Words From A Warrior
Over at HELLO IRAQ, DevilDog has a post that is a must read for every person who knows a soldier or knows of a soldier; in other words, every person in this country.
It is titled "Who Am I?"
"I left home to go to a far away land, now everything is different. I can't explain to anyone how. Lately everything seems to be so very confused. It all runs together and it won't slow down. One minute I'm a normal eighteen year old kid without a care in the world. Next minute I'm a soldier, alone with my thoughts as I crouch behind a battered vehicle dodging enemy bullets that whiz past my head. Beside me are my brothers and sisters, my only source of strength and courage to go on when I feel myself start to slip away...
An enemy attacked our country. They killed thousands of our own. They threaten to destroy us, to make our country their own. So we came to this place to put an end to their goals. We freed another people these fanatics also terrorized. We taught them how to be free. We gave them hope for a better future. We are helping rebuild their country. At the same time we now fight alongside each other to defeat this common enemy.
Sadly, one day one of their eighteen year olds might be sent far away. They too may have to fight an enemy who threatens to destroy their homeland. But I pray what we do here today will help prevent that far away day. Not because I am a coward or don't want to do my job. I am just a soldier, who loves his/her country. And I'm proud to do my part.
Like many other soldiers before, I willingly volunteered foe this honor. To me and my brothers and sisters there is no higher calling except the call of God. I live to serve and protect, to keep our enemies at bay. I trained hard for that day all the while hoping it would never come. But if the call came, I knew I would do what needed to be done. There was also the element of being tested, to know if I could I do my part if the need arose.
But I always hoped that my job would become obsolete. You see, no soldier really wants to kill another human being, be they enemy or innocent victims who are unfortunate to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. We hope our very training and presence will deter those who would do us harm. But, now, as in the past, there are those who have no love of country or even their fellow man. They spread terror, hate and death anywhere that they can.
I was all pumped up my first day in this land. I was going to help stop this enemy who brazenly attacked us on our very shore. I was going to stop him, let him feel the Eagle at his door. The first time I had to kill one of them, I never felt any remorse. I didn't look into his face as he died, so I felt no remorse. But that all changed one day as I watched the life flow slowly from my enemy's face. Then I watched, for the first time, as the life's blood of an innocent child drained slowly into the sand. I couldn't help but feel there must be some other way! I felt a tear slide down my face!
Then I stood helplessly by and watched as one of my own brothers and sisters died. I felt the loss like a stabbing burning pain deep inside my heart. I stored it beside the images of all those innocent children. I felt an anger begin to grow inside me that at times threatened to consume me. I wanted to kill every single one of the enemy. I wanted to strangle them with my bare hands, watch as the recognition appeared in their eyes they were dying at my hands. I would savor that moment forever.
But a voice inside me, I don't know if it was my own or that of God above, said do that and what will be the difference between you and those you judge. So I put aside my anger, or at least that which crossed the line from soldier defending the rights of others to madman killing just to kill. I tempered my rage, I swallowed my grief, I put aside my loneliness and fears, and became a soldier again.
Everyday, or at least once a week when I could, I talked to my loved one(s) back at home. I read the letters incessantly, opened their packages made with such love. These things were my salvation. They reminded me of who I was before I came to this far away land. I didn't realize just how much of myself was lost day by day. We are too busy staying alive and doing our jobs to think about much of anything else..."
Read the rest here.
I feel it is absolutely imperative that we are aware and understand that these men and women, who chose to serve their country, come back home changed. There is no possible way they could not. The very least we can do is see that their return home is made as easy and supportive as can be, whether it be with wounds you can see or those you cannot. Those of us who haven't been where they have been, of course cannot begin to know what they have experienced. Seeing the battles on the news or reading about their missions on the Milblogs can only give us a very limited view or understanding.
I have sat just chatting with a soldier I know and suddenly I see that 1000 yard stare in his eyes. It takes a few seconds, sometimes minutes for it to pass. I can only barely imagine what visions he's seeing in that place in his mind. I know Vietnam vets who still after 30 + years still sleep during the day and some under the dining room table as it is the only safe feeling place for them.
Their families have to get to know this changed person all over again ~ a person who maybe just a year ago was taking his best girl to the school prom or performing in the high school band. We all know our kids grow up and change and that's as it should be. But as we sit at their high school graduation, we are not imaging the situations they will find themselves in a year later because they chose a path few do.
So we must be aware that the kid next door or the one home on leave has just been to a place and experienced things we here at home can never relate too. So when you see that 1000 yard stare, be gentle, be patient, be there.