Iraq War veteran and filmmaker Kyle Hausmann-Stokes spoke at the Student Programs sponsored event Rucksacks to Backpacks on Nov. 2. Through personal anecdotes and autobiographical short films, Hausmann described what it’s like to have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and to transition back into life after the military. Hausmann focused his presentation on PTSD, though he disliked calling it a disorder and referred to it as PTS throughout the lecture.
Hausmann described himself as a farm kid from Wisconsin who went into the military wanting to be Rambo. After boot camp, he became a staff sergeant in the Army’s Airborne Infantry training units headed for deployment in insurgency tactics.
Hausmann was also an amateur filmmaker at the time. For a hobby Hausmann filmed scenes from trainings and compiled the video clips into music videos to show the men. The videos were successful among his fellow soldiers and Hausmann’s Colonel encouraged him to go to film school and tell the soldier’s story.
Following a brief break from the Army, Hausmann was deployed to Iraq where he served an 18 month tour as a squad leader and convoy commander. When he returned to the U.S. as a Bronze Star recipient, he was admitted into the USC film school, but he faced challenges he hadn’t expected.
“I would be sitting there in class, having flashbacks,” Hausmann said.
Suffering from PTSD, Hausmann dealt with his condition with alcohol, cigarettes and extended hours at the gym. He described himself as angry and resentful of the people around him, which caused him to create his own self-imposed isolation.
In his presentation, Hausmann showed the first movie that he made in film school called Now, After. The movie showed his experience with PTSD, which included graphic flashbacks, extreme paranoia, anger and loneliness.
The turning point in his condition was a letter from Veteran Affairs asking him to come in.
“I went in to the VA and I didn’t want to talk to anyone,” Hausmann said. “I was still very resentful, still very alone.”
In the VA waiting room, Hausmann’s state of mental health was apparent to several Vietnam War veterans waiting with him.
“A couple Vietnam vets literally grabbed me by the scruff of the neck and just sat with me. They didn’t say anything,” Hausmann said. “The best therapy I’ve ever had was in that waiting room with those Vietnam vets. It changed me.”
Since then, Hausmann has been a man on a mission, determined to tell soldiers’ stories through films and presentations and explaining the difficulties of adjusting to life after war—PTSD included.
“When you get out of the Army they don’t have a reverse boot camp to teach you how to be a civilian again—and they should,” Hausmann said.
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