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Samantha Wadley, Spring 2012 Students

Sidelined: Marine Corps lifestyle brings unexpected duties for some San Diegans

By Samantha Wadley

Damon Lode sorting mail

Despite being assigned to the mail room because of an injury while in Afghanistan, Corporal Damon Lode smiles while sorting.

Serving in the Marine Corps conjures up images of strength, pride and honor for many who enlist. For some Marines and their families, however, the military lifestyle has turned out to be different from what they expected it to be.

From injuries, to marital stress and depression, the pressure of life in the military can weigh heavilyl on the Marines and their loved ones.

“There are a myriad of unique problems that military personnel face,” said Lorie Sherer, a mental health therapist who treats active duty military and veterans.

“Often times these men and women are traumatized and they have been conditioned to be very reactive and it is hard for them to find a way to rationalize the things they deal with.”

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs ,11 to 20 percent of those who have served in the recent war in the Middle East suffer from some form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or depression.

Camp Pendelton Sign

San Diego is home to four military bases and approximately 125,000 active duty personnel, with 35,000 of those serving in the United States Marine Corps (USMC).

“A moral dilemma has developed in most cases and the person can feel isolated, which leads to depression and sometimes self harm,” Sherer said.

Unexpected Duties

Corporal Damon Lode joined the Marine Corps as an infantryman immediately after high school in 2008, with high hopes for a long military career. Lode was deployed to Afghanistan in the spring of 2010. Three months into the deployment, Lode was injured when a roadside bomb struck his vehicle. Lode sustained brain and back injuries as a result of the explosion. Although Marines are taught to expect the unexpected, he didn’t imagine where this injury would place him when he returned to Camp Pendelton after his 7-month deployment.

Damon Lode is a Corporal in the Marine Corps and is stationed at Camp Pendelton in San Diego. Now in his fourth year of the service, Lode has experienced a chain of unexpected events which landed him in the mail room, a place he never expected to be.

Despite his injury, Lode was promoted to Corporal in April, but he does not plan to re-enlist when his contract ends this year. Instead, he will pursue a college education.

Lode’s story is one of many. Lance Corporal Jacob Sedgwick was also injured while on deployment in Afghanistan, sustaining a gunshot wound to the chest, which resulted in a collapsed lung and many months in the hospital.

“My body doesn’t work like it used to,” Sedgwick said. “I used to be able to run and swim, but now those tasks are much more difficult.”

Like Lode, Sedgwick also began working in the mailroom at Camp Pendelton during his recovery. While the self-admitted gun junkie would much rather be on the frontlines again, he believes his experience in the Marine Corps has matured him.

“I’ve been to Afghanistan, I’ve fought a war, been shot and I made it back,” Sedgwick said. “It was definitely worth it and I would do it again if I could.”

Sedgwick sorting mail

Sorting mail is more fun when you put on the tunes, according to Lance Corporal Jason Sedgwick. He prefers listening to the band Switchfoot.

Unexpected Transitions

Positive attitudes keep the Marine Corps spirit alive, according to Marine wife Sheyla Lopez, who lives on base at Camp Pendelton.

“These men do this job because they genuinely love and believe in what they are doing,” Lopez said.

Lopez met her husband Corporal Charlie Lopez in high school, but it wasn’t until he returned from deployment in 2011 that they got married. Having grown up in Los Angeles, Sheyla’s transition from city life to military life has been harder than she expected, especially since she is now the primary caregiver to their four young children.

Sheyla Lopez is the wife of Corporal Charlie Lopez, a Marine stationed at Camp Pendelton in San Diego, Calif. Living life as the wife of a Marine and the mother of their four young children isn’t always easy, but Lopez keeps a positive attitude by remembering why her husband does what he does.

Gia talking about necklace

Making beaded necklaces is a fun activity that Gia and her sister Lelani enjoy doing together while their dad is deployed.

Although Lopez admits the adjustment takes some time, she still believes that living in a military setting has its perks.

“Some days are harder than others,” Lopez said. “But overall, I still get up some mornings and feel like I am living the American dream.”

According to Sherer, getting acclimated to life in the military or after the military is a process.

“There is a reconnecting process,” Sherer said. “It is crucial to find a comfort zone and people with whom they can relate to so that the process can move along in a healthy way. But recognizing that you need help is the first step.”

Help for those in need 

There are tons of resources out there for veterans and active duty military personnel, as well as their families.  The Military Helpline  is a program that offers free, anonymous support and helps people gain access to resources along with confidential crisis intervention and sensitivity to military-specific issues such as anger management, post traumatic stress disorder and much more.

Also, Homefront San Diego  is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping families of those in the military. From food to computer repairs, Homefront San Diego is in the business of aiding those who serve.

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About Samantha Wadley

Samantha Wadley is a 21-year old college senior

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