After 13 years of Active Duty Military Service in two branches I suddenly found myself without a mission. I was found to be too sick to continue to serve and discharged. I tried to return to civilian life but my sickness made that impossible. One minute working and appearing to maintain only to have everything explode in a blink of an eye. Normal everyday things like driving a car or washing the dishes resulted in failure after failure and sometimes resulted in a complete meltdown. For the next almost 10 years I was in and out of the hospital to deal with my service induced illness. That illness is PTSD and I am just one of over 3.18 million veterans in Washington State alone who fight each and every day to live with it.
Hi, I’m Garret DuPont, founder of Stand Down Gaming and this is my story.
During my decade plus in service I was trained very, very, well. The Navy spent a lot of time and a lot of money to give me and every single other enlisted person the specific skills to do my job and to do it well. The Army did the same thing and they Both made sure that the core values like Never Surrender, No Man Left Behind, and many other mottos were held to the highest degree. For my brothers and sisters in Arms these mottos aren’t just cutesy t shirt slogans… No, these mottos are a promise from and to me. These promises allow us to do our jobs in the most difficult of situations, because we all knew we were not alone.
All of that changed once I came home. I was suddenly Alone and all of those skills couldn’t help me. No-one could ever begin to understand what I had seen and done. It’s not like I could talk about it to my friends and family. A lot of my missions were classified. The wars I fought in aren’t over. To be completely honest even if this wasn’t the case I still wouldn’t be able to tell people some of the things I saw and did. War is something that no-one can really understand unless they have been in the thick of the fire fight. At least that was what I THOUGHT. Living all across America are tons of Vets, right? I mean we all know that there are lots of veterans still alive and living here. Men and women who served their country at some point in their lives. Sounds like what vets hear all day long and that’s all true. However let me give you some hard numbers. The veteran population in America is currently 18,263,035 Veterans. 8.7% of those 18.25 million vets live RIGHT in MY HOME state of Washington. That’s is the 4th highest percentage of vets in the Nation. That is a lot of servicemen and women right in my back yard… but I didn’t realize I wasn’t alone.
Of those 18.25 million veterans between 11-20 percent of veterans that served during Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom also are fighting MY SAME battle… But I was alone? I have a loving Significant other who understands more than I could ever imagine. She herself struggles with her own issues…. But I was ALONE?? I told myself that I was a failure because I couldn’t do the simple life tasks that my 9 year old does. I couldn’t be the provider I was trained to believe was my role as a man and father. I was useless! I was Alone and more importantly I DESERVED to be Alone because I WAS a FAILURE. The US government taught us how to fight a living breathing enemy but we were never taught how to fight the enemy that you can never evade or escape… Your own mind, but on any given day all over the country at least 2 million of us ARE doing just that, because that is what PTSD does. It makes your own MIND and THOUGHTS your enemy.
During the holiday season of 2017 my sickness had been so effective in convincing me of these lies that I almost lost my battle. I was determined not to allow the illness to win so I went to the hospital. For 22 Veterans each day the sickness does win. The lies are believed and 22 veterans die at their own hands. PTSD is the number one Cause of Veteran Suicide. In the past eight years the number of Veterans who sought help from VA hospitals has dropped by 25%. What does that mean? Did these vets suddenly NOT need care anymore? No, what that tells me is that 25% of American servicemen and women just gave up on the VA and basically themselves. For whatever reason these people NO Longer belived that the VA was helping them…. Not that they didn’t want the help, not that they didn’t need the help but that WHATEVER help was coming from the VA just wasn’t working FOR THEM! To be honest, after I got home from that last hospital visit I realized that the VA alone wasn’t really working For ME either. Not in the way I needed it to work.
Unlike so many other veterans I am blessed. I am surrounded by My Tribe. A group of fellow misfits who all struggle with similar problems all willing to lend an ear, crack a joke or just send a supportive smile my way during my struggles and vice- versa. So Lie number one was busted! I AM NOT ALONE!
At the VA and other private hospitals GAME therapy has been used for decades. Along with Art therapy, color therapy and Music therapy. Well I am a youngish dude…. Oh man do I game! OHHH wait BEFORE I enlisted I gamed! So I started thinking IF these things work IN HOSPITAL why can’t I do them at home? I mean helloo Internet! For most of 2018 I gamed and I decided to “play” with art therapy using Graphic Design programs…”If THIS image inside my head could Just exist as it’s OWN THING then maybe someone seeing it will understand” was a lot of my inspiration. Maybe I could share my view and it could help someone LIKE me who was Alone.
Thank you for reading.
Our Mission, In Words
It is the mission of Stand Down Gaming, through the use of various tabletop and video gaming media, to use the tools of creativity as a means of healing, support, and inspiration as well as a way to build camaraderie for our Veterans and our communities as a whole.