Before 9/11, I was a boy who wanted to be a man. After 9/11, I became a soldier who wanted to protect his country. I believed what they told me. I know a lot of it is wrong now, but I promise you that I believed. I swear to God I believed them.
This is not political. I’m not talking about whether or not what we did out there was right or wrong. That debate is still one that I have with myself every day. This is just my experience. An experience, that before, I only shared with a few, because it was too painful and too confusing to explain to anyone else.
People ask me, “What was it like, The War?” I never knew how to respond before, but now I do. I used to say it was fucking hot and dirty, the kind of dirty you just can’t wash off. Still, that doesn’t do it justice. No, it doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface… So, don’t ask me to tell you. Please, just give me 10 minutes of your precious time. Let me show you.
I wasn’t going to say anything. I was going to continue suffering in silence through all the bitterness. I was going to “man up”, keep quiet, and not seek any help. Truth is, that is foolishness. That only ever serves the people in power. They made the war and we fought it. They gave Saddam the WMDs to fight Iran and then buried any trace of that transaction, even as Saddam buried those same weapons in unmarked locations after he killed hundreds of thousands of Kurdish families.
The government denies this just as they denied treatment for my brothers for similar injuries caused by those weapons. Just as they deny responsibility for helping our war veterans heal and come to terms with the horrors of war. Just as they refuse to even acknowledge the true extent of the problem.
I watched, one by one, as my friends and comrades became casualties over there. And now I have to watch as they become victims of suicide again and again every day. We need help. Please…dammit, this isn’t what I fought for. This isn’t what I prayed to God to bring me back for. What happened to the country that I love? What happened to the home of the free, and where the hell are the brave?