Veterans and Resilience: One Warrior’s Perspective

Posted by Michele Rosenthal

Monday, October 15th, 2012 • PTSD Guest Post: Survivors Speak

You know I’m always looking for people with positive perspectives about PTSD and recovery. Recently, I met a man with both. I asked veteran U.S. Army Reserve Captain Montgomery Granger to “write a paragraph or two about resilience and coping: specifically, what helped you? what allowed you to hold onto all  of what’s good about who you are? how did you maintain good connections with your wife and children?” He responded:

To answer your questions, I must say the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about “resilience” and “coping” is the unwavering and loving support of my wife, Sandra. I dedicate my book, “Saving Grace at Guantanamo Bay: A Memoir of a Citizen Warrior” to her, and acknowledge that it is impossible to fully express how I feel about what she went through while I was away, all the while doing everything she could to support and comfort me through my fears, anxiety and guilt over having left her and my young family (at the time 6 and 3 year old boys, and a brand new two-day-old son) just months after the horrors of 9/11/01, which for us, and as New Yorkers, was a visceral and earth shattering experience. How did we do it? One day at a time, counting on each other, and never fully disclosing all our experiences while they happened. Distance can be debilitating if you try to tell your loved ones everything. There’s time for that later, if necessary. We kept it much more positive while apart so as not to increase the stress of separation on each other, which was extremely challenging at times even without full disclosure. Love and respect won out! We are happily married and together for over 27 years, and have five amazing children, ages 16 to 3!

I’m very pleased to share with you an excerpt from Granger’s book, “Saving Grace at Guantanamo Bay: A Memoir of a Citizen Warrior” :

“10 March 2002. Tomorrow marks six months since the attack on the U.S. by Al Qaeda forces, masquerading  as citizens, who hijacked four commercial aircraft that  eventually killed thousands of innocent Americans and several hundred foreign nationals in the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and in a plane that was suspected to have been diverted by passengers and crashed in an open field in rural Pennsylvania.

“The feelings rush back, the raw emotions. On CNN this morning they had a widow, a grieving mother, and a New York City firefighter who lost colleagues. They are sad, bitter, and frustrated. I too, am sad, bitter, and frustrated. My mission is impossible, and I don’t even have direct contact with the detainees. But it bugs the hell out of me that they are living it up in the Fleet Hospital. Yet, it is required that they receive quality medical care. And guards and medical personnel are human beings. They seem to be getting closer and closer to their charges. Smiling more, talking to them more. It is far different than what I saw a month ago.

“What I saw a month ago was a nearly silent ward of some frightened some timid detainees, guards, and hospital workers. The guards were stern and unhappy, pulling mostly twelve-hour shifts with no days off. Hospital staff was a little intimidated by the guards, and probably scared or at least wary of the detainees. And the detainees I’m sure were frightened as well: a bunch of people walking around them with various medical instruments poking and prodding them, injecting them, and taking them here and there for tests and X-rays. I wonder if they thought they would become medical experiments. They are all one now. Almost what you would see if American soldiers were being treated. The only difference would be the restraints on the detainees. The guards might be the occasional buddy who comes to see the wounded. It really is uncanny.

“12 March 2002. Things are really heating up around here. People are speeding up planning and contingencies regarding receiving more detainees. At the same time, issues arise about current operations and the Joint War Fighting Task Force will be down here next week to pick our brains about what has gone on so far.

“My computer is hooked up, so I can e-mail Sandy and the kids regularly and without feeling rushed when I use the colonel’s machine. I also have hospital e-mail on line. Lots of good things are happening but there is also a lot of work to do. The zero eight-thirty meetings at Fleet Hospital have become really important, as a guard has been accused of harassing a detainee (#75) who seems to have more and more problems with guards. Well, according to hospital staff, he’s been abused by the guards. There are a least three guards who have been requested by FH command to be reassigned out of the Fleet Hospital. The FH also has commended certain MPs for their professionalism, positive performance, and cooperation. It is necessary for both the “jailers” and the “caregivers” to compromise and work together.

“The abuse was reported to be such things as slapping the detainees on the head to wake them, and removing their bed coverings in an urgent manner.

“13 March 2002. The situation here is deteriorating rapidly. We would probably need some outside independent opinion of that, but it seems so to me. It seems that just as we are gaining experience and savvy about this detention medicine thing, personnel changes are made and we have to start all over again. Mistakes made in Vietnam,aside from even getting involved, include rotating troops. Experienced, efficient soldiers were taken out after twelve or thirteen months, to be replaced by less experienced, less efficient greenhorns. In World War II, the Civil War, and other conflicts, soldiers stayed in the field until they were killed, wounded beyond quick rehabilitation, or until the conflict ended.

“But there may be dangers to keeping certain people here in the FH. There are now manifestations of previously identified violent ideation on the part of guards. Soldiers are being transferred. Now detainees are being transferred to the brig. One detainee began to bang his head against the bars in the brig. There is more and more psychosis becoming evident in detainees. Behavior in all personnel is deteriorating, the detained and the free. It’s scary. I’m scared. I must find a way to communicate this feeling effectively, maybe to the commander, maybe to  the Navy Muslim chaplain, maybe to nobody.

“If I were a prisoner of war, my “Code of Conduct” requires me to attempt to escape and resist. What do we think their code says? Be nice? I feel there will be incidents. I feel there may be a detainee or U.S. suicide. Five U.S. personnel have been sent home because of psychiatric problems. Then what? We already have probably a dozen or so detainees who are psychiatric cases. The number is growing. Do  we think by continuing this game they will get better? Is there any “rehabilitation” going on? Is there any education going on? Should there be?

“Is confinement in an eight-by-eight-foot cage punishment? Is it worth it to say these folks have probably hardened themselves by now to any attempt on our part to rehabilitate or release them into a nonviolent world? Or do we just hang on to them indefinitely until they all become infected with the culture of maximum confinement until they are all hopelessly committed to the destruction of civilization, or at least Western civilization? Isn’t that the way we got them in the first place?

“Oh. Lord, please forgive me for my sins, for they are many and varied. I am weak and need your love and strength to see me through this dilemma. I need to be whole when I return home, in your good graces, for my wife and family. My boys need me to be whole and sane. Thank you, oh, Lord for your faith in me, for your love and kindness. In Jesus’ name I pray and thank you. Amen.

“17 March 2002. Things are changing around here fast, on a lot of fronts. Home front: Just avoided major catastrophe. Sandra e-mailed me two days a go saying she had received a letter stating that our health insurance, dental insurance, and eye care had all been terminated.  I forwarded her e-mail to Dr. Wine, and he got right back to me saying he would take care of it. I believe him, and trust him. Do I have a choice? This is just one more reason for me not to be here.”

U.S. Army Reserve Captain Montgomery Granger found himself the ranking Army Medical Department officer in a joint military operation like no other before it – taking care of terrorists and murderers just months after the horrors of September 11, 2001. Granger and his fellow Reservists end up running the Joint Detainee Operations Group (JDOG) at Guantanamo Bay’s infamous Camp X-Ray. In this moving memoir, Granger writes about his feelings of guilt, leaving his family and job back home, while in Guantanamo, he faces a myriad of torturous emotions and self-doubt, at once hating the inmates he is nonetheless duty bound to care for and protect. Through long distance love, and much heartache, Granger finds a way to keep his sanity and dignity.Saving Grace at Guantanamo Bay is his story. For more information about Granger’s books, click here.

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