Local veteran finding peace with PTSD diagnosis

TOMAH, Wis. (WEAU) -- Adam Horton was a star high school basketball player with three scholarship offers. But a career-ending injury during high school set him on a different course. After the injury, in 2004, he knew that college was not for him.

Marine Corps Veteran Adam Horton says, "First recruiting office in my hometown was the Marine Corps. First office I walked in they said do you like to travel and of course I wanted to travel and they pride themselves on being the best and I always thought of myself as being one of the best.."

Two months later, the then 19-year old Horton left his hometown of 260 for Southern California.

Horton say, "It was an eye-opening experience. I wasn't used to the hustle and bustle and the camaraderie and the brotherhood that the Marine Corps brought, I wasn't used to being part of a team. I was always competing against other people."

In early 2006, Horton was deployed to Ramadi, Iraq for nine and a half months. Horton was part of the 17 weapons company, a mounted infantry unit.

Horton adds, "Definitely a learning experience. I had really great senior marines that I had with me. I mean I'm not going to lie I was scared, I think we all were. 19-year old kids being put into positions where none of us thought we'd make it through but we did."

Horton served two deployments for a total of 24 months in Iraq. But when he returned to America, the battle was not over for him.

Adam says, "I remember coming out of a movie theater. It was one of the 'Fast and Furious' had came out and there was a loud thunderclap and I had dropped to the ground in front of four or five of my family members and my little brother started laughing. But my dad immediately grabbed him and said hey you don't understand what he's going through."

More than one year after returning home from duty, Horton was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Horton says, "One of my friends had just come back from Iraq and he was going up to Madison for mental health. And he had seen I was struggling with alcohol at the time and he took me up to Madison and that's when I was diagnosed with PTSD and substance abuse."

Horton estimates that close to 75-percent of his unit came back from combat with PTSD, "If you didn't see the scars well they must not be hurting and it was the total opposite. Usually the ones you don't see with the scars, they're usually hurting the most."

That trip to the Madison VA did not solve it for Horton though. Two years later in 2011 he distanced himself from the V-A, starting using heroin, and even attempted suicide.

Horton says, "It wasn't until two years ago when both my father and step-father passed away that I needed to do something with my life."

So Horton moved up to the Tomah VA in June of 2017 where he got involved in the mental health treatment program.

Adam says, "I'd say I'm in the happiest part of my life. I just found out today that I'll be a federal employee here at the VA. In two weeks I'll be celebrating a year and 7 months of sobriety. Beautiful healthy daughter."

Horton hopes his story of revitalization can serve as hope for other veterans battling similar issues.

"With a lot of my friends and I it didn't show up right away. It wasn't like oh hey I have PTSD. It was something that I dealt with and went through for many years to finally figure out what it was."

Even with the down years, Horton says he would sign back up all over again, "That trust with another person and the camaraderie and being able to depend on someone that you know exactly how they're going to do it and it's going to be done. To find that out in the civilian world, it's one in a million chance."

Today, Horton works out of the warehouse at the Tomah VA and lives in the city with his fiancee and their six-month old daughter.