There is no one who can go to war and see combat and the trauma that one witnesses and come home unaffected. Stoughton, Massachusetts resident Douglas Sylvestre, deployed for 15 months in Afghanistan back in 2011. It was there that Sylvestre witnessed the horrifying death of his friend and battle buddy, Sergeant Dennis Weichel, who died saving the life of an innocent child. It was there that Sylvestre was exposed to an improvised explosive device explosion, which left him with an endless ringing in his ears.
Sylvestre’s first eight months back from Afghanistan were tough on him. He suffered from the invisible wounds of war and returned home with post-traumatic stress disorder. He struggled with school, drinking, flashbacks, and memories of Weichel’s death. If things could not have gotten worse, Sylvestre learned about the death of another battle buddy, Joel Constantino, who was killed in a state-side motorcycle accident a month after he returned from their deployment.
“I was handling the situation in the worst way possible; drinking. I hid my emotions with alcohol, blacking out so that I couldn’t remember anymore and then driving home because I no longer cared about life or death. It wasn’t until I crashed my car, when my friends told me that I had a problem,” said Sylvestre.
Sylvestre knew he would have to get help and start a journey to battle his hidden injuries. Today, Sylvestre is in a better place. He signed up for the 2018 Run to Home Base presented by New Balance at Fenway Park with his wife Brisa. The charity race–a 9K run/5K walk that begins and ends inside Boston’s Fenway Park-benefits Home Base, Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital Program. Home Base heals the invisible wounds for Veterans, Service Members and their Families from across America. The run is their biggest charity event, raising funds for the clinical care and support service they provide at no cost to their patients.
Memory is the first measure of gratitude, and those who are truly grateful do not forget the service that have been rendered for their sake. Sylvestre plans on wearing his ruck sack as he completes the course. He will be running for both Weichel and Constantino at this years’ Run to Home Base and to draw awareness to the cause.
“One in three returning Veterans struggles with invisible wounds of war. Home Base can help, regardless of ability to pay, regardless of where you live, regardless of discharge status. If you are a Veteran and you are struggling—please, reach out to Home Base. We can help,” says retired Brigadier General Jack Hammond, Executive Director, Home Base.
To donate to Sylvestre’s fundraising efforts, visit runtohomebase.org/dougsylvestre.
“I will never forget Joel and Dennis, but I now cope on a much healthier level,” says Sylvestre.