Survivor Stories
Bryan Buendia

Bryan has learned that he must embrace the trauma of combat and the trauma of child abuse in order to transform them.

He was raised in a “military family” by a “men don’t cry” type of father. At the age of 18, he joined the U.S. Army. At the age of 19, he was in the infantry, fighting in Iraq. By the age of 23, he was out of Iraq, out of the Army, and not doing well. He was abusing drugs, he was struggling with severe Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, and he was confronting the memories of an older trauma that marred his childhood.

From the age of nine to thirteen, Bryan was sexually abused by an older step-brother. For many years he knew that the abuse had happened but he didn’t believe that it affected him. And then at age 23, back from the war, he had a nightmare of the abuse that woke him up. He spent the rest of the night crying. It turns out men do cry.

The combination of childhood trauma and combat trauma is not an easy thing to grapple with. It requires courage: the courage to be vulnerable; and the courage to stand and confront the things that scare you – the bigger, older person who forced you to do things that scared and confused you; the incoming mortar rounds; the mutilated body of a little girl after a market bombing.

Bryan has found and nurtured that courage, and he has found support from his army buddies, his girlfriend, and the Veteran’s Administration.

He also found profound healing in a three-month stint in the Veterans Green Corps, a program for veterans run by the Montana Conservation Corps. Bryan spent three months in the mountains and forests of Montana, surrounded by fellow veterans, and vistas that offered him a new perspective on his life.

That new perspective has allowed him to see clearly that the traumas he has suffered are a part of who he is, and he is now willing to embrace them and to transform them.