Peace surfaced here. Hard to imagine a person finding peace through war, but no one finds peace in war—peace finds you. It crawls into your sleeping bag and helps you fall asleep, nudges your arm, tells you to turn over, think about home.
I wasn't writing home. I wasn't writing a death letter, either. I was writing a death journal, a piece of fiction meant for my family and my fiancee, Sara.
Most likely, they were writing the same type of macho bullshit that I wrote, trying to sound tough with their words in case words were all that made it home.
Unfortunately, just like bullets, you can never get words back once they have been sent out into the world.
War becomes a part of you. It is a feeling just as much as an experience. If you can’t feel it, you weren’t paying attention. And if you weren’t paying attention, you are probably dead anyway.
I wanted to see my family, but didn't want to leave the other guys. The people waiting for us were strangers, even though I knew every last one of them.
No matter what the reason, the ways I tried to justify the situation, the second-guessing that lingered, nothing could change the fact that people stopped existing because of me.
the shooting and killing weren’t as black-and-white as most people think. The actions live in that hazy area of blown-apart stone walls and hesitations. Sometimes I shot when I shouldn’t have; other times I didn’t shoot when I should have. There was no way to explain why I did either. Everything happened so fast. Decisions had to be made. After I got home I began to see things in slow motion, see the actions that might’ve been mistakes.
I guess I was always looking for something. What it was, I didn’t know. I wanted help from the VA, but didn’t want to go back, didn’t want to be subjected to that second-rate treatment any longer. I wanted to find peace within myself, but didn’t know how or where to locate it. I wanted to be a sergeant again, a writer, less angry, a better husband, and to ward off the constant bombardment of war-related thoughts. Most of all, I didn’t want any more Americans coming home from Iraq in boxes or with jingle-jangled minds.
I missed the war and the freedom that came with it. When you are that close to death, you feel free. Every breath you take could be your last. So you inhale and savor each breath, try not to think about your death even though signs of it are all around you. The freedom comes from knowing that if anybody gives you crap, you can eliminate them and the situation. Just shoot and get it over with.
I wanted people to know that we fired rounds into moving trucks and open windows to survive, not for anyone else’s freedom. Not for the Democrats. Not for Republicans. Just to survive.
Everyone acted like they knew so much about the war. But none of them really knew anything besides what they had learned through Internet searches or shady half-truths political pundits spouted from the comfort of their news desks. Nothing could ever be flushed out because nobody bothered to ask the troops or look at both sides of the story.