Voices of Oswego Veterans

The After Effects of Life in the Marines

Michal Patriak

Photographer: Sarah Steinbrenner

Featuring: Michal Patriak

A Marine veteran who struggles with PTSD from the effects of the war and how he lives with it.

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About Michal Patriak

Michal Patriak is 30 years old and was born in St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York City. At the age of 17, with his parent’s consent, he joined the Marine Corps straight out of high school. His ranking in the Marines was Corporal. Once Michal came back home from the Marines, the difficult experiences had affected him emotionally. Even though he did have a tough time bouncing back from the Marines, Michal still shows a big heart for his family and would do anything to support and protect them.


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Gianna: Hello, my name is Gianna Spero

DJ: and my name is DJ Field,

Gianna: and we would like to welcome our listeners to the Voices of Oswego Veterans podcast and our episode “The After Effects of Life in the Marines.” Thank you for your time listening and we hope you will enjoy the rest of the episode!

DJ: Instead of focusing on active duty, we are going to talk about the after-effects of war that veterans still deal with like drug use and PTSD. Simply put, these men and women lay their lives on the line for our beautiful freedom and do not deserve the stereotyping that comes along with being a veteran.

Gianna: Our guest today is Michal Patriak. He joined the Marine Corps at the age of 17 with his parents’ consent, straight out of high school. His experiences in the Marines have affected him once he came back home. Even though he did have a tough time recovering from the Marines, Michal still shows a big heart for his family and would do anything to support and protect them.

DJ: Gianna and I originally went about this interview with tender steps; we did not want to get “too personal” with Michal and possibly bring up traumatic memories. To our pleasant surprise, Michal was very open with us from the beginning and let us know almost immediately he deals with PTSD. We would now like to welcome our guest Michal and ask him a few questions about his experiences:

Gianna: Michal, why did you decide to join?

Michal: 9/11 got me thinking about it, and then after they declared war in 2003 I thought about it more and then when I was a senior in high school I just kinda was looking at going to UB for engineering or the Marine Corps and then just decided the Marine Corps.

DJ: How did the military affect your life once you were deployed?

Michal: Kinda opened up my eyes to things afterwards. I developed depression, became bipolar when I got back, had trouble sleeping. I don’t like to dream and I actively avoid like dreaming, I mean I’m on the meds from VA, but I don’t like to dream cause all my dreams are violent and I don’t wake up very happy from them. I used to kinda curl up in a ball in the corner of the room and I wouldn’t recognize where I was at. It’s been years now but when I first got back it was pretty bad so.

Gianna: How’d you stay in touch with your family?

Michal: In Iraq, we, the bigger bases we would just jump on the internet, and they had call centers and stuff like that but where I was at most of the time I was on a COP which was a combat outpost and we didn’t have anything there. There was no call centers or internet, so we had to use satellite phones, but the crappy thing about the satellite phones is that you don’t always have a signal so we’d kinda be sitting there walking in circles with the satellite phone just trying to get a signal with it. It sucked because with the time difference it’s on the other side of the world, so when you’re calling back home, you don’t wanna wake up everyone at night, so you’d have to reserve the phone for like 1 o’clock in the morning and then go wake yourself up if you wanna call your family back home so you could talk to them when it’s during the day for them.

DJ: Was it tough to support your family emotionally since you weren’t able to contact them frequently when you were deployed?

Michal: They, I mean I know my wife freaked out a lot she definitely did, but they had websites they made for our units so they kinda, a lot of the time they knew what was going on before I did, so which was, yeah it was kinda weird. But as far as emotionally, I’m still not good at that till this day. If anything I’d say I’d withdraw myself more with being in school. So every, even since the semester started, I talk to my family very little.

Gianna: Was there anything you did to help you through your tough times?

Michal: School was a big one other than drinking, back then, but drinking was a destructive behavior. As far a constructive behavior, I’d say school. Because I had my daughter, who was a baby at the time, she was born in 2009, I got back from Iraq in 2008 and we both always had support in our family and when I saw my daughter as an infant after I got back from Iraq I never imagined her growing up without parents that were together so in my mind it was like I need to do something that’s better than just drinking to deal with this so I went back to school and at first I went to online school at Columbia College and that was through Hancock Field and Syracuse. And then I went to ITT Tech and then I ended up here but that’s like I said as far as a constructive type of thing that’s kind of how I dealt with it and I think I’ll be dealing with that for the rest of my life because when I let myself think about stuff, it doesn’t stop it’s like a black hole ya know it just keeps going.

Gianna: What is your strategy to get work done outside of class?

Michal: It depends honestly cause like I said I’m kind of - I mean I am bi-polar so there are times when I don’t do anything and I just kinda stress about if I even can do the work. I won’t do anything all day, but then there are days where I wake up at 6 in the morning and jump right on my computer and just start working all the way up until like 3 in the morning. And there are times where I just, I won’t sleep and I’ll just keep working, and that’s the bi-polar and that’s when I get manic and I have this energy that just keeps going and going and going. Usually when I’m just working in a normal kind of pace to get work done, I will, I have to have my office at home like perfectly clean, I mean the carpets got to be vacuumed and everything has to be in order, and I have to have music on and it can’t have any vocals, it has to be instrumental music and I just start working I guess. I can’t hear anything in the rest of the house, my office is downstairs and everyone else is upstairs so I don’t really hear too much from them.

Gianna: Why did you choose to come back to school after the military?

Michal: I mean that was always part of the plan, when I was looking at the military, I mean even when you join and you’re just talking to a recruiter they ask you why you want to join and you have to come up with a bunch of reasons and stuff, and we even talked about the GI bill back then because I knew I couldn’t afford to go to college. I mean my sister, she went to OCC before she went to nursing school and my grandfather paid for that, like my parents weren’t gonna pay for me to go to college, my brother started here this year he’s a freshman, and you know we have a 13 year difference so my parents are now paying for that but they wouldn’t have, you know, I mean I was on my own with this so I went into the military and that was a big part of getting money for school so the fact that I can still go to school and not have to worry about tuition right now it’s so surreal that I don’t want that to stop.

Michal: I have my 2 daughters, one is 7 and one’s a year old, I mean it is pretty - at first it was a little weird I mean I go to school and then 10 minutes later the bus picks up my 7-year-old for school. But it’s pretty cool because she sees that even when you’re older you can still go to school and I still tell her because you know she asks me, “We have all this homework to do” and you know she sees me up late at night still doing homework on the weekends still doing homework and studying and I try to tell her yeah when you get older in college that’s the fun part because you get to study whatever you want then. Ya know, that’s a big part of why I’m still in school, it’s because of them.

Gianna: Serving this country could affect men and women in various ways, and the struggles Marines face stay with them long after they’ve returned home. Michal is an amazing role model for those considering the Marine Corps since he is actively trying to get better.

DJ: Thank you for listening to our episode! I’m DJ Field with Gianna Spero. Tune into other episodes in the Voices of Oswego Veterans podcast to hear more stories!