Meet Jack Noble (Pathways Class 291), Staff Sgt. US Army 99-04 (OIF-OEF), Sgt USMC 93-99. Jack knew a thing or two about leading and serving. Having been a Staff Sergeant in both the US Army and the US Marine Corp, he knew about being responsible for other people and getting things done in the face of adversity. That is, he knew how to do that in the military. His personal life, on the other hand, was a different story.
Jack was deployed to Afghanistan from Feb – Aug 2002, and again to Iraq from Mar – Oct 2003 with the 101st Airborne (Air Assault) 3/187 Infantry. After two combat tours and 3 ½ years of diplomatic security, Jack was sent home from war. Like so many other service men and women, however, he brought the internal aftermath of war home with him. “I was angry. Always irritable, easily frustrated or aggravated. I had nightmares and flashbacks. I simply didn’t trust anyone and kept everyone at a distance,” said Jack.
As anyone who wrestles with PTSD can attest, it’s a constant uphill battle. Most everyone experiences some symptoms of PTSD after living through a traumatic event where their sense of safety and trust has been shattered. When that happens, it is normal to sometimes feel crazy, disconnected, or numb. It’s normal to have bad dreams, feel fearful, to constantly loop through the event in your mind, or to be unable to sleep. Gradually and eventually, these symptoms should fade away. For people with PTSD, however, the symptoms simply don’t subside. They may, in fact, get worse. The person with PTSD is stuck in a state of internal Hell.
It’s not that Jack hadn’t been trying to fix himself. “Before Pathways, I had been dealing with the VA system for the better part of 7 years and had made some progress, but nothing like what I wanted,” he said. “My anger and rage were huge. I kept myself bottled up and emotionally distant from everything that was important.” Not surprisingly, the people he loved the most suffered with him. “Before the training, I had two failed marriages and an ever growing distance with my oldest daughter and the rest of my family.”
He finally came to Pathways at the urging of a close friend who had been trying for almost a year to get him into the training. “It took losing my temper with my 12 year old daughter, Anna Lisa, to realize that something had to change. That scared me so much. I didn’t want to be around my family because of the shame and guilt over my actions.” Jack realized that he needed to change if he ever hoped to keep his family.
He didn’t know what to expect in the Core Training, “Honestly, I figured it would be like some of the bull I’d already been through. What really surprised me, though, was how hard the training hit me and how quickly I really opened up and soaked it in,” said Jack. “At first, I felt like I had to ignore everything I had had learned about being a man and been taught in the military. I had to allow myself to FEEL!” Making that choice – to open up and feel – gave Jack the keys to finding his own freedom. “I knew for a long time I didn’t like who I was or how I was acting, and I really had tried to change in some of the VA programs. But the big difference is that in everything in the military, they point and you do. Pathways let me find it for myself. Honestly, that was the toughest challenge.”
It also proved to be Jack’s salvation. Through trusting the process and working hard, Jack found freedom and connection. “During the Pathways training the most important thing I worked on was finding me…not who I am now but who I was intended to be,” he said. “I worked on being able to reconnect with my family and show them my love. On being able to care for them with all my heart.”
One of the biggest tools he got in his training was meeting his Inner Dummy in P3. “Being able to recognize the process that gets me to that point of rage and unreasonable thought so I can do something different has been invaluable. There have been too many times to count when I’ve used this process,” says Jack. “One particular time my oldest daughter was talking back to me disrespectfully and I was able to catch where my emotions were going and turn the conversation in a different direction that was better for both of us.”
What a difference for the man whose interaction with that same child brought him to Pathways in the first place! What a difference for his wife Sara and his other daughter Kaley! “I’m more open and feeling now in everything I do. Since going through Pathways I have more drive and passion for life, and I want to spend it with my family.” Jack concedes that he still has more work to do, but “it’s getting better every day.” He still has occasional flashbacks, “but NOTHING like before. And my family understands that I am a work in progress and am committed to being a better man, father and husband.”
Because of his courage to be vulnerable in the Pathways training, everything changed for Jack. “Before the training, my attitude towards God was that he and I didn’t see eye to eye, and I would leave him alone if he would leave me alone.” After the training, since Jack has allowed himself to feel and not be numb, his entire family has started to go to church again. He attended Step Beyond and found himself not only closer to God, but also to his wife. He has a passion for his future. “In my Life Plan, I’m looking at going back to school. Before, I figured what’s the point. Not anymore! I have a new passion for life! I paint and draw now because I want to, not because I want to avoid spending time with my family.”
Jack is exceedingly grateful for regaining his freedom. “To the Pathways team, my sponsor, my wife, my beautiful girls and my classmates – thank you for hanging in and pushing me and believing in me to find what I needed to find. I AM A WORTHY LOVABLE, CARING MAN WHO HAS FOUND HIS HUMANITY, AND HIS BELIEF, HONOR AND FAITH IN GOD!”
Jack was able to attend this training in part because of the tuition assistance he received from the Pathways military fund and from additional assistance he received from the nonprofit “Soldiers Serve with Heart.” Because he has been there, he can speak to the Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine out there who may not know where to turn for help. “Regardless of what you’re going through, there is a better way. We have all gone through and done things that weigh heavy on our souls. You need to know that you can forgive yourself and others. You don’t have to carry around hate, anger and guilt everyday. Pathways will help and it isn’t just smoke and mirrors. You just have to want it!”