The Bayonet

Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014

Medal of Honor recipient waging war on PTSD

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NATICK, Mass. — Staff Sgt. Ty Carter has two words for Soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. “Get help.”

The Medal of Honor recipient brought this message to the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center on Feb. 19.

He developed PTSD after his experiences at Combat Outpost Keating, where he said every day was “like the Wild Wild West.” Firefights were a constant, and Oct. 3, 2009, conditions escalated to the extreme when more than 300 anti-Afghan forces attempted to overrun the outpost.

Despite his many heroic actions during the battle, Carter was haunted by the fact that he wasn’t able to save his friend, Spc. Stephan Mace. He no longer felt equipped to save a life and he felt like a failure.

“I lost faith in who I was and what I was doing,” he said.

At first he resisted getting treatment for PTSD, and had misconceptions about the condition. It isn’t really a disorder, Carter said, it is a learning mechanism to help us avoid danger. It can become problematic, however, following extreme trauma.

He said seeking counseling and going through counseling is a difficult process but it is the only way to heal, and it is the only way you can help yourself and help others. “Education is the only thing that can end the stigma,” Carter said.

While telling his story, Carter said when he thinks of Oct. 3, he thinks about the guys — their Families, their determination and the trust between Soldiers.

During his talk in Hunter Auditorium, which was attended by nearly 450 Natick Soldier Systems Center employees, he discussed the Advanced Combat Helmet. He recounted how the ACH saved Sgt. Bradley D. Larson from sniper fire.

“For those of you who worked on the product, thank you for saving his life,” he said. Because Larson survived, he was able to provide fire cover and give Carter direction. Carter credits Larson’s survival with his own.

Carter shared some lighthearted stories as well. He said that during the Medal of Honor ceremony he focused primarily on not passing out. When President Barack Obama called to tell him he had won the medal, he was vacationing with his Family in a camper his wife bought for $5.

Carter said although the medal is given to a few, the reality is that a firefight is like a football team — one section doesn’t function without the other. While eating lunch with Soldiers in the dining facility, Carter said, “I’m no different than any of you guys. We all have the potential. You can follow your heart and do great things.”

“There will always be hard times,” Carter said. “It is our ability to adapt and be resilient that matters. We all make mistakes, but it is our ability to learn from them that will make us a better person.”

Carter has something very particular in common with many of NSRDEC’s Soldiers. Early in his Army career he served for two days as a human resource volunteer in the Doriot Climatic Chambers in 2008. He then left when he heard that his unit was being deployed.

During his visit, Carter toured NSRDEC’s unique research facilities and learned about the organization’s many products that improve the safety and quality of life of the nation’s Soldiers.

He said visiting Natick gave him insight into how much work goes into the development and testing of equipment to make sure Soldiers are combat ready. Regarding all of the NSRDEC-developed items, Carter said, “You’d be amazed how important these pieces of equipment are.”

“All of you are choosing to help those who serve,” he told the NSRDEC workforce. “You here at Natick Labs create the future.”

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