When I was first stationed in Germany in early 1994, I met a guy who I'll call Matt. He was an Air Force SP (security police), which in many ways is the Air Force's idea of infantry. Matt had just returned from Somalia. He was beautiful, in my opinion, and I was immediately smitten.
The guys in my unit told me that I should steer clear of him because he was "not right anymore" since his time "in the Mog." I was just turning 20, and laughed it off. We were Air Force. It's not like we saw ground combat. I didn't know about the incident with the Black Hawks. I had been in Basic and AIT during that time. We dated for a few months and though I loved him dearly, I could never get past the wall.
I watched Black Hawk Down for the first time today, and was really able to take in the mess that was Somalia in a way that was more than just academic knowledge. Ever since doing the research for the Vietnam story, I can't watch war movies anymore. The feeling of "Hell yes! Americans Kick ASS! OORAH!" has been eclipsed by anger, and a sad sense of pride. It's not the same anymore. I don't chuckle knowingly to see wounded soldiers get up and keep fighting; admiring their courage. I cry knowingly instead, lifting my chin and thinking, "Of course."
I cried from the moment Todd Blackburn fell out of the chopper until the end credits rolled, and for a long time after. I cried for the two Delta Force soldiers who were awarded the Medal of Honor. I cried for Dom Pilla, shot out of the top of a Humvee; for Cpl Jamie Smith, who bled to death in a dirty African city while his fellow soldiers tried in vain to hold his femoral artery together. I cried for people like Matt, who I found recently but who I don't think ever really found himself again.