Sometimes war wounds run too deep to see.
Travis vonSeggern — a farm kid from Fremont, Neb. — is living proof. He spent four years serving in the United States Army, and what he brought back home were lessons about the world that will remain with him for life.
“We have a love of life here (in America),’” vonSeggern began. “If you were broken down on the road, I would stop to help you. Over there, they spend all of their lives in war. They don’t know anything but war. Death is just another thing for them.
“They don’t have a love for their life at all.”
After enlisting in 2005, vonSeggern deployed to Baghdad, Iraq from September 2006 to October 2007. It was his only tour overseas.
Growing up around farm machinery, vonSeggern pursued and achieved a military assignment as a heavy equipment operator, and it was a natural fit. But it also meant a lot of time driving big machines in war-torn Iraq.
He was bombarded with IEDs, over and over again.
“It’s bad when you have to remember how many times you got blown up,” vonSeggern said with a chuckle. “Every time, the doc was like, ‘You good?’, ‘Yeah, I’m good.’ But eventually, they noticed I was being repetitive, something was not normal. The doc said, ‘I don’t know what’s wrong with your brain, but something is wrong.’”
He didn’t want to leave Baghdad for medical treatment. He didn’t want to abandon the mission or his unit. And he didn’t want a Purple Heart.
“The Purple Heart, to me, is for someone who loses blood,” vonSeggern said resolutely. “But once you look deeper into it, all wounds are not noticeable.
“A year and a half later … I was in California, training to go back to Iraq. All of the sudden, I couldn’t walk, I had double vision — it was like I was drunk.”
He soon received an official diagnosis — multiple sclerosis. The Iraq veteran was forced to accept a medical retirement from the Army. But moving on with life after suddenly developing a neurological disease is jolting, to say the least.
“It’s a rollercoaster,” the veteran said. “I take steroids sometimes because I’ve woken up not being able to see, or puking up stomach acid, not being able to walk straight. For the most part, I’ve been pretty stable. Every case of MS is different.”
Despite the horrors he’s seen, and the battle he still wages against his own body, vonSeggern hasn’t lost his own love for life, and he found a way to reclaim purpose.
He returned to his roots, buying his own semi-trailer and getting back on the road, hauling goods across the nation, primarily for the agriculture industry — herbicides, propane, anhydrous, etc.
He still keeps a strong lifeline to his military days, too, and it’s those connections with other veterans that help a little bit, every day.
“They are my brothers,” vonSeggern said. “You can’t mimic the relationships that you have with someone you served with. There’s just a bond there … it’s unexplainable.
“The Army was a crazy piece of my life that made a lasting impression.”
Katy Moore can be reached at email@example.com.