And Don’t Sweat the Last 30K
When I scan the web for articles about combat vets, I have no problem finding ones telling tragic stories of vets who have “broken bad,” often replete with explanations from members of my profession as to the expectable results of trauma when one returns to civilian life.
Perhaps for this reason, I never tire of stories that tell simple tales of redemption, bits of life that, in the grand scheme, are no big deal, yet by their very simplicity are, in fact, just that. Today, it is from the wide-ranging blog site, Medium, in an article originally posted by the US veteran organization, AMVETS, entitled, “From PTSD to Ultramarathoner, the Story of Brandon Kuehn.”
As a result of his military experiences, Brandon Kuehn suffered not only the physical scars of neuronal functioning that lead to combat trauma, but also the physical scars of a back injury that precluded his further service in the United States Army, leading to a medical discharge. By his own report, he was devastated by the loss of his soldier identity, and he fell into booze and food such that he reached 300 pounds (about 135 kg) and a state of mind that well can be called “vegetative” depression.
Then, through the intervention of his old Army squad leader, Brandon met Ryan Anke from Team Red, White & Blue, a veterans organization in the US dedicated to helping combat vets “re-find what they still have” through physical activity and community service. Ryan introduced Brandon not only to the world of runners, but eventually to the world of ultramarathoners, runners who compete at distances anywhere from 50 km (about 30 miles) to 100 miles (about 160 km).
Well, now that’s one way to lose weight, I guess. I won’t embarrass myself by revealing my piddle-diddle New Year’s resolutions.
For Brandon, of course, actually achieved his resolution and is setting many more for himself.
I want to highlight, though, a quote from the article’s end:
“Brandon wants to continue challenging himself with longer races such as a 100-miler, and has experienced incredible breakthroughs in dealing with the symptoms of his PTSD. Though this journey will never be over for Brandon, he has found a way to channel his energy into something positive. If his story helps one veteran combatting PTSD to change his or her life for the better, Brandon has done what he set out to do.”
This is where the so-called simplicity of the story strikes me. Brandon is not the only person in this world who manages to achieve his New Year’s resolutions, and many do equally amazing feats. Heck, some people even get their pictures on the cover of a supermarket tabloid or a chance to play themselves in the next reality TV show. Big resolutions done big are a cottage industry these days.
But in remembering that he still has what it takes to do what needs to be done, Brandon is not only remembering that he has the stamina to endure mile after mile of running. He also still has what it takes to undertake a second mission beyond his own self-makeover: a mission of connection to fellow vets who are also struggling, boozing, vegetating. He may have had to leave his military career behind him, but his brothers and sisters in arms? Anything but.
It’s a simple story, with a simple conclusion: “Hey, guys, if I can do this, so can you.”
But even more, a conclusion with a heartfelt plea: “So, guys: please do.”
Thanks, Brian. “Simple” stories of redemption might not translate into scripts for the next Hollywood blockbuster, but that sure doesn’t mean that they can’t bust a few blocks of their own every now and then.
Until tomorrow, be well,
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