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Discoveries Through PTSD    

Discoveries Through PTSD

BY CHRISTIAN MEZA

Artwork by FISK

It is unnatural for a son to speak at his father’s funeral, especially when his son is just 16 years old and his dad was only 51 years old. This was my life on December 9, 2016. I stood in front of a full church at Nellis Air Force Base explaining to hundreds of Air Force troops, family members, and friends that my dad’s service dog was now going on to serve a new veteran. After all, she had been through $20,000 worth of training to serve veterans with “hidden wounds.” My dad was the definition of ‘hidden wounds’ — displaying anger, rage, and verbal abuse daily.

However, the man I knew in life became someone completely different on this daunting December day. At the funeral, I was bombarded with love from his troops explaining that my dad was their mentor, leader, and savior. Hundreds of stories of my father being a “dad” to the younger troops were filling my head, and so many seemed to treat me like a celebrity. The son of this American Hero; how lucky I was on this day. 

Lucky to be his son? This was a new euphoric feeling to me. After 30 years of service, and shortly after his retirement, my dad was diagnosed with severe PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury). He also lived with shrapnel in his hip from a suicide bomber in Iraq. This everyday pain and brain disorder caused my dad to be inhumane. I lived as normal of a life I could, making excuses for my father and keeping him away from my friends. I did my best to avoid this man I envisioned as a monster. 

In spite of this, my lifetime of disgruntled feelings towards my father dissipated in seconds listening to countless stories of how he was so loved. I found myself wondering who this man really was. Was he this cruel human being that took every opportunity to be obscene? Or was he this American Hero everyone was commending? Expecting a somber day, this turned out to be a  day of discovery of a man, my dad, I knew only to be rude and insulting.  

While my dad was alive, our family lived in a toxic world, as my grandmother described it. My mother spent years trying to explain to me that my dad had “hidden wounds.” Upon his death, he was a celebrity in his own right; a “true hero” as one of his troops told me. How could I be so wrong about that man I called “dad?” It dawned on me, as the nine-gun salute sounded, and the folded flag presented to my mom as a token of gratitude for my dad’s service, maybe they knew who he really was and I never did.  Maybe my dad was a true hero and maybe he was wounded. Maybe this man did love me and just couldn’t be the dad we both wanted him to be. Maybe hidden wounds are real and some scars just can’t ever be seen.

That dignified day changed me forever. What may have been eternal sadness to me, will now be a revelation that things are never what they seem. I am now open minded. The death of my angry father was the birth to my freedom of compassion and understanding. I am now able to go forward with more patience, more empathy, and less judgment.

My experience at my dad’s funeral gave me the motive to be a disciple of the understanding that we are all experiencing events and issues that may cause us to be someone we are not. After all, we never know what others are going through, and what scars they have that we can’t see. In times of offense, I no longer respond with discontent. Trespasses against me are met with a kind smile and a forgiving heart. 

While my brother, my mother, and I were completely broken-hearted, we all found peace in knowing that the man who fought for our country, and was our provider, was no longer in pain mentally, emotionally, or physically. For that, we are forever grateful. 

My name is Christian Meza and I am 21 years young. I am a Business Marketing student at the University of Utah, and on track for Law School this time next year. I am a speaker and scholarship recipient for the Folds of Honor Foundation, Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation, and Folded Flag Foundation. These are all organizations that provide collegiate scholarships and educational counseling to military students who have lost a parent in the line of duty. I travel the country on behalf of these organizations telling my story with my father and supporting our veterans and military families struggling with the madness of PTSD.