SAN DIEGO - An amputee veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder is playing a major role in military training drills by reliving the trauma of his own injuries.
Through makeup and Hollywood special effects, the horrors of war are revealed in graphic detail and loud explosions during a training exercise at Stu Segall Productions.
Redmond Ramos is in the middle of the action and he is exactly where he wants to be.
"It's not necessarily a bad thing to relive it," he said.
Two years ago and three months into his first deployment to Afghanistan, Ramos – a Navy combat medic based at Camp Pendleton – stepped on an improvised explosive device, or IED.
"I just heard firecrackers and this big noise," said Ramos.
Months later, his leg had to be amputated.
He was medically retired and diagnosed with PTSD. Noises made him anxious, but he says the symptom subsided after a few months.
When he heard about the realistic training offered by Strategic Operations to help new Navy medics, he asked for a job.
The company had reservations. In the past, they shied away from hiring military amputees for fear of traumatizing them.
"Because of his enthusiasm, we said sure, let's see how it works," said Kit Lavell, the executive vice president of Strategic Operations.
In a mock Afghan village, there was no easing into it. Ramos stood and waited for the explosion.
"When it came, I screamed like I had done," he said. "It wasn't acting."
After some 10 exercises, the PTSD symptoms have not been triggered.
Ramos points to the strongest emotion attached to memories of his incident: gratitude.
"I think a big part is I know how lucky I am," he said. "A lot of other people have much worse injuries. I think of it as a blessing."
As he relives his past, his outlook on life has improved.
"It makes me feel like I'm helping people and making a difference," said Ramos.
So far, Strategic Operations has hired two wounded warriors as actors in the scenarios.
While Ramos says not all who suffer from PTSD would benefit, he points out many therapies do involve some form of reliving the incident.