Entries by Ryan Berg

For Me, The Marine Corps Was a Suicide Mission

I joined the Marine Corps in hopes of dying an honorable death and restoring dignity to my family name.  My reaction to knowing that I would be deployed to Iraq in 2004 was nothing short of hysteria.  “Finally”, I thought, “If all goes right (or “wrong”) I can put an end to feeling unworthy and living this miserable life in one of the most honorable ways possible.”

For U.S. veterans, what does it mean to heal a moral injury?

The two corporals smiled at the chance meeting, their first in the war zone. “Happy birthday, Marines,” Giannopoulos said to Berg and a few others seated by him. Berg chatted with him for a minute before Gino, as most called him, strode outside to join his platoon for its next mission.
The following day, after returning to base from a patrol, Berg stood talking with his squad leader. Another Marine from Giannopoulos’ unit rushed toward them. Distress choked his voice. “It’s Gino! It’s Gino!” he said.

Phoenix Rising: Becoming a Survivor

It’s November 6, 1993, and I’m enjoying a beautiful evening on base in San Diego. I’m 19 years old – out with shipmates dancing and having a few drinks at the club on base. Feeling tired as the night went on, I decided to walk back to the ship early without my friends. It was raining sporadically that week, like it often does, so I was looking down towards the concrete, dodging puddles in the parking lot. What happened next was the most traumatic event of my life and would alter it forever.

As It Turns Out, I Am Worthy of Love

The first time I saw a Marine I was seven years old at a college baseball game in my hometown, Omaha, Nebraska at Rosenblatt Stadium.  They were in the outfield, frozen, wearing crisp white pants, holding a rifle salute during the national anthem.  It captivated me as I locked my gaze onto them. “What are they?”  How do they stand so still?”  I thought.  I just stared and remember feeling deeply touched by their grace, even as the wind blew. 

The Fear Within: Nightmares’ Womb

Iraq was hellish.  It was insanely hot, extremely physically and mentally demanding, and imminently dangerous all of the time.  Our late battalion commander, Lt. Col. Mark Smith, a man for whose picture adorns the wall in my study, was pushing us to our limits in the area, and exposing us to the fight.  Nay, we were bringing the fight to the enemy. I don’t particularly blame him – I understand that he wanted to establish superiority quickly.

Pumping the Breaks on Tears

My friend Alex committed suicide a month ago. For context, he was not a Veteran. A week prior to his death, he visited my wife and I at our home. I met Alex in community college in 2007, and we remained in touch intermittently. I was drawn to Alex because of he made me laugh hysterically every time I saw him – without fail.

Psychotherapy Has Profoundly Deepened My Sleep

As the whole world knows by now, I am a patient and advocate of psychotherapy. And ever since about nine months into treatment, there was a major shift. There have been several major, profound life-changing positive shifts in my outlook, behavior, and feelings so far — but there’s one I’m particularly grateful for…

I Understand Your Deep Sadness

A few days ago I was having a really rough time emotionally, feeling heartbroken.  To be up front, today isn’t all that glorious either.  Things periodically get difficult since I’m currently in psychotherapy talking about very painful things – not to mention the fact that I’m human and inherently vulnerable to a universal spectrum of suffering.

The Heartbreak of Leaving the Marine Corps

Just a few hours prior, I sat in the confines of a fluorescent lit conference room with 3 field grade officers, all built like brick shithouses, chizzled, professional, determined, yet compassionate, staring back at me.  They had just stated their verdict that I would be discharged from the Marine Corps.  Honorably, but discharged nonetheless.  “Do you have anything you want to say, Sergeant?”