From Battlefields to Raves: A Journey Home After 13 Years of War
Delving into the global war on terrorism might leave you with more questions than answers. My journey spanned from July 17, 2001, to February 12, 2014, as a military police officer in the 4th Infantry Division. I found myself stationed in some of the most perilous corners of the world. My service commenced during the invasion of Iraq, where I patrolled the ominous Sunni Triangle of Death. If you recall the news coverage, chances are I was present, engaged in the intricate duties demanded by my division MP role. Security clearance unveiled intricate details, and training equipped me to untangle situations most would find overwhelming.
This was my reality for thirteen years, and to believe I emerged untouched would be a naive perspective. The toll was profound. Upon discharge, I was diagnosed with Major Depression, PTSD, Traumatic Brain Injury, and Schizoaffective disorder with Bi-polar 1. The last years of my military service saw me confined to a mental asylum. Somewhere between Iraq and my departure from the service, I lost the very essence of myself that I once cherished. I was a volatile concoction of anger and tension, teetering on the precipice of breakdown. I stood on the brink of surrender when an old friend offered an unexpected lifeline, setting the stage for an astonishing transformation.
I accepted a somewhat unconventional job offer from festiephotos.com, driven by the need for change and a burgeoning entrepreneurial spirit. This decision was a far cry from my previous thirteen years, and though Festie Photos proved short-lived, it opened a door that ultimately saved my life. The turning point occurred at a rave named Womp Romp in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Stepping into my first rave, I felt conspicuously out of place. Surprisingly, the attendees, though primarily associated with a hippie culture, extended warmth and camaraderie.
Learning of my military background, they embraced me and introduced me to their world. Adorned in their attire, I blended seamlessly into the rave scene that night. It was an immersion into an unfamiliar but magnetic subculture of light shows, DJs, and boundless positive energy. This pivotal evening unearthed two revelations: these were the most remarkable people I'd ever encountered, and I yearned to be a DJ. Once a mere jest in the heat of combat, my alter ego "DJ SunFlower" emerged, and my journey towards hope commenced. Festie Photos paved the way for my engagement with the rave scene. I experimented with MDMA during this period, an experience that proved transformative.
While not a universal remedy, MDMA provided moments of respite, moments I exploited to challenge deeply ingrained cognitive beliefs cultivated during my time in combat. Engaging with remarkable individuals, I found myself discussing unsettling, often harrowing experiences. Sharing with these empathetic souls was a step towards reclaiming my identity and liberating my spirit. Anchored by newfound hope, my mind opened to embrace a culture that would irreversibly alter my life.
Reintegrating into civilian life was rife with hurdles – from battling suicidal and homicidal thoughts, to grappling with homelessness and estrangement from my family due to unmet expectations. Throughout this ordeal, I rekindled my sense of self, buoyed by the unwavering support of both the rave community and the VA. Persistent encouragement and a dedication to cultivating positivity gradually subdued the turmoil within. DJ-ing remained my lodestar, and in 2021, I triumphed with my inaugural show.
Today, I derive income from DJ-ing and beat production, a pursuit catalyzed by the incredible individuals I encountered within the rave world. These individuals, who became my confidants, effectively reconstructed my identity. This narrative isn't confined to raves alone; its essence lies in pursuing passion, navigating through darkness, and unearthing one's brighter days. In the words of 2Pac, "Through every dark night, there's a brighter day." This sentiment rings true, attested by my journey. If I, a true warrior at heart, can traverse this path, anyone can.
The catalyst for my transformation was the remarkable tapestry of the rave community. Their unwavering support enabled me to reclaim my heart and soul, engendering self-love and ultimate happiness. To my fellow veterans grappling with similar struggles, I extend a challenge: step outside your comfort zone, trust in supportive companions, and confront your thoughts as they surface.
This process unfolds incrementally, one day at a time. Despite the diagnoses and afflictions that shadowed my journey, I have witnessed the gradual dissipation of their grip, thanks to the unity of my companions and medical professionals, alongside unwavering determination.
With love and gratitude,