My last post was in March of 2013. For those who wondered what may have happened, I apologize up front for not coming on sooner, since then, a lot has changed yet some things stayed the same. In the wake of all the media focus on the VA, let me fill you in on me.
I have since medically retired from active military service with over 20 years of service; 100% disabled from the VA. I am fine and doing well. God is forever revealing why things happen and this is truly a gift in so many ways. As weird as this may seem to some to read… let me explain.
As an active duty service member, I have been deployed over 61 months overseas. That equates to over 5 years away from my wife and my children. This time is forever gone that I will never be able to get back. I am not complaining, it is what it is. My time away was not in vein though. It was spent with the best America and other countries men and women I have had the honor and privilege to serve along side of. This time I cannot begin to try to write down and people ask all the time to explain it, I try to little by little but it is very challenging to put it lightly. First, let me share with you a very real personal example of the many amazing things 61 months being gone that I have experienced.
Nearly 8 years ago, in 2006, I was honored to meet a young man named Mohammad (I will leave out his last name). He was a young 1st Lieutenant in the Afghan National Army. He was the very 1st Officer selected to be a liaison officer to the highest US Joint Staff in Regional Command East. I was chosen to be his “Battle Buddy” and we developed a very good relationship. He was soon promoted to Captain in the Afghan Army. When I was promoted that same year, he was there and put a floral reef around my neck, as was the tradition in his Army for promotions. This was truly a sign of friendship that no other Officer received that I know of in that year. Mohammed and I would spend many hours talking about normal things such as hobbies we enjoy, family life and the future. He wanted to do more for his family just like we all do. He wanted to provide the best opportunities for his wife and children. On many occasions he spoke about how being a translator for US Forces, he would make significantly more money than a Captain in the Afghan Army. So he went to the Dept. of the Defense and asked permission to become a translator. You have to remember, the Afghan military was just forming and things were not as formal as our military. The General offered him a promotion to Major or he would release him to be a translator if the US military would accept him. Mohammad easily found a job working for our Military. For the next four years he worked as a translator. In 2010, I received an e-mail letting me know Mohammad became a US citizen and he had moved to the US with his family. He worked the next year as a contractor assisting our military stateside on many training opportunities. Then on Christmas Day, 2010, I received a phone call from Mohammad… he said, “Merry Christmas Brother, I want you to know in February I will be going to basic training”. Yes, that is correct, you read that right. He enlisted in the US Army and served two tours in Afghanistan and served four years in the US Army. Mohammad just recently visited me again after his discharge from active duty and is still serving about to go over to Afghanistan again as a contractor assisting our military as an interpreter leaving his family behind here in the US. Please pray for him and all our men and woman who continue to serve and put their lives in harm’s way for us.
As Mohammed once again leaves his family, I have been able to spend more time with mine not worrying about leavening again. Though part of me is always leaving; that is the struggle we all have. Our minds will not stay here. Sometimes it is a smell, sometimes it is a sound, sometimes it is a face, sometimes it is… well you get the point. I do battle with it daily and it is a struggle as do many others of my brothers and sisters. No, I am not paranoid or psycho. It is just something that I understand that is my new normal. You do not go through a tornado (or many tornados year after year) and simply pick up the next day and act like nothing happened… it takes time. I am very fortunate to have a loving and supportive family; others do not. However, you still get idiots who think it is funny even in the military to put ring tones on their phone with the same siren as the “incoming” sound when rockets come pouring into our locations. After my heart stopped pounding and my breathing was under control, I calmly walked up to that service member in uniform and asked him nicely if he ever saw a service member body parts scattered all over the combat out post after getting up from face planting on the ground from hearing that siren once the “all clear” had been given? He said, no… with a look of fear and I said, then I suggest you think about changing your ring tone… it is not funny or cute… then I calmly walked away. It would be my guess, this service member never deployed or had never seen combat before. He was naive to the effects of war.
I try to redefine normal as I try to enjoy the simple things in life. You would never believe how much water I save brushing my teeth, drinking water is cherished or a toilet is admired; not to mention toilet paper that is there for you – and no need for baby wipes! The little things in life mean a lot to me. I also find myself out at night in the back yard, a lot, looking up at the stars for hours. This is a time I actually enjoy, that I did not before. The quiet of the night calms me and is a pleasant change from the chaotic fast past nature of business of the daily grind. I will slip my sandals off my feet… the grass feels good between my toes. My mind will then stray as I start to think, I wonder how the guys are doing… since my team is over there right this minute… I should be with them. Then, I think, no I shouldn’t. I should be right here. But what am I suppose to do? What am I suppose to be doing now as a civilian? I have a job, though temporary but it is not the same. As I continue to try to figure out this new life please pray for me and my family. Time will help, but it is a little like going out the wire every time I leave the comforts of my driveway. If you’re a combat veteran you will understand the analogy.
As always…Thank you for taken the time to read.