Health Watch: Veterans take to stage to combat PTSD

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, up to 20% of Iraqi veterans develop post-traumatic stress disorder. And that number is expected to rise as troops return home to civilian life.

One group of soldiers took to the stage to cope with combat PTSD and start the healing process.

"I deployed in 2004, to Abu Ghraib prison, Iraq," said Anthony Torres, Army Veteran, Executive Director, Writer & Performer with Combat Hippies.

Torres was part of a mental health team sent to help U.S. troops. He didn't realize until years later that he suffered from PTSD.

Torres continued, "Things like hypervigilance, sensitivity to sounds, anxiety, depression."

He started a writing workshop for war veterans. That turned into an ensemble of Puerto Rican military veterans sharing their experiences through spoken word.

Hipolito Arriaga, Actor, Writer, Combat Hippies suffered from PTSD when he returned from Iraq.

"I was pushing people away, I wasn't talking, I was isolating. And, I can't just sit home on the couch and disconnect from the world; I have to come here and work," explained Arriaga.

The show, titled "Amal", is a raw look at war, death and drug addiction.

"Every time we go in, we shed tears and those tears are real," shared Angel Rodriguez, Vietnam Veteran, Actor, Writer Combat Hippies.

Helping veterans through the healing process and encouraging others coping with trauma to do the same.

"I'm doing this not to perform, but to save my own life," Arriaga stated.

As you can see, the show is made up of a mix of spoken word, live and recorded music. The Combat Hippies are on a national tour and have played cities like Miami, Denver and Milwaukee. For more information on the theater company and upcoming shows, please visit www.thecombathippies.com or www.mdclivearts.org.

Contributors: Janna Ross, Field Producer; Ken Ashe, Editor; and Judy Reich, Videographer.
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