NOTE: If you are in imminent risk of ending your life, please call 911 or the National Suicide hotline at 1-800-273-8255 for immediate help. 

You’re thinking about it. Ending your life. Stopping the pain. Doing it because you think it’s best for those around you. You’re tired of your shit being the cause of other people’s pain. Tired of fighting demons. Tired of… just tired.

Every night, every day, is a struggle. A goddamn fucking struggle. You wear a smile. You’re screaming inside. And no one can hear you. Not the fucking VA. Not your family. Not your friends. You’ve been cheated on. Left. Denied. Turned down. Turned away.

But you’re supposed to be okay.

You’re supposed to be better by now.

But you’re not.

No one can see you. Yeah, your buddies know this shit. But they don’t have to live inside your head. And everyone else? “Go to counseling.” “Take your meds.” “Try to forget about it.” You’ve heard it all. Just do something, fuck, anything, as long as we don’t have to deal with your pain. That’s what they’re thinking, right?

So, suicide. Go out quickly. No reason not to. At least then the people you love won’t be hurt by your shit anymore. You’ll be free from these ghosts you can’t evade. The anger you can hardly contain. The scenes that flash before your eyes over and over and over and fucking over again and…

Give me one damn good reason to live, you plead. And silence echoes from the heavens.

Alone. Lost. Exhausted. No end and no hope in sight that things will ever get better. That things can even get better.

You should’ve died down range. Would’ve been better than this internal hell.

And so you are thinking about it. You might have already tried. And for whatever reason, you found this article. These words. These thoughts that feel as if I’m reading your mind. And you feel a spark of recognition. Enough to keep you reading.

Because everyone talks about “suicide prevention” but no one gives a damn about you. “Call the hotline”, they say, as they hand you a flimsy card, turn and walk back into their comfortable lives. Twenty-two veterans a day.

You know what? I’m tired, too. I’m tired of hearing about good, caring guys like you who pulled the trigger, fastened the noose, and died believing they were alone in their pain. Died believing that suicide was the only way. Died believing that no one like me existed out here. Died without knowing how easily they could have lived. How if they had made one connection to one person who actually gave a damn about them, it would have made the difference. That one healing embrace would have been the turning point. A spark lighting up the dark.

Because it is the difference. Your spirit doesn’t need a miracle cure. You’re not dying of cancer. The wounds you bear are not unhealable. The pain you feel can be eased. You CAN heal. You can feel joy again. You can find a life that you live on purpose and with purpose. You don’t need a miracle cure. The power is within you.

But you are tired. Worn. Weary. Exhausted. Depleted. You don’t have the strength to continue on alone.

That’s why you’re here. Now. Reading these words I’m speaking to you.

Because you need someone to take your hand and look you in the eyes and fight for you.

Yes, fight for you. You don’t need to be rescued. You need someone to fight this battle for your freedom with you. To be there when you can’t go on, to remind you of the light and joy and beauty and strength that’s still in you. To hold up a vision of you, whole, and remind you of what IS possible. To see, when you can’t see it yourself. To believe, when you can’t believe it yourself.

To fight for the Light in you until you can feel it yourself.

Don’t. Don’t be that guy I hear of tomorrow whose death causes his buddies to absorb the shock like another blast. Don’t be that death that makes it just a little bit harder for them to stay. Don’t be that death that lets war win, that lets the enemy win, years after they had their last chance.

You matter. You matter to your buddies. You matter to me.

You. matter. to. me.

I don’t care how broken you think you are. I don’t care how beyond hope you think you are. I am looking you in the eyes and telling you this:

I am here to fight this battle with you.
I see you.
You’re not invisible to me.
You can find healing.

So what do I want you to do?
Clasp my outstretched hand. Connect.
I will fight for your freedom. I will walk this path with you. You owe it to every single person who has ever loved you, living and dead, to give yourself this chance. You owe it to your buddies.

You owe it to me because I’m here, looking you in the eyes.
You owe it to yourself.

REACH OUT.

Email me at brittareque@gmail.com or connect via Facebook.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gallery  —  Posted: January 1, 2014 in Courage, Healing from War, PTSD, Suicide

Guest post by Joe DeCree, Maj. (Ret.) US Army

Groundhog Day…again.

It is almost February 2nd. Time for more reruns of the Bill Murray/ Harold Ramis classic movie. It is a movie that works on many levels for many of us. In thinking about this movie (it is a favorite of mine) I found an interesting parallel to post military life.

Speaking for myself, when I first suspected I had PTSD I did what most of us do — I told myself that it wasn’t so. I managed to dodge reality for quite awhile (I was an officer. I can be very convincing and still be wrong). But when reality would not be put off any longer I found myself in Groundhog Day. Nothing much changed. I got up, got angry, went to my job, felt pointless, wanted to be somewhere else, wanted to be dead. I kept talking to people and mimicking right answers, funny jokes, etc. and complained about everything and everyone all with the vaguest hope that one day I would wake up and it would be magically different. No matter how much I tried to show normal, I just wasn’t feeling it. Mostly I wasn’t feeling anything and when I did it was pretty bleak.

Just like Bill Murray’s character I did things that were increasingly risky with less and less thought about consequences because after all I would wake up tomorrow and nothing would have changed. I was stuck in Groundhog Day. Sound familiar?

But the metaphor is incomplete without the resolution. That is the best part of the movie. The character in the movie is stuck for exactly that reason. He works on just stuff- things that amuse himself or impress others. They are heartless and meaningless acts essentially. But at one turn in the plot he starts doing things for others. He stops a kid falling out of a tree. Helps some old ladies change their tire, and does a few other random acts of kindness. He makes it his purpose to help others. This progresses to an interest in making himself a better person. At that point he wakes up on February 3rd.
It is a new day at last.

That was me too. PTSD and readjustment blues (sounds like it should be a song, yeah?). It is easy to be stuck in Groundhog Day. Nothing changes. Meds, VA, friends pretending it’s all good, or nagging you about getting something new started. You want it all to go away but the regularity of it all becomes its own kind of weird comfort. The dullness keeps some of the rage and anxiety at bay so you tolerate it and tell yourself that you are getting there or perhaps that it doesn’t matter at all and soon you’ll be dead. If you stay here you are gonna die. It will either be a suicide or worse- the slow emotional death that perversely proves that you were right and life is not about anything and never was. It is a truly dark place we travel through to appreciate what light is.

If this is where your story is then please let’s do something about it. It does not have to be. Bill Murray did not stay in Groundhog Day forever. It changed when he decided what life was about and that he would dedicate himself to pursuing that. In the movie, he discovered (just like I discovered) that life is not in fact pointless. It is all about how we relate to others. For me that took a decidedly Christian path. Yours may be different but a philosophy that keeps you isolated and makes life pointless is a guaranteed Groundhog Day. It will never be different.

We are relational creatures. That is how God made us. We are made for one another. This implies certain responsibilities. First it implies that we have to make ourselves into something that can support that. Then we have to find people we want to serve who have a cause we believe in. This stuff is not new to military folks. It’s why we served.

It is who we are.

Be who you are. Get busy working on yourself to get to a place where you can fulfill that mandate in your soul.

Being stuck is a normal part of life. It happens sometimes. You get in a rut. Partly, your current rut is normal. It is amplified by the medical conditions related to trauma. Those may be permanent to a degree, but your rut need not be. One thing that I have learned that I hope you do too is that God has no zero and no max.

That means whatever time you have left is enough time to do what we were meant for. It also means if you want to wallow in your trouble there is not truly a bottom. My friend Britta Reque-Dragicevic has an interesting way of viewing this in her blog here. She details her own struggles with depression due to physical problems. She says that you have to choose to fight for your own life every day. I agree with that. You can get to a point where that is not daily, but you will still have to visit that choice at regular intervals.

Life changed for us. We went to war. Much of what we experienced was not a choice, but at this point in your life you must make that choice. February 3rd will not roll around by itself. It has to be invited in. That’s good news — at last you finally get a choice about what happens to you. This is not an IED or ambush. You can make this decision toward your own life.

This isn’t me painting a rosy picture. Nothing erases what you did or what you saw, or how you got blown up. I still have days when I wish I was dead and past it all, but they are getting fewer. Here is the million-dollar question: What if you woke up tomorrow and you weren’t pissed off? What would that mean to you? What if you did not feel like you were in a box that was getting smaller? You felt like you could make some future plans that might work? What if your emotional rucksack just felt 10 lbs. lighter? Heck when was the last time you really laughed with someone? Don’t you miss that? Brother, you can get to that day but you have to make that happen. You can. It is scarier than your first jump out of a perfectly good airplane but it is just as big a rush if you truly commit to it.

Step one is to reach out to someone. Anyone. A spouse, parent, friend, clergyman, your general practitioner, Britta — heck, I will talk to you if you think it will help. This is not negotiable, remember we are designed to be relational creatures. Isolation does not serve us well. Adam had a date before the end of the second chapter in the Bible (Genesis 2:18 …”it is not good for man to be alone…”). Everybody needs somebody. Even you. Pick someone you think you can trust and lay it out.

I know trusting your issues with someone else is hard. They might be shocked. They might not believe that people are capable for doing those things to one another. They might judge you and what right do they have to do that? They did not go over there! I was worried that my wife would hate me if she knew some of the things I did in combat. She did not. It took me years to tell her. When I did she thought I had pulled off some brilliant plays. Believe me, I get that you are scared. You are going to keep being scared if nothing changes. You ask, “what if talking is a mistake?” Ask a different question “What if it helps me get where I want to be?”

Disclosure makes you a bit vulnerable but, honestly, you are very vulnerable now in your isolation so that is not working either. And if nothing changes then you will always be isolated, vulnerable, and scared. Change something, man. Find a confidant. Connect with Britta or reach out to me. Open up a bit. Work on yourself so you can get back to the business of doing for others because that is who you are. It is why you fought.

Get to February 3rd.

JoeDeCree

 

Joe DeCree is a Maj. (Ret.) US Army, Green Beret, 19th SFG (A). He works with returning veterans and lives with his family in Montana. You can contact Joe directly at jdegijoe@gmail.com or 406-871-0638 MT.

Gallery  —  Posted: January 31, 2018 in Coming Home, Courage, Healing from War, Post War Life, PTSD

Guest post by Joe DeCree, Maj. (Ret.) US Army

Warriorhood — the status of being a warrior.  Warrior  — a person who is called to defend others; to live by a code of honor and ethics in pursuit of the greater good; to lead the non- warrior class in living up to the ideals of the society. These definitions are my own, but I think they are solid. Regardless of definition being a warrior is a calling.  Oh, it is an oft used term and its overuse is offensive.  I do not see professional athletes as warriors. Sorry. No one is getting shot on the 50 yard line today.  There is no catastrophic fail of human rights if an otherwise reasonable and classy athlete engages in an unsavory press interview speech. Other cultures have and have had a warrior class. The United States does not.  It could violate the equality under the law clause.  At a minimum, it does violate the founding tenet of equality. 

But, in many ways, it is a separate group in our culture.  Some of us never dreamed we would do it for as long as we did.  Some of us only joined up to do our bit for the war on terror.  For others it was the thing we were born to do.  If you are reading this then you are probably no longer in the official status of warrior.  By that I mean that your professional tenure as soldier, marine, sailor, airman, coast guardsman, is over.  You are now a veteran. The treasured post-warrior class of the nation.  I know it does not seem like this always; especially for the VietNam guys.  Some of us got parades. Some of us got spit on.  Some of us are still trying to sort out what it was all for.

Most of us have PTSD, PTE, or some form of Post Combat Transformation (PCT-my own term).  We watch football millionaires not render honors to the nation and others argue about which toilet in the restaurant they should use.  It is easy to see the country and compare the pop-culture against the value of buddies’ lives spent so that we could have these ridiculous arguments.  Here is a hint: the arguments were not worth their lives — but hold that thought.  If that statement rings true to you then your professional tenure as warrior is up, but your spiritual tenure as one is not.  For most of us that can never be. It is both our great blessing and our great curse.

Some of us are glad to be out and some of us cry about losing that part of our lives.  Some of us got medically retired. Some retired the conventional way. Some just got disillusioned and left.  Big deal; why am I saying this when we all know it?  Because we are all still warriors. The days of just joining up to get the college money is 17 years past.  That is when this era of constant war started. 

We had our eyes wide open when we stepped into the recruiter’s cubicle.  There was no question where that conversation would lead us. So how do we maintain warriorhood now that we are veterans?  That is “veteran” and not “former warrior”. I am not certain that such a thing exists.  I am of the opinion that once a warrior, always a warrior.  The question is now how do I get my warrior on without a uniform to wear?

To answer this let’s breakdown what it is to be a warrior.  We all believe in something bigger than ourselves.  That’s easy. For all of us that was the ideal of America.  I understand that there are warts and stretch marks on Lady Liberty and she might need a boob job, but that lamp is still on. We followed the lamp. We sweated bullets and bled for that lamp to stay lit.  This dovetails nicely into the second reason which is a desire to serve.  The third is a willingness to defend her and the people she has brought in.  Regardless of what you believe about immigration or racial differences you believed that the torch on the statue was for everyone here.  Newsflash – it is; you were right. 

The defense of the nation and her people points to the major corollary of warriorhood (a corollary is a major point that supports a principle). That corollary is that we were all willing to do a job no one else would.  The active service is around 1% of the population.  You are elite. You are the 1% who dared. Those that did not will have many “reasons” like they did not support the war, did not want to be shot at, believed they were best used elsewhere, etc.  These are the excuses of selfishness and in some cases cowardice.  We were not selfish. 

Stay with me we are almost there.  The first is that we believe in doing things. We are not talkers and philosophers.  We do not trust speeches.  I tell my friends that I am what happens when those speeches fail.  Talk is nice but we tend to see it as a warning order. In other words we either drop the polite discussion or do something with it.  Final point-we are leaders.  The lowest marine or army private is more capable of handling most emergencies than John Q. Public.  It isn’t their fault.  It comes from knowing that you can do things because you have. They try to live their life stress free.  You see that as a kind of prison. 

So if we set this up in proper military fashion it looks like this:

  1. Belief in the American ideal-we followed her lamp/torch.
  2. We wanted to serve others.
  3. We wanted to defend our country and her citizens-even those of the other political party.
  4. We were willing to do a job others were not. We are the 1%.
  5. We are not selfish.
  6. We are people of decisive action.
  7. We are leaders.

Now you are out of uniform.  You have some kind of PCT.  Your noble intentions had consequences that you were only vaguely aware of much like a professional athlete who now has concussion syndrome.  The explosions were cool when you were in training but now you blanch at 4th of July fireworks.  Getting shot at did not scare you when you fought, it pissed you off and made some noise of your own. You were fast, lethal, and very expert. Now you are broke, angry, scared, physically broken, and Lord knows what else. 

For my own part I spent a few years just kind of cowering from life. I had had enough and whereas I was not planning a suicide if I had fallen in front of a careening Mack truck I would not have tried to get up.  Many of you are like that.  It wears on your family and friends. It wears on you.  One friend told me “I am so angry all the time that it makes me tired.”

How do you get out of this weird alien syndrome you find yourself in? Here is the answer as I see it – it lies in our training and the six reasons I listed above.  It seems to me that cowering and hoping that things get better is not who we are.  It is antithetical to our character, to our training, and it doesn’t work that well either.  I was in special operations, we have great unit mottoes (as you did) like “Molon Labe or De Oppresso Liber, or my personal favorite from the SAS: “Who dares wins”. 

These mottoes indicate action or the readiness of a cocked fist. This is who we are.  If nothing else the country sure could use the leadership we can provide.  It can use some unselfish people who still think Lady Liberty is hot. Time to mount up boys and girls, the work ain’t done yet.  Seek out the positive action you can take for the cause you believe in. If it is not the country that’s fine. I am not going to judge that, but we need something or someone to fight for. Find it.

You may need some counseling and some meds.  If that’s you then do that and take them. Don’t make excuses and don’t be ashamed.  That is what you need to be mission capable.  Don’t listen to the people who tell you it’s a sign of strength to get help.  Also, don’t listen to that voice that tells you it’s a sign of weakness.  Here is ground truth, it is neither. It is simply what you need to do to stay in whatever fight you are in. It is like spare batteries for your night vision – you just make sure you have them.  So do it and tell everyone else thanks for their irrelevant opinion. 

America is at a crossroads and needs it veterans vibrant and active.  Can we still shoulder a ruck and move out? No. Those days are behind us but look at what we are doing in business and politics.  Look at the numbers of us who are getting into teaching.  There are still fights worth engaging in.  That does not have to be a senate run or mayoral bid.  It might just mean being a deacon at the church, volunteer to run the neighborhood watch, or show the guys at the plant what a good day’s work really is.  Maybe coach a youth team. 

Our perspective is unique-after all only 1% of the population has ever done it at any given time; perhaps 7% of the total population has ever served.  We have a perspective on life that they just don’t get but they need.  They are the folks we defended but were not permitted to be a part of. Well, we are part of them now and a new 1% is stepping up to serve. 

Being in therapy does not mean that we are out of the fight. In fact it might just help us get back into it. Remember the 6 pillars (above) of what a warrior is.  Don’t let someone else tell you what you are or when you are “healed”.  That happens when you say-and being in counseling or on meds does not mean that you are not healed. It is just how you manage your day now.  Combat changes us. One of those ways is to ingrain the warrior into us.  If that is who you are then don’t stop now because life will not make sense any other way. Warrior you were. Warrior you are. Warrior you will be. Find a fight you can believe in again.  Suit up.

joedecree.jpg

Joe DeCree is a Maj. (Ret.) US Army, Green Beret, 19th SFG (A). He works with returning veterans and lives with his family in Montana. You can contact Joe directly at jdegijoe@gmail.com or 406-871-0638 MT.

 

Gallery  —  Posted: January 21, 2018 in Courage, Healing from War, Post War Life, PTSD, Spirit Wounds, Warrior Identity

He led the rebel movement.

Rebels? Yes, that’s what they were. How unimaginable it would have been just a few years before. When life was normal. Peaceful. Predictable.

The invading foreigners were determined to decide the fate of his people. Determined to impose a way of life, their way of life. A life he could not imagine.

Thousands of rebels were at his command. Trusting — not trusting — watching his every move. Traitors among them. Spies among them. How could he be certain? He dare not let them know or see how doubt and regret haunted his inner world. How he’d issue a command having only himself to trust, only himself to blame, for its fate.

They dare not know how impossible it often felt to sustain his own belief. How the hardest battles were the ones he fought with himself, out of sight, in his heart. How terrified he actually was.

They called him cold and unfeeling. A man without a heart.

The tally of their dead could prove them right.

The enemy was cunning, well armed, with advanced technology and endless funds. Their only limitation was their rules of engagement, issued from afar, from their highest command.

Young men had left their foreign land to battle here, for a war that few could fathom was necessary, certainly one that seemed to be over greed, power, control. But what war wasn’t?

His men fought for their homes, for their families, for the right to rule their own country, for freedom from these foreigners. No one with any sound reason would believe they had even the slightest chance at victory.

What would they think if they knew how hard it was to convince himself of it? What would they think if he failed to keep up appearances of hope, optimism, belief? No one knew how close he had come to giving up.

No one.

The man they saw was not the man he was inside. The confident orders he heard himself issue were not the fearful words he heard in his mind. The smile he mustered reminded them that he was human, it did not erase how dead he felt. It could not ease the fear, the heavy weight pressing down on his chest, that made it hard to breathe and sometimes, hard to not put an end to his breathing.

Perhaps his nightmares were the terrors of a weak mind that could not put down the burden of command, could not put down knowing that good men had died because of him. That more men would die because of him. How their families suffered — the women, the mothers, the innocent, carefree children — god, he dare not go there. Not now.

A cold man? Unfeeling? Because feeling brought pain too unbearable to endure? At the end of the day though, who cared? His suffering was merely a reflection of his men’s suffering, compounded by a thousand. The pain, itself, the same.

War had taken so much of them it was hard to feel what, of their humanity, remained.

And yet, as hard as he prayed for relief, as much as he begged God to release him, giving up was not an option.

Too much had been paid. Too many had fallen. Too much had been sacrificed to give up now. Giving up would invalidate it all, disgrace them all, those bodies of his men out there, dismembered, bleeding, gone. He could not do that to them.

He would not do that to them.

The pain of this war would be part of his soul forever. Etched into his cells, his senses, his heart, his mind, his existence. The enemy would not win by getting him to take himself out. Not now. Not ever.

Surrender was not an option.

This bitter night would end. In the morning, the sun would rise.

His rebels would look to him for courage, for hope, for the will to live.  For the reason to fight on.

He would give them that reason.

The tent flapped open, startling him from his thoughts.

One of his guards came in.

“General Washington, the boats are ready.”

 

 

Gallery  —  Posted: December 31, 2017 in Courage, Healing from War, PTSD, Suicide, Survivor's Guilt, Warrior Identity

We are back but we are not yet home.
We are inside the building but it is now unfamiliar.
Sand and heat are our familiar now. The smell of cordite, gunpowder, and C4.
We sweated in the crippling heat.
We fought the camel spiders.
We gave candy to the kids.
We watched villages burned; some from our bombs and some from theirs.
We closed with, we killed, we captured.
We tried to limit carnage. That is what you wanted of us. It was not in our best interest.
We died trying to honor your wish; physically, emotionally, even spiritually.
We fought under the flag you refuse to honor. We are buried beneath it.
We just wanted you to live life in your way.

But we are too different from you now. You can’t understand us.
We can’t go back. Not after what we have seen.
You won’t give us our due.
You show no real understanding.
Or appreciation.
You have no concept of honor.
You enjoy your delusions.
I guess I offend you too, just by my life.
The things you call life and freedom are vapor.
You waste your true lives and freedoms every day on vapor.
Lives and freedom many of us will no longer get.
We have killed people so you can enjoy your vapor-thick & artificial the way you like it.
Another funeral with a flag draped casket.
You protest that too.
You won’t even allow us our deaths.
In our despair, we build the walls.

My wife wants me to be normal.
I don’t know what that is anymore.
She’s really trying. I hurt for her.
I still love her on the days when I can feel love.
But I can’t let her see.
If I do I have not protected her from the horror or from what it did to me.
I don’t want to see either. That’s the real reason.

Needing to tell but not able to. That is my day.
Can you see me screaming inside? Past the phony smile?
My job is stupid. I went from leader of warriors to …whatever…
I just want to stop being so angry. Why does everything make me so angry?
It fuels my day.
And I want to stop hating you but you won’t let me.
You have made my life meaningless by your vapor worship.
You won’t leave me alone and you won’t help.
All I did is what you asked me too.

Being home is lonelier than being in the fight.
Where are my brothers that get me through this?
We did everything together.
I left them in the sand.
I buried them in Arlington.
I wander lost without them.
Who will understand now that they cannot?
Was the fight a waste? Or is just here a waste?
Is what you call life really alive?
No. It is vapor. There is no life in it.
You force me to try to fit into it.
More despair.

Why was I spared? Why did I come home?
Oh God where are you? At the VA?
The hypocrites at church do not know you. Not really.
Not like I do.
We have been in battle together.
We have talked about things that are real.
You said you would be with me but I cannot find you now.
You were with me in the sandbox.
I can’t feel you here.
I can’t feel anything.
Eli Eli lama sabacthani.
We can’t figure it out. Why we have been left.
So we just kill ourselves.

But there is a glimmer.
A shaft of light.
One guy got through. The wall is breached.
He is damaged but still standing. Shot up but not shot down.
Someone holds open the breach for him.
God showed up.
He showed us the crack in our wall.
We built it to defend ourselves.
It will crush us under its own falling weight.
The tactical position is untenable.
First sergeant prepare the men to march. We move to light.
Darkness was our friend in battle. No more.
It haunts us.
The unfeeling darkness.
Move! Move! Move! Attack toward the light.
No one gets left.
You take his arm. I will take his pack.

Now I am outside the crumbling walls that fall in on themselves.
There is light!
Let there be light.
I see an unfamiliar man.  Another lost soul.
He did not serve.
He is not a fighter. He is lost in the vapor.
I fought for him but he does not know how to live in freedom.
He is my new brother.
He is more broken than us because he has never really lived.
He does not understands what life is.
He only knows the heartbreak of the vapor.
I help him shoulder his pack filled with the fruits of non-life.
I fight for him again. I know life, and death.
I have been both.
I will show him.

I can show my remaining brothers too.
They are stuck in the rubble of the walls.
Clawing to get to the light.
We need a new weapon
It is forgiveness.
We must forgive the brothers who left us…to deal with gutters and mortgages.
We must forgive the others for the vaporous ridicule.
Their lack of understanding and honor.
We must forgive our family’s clumsy attempts to help.
We must forgive ourselves for living.
We must forgive the nation its schizophrenia about us.
We must forgive God for not killing us.
Well done. We can make it.

I show one and he shows another and that one another.
Iron sharpens iron. I am iron again.
I am a warrior again.
God is no longer on the horizon.
He is here.
He will fight with us again. Who can be against?
Never again darkness.
There is life again. Let there be life.

I tell my wife.  She tries to understand.
She tries. She is a friend again.
I can feel love again.
First a flicker then a stream.
It shows me purpose.

There are many more out there.
Many are my old brothers from the war. Some are my new brothers escaping vapor.
They are wounded.
The mission is not over.
So am I.
But I heal.  Never completely but enough.
They will too. I will show lead them.
Forgiveness and love.
Healing. God, love, forgiveness, light. Wholeness.

I still miss my brothers from the war. I can never truly leave them.
I will honor them by living.  Not by the living death. Never that again.
I will fight. Others need my strength.
I am still a warrior.
I lived a warrior and will die as one.
Warrior-a man who stands for others with strength, honor, courage.
I am that still. I will be weak no more.
Charlie Mike. The mission continues.

There are many ways to fight. There are many enemies.
I will find them too.
They will rest no more.
Turn and plant your feet.
Square up to the darkness and face it.
No more hiding.
For the fight comes from the soul.
I still have a soul.
The soul of a warrior.
Damaged but not destroyed. Shot up but not shot down.
God, help me keep fighting.
I have buddies still out in the darkness.
Old buddies and new.
Give me a purpose worthy of a warrior.
This is what you made me for.
Now I am home.

–Joseph DeCree, Retired Major, US Army
Green Beret 19th SFG (A)
You can contact Joe at jdegijoe@gmail.com or 406-871-0638 MT.

 

 

“Coming Home” is published on this blog with permission of the author Joseph DeCree Copyright 2017.

Gallery  —  Posted: November 9, 2017 in Healing from War

When I was 21, I was bedridden for six months. Stress-induced chronic fatigue, though the specialists at that time didn’t know what was wrong with me. They wondered if it was all in my head. I knew it wasn’t, but since the age of 9 I had highly trained doctors examine me, test my blood and find nothing “wrong.” Even the Mayo Clinic sent me home and told me to just “get in shape.” When people tell you that there’s nothing wrong, and your body definitely is feeling like you have the chronic flu, you feel ashamed. You doubt your own sanity.

Was I depressed? The psychiatrist said no.

For six months I was so exhausted I could only manage to get up, brush my teeth, shower, and go back to bed. With no diagnosis and no idea if I would ever get better, I feared what my future might look like. I was not in college. I could not work. No boyfriend. Marriage and motherhood looked like it would be impossible (who would want a woman who felt the way I did? How would I ever have the energy to have sex? You worry about these things when you are 21). I had my faith in God and that was about it. It would have to be enough. Or so I thought.

During that time, I realized that I had a choice. Resent my life or take back what little power I had and choose my attitude. Could I be ill and kind? Ill and of service? Being of service was core to my soul DNA. I come from a long line of healers, ministers, teachers, doctors, warriors, artists, farmers. Being of service to God and humanity was THE point of being here on earth. (Still is for me. Helping people is what gives me pleasure.)

So, I started to choose every morning. I had to fight negative thoughts and purposely choose to be love, be kind, be happy. I called it “fighting for my day”. But what I was really fighting for was my Self.

It was the first step to changing my life. My circumstances were such that I had grown up and was still living in an oppressive, very controlled, very overburdened home life. I had no Self. My thoughts and my faith were the ONLY things that belonged to me. As a child, I had had no power to change my circumstances. And I was afraid to speak up for my self. Being invisible was safest. The outside world looking in assumed my world was great because it appeared to be full of charity and good works and Christian ministry. Only those of us inside knew the truth.

When I was 16, one brave neurologist became indignant when he perceived what my life was like and he adamantly told me that I needed to have my own life. He confronted my parents and he fought for me. He was right and I hated him for it. Because he threatened my normal family dynamic (raised truths that no one in the family had had the courage to voice) and he put me front and center. By now, I had justified my circumstances with Christian tenets of suffering is holy, obedience is holy, being submissive is holy. Having no Self is holy.

When I was 17, my father was diagnosed with cancer and hospitalized for 10 months before he died. Nearly all of that time I spent living between a hotel attached to the hospital and the oncology ward. Still dealing with my own health issues, I took refuge in my faith and by now, a calling to ministry in Bosnia. My father died when I was 18 and instead of starting my own life, I spent the next six years at home mothering my mother. Being the adult. The only thing I knew (despite no evidence that it would ever happen) was that I was meant to go to Bosnia. God had a purpose for me there. Yes, a war-torn country felt like home to me.

When I was 22, a rheumatologist saved me. She looked at me with compassion, believed that what I was feeling was real, and promised to be there for me. And she was. Her faith and her belief in me gave me strength. She saw that I had a Self and because of her, I began to see it, too.

For the first time, I took control of my life. I enrolled in nursing school, I took photography classes, I joined the worship team at church, I began to put ME first. I made plans to go to Bosnia. I began freelancing as a journalist. And every symptom except chronic neck pain (an issue caused at birth and also from a past lifetime) disappeared.

Had it all been in my head, after all? No. It had all been in my soul and in my energy. My body rebelling against being oppressed by responsibilities no child should carry, my cells trying so hard to fight for me to have a Me. The body knows when truths of our reality are hurting us or are not aligned with our highest good or when we are lying to ourselves and trying to avoid those truths. It will manifest in how we physically feel.

Yes, there are diagnoses that are biological and unchangeable. And there are feelings in the body that also come from what we suppress and hide, from what we disallow ourselves to confront, from not giving our Selves a Self and a voice. For not fighting for our own Selves.

The Divine and guides will show up to help you, but only YOU can give yourself a sense of Self. You have to love your Self as much as you’d love someone else. Your Self is a real being (not another word for selfishness). Your Self needs attention, your own kindness, your own love, your own care. It needs to be put first in your life, so that you can be of service. When you have a strong and deeply loved Self (something I’m still only beginning to develop) you are of service.

Not by action, but by being.

 

 

 

Gallery  —  Posted: July 17, 2017 in Healing from War

“I don’t deserve to be here.” “I don’t deserve to be happy.”

It comes from deep within, this sense of having violated the sanctity of Life as a warfighter. It’s very hard to feel that you are a good soul when you’ve killed people. Even harder, at times, when you couldn’t save people you loved from getting killed.

There’s no easy way through this pain. There are no words that fix it. It’s a hard fact of a warrior’s life. The spiritual calling of a warfighter is to be a death-bearer. To take life for the sake of protecting life. It is an ancient calling and necessary to humanity. And it’s one of the hardest roles in a lifetime to bear.

Most of you know that the physical act of killing isn’t all that difficult. It’s living with it afterward.

Many warfighters do not feel regret for having killed the enemy (a fact that civilians often cannot comprehend). While many do. But I don’t know a single warfighter who doesn’t feel regret for brothers and sisters lost, for not being able to save their own.

This combination of having taken life and having lost it sets you apart. In an excruciating place. The sense that you don’t deserve grace and that you deserve to be punished feels deeply ingrained. Almost, irrefutable. There is a sense that it is fact.

Your pain and wounds are recent. Mine are ancient warrior wounds. But the soul is timeless and so all of what you’ve ever experienced remains with you, lifetime after lifetime. I often feel as if grace and good things are for other people, not for me. It’s like I’m standing apart on a hill, watching other people receive their blessings, knowing very well inside me that I’m meant to be apart. This entire lifetime for me is about accepting grace for myself. And in truth, the life I have now IS very blessed and full of goodness. But the feeling inside is what I have to allow to be healed.

It’s not easy to do.

The soul knows the sanctity of life and when we violate that sanctity — even while it is our spiritual calling for a lifetime — we know it. Deep down in our core.

The fact of the matter is we do not deserve to be here. We do not deserve to be happy.

Deserve being the operative word. We can’t console our way out of this by trying to convince ourselves that we deserve it. Our souls know what we’ve done and we can never refute lived experience. The soul just won’t buy it.

What we have to move toward is accepting grace and to do that, we have to become grace to others. I’ll explain.

The dictionary describes grace as “unmerited Divine assistance.”

Grace is also about accepting the mystery of our humanity, the fact that we can’t see the big picture, the truth that extraordinary good sometimes comes through extraordinary bad events. Sometimes, the entire course of history is changed. For the better. It’s about allowing ourselves to be part of that big web of life, even when our role has been destructive.

We know that new life never emerges without death and destruction first. That’s not to gloss over the gravity of this pain or the truth that we’ve taken human life and have been powerless or disallowed from saving others’ lives.

We’re not sugarcoating anything here. These are hard, immutable facts that we’re up against.

But grace does exist. Our souls know it as innately as they know we deserve to be punished. We see grace every single day in the life and mystery of how love and blessings flow. The fact that you’re here reading this post right now is proof of grace.

And what was grace, again? Unmerited Divine assistance.

Grace led you here.

And it is by becoming grace to others — the instruments of unmerited Divine assistance — that we restore our souls.

You don’t have to believe in grace or feel it to begin.

When we cannot accept grace for ourselves and we know deep in our souls that we deserve to be punished, the best thing we can do is surrender our lives to the purpose of doing good now and in the future.

Become grace to others.

When we have taken life, and we’ve survived, the only way to restore our souls is by giving life back to humanity.

You can do this right now. You can’t undo what you’ve done, but you can choose what you will do now. Put your life into action to do good. Help others. Add back to life. Be unmerited divine assistance and you will see life flow back into your soul.

You are uniquely suited to do this. It doesn’t have to be big acts or reach lots of people. Start with those you see and interact with in your life today. Say something kind. Offer to listen. Help a neighbor with their yard. Refrain from criticizing. Simple things.

And remember, you give back to life because you owe life. Not because the people you impact deserve it. There’s no expectation here for them to thank you, to notice what you do,  or to return the favor.

Become grace and your soul will receive grace.

This is your path of restoration. You make your life’s purpose now to be a source of grace to others. It doesn’t erase what you’ve done, but it does return you to Love and Life.

 

Gallery  —  Posted: June 30, 2017 in Healing from War

You’ve tried everything you know to do. Meds, therapists who don’t get it, PTSD programs, drinking, getting high, staying overly busy. Some of it has helped alleviate the pain; mostly, you just end up putting up with it all. You would give anything if someone would just come along and help you find a way through this darkness.

If you’re reading this, there is someone who has come along. No, it’s not me. It’s You.

You have not given up on yourself. You googled one more time seeking help. You showed up for your Self.

A wise man once told me: you can only ever be saved by opening to it.

You’re here reading this because you opened. That’s right. Something in you opened, ever so slightly, toward healing and it led you here. Your soul led you here.

Your ability to heal, to resurrect your Self, to find new ways of thinking and being are your responsibility. No one can do this for you. This is sacred work. It takes a commitment to your Self to do it. But you know more about commitment than most people do.

Questions, not answers, lead you to Life

I don’t have all the answers for you. But I do have questions. Life-giving and life-changing questions.

You don’t need anyone to tell you what to think; you do need to uncover what You think. And why you think it. You need to ask and respond to the questions that will lead you toward a better future — where you find the ability to accept what can’t be changed, change what you can, and grow into your wholeness as a human being.

Use these tools to help you find your way

I’ve put together six, free, short-and-powerful guidebooks that you can explore at your own pace. You’ll put yourself back in charge of your life and your post traumatic growth. Reading hard for you? They’re only three pages long and easy to digest.

And they ask questions that your soul needs to explore, so you can get unstuck and keep moving forward.

Start anywhere, or download them all (they’re pdfs) to your device and explore them at your own pace. Have questions? Connect with me on Facebook or by email.

Combat Veteran’s Guidebook Series

Who are you now? 
Combat is a transformative experience. You are not the same person now as you were before.  And that’s okay. You’re not meant to be. Explore questions to discover who you are now and who you want to become. 

It’s all energy & beliefs
Everything is made of energy. Including you. And your thoughts. You understand when your physical energy fluctuates. Your body feels tired, you can’t concentrate, your skill level drops. But did you know that your emotional and mental energy also fluctuates?
It’s all tied together. Body-mind-spirit. You-your environment-people around you-the world. It all impacts how you feel. Explore questions to discover if what you believe still supports you or is keeping you stuck. 

What to do about grief
War takes. You lose people you love because of it. You lose relationship. With others, with your Self. It all hurts like hell. But surprisingly, you may not consider yourself to be grieving. Or even really know what that means. Explore questions to discover how grief shows up for you and what you can do with it. 

Anger, anger and more anger
Anger feels like your best friend. It keeps you comfortable. And safe. It protects you. People leave you alone when you’re angry. You don’t have to feel more vulnerable feelings when you’re angry. Combat veterans are supposed to be angry, right?
Yes. And no. At least, not forever.  Explore questions to discover why you can’t seem to stop being angry and what to do about it.

Coping with those who don’t understand
People annoy you. And they’re going to keep annoying you until you figure out how to change your perspective about them. Civilians do things differently. Have different values. They’re not wrong, weak, or inferior to you. They’re civilians. The people you signed up to protect. That makes them, in a way, yours. So stop hating on them. And start shifting your mindset so you can live peaceably among them. Notice that I did not say you will become a civilian. Explore questions to discover ways to better be understood and what to do when people trigger you. 

Making new choices
You belong to yourself now. Everyone has an opinion on how you should live, but no one has the authority to order you to do it. Not having an authority to tell you what to do can be daunting when you first get out. There are parts of your development of independence that you missed. Making choices about your life may feel confusing even though you’re an adult and you’ve lived more than most people ever will. But you can learn these things quickly, if you have a framework to guide your decisions. Explore questions to discover how to make better decisions and what might be holding  you back. 

 

Gallery  —  Posted: June 21, 2017 in Healing from War

NOTE: If you are in imminent risk of ending your life, please call 911 or the National Suicide hotline at 1-800-273-8255 for immediate help. 

Sending you the energy of strength and courage today… may you feel held and wanted. You are not your wounds. You are not your limitations. You are not your reaction to war. You are an eternal being experiencing this lifetime. And there is hope and love for you here.

I’m thinking about the expectations of healing and how those expectations can trip us up.

A warrior’s wounds do not go away, you don’t unbecome or erase what you’ve experienced. It’s woven into the tapestry of your life, just as every experience you have ever had on earth is still part of you.

It’s human nature to want to numb pain or eradicate it. It’s often necessary and life-saving. But everyone thinks there’s a quick fix to all this. That you do the right steps – and it will go away and be done with. Society pushes that expectation because no one wants to deal with the deeper truths of what war does to the human spirit, mind, body.

No one wants to admit that there are no easy answers or solutions. Spirit wounds may hurt less by meds, but meds do not heal wounds of the heart, mind, soul.

These are deep wounds that fundamentally change you. As war should. Healing has to be a choice. First, a decision to stay alive on this earth, to move toward healing. But it cannot be rushed.

The body is a good example of this. There are some injuries that the body can heal and when the body has completed its healing work, you will not notice a difference. But there are other injuries or diseases that permanently alter your body and how you experience life in your body.

When you have spirit wounds (which are the emotional heart wounds of war) you have a combination of wounds that can heal entirely and some that permanently alter you.

When you are permanently altered, you take steps to address the most immediate pain now and also put into place longer-term strategies to adapt to what the changes mean for you.

You understand that it is going to take time, that healing will come slowly, that somethings will never completely go away. But that you are not your wounds. You are not your limitations. You are an eternal being experiencing life on this earth.

If you believe you are an eternal spirit, that death is nothing more than walking from one room into another — then would it not make sense that you carry all of who you are with you, wherever you go?

So many think suicide ends the pain.

What if it doesn’t?

What if the wounds can only be healed by living through them, by moving at the pace of life, the pace of your soul, by letting new thoughts, perspectives, ways of thinking, growth, development, reshaping and redeeming stories, Love hold you — what if that is how wounds become part of your tapestry?

That may or may not comfort you. It is my experience that it takes lifetimes to heal and accept the wounds warriors carry. That death does not erase the pain, guilt, sense of burden, shame, or the bonds of brotherhood.

We are broken through relationship and we must heal through relationship — that includes our relationship with our Selves, with the Divine and all of humanity.

We are broken when the story we are living explodes chaotically and the roles we have in it take us into dark realms of brutality, violence, death-bearing, loss, grief, mistakes.

We are healed when we start to see the stories from different perspectives and when we remember that we are not the stories we have lived.

We are healed when we turn to Divine Love and ask for help to do what we cannot do on our own. I know the mind clamps down and builds a story around what we’ve experienced that feels absolute. We hold onto our beliefs about what we have experienced and what our role was in it (usually with brutal judgment) and often refuse to allow anything to contradict our version.

We can only be saved by opening.

So open, just a crack, and let the thought in that what you are telling yourself, believing wholeheartedly, is not unchangeable.

What happened in the past is unchangeable. The story we hold about it is not. Grace — and by grace, I mean love, forgiveness, letting go of shame/self-punishment — grace is stronger than pain.

So, I invite you, here and now, to let all of this sit with you and let it touch your heart.

You are loved. And you belong here. And there is no giving up on the power of what Love and the Divine can do in your story.

Gallery  —  Posted: March 5, 2017 in Healing from War

Don’t give up. You are worth surviving your wounds.

Gallery  —  Posted: March 4, 2017 in Healing from War

NOTE: If you are in imminent risk of ending your life, please call 911 or the National Suicide hotline at 1-800-273-8255 for immediate help. 

It all adds up. Accumulates. Pain, trauma, losses. Anger, resentment, guilt. Buries You underneath. You watch your Self vanish, become unrecognizable. And wonder if you’re too far gone to be saved.

Is there such a thing as too far gone to be saved?

You’re tired and it never seems to get better. Your life is permanently altered. You try not to think about it, but you can’t help wondering if it was worth it.

Are you too far gone to be saved?

What you want is relief. An end to the pain, the anxiety, the feeling that ever since you came home you’ve done nothing but disappoint everyone. That you’re failing everyone. Constantly.

Misplaced. Displaced. Misunderstood. Too different. Too angry. Too volatile.

Your love was the battlefield. Your soul is still there.

But you can’t go back. The war is over. Or, rather your war is over.

And you’re so fucking tired of fighting your Self.

Too far gone to be saved?

You see ghosts, or rather, feel them. Hear the voices of those who blew up or bled out. Here one moment, gone the next. Still here though.

Still here.
(there is no gone)

You move through your time now reacting to dangers only you once knew.
Still feel.
Safe now.

Safe. Now.

Too far gone to be saved?

Pills, therapy, band-aids, thank you for your service.
What do they know of where your soul is?

Where is your soul?
Oh, yes. Still there.
There.

Call it back.

Call who?
Your soul.
I don’t know where it is.
Yes, you do.
Call it back to you.
Souls do not die. Souls cannot be too far gone.
There is no too far.
To be saved.
Save yours. Save the only one you can.

Too late.
Too tired. Too far gone.
Too much loss.
Too much heartache.
Too much failure.
Too much being the cause of pain.
Too….
Much.

Too much??
Too much believing you are alone.
Too much blaming your Self.
Too much forgetting that you belong.
Too much holding on to what was.
Too much waiting for someone else to
heal what only you can release.
What only you can allow.
Too much denying that grace is not for you.
For denying grace is a choice.

Too far gone to be saved?

What if death does not resolve what you wish to escape?
What if the only way to end the pain is to stop believing you are too far gone?
What if healing does not mean erasing, but releasing, surrendering your Self
to your Oneness with all beings?
Starting over with new beliefs?
What if the only way out is to dissolve into the Eternal Love that has always held you?
Not by killing your Self, but by loving your Self?

Yes, that Self.
The one you rage against.
The one you infuse with whiskey and nicotine,
chemical oblivion.
The one you berate, hate, reject, blame, shame.
Incriminate. Judge. Condemn.
Punish.

That Self.
The one who wants to be saved.
The one who waits for your kindness.
For you to understand that
You need your own compassion.
More than you need others’.
Tending. Gentleness. Honor.

Honor?

Yes, honor.
Shaming wounds, raging on wounds,
Blaming wounds only keeps you wounded.
There is no shame in being wounded.
War is designed to hurt.
You are designed to live.
You are a warrior who is gifted with the wisdom of death.
The awareness of life.
The ability now to create life from death.
By the power of what you choose to believe.
What you choose to walk toward.
How you love the one who needs your love the most.
You.
In this moment.
In this choice.

Too far gone to be the same?
Yes.

Too far gone to be saved?
Never.

 

 

 

 

 

Gallery  —  Posted: February 8, 2017 in Healing from War, PTSD, Spirit Wounds, Suicide, Survivor's Guilt