Retired U.S. Army Major Brian Anderson of Edmond spent 22 years in uniform. He was deployed three times. The first, during the Bosnian War in 1997, he commanded a ten-man artillery battery that dodged sniper bullets, navigated mine fields, and survived urban riots.
The second, he commanded more than a hundred men during the War in Iraq as a battalion field artillery multiple launch rocket systems commander. He and his men fired missiles that streaked 200 miles through the sky. They took out Iraqi command and communications centers in and around the capital city of Baghdad during the victorious 2003 invasion. Several times, while leading armored convoys, he missed death by IEDs by minutes, even seconds. In the 8th paragraph, beginning “Then, in rapid succession, he was arrested…”, I would change in the last sentence the words “due because” to “due to”, so that it would read “…by former colleagues, then losing a civilian job due to his drinking…”
Anderson spent a perilous third tour in 2009-2010 along the Iraqi-Iranian border. He trained Iraqi officers and police to stop deadly Iranian infiltration. He came to realize one of the generals he was partnering with was a traitor trying to destroy their small American base.
One night a mortar landed in the middle of the camp that would have wiped it out had it not failed to explode. “You couldn’t trust anybody,” Anderson said. Fighting off another attack, he was thrown from an armored vehicle, seriously injuring his back and nearly killing him.
Lacquered through it all was the ceaseless worry for “the men you’re responsible for. That’s a lot of lives that you’re worried about.”
Yet perhaps his most devastating experience occurred the 3 a.m. morning that he left Fort Sill, near Lawton in southwest Oklahoma, for Iraq. He remembered walking out his back door, then his four-year-old daughter Lauren bursting through it in the darkness.
“She was crying and yelling over and over, “Please don’t leave me, daddy!” She jumped up and wrapped her arms around my neck and would not let go. She sobbed as I pried her arms from around my neck and handed her back to my wife. My heart has never hurt as bad as it did that morning. As I got into the battalion van, I looked at my wife and daughter and wondered if I would ever see them again. That moment has been seared in my head ever since.”
On the Verge
From 2003-2008, Anderson experienced mounting panic attacks that resulted in four emergency room trips, and an increasing dependence on alcohol and pain medications to escape severe depression, PTSD, and back pain. By the time he returned to Oklahoma after his final tour, he was, in his own words, “a train wreck.” Yet, a valiant soldier and leader with two Bronze Stars and multiple other decorations, he was in line for promotion to lieutenant colonel at the young age of 42.
Then, in rapid succession, he was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol, a failed back surgery paralyzed his legs and put him in a wheelchair, and he was coldly informed that his military career was finished. All of this, being treated as a pariah by former colleagues, then losing a civilian job because of his drinking left him on the verge of losing his wife and daughters.
Instead, he followed their ultimatum in August 2014 to check into the Rob’s Ranch Christian Addiction Treatment facility for men in Purcell. There, he met Pastor Steve Moore, “the first chaplain that I think I ever truly believed,” Anderson said.
He was humble and just an old fashioned country preacher. He didn’t act like he had all the answers. After several times, I just broke down sobbing. All I said was, “God, I am so sorry. Please forgive me.” It wasn’t for one particular act, it was for everything in my life. I think that was the moment when I finally opened my heart and surrendered to Christ. Ever since then, as I continue to put Him first, my life has been amazing.
Through prayer, forgiveness, perseverance and faith, Anderson’s relationships with his wife and daughters have been repaired and are better than ever before. He can walk again, too, if with a limp. He is grateful to have served his country, but he cautioned:
“Human beings are not designed to endure that amount of stress, fear, emotional numbing, and exposure to emotionally unpleasant sights. Our emotional systems are not meant for that. The amazing thing is that they numb it out when needed but at some point you are going to pay the price. The unfortunate thing is, the majority of veterans who experience what I did, because they won’t get help, pay the price for the rest of their life.”
But Brian Anderson helps all those that he can. Since 2016, he himself has been a part of the Rob’s Ranch “recovery team.”
The above article is a bonus to the fascinating historical content found within our book
Oklahomans Vol 2 :
Statehood - 2020s
which can be purchased HERE.
View the inspiring 2-minute preview video HERE.