Veterans every day

By PHILIP EIL  |  November 6, 2013

 1108_vets_santilli_top.jpg
"GOOD THINGS HAPPEN OVER THERE" Santilli.

NAME | Paul Santilli

AGE | 30

THE BASICS | Deployed to Iraq three times as an aerial gunner in the US Air Force

•  Currently works as a GWOT (Global War on Terror) Outreach Counselor at Providence Vets Center

HIS WORDS | I, personally, don’t like big crowds. I don’t go into Providence anymore. If I do, I’ll plan it to the ‘T.’ I’ll carpool with a buddy for whatever we’re doing. I’ll make sure I know the place, well in advance. Whereas before the military I’d just be like, “Oh, yeah. Great. Sure.” And just go. Now, I plan for it just because — it’s weird, I don’t like being startled anymore. [I prefer to go to] Amazon.com and do whatever I have to do in the city on the Internet and have it mailed to me, if I had to go shopping or something. The things I can’t do online? So, say I go to PPAC or something. . . personally, I’d rather cough up an extra ticket, pay for it, and then bribe my brother into going to the show with me. But he has to drive.

I’ve always been a bad sleeper. It is worse now that I’ve gone and come back — the dreams’ intensities. When I dream, they’re usually not pleasant dreams. Usually I get woken up from them. I’ve learned to control my dreams where, if I identify that I am dreaming, I can wake myself up from within a dream. It sounds like Freddy Krueger-type stuff, but I can do that. It’s funny because, I have documented hearing loss and, in normal conversations like we’re having, sometimes I’ll have to read your lips or really focus. But at night, the ringing in my head, just sounds like. . . I’m on a highway with cars whipping by.

There are some good things that can get conjured up too. That’s always another [misconception]. It’s like “Oh, there’s only bad things that happen over there.” No, there’s good things that happen over there: giving school supplies to students in Iraq, trying to win their hearts and minds; the medical aid that you give to the local nationals; fixing cleft palates or giving fresh food, water. Those are all good things, because regardless of where the person is or who they are, if you [see] a family of five to eight year old boys and [they’re] malnourished, you want to feed them. They make jokes about it here in America, like “Oh, that’s a first-world problem!” Well until you’ve been to a third world, you don’t really know what a first-world problems are.

 

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