Damon joined the U.S. Navy at 18, serving onboard three aircraft carriers in his first four years. He fought in Operation Desert Storm, directly supporting the multinational coalition in liberating Kuwait from the occupation of the Iraqi military. During this conflict, he watched the plane of one of his fellow airmen – and a close friend – get hit by anti-aircraft fire and plunge from the sky. Damon encountered many more challenges during his 15-year military career.
But perhaps the most consequential near-miss came many, many years later. A drunk driver careened down the wrong side of a divided street and plowed head-on into Damon’s car. The airbags exploded, the crumple zones worked, and Damon survived. He stumbled out of his car, calling 911 for help, then discovered that the drunk driver had been killed. A week later, Damon’s ex-wife herself careened out of control because of drug addiction, and Damon became a single dad to his two young daughters. He still wonders about who intervened.
Damon was sexually abused at the age of 11 by an authority figure who worked in Damon’s church. Like almost every male survivor, Damon kept it secret – for three decades. He numbed himself, not with drugs or alcohol, but rather with the rush of adrenaline. He literally leaped at every chance to experience danger, including jumping out of airplanes while in the Navy.
But the secret nightmare of his childhood lurked just beneath the surface of his consciousness. The terrorized boy still lived in fear that the man who abused him was somewhere “out there.” To quell the fear, Damon began searching for the predator despite only knowing the man’s first name. With perseverance, Damon eventually found him. He was in prison, serving a long sentence for multiple charges of sexual abuse.
That knowledge was a turning point. Gradually, Damon turned his attention to healing his childhood scars. Like so many survivors, his first efforts at finding help yielded very mixed results. He felt that the therapists he saw were not genuine. But in 2013, his wife suggested another therapist who specializes in dealing with traumas such as his. Damon was game. And finally, he found a therapist who truly cared. And the real healing began.
Today, Damon feels liberated from the fear and isolation that plagued so much of his adult life. “I don’t wake up in the middle of the night, screaming, “stop! stop!” anymore.” His migraines are gone, and genuine smiles come easily to his face.