Soldier in Transition

‘Support our Troops’…’Honor our Fallen Heroes’…’Thank a Veteran’…these phrases speak for themselves. Instinctively, in our hearts and in our guts, we feel pangs of pride, of sadness or anguish, of gratitude for sacrifices made in the cause of freedom. But unless we have been there, we really cannot know…

I have had the inestimable honor of working with an Afghan/Iraqi war vet these last few months. Words cannot adequately describe my response to being in this young man’s presence. I have felt that I have been visited from on High, that God has graced me with a word in the flesh, the very topic about which I ‘ve often written, alive, in my space. Often, I’ve felt stupid, not knowing what to say, or how to help.

I went against my better judgment, and asked this young soldier if I could interview him at some point, because I wanted to know, first-hand, how a soldier felt about this war. We all sit over here and expound on this & that, we bloggers, sounding off in posts, forums, etc., but how do they feel? What are a soldier’s thoughts on the kind of brutal experiences that most of us will never know?

The red flag that was gently waving in the back of my mind, warning me that it might be too soon for Ethan (not his real name) to re-live combat events by speaking of them, proved accurate. Ethan still had trouble sleeping, though he’d been home over a year. He is still trying to fully recover. I backed off, and promised not to mention my request again. And I haven’t. But in some of our conversations, I learned bits & pieces about this soldier’s life now, and then. I don’t feel that I should go into details, but what I want to convey is that, when one of our warriors comes home from the Middle East theatre of war, it isn’t that fairytale, balloons-and-parade-with-flag flying! and now everything is OK! that we might mistakenly think. These men and women are forever changed.

As a civilian, I was most certainly deluded. But watching and working with one of our nation’s heroes has opened my eyes. You don’t just ease back into society after fighting jihadists, or having your vehicle blown up by a roadside bomb. You carry it with you, and it can take a long time to regain at least some of your former mentality. On top of that, most people around you are clueless. Nobody gets it. The only reason I got any of ‘it’ is because God had been at work, expanding my awareness, so that every time I see Ethan, or speak with him, I’m so affected that I feel like a fish out of water. I am humbled, speechless, and, like I said, I feel stupid.

Ethan is returning to Afghanistan. Though he served three years already, he will return for at least six more, and may opt for a military career. A soldier is who he is, it seems to me, not what he’s done.

I will miss him.

8 responses to “Soldier in Transition

  1. Wow. Very incredible. I hope and pray he is safe.My wife works with a number of active and reserve duty soldiers. I have felt the same thing you do. I am humbled and awed by the sacrifices these men and women make. I hope your friend is safe.

  2. Andy, thank you for your concern, & keep my friend in prayer…he told me he has the option of choosing where & how he wants to serve, though, he probably won't be in combat, now, like he was before. I asked him to email me from time to now, with updates…

  3. It's so true. We, who like to sit back and criticize, really don't what it's like for the soldiers over there. One of my cousins was in Iraq for a while and he hasn't said say anything about it since then.

  4. Ethan told me that there were some things he would never speak of…not that he was ashamed, but he just didn't want to talk about them again. One thing he did share, tho, was that he noticed how most of the media coverage of the war was negative, and he was aggravated that things like, how our troops installed running water systems, for people who had never in their lives had that, or built schools for the kids, weren't reported enough, or at all.

  5. veni; vidi; vici — no way.I came; I read; I retreated……. still mulling this one in the grist mill that is considered my existence … hmmm.Mostly thinking about my own training and my experiences with being a victim…

  6. MooPW, not sure exactly what's goin' on in that 'grist mill' there, so please, continue to mull…also,"veni; vidi; vici" is Greek (Latin?) to me -what does that mean?!

  7. "veni; vidi; vici" is the opening Latin phrase we all memorized from Caesar's opening to his speech on Rome's conquered sovereigns.I came; I saw; I conquered.[silly me, eh?] I was trying to say I came by to read and your words conquered me instead .. something like that.

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