have courage. take heart. bear witness.
Shanley Geddry is the youngest of Mary Geddry's six children. When she learned that her mother was recording a conversation for the Soldiers & Civilians project, Shanley asked to contribute her thoughts. She describes what it was like for her and others in the family when her oldest brother, John, a Marine deployed twice to Iraq, came home a very different person than before he had left.
Combat stress disorder, along with traumatic brain injury from multiple encounters with exploding roadside bombs, caused John to suffer frequent and intense nightmares, sudden flares of temper, and outbursts of violent behavior, among other difficulties. This meant that his family suffered, too.
At the same time, in her conversation with her mother, 10-year-old Shanley shows the determination, resourcefulness, and love with which they all—including a chocolate lab named Cooper—have been meeting a painfully trying set of circumstances.
Recorded in Coquille, Oregon, December 2008.
"It was very scary to experience that with him and to know that he's my older brother and he was always protective over me, and he's definitely a lot different now that he was in the military. And it really scares me to think that he had done a lot of those things that they say that they have to do.
And I know he didn't mean any of it and he didn't want to do any of it, but it happened. And I couldn't do anything to stop it. I couldn't do anything to help him but try to be the best sister I could be and, you know, do as much as I could to keep stress off his shoulders and make sure he was okay."
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"That dog is like a miracle for us. I guess Cooper's his, like, soul mate—not like woman-wise but, you know, his playmate, his 'man's best friend.' Cooper would love to be with John. They'd take walks together after a really rough day—[John] would just cheer up immediately."