MONTCALM Co, Mich. — In June 1986, Jeffrey Bykerk entered the military.
He served in the Gulf War and rose to the rank of sergeant. He also lead a squad in Somalia during a peacekeeping mission around the time of Operation Black Hawk Down.
Among all the memories, there’s one that overshadows them all.
Since returning home in 1998, he said that traumatic event has made life difficult to live normally.
For one, he’s often afraid to leave his home.
In 2009, he was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.
He said he tries to open up with his therapist about his pain periodically. ”It’s extremely difficult to do,” Bykerk said.
However, he found the strength to open up Thursday to FOX 17, sharing his experience in Somalia.
“One of my MPT’s was going out, and I released them out of the compound,” he explained. “Well, there humvee hit an IED, and it killed all of them. And one of them was a good friend of mine,” Bykerk said.
“I live with the guilt that it was my responsibility, and I failed, and lives were lost, and that’s kind of where I suffer today,” he expressed.
It triggers multiple emotions. ”You’re left confused, afraid, controlling, suspicious” and angry, he explained.
Bykerk said without his wife Laura, he doesn’t know how he’d manage.
“I try to keep him soothed,” she explained. “I know when he has flashbacks. There time’s when I’ve had to just hold him and tell him it’s okay.”
She’s even taken to her Facebook page to inform others about her husband’s condition.
“I want people to be aware of signs and symptoms. If they know anybody that might be showing that, because if it will, if it’s not addressed, that’s the sad truth of it, it turns into suicide,” Laura Bykerk said.
Healmyptsd.com states that 20% of soldiers deployed between 2004 and 2010, suffer from PTSD.
PTSD doesn’t just affect veterans.
Joseph Lee, a Grand Rapids counselor with Impact Counseling and Consulting Services, said people who experience a traumatic event, such as an accident or assault can develop the disorder.
The Bykerks want to eliminate the stigma of PTSD and let the public know it is very much real.