Catch 22: a veteran’s voice in the wilderness

Courtesy Liv Stecker
Liv Stecker
Special to the S-E

Patrick Flanagan is a former Staff Sergeant with the United States Air Force. For eight years he served his country as a Fire Captain, stateside and abroad, on deployments to Iraq in 2007 and 2009, Afghanistan in 2010 and Kyrgyzstan in 2013. Flanagan left the Air Force in 2015 and began working as a DOD civilian for Fairchild AFB where he was a 911 Dispatcher for the fire department.

Like many veterans, Flanagan struggled in his civilian role, both from the restlessness of leaving his team and mission behind him in the Air Force, and from the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder triggered by events during his deployment. Like many Veterans, Flanagan found ways to cope with his battle that were less cumbersome than the constant fight for help with the VA and other resources. He found solace in a bottle, but only short-term.

“It's a catch 22. If you get drunk, you have to live with the consequences. If you don't, you have to live in your own PTSD head. There's no coming back home and there's no going back to fight,” Flanagan said. It’s the survivor's guilt that is one of the hardest parts of the battle. “That's the worst thing. Leaving and not being able to go back. I want to be first in and last out. It sucks leaving when boots are still on the ground.”

Read the story in the April 25, 2018 S-E, available in stores and online here.
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