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1st Sgt. Simon Sandoval: Reaching Out is A Sign of Strength

1st Sgt. Sandoval

Photo courtesy of 1st Sgt. Simon Sandoval

Experiencing psychological stress as a result of life transitions, deployment or other long-term separations can be common in military life. This stress can impact a service member’s personal relationships, physical fitness routines and overall psychological health. The newest Real Warriors Campaign profile, 1st Sgt. Simon Sandoval, knows firsthand that it is difficult to cope with these stressors alone.

Sandoval learned about the importance of asking for help while leading an Operational Stress Control and Readiness (OSCAR) training session for other Marines. He was teaching a lesson about seeking care for operational stress when he realized he may have underlying concerns of his own. After 18 years of serving in the Marines, with multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, Sandoval experienced frontline battles and lost Marines during combat. Back home, he turned to alcohol to cope with his emotions and started neglecting his physical and psychological health.

“I found myself pulling away from my family. When I was with [my children], I didn’t find myself as the same person I was before I left.”

After reaching out to his friend and commander to talk about his experiences, Sandoval began sharing his personal story with his students at OSCAR trainings. There, he was able to open up to his fellow Marines and encourage them to do the same. He showed them by example that seeking help and communicating about your experiences is a sign of strength, not weakness.

“The mental aspect of telling about my experiences, I felt like a weight had been lifted off my back.”

Sandoval also began jujitsu as a form of physical fitness. With both a physical and mental release, he enjoyed spending more time with his family and returning to his previous levels of fitness. In discovering the benefits of reaching out, he realized that he could offer himself as a resource and example for other Marines. This was his way of honoring those he had lost. He now encourages service members to reach out to their chaplains, chains of command, health care professionals and other resources to help cope with psychological health concerns.

“A Marine who goes out and seeks help has more courage than somebody who doesn’t.”

It’s a sign of strength to reach out for help for psychological health concerns. Families looking for additional support can reach out to trained health consultants at the Psychological Health Resource Center through the live chat feature on the campaign website, or by calling 866-966-1020, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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