So, I just finished the book “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien. This is one of the best written books I’ve ever read. Ever.
Bald Eagle (1/2000, f/7.1, ISO 500, Canon 7D Mark II, Sigma 150-600 C)
I spent my 20’s going from naive college kid to war veteran to young adult making his way up through the federal personnel system. I’ve always thanked my military service for who I have become and the opportunities my service has given me.
It opened doors to my career. Gave me leadership experience others my age hadn’t had the opportunity to get. It gave me a view of the world many of my peers could never imagine. But I never saw what a lot of my fellow Soldiers saw.
Sure, I saw death. I saw the results of war. I was a truck driver, leading convoys, doing the best job I could.
See, I deployed in 2003-04. IEDs and convoy strikes were just starting to become common when I rotated out. We traveled Iraq in unhardened vehicles delivering beef jerky, MREs, and bottled water to places all over southern and central Iraq. Luckily, every person in my Company came home. We had a few who came home injured due to freak accidents, but no one died or was wounded from enemy contact. We were lucky, I was lucky.
There was a chapter (Ghost Solders) in this book that resonated with me though. It was where Tim had been wounded for the second time and had been relegated to duty in the rear. When his unit came in for leave, he’d felt left out, not a part of the team anymore. That’s something I’d never felt. See, I’ve always known my service mattered. I did what was asked of me. I still do. But I also see the pain in our veterans that have seen such terrible things. I know people who have taken their own lives because they couldn’t process the things they saw or did. It’s hard for me to relate and tends to leave me feeling like I’ve not seen enough.
I’m not a war monger, hoping for the next war to prove my mettle. I think all war is wrong and not the way to solve the worlds problems. War is scary and brings the worst out of humanity. If it can be avoided, it should. But if it’s inevitable, we need to provide the help our veterans need.
Tim O’Brien found writing to deal with his war. I found my work to deal with mine. However, thousands of veterans haven’t found a way to deal with their war. As a country, as a populace who counts on these veterans to protect them and their way of life, we owe those hero’s the help they need to deal with their war, the things they carried.
Thousands of veterans take their own lives every year. These are people who gave their all for their buddies, their units, their country. It hurts me to the core that they couldn’t find the help they needed before it was too late. There are resources out there…but most are too prideful to take advantage of them.
All I ask is we ask someone if they are okay. If someone looks like they are struggling talk to them. Tell them they have resources. The VA, civilian, it doesn’t matter. If someone needs help, get it to them.