My name is Mathius Carter, I’m an Army Combat Veteran, a Veteran Outreach Coordinator for a nonprofit organization called Road Home Program, and a published children’s book author, attempting to explain PTSD to children. While in the service my MOS (job) was 31R/25Q multichannel transmission systems operator, I was attached to infantry, providing communication for them to call for backup. I served in the initial push into Iraq, the shock and awe in 2003. Needless to say, I was like many of my brothers and sisters in arms when returning from war and had demons that bothered me for many years after serving.
It was a long road getting help… and took a toll mentally and physically. After getting help through the Road Home Program, I saw the value in what they did for service members and when they had availability, I needed to join the team.
It’s hard to find purpose after leaving the military but helping Veterans find the right help has been amazing, waking up and knowing what we do changes lives has been everything. Within the first month, I was working at a military event for a local hockey team and when I was invited to take my son in to see the opening number… they spent a lot on the opening number I was told! Well, they were not lying!
Then it happened, they were blowing off huge amounts of fireworks, I knew it was a trigger and tried to leave. My son said Daddy I want to watch it… I’m a father first, so I braced myself on the wall and just barred down. I have to say it was the worst panic attack I’ve had in 15 years and it was with my son on my shoulders.
I realized the day after the event, that I needed to find an age-appropriate way to explain what I was going through mentally to my 4-year-old son. Which wasn’t an easy endeavor, all I wanted was something to help me explain what was happening to my son, but there was nothing relatable. I had a lot of thinking to do.
How does one explain the worst part of one's life to a child? How do you explain feeling less than, when your child thinks you’re amazing? How do you explain fear to someone who hasn’t experienced fear? These were all very deep questions I had to ask myself… I wanted to ensure my son knew it wasn’t his fault, and that I love him. I wanted to show the different issues I think make up Post Traumatic Stress.
Negative Self Thought
The importance of getting help
I wrote it, then reached out to a friend who was in school from Kindergarten through High School with me… His name is Nick Atchison, he is also an Army Combat Veteran, a talented illustrator, and a father. I asked if he would be interested in starting this project with me, having 5 children and as well as PTSD, he agreed and thought this was an amazing idea.
I originally did the book for my son, but after it was complete, the illustrator and I knew that it would be an amazing tool to facilitate opening up the lines of communication with Service Members and their families.
A month after publishing the book, I had a heart attack and almost died, which opened up my eyes to how I was treating myself and how I deserved to treat myself with the care and compassion I provided others. I have realized that we all are works in progress, that forgiving yourself for things that happened 20 years ago was needed, and giving yourself grace, knowing you are not perfect.
We are in the process of making two more books in the series, one from the Women’s perspective, as many of our sisters-in-arms are forgotten. A friend and Jr Vice Commander of my VFW Post 12014 spent over 20 years in the Air Force, has a 12-year-old daughter and suffers from PTSD. I am also aging up the characters and talking about other issues like survivor guilt, moral injury, traumatic brain injuries, etc., and will not rhyme.
I hope that people use this as a tool to talk to someone about what they feel, it is important to talk to someone. You are worth it. You are loved. Thank you for your service and sacrifice.