Meet William Jazwinski. He served in Iraq and, like many others among him, he was young and had no idea what he was getting into. Not just during his service, but after as well. One day, he got pulled over by a cop. The reason is haunting. And you’ll see why.
The Beginning of the War
William is from Somers, New York. He knew he would enlist in the army one day and fight for his country. And the moment he has been waiting for came to him when the Iraq War began in 2003. But the war in Iraq was a source of torture for many troops and their family members. As William would eventually find out.
In 2003, Iraq was under the reign of Saddam Hussein when the coalition forces invaded the country and overthrew the government. This was the start of the Iraq War. And 177,194 troops were sent to Iraq. During the initial stages of the war, more than hundreds of thousands of soldiers were sent to the war zone. William was, of course, one of them.
But first, he had to say goodbye.
A Sad Farewell
William Jazwinski was sent to the war zone right after his training was completed. Just like other soldiers, William also left behind loved ones. He left his girlfriend and mother at home. It’s a brave act going off to war and one with no clear ending. Not knowing if you will return home safely is what makes these kinds of goodbyes so treacherous. His farewell was emotional and difficult for him to bear.
The Toll War Takes
As the records say, 4,474 U.S. troops lost their lives in the Iraq War. Thousands of families would be waiting and all their hopes and expectations shattered when military officials knocked on their doors to give the heartbreaking news of their soldier’s loss.
William didn’t know what was waiting for him and if he would even make it home to reunite with his family and girlfriend.
The End is Not the End
William was a Heavy Wheeled Vehicle Operator during his duty in Iraq. After serving his nation for more than a year in the war, he was finally sent home. But being sent home wasn’t the end of William’s war story. It had made a deep impact on him and he couldn’t settle down in his normal life. It’s no surprise that war takes a toll on everything it touches, including its soldiers.
William saw a lot and images that were not going away.
Trying to Shake it Off
Seeing his friends lose their lives in Iraq and the things he saw created immense grief that he wasn’t able to shake off. Like many war vets, William didn’t wanted to share his war experiences with anyone he loved for their own protection. This inner turmoil manifested into insomnia and depression. He hardly slept and when he did, his nightmares would wake him up.
William had to figure out how to get back to normal…
His Family Decided
When William was clearly suffering and nothing was helping, his family decided to take him for counseling. After some sessions with a counselor, his symptoms were clear and he was diagnosed.
It turns out that he was suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a mental disorder that affects an individual’s thinking and behavior after a traumatic event.
PTSD is a Real Thing
PTSD is a disorder that seriously disturbs the normal way in which our emotions work. For example, a normally silent person may become verbally and physically aggressive. Or a normally talkative person may become silent all of the time.
PTSD has numerous methods of treatment, with counseling being one of them. And it’s the method that William was trying out. But he’s not the only one.
PTSD is All Too Common
Unfortunately, many soldiers suffer from PTSD after returning from war. And the problem is that most keep their suffering to themselves without reaching out for help.
William wasn’t aware that on a fateful day soon, something would happen that would seriously change his struggle for inner peace.
A Fateful Day
So, on a seemingly normal day, William was driving home from a routine counseling session. His therapy was indeed helping, but not as much as he would have hoped. He was returning to his home in Lefors, Texas when on the way, he was signaled to pull over. William was positive that he wasn’t speeding, his lights were working, and he was following the rules of the law.
So why was he being followed by a cop?
Just to See
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Just to see if the cops were following him or someone else, William took turned onto a road that was almost empty. He wanted to see if he was intentionally being followed by the police officer. The cop car turned right behind him. Clearly, he was the target. He just didn’t understand why. And like most people, being followed by a cop car is a nerve-racking experience. But William noticed that the cop wasn’t even using a siren.
Usually, when the cops are following someone, they use the loud speakers or sirens. But that wasn’t the case here. In this situation, the cop was just following William down the road. There was no siren, no warnings, nothing. All this happened within a span of five minutes.
Suddenly, the police car’s lights started to flash. This was the sign that William now couldn’t ignore. This was it, he was supposed to pull over the car, and so he did.
And what happened was something remarkable.
After seeing the police car’s lights flash, William looked for the right spot and stopped the car on his side of the road. The police car stopped and it was time see what the deal is. William was thinking of all the possible things that the cops might say to him.
He could never expect what the cop would then say to him …
What’s The Problem, Officer?
The Cheat Sheet
William was waiting in his car for the cop to come up to his window. He noticed from his car’s rear view mirror that there was only one cop in the car and he got out and started walking in his direction. William saw that he was an older man.
William recalls asking the cop: “Good morning, officer. Was I speeding?” The cop replied to William’s question with a smile. He said, “No.”
So what did he want from him?
William grew anxious not understanding what was behind all this. Did he miss something? He wondered if the cop was misusing his power. But the police officer wasn’t pulling over William for any sort of illegal activity. He replied to William by saying, “Good morning. No, not speeding. Just wanted to stop you and say thank you for your service,” the cop said. William was shocked and couldn’t believe what he heard.
But something was strange. William didn’t understand how the cop knew he was in the military. And why would he stop a soldier just to thank them for doing their duty?
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The cop told William that he noticed the military sticker on the bumper of William’s car and that’s how he knew about his military background. He wanted to thank the young man for his services.
William obviously responded. He said, “You’re welcome, sir. My pleasure.”
But this was just the beginning. The officer went on…
The Father of a Soldier
The cop then started a conversation with William and asked him about his work. William told him about his services in Iraq. And how he did a “15 monther” out of Fort Benning. Something about what William said immediately changed the police officer’s reaction. It was as though he was familiar with this place.
The police officer was stunned and William was curious as to why.
a Father’s Grief
The officer was taken aback. He started telling William about his son who went into war too. The police officer’s words started breaking. He was getting emotional as he told William that his son never returned from the war. He only received the news of his death.
Now William was taken aback. And he felt emotions coming up as well…
An Emotional Encounter
Listening to the officer’s story of his son made William feel sorry for the man. He knew the pain of losing someone close. He knew what war was like and he could deeply understand the police officer’s pain. What the police officer said next brought tears to William’s eyes.
On the Dashboard
The police officer saw a folded American flag on William’s dashboard. It brought back memories for the cop. All the memories of the day when he got the news of his son’s death flashed in front of his eyes. He told William about the flag and how he felt closely related to it.
The Significance of the Folded Flag
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For those who may not be familiar with the folded US flag, it is a long time tradition in the army. There are 13 folds and each one represents something else. For instance, the first fold of the flag is a symbol of life. The second fold signifies the belief in eternal life. The third fold is made in honor and tribute of the veteran departing the ranks, and who gave a portion of his or her life for the defense of the country to attain peace. And it goes on to 13.
Seeing the flag, the officer was taken aback. And he tells William why.
An American Flag
The officer told William that he received the same flag by the army officials gave him the news of his son’s death. Sadly, this was all he had of his son who passed away in the war. William now understood everything. The cop who was standing outside his car wasn’t thanking him as a cop, but as a civilian and more so as a father.
The cop then asked William to get out of the car. And William would soon find out why he was really pulled over in the first place.
A Grieving Father’s Request
After looking at the flag and considering the conversation he just had with the young army vet, the cop made a request. He asked William if he’ll mind stepping out of the car. William was surprised and looked at the cop with confusion.
He wasn’t expecting what would happen next…
A Healing Hug
“Do you mind stepping out and receiving a hug?” the cop asked. William was feeling equally emotional but just didn’t know what to say to the cop. The truth is the two were both in need of a hug. That’s when the cop said something which meant something very deep to William.
Like His Son
The cop told William, “You remind me of my son. I pulled you over. I thought you were him. I still don’t believe it most days he’s gone.” William stepped out of his truck and hugged the officer.
It was a moment they both needed but didn’t realize until it happened. “With tears in both our eyes I got out and hugged that man. I’m talking about for a minute or two crying. Down to our knees crying. I needed that,” William mentioned in his Facebook post.
A Lasting Moment
The men felt a strong connection to each other, but it was time to go. They shook hands and bid their goodbyes. They both felt something of a revelation and it was like a huge burden was lifted.
The moment was over and William started to head home. But he couldn’t get it out of his head. This emotional encounter with the cop on this seemingly regular day turned out having a real and lasting impact on William. One that would actually help him overcome his PTSD.
William couldn’t forget the moment. He kept thinking about the cop and his son. He decided to share the incident with his girlfriend who was always supportive of him. She told him to look at this occurrence as a sign to move forward and start looking at life differently.
So William decided to make a gesture…
Sharing is Caring
William then made up his mind to share the incident with his friends. So, he turned to Facebook and posted what happened to him. He not only shared the whole story but also came to a conclusion by the time he was done with typing it all. He wanted to tell his friends and family the importance of remembering those who sacrifice their lives fighting for us and appreciating those who are still in the warfare.
William’s post said:
“Me: Good morning, Officer. Was I speeding?
Officer: Good morning, no not speeding. Just wanted to stop ya and say thank you for your service.
Me: Oooh the bumper sticker, nice. Your welcome, Sir. My pleasure.
Officer: Where did you serve?
Me: I went to Iraq. Did a 15 month [stint]. Out of Fort Benning.
Officer: Well, alright. My son went to Iraq. He didn’t make it home.”
The post continues…
William’s Post continued
“Me: Man, I’m so sorry to hear that. I just finished a PTSD program.
Officer: I see you have a flag in the truck. The one we got for him? Well it’s at the house. Can I ask a question?
Officer: Do you mind stepping out and receiving a hug? You remind me of my son. I pulled you over. I thought you were him. I still don’t believe it most days he’s gone.
A Heartfelt Post
“With tears in both our eyes, I got out and hugged that man. I’m talking about for a minute or two crying. Down to our knees crying. I needed that.
To all the family and friends of soldiers, fighting or done fighting, God bless you. Your peace and your hearts. It’s so hard without them, I know. This road is a tremendous one. Love to all.”
William’s post was not only admired by his Facebook friends but more. Since his post was shared on Facebook, it was then shared nearly 183,000 times and received over 214,000 likes. It goes to show how sharing something personal with others can make such a big impact. Clearly, this story touched many people. And we can understand why.
Supporting Someone with PTSD
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PTSD is unfortunately common among many individuals returning from duty. And if you have someone in your family that just returned from war, it’s hard knowing how to act and what to say. Although they may have returned home safe and sound, it doesn’t mean that the war isn’t still going on in their heads. For most troops, the images of war can last a life time.
If your loved one is acting strange after returning from war, there are things you can do.
Look For Signs
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Trauma can be triggered by random things, like certain locations, smells, or events. If possible, learn what these triggers are for your loved one so you can be aware of situations that might potentially trigger them. It’s also important to notice what the signs that come from your loved one are. For example, does he clench his fists when he hears a certain sound?
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Most of the time, people just want others to listen to them. No advice, no judgment. Just listen. Sometimes saying things like, “It will be OK” dismisses what they say. Don’t give unsolicited advice or take over by talking about your own experiences. Just give them your undivided attention. It can make a world of a difference. For many veterans, they feel as though they have to keep everything inside. And that’s what really burdens them.
Create a Safe Environment
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Considering how they came from literally the most unsafe environment to a safe one, it may take some time for them to realize that there’s no actual threat anymore. And so it’s important to recreate a safe environment for your loved one. For example, structure routines, make and keep promises and express support. And in general, be open and loving.
Don’t Forget to Take Care of Yourself Too
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Taking all these measures to make sure you’re doing the best you can for your loved one can take a toll on you. And neglecting yourself won’t help since you won’t be able to give the support they need. That said, make time for yourself, rely on other people you’re close to and set boundaries for yourself.
Get Professional Help
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You can only do so much. If you feel as though things are getting worse, the best thing to do is take your loved one to get professional help. Aside from counseling, as William himself had. While counseling is surely beneficial, group therapy is one of the most powerful for veterans. Veterans are accustomed to comradery that the army is known for providing to troops. Therefore, group therapy offers a sense of togetherness that in itself is healing.
Stay Safe and Healthy
This story of William and the cop that pulled him over is one that reminds us of how important it is to stay connected. Both William and the officer were struggling internally. What started out as being pulled over turned out to be an emotional moment that changed both of their lives forever.
Stay safe and healthy, friends.