March 17, 2015 --
Beads of sweat pour off a combat veteran’s face as he tosses and turns in his bed. Still asleep, his heart beats faster and faster as the sound of helicopter blades whip the air, gun fire erupts and visions of battle play in his head.
Suddenly, he sits up, rips the cover off and leans over the side of the bed saying “you’re ok, you’re ok.”
This movie clip was part of a combat and operational stress introduction brief presented to Marines and Sailors at Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany by Dr. Tracy Hejmanowski, a psychologist at Naval Hospital Jacksonville, Florida, recently.
Hejmanowski said sleepless nights as well as anxiety, grief, anger and depression are common symptoms of combat and operational stress.
During separate briefings for E-5s and below and E-6s and above, Hejmanowski said the briefs were designed “to give an overview of the continuum of combat and operational stress, and not seeing post traumatic stress as a disorder or dysfunction, but rather a natural process of coming back from war.”
Since combat and operational stress impacts families as well, junior Marines and Sailors learned to identify struggles, challenges and goals, not just for themselves but within their family units.
Hejmanowski said combat and operational stress can show up at any time for different reasons and can have a lingering effect.
“Processing the effects of war can help significantly,” she added. “Many (service members) come in to see me and say their therapy experience is not what they expected. Therapy is being able to come to terms with things that are weighing on you.”
During the officers’ and staff noncommissioned officers’ brief, Hejmanowski focused on why junior service members do not talk to their leadership and why leaders can’t always expect their Marines or Sailors to necessarily come to them.
“You have to be approachable with your (Marines and Sailors) and let them know you believe combat and operational stress exists and legions of people before them have dealt with it, too,” Hejmanowski said.
Combat and operational stress is not a new diagnosis, and though referred to by a number of different names, it has been around for as long as wars have been fought, she said.
Hejmanowski encourages service members having symptoms of combat and operational stress to make an appointment with Christine Morrison, a case worker at NBHC Albany.
Morrison, who helped coordinate the visit, said there are resources to help combat veterans in need.
She highlighted a combat and operational stress group that meets at NBHC Albany weekly.
“The combat and operational stress group has been meeting since October 2013 and it is for those who are living with combat and operational stress symptoms,” she said. “We meet each Wednesday from 9-11 a.m. and discuss topics with Dr. Tracy Hejmanowski via video teleconferencing.”
For more information about joining the combat and operational stress group or to discuss symptoms of combat/operational stress, call Morrison at 229-639-8663.