Andrew Chambers is making news as he tells the story of how he ended up in prison with a ten year sentence after a Judge told him that his services to his country makes him “threat to society.”
US soldiers, and soldiers around the world, know what the horrors of war and active duty can do to a grown man or woman. Seeing the destruction and devastation that combat can bring to a community is enough to bring any grown person to their knees. Andrew Chambers is one of those men.
In the viral video done for TEDxMarionCorrectional’s TEDxTalks, Chambers speaks from prison about the events that took place prior to his sentencing. He begins his story by telling the audience why he joined the US Military to begin with, and like many young men and women, his journey began with the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
Chamber’s tells the audience that he will never forget where he was during the attacks on the World Trade Centers, that he was working as a forklift driver. He was fresh out of high school, still a young man with many hopes and dreams. He says that as he watched the second plane hit the towers, he “knew at that moment” that he was going to join the Military.
He recalls the positive side of joining the Military, getting to travel the world, experience different cultures, and seeing all that is beautiful in the world. He spent a year in Central America before being deployed to Iraq in 2004. Chamber’s tells the audience about his experience in the war-torn nation, and even goes on to explain that he noticed a change in himself, a change he didn’t feel comfortable with.
One event he tells the audience is of a time he was working as turret gunner “hanging out of the top of a Humvee.” During the middle of the gunfire, he recalls hearing someone laughing, and remembers asking himself “who could be laughing at a time like this,” only to realize it was him laughing. “I felt like I was finally loosing control of that rage they (the military) taught me to harness.” After serving two tours in Iraq, Andrew Chambers tells the audience that his transition home was difficult.
“I was paranoid, I carried a pistol on me at all times. I assessed the threat level of every person and place I came into contact with. Driving through my family’s neighborhood, I drove down the middle of the street in fear that the side of the street was going to blow up, and kill me.”
Andrew Chambers continued on to say that he looked like a normal 21-year-old college student, and he thought he was behaving as one when it came to his daily drinking. He tells the audience that after a few months of being home from Iraq, his family finally convinced him something wasn’t right with him. Chambers decided to go see a doctor at the Veterans Affairs (VA) Mental Health Clinic.
Chambers says he begged the doctors to help him, told him that he was going to end up hurting someone, even though he didn’t want to. He even told them that he carried a pistol at all times because he was always scared. Many vets never reach this point of realization. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) often rears its ugly head with out any notice. In the case of Andrew Chambers, he knew something wasn’t right, and sought help.
The doctors at the VA made note of what Chambers was saying, and ended up giving him a simple sleep aid. It wasn’t long before Chambers was caught up in a confrontation, in which he pulled out his pistol after a knife was drawn. He was later arrested on attempted murder, along with other charges that he says he did and didn’t commit. During sentencing, he says he remembers the judge’s words clearly.
“Mr. Chambers, you’re service is a double edged sword. Your time in Iraq makes you a threat to society and I have a civil obligation to lock you up.”
He received 10 years in prison for his charges. The video ends with a plea to find a veteran, and listen to their story. “A lot of us just need someone to talk to.” An unknown voice is then heard saying “Sarge, its okay. You’re home now man, it’s over. You’re safe… Welcome home.”
The ultimate question that comes from listening to Andrew Chamber’s story is this: Did he deserve the 10 year sentence that he received? He was one of the “lucky” few soldiers that were able to recognize that something wasn’t right in him and in his mind. He sought help, and didn’t receive the proper medical treatment that he needed. What do you think about Andrew Chambers’ situation?
For Veterans that suffer from PTSD, more information can be found on the US Department of Veteran Affairs website.
[Image via Sutterstock/zimand]