• Courtney Phillips

My story of healing – Trevor Brewer

Updated: Sep 3, 2019

You may recognize the story you’re about to read, as it was in the news quite a bit a few years ago. Trevor Brewer was the hero in the terrorist attack at Frankfurt Airport on some of our nation’s troops a few years ago, when he chased down the gunman. Unfortunately, he lost some of his friends that day. Since then, he’s suffered from PTSD on a daily basis and severe survivor's guilt. Now, he finds healing by continuing to work with a therapist, sharing his story to help others, adaptive athletics, and making music. He offered to share his story on Spinning Through Life following the recent reports of suicides of survivors of mass shootings who were suffering from survivor’s guilt to show others that there is hope with proper care. Trevor is an absolutely, incredible individual, and I am lucky enough to call this man a personal friend.

Learn more about his story of healing below:

Tell me about yourself: I am a member of the Armed Forces. I serve in a law enforcement capacity. Outside of that, I enjoy adaptive sports, such as archery, air rifle, air pistol, sitting volleyball and wheelchair basketball. I am also a very musical person and enjoy playing the violin, viola and singing. I enjoy a good book and a good beer.

My story: In March of 2011, I was on my way to a deployment in Afghanistan. One of the stops on the way was at Frankfurt International Airport in Germany. I was with 15 other service members. We were to board a bus that was scheduled to take us to a local military base where we would take another flight the next day. Once we boarded the bus, a man with a gun boarded and began shooting at us. Once the shooting subsided, I looked up and this man with hate in his eyes was pointing his gun at my face. He screamed at me, “Allah Akbar,” and pulled the trigger but the weapon malfunctioned. I then chased him through the airport and assisted the German police to take him into custody. When I returned to the bus, I discovered two dead and two wounded service members.

What happened to cause your anguish?

When I returned home shortly after the incident I started to notice something wasn’t quite right with me. I couldn’t get the memory of the incident out of my head. It would replay over and over. I noticed I had become hyper vigilant and was having problems sleeping. The slightest noises would jolt me out of a dead sleep, or I would have violent nightmares. I would even go room to room in my house, searching it for someone hiding as if I was in combat.

What I struggled with the most and still do to this day was survivor’s guilt. I always wondered, why wasn’t I killed? Why did the weapon malfunction? Why were two men killed that have families back home? One man had a wife and two kids. I have a roof over my head and food on the table and those two men don’t have that any more. That’s what bothers me so much...

What was the moment that caused you to realize that you needed to seek care? After this incident, I was placed in a sort of administrative position where I was in charge of a fleet of law enforcement vehicles. I remember I would go to work and stare at my computer all day, then go home and just stare at the wall. Finally one day, I couldn’t take the thought of the incident any more, and I went up to my supervisor with tears and my eyes. I told him I needed to talk to someone. Without another word he put me in his car and took me to speak with a therapist. I then went through counseling for about a year.

What does your recovery look like? The counseling I received that year and the coping techniques I learned through that time really helped me. Time was the best healer. Talking through what I saw and experienced really helped me get back to a sense of normalcy. I will say though, I buried this incident for years not realizing that I still needed counseling. It took me opening up about my story seven years later to a large audience for a Wounded Warrior program to realize I still needed to heal!

Where are you now?

I am still serving my country, and I am also an ambassador, mentor, athlete and advocate for my military branch’s Wounded Warrior program. I recently returned to counseling to help me deal with ongoing PTSD issues. It is helping greatly.

I am also involved in adaptive sports as a way of coping. I find healing by being able to take part and connect with my team members. When I have downtime, I look to playing music and reading. It’s what works for me to keep my mind calm. For others, it could be something else, but finding what works for you is key.

One piece of advice you would give someone in a situation like yours trying to decide whether or not to seek care:

There are many reasons people choose to not seek care when they are suffering. The reasons I have seen the most are being seen as weak and the fear of counseling affecting someone’s career. These are understandable concerns, but I’ve found they are, quite frankly, just not true.

Seeking care is proof that you are of sound mind to recognize you need outside help. I am evidence of someone that has sought professional medical help, and it has never once affected my career. If anything, it has strengthened my career and my soul. You only get one life, live the best one you can because in an instant it can be stolen from you. I live every day as if it’s my last.

Mental Health Resources If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health issues, don’t suffer in silence! There are free and affordable resources to help you get through these times. Here are just few options for you below:

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255): Trained crisis workers are available to talk 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Your confidential, toll-free call goes to the nearest crisis center in the Lifeline national network. 

  • National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) offers peer-to-peer support groups in most locations. This in-person group experience provides the opportunity for mutual support and positive impact. You can experience compassion and reinforcement from people who relate to your experiences. 

  • Some federal agencies offer resources for identifying practitioners and assistance in finding low cost health services. These include:

  • Health Resources and Services Administration works to improve access to health care. The website has information on finding affordable healthcare, including health centers that offer care on a sliding fee scale.

  • Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has information on its website about benefits and eligibility for its programs and how to enroll.

  • The National Library of Medicine’s MedlinePlus website also has lists of directories and organizations that can help in identifying a health practitioner.

  • Mental Health and Addiction Insurance Help from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers resources to help answer questions about insurance coverage for mental health care.

  • Service members and Veterans have unique needs. https://www.mentalhealth.gov/get-help/veterans provides for their specific needs.

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