Real Warriors: Maj. Jeff Hall

"I just wanted to turn off the 600 TV sets that were going on all the time in my head." Hear Maj. Jeff Hall's story that went from thoughts of suicide to finding his way back to his family and life.

♪[music]♪ [Real Warriors, Real Battles] [Real Strength] My name is Major Jeff Hall. I've been in the Army for 17 years. [Sgt. Anthony Bingham] Major Hall was my Battery Commander for Operation Iraqi Freedom I and III. If he said that we were going to storm the gates of hell today, I would have say, "All right, Sir. Let's go." The first deployment, when we entered Baghdad, the people were really glad to see us. It seemed like the year just flew by. [Maj. Jeff Hall] We captured a lot of people that needed to be captured, It just seemed like we could do our job. It was the second tour that I started to really feel it grinding down on me. I couldn't find anything that we were doing that was advancing the ball down the field. We essentially were just kind of driving around until we got blown up. We had an IED incident where 2 of the guys that were in my tank unit that was attached to me were killed, and one of the Lieutenants was wounded severely. And I don't know why, but that shook me. I mean it really shook me to the bone. I had seen dead GI's before. I had held a couple of guys as the chopper came in to pick them up. And I was just always able to troop on, but for some reason it was like the straw that broke the camel's back for me. [Drawings by Maj. Jeff Hall] And my anger started to really come out. [Sheri Hall] I could tell when he walked in the door of the hanger, he wasn't the same man. He would say things, and his eyes would get black. He would have a deep, dark look in his eyes. And that was not Jeff at all. We just kept hoping that things would get better. But it wasn't. [Maj. Jeff Hall] The impact on the girls-- when I came back I became more and more distant. I used to do everything with them. That all ended. That was not important to me anymore. I didn't want them to be part of what was going on with me. I lived on my bike to just get away from everybody. So I'd get on it and I would literally ride 1000 miles. My back was just killing me by the time I got off it, and I didn't care. The further I could go--if I could have driven it into the ocean at that time I would have. But in the deepest throes of the depression, it hit me. I stopped riding it all together. I was going to sell the bike. I didn't need it anymore. I was selling off all my possessions. I didn't want anything anymore. [Sheri Hall] I worried. I never, ever worried before, until he started telling me, I just want you to go away. Take everything, take the kids, and just go away. And I knew I couldn't leave him alone. I started viewing suicide as a way to just stop. I was just wanting to turn off the 600 TV sets that were going on in my head all the time. I just--I couldn't handle it anymore. So I started having suicide ideations to the point where I was actually in the backyard with a pistol, thinking about killing myself. ♪[piano music]♪ And the only thing that really stopped me was thinking, "My God, my kids are going to come home from school and find me this way." [Col. Daniel Pinnell] Jeff's frustration and anger really reached at peak at the same time his wife expressed to my wife concern and then to me directly, that Jeff was very negative at home. He seems hopeless. He does not see a path to the future. As soon as I had that cue, plus my own personal interaction with Jeff in his decreasing physical performance on the job, I knew that we had to take him for professional care. So basically what I did is I called directly over to mental health. I saw them, and I told them, "If you're not able to help him immediately, if you are not capable of making this happen here, then you need to call me immediately. If he's not cooperative or doesn't show up, contact me immediately. I will be involved in this until we get him to the person or place that we need." [Maj Jeff Hall] It wasn't until Colonel Pinnell noticed and helped me find the right person on Fort Polk. And Colonel Pinnell knew about the program in Washington D.C.-- the Deployment Health Clinical Center. And he recommended that I go to that. It felt like the cat was out of the bag, and there's no way I can put it back in. So I was like, "You know what? I'm going to do it." And believe it or not, about 100 pounds of weight came off of me right then. [Sheri Hall] It wasn't until he came back from his evaluation with the DHCC, that he was really excited about the program, that I started to see a little hope in his eyes. And he asked me to go with him. That was hopeful for me because at that point, I didn't know where we were going to be by the end of the year. [Maj. Jeff Hall] So Sheri spent group time with us, where she could hear other soldiers saying the same things that I was saying. She was able to understand that, yeah, there are some pretty dark holes there. And for me to understand that she sat back home worried to death about me, trying to stay strong, trying to have a face for the rest of the family who's constantly asking, "How's Jeff doing?" And not knowing because I don't call. I could see the stress on her, and the strain. We kind of came to a middle ground, where we could start talking about these things. And it helped us. I will tell you that I think that PTSD will grab a hold of you without you even knowing it. But I don't think it's an animal that can't be killed. I think that you can defeat it, but you can't do it on your own. I tried to ignore it, and it came back probably tenfold on me because of that. If you ever make it to a program like the DHCC, you're going to see Colonels. You're going to see Sergeant First Class and Sergeant Majors in this program. And I'm starting to see that the higher levels of command are understanding, "Wow, we owe these guys a chance to heal." So don't be afraid to come forward if you have trouble. [Real Warriors, Real Battles, Real Strength] []
Posted on BrainLine March 12, 2013.

Used with permission from Real Warriors, Real Battles, part of the Real Warriors Campaign, an initiative launched by the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury.