In the final days leading up to our leaving Iraq, I can remember that feeling. I’m sure everyone else had it. What it would be like to be back home again, what would it be like to get a good night’s sleep without having to worry about someone sneaking up on you at night and killing you. What would it be like to interact with friends, family, go to parties, get togethers, etc. When my plane touched down in Chicago I can remember walking outside thinking to myself, This is what I fought for, for you and I to walk down the road without walking over a mine or getting blown up by an IED. After my Dad’s funeral, I jumped right back into college and got a job as a bank teller even though I could have just stayed at home and reported in every week or so to collect a paycheck, there was an overwhelming urge to get things back to normal, to jump back into a routine. Although I attended a few sessions at the VA for treatment i’m not sure I took it seriously I could just get back to normal on my own I thought. And, for the most part that’s what I did for the last seven or so years. I finished the book Every Other Four about a year after I came back, but I was always pre-occupied with something, keeping busy. I got married, bought a condo, got a full-time job after college.
The one thing that will really creep up on you though even years after are some of the memories. Even seven years later there are some days where something will remind me, a photo, picture, or a smell. Even hand sanitizer, since we used to use a lot of it will get me thinking.
Since I was a combat Humvee driver, let me tell you that my driving record in the civilian world is atrocious. I’ve gotten more tickets and violations than a normal person would see in their lives. And, there’s always that feeling, which the doctors tell me is the “Limbic system” when I hit a bump or go into intense driving or crowded spots, it gets bad for me.
Sleeping has never been a problem for me and doctors always try to ask the question, have you had any nightmares? Can you sleep fine? Honestly, I couldn’t sleep worth crap when I got back, but I think that I’ve pretty much settled into a comfortable sleeping routine. I do have an occasional nightmare every now and then, but most of the time I can’t remember my dreams.
Some people will always tell me, how can you think of something that happened over seven years ago, why don’t you just forget about it? I’m not sure that’s even possible. I stop and think of maybe some other things that lasted nearly a year in my life but i’m not sure anything has made such an impact on me today.
Lately I’ve been dealing with a few things as a result of 2005 and I’m lucky enough to have people who will support me. Friends, family, wife and loved ones. I’ve always thought you’ve never been through what I’ve been through so you could not possibly understand what I’m going through. That’s certainly true, but I’ve found that I need to be able to talk about things to someone, and who cares if they don’t understand. There are only a few that may understand or have gone through it, but the important thing for me is everything I’m carrying inside me has to come out some how. I would rather just talk to someone, rather than blow up at my boss or go postal or something.
For the most part, even seven years later I am still in an adjustment period. If I look back to just after I cam e back, I wasn’t even driving with my headlights on and swerving to avoid pot holes or cars on the side of the road. Now I have a somewhat organized life, a good job to be thankful for, a great wife. Some things I am still working on.
My advice to anyone dealing with some of the same things. Don’t avoid things just deal with them head on. I mean, when we were in the Marines I don’t think we ever ran from things, it’s just funny that this is what I did since 2005. I guess I was more fearful of dealing with things in real life, or it was possible that I just didn’t know how to deal with them.
Things were certainly much more simple in Iraq. Wake up, hope you live that day, carry out the mission. All this other BS in civilian life can really be stupid and at times I thought what the hell is the point to all this? Car payments, bills, retirement, politics, getting to your job on time, the little shit that everyone makes a HUGE deal out of (I can’t stand that).
I know full well there is a point to it. Life can be how you make it. The past will never go away, so you need to deal with it. The challenges in life may seem intolerable at one point. But things will turn out great and there’s a long life ahead, just keep moving forward.
- Preserving memories of war through art (dawn.com)
- The fight continues for retired Marine with PTSD (stltoday.com)
- When Leaders Die in Battle: What It Means for the Soldiers Who Live On (theatlantic.com)
- Students meet vets closer to their own age (newsday.com)
- Vet Hunters: Keeping Vets Together Is Key To Ending Veteran Homelessness (huffingtonpost.com)
- Veterans preserve memories of war with their art (rep-am.com)