“Here comes the rain again/falling from the stars/drenched in my pain again/becoming who we are/as my memory rests/but never forgets what I lost/wake me up when September ends” — "Wake Me Up When September Ends" – Green Day
I still jump – whether it’s the distant sound of a car door slamming or the days before the Fourth of July – crawling out of my skin. I still, on occasion, wake up in the middle of the night, a slight panic overtaking me, a sense of confusion grabbing me for a few seconds until my head clears. I didn’t want to believe it but PTSD is real and while I certainly don’t have the worst of it compared to others I know, I still jump.
I’ve heard it all before too – you’re just a camera man, what do you know of war? Because I tend to walk alone – you don’t support veterans. Because I don’t show it on those really tough days – you don’t have it. Maybe I do, maybe I don’t. And it’s not really my point to come on here and try to puff out my chest and prove what I’ve done. You know what you’ve done; I know what I’ve done. I know I still jump.
I wish I didn’t. I wish I didn’t flinch while watching television and an engine backfires two blocks down the road. It’s amazing to me how the mind will play tricks on you and that backfiring car becomes a mortar round launched from its tube. I wish I didn’t have moments where I’ll hear something on the radio and it’ll stop me dead in my tracks as wave after wave of memories come flooding back. And sometimes, I wish I couldn’t look into the eyes of a fellow veteran and know – know the mental hell they go through at times and the pain and suffering they’ve seen. Smells, sights, sounds, they all take me back there.
You ever watch a guy slowly advance forward one second and then watch as his throat gets blown out by a sniper the next? Have you ever seen a guy jump out of a vehicle and fall over because he didn’t realize the bottom half of his leg had just been blown off? You ever held someone in your arms, their stomach and intestines laid out before you and you, you’re desperately trying to convince them they’ll be ok, even though you know they won’t. Have you ever had to navigate a field of body parts, stepping over heads separated from their bodies to get to where you were going? It’ll leave its mark.
I support the troops. Beyond being a nice bumper sticker what does that mean? That’s mostly rhetorical; I would like to hope it means something to everybody, even if it is different for all of us. Maybe, just maybe, with Veteran’s Day and the Marine Corps Birthday being just around the corner we all need to evaluate that statement. Some of us seem to forget that for too many a returning veteran, the war doesn’t end when we get home. If I’m talking to you, then hear me out. If I’m not, then don’t worry about this. But all of us sleep comfortable in our beds and can choose which news channel we wish to inform our opinion because someone in some far away land spilt their blood for you. And even if we didn’t perish at Belleau Wood, even if we survived the Battle of the Bulge, returned from the Chosin Reservoir, were spit on when we came back from the Tet Offensive, proudly retuned to the States after liberating Kuwait or bore witness to the hells of Fallujah our scars are still real.
Happy Veteran’s Day. To all my Marines out there, happy birthday and Semper Fi.