Many soldiers find rude awakening when returning home - CBS 5 - KPHO

Many soldiers find rude awakening when returning home

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PHOENIX (CBS5) -

Our military hometown heroes sacrifice a lot fighting for our freedom, and when they come home, the battle isn't over.

Many of our veterans are finding a rude awakening when they return.

"I love my military career... we ate, slept, fought together, we cried together, then coming out of the military, I didn't know anything about, you know, being a civilian," said "Ace" Carter, an army veteran.

Carter gave more than 22 years of his life to the military, being deployed to Vietnam, Iraq and Panama. He struggled to find the same camaraderie and purpose when he came home.

"You see the violence, you see the drugs, you see the alcohol, 'What did I fight for?'" Carter asked.

Retired military police officer Brittany Hodge is only 26 years old.

"One major event happened when I got back to Fort Campbell," Hodge said.

A soldier's wife intentionally set fire to the family home, trapping and killing her two kids. Hodge was a first responder.

"I had already been to Afghanistan where there was all this, you know, violence, and then I get back where it's supposed to be safe, and it wasn't safe," Hodge said.

Like Carter and other veterans, Hodge turned to alcohol to self-medicate.

"I was very angry all the time," Hodge said.

"For a long time, the diagnosis was, I was just a veteran with an alcohol problem," Carter said.

Carter lost his job, his home and his family. He lived under a bridge in Phoenix for almost a year until a therapist at the Veterans Affairs Hospital convinced him to get treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.

"I figured I was a very educated man, I couldn't be crazy," Carter said.

"Even among civilians, there's a stigma with seeking mental health treatment," said Dr. Leslie Telfer from Carl T. Hayden VA Hospital.

Telfer said it doesn't matter if it's been four or 40 years, the VA's 12-week PTSD treatment program has an up to 80 percent success rate.

"This can linger for a lifetime if it's not treated," Telfer said.

"It still bothers me, but it doesn't control me anymore," Hodge said.

"I was able to turn my life around," Carter said.

Carter said family and friends need to be patient. He said vets with PTSD won't be as obvious as those who've lost a limb, but veterans also need to know there's hope and you shouldn't bear the burden alone.

"If you love your family, you love yourself, then be humble and get help," Carter said.

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