It’s tough to imagine what a soldier endures when deployed. Hollywood often paints a picture of the war-weary soldier emerging victorious after rigorous experiences that test their mental and physical limits. What the movies don’t show, however, is what happens when soldiers break; when they are torn down by symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder; when they can’t be in a crowd or even something as basic as shopping for groceries forces them to relive their trauma and they break down.

These aren’t people who can overcome their struggles in the span of a two-hour movie. These are real people who, long after the battle is over, keep on fighting.

Meet Zack, a former Marine who served in Afghanistan for seven months. Upon returning home, Zack was met with symptoms of PTSD that sent him into a downward spiral of lethargy and marijuana use. As his symptoms set in further, he began to lose who he was—who he used to be before his experiences overseas. “I was scared,” Zack said. “I was scared of my own shadow or to leave the house.” It wasn’t until Zack verbally took out his pent-up rage on his mother that she recommended Warrior Salute™, and Zack listened.

On the road to a new life, Zack engaged in art therapy, group therapy, and, what he enjoyed most, music therapy. “It was real easy to start the conversation here.” He said the music therapist explained stress to him in such a way that made him realize he could control the ball of nervous anger in the pit of his stomach, and his life changed from there. But, it still didn’t come without its struggles. Zack said he packed his bags at least twice, ready to give up, but ultimately decided to stick with it until, after four months of hard work, he graduated in July. “I feel like I have the ability to do things again. I was able to take time out from my life and come here and re-evaluate how I’m doing things and figure out how I can attack life. It gave me the confidence to go get a job and an apartment.”

Today, Zack is the manager at a warehouse in Buffalo and is working on buying a house with his girlfriend. He said he’s ready to start a family and a new life.

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"Warrior Salute Graduate Talks PTSD, Fear, and Recovery"

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