Ben Tupper was deployed to Afghanistan. He’s written two books about his experiences: Greetings from Afghanistan: Send More Ammo and Dudes of War. Like many a returning vet, adjusting to civilian life hasn’t been without challenges. As is common among vets, Tupper’s kept most of the quirks he’s adopted to make life back home bearable to himself. One of the biggest battles he’s fought since returning is with the anxiety he experiences any time he’s more than arm’s reach from a weapon. In a commentary on NPR this morning, Tupper revealed what he’s found makes him feel secure now that he’s back stateside . . . .
Tupper bought – and keeps close – the same weapons he had while in country. He keeps the same model combat shotgun stuffed under his mattress. An M4 carbine lives in his office. And he stows an M9 pistol in his truck.
Think of it as peace of mind through firepower. Intellectually, he knows he won’t be the target of a Taliban attack. But reason has little to do with it.
Until a few months ago no one, including his wife, knew anything about his cold steel security blanket. He didn’t tell friends or family fearing their reaction – anything from alienation to a forced intervention.
Until, that is, he spoke to a group of student vets and they started pulling out everything from hunting knives to ChapStick tubes. I don’t know if that technically qualifies as a form of PTSD but as he found, he certainly wasn’t the only one who needed to know he could ward off an attack.
I’m not a vet and I’ve certainly never been in anything approaching combat. I hope I never will. But in a small way, I’m similar in that I don’t talk about being a “gun person.” Not with friends or relatives. I can just imagine my mother’s expression (never mind the disapproving rant) if I told her I actually carry a gun.
And I’ve run into a number of gun owners who feel the same way. As RF has pointed out, there are some very good reasons to STFU about what you may have in your safe at home. You could end up in a very bad situation.
But I don’t tell people because I don’t want the hassle. I don’t want to explain. The questions. The looks. Is that dishonest? Or just the path of least resistance? It certainly doesn’t do anything to promote 2A support.
I’m just deeply glad that – unlike Tupper – it’s my choice to carry and not a burning imperative that must be complied with due to things I’ve gone through and seen that I can only imagine. For both of us, it’s good to have that option.
I’ve heard this from a lot of people who have had to shoot in self-defence in civilian life too: they’re never going to be without a gun again.
For a soldier, I can see where PTSD would make the natural reaction (this tool saved my life, and might again) and turn the knob to 11. That doesn’t mean the reaction is wrong, just too strong.
It doesn’t seem at all like a negative thing to me.
I’m not a vet but being unarmed makes me uncomfortable. My bathrobe pocket has a hole worn in it by the front sight.
It’s all good as long as you stay open and honest with the wife-anyone sharing your same living space, and of adult age, secrecy is the way PTSD eats at you and consumes you. The only question you have to ask yourself is “will I go to my weapon if I’m angry.” The only other thing I learned was that alcohol never helps if you’re having issues. What surprised me was that being able to talk to a counselor about your triggers, until it becomes boring to talk about, takes the pressure off you and makes you feel like you’re not different from everybody anymore-most of the time. For me it’s getting in touch with my inner Busey. I admit it though, having my old tools about keeps the edginess away. For me it is because I’m a protector by nature and weapons are my personal force multiplier. I’ve never been afraid of dying, just dying from something stupid, like a crack head’s bullet. You don’t get into Valhalla that way!
I only remember 1 negative thing from therapy. It was when I tried “group.” Listening to a junkie talk about shooting heroin into his junk while he pleasured himself kinda steered me away from that experience. In total, I did 1 1/2 years of therapy and I’ve been good for 6 years now.
I have a friend with some ptsd issues so I really appreciate you sharing that. Were you able to talk to friends and family about it, or do you think therapy is 100% necessary?
My friend didn’t like the counseling available through the army so I think he is just bottling it up…I want to talk to him about it but don’t want to make things worse.
I had it in the worst way. I would have such violent, graphic nightmares that I would wake up on my feet. The problem is is that people will generalize you into the type who bugs out at the shopping mall with a dufflebag full of weapons. My claustrophobia was so bad that I would go out and lay on my car hood some nights, just to feel like I could breathe. I went to the VA so I could talk with a civilian therapist, my wife tagged along for moral support. I had to cut out any war flicks and any alcohol for some time. Medication also helps and it’s not permanent. I started out on mega doses of Seroquel (an antipsychotic that’s been found to help with PTSD), and was weaned off w/in a year. Mind you, I was not out of reality-it is just because PTSD takes over your whole life and is powerful enough to ruin it. It was like I was turned on for a mission and couldn’t come back down. Most of my missions were classified, so I wouldn’t talk until the VA gave me the ok, from the military, to open up. My wife wasn’t even allowed in the room then. The mind f**k the military put on me was no debriefings after the missions (at that time) and medals for “non existent” missions in which I had nearly been killed. That’s why when I first got out I couldn’t even speak to other people in a bar until I had 4 or 5 hard drinks. Truth be told, I almost ended up being an outlaw biker. That’s why I became a cop for 8 years, to remind me of right and wrong. That and I had no problem throwing down with a violent suspect. One time a guy pulled a knife on me and all I did (at first) was start laughing. It scared the hell out of the suspect! I recommend lots of comedy, minimal war flicks, little alcohol and lots of nostalgic music from his good old days. If a dude isn’t ready to talk to you, don’t force it. Just let him know you’re there for him w/o judgment. The longer he stays bottled up, the worse it gets. I made it through and I use to make Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon (1) look like a Quaker. You have to learn not to feel ambiguous guilt and different from everyone else, or else you end up with a death wish mentality and you’re no good to anyone. I use to even seek out the most dangerous bars I could find and hang out, unarmed, looking for some one to pick a fight with me. No way to live, no way to die. Mike
Trying to first deal with PTSD is like walking naked in front of a crowded gym, while feeling angry, scared and ashamed at the same time.
It is a shame that in America, a country established upon the ideals of self-reliance and Liberty, that anyone would feel alienated or isolated in having the desire to exercise a fundamental right for his own protection or the protection of loved ones.
I hope that Major Tupper is able to move past his anxiety but never leaves himself vulnerable and unarmed in the nation he sacrificed his safety to serve. Having never been in the Military or Law Enforcement, I am thankful for those that willingly go into harms way to preserve the freedoms that I enjoy.
While I’ve never been in combat, I have had to deal with an intruder in my house. Fortunately a gun was sufficient to induce him to leave hastily. The incident didn’t leave me with PTSD, but it did leave me was a trace of paranoia. I have a CCW permit and use it. I have guns located around the house where I can get at them in a hurry. And I have a burglar alarm that I turn on at night. I see nothing wrong with being “prepared.” My wife also has a permit, and is aware of my guns, as well as her own. However, we don’t share that information with other people. There are just some things that are no one else’s business, and that includes our security arrangements.
Two words: home carry.
Well said sir! Having extra door locks, two dogs, and alarms also are the only reason I can sleep well at night. My doors are also locked,always, so I can prove a legitimate break in, if I ever have to neutralize the next yahoo who ever tries a home invasion on me. And yes, these things do happen.
It infuriates me that any American soldier should have to endure what Ben Tupper, CUJO and thousands of others went through. It is a criminal failure of our country that it can equip our military with the tools to fight a war but not equip them with the tools to overcome, or even prevent, PTSD and depression. This isn’t my proudest day as an American.
It’s called “government”, and it’s been skull-fucking military personnel and the general citizenry alike since around 1880. Welcome to the God-Empire.
If you want to see a real crime in progress just look at what the Army is doing to our troops who own guns. Hell, it is even worse than that. If you are stationed at Fort Riley, KS and have family in the state of Kansas, you have to inform the Army as to what firearms your RELATIVES own. I told my son to include everything on my wish list. Crank if up baby! Well over a thousand thanks to my addiction to gunbroker porn.
Are you serious? That’s insane and plain unAmerican! Yeh, we wouldn’t want our fighting men getting hold of any weapons. I remember in my old tank unit that it was (quietly) known that almost all of us were carrying something concealed. I think troops handling heavy weapons can be trusted with their own pistols. You know, I’m proud to be an American, but I’m sick of politicians and the sycophants they elevate to positions they don’t deserve nor merit. I have to recycle my claim to the VA because they had a policy of refusing everyone, nearly, the first go around. I have a perforated ear drum and they had the nerve to say my hearing was perfect. Even with a med file on it an inch thick. They refused my PTSD claim for pension, because the specops “missions did not exist”, but they treated me for the PTSD. It’s odd having combat medals with no reason listed…sometimes I think I should have just gone merc…
Sounds like it’s not a big deal until you want to take a flight or have to go to court.
On a side note, dude should start a line of holsters and call it Tupper Wear.
Whew! I tell you, sometimes the nightmares still come back. In my dream, 2 other soldiers and I were locked into hand to hand combat with three enemy. The opponent and I both had big bowies. We were locked together, each using an arm trapping each other’s knife arm-face to face. He started sliding his blade against my left wrist. The blade started cutting my hand completely off. As I woke up I could still hear him laughing.
This is not the way to wake up at 0400, with a storm outside and a screaming migraine-again.
The nightmares are in no way as often as they used to be, but they never truly go away. You shake it off and drive on.