Shawn’s O.P.S. Gala Speech
Written by guest blogger Shawn Lengeman. Shawn served in the Army for eight years and in the National Guard for seven. He deployed to Iraq in 2007. Shawn is currently a peer mentor with Walton’s Warriors. The following is Shawn’s speech from our 2nd Annual O.P.S. Gala on 20 May 2017.
Good Evening. My name is Shawn Lengeman, and I am honored to share my story with you tonight.
I spent 15 years in the military. In those 15 years, I was deployed once to Iraq as part of the Surge in 2007. I experienced a lot in a short amount of time. I unfortunately wasn’t able to cope with my traumatic issues and heavy guilt properly. Then, things took a huge turn for the worse during our permanent change of station (PCS) move to Ft. Carson, Colorado. I would eventually be diagnosed with severe PTSD and mTBI. My wife and kids were very afraid of me because of anger outbursts.
After my medical retirement from the Army, I would continuously do things to push my family away as well as disappoint them in many different ways. Through all the problems, we would find a strong connection through baseball and the families on our son’s team. Baseball would become our way to escape the ugliness of our home life.
To be honest, we came to Project Sanctuary because my son wasn’t playing baseball anymore. We finally were able to dedicate some time to connect in other ways. I didn’t think it would be possible to happen so quickly. I was also thinking that my kids were going into their older teen years to young adult years (14-20). I needed to learn how to become more of a listener and advisor instead of a dictator.
At the Project Sanctuary retreats, they offer a “Healthy Marriage” class. The skills that I learned there included active listening, validation, and conflict resolution. This class also opened my wife’s eyes to how her approach was contributing to our conflicts. Also, during the course of the retreat, my wife realized that her support of my “PTS Growth” needed to be tweaked a bit. We talked about our love languages and how the ways that we show and feel love are different. Now, we have a better understanding of what each other needs. Having this new awareness, our relationship has come closer to what it used to be.
Project Sanctuary was the catalyst that initiated my current role of PTS Growth. Also, the retreat demonstrated how my family can contribute to my recovery and the sustainability of my PTS Growth. I have become a Walton’s Warriors peer mentor. I am very fortunate to be part of this program and know it has resurrected my purpose. I now know my purpose in life is service to others and to help guide other veterans to figure out their value and purpose. I have been reading a book on moral injury and would like to share a quote with you that I feel is fitting for where I currently am in my post-traumatic growth, “I have a different picture of tomorrow’s humanity and I want to be involved in creating that.”
Tonight you have the opportunity to help other families just like mine. You have a chance to heal marriages, bring families closer together, strengthen relationships between parents and their children, and give veterans a new purpose. Please know this program works. My family and I are proof of that. Many other families are in need of hope, and are currently on Project Sanctuary’s waiting list. Tonight you can be the difference for them, just like someone was for me. Thank you.