A Texas Army veteran battled through PTSD and alcoholism, and now he’s working to help other veterans.
Staff Sergeant Mike Gonzales fought on the frontlines for 20 years and suffered through some dark times when he returned to Texas. But now, Gonzales is working with the Birdwell Foundation for PTSD as a director and hopes he can help fellow veterans get through their issues.
The non-profit foundation helps veterans and first responders and works to prevent suicides.
Army Veteran Struggled In America Return
Mike Gonzales went to Afghanistan after 9/11 and was one of the first Army units deployed there. By 2008, he worked as a Third Armored Cavalry Regiment cavalry scout.
After multiple tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, he came home a different man. He said his family and friends did not recognize him.
“I began to look underneath every bed and closet,” Gonzales told KENS 5. “My wife would say that’s not my husband. My children would say, ‘where’s my father’ and I became an out-of-control alcoholic in the U.S. Army.”
The veteran found help from doctors and military leaders then. Now, he’s working to help others like him who struggled with PTSD and alcoholism. He said the Birdwell Foundation is the “first line of defense” for those individuals.
Most importantly, Gonzales wants those suffering to know they’re not alone because that can lead to disaster and grief.
The man said one client was involved in group therapy, and he disappeared for two weeks. When authorities came to his house, the man would not answer. Eventually, they found him in a closet with a self-inflicted bullet wound.
Foundation Looks To Bring Help
According to Department of Defense records, there were 156 deaths by suicide among military service members from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31 at the end of last year. Records indicated that’s a 25 percent increase from 2019.
The Birdwell Foundation is part of a network of organizations that want to help these veterans and any person dealing with mental challenges. They can help service members with one-on-one and group therapy sessions via in-person or Zoom meetings.
The group recently opened Camp Valor in Conroe, Texas. The site has a two-story brick home with beds for 16 people. There is also a large country kitchen and two fireplaces, a saltwater pool, and two barns.
Trained volunteers and staff work “on a proven, compassionate healing process” to prevent suicide and help people discover “new hope for fruitful lives.” There is peer-to-peer mentoring, life skills, professional counseling, and training at the camp for many up to six months.
The foundation set up a 24/7 crisis hotline for these veterans. The number is 830-822-2563.
Gonzales knows the road to better health for veterans can be a long one, but they need more than a salute sometimes.