The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

July 30, 2012

Iowa soldier seeks peace of mind through meditation and medication

FAIRFIELD — Military police sergeants, civilian police officers and SWAT team members are all supposed to be tough. Luke Jensen was all three, so when the stress of combat began eating away at him, he felt so ashamed, he wanted to die.

Meditation helped correct that desire — and he believes it could help other soldiers and veterans.

Jensen was asked by Operation Warrior Wellness to speak about his experiences with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) during a presentation Saturday on PTSD, the military and the advantages of Transcendental Meditation.

“The medical [tents] in Afghanistan were for 10th Mountain Division soldiers who’d been wounded in combat,” said the Nevada, Iowa man.

How could he possibly walk into that tent and tell a medic that he was sad?

He told the Fairfield audience that his base was hit their first night there. Gunshots, explosions and outgoing fire were nearly constant. And the things he saw around him were worse than he felt he could handle.

He couldn’t sleep, he was having panic attacks and in addition to worrying about himself, the staff sergeant had his men to lead.

“I thought I was tough,” he said.

But in a combat zone, his world was out of control. When sent to investigate a report of a little Afghani girl struck by a U.S. vehicle, he found the child dead near the road.

The upset family came to claim her. Jensen contacted the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division then kept people from walking onto the death scene. He had no translator. The locals were getting angrier and more numerous, not understanding why this armed foreigner would want to keep the girl’s body from her family.

Later, someone — Jensen never found out who — ran over and killed a nearby U.S. serviceman.

His nerves couldn’t handle any more. As soon as he was able, he decided to take his sidearm and shoot himself dead. When health personnel he’d sought out heard about his attempt, he was evacuated — which made him feel as though he’d failed in his duty.

At least he could move on with his life. So why did he keep thinking the most logical step would be to take his own life — even when back in the U.S.? He still couldn’t sleep. He still had panic attacks. And he felt a deep sense of shame — especially because while on a U.S. base receiving medical care, he saw the other soldiers who had “real” injuries.

Dr. Fred Travis, a psychologist in Fairfield, said PTSD produces an injury as real as any wound. Travis is the director of the Center for Brain, Consciousness and Cognition at Maharishi University of Management.

CAT scans of patients suffering from PTSD, he said, provide evidence that the brains of sufferers are different from those without PTSD. The effect is physical.

But Jensen didn’t know his brain was short circuited. He was taking medication for depression and anxiety, back in Iowa working in law enforcement. He still wanted to die.

When his police supervisors heard he was suicidal, they began proceedings to terminate him.

“Jerry Yellin saved my life,” Jensen said.

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