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Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Honored With 'Spirit Award' for Work with Vets Struggling with PTSD


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It's a startling statistic: An average of 20 veterans commit suicide every day, according to the latest data from the US Department of Veterans Affairs. 

And doctors say there's strong evidence that those suicides often stem from the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. 

Air Force Lt. Col. Damon Friedman knows all too well the effects of PTSD. He enlisted in the Marines, then the Air Force and served multiple tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Deployment after deployment eventually took its toll. "I hadn't been able to sleep for years. We're talking 1-2 hours a night for six months straight at a time," recalled Lt. Col. Friedman.

It also took a toll on his mental health and his marriage. 

So Friedman started Shields of Faith Missions, a non-profit organization to help veterans and families struggling with PTSD. 

SOF Missions began in 2011 with the goal of transforming the world. 

It's a non-profit made up of veterans, health care professionals, contractors, group leaders, missionaries, volunteers and everyday people, all passionate about doing what they can to make a positive difference.

The organization's aim is to support warriors who struggle with the visible and invisible scars of war and provide them with the tools to overcome the negative effects of combat.

Lt. Col. Friedman also produced a film to create awareness of the PTSD crisis among veterans, called "Surrender Only to One," meaning God. 

For Lt. Col. Friedman's tireless work, he was awarded the US Air Force's Spirit of Hope Award for 2018.

The award "epitomizes the values of the late Bob Hope: duty, honor, courage, loyalty, commitment, integrity and selfless dedication; and significantly enhances the quality of life of Service members and their families serving around the world."

 A Spirit of Hope Award is given to a member of each branch of the service, and a more general award presented by the office of the Secretary of Defense goes to individuals such as country music artist Toby Keith and actor Gary Sinise.

Lt. Col. Friedman, who serves in special operations, has received three Bronze Stars, including one with valor, and served four tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

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