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Iraq War Veteran, PTSD, Toastmasters and Hope

War Veteran, Amber Forest, served in the Army in Iraq. She returned a very different, difficult and depressed person. She lost her job and then her house – and ended up homeless for 10 months during the winter in Colorado.

Then somebody mentioned that she might have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and recommended that she visit the VA Hospital. She went. And now she’s way up on the upside of all the hell that is PTSD.

PTSD was the topic of Amber’s speech Monday evening (Nov 7, 2011) at our Capital City Toastmasters meeting in Sacramento. It was her Ice Breaker, which is the very first speech that anybody gives. It was amazing! The best I’ve ever heard in the 2 years that I’ve been a Toastmaster.

Her story about working through PTSD is the sole reason that Amber joined Toastmasters – to get her story of hope out to the world.

Amber stood in front of us and presented her speech with such conviction, honesty, humility and proof-of-hope. I was her speech evaluator, and I got to mention that she presented the best Ice Breaker I’d ever heard! And nothing in her speech was over-dramatic, hyped up or depressing. It was simply the truth about war, combat Veterans, PTSD and hope.

Amber shared all the facts and symptoms of PTSD. And she shared some of the triggers that set off debilitating flashbacks – hers is the sound of helicopters. She also mentioned that as she was spiraling out of control, she had no idea what was actually going wrong with her. It took an outside observer to suggest that she might be suffering from PTSD and that she should visit the VA Hospital.

Toastmasters is part of her recovery. Not for PTSD itself, but for spreading the message of hope to other soldiers. Amber has fought in Iraq, suffered the symptoms and the triggers, been homeless – and is now high up on the making-it-back side of life! She’s living proof that actually getting help and getting a proper diagnosis really works.

Amber’s Toastmasters speech was solid, factual and an easy-to-follow recipe for all Veterans who find themselves losing their job, their family, their home and their life.

After Amber’s speech, everybody replied how motivational it was. And it was. But it wasn’t rah-rah, you-can-do-it, go-get’em kinda stuff. It was straight from the battlefield, straight from the heart, and the steps that actually worked for her. It was an autobiography with a purpose, a plan and a path out of misery.

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