PTSD - On and Off The Battlefield
by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Melissa Harvey
July 7, 2018
“That image is burned into my head; I can’t ever un-see it,” he said. “I could not feel the bottom half of my body, but I looked down and all I saw was my right leg covered in blood and the lower part of my left leg had been blown off.”
Each day and night, Scott Palomino explained that he is reminded of this exact moment, as he is required to attach his prosthetic leg and take it off before getting in and out of bed, every single day.
April 18, 2018 - Scott Palomino, 301st Fighter Wing Airman and Family Readiness Center director, is a survivor of a deadly mortar attack at Balad Air Base, Iraq on April 10, 2004. At the time of the attack, Palomino was an Airman First Class and a command and control battle management operator assigned to the 603rd Air Control Squadron at Aviano Air Base, Italy. He is a Purple Heart recipient. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Charles Taylor)
Though Palomino currently serves the 301st Fighter Wing as the director of the Airman and Family Readiness Center, he once served on active duty for the United States Air Force. In late 2002, Palomino began his Air Force career as a battle management operations specialist. BMO specialists are responsible for providing radar control and surveillance during offensive and defensive air operations. The technical training was six months and also included some combat training.
In October 2003, Palomino received deployment orders to Balad Air Base, Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
During his deployment, Palomino spent long days in small quarters surveying and assisting in controlling aerospace equipment and radars, along with identifying opposing threats.
As time went on, Palomino explained that enemy attacks became more frequent and on April 10, 2004, Palomino’s life changed forever.
“That night, someone must have been looking out for me,” Palomino said. “I always slept in the bed closest to the door of our tent, with my head facing the door, so I could hear people coming in and out, but that night, I was so tired that I just crashed on my bed with my feet toward the head of the bed. If I hadn’t slept that way that night, I would have died.”
Not long after falling asleep, Palomino was awakened by one of his tentmate’s screams and the blast from an enemy mortar attack.
The mortar had hit the opposite side of the tent at the corner which caused shrapnel to injure two of his tentmates while the initial mortar blast consequently took his left leg and ultimately took the life of Airman 1st Class Antoine Holt.
After the attack, Palomino was transferred to the medical treatment facility on site for an initial treatment to stop the bleeding and to offer pain medication. Eventually, Palomino was transferred to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Maryland for surgery and rehabilitation.
“When I was discharged from Walter Reed, I was given two big paper bags, each filled with medication,” Palomino said. “One contained medication for my mental health, while the other was for physical pain.”
Palomino explained that he felt he needed more than just medication to overcome the post-traumatic stress disorder that followed after the attack and loss of his tentmate, A1C Antoine Holt.
“Medication is often necessary for many with PTSD, but without treatment, it only masks the problem,” Palomino explained. “Treatment such as counseling and therapy help make it easier for people to live with their PTSD.”
Palomino was subsequently medically retired from the Air Force, and received a Purple Heart from his deployment and service.
In an effort to help others overcome PTSD as well as other mental health issues, Palomino attended college for social work and since received his Master’s degree and licensure for counseling.
“I tell this to everyone I see for counseling – especially veterans who have seen combat ... PTSD is much like having little demons living inside your head,” Palomino said. “All it takes is one moment for them to overtake you. It [PTSD] never goes away, so we have to learn to cope and educate ourselves on how to overcome when they start to whisper things to us.”