“Master Sergeant, It’s Time To Put Your Ruck Down.” — Part 10 of 14

If the eyes are the windows to the soul, I wonder if the soul leaves the body as tears.

My life from tortured child to Green Beret, fall to darkness due to pain & PTSD, and healing through vulnerability.

Hypocricy of the Hippocratic Oath.

As if inside another storm, within a few months of moving to the West Coast, medical care conundrum resulted in waiting almost 2 years for hip surgeries — the entire time hobbling on crutches or limping with a cane, feigning that I was not in pain.

“We will not replace your hips until you turn 60.”

- Department of the Navy Orthopedic Surgeon. His gait was light, supple and perfect. A huge contrast to my well-pronounced, combat-induced defect.

After serving years as somewhat-somewhat of an elite soldier, why did I have to beg for a non-tactical procedure? Why not treat injuries incurred in weather hot, conditions humid, and against enemies when compared to ice — more colder?

Through MRIs, the injuries showed clear. However, the system seemed deaf to tone — year after year. How many thousands of pain pills would I have to take?

I often asked the self-licking ice cream cone topped with 2 self-reflecting, vain snakes:

“Is venom for the perpetually awaiting more waiting, impatient patients to slake?”


The surgeon’s decision took months to defeat. The physical pain of typing out pages and pages of evidence compounded the heavy toll of heart now incapable of creating heat.

Each written word in the complaint triggered pain. Each phrase rekindled episodes of mistreatment in memories retained.

With the increasing abundance of sleepless nights, the memories of being tortured as a child seemed more humane.

Criminals were the enemies on the East Coast; the medical (CARE) system was the villain on the West Coast.


By that time, I was in a downward spiral of PTS triggers, pills, pain, injections, financial worry, self-blame, and worst of all — blaming the closest people of all — my wife and children.

They never deserved any of that treatment. I never earned the right to say things — truly not meant.

Stomach and Guts.

Painful ulcers necessitated a switch to Tramadol, a Schedule IV drug touted as less addictive than opioids.

It seemed that each time I swallowed a pain pill, I chipped away at my heart, and dissolved the emotions that made being alive the best part.

The proud Crossed Arrows of the Special Forces Regiment were replaced by bondage with noisy crutches.

In the Army, I marched quickly and quietly. After leaving, the sound and shine of crutches betrayed me.

Choosing Between Two Poisons.

I reached a point where I had to choose between joint pain or ulcers pangs. It seemed gut pain had more bang. Dining was no longer a joy. Stomach acid hungered more and plotted its devastating ploy.

When my stomach screamed the loudest, I ignored doctors’ warnings — and stopped taking all pain medications that very morning.

Within that same day, the plan to be free from pills went awry.To keep from harming myself or others, I opted for a 3-day Inpatient Psychiatric stay.

“Master Sergeant, it’s time to put your pack down.”

— Active-Duty Military Psychiatrist, Emergency Room, Naval Hospital San Diego

He was right.

I had hauled the carefully arranged bricks of pain inside the rucksack with no thought of gain. From the East Coast, I lugged the disappointments from that VA office to the next, and added more weight and misery along the way to make myself sickeningly perfect.

The psychiatrist was respectful as he shared his story of combat service. He understood. He knew why I was in a bad mood.

I was grateful to be wrong.

He did not bash me. To my relief, his words were the exact opposite of the MED BOARD psychiatrist who — at Fort Bragg shamed me — from getting help for PTSD.

Once inside the ward, I was embarrassed and afraid. Were they going to torture me? I couldn’t run. I couldn’t walk. Were they going to force more pills down my throat?

They took away my crutches which added pain. I was tortured at the thought of being the only Special Operations soldier whose good health did not remain.

“Leo don’t be ashamed. There are many like you [in the special operations community] who stay here for a few days due to severe pain.”

— Department of Defense Civilian Psychiatric Nurse, Inpatient Ward

Those words came as a shock. I thought that all — but me — were of the invincible stock. I felt uneasy sadness — that many in pain — were pushed to unnecessary madness.

Thank you for your service”, I could no longer accept with patriotic gladness.

On the 3rd day, I went back home — where relationships I would have to untangle and gently comb.

The psychiatric staff felt the weight of my family’s 6 year ordeal. They set me up for organic success, so that emotions again I can feel.

Continue to Part 11

Back to Part 9

All Rights Reserved (January 2022).



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