The Soldier Comes Home for Good ... But a Part May Never
H.R. Grimm is responsible for this content, which is not edited by the Wilson County News or wilsoncountynews.com.
In someways this article is risky. I am inviting others with a few words into my psyche or soul and some people feel compelled to handle it like the proverbial bull in a china shop. I can only hope for the best. Yet I have reasons for doing this. First, fear has a way of multiplying itself and I try to face my fears. Secondly, this might help someone like those who helped me.
There are times I catch myself traveling to numerous places at the same time, I'm here but a part of me is still "there". Some times a person can be "home" on the outside but still not "home" on the inside. Hopefully, I can put into words something of what I mean if you'll bare with me.
I left home in 1969 and joined the Army becoming a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division. AIT was to be a Combat Engineer but ended up a Infantry Soldier. Off and on over the next 43 years I would serve in the National Guard and Army Reserve. I did whatever it took to complete my assignments. Actually, as I write this I still miss that way of life. I volunteered for duty in 2004 for Iraq as I felt it my responsibility to go. While there I served as a Patient Admin Division (PAD) Officer in a Combat Support Hospital (CSH) with a staff of three We handled a number of Iraqi civilians, Police and Soldiers wounded by insurgents, as well as, a few insurgents.
The former were not enemy combatants but individuals who were trying to restore stability to their Communities and Country. When I finally came home after being a Mobilized Army Reservist for 35 months I thought I was "home". However, in April 2010 I was mobilized again and it was just plain difficult for me to leave. It is like the last part of me that was left after War was being torn away and an emotional numbness finally took it's place. On a positive note, this last military mission seemed to be a culmination of all my life's calling, experiences & training. I was stretched in areas that I had not even considered. I created a spreadsheet that "was the first compliation of this data to provide a consolidated view."
Now, I can't remember any of it! I had never even tried to do a spreadsheet in my whole life (Hey I earned my Masters degree on a Commodore 64 computer and dot matrix printer). While I was at this last duty station I linked up with a bunch of Bikers who got to know me first as a fellow Biker before they learned my professional identitites. I was christened their unofficial Chaplain. I worshipped at a great encouraging church and I was just sure that God Almighty was going to keep me in San Antonio. Instead He allowed the doors to shut as surely as a South Texas creek bed dries up after a rain. Quite frankly, it just plain confused me.
While in San Antonio I listened as higher rank began openly talking about their experiences of dealing with the emotional upheaval of their war experiences and I had to admit it all was beginning to bulge in me. The bouts of depression, anxiety, panic attacks, sleepless nights, nightmares, hyper alertness... (My Beloved wife must have lived in hell when I was home). No one saw this outside of our home but it was already oozing before I left on this last mission. I knew that one cannot ignore a splinter without infection settling in but I had the proverbial big "S" on my chest. After hearing the Higher Ranks admit their lingering effects I had to take an honest look at myself.
My whole life had been spent "doing" but I never seemed to have learned "dealing" with those images of war that still appeared in front of me so often. Right now as I type this I can still feel the cold sensation of blood on my hands as I and my staff had to pick up the bloody uniforms, go through every pocket, itemize everything in their wallet or billfold credit card numbers, pictures of a girl friend or boy friend, husband, wife, children...they ceased to be nameless victims of war as we "knew" who they were. We called Mortuary Affairs for those who died while at our location and we were responsible for guarding the body and their equipment.
I even had to help come up with a plan on how to dispose of body parts. There were nights we were on alert when the perimeter had been breached. June 2005 when coming home on RnR, I waited in Balad at Tent City with a group of Soldiers I didn't know. In that afternoon heat we drifted into a sleepy daze until we heard a series of "thumps" walking closer to us as we yelled "mortar attack" and ran to the bunkers. Since I was Senior Rank and there wasn't enough room for all of us, I made sure they got inside as I stood in the doorway. I've heard it said that you don't hear the one that gets you...I counted 5 but they said there had been 7 mortars that walked within a 100 feet of us. I'll stop here.
I can tell you that PTSD* left untreated will show its face. And so, I returned home after the last mission, basically shut myself up but got some professional help to manage the symptoms. My wife tells me I am a lot better than I was but I am aware that some symptoms linger.
Yes, "The Soldier Comes Home for Good" but a part may never. I don't want you to understand what I feel or "know" because then you would have to have these images inside your head that are in mine...and no other person who has ever witnessed traumatic events wants you have them either. I am not alone in this as more and more Active Duty, National Guard and Reservists will join with me in saying "The Soldier Comes Home for Good...But a Part May Never".
Pray for us, but don't dictate to us. Don't preach to us. PLEASE don't tell any of us that you "know what we are going through"...how could you "KNOW" what another person actually feels? You haven't lived another person's life. We haven't seen what you have witnessed any more than you were there with us at the time we witnessed what we did at that particular time. It isn't yours...its ours...just accept the fact "The Soldier Comes Home for Good...But a Part May Never."
*As in any condition there are varying degrees of severity. Not everyone who has PTSD is about to explode any more than everyone who has PMS kills their spouse. (hrg)