“Who am I” – A Tribute to our Troops Replayed
I was reading over some of my past posts and came across something I wrote that I would like to re-post now. We don’t hear as much in the media or elsewhere about those still fighting in Afghanistan lately. There is token coverage and limited token mention from the administration. Many of our troops come home ravaged by war to little or no public support. I ant to remind us all, our guys are still fighting the enemy in Afghanistan. Those returning need our help now, more than ever.
“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 for 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.
But one day I began to notice a difference. It was a subtle something I couldn’t quite grasp. I started marking down the days as the end of my tour was coming to pass. I found there were more and more moments of reflection. Sometimes I couldn’t even remember what I reflected about. I just wanted to be home again, be normal again, be clean again, sleep in my own bed, not have to go out, hunt the enemy, kill him or be killed, see all the death, the violence. I missed my home. I missed my family. I missed my life. But these thoughts confused me. I am a soldier after all. I have a duty. I answer the call.
I felt guilty about wanting to leave behind my fellow brothers and sisters. I felt guilty that some of them would never go home. I felt guilty because of the burdens my job placed on my family. I felt unclean. Could they still love me though I am no longer that person who went away that day to protect and defend them from harms way? I felt so afraid! Then I felt a terrible fear begin to grow inside me that the horrors of what I had seen, had done, had lived with during my time here might some way touch them too. After months of living on guard to protect my very life, would I be able to relax these instincts?
As I lay in my bed at night reliving the horrors of war in my sleep, would my spouse be safe from me? Would I lose control in that moment of not being asleep anymore but not quite awake, and think he/she was the enemy? Can I control all the anger, rage, pain, and not let it spill over to my kids? But hardest of all, can I be with them, accept their love when inside even though some small part of me knows all that other garbage is there and all of what is left of my emotions is still inside me somewhere but I FEEL ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!
A dark cloud of nothingness and darkness is wrapped around my heart. It stays with me night and day. Only the battle with the enemy or the fellowship of my brothers and sisters in arms comforts me because I see that same nothingness in their eyes too. I see their confusion too. I see that like me their training and professionalism as trained soldiers is all that allows them to go on each day. All that keeps us all on the right side of the line that separates us from the type of human being we are and the enemy we fight.
All those cards, letters, phone calls, emails, they too help keep us from crossing that line. They also keep us from losing ourselves completely. It is the support from home that keeps us going. It is the love from our country that makes the difference. That’s why when I read or hear the news from home my despair deepens. The news is all so negative. There is no news of the good we do. There is no news that we are winning this war. There is no news that says our country has not abandoned us. There is only the marching in the streets, the protests outside the hospitals where our brothers and sisters lay recovering from their wounds, the fighting in the Congress.
Were it not for our training, the love we brought with us of our loved ones, the love of our country, our own love in return, I/we couldn’t go on. We wouldn’t have had the strength to start checking out things for ourselves about the situation back at home. We wouldn’t have been able to figure out that all those spreading the hate, negativity, and lack of support are made of the same substance as the enemy we fight here, so far away from home. The only thing that keeps our fear at bay for our homeland is knowing and remembering that the same spirit that has allowed our country to exist this long will raise its collective arm and stop those at home who would destroy our country, its dreams, its hopes, all the good that exists in America.
So, “Who am I?” I am an American Soldier. I am an American Veteran. I am proud to be an American. I love my country. I am proud and feel privileged to have served my country. But I am one of many who need help. I am not a coward. I am not afraid to serve again. But, sometimes no matter how hard I try, the stain of war leaves an imprint on me that I can’t fight off by myself. I try. God knows I try. But, I need your help now. I need you to help me look after my family . I need you to help me find myself again. I need you to be strong and do your part as I recover. I need you to not let those in America who would try to destroy our country succeed. I need to know my sacrifices, given willingly, were not in vain. I need to know what I did mattered. I need to know again, “Who am I the person?”
[I feel I must make a clarification. I wrote this post on behalf of our troops. I did my best to try to present what I thought might be going through the mind of all/some of our deployed soldiers. If any soldier feels I have done them an injustice, please let me know. I hope I did a decent job. I hope you also realize that none of what I’ve written is intended as anything negative. I just wanted to try to say some things y’all might not feel comfortable or advisable to say.
- Homegrown hate crimes against our troops (michellemalkin.com)
- Tom Engelhardt: One November’s Dead: The American War Dead Disappear Into the Darkness (huffingtonpost.com)
- Life among U.S. enemies: Embedded with the Taliban (cnn.com)
- SecDef Gates to Kandahar Troops: Your Success & Numbers Critical to Campaign (waronterrornews.typepad.com)
- Tributes paid to friendly-fire paratrooper (independent.co.uk)
- Army tests ‘smart’ rifle in Afghanistan (msnbc.msn.com)
- Corporal Dean John: Three sons collect Elizabeth Cross for soldier father (dailymail.co.uk)
- British Paras see progress in the fight against the Taliban – and in the schools (telegraph.co.uk)
- Middle East – Soldier gets a letter explaining the deceptions of some verses in the Q’RAN (Koran) (txlady706.wordpress.com)
- Not Even If There Was A Ladderng (thomasajohnston.com)
- Letter to Our Soldiers (wdednh.wordpress.com)
- Funeral of Liam Tasker army dog handler whose dog died from broken heart (dailymail.co.uk)
- William Astore: “Support Our Troops”: What It Means (huffingtonpost.com)
- Military apologizes for Afghan abuse photos (capitolhillblue.com)
- Families visit Kandahar to pay tribute to fallen soldiers (ctv.ca)