(Lander, Wyo.) – Infantryman Lance Williams grew up in Lander with a big family. After graduating high school, he married his first wife and had four kids. After 14 years of marriage they separated, and Lance felt like he was at a crossroads in his life. He knew he always wanted to join the military, so at the late military-age of 37, he joined the army.
Lance was first deployed in September 2007. He spent 10 months in Tarmiyah, Iraq, just north of Bagdad. This first deployment was tough, and it really shook him up. Within the first week, he went through his first fire fight, and witnessed his good buddy get killed by an IED.
His second deployment was better, as he was in an area with minimal confrontation, and much of the time was spent training Iraqi Soldiers. He laughed and said it was sort of funny because, “the Iraqis just didn’t know how to train like the US Army.”
Prior to his first two deployments, he re-married and had a baby girl and baby boy. Lance describes the separation as being one of the toughest parts. “You just got used to being away for a long period of time,” Lance said. The camaraderie amongst the soldiers, feeling that you were part of something bigger than yourself and knowing there was a purpose for the work helped him get through the difficulties of war and being away from his family.
After one final deployment, Lance retired from the Army, having served for 7 years, 7 months, and 11 days between 2007-2014. But the memories and pain were still very present in his life.
Squad Lance was in during his 2008 deployment in Iraq.
After returning home, life was extremely difficult for him and his family. He had nightmares, blew up over simple things, yelled a lot, hated crowds and had unreasonable expectations for his family. His marriage was near its breaking point, until one day his wife Shawna told him: “Sometimes you get so mad and I just don’t know how to help you.”
It was in this moment that Lance knew he needed help. He went directly to the VA and picked up a pamphlet about the Soldier’s House. He thought on it for a bit, and after getting “the guts to call” he met with Charlie Wilson, co-founder of the Soldier’s House.
Lance began meeting with Charlie every week, and with time, he got comfortable with him and began to trust him. Lance describes his work with Charlie:
“He helped me know it was ok to grieve and it was ok to be angry. He helped me learn how to be calm and he helped me with my marriage. I don’t have any more nightmares and I’ve been slowly working through my issues. I’m amazed,” explained Lance.
Lance and his wife Shawna
Shawna has also witnessed a transformation in her husband. In the beginning, she attended a few sessions alongside Lance, and now continues to attend various events, like movie night, with Lance. She expressed her gratitude for the program and says, “It’s helped me be able to understand Lance, and it’s like I have my husband back.”
Lance will continue to see Charlie on a regular basis, and Shawna will continue to attend Soldier’s House events with him. Lance is sharing his story in hopes of shedding light on PTSD and encouraging other veterans and families to seek help if they need it. He adds, “A lot of veterans don’t think they have an issue, but it can’t hurt to at least talk to someone.”
Lance is now enrolled at CWC and plans to pursue a degree in Psychology. “I want to help soldier’s and help them become part of the conversation,” Lance said.
The Soldier’s House of Fremont County seeks to support ALL Wyoming Veterans. It’s located at 1201 East Jackson in Riverton.
Below is a list of the services currently available at the Soldier’s House:
-Other Group Gatherings
Charlie would be happy to come speak to any interested group about the house and community support for veterans. Interested veterans and community members can contact Charlie and Jennifer Wilson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 307-856-1244. Also you can check them out and stay up-to-date with them on facebook.