Issues for Our Returning Iraq Vets
By Roy D. Follendore III
Copyright (c) 2004 by RDFollendoreIII
December 8, 2004
Vietnam Era Vets have been there and done that so welcome home when you get home. Just shut your hole soldier, eat your ETS steak and ignore the fact that you are about to be abandoned. Quit whining about the fact that you now have enough shrapnel in your body to set off alarms in the airport because you didn't have enough armor in your Humvee. Forget about the nightmares you will have because you participated in shooting up cars full of unarmed civilians when ran roadblocks because they feared the invaders. Forget all about the sleepless nights in the desert; the your friends that got wasted or perhaps the stray dogs that you watched eat bodies that lay out in the streets for days after the fighting ended. Forget all of the bastards that have delayed your victorious arrival back to civilian life because they are either already home by now or will soon be left behind. You are in the middle of a transformation.
When you arrive home you will find the yellow ribbons that you will find on the cars are not for you. They were put there to make the people who put them on their cars feel good. Assuming that you arrive home and your significant other has been honest about the fact that he or she has been faithful, you will find that your stories become a bore. You see, the problem that you will find is that while you were living in a shit-hole it was a little too easy to forget that the people back home had a life too. Of course there will always be that nagging idea in the back of your mind that your spouse may not have been faithful. You knew when you left home that Jody would be waiting for the chance. Even as you will yourself to think that it doesn't really matter, you know deep within your guts that it does. Regardless of the truth your relationship will have lost something. You will discover that you are not quite the same husband or father, mother or wife that you might have been to your family. You will be afraid that they will see it too so you will try to compensate. Everyone who sees you will say how much you have changed and for a while you will do your best to prove them wrong. You will eventually find that this too is just another pointless losing battle. After weeks, months or perhaps years, you will admit that it is all too true. You have changed and because of your experience you are continuing to change. In the end, you will find that it doesn't make much difference how the love that you once had for your family, your experiences in Iraq have changed you.
But the problems you face will not be just you that will have changed. Your friends will have moved on with their families and careers. You may have very well have already lost or have given up your job. Even if that career position you once held still exists, perhaps that ignorant little shit that was once junior to you at your job will now be your senior. Every day that you go to work you will have had to ignore your lost seniority. At first you will be angry and later you will be depressed. You will grieve for both the sense continuity and power that you have lost. The onset of your depression will be ignored by everyone around you. By this time you may have begun to self medicate. You drink or take proscribed or street drugs to feel better. The trouble is that soon the drugs and alcohol donít make you feel any better. They do not make you OK. At this point you may be coming to the end of the line. At this point you may already be living on the street. For many vets this is the conclusion of your life.
But eventually you may find yourself in the waiting room of a Veterans Hospital. There you will endure the aging smells of other veterans who have endured the same consequences of participating in previous conflicts. They may have cancer or any one of a thousand and one other diseases. You will soon find out that your situation is not so different. You might find that you are the lucky one. The guilt that you survived while someone else's life was destroyed might become a common thread for everyone to openly discuss in psychological counseling. You will discover that most of the crap that you once were brought up to believe is in fact crap. As a result you will find yourself having to start your life all over. The Veterans Hospital will declare you cured.
Perhaps you will then choose to enroll in college where you will attempt to reformulate your life. If you are truly lucky you will find someone who is patent and understanding, someone who puts up with your sometimes crazy behavior. That someone will learn to stand back when they wake you from sleep. Maybe that someone will give you time to recover when you are instantly angry. If you are lucky you will learn to deal with your tendencies to return to violence. If you are lucky you will learn that you have the choice to become a peaceful and trusting person. You once were the lion and you learn the value of being the lamb.
If you are lucky you might eventually even be given the opportunity to spawn and raise children in your image. Because you will want your children to be able to have respect for what your life has meant, you will tell them only the better things about your experiences. Because you only let them infer your sacrifices they will understand less than what they believe they know. They will want to believe they are invulnerable like you and since you have experienced the angst of fear you will want your children to be brave. You will also try to give them a foundation to believe in our society so that they too can have the opportunity to trust in life and make something of themselves. If you have been successful in your transition then in the blink of an eye your children will have grown up.
The history of the conflict that you have witnessed will have been rewritten in Hollywood techno-glory. By that time you will become so attached to remembering only the good experiences that by then you will have forgot the worst of the past. By then and soon enough, your children too will be coming back from some future God forsaken conflict and it will be your turn to tell them how much they changed.
The issues for returning Iraq vets will forever echo into the future, just as it has for the Vietnam era vets.
Copyright (c) 2001-2007 RDFollendoreIII All Rights Reserved