There is a divide in the military between the deployed and non deployed. The intensity of this divide is stronger for some than others. I didn’t experience much of this divide, even though I have been deployed. However, those who are responsible to bringing in the next generations of soldiers want to transform everyone into a “lion”.
These leaders are crazy. They have seen Hell. I always thought to myself, “You want me to be like you, with PTSD, nightmares, physically broken and always on edge? No thanks, I like my sanity. “They believe in the old adage that “misery loves company.”
- Everything is from the individual perception. A soldier that has seen bullets fly, and a soldier that was safe and never left the wire, can exhibit similar stresses. Also, (and this still blows my mind) the stress from a chance of being bombed is sometimes worse than actually being bombed. I saw this in Iraq Feb 13th 2015. You can Google “8 Suicide Bombers Iraq Al-Asad Airbase 300 Marines” It made the headlines. Of course, I was never really there (wink wink) We were mortared about 13 times that day. I was flying out with my team that night. I think of it as a friendly goodbye from ISIS.
- Deployments are not easy. I feel that a piece of my soul died in the Middle East; the grind, 24 hour operations, emotions, the noise, limited personal time, it all gets to you. I re-aggravated a previous back injury when I fell 8 feet with 40 pounds of armor. It was another week until I left.
I was hurting real bad. I had my 100lbs of battle gear. At the same time, I had to carry a 200lb Tuff Box with two .50 caliber guns inside while making the 100 yard dash to the C-130 in the darkness.
- It is interesting to see who cracks. A lot of these cool cats crack when life is on the line. I have seen it before in my life, but I’m always surprised who the men are at the end of the day.
- I became callous to the point where I felt nothing. When mortars fell from the sky, I really did not care whether I lived or died. I just let God roll the dice. It’s a switched I flipped; a copping mechanism that allowed me to work and not have any fear.
- During deployment I began to lose focus. I was given Concerta /Ritalin because I was thought to have ADD. The stuff was awesome in that I never felt smarter and I cared about people more. However, it came with a major side effect for me. I began to have chest pain to the point the I felt like I was dying. I wanted to curl up in a ball and just die. Finally, a fellow soldier made me go to the ER. My heart was fine and I was released. I stopped taking Concerta but the chest pain never went away. It’s been almost two years, and my chest still aches. It gets worse with anxiety attacks. Since I’ve been back, I went to see a counselor. That’s an interesting journey.
- I find myself avoiding crowds. Walmart is not my favorite place.
- Certain noises cause me to pause and verify if a bomb went off. On one occasion, I was at home when a car made a quick bump bump sound. I began to yell, “Everyone get Down.” When I realized it was just a car, my kids stared at me like I was crazy. I’m unable to explain my intense outburst.
- I feel like I am wired backwards. I can be at church where it’s quiet. Then when a few babies start crying, I become on edge. Contrast that with intense moments where I feel as calm as a summer morning.
- Soldiers are forever changed, and no one will be able to tell from the outside. It’s a heavy price to pay and perhaps heavier than death.