A patriot for all times
By Sgt. Annette B. Andrews
28th Public Affairs Detachment
LOGISTICS SUPPORT AREA ANACONDA, Balad, Iraq — In today's military experience counts for a lot, so when a retired National Guardsman received a mailing from the U.S. military asking him whether he considered himself fit for duty he thought long and hard on it.
"I kept that postcard in my pocket until it was ragged," said 68-year-old Col. John C. Wicks, a psychiatrist at the 785th Combat Stress Control Medical Company on LSA Anaconda. "I thought about it and considered myself fit to serve … I felt I had something [important] to contribute."
With his background and knowledge of the human psyche, Wicks is quite familiar with the stressors a combat Soldier encounters.
"I knew we had all these troops here and I thought I might be able to help take care of them," said the Desert Storm veteran, who was quick to point out, "I am here of my own choosing. I'm not doing it for the money."
Wicks was in practice as a psychiatrist with a state hospital that served 18 counties in North Alabama at the time he was called to duty. There his patients were mostly civilly committed.
A Marine at 18, he pursued his degree on the G.I. Bill after serving a two-year, active-duty enlistment. Wicks has been a licensed psychiatrist since 1975 and spent most of his time practicing in Alabama when he wasn't serving his country.
Much of his experience, serving as a Marine and then joining the Alabama National Guard at 40, was with service members suffering from combat stress: a traumatic psychoneurotic reaction (as of the anxiety type) or an acute psychotic reaction occurring during wartime combat or under conditions causing stress similar to that of combat - also known as fatigue syndrome.
Another stressor Wicks discusses with his clients concerns home front issues: those are anxieties that include monetary responsibilities to families that are left at the Soldier's duty station, the spouse's ability to cope with the service member's deployment, a child or children's welfare, and myriad other family related issues.
The third most related form of stress Wicks has seen on deployment comes from chain of command issues.
"Not everyone gets along with everyone else," he said. "Personality conflicts can cause a lot of stress."
One of the toughest parts of this mission Wicks said was not his age but deploying without a familiar unit.
"I'm a little more apprehensive this time because I was plucked out on my own and not with a unit of people I know," he explained. "Being around people you know does makes a difference."
In talking to this Soldier, Wicks makes it plain that he has been around the block a time or two and offers others the benefit of his long experience in service to his country.
Editors Note: Sgt. Andrews is a member of the 28th Public Affairs Detachment from Fort Lewis, Wash. She is currently deployed to Iraq in support of the 13th Corps Support Command at LSA Anaconda and is the editor of the Anaconda Times newspaper.
(LOGISTICS SUPPORT AREA ANACONDA, Balad, Iraq) - Col. John C. Wicks, a psychiatrist and retired Alabama National Guardsman, sits on the patio at the 785th Combat Stress Control Medical Company shortly after the All-Clear alarm on LSA Anaconda, Iraq Aug 9. (U.S. Army photo by SGT Annette B. Andrews)