When Bill Geiger returned to civilian life after two deployments with the United States Army, he was a changed man.
His service with the military police in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and Camp Bucca, Iraq, guarding high-value detainees and being exposed to mortar attacks and riots, deteriorated the formerly vibrant man his wife, Sara, once knew.
Their relationship was forever changed on Christmas Day in 2001. Bill had proposed, but just hours later, he got the call that his battalion was to be deployed. Suddenly, instead of a long engagement, there was a quick wedding; then Bill was gone. When he came back, he was a different man.
“I knew something was wrong the first time I hugged him after coming back from Cuba,” says Sara Geiger, Bill’s wife. “His joy for life was gone, replaced by a depressed, anxious, short-tempered recluse.”
Bill’s assessment of himself is even harsher.
“The extrovert became the introvert, and the introvert was impossible to live with,” says Bill. “I earned a new nickname: Angry Bill. My first instinct was to retreat from the world. My second was to explode.”
“At first, Bill didn’t even realize he was angry. He was completely insensitive to feelings,” says Sara. “But the kids and I had not gone to war. We still had our feelings.”
Bill learned to mask his anger, depression, and coiled-up emotions from his co-workers, but Sara was living on his pent-up roller coaster. It took years for Sara to understand what happened to the Bill she used to know and to learn how to control her own emotions in response to him. Meanwhile, the children walked on eggshells around their father.
“How do you describe a man who yells at you because you dropped a bread crumb on the floor?” Bill asks of himself.
Sara and Bill say it took intervention from a higher power to turn their lives around. Sara reached out to her pastor through an email, which said, in part: “If I had known Bill was going to be like this, I never would have married him.”
Sara accidently left her internet browser open, and Bill later saw the email. Reading those words triggered something unexpected; instead of submitting to the volatility of PTSD, Bill finally surrendered.
“I wasn’t going to lose my wife,” says Bill. “I knew I needed help to learn how to fix this thing.”
Bill sought help at the Vet Center and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) before finding Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP). His first experience came at a WWP Alumni Summit.
“As I saw each warrior help one another, I was reminded of my dad,” says Bill. “He was all about helping others, and I realized that’s how I want to be too.”
Since the summit, Bill has participated in Soldier Ride®, Project Odyssey®, and other WWP events that have allowed him to connect with other warriors and have fun with his family. He’s made great strides in his recovery as a result of his engagement with other warriors.
“Engaging with other wounded service members who understood how I felt without saying a word, who could relate to the struggles I was facing, and who struggled with similar demons was comforting and enlightening,” professes Bill. “I realized if other warriors can learn to live with and control their PTSD, or at least learn to find and accept their ‘new me,’ then so can I.”
He has found the community so beneficial, he’s even gotten his wife involved.
“Sara attended a caregiver retreat, which really helped her better understand me,” says Bill. “She also developed a great support tree with the other caregivers who were there.”
According to Sara, “Bill came back to life when he got involved with WWP.”
When Bill sums it all up, he simply falls back on his faith.
“My faith in God, my family’s amazing support, and the blessings of WWP have all helped me survive through the darkest times.”