Cory's Story

I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania. I came from a broken home with two young parents who did their best to provide for me in both homes. By the time I was in elementary school, I already knew I wanted to join the military and serve my country. I never let go of that dream, so when I was a junior in high school I took my ASVAB. I scored highly, and was able to pick any career field I wanted. After many long conversations with my parents, I was able to convince them to sign permission for me to begin Delayed Entry with the United States Air Force. During recruiting, I decided I wanted to take a position with signal intelligence and was set to follow that path. One day however, while sitting in my recruiter’s office, I saw a poster of an Airman wearing all the new gear, carrying an M16A2. I asked my recruiter what career field that Airman was in. The recruiter laughed and said, “That’s Security Forces, you don’t wanna go there. That’s the career field recruits go into when they score too low to go to a good job.” I admired the way that Airman stood though, the way he wore his uniform and beret. So, I asked my recruiter more about the job. The recruiter told me that Security Forces were the ones that got treated like dirt, he said, “It’s like going to the Army, they’re gonna run you through the dirt and you’re gonna be a grunt. That’s not what people go into the Air Force for, so trust me, take the intelligence job.” I never thought twice- I went to MEPS and signed on as a 3POX1 (Security Forces) and left for basic training July 2nd, 2001. For the first time in my life, I was away from home. I excelled in basic training, and adapted to the military life with ease. After graduating basic training, I started technical training at Lackland AFB in San Antonio, Texas. I decided that Security Forces tech school was by far more challenging and strenuous than basic training, but I loved my decision. Just a few weeks into tech school on September 11, 2001 the world changed. While in training that morning, the cadre interrupted the daily routine to let all of us Airman know that terrorists attacked the World Trade Center and that the base had just entered ThreatCon Delta. The instructors told us, “Get ready, we’re going to war.” From that point forward, training changed and the reality set in that everything in my world was about to change. I graduated tech school and was stationed at Kirtland AFB in Albuquerque, NM. Almost immediately, the mission became training for deployment. I began the rotation from base to base training to prepare for war. Air Base Ground Defense, bare base construction, marksmanship, radio communications, advanced land navigation, Brave Defender School, night time operations, ambush, ACE, ROE, SITREP, this was now my world. In April of 2003, I got the news- I was slated to deploy to Southeast Asia in July. This is what I trained for, and I was ready to bear the burden that so many before me had- I was ready for war. Zero Dark Thirty Hours of July 03, 2003,I boarded an aircraft to fulfill the mission. Our team was the first to deploy from New Mexico to assist in the invasion of Iraq. I made it through my time in Iraq attached to Army units as a grenadier with a mission to man checkpoints, support convoys, patrols, and other operations throughout the country. I don’t talk much about my time there, as many do not, but it changed me forever. I came home in 2004 and was happy to be back on American Soil, at first. When I came back, I couldn’t connect with the world anymore, and I decided it was better to be in the sandbox. That was not the path of my life, however. I began to drink heavily, fight whoever would accept the challenge, and found myself losing time, forgetting where I was at times. My constant drinking and fighting made me the topic of conversation in my unit for all the wrong reasons. After two Article 15’s and several run-ins with the law, I was given a bad reenlistment code and had to separate from the only world I understood. The drinking and fighting continued as I gained a position with the New Mexico Corrections Department as a Correctional Officer at the Penitentiary of New Mexico. I found comfort there, in the chaos and once again excelled under pressure, but it didn’t stop my drinking and fighting. I climbed the ranks with the corrections department as a Gang Unit Officer, a Sergeant, a Special Operations Team member, then instructor all the while battling my demons alone. After recovering my career from a DWI, having a son, and divorcing from my son’s mother, my life was in shambles. Still, I refused to acknowledge my disability and continued a path to destruction. I locked myself away in an apartment, did what I could for my son, and drank myself to the floor every day. I had no direction, no idea what to do… Eventually in 2014, I was tired of life, tired of the nightmares, tired of clearing my house with a gun for someone who wasn’t really there. I decided it might be better if I weren’t around anymore. I laid down on my couch and text my son’s mother and told her that I loved my son, but that I didn’t think I could do it anymore…I was just tired. She convinced me not to be selfish, and not to leave behind a child to deal with life without a dad. So, the next day, I went to the VA and asked for help. The VA told me that they couldn’t help me because “I made too much money and waited too long after my combat deployment to come in for help”.  I had already gone to the Beacon Clinic though, and been put on medication that if stopped, could lead to more depression and possibly suicide. So, I put my foot down, dug in, and refused to be told “NO”. I was told that in order to get help, I needed to apply for my disability rating (something I never wanted to do). So, I applied for my disability and was placed under 0% Presumptive Service Connected Disabled. I then immediately entered treatment at the VA Facility. I went through Intensive Outpatient Substance Abuse groups and classes, and Cognitive Processing for my PTSD. In April of 2015, I was awarded 70% Service Connected by the VA. I continued treatment at the VA and went through all the problems with the stack of medication the VA prescribed. I still struggle every day with this disability, but I am alive. I am still here to care for my son, who loves me unconditionally. I also found the love of my life who supports me and deals with the problems that come along with my condition. Had there been a program that could have assisted me in the transition, my life would have been much different. Because of the difficulties I experienced both personally, with the VA and during the transition back into “normal life” and “normal work”, I realized how hard it is to get help. So, I have made it my mission to assist others that may be going through the same experiences. There is HOPE, there is HELP, and I encourage you to contact us.  -Cory D. Henn Jr. 

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