RAPID RIVER – Gary Gustafson lives with images of the Iraq War every day. He wants to know why he has changed, why he can’t put it behind him and why he can’t seem to find the help that he wants.
The former National Guard solider from Rapid River has been struggling with post traumatic stress since he served in the Iraq War 10 years ago. It wasn’t until recently that he began to understand why he is having problems. He said it comes from events he has tried to normalize.
“For me, it was almost running over several young children with my truck and also not being able to help assist other troops when they were in need. One time there was a truck on fire. There was only one soldier out there and we were forced to drive by him and leave him alone out in the desert,” Gustafson said.
The goal, Gustafson said, was to stop the convoy. Gustafson drove supplies from Kuwait to Iraq during the Iraq War. He volunteered to go to Iraq with the National Guard unit out of Sault Ste. Marie. He started seeking help as soon as he was discharged.
“I was having problems readjusting,” he said.
Gustafson said he is concerned that it has taken so long to find out what has been bothering him. He had problems readjusting after returning from Iraq. At times, he would be ill, had trouble holding jobs, experienced marital problems and lost his home. He said it’s a problem that many veterans deal with after war.
There’s a big problem out there for veterans trying to get help after they get back. There are services available but a lot of times if you don’t meet certain criteria, you’re just not eligible or they don’t think that you are going to fit into a support group it just always seems like no matter where you turn you always hit a dead end,” he said.
Gustafson is currently looking for a job but knows he has barriers to employment. He is uncertain what his future holds.