TAMPA, Fla. — As the 20 year anniversary of 9/11 arrives Saturday, many worry about our veterans and the struggles they face in everyday life.
It's estimated that eleven million Americans suffer from PTSD or trauma and military veterans are 22% more likely to die by suicide than a civilian. But the grimmest statistic is 22 veterans die by suicide every day. But one local non-profit organization is looking to change that to zero.
"I have so many friends that have committed suicide. I've seen so many of my friends turn to drugs and alcohol. I've seen so many of my friends just go down really dark paths," John Walker explained.
He's a marine, who worked adjacent to the World Trade Center but was late on September 11, 2001. He arrived that morning, talking to his girlfriend on the phone, who was in a building next to the Twin Towers as they came crashing down.
"When the towers fell, all the cell service went out. So the last thing I heard was her screaming and I just literally watched my own eyes is the debris just covered her building," John said.
Walker's girlfriend survived, but his PTSD haunted him for two decades.
"I just physically couldn't go back. I was having nightmares on a regular basis, literally two, three a night for 20 years," John explained.
On the night of 9/11, Walker spent hours looking for survivors at Ground Zero. Ever since, he's felt guilty he couldn't save a single soul on that tragic day.
"I felt like a failure because I'm a Marine, right? Like, I'm supposed to get the job done, I didn't save a single person. They all died. So in my mind, I failed. You know, and failure is not an option for a United States Marine," he added.
What's also haunted him since that day is survivor's guilt.
"I knew so many people that had died. I had friends that died there. I had friends that work there that died. I had friends that didn't make it. You know, I watched as people jumped out of the building that I knew," he said.
Even odd smells brought back one of the darkest days in our country's history.
"Pork when it cooks, it smells a lot like human burning. So like in the summertime during barbecues, if I drove by somebody's house, it was like I was back in it. You know, I would shut off completely," Walker explained.
But then he met Dan Jarvis, a veteran and retired deputy, who spent years searching for answers to help save his own life from trauma.
"I'll say it with 100% certainty, you can heal PTSD and it can be relatively quickly. It doesn't require talking about. It doesn't require years and years and years of therapy. It doesn't require medication," Dan Jarvis said.
Jarvis is the Founder and President of 22Zero.org and he helped change Walker's life overnight.
"It really does cure you, it really does, like help you. It doesn't help, it puts those emotions where they need to be," Walker explained.
So how does this therapy work?
Jarvis said the practice disconnects your emotions from the traumatic memory through a process called Trauma Resiliency Protocol or TR-P.
"That process is called Visual Kinesthetic Dissociation. You create an image in your mind before your traumatic event occurred, and drain the color out of it. Turn it into a black and white picture, and you're doing all of these guided imagery visualizations. And then you find an endpoint after the trauma was over, and you're making another picture. And you're using what they remember, at that time," Jarvis explained.
And then Jarvis helps that person disassociate from the traumatic memory like it's a movie you're watching as an observer, not as a participant.
"We may have to do things like manipulate the visual spectrum. And maybe you have a 75 inch TV? Well, let's shrink it down to a 27 inch TV. And what that does to the brain is it makes it even smaller and harder for the individual to see, less intense, and then you get them comfortable," he said.
That process helps the brain disconnect those neural pathways.
He also uses the Emotions Management Process, or EMP, to help deal with negative emotions, like anger or rage.
"So what we do is we go to the root of that emotion. We have them find the first place in their life, they found it, where they can still feel it, and then we trigger that emotion. And then we reset the emotion by allowing them to look at it objectively versus subjectively," he explained.
For both TR-P and EMP processes, they don't allow the individual to talk about their trauma or past experience so they're not re-living the memory like other forms of therapy.
So if you're struggling with PTSD or any kind of trauma, Jarvis says don't give up.
"For that person out there who says they've tried everything, I guarantee you, you have not tried everything. We are a veteran organization and we're here to serve you and your family,"
Jarvis said emphatically.
And Walker wants to remind everyone, reach out before it's too late.
"Number one, you're not alone. Number two, this works. Number three, there is a better way. We don't have to live that way anymore," he said with compassion.
This treatment is free to all veterans, first responders, and their families. The 22 Zero program has already treated over 3,100 individuals battling PTSD. They now have 130 coaches all around the country and because of the pandemic, the therapy can be done virtually and processed peer to peer.
So if you're interested in the program or know a veteran who needs help, click here: https://22zero.org/.
You can also call 22Zero at 863-221-6304 or Email here: firstname.lastname@example.org
Also on Saturday, September 11, the non-profit group is releasing a documentary called "Healing the Heroes of 9/11."
John Walker is in the movie along with other marines and first responders, who were at Ground Zero or the Pentagon to help in the recovery efforts on September 11, 2001. All suffered from PTSD from that day but the movie will show the audience how this therapy works. You can watch that documentary on their website.
But if you're having a crisis now and need immediate help, PLEASE CALL the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255