StoryCorps
5:56 am
Sat August 10, 2013

How Two Veterans Helped Each Other With A Second Chance

Originally published on Sun August 11, 2013 5:43 am

Marine Cpl. Paul Wayman and former Navy SEAL Nathanael Roberti met in 2012, after finding themselves in front of a special court for veterans.

The court takes into account the specific struggles that service members face, so the judge gave each of them a choice: go to prison, or enroll in a program that helps veterans readjust to civilian life.

They chose to go through the program, Veterans Village of San Diego, located in a California live-in facility.

The road to that choice was perilous, though. Wayman, 28, served as a scout sniper in Iraq. He was deployed twice, and after each tour, he says, he would be sleep-deprived for months.

"After I got back from my first deployment, I didn't sleep for three days," Wayman says. "I went to one of my seniors, and I was like, 'What do I do?' And he handed me a bottle of rum and a PBR, and he was like, 'Here you go.' "

One night, Wayman heard a friend was killed in Afghanistan. He hit the bars and was pulled over driving home.

"I was obviously highly intoxicated. I had my .45 right there, and the police found the firearm," he says.

That incident landed him in court. "I really needed the help, because you walk though a river, you're going to come out wet," Wayman says.

Roberti needed help, too. His troubles started with bar fights.

"I pulled a knife on four individuals, that's why I ended up in front of a judge," he says. "I mean, we'd come back from these deployments, and I just felt like, I cannot relate to anybody here in the United States anymore."

Roberti had been deployed to Afghanistan and was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal. But when he came home, he found it difficult to change his mindset.

"Basically, what the world's telling us is, 'We trained you one way — to go kill bad guys, and now that you're out, you have got to completely change your way of thinking,' " Roberti says. "And how do you do that? How do you switch that around?"

Wayman notes that although they "thrived in hardship," when things become easier in a sense, "we're our own worst enemies because we don't live the quiet, normal life."

Wayman and Roberti connected over their war stories and began to help each other.

"If you wouldn't have been here, I do not know how I would have pulled myself out of the situation I was in. You really came through," Wayman tells Roberti.

Roberti says he's seen Wayman grow, and now they're looking forward to working together on a business to teach military skills as fitness.

Both continue to work through the program and hope to get their charges dismissed by the end of the year.

Audio produced for Weekend Edition by Yasmina Guerda.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

CELESTE HEADLEE, HOST:

Time to check in with StoryCorps and the Military Voices Initiative, honoring post-9/11 service members and their families.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

HEADLEE: Today, two veterans who had trouble coming back from war. Marine Corporal Paul Wayman served two combat tours in Iraq. His friend, Nathanael Roberti, is a former Navy SEAL who deployed to Afghanistan. They met in 2012, when they found themselves in front of a special court for veterans, which takes into account the specific struggles that servicemen and women face. The judge gave them a choice: prison or enrolling in a program that helps vets readjust to civilian life. They chose to go through the program. At StoryCorps, they talked about how they got there. Paul begins their conversation.

CORPORAL PAUL WAYMAN: I did two combat deployments to Iraq I would be sleep-deprived for months. I would remember drinking just to sleep. And after I got back from my first deployment, I didn't sleep for three days. I went to one of my seniors, and I was, like, what do I do? And he handed me a bottle of rum and a PBR, and he was, like, here you go.

NATHANAEL ROBERTI: For me, it started off with just bar fights. I pulled a knife on four individuals. That's why I ended up in front of a judge. I mean, we'd come back from these deployments and I just felt like I cannot relate to anybody here in the United States anymore.

WAYMAN: The disconnect is huge. Yeah.

ROBERTI: Basically, what the world's telling us is: we trained you one way to go kill bad guys and now that you're out, you've got to completely change your way of thinking. And how do you do that? How do you switch that around?

WAYMAN: Right.

ROBERTI: So, how did you end up being in front of a judge?

WAYMAN: We got word that one of our buddies was killed in Afghanistan. Went to a few bars, driving home I got pulled over. I was obviously highly intoxicated. I had my .45 right there, and the police found the firearm. And I really needed the help, 'cause you walk through a river, you're going to come out wet. It's funny 'cause I noticed we've always thrived in hardship, but whenever things are easy...

ROBERTI: ...we're our own worst enemies because we don't live the quiet, normal life. And that's why we hit it off in the beginning. And we told our war stories to each other and it was important for us to have that relationship because you and I, we kind of helped each other through it.

WAYMAN: If you wouldn't have been here, I do not know how I would have pulled myself out of the situation I was in. You really came through.

ROBERTI: Now, here we are a year later, dude, and I'm running a successful business now. I'm about to be running another business with you. And without getting, you know, too mushy, I've seen you grow, man. And, you know, it's a good thing to see.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

HEADLEE: That was Nathanael Roberti, an Afghanistan veteran and former Navy SEAL. He was talking to his friend, Marine Corporal Paul Wayman, who served in Iraq. Both continue to work through the program and they hope to get their charges dismissed by the end of the year. The business they're starting together will be to teach military skills as fitness. Their conversation was recorded in San Diego, California. And, like all StoryCorps recordings, it's archived at the Library of Congress. Get the StoryCorps podcast at npr.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.