Scarred but not broken
Six years ago, current senior Deron Wright never saw himself just a week away from graduation.
Back then, he wasn’t studying for finals or writing papers.
He was at war.
Wright was just 17 when he joined the Army National Guard after being rejected from Towson due to his high school grades.
Before he was deployed, Wright attended Montgomery College and began taking classes.
But he put his education on hold to go to Iraq in 2008.
“I was so young [when I went to Iraq]. I didn’t really know what to expect and I was scared,” Wright, now a criminal justice major, said.
The experience changed Wright, he said, and when he finally returned home, he found himself affected by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
“My PTSD was not as bad as most extreme cases, but different things that happened to me while I was overseas played a huge role in how my PTSD was experienced, whether it was my relationship, worries about finances, family or just plain old fear,” Wright said.
His PTSD manifested itself in his behavior, affecting his temper and causing him to abuse alcohol.
“I distanced myself from my family and friends at times because I was afraid nobody knew or could understand how I had changed,” Wright said. “When you return home, everyone expects you to be okay and if you’re not, then they look at you differently like you have some type of contagious disease.”
But then, an event occurred that Wright said changed his entire perspective. Three months after returning from Iraq, Wright was involved in a near fatal car accident that took him a year to recover from. He said that though the accident left him with scars, it also inspired him to seek help.
Wright went to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, a nonprofit service organization that seeks to help veterans.
After attending numerous sessions, Wright found himself healing. So, in 2012, he decided to apply to Towson again. And this time, he was accepted.
“Since being accepted, I have changed as a person tremendously. My outlook on life is more positive and I have more motivation to take control of my life. The faculty in the Criminal Justice department have helped me blossom as a person and helped guide me through my path internally by giving me advice on life and academics almost on a daily basis,” Wright said.
Wright has also visited the Veterans Center located here at Towson.
He has met other veterans who are also Towson students and have experienced PTSD. And through his experiences at Towson, Wright said that he has learned a lot not only in his classes, but about himself.
“My message to any veteran struggling with life after deployment is to hang in there and don’t give up even when the odd seems better to not be here anymore,” Wright said. “Keep telling yourself that there’s still a reason to why you’re still alive. It’s not easy to cope with war…Find what really makes you happy or makes you feel normal again and go reach for it with everything you got.”