Combat Veteran Fights PTSD Through Hip-Hop : Shots - Health News A new hip-hop album by a veteran of the war in Afghanistan drops Wednesday. His target audience: fellow vets suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
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'Combat Medicine:' Afghanistan Vet Seeks To Help Others Through Hip-Hop

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'Combat Medicine:' Afghanistan Vet Seeks To Help Others Through Hip-Hop

'Combat Medicine:' Afghanistan Vet Seeks To Help Others Through Hip-Hop

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

There isn't one sure way to help combat veterans who have PTSD, depression or who abuse alcohol or drugs. But we're going to hear about a new hip-hop album released today that could help. It's written and performed by a former Navy corpsman - that's someone the Marines would call a medic - who served in Afghanistan. NPR's Elizabeth Blair reports.

ELIZABETH BLAIR, BYLINE: Doc Todd is direct.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "NOT ALONE")

DOC TODD: (Rapping) Take those bottles out, Dog, and pour them in the sink. Take the needles out of your arm and the gun away from your forehead. It's time, Man. You've been through enough pain. Stand up.

BLAIR: He's tough in the way that only one veteran can be to another.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "NOT ALONE")

TODD: (Rapping) It's time to stand back up. All my veterans, Man - Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, get up. You know...

BLAIR: The song "Not Alone" is from the album "Combat Medicine."

TODD: "Not Alone" is about empowerment. "Not Alone" is about taking charge of your life, taking charge of your transition.

BLAIR: In his own transition, Doc Todd went through many of the same issues lots of veterans face - shame, isolation, self-abuse. For Todd, it began in 2009 after he was in a large and dangerous battle in Afghanistan. Many of his friends were seriously wounded. His roommate was killed. He was medevacked to Germany when he fell seriously ill with pneumonia.

TODD: That tore me up so bad because I felt like I was alienated from the guys that I served with. I felt like there was an asterisk next to my deployment. I felt like it would have been better if I would've got shot because that would have been more heroic.

BLAIR: Todd says it took him several years before he got help for his PTSD. He was depressed and started drinking. Eventually he realized what he needed to be doing was helping other veterans. With savings from his job as a money manager and help from his wife, he was able to quit his job. He'd been making music since he was a teenager. Now he had plenty of material for his lyrics.

TODD: The struggle is real - found a feast and lost a soul. Eventually my drinking - it got out of control. There in darkness, I roamed, struggling to find home. See; suddenly death didn't feel so alone.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "NOT ALONE")

TODD: (Rapping) Twenty-two a day, destination unknown - it could've been avoided if you picked up the phone. But now you're gone, so I guess all we'd get is the tone - nothing but blowing weeds overgrown, pushing up stones. I've triumphed over enemies, co-created many me's (ph).

BLAIR: To record "Combat Medicine," he worked with the hip-hop producer Mook. The singer Bingx, who also served in the military, is a guest artist.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "NOT ALONE")

BINGX: (Singing) Boy, I try so hard to have faith.

TODD: Amen.

BINGX: (Singing) I bow my head, and I pray.

TODD: Keep praying.

BINGX: Lord, please lend me the strength to carry on and keep standing.

TODD: Stand up.

BLAIR: In the video to the song "Not Alone," a young veteran gets out of bed and reaches for the bottle. Former Marine Zach Ludwig served with Doc Todd in Afghanistan.

ZACH LUDWIG: The video was very accurate. I mean it was like - it's like, that's not the movies.

BLAIR: Ludwig is working through his own PTSD. Doc Todd, he says, captures exactly what he's going through in his lyrics.

LUDWIG: He knows what to say and how to say it. And because he's experienced it, he has the ethos to back it up. I mean what the man speaks is just blunt-force truth.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "NOT ALONE")

TODD: (Rapping) Without my Georgia girls, yeah, I'd probably be dead because I'd be taking every med that the VA said - gave every shred, every last thread of my identity. Conquer my fragility. Eliminate the enemy.

BLAIR: Blunt-force truth can do more to help veterans than, in Todd's words, coddling them.

TODD: You know, we have to be responsible for empowering our own lives. And it doesn't really help when the overwhelming narrative is victimization and brokenness.

BLAIR: Doc Todd says his mission with the album "Combat Medicine" is to show veterans they're not alone and to urge them to get help. Elizabeth Blair, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "NOT ALONE")

BINGX: (Singing) I hurt each time I wait. But with you I'm not alone.

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