The Flip Side of Adversity

Even though I read the article and watched the video many times, writing this post was challenging. I wanted to share a story and an idea without offending military personnel who have suffered adversity that I cannot imagine. This post is not an attempt to say the loss of limbs, lives, and the old way of doing things is a beneficial outcome of deployment. I know it is not. However, I want to share a story about one person whose life changed in a positive way after his Humvee was destroyed by an Improvised Explosive Device (IED).

Excerpt of Article by Jim Rendon | The New York Times Magazine

Sgt. Jeffrey Beltran near Fort Sill, in Lawton, Okla., where he was stationed after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Among other injuries, Beltran suffered a mild traumatic brain injury in an I.E.D. attack in Iraq in 2005 and can no longer rely on his short-term memory. Credit Stephanie Sinclair/VII, for The New York Times
Sgt. Jeffrey Beltran near Fort Sill, in Lawton, Okla., where he was stationed after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Among other injuries, Beltran suffered a mild traumatic brain injury in an I.E.D. attack in Iraq in 2005 and can no longer rely on his short-term memory. Credit Stephanie Sinclair/VII, for The New York Times

The photos, taken right after the explosion, show a plowed field next to a road. A few palm trees frame the horizon. In the foreground there is a deep crater. About 20 feet away, the front half of a Humvee is turned upside down. The back half is gone — parts were later discovered hundreds of feet away. When the bomb exploded, Beltran was launched into the air and landed between the blast hole and the Humvee. When he came to, he couldn’t stand up. “I knew something was wrong,” he said. “I felt swelling inside my legs. I was hyperventilating in the heat. The dirt was starting to settle down. I called out to my guys. I couldn’t see them.”

The blast broke Beltran’s knee and leg, fractured his lower spine and buried shrapnel in his thigh; the violent jolt caused his brain injury. He underwent 14 operations over the next year. “I was dealing with post-traumatic stress, anger, all the emotions, the ups and downs, the physical, emotional, psychological pain,” he told me. “I was really angry. I wanted to get healed and get back into the fight.”

By 2007, Beltran was on several medications: Clonazepam and Buspirone for anxiety, Celebrex for pain and other pills for depression. Yet the Army deployed him again, this time to Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, where he coordinated with nongovernmental organizations to clear minefields.

Slowly, Beltran began noticing surprising changes. The bombing, the P.T.S.D. and the challenges he faced changed him. And he thinks he has changed for the better. “This whole experience has helped me to be more open, more flexible,” he told me. “I am branching out to activities that I was once uncomfortable with.” Beltran has taken rigorous tests in pursuit of a promotion. He’s taking online courses toward a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. He discovered a sense of spirituality, and although he and his first wife divorced, he has remarried and reconnected with his parents, from whom he distanced himself after the explosion.

To read the complete article by Jim Rendon, click here.

Credits

Click this link to read another post by Beyond Adversity.

Thanks to Sgt. Jeffrey Beltran for sharing his story; Jim Rendon for writing the article; The New York Times Magazine for committing its resources to publishing the article; Cheryl for recommending I look at the article; YouTube for hosting the video; and all other people who, directly or indirectly, made it possible for me to include the picture, video, and text in this post.

 

4 Comments

  1. Thank you, Scott for posting this. It is a strong reminder that human beings have the ability to grow in unimaginable ways as “we” work our way out of traumatic, confusing, life-changing challenges. It seems to me that, too often, the possibilities of growth from this type of experience is not considered and spiritual brokenness becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
    How wonderful to be reminded it doesn’t have to be.

    1. DiDi, although many things in life are outside of our control, some are not. I hope all survivors and caregivers understand they have to act to see the results they want. It all begins with a strong desire to change. Where you go depends on how you think. Adversity definitely has benefits.

  2. This article points to 5 keys areas that are important for everyone wishing and/or working towards having the best possible life. They include: Physical, Emotional, Social, Family and Spiritual. These key areas can mean different things for each of us but the basic characteristics remain. I never like knowing a person is dealing with adversity–but it is wonderful to know that we can grow in these key areas when we are having rough times.

    1. Cheryl, I believe life is about learning. Unfortunately, it took cancer, brain injury, ataxia, visual and auditory challenges, and balance issues for me to understand.

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