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Veteran tells of near-death experience in new book
The Daily Item ^ | January 8, 2018 | Rick Dandes Rick Dandes

Posted on 01/29/2018 9:48:12 PM PST by beaversmom

When the final history of America’s war on terror and the combat role in the Middle East is told, it will be the individual stories of veterans like Sunbury’s Joshua Mantz, a 2001 Shikellamy High School graduate, that resonate long after our soldiers have come home.

Few who knew Mantz in high school would be surprised that after surviving a sniper’s bullet in Baghdad, and following his recovery, 10 years of insidious trauma including thoughts of suicide, he would now be transformed by his experiences into a nationally known speaker, dedicating his life to helping others understand PTSD through lectures, podcasts, and a book released one week ago, “The Beauty of a Darker Soul — Overcoming Trauma through the Power of Human Connection.”

The point Mantz wants to make in the book is “trauma does not discriminate, and it was just as traumatic for my family and the people surrounding me. It doesn’t just affect one person. Trauma is not always what it seems,” he said.

Mantz’s story is more than a war story. But if that was all there was, it would still be compelling. A West Point graduate, Mantz was a freshman when 9/11 happened. He was shot during his first tour as a Second Lieutenant and was clinically dead (flatlined) for 15 minutes, but the combat medical team refused to give up on him. He recovered and returned to Iraq to finish out his tour, with his men.

At the time of his shooting, his unit was handing out clothing and school supplies for Iraqi children. His platoon sergeant was killed by the same bullet that struck Mantz. The school supplies and clothing were collected and donated locally by churches and individuals in this area. The items were shipped to Mantz by his parents, Degg and Michele Stark, of Sunbury, in the months leading up to his injury.

Being “killed” and then having a second life is enough grist for a book, “and I was contacted by a lot of well-known publishers,” recalled Mantz on Thursday. “Obviously I have this pretty significant near-death experience. Because of the gravity of that experience, people became very interested in me. It’s an emotionally engaging and inspirational story. But I never wanted to write a book just about that experience.”

Mantz wanted to be able to leverage what he went through, the moments of guilt, the ensuing trauma, to make a positive difference in the lives of others. And if all he did was write a war story, it wouldn’t have served that purpose.

Within two years after that injury Mantz was on the national speaking circuit, giving hundreds of talks, all with the intent of helping people recover from emotionally traumatic experiences.

When he finally sat down to write the book, he said, “it ended up being the most transformational experience that I’ve ever been through.”

It took three years to complete. “I threw the manuscript in the trash over and over again, maybe 20 times,” he said. “I had to deeply process everything that happened in my life and the near-death experience was the least of it. I had to sit with those demons so that I could understand them myself. But I needed to explain them in a way that other people could go on this journey with me and apply it to their own lives.”

He got to this point in no small part through the strength of his parents, Degg and Michele Stark, of Sunbury.

“He was always a good student, very focused and eager to help other people, no matter who they were,” recalled his mother, Michele Stark, on Thursday.

Mantz called his mom the strongest woman he knows.

“She has worked through this with me,” he said. “Make no mistake about it, the last 10 years were very dangerous. Even though I was a national advocate for behavioral health care …giving speeches at conferences, I still failed to recognize the symptoms within myself. It wasn’t until I hit the first suicidal spiral that I really started to uncover the truth behind trauma.”

“I’m a mom,” said Michele Stark, on Thursday. “I knew something was wrong. He was busy, giving speeches. But he was distant. And then when he had his first suicidal spiral, I have told people that having Josh home and going through that experience was ten times harder than going through the experience of when he was shot. During his suicidal spiral, it was basically us being around him all the time. He was home. He didn’t want to see people. He needed time to heal. So we were there at the house with him all the time.”

In retrospect, she said, “it makes you wonder. Josh had his family. There are a lot of soldiers who come back and don’t have anybody. What I’ve learned, and what Josh put in the book is about the power of human connection … and how having people around you makes a difference.”

Mantz said. “All of us experience suffering throughout our lives in different ways, and as difficult as it might be in the moment, if we are able to persevere and keep moving forward, when we reach the point where we can derive meaning in that suffering. If you can integrate those experiences into our lives, it broadens our emotional perspective and it gives us the capacity to help other people. Which is where I now find the greatest meaning in my life.”

TOPICS: Books/Literature; Military/Veterans
KEYWORDS: iraq; nde; veterans

1 posted on 01/29/2018 9:48:12 PM PST by beaversmom
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2 posted on 01/29/2018 9:58:59 PM PST by beaversmom
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To: beaversmom


3 posted on 01/30/2018 12:02:54 AM PST by GOP Poet
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To: beaversmom

Thank you for sharing this.

I’ve known this family personally for many years. The father was our local police chief and mother our real estate tax collector for our township. They are great folks.

Having had a near death experience myself and been active as a speaker for the International Association for Near Death Studies (IANDS) groups, I can relate to the change in your life the event creates.

My hat is off and my prayers are with Josh.

4 posted on 01/30/2018 12:58:08 AM PST by tired&retired (Blessings)
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To: beaversmom

Thanks for posting.

5 posted on 01/30/2018 1:06:44 AM PST by gattaca ("Government's first duty is to protect the people, not run their lives." Ronald Reagan)
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To: tired&retired

You are welcome.

What a coincidence that you know the family.

6 posted on 01/31/2018 4:44:39 PM PST by beaversmom
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To: gattaca

My pleasure.

7 posted on 01/31/2018 4:45:21 PM PST by beaversmom
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