And of course we all celebrated the homecomings of those who did come back, but what we didn't see is what happened next. Many of our heroes are returning to find their personal lives imploding, relationships falling apart, and families unable to help.
The statistics are frightening, 20% of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have PTSD or depression. Fewer than half are getting treatment, and the majority who do say it hasn't helped. 18,000 veterans commit suicide each year; that's 22 suicides a day.
One soldier returned from war with PTSD, but he found help when he became part of a small study testing one type of therapy on vets.
Life was supposed to be good. Justin Lambson had survived the war; he had two beautiful boys and a loving wife.
"I became a very cold person, and I got to the point where seeing anybody cry it would trigger me. It's not a good thing when you have a one-year-old and a two-year-old. Kids hurt themselves; they cry," said Justin Lambson.
"I knew that he had changed when he came home from deployment, and it took me a good two years to finally convince him, you have PTSD, and we need to look into this," said Ashley Lambson.
"I couldn't get myself to feel any emotion besides anger, every emotion actually came back to anger," said Justin.
Ashley didn't know how to help him. "He was having wild outbursts and breaking furniture. My heart broke for him because I could see the pain. I could see the turmoil, I could see what was going on inside of him, he had reached his boiling point and was boiling over," said Ashley.
Suicidal thoughts crept in.
"I got to my breaking point; that was the only option I had left," said Justin.
A two-week hospital stay saved his life. "I looked at pictures of my children and wife and thought it would be better to ask for help," he said.
He got involved in a small study to see if a therapy that helped victims of domestic violence and sex abuse would also work on soldiers with PTSD. It's called DEHP therapy.
"I didn't think it was gonna work, but I was willing to try anything... it's a mind-body session. The body is activated in such a way that it does all the work," said Justin.
Josette Sullins developed the therapy and has taught other therapists to use it. A Navy Captain convinced Sullins that DEHP therapy would work for soldiers because it had worked for him.
"We think we're bullet proof, you come back to your family and civilian life, and you are still running at pretty high tempo," said Capt. Craig Doyle.
Captain Craig Doyle says the therapy helped him recall memories from the war and process them, so they don't keep haunting you.
"They're pretty buried, and you don't know what's bothering you until you uncover them, DEHP helps you connect what has happened," he said.
"You acknowledge it, you see it, and you understand it, it's there and it's not buried," said Doyle.
Many of the counselors who were part of the study were frustrated with the traditional therapy.
"When the vets were getting cognitive therapy, their PTSD was being activated so much because they were just talking about it. It was almost like stirring the pot with a stick; their session would be over and they would have a hard time walking out the door with what had just been brought up," he said.
The initial study involved only ten vets, each coming for five sessions.
"Everybody coming in had a TBI or brain injury, most were suicidal, two were homicidal, just so angry from not being able to deal with what's been going on with them," said Doyle.
The success rate has been 100%.
"The two vets who were homicidal, they're both working, and they're both helping other veterans. They're not suicidal at all, and that to me was the biggest piece," he said.
Justin is one of them.
"The first session I was like this is a lot different than I thought it was gonna be, the next two sessions were actually a little rough. After that session, I called Ashley, and I told her I felt something I hadn't felt in a very long time, forgiveness," said Justin.
You can almost see the healing in Justin's face when you compare his current face with a picture from a year ago.
"I'm at a better place than I've ever been. She doesn't have to worry about me going out and getting myself hurt or hurting someone else," he said.
"I feel like I'm a person who can actually be there for my wife, my kids, and I wasn't at all. Now I can be a father and husband now," said Justin.
"I see my wife cry, and I feel sad, I want to do whatever I can to help her. My kids cry, she even tells me I need to stop running to them so fast," he said.
He knows a lot of his military buddies could use this. "I know probably hundreds, that's why I'm here, I'm here right now doing this with you so that at some point they can get the same help I've gotten," said Justin.
"If this was a perfect world and I could have it exactly how I want it, I'd implement it into the military before you even got out," he said.
For Justin, the help came just in time.
Because the small study was so successful, a larger study involving DEHP therapy and PTSD is about to begin with more vets.
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