IamA Vietnam veteran diagnosed with PTSD and a former cast member at Walt Disney World. I've been to Disney World 50 times. Disney helps me cope w/ the war memories, AMA!
My short bio:
I am a Vietnam veteran diagnosed with PTSD who uses Disney as my medication. I've been to Disney World 50 times total. Most recently for a Jodie Benson (voice of Ariel from The Little Mermaid) event on July 18th that I won tickets to. I have worked on and off for Disney 11 different times.
I'm the main participant in a documentary called Keep Moving Forward which is currently in a LIVE fundraiser on Kickstarter.
Please help the filmmakers make this film a reality by BACKING and SHARING their campaign HERE!: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/keepmovingforwarddoc/keep-moving-forward-documentary-film
Social Media: Join us on Facebook to get updates on the film's progress!
**Questions being answered by Guy Spagnoli and typed by an assistant, due to his dyslexia.
Thank you for your questions. The key to my PTSD is to keep moving forward. If you live in the past, it will consume you.
We'll be leaving this open and will be taking questions but we'll take longer to respond to them. Please be patient and in the mean time, don't forget to stop by our LIVE FUNDRAISING CAMPAIGN. There are only 4 DAYS LEFT and we'd love to have the chance to be able to finish this film and make it a success with you! If you can't donate, you can HELP by SHARING the link!:
WOW. Just woke up to all of these responses and incredibly moved by your personal stories and the massive amount of support. Will try to reply as quickly as possible. Thank you to those who have learned more about the project from this and BACKED THE FILM on Kickstarter. The filmmakers have 4 DAYS LEFT and you've already made a difference and helped us get closer to reaching the goal! Only 24% LEFT TO RAISE! Thanks again, and I'll be working on replying throughout the day.
EDIT EDIT EDIT:
Questions keep pouring in. Thank you for all the words of encouragement. Your pledges to bring this film to life have gotten the Keep Moving Forward Documentary nearly 80% of the way there. We have 2 FULL DAYS to make our funding goal and bring this film to life.
You can join us by watching the trailer and backing or sharing the project HERE: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/keepmovingforwarddoc/keep-moving-forward-documentary-film
I remember lying flat on my back in the hospital when Bob Hope and Ann-Margret came to visit us. She sits on my bed and says "You okay, soldier?" I asked her if I was dreaming. "No, soldier." I took one of those Instamatic polaroid pictures of us all, but unfortunately it's faded now. I remember they were both in a show later that afternoon and asking Ann-Margret if I could meet her state-side when I returned home.
My father lived with PTSD from three different wars both as a Marine and civilian working for the DOD: he worked on the ground during multiple excursions in South America(, he worked in the gulf war,(after this one he ended up breaking his back and legs after going to the airborne jump school) and as a civilian he worked on the ass end of the Iraq war and was later moved from camp leatherneck(I think) to Afghanistan.
In Iraq he would call my mom, my brother and myself when he could. About three out of five times the call would get cut off only after we hear mortars impacting and the loudspeaker guy warning everyone. Every call that would happen like that my brother and my mother would break down but I would stay strong and be the man of the house like my dad had told me to be which was hard. I was worried about him and after everyone went to sleep I would cry because I would miss him so much and I would do it in my room because I wanted to be the strong one. After he came home from his deployment switch to Afghanistan he wasn't the same.
You could tell immediately when he got in the car to come back home to us. He was watching the side of the road and when he would see something he would lean forward and go to reach for where the radio was in the Humvees he would use. A week later he would yell and scream in his sleep. "Don't go through the door!" "Grab that and throw it" "can you get over there??" "DARREN!!!!" It was loud and very scary for 13 year old me. I thought what was it about a stupid little dream that could scare my life long hero so much? A couple months after that he started drinking way too much but never before or during work. He then started to get angry very easily when he was with us but he would usually stay upstairs in bed when he was home after making us dinner.
One year later our family fell apart, my hero and mom started divorce proceedings the summer I was about to go into high school and it hit me hard. How could my dad fall apart like this? A year after the divorce I figured out why. He had gotten a silver star and multiple accommodations from the British. The official story goes that some British royal soldiers and some American contractors were going out on a patrol type thing and in an alley way they came under fire from the top. The HUMVEE was dead so they had to move because in any dangerous situation like this you always keep moving no matter what. So they get out of the vehicle. The driver gets hit and goes down. My hero jumps on the fallen Brit to cover him. 15 minutes later he's sitting behind a wall somewhere and is plugging bullet holes. He says the rest is a blur but you can pick it up if you listened to him sleep when it was seriously bad.
So, my questions are:
Should I have woken him up when he was having issues? He had already attacked me when I tried over something that happened to him in South America(Molotov cocktail to the back, my mom was pulling glass out of his back for awhile after that) but I didn't care because he looked miserable.
Why wouldn't he go to a psychiatrist/therapist for this?
Why did he give me the star? I don't want it because I didn't earn it the way he did but he said "You were the man of the house and you waited for me to take back over my duties here, you went through more here then I did there" which hurt me for some reason.
And last, why didn't he ever tell me about the Brit who went down or even his name?
Difficult and overwhelming to relive moments like these. How I Learned to Hate: https://vimeo.com/111319446
Does it bother you when people say 'thank you for your service'? I am a veteran and I get tired of it, but I do not let them know I am tired of it. Seems like a cliched thing to say nowadays.
I'm honored, it makes me want to cry.
When I came back from Vietnam, people here spit in my face. And now, when people thank me, a lot of the times they're not even from that generation and they mean it genuinely. A lot of the times, they say it as an apology and I'm grateful.
Its a shame how America treated it's Vietnam veterans. A huge mistake, them and the Korean vets went through some intense shit. Im sorry the anger towards your war was aimed at those who were given the job to carry it out. Thank you for your service.
This is why I came to this post. Thank you for all you and your brothers sacrificed. I see these old movies of people spitting and degrading the soldiers when they came home from nam and all I want to do is punch them fools in the face. Wish I could ask/comment more but I gotta get to work..
Thanks for taking the time to comment on your way off to work.
Thank you for your service.
My country called, and I did my duty.
What is your favorite thing about Disney?
Everybody is treated equal, everybody is given respect, and everybody is treated like a guest whether you work there or not.
Thank you for doing this AMA!
What was your favorite thing about working for Disney?
After going so many times, what never gets old?
The food! There are so many different restaurants down there and food from so many different cultures you can try.
Space Mountain or Splash Mountain?
Ugh. Difficult question...Splash Mountain, because Splash Mountain is my happy place. Anybody who claims to be a Disney fan will recognize my reference.
Do you have any advice for those considering the military as a career?
Yes, if you're going to enlist in the military it should be in the Navy or the Air Force. You're a lot safer there and you can get an education WHILE you're in it. In the Army they offer you an education after you get out but not while you're in there. It'll only do you good if you come out undamaged.
How did you really feel about the war in Vietnam? At the time, do you think the US should have been there? How do you feel now? How did the Vietnamese in general treat the US soldiers? Any positive experiences that really stood out? What were some of the darker moments, if you feel like discussing them.
When I went to Vietnam, I was drafted to do a job. I had family that had fought for America all the way back to the Civil War. I had no animosity about it until I went over there and found out there was no reason we should be there. Now, I feel sad that it ever occurred. It was a big like. They lied to us. The Vietnamese citizens treated me good. I gave them respect. Even now whenever I encounter Vietnamese people, I give them respect therefore they give me respect. I still feel sorry for the Vietnamese today, they are still dealing with the after-effect of Agent Orange. The only positive experiences that I had there was when I was trying to protect them. Other than that, I had commanding officers tell me, "We're here to kill, Spag." Some of the darker moments? Killing. Living in fear.
Thank you for your good heart. I wish I was closer.. I live in Portugal but I would give everything just to thank you personally and give you a hug :)
What did you do in Vietnam? Branch of service?
I was in 11th Infantry Brigade, U.S. Army. I was trained to kill, and that's what I did.
Ouch. Any thoughts on Lt. Calley?
He was a scapegoat. He was following orders, the same as I was following orders. He was the only one that went to prison for it and when he was released he was put on house arrest. The person who was giving the orders didn't go to prison.
Are you involved with the Wounded Warrior project? If so, has that been helpful?
I'm not involved with them but I enjoy following their Facebook site and "liking" stuff if I connect with what they're talking about.
I go to Disneyland to have a great time with my daughter (7 years old). How are you and I different as visitors?
We're both equal! We both pay at the gate and we'll be treated the same way in the park. Only difference might be that I could eat more turkey legs than you.
In your time working at or visiting have you encountered many other veterans who use Disney World as their medication for PTSD or other issues? Seems like support groups centered around WDW would be a really great idea.
Walt Disney World hires and looks out for their veterans. I can't answer if they use it as their "medication" like I do, but I've met a lot of them down there who are happy and love it down there just as much as I do.
Thank you for your service! Is there an appropriate way to ask about someone's combat experiences? It's something I'm interested in hearing from real vets because I feel movies and TV don't paint the full picture. I often consider asking vets I know, but I don't want to offend or bring up trauma.
It depends on the person. They have to be in a place where they can divulge that experience. You might start off with the question, "Do you want to talk about it?" But you can't guarantee the veteran's answer or reaction.
What do you think about wars? Is it necessary or should we resort to better means as humans? How has your PTSD affected your family and your idea about your future?
Great love from India.
Wars, who needs them? I hate wars. I hate the idea of thinking of people dying.
Absolutely we should try to be better humans. The wars we've been having lately have proven nothing. I ask myself, why are we over there, for what?
As for the PTSD, how has it affected my family? It has torn us apart. It's affected my life, it's affected my kids. It's not a disease you can cure with a drug or cut out with a knife. It's just in your brain, and your brain controls your whole body. And if you're damaged, it doesn't go away, you can't cure it.
For my future...I've gone to school, and I have a dream that I have a future with that, but I also sometimes don't know if I'm going to be able to sleep at night because I might not be able to fall asleep or I might have a night terror, so I take it one day at a time.
Is the time you spend at Disney World just a perfect distraction from the events that caused your PTSD, or do you think that something else taking place at a deeper level? Perhaps your experiences there are also rewiring your brain/nervous system, like you experience at war, but in a different way?
It's more like a wall for me. In some ways, I use it to separate what I've done, what I've seen and lived through. It's a good wall, though. I used to have a wall that was more destructive.
One brick at a time. Keep building, Sir.
You know where I'm at. It's about taking one step forward a day. Thank you.
Have you ever felt emotional while watching a disney film? If so, what film affected you the most?
Yes. I'm either super excited or I can get sad...depending on the mood of the movie and what's happening in the scene. And the film that affected me the most?: Old Yeller, the first one.
I know I may be late, but I too suffer from PTSD and it is difficult to find things that help. Thank you for your service sir. Semper Fidelis. My question to you is how many outlets did you try before finding Disney as helpful? I am currently struggling very much with my problem and could use some helpful advice.
It's always been Disney. Find the thing that makes you happy and doesn't hurt you or anyone around you.
I apologize if it's disrespectful, but I needed a laugh after the day I've had, and the mental picture of Gaston dashing wild-eyed through Liberty Square dancing around imaginary Punji traps and levelling his musket at VC only he can see left a smile on my face. I suppose he deserves it, but you don't.
Anyway, my question is: how well are VA hospitals handling mental health care these days? What, if anything, would you change?
They're handling as much as they can but they're overloaded. They need to take the politicians out of it, they've been responsible for shutting down the VAs and cutting back on services.
First off, thanks for doing this AMA and thank you for your service.
My question is regarding your time as a Cast Character. Is there a specific moment in time while you were working there that was a break through for you? Meaning that you knew that Disney would be your salvation from the terror that is PTSD. Again, thank you.
Hi, thanks for the great question - to be honest there was never a breakthrough if you're speaking in terms of the PTSD. I didn't know I had PTSD until 15 years after the war, they didn't have a name for the condition then. It was the very first time that I got hired at Disney, though, that I had the breakthrough of knowing that I always wanted to work there for the rest of my life. It made me feel safe.
Thank you so much for participating in our AMA! I'm the director of the documentary on Guy and how he uses Disney to find peace from his PTSD. We're overwhelmed by your support here. We've been touched and inspired by his story from the beginning and we're so excited to see that it resonates with so many Redditors! We're thrilled about the possibility of finishing this film.
You can watch the trailer for Keep Moving Forward and learn more about the background of this project on our Kickstarter page: http://kck.st/1GNZJSQ
If you'd like to be a part of this project, now is the time! We only have 4 days left and are STILL 24% AWAY from our funding goal!
Our most recent excerpt introduces Guy's wife and the impact she's had on his life: https://vimeo.com/134199538
Again, thank you so much for your thoughtful questions and thanks for coming on board!
Here's the link again!
What was your favorite character to be? (If you were more than one?)
Mr. Incredible: http://i.imgur.com/jsYJoeF.jpg?1
First of all, I wish to thank You for ysour services. My questions to you sir are(And I understand if you do not wish yo answer), what experience do you believe was the main cause of your ptsd? And what is the worst encounter with ptsd you have had?
Living in fear and killing changes your brain chemistry. That's all I really have to say about that. One episode of PTSD is not worse or better than the other, unfortunately. They're all the worst. The nightmares, the dealing with the flashbacks during the day when you're with your family, not trusting anybody and working with people that you perceive are against you but they're really not. It's all bad.
Just gotta know. Who's your favorite Disney character?
Mickey. He doesn't lie, he doesn't steal, what's more to say?
How old were you when you went to Vietnam? Also, were you drafted, or did you volunteer?
17 and drafted, did not volunteer.
Any good memories of Vietnam?
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