Phillies honor veterans on Independence Day

Phillies honor veterans on Independence Day

PHILADELPHIA -- When Joe Dimond returned from his tour in Fallujah, Iraq, he was in a dark place, experiencing symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder. Then, he found an ear to talk to.

Inspired by his experience, Dimond founded The Stain of War, a project to help veterans fight PTSD by talking about it. Often, military want to discuss their times overseas with loved ones but can't. The Stain of War acts as a middleman of sorts, helping veterans tell their stories unfiltered, normalizing the home front for them and PTSD for civilians.

"I came back from war and quickly realized no one understood," Dimond said. "People are trying to kill you. There's death and destruction all around you. Then you come home and you're supposed to walk into the civilian world and go back to normal. …

"So I started the Stain of War to remove the stain veterans feel like they have when they have PTSD and feel like they're broken."

On Independence Day, Dimond was one of close to 100 veterans the Phillies honored in an on-field ceremony before they opened a three-game set against the Braves. The festivities included at least one veteran from each conflict since World War II. The Phillies' employees who served carried flags from all 50 states onto the field.

Dimond served nearly 20 years as a staff sergeant in the U.S. Marines. He grew up in Delaware County, rooting for the Phillies. Now he's back -- this time in South Jersey -- and still rooting for his Phils. And on the 240th anniversary since the country gained its independence, the Phillies thanked him and every other veteran for their service.

God Bless America performed

It wasn't a normal day for Dimond, for more reasons than just getting to be on the same field as the team he roots for. Because of his PTSD, Dimond tries to avoid loud, crowded environments. Sometimes, he'll swerve at trash on the road, thinking it's an improvised explosive device (IED). Occasionally, he will jolt awake because of a nightmare.

But by talking about his PTSD and accepting that he's a changed man, Dimond has learned to live as close to a normal life as possible, something he struggled to do in his first year back from the battlefield, when he found himself divorced and living on a friend's couch.

"You see in a lot of movies the Hollywood version of PTSD," Dimond said. "For a lot of us, it's just a heightened sense of alertness. There's a lot of different things, but we're not all monsters."

That is the essence of the message The Stain of War is hoping to communicate to the public. In a little over a year since it was started, Dimond has been able to tell the stories of close to a dozen veterans. They also have a documentary in the works.

Once Dimond confronted his PTSD by talking about it, he was able to lead a "relatively successful" life, as he put it. Now, he's trying to help other veterans do the same. The biggest roadblock for Dimond was overcoming the innate toughness that comes with being a serviceman.

"It's, 'No, I'm a Navy SEAL, I don't need help.' It's this whole thing of 'I'm stronger than that.' No, it's not wrong to ask for help," Dimond said. "It's not wrong to deal with this. You've dealt with some life-changing events. You've seen some things that aren't typical, so we're trying to remove that whole tough guy talk."

Evan Webeck is a reporter for MLB.com based in Philadelphia. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.