Some years ago, the US military released a horrible statistic. More Afghan/Iraq vets were dying from suicide than were killed in battle. God only knew how many others were homeless, locked in the war that raged inside their heads.
It was a sad reminder that although our loved ones come back to us, they don’t always make it all the way home.
Their service has changed them.
And their families.
My dad married just before he left the Marine Corps. He is proud of his service and wears his Korean War vet ball cap with pride. But just because he was discharged, didn’t mean he was free of the military. Here’s my dad sharing his thoughts:
On this day in 1953 about this time of day, I was getting off a cattle car in South Caroline and being herded to a bus with screamed instructions and insults to enjoy my first day in the corps of “The Few and the Proud”. It was an abrupt introduction after a somewhat sheltered life up to that point. You can not imagine the fear and helplessness of be held captive and being abused verbally and sometimes physically without the ability to fight back. If you wrote home or to your congressman it would only get worse as some found out. There was no higher authority to appeal to and if you tried to fight back it was the brig (Jail) or bad conduct discharge the likely result. There plan was to remove the child from the teens or young men before them by breaking down the individual for the benefit of team building. A horrible ten weeks but I no longer have nightmares in the last two or three decades. Soon after my time the infamous McKeon swamp march which killed a handful of recruits forced a change to a softer form, of “Boot Camp”
Yesterday ,l celebrated my release from the Marines, it was my 58th anniversary. October is special to me in many ways. On Saturday, I was happy to see two of my favorite celebrities shared a birthday, Freddy Couples (golfer) and KebMo (Singer. Meanwhile, remember to fly your flags and remember the vets on November 11th because even if they did not have to be in a war, they still made sacrifices and suffered to keep you safe.
I wasn’t around for the first 10 years of my parents marriage. But I know it was contentious. That my parents argued and my dad who’d been trained to kill had to leave for a while to cool down.
It took him a while to come home, but he made it.
And he wasn’t alone.
My great uncle survived the attack on Pearl Harbor. More great uncles served in World War II; other uncles served in Vietnam and Korea. Cousins and friends were in Grenada, Desert Storm, and Enduring Freedom.
They all came back; not all made it home.
The members of your unit may have kept you alive in the sand box. But your discharge doesn’t free you from needing others to have your back. Find a new unit from the veteran’s support group, depend on them to get you the last mile home home.
One last thought from my father:
My memories of the sad view of Arlington with the horse drawn cassions delivering yet another vet to their final resting place that I saw six days a week for a year and a half are still embedded.
Don’t let the war take anymore lives. You fought for our homes. Keep fighting, but not for us.
Let others help you make it home.