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Confessions Of A Gold Star Sister

I walked my oldest daughter into middle school for the first time recently. That in itself is emotional, but as I walked into the school, I was transported back to my 6th-grade year.

PTSD isn’t just something that can happen to soldiers, but to anyone whose been through a traumatic event. Symptoms of PTSD can include: flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, nightmares, intense distress at real or symbolic reminders of the trauma, nausea, anxiety and more.

(I also have medical/complex PTSD with symptoms of overthinking, flashbacks, and hypervigilance)

A flashback is a vivid experience in which you relive some aspects of a traumatic event. As I walked into the school for open house I felt like my vision was clouded with movie reels of events.

My 6th grade year a tornado hit our middle school, school was delayed 2 weeks. We used the gym, the stage, and trailers for makeshift classrooms. I was sitting in my English class on the stage when we seen 9/11 live on TV.

As we continued to walk the halls, finding classes and meeting teachers, I walked into one particular classroom and I seen myself in 7th grade. I was getting called for early dismissal, my brother was being deployed to Iraq for the first time.

In 8th grade I was also called for early dismissal, as I walked into the front office my brother was there. He was on leave and surprised me. He always went out of his way to make sure I knew I was loved.

These memories seemed so real, like I could reach out and hug my younger self and tell her to be brave. The year after I graduated high school I got a call in the middle of the night; “Your brothers dead” was the words that hung in the air and changed so much in an instant.

My brother Sgt. Jon Rape, was killed in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 15th, 2009. He is forever 25. Death anniversaries can be complex and emotional anyways; this year, flashbacks plus the ongoing situation in Afghanistan have made my anxiety and PTSD worse.

A fellow gold star family member wrote, “Our blood and love are sown into the soil of Afghanistan.” My family and many others have walked a unique path over the past twenty years, from being a kid watching a terrorist attack on TV, watching my brother get on a plane, gun in hand to fight for his country, then watching a soldier lay a folded flag into his widow’s hands.

We talk about them, not because we’re stuck or because we haven’t moved on, but we talk about them because we are theirs, and they are ours, and no passage of time will ever change that.

Scribbles & Crumbs

As we commemorate the 20th anniversary of 9/11 and end the longest war in American history, remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.

And although the battle has ceased, there is still a war to be fought. Many of our soldiers return home with traumatic brain injuries, PTSD, and other mental health needs. More than 20 soldiers commit suicide a day; these staggering numbers outweigh combat deaths by 4x.

Getting Help & Other Resources


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