Adam Youngson, Army Reserve, Iraq Veteran

Adam was a Sergeant with the Army Reserves and was attached to the 1st Cavalry Division, Engineer Brigade during his deployment to Baghdad, Iraq from 2004-2005. He later graduated with a BS in civil engineering from Sacramento State, and currently works as a construction superintendent. Adam is passionate about bringing SCUBA and free-diving opportunities to Veterans through his non-profit organization, Dive Tribe, as a way to promote mindfulness, ease transition and foster connection with other Veterans.

Dr. Felisa Gaffney, PsyD, Air Force Veteran

“Doc G,” as she is known by Veterans, served twenty years in the Air Force, and deployed twice to Kuwait. She is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and currently has as private practice in Antioch, CA.

Matthew Pruett, U.S. Army, Iraq and Afghanistan Veteran

Matt served in the U.S. Army from February 2000 to April 2010 as a Vehicle Mechanic.  He deployed to Iraq in 2004 and Afghanistan in 2006.  In 2014, he graduated from CSU East Bay with a Bachelors in Criminal Justice.

Kira Serna, LCSW, Air Force Veteran

Kira is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and currently has a private practice in Antioch, CA.  Prior to that she provided trauma-focused psychotherapy services for over 1,000 combat Veterans, military sexual trauma Veterans and their family members in the VA’s Vet Center Program. She specializes in Veterans’ issues and trauma-related disorders. Kira received her Master of Social Work from USC with a concentration in mental health and a sub-concentration in Military and Veteran Social Work.

Ryan Berg, MA, Marine, Iraq Veteran

Ryan served two tours in Iraq as a Marine. He is one of the founding creators of Returning Veterans of Diablo Valley and is managing editor of the RVDV blog.  Ryan holds a bachelor’s degree in rhetorical theory from UC Berkeley and a Masters in leadership studies from Saint Mary’s College of California.

Scraping the Skull of My Psyche with a Scalpel

Scraping the Skull of My Psyche with a Scalpel

I've traveled to the center of my soul.  Doing this has been the single most profoundly difficult, exhaustive, and emotionally arduous inward journey of my entire life.  As I write this, my heart feels battered, bruised, its veins are sore,...
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The Soul Crushing Pain of Family Estrangement

The Soul Crushing Pain of Family Estrangement

My mother was sexually abused by her father.  Growing up, I was completely blind of this horrible fact.  Yet I experienced its profoundly devastating ripple affects: from countless men entering and exiting our lives and home, exposure to my mother's...
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How I Transformed My Relationship

How I Transformed My Relationship

I met my wife on the internet.  Eharmony to be precise. It was early 2015 and I just got out of a tumultuous short-term relationship, which ended because the woman forgot my middle name -- I became enraged, packed up,...
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Torture in Mahmudiyah: An Unbearable Chamber of Suffering

Torture in Mahmudiyah: An Unbearable Chamber of Suffering

Standing a few steps into the room, we both watched in horror, yet were mesmerized as we traded smirks.  We'd never seen anything like this before.  "If this person was responsible for plotting to kill us", we reasoned, "perhaps he's...
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Ali Baba: A Marine Squad’s Brush With Death

Ali Baba: A Marine Squad’s Brush With Death

The boy came up to our first team and yelled out “Ali Baba!” while pointing northward. Long radioed details back to me and I made the decision to take the team in that direction, the target would have to wait,...
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For Me, The Marine Corps Was a Suicide Mission

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

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...
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Phoenix Rising: Becoming a Survivor

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...
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As It Turns Out, I Am Worthy of Love

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...
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“The Mask”

“The Mask”

I am sad and lonely, I have nobody to comfort me, So I wear a mask that always smiles, To hide my feelings behind my hurt.
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The Fear Within: Nightmares’ Womb

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...
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Pumping the Breaks on Tears

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...
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Psychotherapy Has Profoundly Deepened My Sleep

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,...
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I Understand Your Deep Sadness

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...
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The Heartbreak of Leaving the Marine Corps

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...
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Therapy and Shame – Veterans’ Voices

Therapy and Shame – Veterans’ Voices

In this clip, RVDV co-creator, Ryan Berg, talks about his journey though psychotherapy, and why having a therapist is like having and "executive coach.....on steroids".
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The Damaging Affects of Patriarchy

The Damaging Affects of Patriarchy

When I was in Iraq, I saw men holding hands all the time. As you might imagine, most of us Marines assumed there was something homosexual about doing this, and all sorts of jokes sprung up as a result. After...
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Pain Is Never Weakness Leaving the Body

Pain Is Never Weakness Leaving the Body

...You walk into your bedroom and clang your pinky toe on the sturdy, round wooden leg of the bed frame. A mind-numbing ache ascends instantly from your foot to your skull. You lie down on your mattress and clinch hard...
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As a U.S. Marine Infantryman, Psychotherapy Has Made Me Even Stronger

As a U.S. Marine Infantryman, Psychotherapy Has Made Me Even Stronger

The experience of therapy was new to me.  I wasn't used to someone listening.  To caring.  To someone asking questions about my feelings, and affirming the validity of them.  To someone simply being present as I cried about hurtful events...
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Thank God for Emotional Pain

Thank God for Emotional Pain

“Thank God for emotional pain”… was a thought that I had as I entered the park on an afternoon walk a few weeks ago. “Wait, what?”, I said to myself internally. “Did I really just utter that?” Something within me...
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