In this riveting and personal talk, San Pao walks us through memories of a life lived with PTSD, exploring the many ways trauma and its consequences can manifest and shape a person’s path over time. Drawing on his experiences as a veteran, refugee, and son, he encourages us to talk about PTSD, openly and with more generosity; implores leaders to take ownership over the effects of trauma; and explains why access to mental health care must be made easier, not harder. I am first and foremost a father and a husband. I am of Cambodian heritage; born in a refugee camp in Thailand after my parents fled the Khmer Rouge. My family was blessed to be sponsored by an American couple in Augusta, Maine when I was two years old. I attended Portland Public Schools and enlisted into the Maine Army National Guard before graduating from Deering High School in 2001. I am now a retired Army Staff Sergeant, having served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and is also a Purple Heart recipient. I have since earned a bachelor’s in business and marketing and a master’s in social work from the University of Southern Maine.
Although, I am successful as a home inspector, I decided to follow my wife’s footsteps into becoming a mental health clinician as a combat veteran with a goal in working with other combat veterans and their families. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at