Robert Serocki Jr. spent a little less than a year fighting on the front lines in the first Iraq war.
The Mesa man spent more than 25 years fighting its impact on his body and his soul.
Serocki, 52, has chronicled his struggle with post traumatic distress syndrome in three books, and each week he broadcasts an internet radio show at robertserockijr.com in the hope of helping other men and women recover from PTSD.
Now he has published a new book titled “The Blacksmith.”
Inspired by an old Civil War photo that looked uncannily like him, the book offers a guide for overcoming life’s obstacles that he formulated in successfully battling PTSD.
At one point, that battle seemed hopeless.
He didn’t realize he was a PTSD victim immediately after he left the Marine Corps in 1992 as a corporal following four years’ service. He did one tour in Saudi Arabia and another in Kuwait as a demolition engineer.
At one point he was homeless after losing everything he had except his truck, and felt like an outcast. He had come close to suicide twice.
Armed with his faith, Serocki turned to the spiritual for answers and said he analyzed his dreams and extrapolated the messages he believed his unconscious mind was giving him to put a traumatic past behind him.
Using meditation, dream analysis, prayer, a healthy diet and a set of goals, he turned his life toward a more positive direction.
“The Blacksmith” looks at the roadmap he used to get there.
Subtitled “Life does not get better by chance; it gets better by change,” the book is a compilation of the spiritual, philosophical and practical applications he used to go from homelessness to homeowner, pauper to investor.
He takes pride in the help he gave a son and a friend of the boy to turn their high school grades around and get into college.
“While all of this was going on, people would contact me from time to time via my YouTube channel and my website,” he said.
“They would contact me for inspiration, guidance, support so that we could have open and candid conversations about our experiences as veterans, family members of veterans, and or friends of veterans, and people who have experienced trauma and life struggles.
“I spend a substantial portion of my time studying, writing about my struggles and victories, and helping others with theirs in whatever way I can.”
He puts as much importance on his spiritual activities, especially praying, as he does on the healthy lifestyle he adopted through exercise, wholesome foods and even raising chickens and a garden in his yard.
“There also is mental health and spiritual health,” he said. “All work together and you cannot have one without the others. I spend portions of my day meditating…When I go to bed at night I pray, and it is always the first thing I do when I awake in the morning.”
He started “The Blacksmith” after he finished “The Sword and the Anvil,” his “definitive guide for natural, healthy healing from post-traumatic stress and trauma.”
Through painstaking research, he discovered the identity of the Civil War blacksmith whose photo he resembled.
Named John Hart and a member of a New York regiment, the blacksmith, Serocki said "he fought in numerous battles,” was wounded at Gettysburg and eventually died in a veterans home in 1907 after a pain-filled life.
Serocki believes the guideposts he sets out in the book might have saved Hart from that painful life.
“PTSD is, in my opinion, getting a lot more attention from science and society but for two distinct reasons,” Serocki said.
“More and more veterans, athletes and people in general are talking about their issues with it, bringing it to the forefront,” he said.
“This is good because as more and more people share their stories, it brings more and more awareness of mental health issues and their prevalence in society today.
“Secondly, and more importantly, this also helps the individuals to heal because they are talking about it.”
He also feels like he has turned a corner in his life through his books.
“Not only have I written about my struggles with PTSD,” he said, “more importantly, I am writing about how I overcame it in natural, healthy ways, and how I rebuilt my life.”
“With all of these tools and skills I now have in my arsenal, I feel whole, complete, and happy in the fact that I know myself personally and that I am completing the work that I was put here to do,” he said.
“My life is very satisfying and fulfilling. I can now say, with great confidence, I am happy and mean it.”
His books are available at robertserockijr.com