JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Rob Springer served in the National Guard and then the Army. He trained as a medic and went to Iraq for nine months. When he returned, he looked the same but on the inside he's hardly able to function. Springer says PTSD is the reason he now stutters and at one point was living out of his car.
Springer says the images he saw as a medic in Iraq consume him. and he can't forget them. He remembers his second day in Iraq.
"Indirect fire was coming in and i was scared for my life and jumped off my bed and grabbed the Kevlar and covered myself," Springer recounted. "There was some type of blast and next thing I know I was thrown."
Springer says coming under fire was nothing unusual. But says the way a combat soldier is treated is wrong.
"We're trained by the military to suck it up and not go see the medic, not go seek help," he said.
Springer says after months of being told to take Motrin for his headaches, he finally came home from war, but says he was a broken man. He tells me he was irritable, had trouble sleeping, trouble breathing and was still having headaches. That led to marital problems and then Springer's wife divorced him. He lost his job and his home.
"The worst part, you can't see it. I can look in the mirror and I can't see it. I can see all the injuries, but not this. I can't see all these triggers that trigger me," said Springer.
As if it couldn't get any worse, Springer's 5-year-old daughter Kaitlyn died when she was hit by a car.
"The light turned green and the driver, they gunned it, and they ran them down," Springer said tearfully.
It happened a week before Christmas in 2009. Kaitlyn was with her mother and Springer's 3-year-old son when they walked across San Jose Boulevard. The car hit them, killing Kaitlyn.
"Perfect, innocent, beautiful little girl who loved life. She was a joy," said Springer.
That loss sent him spiraling and by the time he found 5 Star, a local non-profit that helps Veterans, Springer was living in his car.
Five Star Veterans Center located on Acme Street has now helped him find transitional housing and navigate the governmental red tape of getting his military benefits. It's a start to a battle that will never truly end for Springer.
He says, "I joined the military to serve and protect my family and because of my condition, it caused me to lose my family and I couldn't be there to protect them that day."
Springer's wife and son recovered physically from the accident that killed Kaitlyn, and now he's trying to build a relationship with his son. But Springer admits, when he's at the playground with his son, watching him play with other children, he can't stop thinking about all the children who died, the ones he couldn't help when he was on the battlefield.
Five Star Veterans Center is located at 40 Acme Street in Arlington. Their telephone number is (904) 723-5950. They provide a variety of services to Veterans of all branches of the military. The founder is joining us on The Morning Show at 8:15 Friday, to tell us more about how they can help our local war Vets.
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