Army combat veteran uses personal experience to save the lives of others

From personal experience, Army combat veteran Dan Jarvis founded 22ZERO to save the lives of other veterans, active-duty servicemembers, first responders and their families. On this week’s episode of The American Legion Tango Alpha Lima podcast, Jarvis shares how through Trauma Resiliency Protocol and Emotions Management Process he’s helping others heal.

The goal for 22ZERO is to “set people free from trauma, anxiety, depression, whatever it is that’s bothering them and getting them back on the path that they’re actually meant to be on,” said Jarvis, a Bronze Star Medal and Purple Heart recipient from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The mental health journey for Jarvis started 10 years ago when he found himself alone in his room, staring at his rifle. “I was in a very, very dark place. I was done at that point,” he said. That dark place was from a deployment to Afghanistan as an infantry squad leader where a servicemember was killed by a roadside bomb, eight servicemembers received a Purple Heart including himself, and his mom passed away from a heart attack before he could return home to say goodbye.  

“As a squad leader, who do you go to for help?” Jarvis said. “How do you ask for help being in a position of leadership. One, you don’t want your commanders to know that you’re struggling because you don’t want to be moved into the barracks, your weapons taken away, your men lose faith in you as a leader. So suicide became a better option for me.” But watching his fellow soldiers prepare for the service of a young Army soldier who died by suicide saved Jarvis from taking his own life.

Jarvis was medically retired from the Army in 2014. Then, following a career in law enforcement, everything came back for Jarvis – “the nightmares, night terrors, night sweats, the desire to self-medicate.” That’s when he went through Trauma Resiliency Protocol treatment – a practice that disconnects your emotions from the traumatic memory – and is now helping save others through the same treatment.

He also uses the Emotions Management Process to help release negative emotions like anger, anxiety and survivor guilt. Both treatments don't have the individual talk about their trauma or experience so they're not re-living the memory.

“When you see people who were actively suicidal go through these processes and then 45 minutes to an hour later they feel the weight release, you’ll see them smiling,” said Jarvis, “and you’ll see them happy, and you don’t know how many times we’ve been told, ‘I was at the end of my rope. And if I hadn’t done this I wouldn’t be here.’

“We’ve had family trees change. Men and women who were ready to die have gone on to have children. It changed their whole paradigm, their whole world view.”

Cohost Ashley Gutermuth asked how the treatment deals with repressed or suppressed memories. Jarvis said they will “go back to their earliest memories and walk them forward and that will trigger something. Once you start going down the rabbit hole, we find it. We’ve never not been able to find it.”

Jarvis said one to three sessions of the treatment is usually needed. And 99.9% of the treatments provided through trained peer coaches are done virtually. That’s what makes 22ZERO unique is that “we are a peer support organization so when you come to us you get another veteran to work with or a first responder to work with. We’ve all walked in each other’s boots … we’ve walked the same soil, we fought in the same areas. So you have the instant rapport with the men and women who served and rapport is the most important part of the process.”

Check out this week’s episode, which is among more than 170 Tango Alpha Lima podcasts available in both audio and video formats here. You can also download episodes on iTunes, Google Play or other major podcast-hosting sites. The video version is available at the Legion’s YouTube channel.