USAA Employee and insurance professional, Ricky C., emphasizes that empathy and just being there for others can make a huge difference.
It wasn’t long after USAA employee, Ricky C. came home from his deployment in Afghanistan that his wife told him he had changed.
“I met things with anger,” explains Ricky, insurance professional, sales and service. “I was always telling myself ‘I can’t do this,’ and I’d just shut down.”
Ricky enlisted in the Army as an infantryman in October 2011. Just a few months after the birth of his second child, he deployed to Afghanistan for eight months.
“I was part of the 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, known as the Raiders, in a scout sniper section” says Ricky.
“There was a lot of mistrust among the locals, and they tended to flock to the Taliban instead of us. They just didn’t like us. It made it an interesting time.”
When Ricky came home, his family was living in a new apartment outside of Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington.
“I struggled,” says Ricky. Ricky says he felt the change within himself. His formerly sunny disposition had been replaced with a darker outlook. He recognized the mental shift as a sign of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.
Like many members of the military, he had to face a perceived stigma associated with asking for help.
“There is this misconception in the military that if you seek help for PTSD, people will think you look weak, or leaders will make fun of you,” he explains. “However, I was met with the opposite. The day my wife told me that I had changed, I went back to work and told my squad leader that I needed help and didn’t know what to do. He asked everyone to leave the office, closed the door and asked me what was going on.”
Ricky says he received nothing but support from leadership and was quickly provided resources for counseling. The experience led him to become an advocate for others who were considering seeking help.
In March 2019, Ricky says he left active duty to spend more time with his family – which now includes four children – and joined the Army Reserve as an IT specialist.
During the two weeks after leaving active duty, Ricky says he spent his days in his living room applying for jobs.
After sending applications to more than 30 different companies, he got one call back – from USAA.
“I was hired in USAA's Property & Casualty team and became a licensed agent,” says Ricky. “A year and a half later, I had the opportunity to join the overnight team serving our members in Guam, Japan and South Korea.”
Ricky also continues to serve as a shoulder to lean on for his friends who are struggling.
“Just a couple of weeks ago, I took a night off work to be there for a friend who called and was going through a hard time,” he says. “I’ve lost more friends here in the states to suicide than I did overseas in combat. PTSD is a scary problem. Just having someone to talk to can be the best medicine.”
“People in the military are going through huge changes on a daily basis, whether it’s a deployment, move or even transitioning out of the service,” explains Ricky. “USAA is more than a place for banking and insurance products – we are in a unique position to be there to listen. When you are talking to a member, ask them how they are and really listen.”