Brad Lam completed the Trauma Resiliency Program at This Able Veteran in the fall of 2022. At the end of the program, he was paired with his service dog Charity. Lam says applying for the Trauma Resiliency Program was one of the best decisions he has ever made other than marrying his wife Brooke, whom he has been together with for 15 years. Brad, Brooke, and Charity live in Carbondale, Illinois.
“I enlisted when I was 17 years old, and my initial goal was to be a career soldier. I served in the U.S. Army for four years as a heavy equipment repairer. I was with the 642nd Engineer Battalion in Ft. Devens, Massachusetts, and then with the 326th Engineer Battalion in Ft. Campbell, Kentucky. While there, I attended Air Assault School,” said Lam.
Within two and a half years Lam was promoted to Sergeant . In 1987, he was deployed to Korea for a year and served with the 44th Engineer Battalion. Lam decided to ETS from active duty after hearing from his Chief Warrant Officer that the Army was going to downsize. Lam continued to serve with the Illinois National Guard for two years. The Army did start downsizing after the Cold War, which affected a lot of soldiers whom Lam served with.
“I made the right choice,” he said.
After Lam left active duty, he was hired as a mechanic for the City of Carbondale. During this time, he also pursued a childhood dream of becoming a firefighter.
“It took six years before a firefighter position was available and in 1996, I was hired as firefighter. It was the job I wanted it to be, but later in my career, my body started breaking down, both mentally and physically. I experienced trauma as a child as well as in the military, and this continued in the fire service where there were also numerous traumatic incidents that started taking a toll on me. I came from the old school of “suck it up” and did not talk about things. However, during my last three years of fire service, I started having nightmares and more suicidal ideations. My coping mechanisms were to isolate and self-medicate,” said Lam.
In May of 2021, Lam went to a rehab center where the physician diagnosed him with complex PTSD, among other things. The physician said he was a perfect candidate for a service dog, which resonated with Lam as he has loved dogs throughout his life.
“Brooke and I had already been a strong supporter of This Able Veteran by donating to them throughout the years, so when the doctor told me I could benefit from having a service dog, I immediately thought of This Able Veteran,” said Lam.
Lam shares that he was apprehensive after he was chosen for the class of 2022 because he felt he was not worthy as other veterans who were suffering.
“Even though I did not feel worthy, I was ecstatic about being chosen. After going through the Trauma Resiliency Program, I can say it topped everything I learned during rehab. They taught me to live in the moment and learn skills to put my past behind me. I could not speak more highly of This Able Veteran, and I encourage other veterans to apply for the program,” he said.
For the 2023 Trauma Resiliency Program, Lam served as the class mentor.
“It was an honor to have been asked.”
Lam wants to bring more service-oriented projects into his life. Lam retired from the City of Carbondale after 32 years. For 25 of those years, he served as a firefighter where he obtained the rank of Captain. Lam is currently in his fifth term as the Carbondale Township Highway Commissioner.
When he is not doing service work, Lam and Charity enjoy walking, hiking and entering 5ks and 10ks. Brad and Brooke have a blended family of three adult children and three grandchildren.
If you would like to learn more about This Able Veteran and its mission, please visit thisableveteran.org. To learn how you can support This Able Veteran, visit https://thisableveteran.org/how-you-can-help/donate-now/. If you are a veteran or know a veteran who could benefit from This Able Veteran’s services, please contact [email protected].
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