DENVER - A bi-partisan panel led by Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colorado) and Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colorado) met at the Colorado State Capitol on Wednesday to explore ways to improve the nation's response to post-traumatic stress.
In the crowd was Sgt. Mike Bergman, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. One day in 2005, his convoy hit an improvised explosive device. The bomb killed four people in the hummer in front of him.
Bergman lost a lung, an injury that ended his army career. After he got home, he started to lose himself.
"I noticed that I went through seven, eight, ten jobs," Bergman said. "I can't remember, there was a lot of jobs I went through. I couldn't understand why."
After all, when he left the service, doctors had told him he didn't have PTSD. It wasn't until three years later that he was diagnosed with the disorder.
Looking back, he knows he changed forever when he saw the faces of the first three people he killed. His message to the politicians and military leaders: thousands more like me are coming home.
"Get ahead of the ballgame," Bergman said. "They need more people to help the guys that are coming back with all these issues."
Curtis Bean was a sniper, who also attributes his PTSD to his decisions to kill. It wasn't until years later that he was able to get himself into a treatment program.
"I had to deal with issues that I avoided for five years up to that point, which was not an easy thing to do," Bean said.
When he first got out in 2007, he had to wait three months for a VA appointment-- a long time when you're having a crisis.
That was in Florida; Colorado was different.
"When I came here I immediately got enrolled in the VA, I got appointments, and everyone was super helpful," Bean said.
He wants veterans everywhere to get that treatment. Bean found an outlet in art therapy. He started a program called the Art of War Project, where he works with other vets.
Bergman got into Jui-Jitsu and it's helped him get back on track. He feels a duty to heal.
"I've got to do it for the members of my unit that were lost. To honor them," Bergman said.
However, he has one more issue that's harder to solve: the attitudes all the rest of us have.
"You'll get a lot of 'thank yous' and all that when you go around town, but you get a lot of people who are really, really cautious," Bergman said.
He admits soldiers like him can come off a little different.
"It's not a creepy thing. It's just we were pushed to have adrenaline rushes all the time in combat," Bergman said.
As a way to address the stigma, the panel did discuss the idea of dropping the "D" from PTSD.
The argument is that calling it a "disorder" can further alienate the people suffering, though some counter that it makes the problem seem less serious.
(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)