Spend enough time in a war zone where all the enemy combatants are dressed like civilians, and you learn to trust no one but your team.
Which means that things that used to be fun, like hockey games or concerts, instead become exercises in hypervigilance.
Mike Waldron knows. The combat vet suffered daily panic attacks for years after he got home. You've conditioned and trained your brain, he says, and that conditioning doesn't go away just because you get on a plane and come home.
Now the program that Waldron, founder and executive director of 23rd Veteran, developed to create "a glide path" for veterans to re-enter civilian life, may be poised to go national.
Mike Waldron is perfectly frank that his approach to help veterans retrain their brains "stays away from the touchy-feely," but perhaps he makes one exception: his British lab, Dexter.
Dexter has not only made a big difference to Mike, he visits veterans center (including the one at UMD), VA hospitals and even toured Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. There, Dexter got to spend some time with a recently - and gravely - wounded soldier, eliciting the man's first smile since he was wounded.