By Senior Airman Amber Grimm
21st Space Wing Public Affairs
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — Wounds. Some are marks written across skin, but others are invisible-scars on the mind and the soul from life’s experiences. No matter where they lie, the wound can cause pain until it’s resolved.
Facing up to and overcoming personal wounds was the point Tech. Sgt. Alexander Schaub, 721st Communications Squadron NCO in charge of cyber transport operations at Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, emphasized as he shared his personal story of tragedy and trial during the Storytellers event, Nov. 3, at The Club on Peterson Air Force Base, Colo.
Schaub was wounded early in life. His father was in the military and was gone a lot, but the times he was home he was angry. His mother was addicted to prescription pills and often mentally checked out resulting in him fending for himself and taking care of his younger sister. His mother died of an overdose when he was 13 years old. When his father remarried, things got worse.
“My father remarried a woman very much like him,” said Schaub. “My sister and I endured her mental, verbal and emotional abuse.”
The years of being treated poorly, the abuse took a toll on him. He developed a mask to get through daily routines at school.
“During high school it was so hard at home that I learned to put a mask on when I was at school,” said Schaub. “At school I was a happy-go-lucky kid and always joking. I got to be the (person) I wanted to be.”
It was his mother’s final actions that got him out of the abusive home. Shortly before her death, she had enrolled Schaub in the Boy Scouts of America. Even though she never saw him in his uniform, he earned Eagle Scout for her.
“She started this and that was the driving force for me to want to finish it, to go all the way through Eagle Scout,” said Schaub.
At 18 years old, when his father was changing duty stations, Schaub asked to remain behind to complete his last year of high school. His Scout Master and his wife offered him a place to stay.
The family informally adopted Schaub. They had two sons of their own but a distinction was never made, if asked they said they had three sons.
It was the first time in a long time that he was treated as part of a family, as a son, and that changed his life, Schaub said. The experience made him realize that everything he had been through left a mark but he wasn’t ready to deal with it.
Schaub joined the military soon after graduating from high school and continued to wear his mask.
“Time went by and I found out that [the mask] wasn’t the best way to handle it because those wounds were still there,” said Schaub. “I might have emotionally disconnected myself from what happened, but it didn’t take away the fact that it still happened to me.”
It wasn’t until he had been in the military for 10 years that he saw how not dealing with the past was affecting both his life and those around him.
“I sought help because it wasn’t just me,” said Schaub. “I was impacting others, and hurting others was the last thing I wanted to do. I thought ‘Ok I really need to talk to someone right now.’”
While stationed in Korea he had the opportunity to speak and opened up to a mental health professional about his past.
“I had to process through, or at least start processing through it, with professional help,” said Schaub. “Not drunk with friends at a bar, but with someone who had special training, and it was great. Now I’m at a point where I could not be happier.”
His advice to others is to accept that everyone has wounds. It doesn’t matter how they compare to others’ experiences. If a wound is left uncared for, it can affect those around you.
“Don’t ignore your wounds,” said Schaub. “Make the choice to heal. Don’t make the choice to hurt. It’s harder to dig yourself out than to actually face them. Go seek help.”