‘I still felt empty’: War hero talks about his fight in Iraq and at home

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Tommy Rieman said he always knew he would join the military, but he didn’t know how far it would take him.

In 2003, he and seven other soldiers were dropped off behind enemy lines in Iraq.

“We felt like this was our response to 9/11. This was the response to defend our country, defend our freedom. This is what we fantasized about our entire life,” Rieman said.

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He spent months criss-crossing the country on fierce missions until Dec. 3, when his life changed forever.

He said he was in a convoy of Humvees when rocket-propelled grenades exploded around him.

“It’s a day I’ll never forget,” he said.

Rieman was seriously injured in the attack, but he kept fighting until the battle was over.

He came home a national hero.

President George W. Bush spoke about Rieman in his 2007 State of the Union Address.

“He was shot in the chest and arm and received shrapnel wounds to his legs, yet he refused medical attention and stayed in the fight. He helped to repel a second attack, firing grenades at the enemy’s position,” Bush said.

Rieman said it was a high point in his life, but he told Channel 9′s John Paul that after things settled down, he hit rock bottom.

“I came off a really high peak, thinking this was the most amazing thing,” he said. “There was a ton of media around it, but at the end of the day, I still felt empty.”

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Rieman later learned he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

What followed were two suicide attempts and a lot of refused offers of help from other who cared about him.

He said as his journey with PTSD continued, he learned there is help and hope if you’re open to it.

Hear more of Tommy Rieman’s powerful story in the extended audio clip below.

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