Putting a face to PTSD

Putting a face to PTSD

LAKEVILLE, Minn. - The first thing you should know about the signs in Matt Cleveland's yard in Lakeville is that he wishes he didn't need them.

"I'm not going to lie, it's something I fight with every single day." he said.

Cleveland's fight began 10 years ago, after his first deployment. Matt served in the Army rising to a rank of staff sergeant, responsible for recovery during the war in Iraq.

"Recovery is anything that can't make it back on its own power or its own two feet, we would get called up to go retrieve and bring back to the base."

During his second tour, Matt was driving a truck when suddenly he was the one in need of recovery.

RELATED: The Minnesota Trauma Project and PTSD Awareness Day

"The Air Force that did the explosives says it was at least an 800 pound IED that we hit," Cleveland said.

Despite the blast, he walked away uninjured, and a few years later he began a third tour.

"I was on a recovery mission and there was a semi that jackknifed on a bridge that we controlled. I backed up to him to pull him off the bridge so we could get traffic going again and as soon as I stopped and started getting chains out to hook up and to pull him off, they started lobbing mortars in on us."

The mortars hit the semi and a piece of that hit Cleveland from behind.

"I have six collapsed vertebrae in my lower back."

Though a medical discharge put an end to Cleveland's service his fight continues, especially during this time of year.

"By far, Fourth of July is the hardest. Just because in one of my tours, in one day, we got rocketed and mortared 78 times, in one day. The first couple years I would have to take medication and pretty much hide in my basement just not to hear the sound."

Cleveland says his girlfriend, Kelsey, helped encourage him to stop hiding and seek help and that's where the signs came in.

"Last year was the first time doing it and unfortunately it didn't end on a good note."

A week after putting up two homemade signs, Matt woke up to find them ripped up.

"I had everything going through me from anger to confusion. I couldn't believe someone in the community would do that," Cleveland said.

Kelsey shared that frustration on Facebook and that's when they learned the community shared it too, more than 25,000 times.

"I just got goosebumps and chills knowing that there are people out there who do support the military and care about veterans and trying to help veterans out."

And if you are one of those people who support his fight., Matt says he's not asking you to stop your celebration, he's just asking for a warning.

"As long as I know about it and kind of can anticipate, alright there is going to be some loud booms close by… then I'm not going to be so easily triggered."

The last thing youi should know about those sigs are that he hopes courtesy sparks conversation.

"It's not just for me, it's for everyone before me and everyone that is in the military that is going to be getting out of the military that is going to need that support and that help."

© 2017 KARE-TV


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