The public hears about Fallujah falling back into terrorists’ hands and it’s a blip on their stream of distraction. They don’t give a shit. You hear it and it puts into question the reason why you continue to pay a high price for Iraq 24 hours a day. Why your life is what it is now.
It cuts deep because you love your brothers. Those who remain, those who died there, and those who have died since because they were there. They are not just names on a memorial list (names most of the public will never know or remember), they are vivid, real people. You remember the sound of their laughter, their jokes, how they were there for you, the stories they shared with you, how they pissed you off. You knew them better than anyone else–at a soul level. And they knew you the same.
You love them still.
The possibility now that their deaths and what you went through and continue to go through could have been in vain is devastating.
The public has the perception that soldiers die in combat like they do in films. En masse or that nameless warriors get shot and die, the action keeps going and the “hero” is unaffected. Rarely in a film do the deaths of warriors impact the storyline. The public perceives the military in an impersonal way. They do not see (or try to imagine it in terms of their own lives) the real, personal, close bonds you have.
The public doesn’t know that your life, your heart, your mind, your spirit is forever changed because of your combat experience. They don’t know that you didn’t come home and just leave it all behind, as they might leave one job and move on to the next. You live with PTSD, nightmares, chronic lack of sleep, feeling unsafe, anxiety attacks; TBI, memory loss, trouble concentrating, trouble reading; chronic physical pain, bad back, neck, knee, headaches; can’t be in crowds, feel isolated, feel as if you no longer belong because you are so changed, and have to deal with anger, grief, and high levels of loss on so many levels. Every day. Every night.
You can’t separate yourself from Iraq even if you wanted to. It’s part of who you are.
This means that when something like this happens in Iraq, you are faced with having to answer what the whole thing means to you on a very personal level. It’s not just about political opinion. It’s about your identity, your sense of worth, and the purpose for your life now.
As you search for an answer that makes sense to you, here are a few things to contemplate:
1. You had a job to do then, you did it, you did it well, and it was done.
2. You cannot predict future outcomes after any war, in any land. Ever.
3. Warriors do not choose their wars. The “purpose” is not your decision.
4. Purpose is a perception. Victory is a perception. Perceptions can be changed.
5. What happens after a war does not change the meaning of what you did or tried to accomplish during a war.
6. Warriors who die in battle, die honorably and loved. The honor of their deaths does not depend on the outcome of the battle/war (which is unknown at the time of their deaths).
7. Each life is meaningful no matter what the reason one dies.
8. Nothing can change the love you have for your brothers.
The one thing that stands out to me and I keep coming back to is Love. You fought for your brothers. They fought for you. Love bonded you together then, it bonds you together now. Love.
And that Love extends to you. Here. Now. Today.
Was it worth it?
That’s a question only you can resolve in your heart. What I do know is that we can’t see the big picture. The big picture of these events in human history. The big picture of these events in the course of lives and families and cities and cultures. We can’t see the individual lives whose paths have been altered because you were there. Or the hope that you inspired. Or the the shift in perspective that occurred because you were there.
What if one heart, one life, was blessed or saved or given hope because you were there?
One life, broken, only to be blessed in ways you could never imagine?
Is one life worth it?
Would it be worth it to you if you were that “one” person?