From the Battlefield to the Homefront: One Man’s Journey of Recovery and Resilience

By Matthew Odom, NVFC

Scott Carrigan

As a former United States Army Private First Class, the role of volunteer fire chief seems to be the perfect fit for Scott Carrigan. Yet his life took many difficult turns before he found his way to the volunteer fire service.

Stationed at Fort Hood, Carrigan served two tours in both Iraq and Kuwait. During his first tour, the convoy Carrigan was travelling in was hit by an Explosion Forced Projectile (EFP). “We were on a disruption mission for our supply convoy that was coming in later that night. We headed down a road we took a lot and came to a choke point,” he said. “When we came to the choke point, the EFP went off in front of my vehicle, disabling the anti-IED device, taking out all the tires on the driver side, and lodging shrapnel into the windshield right in front of my face.” Carrigan suffered a concussion, but the long-term effect on his mental health was significant. He developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and ultimately received a medical retirement from the armed forces.

Following his retirement, Carrigan moved home to Northwest Ohio to live with his parents. “I was not very fond of this due to [the fact that] I was an adult and felt ashamed that I had to move back in with them because I did not have the money to live on my own at that time,” said Carrigan. He worked odd jobs to pay his bills, but felt lost. His PTSD, combined with bipolar II disorder, prevented him from enjoying life. He often stayed home, suffering from severe depression and unable to handle large crowds. “I have contemplated suicide more times than I can count,” he said.

While studying at Hocking College, Carrigan decided to become a firefighter. It wasn’t his first time volunteering; before enlisting in the Army, he had been a cadet at his local fire department. “I have always loved the fire department for as long as I can remember, and to this day believe it is my calling in life,” he said.

Carrigan stresses that although volunteering is not a cure for PTSD, becoming a firefighter helped him refocus his priorities and gave him direction in life. “The fire service has had a major impact on my life after I was medically retired. I can say that it has saved my life.”

“When I was dealing with [PTSD and bipolar II disorder], I was not in any fire department and walking that long, harsh road alone,” Carrigan explained. “[The fire service] has given me a purpose in life, and that’s to save lives and property to the best of my ability.”

Carrigan says that although life has not been easy since he retired, the fire service gives him the strength and courage he needs to keep moving forward. He currently serves as a volunteer fire chief at the Scipio Township Fire Rescue in Meigs County, OH.

“The fire service is worth it,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re volunteer or full-time paid. It’s worth it. The family in the fire service is just like your own but tighter because you all risk your lives for others you don’t know. That support chain has helped guide me but has also helped me cope and learn how to live with PTSD and enjoy life to its fullest no matter what is going wrong.”

Note: Behavioral heath conditions impact many in the fire service. Find resources to help with behavioral health issues from the NVFC’s Share the Load™ program at www.nvfc.org/help.