On the evening before the 4th of July this year someone set off some M80s or Cherry bombs, and it sounded like my house was the target. After slipping from window to window and carefully looking out, I left the house and checked the perimeter of my property looking for any signs of damage. While I was out staying in the shadows, there was no one in sight. The street was empty, and I didn’t find any damage or evidence of the explosives I’d heard that rattled my windows.
I went back inside, locked up, and later that night, when I left my home office after 8:00 pm, I took my loaded shogun with me to the family room where I watched a DVD.
All the noisy, flashy fireworks are a perfect cover for criminals and crazies to act, and that’s why on July 4th, I’m ready to fight. I slipped a large canister of pepper spray in my shirt pocket, hid a loaded pistol under a pillow and carried the shotgun to the family room with me to continue watching that DVD I started the night before.
With the 4th of July explosions popping off lighting the sky, every 10 minutes, I put the DVD on hold and slipped from room to room to peak out windows and make sure nothing suspicious was going on outside. Even though there were plenty of explosions and flashy fireworks in the distance, I never saw anyone outside of the house, on the street, or across the street, but I stayed alert and ready anyway. To most combat vets with PTSD, when you relax and think everything is okay, that’s when the shit will hit the fan so you never relax.
Each window and door in my house has four locks. The last two locks can only be activated inside the house. No key will unlock them from outside. In fact, the workers that installed the new windows soon after I bought the house told me that one of my self-made locks was called a Deadman, because the simple, homemade device made it difficult for firemen to get in the house to save me.
I still remember my reply. “The threat of dying in a house fire doesn’t cause me to lose sleep. But the thought of some punk breaking into my house and me not being ready because I didn’t hear them does. If I know it is easy for someone to get inside my house without hearing them, I will be awake all night listening to every sound. I wanted to make sure that anyone breaking into my house had to make a lot of noise to do it and alert me. If a fire breaks out and kills me, too bad.” I think that way because of the odds of a fire vs. a break-in.
According to FEMA, in 2010 there were 362,100 residential fires in the United States while there are about 131 million housing units. That means the odds of my house catching fire are about a quarter of one percent. But according to A Secure Life.com, “Data from the FBI 2012 crime report shows that we can expect one in every thirty-six homes in the United States to be burglarized this year (every year).” Those odds are more than 3-percent or 12x the risk of a house fire.
I’m a combat vet. I live with the fight or flight response of PTSD, and I have no intention to run away. That leaves me with one choice, to fight. If someone breaks in my house while I’m home, one of us is going to die and I plan on it not being me.
It wasn’t always this way. I was married for forty years and to protect my wife and family from the flashbacks, caused by the combat memories that followed me home from the war, I kept my firearms locked away and lost a lot of sleep. Now that I’m on my own, the weapons are out when I’m home, and I sleep better knowing the house is sealed – something I had no control over when I was married. What is a vet to do when the wife can’t sleep unless she leaves the bedroom window open, and she sometimes wakes up and leaves the house on hot nights to get some cool air, but forgets to lock the front door when she returns?
Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine, Vietnam Veteran, retired public school teacher, journalist, and award winning author.
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Thanks for the new blog post. I’ve enjoyed reading your work. I wanted to share my finished product of the eBook with you. Thanks for the help editing it last week!
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You’re welcome. How did the last Ironman go?
I don’t have ptsd but I have common sense habits I learned in the army, such as not keeping my hands in my pockets. I don’t carry a gun outside the house but there are alternative defensive weapons. I do sometimes have problems getting past Airport Security.
Yes, there are alternative defensive weapons. I carry one or two all the time that are not firearms, and I only wear shoes with shoelaces, because we were taught in boot camp how to turn shoelaces into weapons. Like you, I also do not carry any of my firearms outside of the house. I have no desire to end up in prison, but if it weren’t for the law that would send me to jail, I’d carry a concealed one at all times.
But you might want to look closer at the list of symptoms for PTSD. Hypervigilance is one of them and hypervigilance could be defined as someone who deliberately does not keep his hands in his pockets so he is ready to respond faster in a threat situation and carrying alternative defensive weapons is also a sign of hypervigilance.
Here’s a link that leads to detailed info on the subject.
For instance, when I’m in public on the street, I scan ahead one or two blocks looking for any signs of danger. When I’m with other vets who are hypervigilant we often point out who or what we are keeping an eye on and what alternative weaon we have ready. We don’t walk along oblivious to the world around us while texting. We are ever alert to possible threats and if the threat level goes up, so does our readiness level to switch into combat mode. When eating out, we sit in the back where we can watch what’s going on up front, and scan what’s around us for objects we can use for cover or throw.
I don’t like crowds so no wild parties or night clubs for me. I only go out to see movies early and on days when most people are at work or in school. Often, I’m the only one in a theater or one of less than five. When I reach a half tank of gas, I fill up so to odds are favorable to drive a longer distance in an emergency situation to get away from an urban area, before I had to ditch the car, slip on my emergency backpack and hit the ground to walk into the wilderness.