Post-Iraq Action: Winning the Last Battle

For many veterans, the last battle is still being fought long after they retired their uniforms. In too many cases the final action ends by taking their own lives. Current statistics reflect that twenty veterans take their own lives each day of the year. My personal experience and encounters with other combat veterans lead me to believe that most carry some degree or piece of the last battle that has not been put to rest. Accumulated past or bad experience stressors may result in hyper-vigilance, anger or guilt brought on by a thought, smell or dream.

As a recipient and now a provider of TFT, I see the positive results of this modality on a daily basis. The following case study is only unique in that the administration of the treatment occurred from a distance of hundreds of miles between the provider and recipient. This review also provides the perspective of the treatment from the viewpoint of each participant.

Provider Statement: Provider is a licensed therapist and retired veteran who served as an Infantry Officer.  The therapist was previously diagnosed with PTSD and treated via the TFT modality more than six years ago. The provider later attended the Callahan Boot Camp Program in Nellysford, VA under the tutelage of Joanie Callahan. The provider is a contractor at a substance abuse clinic and incorporates TFT among the treatment modalities that are utilized in the clinic. The nature and profile of the clients he assists in treatment/counseling often present individuals that have suffered traumas not only from accidents but horrific physical and mental abuse.

The recipient of TFT is over the age of 60 and a retired veteran within the US military infantry specialty. The recipient is happily married and is a recognized and sought out professional within his civilian occupation.

Interview prior to Treatment: The recipient was interviewed via phone one week prior to the first therapy session. The recipient provided an honest and detailed description of his past military experiences and his own assessment of his strengths, weaknesses and emotional/behavioral reactions associated with combat stress.

The provider assessed that the recipient clearly fell under the perimeters of the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM-5) criteria for diagnoses of PTSD. The initial interview lasted approximately 60 minutes. Post interview assessment determined that the recipient possess anger issues, has carried long-term senses of grief/loss, and is hypersensitive to personal security for himself and others. It was initially assessed that the recipient required at least three sessions to address major treatment areas to include Grief, Anger and recurrent disturbing thoughts brought on by external triggers.

Due to the physical distance between the two veterans of over 600 miles, cell phone connection with video feed was established by installing the APP “WhatsApp.” Prior to the session, the recipient was provided by e-mail a TFT “Tapping Point Chart” via the Callahan Boot Camp Program.

First Session: After making visual adjustments of cell phones to enhance the viewing of the recipient/provider, a demonstration of tapping for both algorithm and blockage points was conducted. Based on prior discussion and diagnose, the treatment protocol algorithm Complex Trauma with Anger and Grief was selected (eb-e-a-c-tf-c-if-c) as the appropriate treatment regime.

Veteran’s Statement of Treatment: To begin the session Provider recited the following scripture from Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you declared the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

My Thought Field was a recount of combat actions that occurred on July 3, 2007 conducted in Iraq. While acting as a gunner on our Humvee the patrol encountered the denotation of two enemy Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and small arms fire. A Bradley fighting vehicle in our group was fired upon with a Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) and I returned fire on a concrete building with our M2 (50 cal.) (heavy machinegun).

During this firefight which occurred less than 2 miles from base, we had been augmented with a patrol from another US Army unit which included Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) elements. After triggering 2 IEDs, one blast shielded my vehicle by the Bradley moving in the opposite direction from our vehicle. We then came under small arms fire requiring us to turn and head West.

I identified a small concrete building near a swampy area to our right that seemed to be the source of fire. I immediately engaged with heavy machine-gun the building completely demolishing it and causing the gunfire to cease. As we proceeded, my driver called out a possible target; a small red battered car with what appeared to be a gray/metallic tube sticking out of the trunk. The vehicle we spotted turned into the entrance road and it appeared it was trying to escape the area. We turned into the road in pursuit. My driver and Troop Commander (TC) were calling for me to fire on the vehicle. However, my internal sense did not feel right so I fired the M2 at the curbing on the right side of the vehicle to get it to stop; which it did.

Disregarding further calls from the TC to fire on the vehicle, we pulled alongside. As we got within 20 feet of the vehicle, I recognized the item in the trunk as a bird bath pedestal. We pulled alongside; two small children (about 3 and 5 years of age) stuck their heads up above the back seat. A slim woman dressed in black and white was in the front seat cradling a baby in her lap. The sight of the occupants caused me both immediate grief and relief. The grief was about what might have happened if I had fired on the car and relief that we did not harm this family.

Provider Statement: Commencing the algorithm sequence, it initially appeared that the veteran was having some difficulty in reducing his SUDs level and Provider quietly instructed the recipient to concentrate on his stressor event/ narrow focus. After, his first SUDs reduction the provider introduced the 9 Gamut sequence followed by a blocking point tapping via one of the following points during the treatment: “hand chop”, sore spot, chin and under the nose if a client is having difficulty lowering SUDs. After, the initial drop in SUDs, the recipient had a noticeable physical reduction of stress in his body and facial features on each following completion of the algorithm. At the last SUDs reduction, the recipient was asked “where are you? and he stated, “on the mountain/his interpretation of SUDs 1.” Recipient completed one more complete algorithm sequence, 9 Gamut, followed by the floor to ceiling sequence. The recipient was then instructed to rest back in his chair with eyes closed and to savor the peace for the next 1-2 minutes.

Provider Recount of Veteran’s Immediate Reaction to Session: At the completion of the session the veteran stated that he was amazed at how well and relieved he felt. He stated that the clarity of the event also surprised him. Further stated that he could physically feel his guilt fade away and realized that there was no reason for his guilt; that in effect he saved the lives of the three children and their mother. He actually refused an order to fire into the vehicle which was a courageous personal decision he made on his own volition. The veteran stated that he could even see in his mind with detail the color of the mother’s hair with the baby in her arms and the exact color of their car. I requested that the recipient call me in a week to tell me his current thoughts and emotions of that event.

Veteran’s Post Treatment Comments: Therapist advised that I should take a week to see what effects the session had and to call him on my personal assessment. Over the years I believe this incident has caused me great stress to the point of sometimes weeping when something triggers that event in my mind. My session with therapist allowed me to recall it with great clarity and the ability to recall small details. It also allowed me to put aside the grief and anger aspects and make me realize that I did the right thing and to be proud of that fact. It underscored that a higher power guided my hand that day and I am proud that I could recognize that guidance.

Session 2: 10/23/2017: Veteran’s Overall Thought Field (Anger) – Today’s session was to address anger issues mostly stemming from traffic problems arising during patrols of Mosul in 2007. On many of the patrols we did in and about the city and province, we would encounter inattentive or even some purposefully bad Iraqi drivers that would test the 100-meter rule. All our vehicles had signs printed in English and Arabic warning civilian drivers to remain 100 meters back or be fired upon if they encroached our vehicles. The primary reasons for distance separation are to be able to discourage traffic accidents and to identify potential VBIEDs (vehicle-borne improvised explosives) from terrorist.

As vehicle commander, I had the option of riding in the gun turret or the right seat of the vehicle. While in the gun mount I would be obligated to maintain the distance rule by the show of force by directing the M2 machine gun barrel in the direction of the oncoming vehicle. Those closing vehicle occurrences would usually enrage me.

For today’s session, I chose to concentrate my thoughts on an incident that took place in the convoy in Mosul and en route to base at Al Kindi. At approximately 14:30 near the center of the bridge, we were approached from the rear by a white civilian vehicle moving at a high rate of speed and obviously ignoring our warning sign.

We were the last vehicle of a 3-vehicle convoy and my responsibility was the rear sector. When I saw the vehicle, I waved palm outward to slow him down; he did not. I then raised my M4 (rifle) and fired into the pavement; no change. I then withdrew my M9 (pistol) figuring a 9 mm round would do the least damage and fired directly in front and underneath the vehicle. This action slowed the driver. My last resort would have been to fire the .50 cal. machine gun causing a devastating result.

This incident was representative of the many incidents that causes me great anger and hyper-vigilance to this day. I can still remember pedestrians, including women and children, walking on the bridge requiring me to use extreme care in firing and heightening my rage at having to use my weapons to slow this moron down.

Provider Statement: I initially began to treat the recipient via TFT algorithm for Complex trauma with anger (eb-e-a-c-tf-c). The client was slow to respond in dropping his SUDs levels, so I introduced two separate blocking point actions (hand chop and sore spot massage). The recipient was slow to show a positive drop in SUDs. Recalling the success during our last session, I reintroduced the (index finger (if) into the algorithm. The effect of adding the single tapping point (tf) reflected an immediate positive drop that was visibly noticeable on the recipient’s facial features. We continued the session and recipient quickly reached SUDs 1 followed by 9g and floor to ceiling procedure. The client was put to rest for a minute and presented his recount of the treatment.

Veteran’s Statement: Today’s session helped crystallize the details of the event and to lower my feelings about it. The proof will be how I react in a traffic situation from here on out.

Veteran’s Addendum 06/06/18: First, I’m amazed that 8 months have passed since our last session. I can say that I have had no recurrences of the “bird bath” episode. Our sessions have relieved me of the anxiety and feelings of guilt associated with that incident and quite frankly, I’ve not even thought of that event.

Second, although there are still intermittent flashes of temper, the frequency, duration, and intensity are extremely reduced. (Just ask my wife – who is a clinical psychiatric nurse practitioner). There are still some things that will trigger flashes of anger, but I find that the anger passes quickly and the issue is quickly forgotten. I have practiced the single point tapping on my own on rare occasions where I felt a bit stressed by something that triggered my anger resulting in relief (Explosive Anger – side of eye and Collarbone).

Third, and probably most importantly, I have been trying to get my son to commit to doing these sessions with the provider. He is a two-tour veteran of Afghanistan and I think he would benefit immensely from these sessions.

Author’s note: I thank my friend and brother in arms who graciously shared his combat experience, fears, and courage in order to help others who have been exposed to life threating events, horrific sights, and loss. The majority of veterans and those still serving that I know savior the experience of their service to our country for its unity, bonding, and pride they receive from their accomplishments.

I have now been practicing TFT within a clinical setting and pro-bona work with others for approximately 20 months. I currently assist clients/patients that are addicted to opiates. Our country is truly experiencing an opiate epidemic that impacts every segment of our society from the poor to the wealthiest of families. Unfortunately, addiction in too many incidences leads to abuse, depression, assaults, disease, loss of wealth, imprisonment or death. Each of those items is the birthing grounds for traumas, phobias, mental illness, and anxiety. TFT has proven to be as successful in treating trauma in the civilian population as it can for military veterans.

Scott G. Duke,
Lt Col USMC (Ret), LMSW

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