He had many jobs, including patrolling villages and sweeping roads for explosive devices.
After 14 months of combat, he came home.
At first he was told he had something called "chronic adjustment disorder."
"But I knew otherwise," he said. "I knew it was something else every time I finished another bottle or pounded another beer or finished another pack of cigarettes or smoked another joint. I knew it was something different every time I contemplated suicide, every time me, the combat veteran, cowered at the thought of a large crowd or entertained the idea of just walking into Wal-Mart."
When he slept at all, he did so with a loaded shotgun by his bed. Darkness terrified him.
His first year home, 2005, was the worst. But he struggled for many years, good periods, then bad, and the fall of 2011 was rock bottom. He landed in the emergency room.
He got help, from counselors, from his family, from his faith. He broke through the dysfunction, finally, and a big part of that transformation was being open and honest with himself and others, accepting that he had post-traumatic stress disorder, not being ashamed to admit it or discuss it.
He understood the triggers and changed his behavior - no more war movies, no more shooting ranges, no more boozing.
He moved to the Philadelphia area in 2011, lives in Roslyn now, works as a civilian for the Navy. He thinks he is finally getting control of his life, moving forward, getting well.
He signed up for the 2013 Broad Street Run.
"I wanted to take my therapy one step further by challenging myself with the mental and physical rigors of training and running," he said.
"The ravages of war, and that encompasses a whole host of things, took a toll on my spirit, my body, my mind," he said. "Can I run 10 miles? There's only one way to find out."
His family will be there at the finish line.
"This will be," he said, "the homecoming parade I never had."
The Boston Marathon bombings, he said, "remind me that freedom is a precious possession. Running with thousands of people, with thousands more watching and celebrating, is one way I can help safeguard this blessing. It's not defiance against terror; it's preservation of life."
Contact Michael Vitez
at 215-854-5639, email@example.com, or on Twitter @michaelvitez.
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