and on Facebook.com/OZinspires.

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