Written by Adam Carr with Jason Roncoroni
From my education, training, and desire to serve, everything I did was pushing me toward the war.
It started when I went to college after returning from Basic Training. My program of study was the Security and Intelligence Program. It was a flagship program intended to prepare young men and women for service in one of the three letter agencies of the federal government. I even studied Arabic while I was a student at Ohio State. My education was preparing me for a life of service to our nation.
I had eventually outgrown my desire to serve in the National Guard. I sought something more. As I approached graduation, I wanted (no, I needed) to serve my country more directly. I could have applied for Officer Candidate School, but I was afraid I was going to miss the war. I wanted to be the best. Therefore, I went to the recruiter’s office before graduation and signed a contract for the arduous Special Forces Qualification Course. Even though I was unsure about enlisting in the National Guard five years earlier, I was certain about my new path into the Special Forces.
After graduation, I went to Fort Benning for infantry training, I went to Airborne School, and then I was off to the grueling two-year initiation into the U.S. Special Forces. My first trial was the initial 24-day selection. My selection class began with over 400 of the finest Soldiers the Army had to offer. Only about 100 remained by the final day, but less than 50 were selected into the actual program. I met many friends along my two-year journey in the Special Forces Qualification Course (called the “Q-course” in the Army vernacular). I would learn later that only 20 of the original 400 that showed up for selection actually made it to graduation, but I was privileged to be among the few to earn the coveted Green Beret.
This was a challenging time in my life, but it was a time for celebration, too. I married my best friend and soul mate, Tarah Marie Moss. I met Tarah in college, and I was truly blessed with her unconditional love and support during this period of intense, military training. We were married while I was still in the program, and we welcomed the arrival of our first son, Noah. After graduation, I moved my family to Okinawa, Japan. I was living the adventure I had always sought as a child, and now I was serving my country. I had it all, and I was excited to embark upon my journey into the unknown world.
Okinawa was a wonderful place. I was assigned to the 1st of the 1st Special Forces. My company was deployed when I arrived, so I was alone on rear detachment at least until the next new arrival showed up at the unit. His name was Jeremie. It was my good fortune that I got along with the only other guy in the unit at the time. In fact, we became best friends. We ended up on the same Operational Detachment Alpha with an extremely tight group of warriors.
I was part of the 1st of the 1st Special Forces. Given the nature of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the burden on our unit was extremely high. We were among one of the most deployed units in the Army, spending nearly 10 months of each year deployed from home. I was grateful for the brotherhood of warriors to which I belonged. I remained close with my friend Jeremie even after he was pulled into a different company. I remember corresponding with him just two weeks before the end of one of our many tours to Afghanistan. He was telling me how excited he was to get back to the states and start a new life after the military. That was our last conversation. Jeremie was killed in action the very next day. I was stunned.
Even though I was a seasoned combat veteran, the hardest thing I had to do was stand in his bedroom, filled with trophies, pictures, and accoutrements of his life while his mother stood in front of us weeping. I wanted so desperately to weep with her, but I couldn’t. I wasn’t just a Soldier. I was a Green Beret. It was my duty to hold it together. Beneath the surface of the uniform, I struggled under the burden of a promise I made to myself as a lifeguard. A dear friend died under my watch. I remember laying Jeremie to rest and flying back to my unit for another 9-month rotation to Afghanistan.
In war, you bear witness to terrible things. Those days become timeless elements of your life. I still remember the day our SEAL commander took his own life. I remember our team carrying one of the fallen brothers and his gear nearly 4000 feet down a mountain pass so he could be evacuated back home. The cycle of assaulting enemy compounds was relentless. The intensity of operations was a lot – sometimes too much.
At times, the pain and anxiety was overwhelming. It wasn’t just the struggle of combat. It wasn’t just my effort to deliver on a promise I had made to myself. It was the pain of saying goodbye to my children and not knowing if I would ever see them again. By 2013, I had enough. It was time for me to leave the military while I had some semblance of myself left. Unfortunately, I learned the hard way that I could leave the war, but the war would never leave me. In 2014, I lost another member of my team to suicide. Even when the shooting stopped, we kept losing people. It was too much for me to process. I didn’t know what was happening to my team. More importantly, I didn’t know what was happening to me. We were supposed to be the best of the best, but it seemed like we were struggling.
I had a number of injuries that I kept secret from doctors in the military. I didn’t want to let down the team, so I played hurt. Unfortunately, my back pain was unbearable. The pain was so bad that I had to crawl to the bathroom in the morning. Because I never sought care through the military, I had to fight the VA for medical benefits for my lower back, my shoulder, and other physical problems that manifested after I left the military. On top of it all, I wasn’t sleeping at night. I harbored tremendous anxiety, guilt, and shame. I couldn’t shake the experience of war, and I didn’t understand why I deserved a family while so many of my fellow brothers died. What made me special? After all, I was the one who broke the promise I made to myself to protect others.
I was 32 years old. Everything I did in my life up to this point was pushing me to war, but now, I just wanted to return back home. I lost dear friend and fellow veteran to suicide on my birthday – on my birthday. Maybe I deserved everything that was happening to me. I tried numbing the pain, but that didn’t work. I spent 10 years in Special Forces and had to fight the government for my medical benefits. I struggled under the burden of survivor’s guilt. Even though I had a loving wife and two beautiful children, I felt terribly alone in my own abyss of shame. All my wife wanted from me was a hug, and I knew I had reached my breaking point when I couldn't even do that. I didn’t see any way out. I didn’t know how to stop the pain. I finally asked my wife to sit down in my office. She was the most important person in my life, and yet she felt so far away from me. With tears flowing from her eyes, I sat in front of the computer and logged into Facebook Live. This was the only way I knew to end my suffering.
On the desk in front of me, I had a bag of pills for the pain, a bottle of Honey Jack for courage, and a loaded 9 mm for me . . .
Adam Carr is the Deputy Director for Operations and a Project Director for Save A Warrior.
Jason Roncoroni is a Strategic Advisor and the President of Ordinary Hero Coaching.