posted on Feb, 12 2011 @ 12:12 AM
This post may turn into a long, rambling dead end but I am just going to get it all down anyway in case it can help any veterans understand that they
are not alone, even when they aren't among other veterans who can truly understand. I can never go through what you have gone through, but you are
not alone, and there are many people here back home who are not willing to close their eyes.
Early in the Iraq War, one of my buddy's brothers signed up for Marine OCS after graduating from college and he shipped out leaving a brand new bride
at home. He was part of one of the "core" families in town; the father coached football for years and the whole family was really active in the
community. He died in combat and was the first casualty from our county; the tragic news hit the broader community and hundreds of people converged
on the family home for days as his family...being public figures...had to heroically put on their best face for the Corp., the mission, and their lost
son. For a lot of people, this was no longer a distant event on CNN and the whole town was changed forever.
Shortly after, another buddy of mine signed up for Marine OCS as he just couldn't stand sitting on his ass after what happened. He wanted to make a
difference. I was simultaneously as proud of him as I could ever be, and completely horrified. I am choking up as I write this...I was so scared and
all I wanted to do was sign up to make sure I could protect him, but I couldn't because of a medical condition. When I went to his graduation I was
afraid I would lose my friend forever. It's all I could think about. I felt like a real #...still do.
He made it through a tour in Afghanistan and came back really upbeat. When he got back he got us all those Afghani tea cozy hats and made us wear
them out to the bar. Needless to say we had a lot of explaining to do with all the locals giving us the hairy eyeball, but once they realized it was
one of their own celebrating his homecoming it turned out to be a real good night.
He eventually made it out for another tour, this time in Iraq, and when he came home after that his demeanor was different. We were goofing around
with a paintball gun one day and when he noticed it, he dove straight into the ground. Watching him do that made me want to throw up; I thought, how
bad does it have to be over there to have this kind of effect even after people are home and safe with friends and family?
I moved away and in one of my travels I ended up on a flight taking soldiers back home. The pilots announced that this was their first time back and
the whole cabin cheered and bought them drinks. I sat behind one of them and overheard a lady chatting away at him the whole time. She was puffing
up with patriotism and going on and on about the war, and at first I could tell that the soldier was happy to hear all of it. But as she went on, I
could tell she was overstepping her boundaries a little and I was able to hear it in his voice as he began to get a little distant, maybe just wanting
her to shut up, but maybe realizing that maybe he didn't want to talk about it as her glibness kind of cheapened what he had really gone through, or
was really feeling. It started to sound like she was foisting her Mickey Mouse version of the war on the soldier and it definitely made me feel
uncomfortable for him.
I thought about what I had seen in my friends, in my town, and after the other passengers had collected their bags and moved on, I hung around talking
to some of the soldiers as they kind of collected into a group, got real quiet, and waited for their rides. Something about the way they carried
themselves made me really sad, and after all these years of studies and experience I look back and can see that the moment these guys had their feet
on the ground at home, they were already feeling disconnected. As each soldier got his ride or headed out, the guys looked sadder and more
The first buddy I told you about, who lost his brother, ended up getting engaged and had his bachelor party in our hometown. We all got loaded up at
his parents' house and were about to head out, when like a bolt from the blue one of our high school friends that no one had heard from in years
shows up at the door. Turns out, it was HIS first day back from Iraq and he saw all the cars parked by the house and dropped by to see what was going
on. It was tough on my soon to be married buddy and his family as their brother was never far from their minds, but after a few beers and stories
about the old days everyone settled back into the celebration and we took our newly returned friend out for the night's festivities. We all
desperately wanted to make him feel at home.
The homecoming soldier tried to keep his # together but was visibly showing signs of PTSD all night. I tried to stay near him and keep him upbeat,
but the general tone of his comments kept veering towards violent contempt for strangers around us. We ended up having an argument with the bus
driver on the way home, and it ended in a fight between the soldier and the driver. I was horrified at the thought of our friend going to jail on his
first day back, and ended up taking two stray punches to the face when I tried to break up the fight. Fortunately we live in a small town and we knew
the cops who showed up so they were able to convince the driver not to press charges on account of it being a soldier's first day back....a quickly
gathered collection fund from the bachelor party helped ease his bruises as well.
There was no doubt in my mind that our soldier would have killed that driver that night if we hadn't coralled him. He went to a very dark place.
I think there are a lot of different reasons that people agree to go to war, but from what I have seen and heard, there is one reason why they keep
fighting once they are there. Nobody wants to let his brother down.
I imagine that the shock of being split from your brothers and coming home as individuals after sharing that kind of brotherhood is as bad or worse
than the separation of blood from blood.
There are a lot of different ways that civilians view these wars, but from what I have seen, those who have been touched by it all agree on one thing.
None of us wants to let our brothers down. I haven't taken a life or experienced combat, but I am sick with guilt about what we have made you do
for us....what we allow to happen to you on our behalf. I've seen the pain and loneliness in the eyes of my friends and peers when they get back. I
wish I could have been by your side when you were off in hostile lands. I am wracked with grief and guilt and while I CAN'T share your experience I
DO refuse to look away from it.
Many of us are paying attention and many of us do not want to let you down. This war defines this generation. You define this generation. We will
not turn away from you; even when it looks like there is no place for you back in this Disneyland bull# where everyone seems to be asleep, know that
many of us have been shocked awake after you have come home and, in that sense, you are never alone. More and more people in this country are
becoming aware of what it means to come home after war and there is growing outrage at how the system almost dumps you at the side of the road and
leaves you to your own devices.
I don't know if that helps you. I hope it does but how could I know? I am sure that when you reach out, a lot of people don't want to listen or
just can't handle it. You grew up in this world back home, and you know most people here just want to stay curled up and cozy and don't want to
worry about things, or be reminded of just how cold reality can be.
But not all of us are like that. Some of your friends and family, your fellow veterans, are ready and waiting for you to come home, and all it
entails. Don't give up. We won't give up. You may have to do some searching but I guarantee you that there is someone out there who will not let