Jacqueline Casey

2476405304514569703091559588625n.jpgServed in: Air Force, 1999-2008.

Deployed to: Kuwait (2001), Iraq (2004).

The injury: “We were attacked by insurgents on a mission. I was shot in the chest. I had my flight vest on, so it didn’t penetrate, but I was in the back of a deuce and a half [a truck with removable sides that you can put canvas over]. I fell off when I got shot, and sustained injuries because we were going 45 mph. I ruptured parts of my liver and intestines, had internal hemorrhaging, broken ribs.”

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The aftermath: “I was terrified of everything. I didn’t trust myself. … Everything seemed volatile and unpredictable. Apart from the nightmares—that was the worst thing—I’d be obsessive, checking and re-checking things. The agoraphobia was pretty bad, too. I didn’t want to go out by myself. I couldn’t let anybody else drive a vehicle I was in. You have to be in control; you’re in fight-or-flight response … One of my dogs passed away recently, and I was retriggered. I had to make sure everybody was still alive, or I couldn’t sleep.”

The treatment: “All kinds … talk therapy, group therapy, medication, EMDR [eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing].”

Today: “I’m working on my Ph.D. in evolutionary psychology at UNLV. In Iraq, I had troops that would go out to different areas and experience the same situation, but maybe one would come back completely traumatized, and the others would be fine. I found this perplexing. The research I’m doing now is looking at ground combat soldiers to see why that happens. I’m studying a group of vets locally, and I have a paper coming out soon.”

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In the few grains of time between unconsciousness and consciousness, I thought my dad was an angel, maybe God. His cowboy hat blocked out the sun as he leaned over me while I lay gasping for air. “Are you all right? Can you breathe?” He picked me up and gently palpated my 7-year-old body, looking for broken bones. Then he turned to Penny, my big red mare, who was shaking dust everywhere. He examined her legs, the side of her belly that she’d fallen on before throwing me to the ground.

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