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Imagine putting your life on someone else’s hands and knowing every passing minute could have been your last.
That is exactly what Wounded Warrior Homes Squad Member, Ryan Donkersley, experienced in the battlefield.
Ryan, 31, served a total of 11 years in the military, five in active-duty Army as a Military policeman and six in the National Guard, and the experience has forever changed him.
“Out of my five-year contract for the Army, I was deployed for three years in Iraq,” said Ryan. “During those three deployments I experienced things that changed me.”
When his contract with the Army was finished, he did not feel ready to transition back to civilian life. He decided to enlist in the National Guard to keep his foot in the door, but still have the freedom to leave whenever he wanted.
Early in 2015, Ryan left the National Guard learning to navigate daily life with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a psychiatric response that can occur following the experience of witnessing life-threatening events.
“It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what experiences caused my PTSD,” said Ryan. “In my case, things were risky everywhere I went. If nothing was happening, it did not mean I was out of danger. That gets to you.”
Ryan recalls various accounts in which Iraqi police stations had been covertly infiltrated by terrorists, obtaining weapons, ammunition and even police identity.
“So then, you have terrorists posing as police officers that we would end up working with and we did not know who to trust. They could hurt or even kill us at any time,” said Ryan. “We never really knew who we were working with and on top of that uncertainty, I was also the lead vehicle driver maneuvering around things blowing up every five feet. I was continuously guessing when my time would end.”
As a civilian the biggest struggle Ryan had to cope with, other than his PTSD, was getting proper care from the VA. With his benefits backlogged, Ryan found himself couch surfing.
“I tried living with a friend, but the residents did not want me to be there because of my service dog, Hero. Renting was out of the question because I had no job. You can’t work a normal job with PTSD,” said Ryan.
Thankfully, while filming a project at another nonprofit organization serving veterans, Ryan was made aware of Wounded Warrior Homes (WWH).
At first, he had reservations about WWH, but decided to take a chance and applied to be in the housing program.
“I learned more about the organization and learned WWH provides veterans wonderful homes to live in,” said Ryan. “The house is beautiful, modern and clean. Definitely up to my standards—and I have high standards.”
That was more than two months ago and Ryan feels he is in a much better place not just physically, but also emotionally as well.
“Through WWH I have found a stable place to live in, which has helped lessen my financial and emotional stress. It makes life so much easier while living there and has really helped control my PTSD.”
Ryan now waits for the day when he feels he will be successful enough to make it on his own so he can make room for other veterans to transition in the house. When that day finally comes, he wants to put his knowledge and skills in video production to use.
Ultimately, Ryan’s goal is to start his own business and work with nonprofit organizations to help them gain exposure through use of film and media.
“Wounded Warrior Homes has really helped me figure out where I am going to go and what I want to do. The program has been a real blessing.”
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