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Profiles of Veterans: James Sledge, U.S. Army

E.B. Furgurson III
"I remember how I was but I can't ever be that person again"

Editor's note: Several veterans spoke to The Capital in uncommon detail about their experiences for our Veterans Day story about the Annapolis Vet Center. This is one of a handful of stories letting them tell us more.

James Sledge, 37, originally from Dayton, Ohio now lives at Fort Meade.

He deployed to Kosovo in 1999. His primary job was administrative, "accountability" they call it.

"I processed people in and out of the country. If someone was hurt or died, I did the reports and notified families."

His unit was among the first to hit the ground after the long air campaign. "We were the first in Camp Bonsteel, we were putting up the tents."

But he also was assigned to go on patrols as part of the NATO peacekeeping force.

"We saw everything. All those of bodies local nationals. We saw some of the mass graves when we first got in country," he recalled.

One day sticks in his mind. "We were looking for a weapons cache when snipers hit us. I realized we were being shot at. Pop, pop, pop. Running down alleys looking for the location and some guy got hit in the head. A local, they had just left him there, as a message, I don't know. They just left him in the road, naked."

After his deployment he noticed changes in his behavior and outlook."I had a failed marriage, anger issues, drinking too much, stuff like that. But in 1999 PTSD was not a big deal." But he kept busy. Stayed in the Army until 2001, then joined the Air Force Reserve, until last year.

But he had already started coming to the Vet Center, walking in the door in 2012.

Group sessions have been helpful, for a reason common to most participants, he said.

"It was OK, I am not the only person dealing with all this. There are people from different conflicts, different time periods, but everything we go through is the same."

Sledge feels supported.

"My family has seen a big change… but they look at you like you were, not how you are now."

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