Monday, November 12, 2012

Justin Jordan Shares Personal Tale of PTSD...

Regions of the brain affected by PTSD and stress.
Regions of the brain affected by PTSD and stress.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
“As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil...” Well, I think that is bullshit! I am scared of everything. I have seen behind the proverbial curtain and what I have seen does not make me feel safe, ever. I struggle with life as I have seen, felt, tasted, and heard death, over and over, repeated day in and day out. I am not the type of person that gives up or lets things overwhelm me. For the first time in my life I have challenged something that is a worthy adversary. In this book you will find stories of some of my experiences as a Mortuary Affairs NCOIC (Non Commissioned Officer in Charge.) There are many more that I just couldn’t add. I will share them with you the way I remember them in all their graphic detail. I will also share with you how I felt at that particular moment in time. I sometimes worry that my mind has filled in blanks in my memory and it is my sincerest hope that this is not true. But I had to write down what I have seen and how I remember it. All of the chapters except one are an exact retelling of my experiences; this one chapter is a recount one of my reoccurring dreams. I added this to illustrate just how vivid the memories can be, even if they are generated in the mind. This is a big step in my battle with PTSD and by sharing these horrible things it takes some of the burden off of me. It has taken a long time to accept that it is ok to share my pain; I can carry it no more. If while reading this you are touched by my stories, I say to you, “Thank you. Thank you for carrying some of that pain.” I have changed the names of the deceased to protect their families and loved ones’ privacy and dignity. But know this, I remember every syllable of their names and it is not meant to be disrespectful. I have worked more deaths than I can remember. However, the ones detailed in this book are the ones that had a profound impact on my mental well-being. I blame no one. I am not bitter. I am glad I had these experiences because they have challenged me to overcome my adversity, and made my life extraordinary. If at any time while reading this book a tear falls from your cheek, I ask of you one favor, let it hit the page, in remembrance of the fallen brave men and women who gave of themselves to protect and defend your freedom.

And Then I cried:
 Stories of a Mortuary NCO

By Justin Jordan

Potential readers of this compelling novel may think that they cannot relate to Justin Jordan's story. In my opinion, that would be a wrong assumption. For a number of reasons.

First, if you or any member of your family have been in any of the armed services, it may be important to you to know what happens and how much honor is given to those who give their life for their country.

Second, this book is ultimately about PTSD. Much of what Justin Jordan shares may also have been diagnosed for someone you love who has come home from the service and knows that something happened to them there, but have not yet contacted anybody for help in dealing with those changes...

Third, I want to add a personal observation from my own experience which may also help you decide. Perhaps it was not you personally, but, again, you know a loved one who might find this book beneficial. I know I did. About a decade ago, I was diagnosed with clinical depression, due, for me, to a buildup of stress on the job, until  I experienced burnout. In turn, I found, after reading this book, that I've experienced many of the same symptoms from PTSD. I would not say that anything that I did was the slightest bit comparable to what Jordan shares; however, the human body reacts in a similar fashion, to a greater or lesser extent, no matter what it is that has caused the trauma.

I think what overall impressed me in reading this book was the attention to detail that is paid when one of our men or women give their lives while in the service... Of course, this is the story of one NCO, but it seemed real, so real, for it to be just because this man would be a dedicated worker, no matter where he worked.

But it is in that dedicated and caring personality that can ultimately bring about a physical and mental response...

Especially when that individual is the liaison, planner, and performer in ensuring that for every loss of life there is an honorable handling of that death...

I, too, had experienced the same feelings of shame as Justin experienced. I can ask myself, as I am sure he did, "why should I be ashamed?" but after doing a job so long, and succeeding at it, while your own body is telling you that too much is being asked of it, it is difficult to accept that circumstances outside of your personal control has affected your ability to live normally.

Many of the symptoms we shared, such as, nightmares related to his experiences, possible false memories...and, especially, crying for me, may be ones you, too, have felt. If so, this may be a must-read for you--or a call to action to seek help.

This is a very personal story, written somewhat in journal form or as if Justin was sharing directly with you. Some of the parts will be hard for you to read--but, then, Justin actually experienced it! And he's hoping by sharing this, his story may help in some way. I believe it will, if you read it carefully and allow yourself to grasp that it was not his choice to become involved in mortuary services, as some are called to do.

Instead, he was given no ability to choose that he was placed, first as a cook, then a little bit into the recreation services where he had first requested, and, then completely in the position of NCO and dealing with hundreds of deaths that were not all related to service time. That is, even if an accident occurs during a leave, the military liaison still meets with the family, discusses options for funeral or memorial services, and essentially handles everything that most families would handle during the loss of a loved one. For most of us, that could be a few times in our lives. Imagine what it would be like to do this daily...

I am so happy to have had the opportunity to read Mr. Jordan's story. It is not the first personal story I've read, but it is certainly unique in his involvement with a career he had never considered or chosen. Even if you just enjoy reading biographies and have no other reason discussed in this review, I still would recommend it highly. It is a revealing look into death and those who provide support services in those very personal moments when many cannot deal with their loss and what surrounds the arrangements for our loved ones.


Justin Jordan is a Master Sargent in the United States Air Force and has 19.5 years of service. During his time he served for many years as a Mortuary Non-Commissioned Officer both in deployed locations and at home. Surrounded by death and dismay for so many years has had a compromising effect on his mental well-being. Diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in 2009 he has struggled to be able to consistently be able to perform the duties assigned and is currently being medically retired. He continues to fight this debilitating disorder with the aide of his service animals Dallas and Sarge and in an effort to continue to heal he will offer his first written work titled: And Then I Cried, Stories of a Mortuary NCO.
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