“That’s been the healing… the ability to come back to myself and experience my basic goodness and then serve others from that point that I’m basically good, even though I’ve done bad things. It allowed me to reconcile the fact I killed people in combat.” ~David Coney
I met David last February working on the play “The “Crucible” at Boise Little Theatre. For the first few weeks he was just another face to me. Then we talked more about our lives to each other one day, and he opened my eyes to his story.
When I looked at David, there was a plethora of ideas and experiences in him that I had looked past. Little did I know he had experienced childhood PTSD, combat PTSD, and an awakening to finding his purpose.
Growing up in a dysfunctional household with a mentally ill mother and an alcoholic father came down hard on David as a kid. He constantly was under a huge amount of stress trying to keep the peace between his parents. After high school he went into the military, because his father hadn’t taught him to do any differently and he was promised money for college.
“I had basically gone from the war of my childhood between my parents to the war in the middle east between nations,” he explained. When he joined the army he started to turn towards alcohol as a coping mechanism. One night in Germany while he was in the military, he fell out of a third story window.
Due to his injuries, he stayed at a hospital for a while, and then the army moved him to Kuwait (The Desert Storm of 1991). He worked as an artillery mechanic and went through severe trauma in the war. “That image of burned out tanks and burned out vehicles, dead bodies hanging out of turrets and cupolas (the driver’s hatch) and the gunners hatch up top… you can take that image and build a story off of that,” he recalls.
When he returned from the army in 2001, he lived at his mom’s house in Mountain Home, which he described as “a wreck.” David knew he needed to make a change. From then on “things changed pretty quickly.” He started meditation and changed his life around.
One of the many things he started doing to make a 180 on his life, was to write stories. For a Tall Tales contest, he wrote a fictional speech about how his parents fed him with a slingshot. Making fun of the hurt from the past was a way he learned to cope with his childhood PTSD.
One of the biggest awakening moments for David was when he wrote a speech for Toastmasters (a speech group) about his mom’s sister, Aunt Mary, who had died in hospice. Saying goodbye to her for the last time inspired him to write a moving piece, except this time, he moved towards the performance route more so than a speech format. After he finished performing, many people shared with him that for the first time in many years of Toastmaster meetings, people had cried at a performance. One person even told him that this piece of art had helped them cope with losing someone close to them. David was on the path to healing.
At this point the gravity of what he had done in the war began to weigh on him heavily. While he hadn’t directly killed anyone, he had repaired some of the weapons used to kill. He reflected more on what had happened in the war, “While I can’t erase the memory of what I’ve done, if I had to do it all over again, I would’ve been a medic.”
And that is exactly what he has decided to do. He took the training from the military that would help him, and left the toxic experiences. As he says, “Keep the best, leave the rest.”
Right now David is working as a CNA (certified nursing assistant), and previously went to community college here for the certification. He has been in that position for about a year. He’s now on the road to becoming an EMT (emergency medical technician) and healing others.
David’s had a rough journey, but has a message to impart on the world: “I’m the ruling class of America, yet I was walking around totally destroyed inside, and yet… unless you engage with someone and find out their story, you just go by what’s on the surface, you’ll never find out the pain and suffering they’re experiencing, and by the time it shows up on the surface, it may be way too late.”
This is what David is trying to change in the world. If you don’t listen to others and find out what’s in their heart and head, you’ll have no idea how to help the world. Our ignorance of each other’s pain is expressed beautifully by David, “There is no enemy, ignorance of our true nature is our enemy.”
Throughout the many trials of his life, he has now discovered his purpose which is to “live and die with a trained mind and help others do the same.” I have no doubt that David will help countless people and continue to pass on his message of sharing our stories to the world.