Heroes Haven Saves Soldier, Family From Toll Of PTSD
Sep 17, 2020, 6:47 PM | Updated: Sep 18, 2020, 4:52 pm
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq took a toll on many of the soldiers who live among us in our communities.
Some now struggle with the unseen wounds of war, like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and suicidal thoughts.
A Utah combat veteran, still serving in the Utah Army National Guard, recently broke down some of the barriers to his healing process.
“I didn’t think anything was wrong,” said Specialist Luda Siliga, but his wife, Hillarie, knew there was. “She kind of pushed me to go and take a step back.”
— Jed Boal (@jedboal) September 18, 2020
When Siliga plays with his kids at home, roughhousing is the favorite game. His young children crawl all over him, and the big, athletic soldier scoops them up, and tickles them as they laugh and squeal. He comes from a big family, and those bonds are his top priority.
In recent years, Siliga said he lost track of the man he used to be.
“I didn’t see it, but she did,” he said, looking at his wife.
“He got to the point where he couldn’t even get out of bed for two months,” she said.
Siliga has served full-time with the Utah National Guard over 13 years and deployed twice to Afghanistan. He now admits he was angry all the time and didn’t know why, and neither did his wife or kids.
He never realized the true impact of his combat experience. The soldier had nightmares but thought that was normal. He had thought about suicide, too.
“The depression and the anxiety, it was just crippling for him,” said Hillarie.
She was pretty sure he had PTSD and told him to get help. She was the one who called the Salt Lake City Veterans Affairs Medical Center to get him an appointment for an assessment.
Siliga said His wife gave him an ultimatum. “She told me this is literally your last chance.”
They didn’t talk a lot about it and start making real progress until Siliga learned new tools at a week-long camp in Park City put on by the Heroes Haven.
“I knew nothing about military before him, and we didn’t talk much about it until just recently,” said Hillarie. “We really started to communicate.”
The soldier said her support is the most important part of his recovery.
“She kind of lets me have the episode for a minute,” he said. “It lets me calm down for a little bit.”
Heroes Haven was Siliga’s first serious effort at healing, and from the moment he arrived, he knew he was where he needed to be.
“I’m able to be vulnerable, and actually talk to her about certain issues,” he said.
The healing, and their growth as a couple is still fresh.
“He came back, and all the potential that I’ve ever seen in him, he finally sees in himself, and he’s putting it to work all of a sudden,” said Hillarie.
Both agree that Siliga is more positive and optimistic, and less likely to get angry about things.
“The Heroes Haven saved his life, and saved our marriage,” she said.
At Heroes Haven, Siliga discovered he wasn’t the only one struggling with PTSD. He learned how to better understand his traumas from war and put them in better perspective for continuing life.
When he got home from Heroes Haven, Hillarie started to learn new tools to communicate with her husband to be supportive.
“I’ve learned to be more gentle, and he has learned to talk more,” she said.
Getting him to open up was the hardest part. “It was hard for me to even open up when it comes to military stuff because she hasn’t been down that path,” said Siliga.
He now understands she doesn’t need to know all of those things to support him. Yet, they both know they have a long journey together and more work to do. “It’s still new. It’s still very new,” she said.
They both feel good about where they are headed. “Every day is a new obstacle we have to overcome,” said the soldier.
“I think the difference is that we’re excited to work on it now,” said Hillarie.
They urge others who are struggling to reach out for help.
For more information and resources visit BeThereForVeterans.com.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, contact the Veterans Crisis Line to receive free, confidential support and crisis intervention available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
Suicide Prevention Resources
If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts or exhibiting warning signs, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Additional Crisis Hotlines
- Utah County Crisis Line: 801-226-4433
- Salt Lake County/UNI Crisis Line: 801-587-3000
- Wasatch Mental Health Crisis Line: 801-373-7393
- National Suicide Prevention Crisis Text Line: Text “HOME” to 741-741
- Trevor Project Hotline for LGBTQ teens: 1-866-488-7386
- University Of Utah Crisis Interventional Crisis Line: 801-587-300
- NAMI Utah
- Utah Chapter-American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
- Suicide Prevention Lifeline
- Safe UT Crisis Text and Tip Line
In an emergency
- Call the police
- Go to the emergency room