It’s that hollow numbness, the sense that you are already dead, the complete lack of desire to go on, the craving to be gone, to be done here. The feeling that you are nothing more than an empty husk blown about by gusts of wind. There’s nothing left of you.

You’re not who you used to be. You look in the mirror and don’t even recognize the vacant soul staring back at you. Nothing — and everything — gets to you.

Your body is here; but you’re not here.

You lost the one thing that meant everything. The ability to be who you are. Because being a warrior who loved and breathed combat, who misses it like your heart has been torn from you, being that person wasn’t just a job. It was — it is — who you are.

And to not be able to be who you really are is absolutely…. devastating.

It’s soul crushing.

It’s the reason death feels like a viable option.

Why were you put on this earth to find the one thing that makes you feel like your truest self, your deepest purpose, your reason for being here….and have that taken away from you?

That’s what your life is now, right?

There’s a reason warriors prefer to die in battle.

Because of this. The “what comes after” service ends. When your body gives out and you’re not allowed to be who you know you were born to be.

That void feels like you’ve already died.

No one talks about this part of it. We mourn those who take their lives, we cry out against their decision, we bleed inside at their loss……………….and, we envy them.

Hard words. But true. There’s a part of you that feels it every time a brother goes home early. You just can’t tell anyone that.

The reality is part of you has died

A warrior’s life after military service ends isn’t like civilian retirement. When what you do is who you are — and anyone called into a service field, who is “born” to be what they do knows this — the end of it feels like death.

It is a death. The you that you knew yourself to be dies. The pain of it and the silence that shrouds it keeps it hidden.

Warriors who can’t go back to war die inside. Quiet, aching, pervasive deaths. The longer you go on without a renewed purpose, the more of you dies. The emptiness, the sense that your soul has been cut out of you….it’s real. You’re not alone.

And you’re not fucked up for feeling it.

Civilians are elated when your service ends because it means you’re out of harms’ way. It means you survived. It means they can exhale. Finally. They expect you to find something else now to fill your time. Some of the perceptive ones will understand that this isn’t about finding a new job – this is about mourning the loss of your identity and… finding a new one. (A new job doesn’t give you a new identity — this is why it can be so hard to stick with a job after you get out.)

A warrior’s purpose is to serve the life-death-life cycle

Identity comes from purpose. It comes from your sense of who you are and why you are here — in the bigger picture of lifetimes on earth.

A soul is born into a lifetime with a purpose. Being a warrior feels like it was your purpose. But being a warrior is the package for your purpose. The purpose lies deeper inside.

What was your purpose?

To defend? To protect? To destroy evil? To rescue? To save? To keep your brothers safe? To liberate?

Service itself?

You feel empty because you’ve lost your known purpose and meaning. It was all very clear for you before and now it’s not.

The question is: can you take who you are and do something new with it? Can you identity what your soul purpose is and hold onto THAT, and find a way to live that now?

I can tell you this: a warrior will ONLY re-find purpose by finding a way to continue to be of service to life on earth. You’re not made to be self-only-serving. It’s not in your soul DNA to be on this earth without carrying out a mission that matters to humanity, to history.

You were born into this world to make a difference, to take risks, to change the status quo, to expose and eradicate evil, to uproot and open life to new possibilities, new change.

Yes, war destroys; absolutely. But it also creates. With the destruction of what was, comes the opportunity for newness. We follow a life-death-life cycle. It’s natural law.

Being of service to this life-death-life cycle is who you are and you need to honor that.

It’s true that you’re never going to stop missing combat. You’re never going to feel as whole as you felt you were then. Some things cannot be replaced or replicated. You know that in your soul.

But you survived combat. The gods didn’t take you.

You were saved and your purpose on this earth is NOT done.

I know this is hard. I know this tears at your heart. I know you are so close to choosing death because you can’t feel anything right now. But that’s an illusion. Feelings can be changed.

Make the hardest choice you will ever make

You are still here.

Your soul is still on this earth. So is your body. Ending your life now may seem like the only option, but is it?

You were called to service. Service is still your purpose.

Who can you serve? Who can you impact today? How can you take the strength that has been built into you and help someone else find theirs?

Can you lead someone to find their own courage?

Can you see that if you help one, it’s the same as helping a thousand?

No, it’s not combat. But you survived combat so you would have the wisdom you need to serve in a new way. What if THIS time in your life is what it was all for??

You are a warrior. You have to fight this one. You have to choose life. We need you.

It’s the hardest choice you’re going to make.

Only you can make it.

Your heart was made to expand into newness. You were created to be able to adapt and overcome. Emptiness can be filled. Numbness can thaw. Pain can ease. Sadness can soften. Purpose can be rediscovered. What seems impossible to you right now, is possible.

You are needed here. By those in your life now, and by those destined to meet you.

Be here to show up for them.

Choose life. For me, for your brothers, for that one soul out there who is going to interact with you and because of your wisdom, your insight, your encouragement, your example of courage is going to change their story…..history takes a different turn when someone changes their story.

Change yours, my warrior.

Change yours.

I stand with you. You can do this.

 

338 thoughts on “When You Can’t Be a Warrior Anymore…Is There a Reason to Go On?

  1. I am grateful it helped you feel more understood within yourself…you have so much more purpose to live yet in this lifetime. Please email me at brittareque@gmail.com if you’d like to talk more about what you’re going through.

  2. You know I just happened to come across this and man did hit Mike a pound of bricks. But that is where I am right now in my life and I’m struggling with wanting death all the time and I accept everything good bad to the fullest with stride I dont understand but that helped my myself to understand what is happening to me. Thank you…

  3. Yes, that is absolutely true for so many. There is a Love and gentleness that holds us all. It’s always there, but we won’t feel it if we don’t believe it’s possible. That Love is what holds us in Life, and its never too late to let yourself feel it.

  4. Some things are true. Others suffer from the things they had to do and things they saw. And guilt from many things. Memories, visuals, sounds, smells are triggers.

  5. Thank you for these encouraging words of hope and experience. They mean a lot!

  6. Go on? Of course we go on. Just because we can’t see the way or know the destination is no free reason to e the d it.
    Know this first hand. 56 years I’ve faught against feeling useless and not belonging. Some days were brutal. Came within moments of checking out permanently a few times.
    My reward for still being here? Life. Good, bad it’s still the only ride in town. Part of that reward are my grandchildren. 4 greatgrrand kids. Everyone has something, many things worth being here for.
    The journey was not easy. Not fun sometimes it’s better, easier now. We can admit our pain, seek help without shame. Find your crutch. Not a substance. I know ETOH is a poor helper. A physical or mental ladder to help you out of the hole you’ll find yourself in.
    To close I’d like to quote some inspiring words. But that’s not me. Try a sunrise, a kitten or puppy. And my favorite. Kids laughing and smiling.

  7. Intense relationships form strong bonds and brotherhood, especially when there is a shared purpose. Your own purpose comes from within, from what you value and how you choose to use your life for good in this world. Only you can create purpose for yourself, it’s not something others bestow on you.

  8. The main ingredient in Purpose is intense relationship. Most times in life that only come through working together to accomplish what most could never do with their “buddies.” The locker room, barracks, battle field, routine emergency situation together forge that. I think I gotta let that go since it doesnt exist the older you get and people tend to move away from that rather that toward it.

  9. Prayers theres a purpose for everyone. I just lost my brother 2 months ago he was a veteran did 3 tours.

  10. I hear you Heather. The VA tells me I have issues post combat. I think my real issue is that I retired and am out of uniform. The loss of cameraderie, status, & purpose are far worse than what I experienced in combat. Don’t make your next decision about what you will do lightly. There is no timetable for it. Civilians mostly cannot understand because most of them have never stood for anything. We are the 1% of society who dared to live. Hard to follow that up and a better 401k and new car do not begin to fill that void.

  11. I’m not sure you will find that same intensity in civilian nursing. But, if your personal mission is to be a source of care and protection to those you are led to nurse, you can create deep meaning in your life and the lives of your patients. The ER, pediatrics, oncology, look at where the stakes are higher (which will give you more of the intensity) and get clear on what your personal mission is, your calling in medicine. You are a warrior well trained to stand in the gap and deliver care that really makes an impact. Remember who you are.

  12. This doesn’t just apply for those actually in combat. I was a nurse. I am a nurse. My purpose wasn’t to take lives, but to protect those who do. I know I can find a job as a nurse in the civilian world, but it isn’t the same. All my civilian friends think Afghanistan was a terrible place and can never understand why I would go back in a heartbeat. Being there on the worst day of a warriors life, holding their hand, bringing them back to their families… I’m struggling to choose a civilian nursing career that will give me that same feeling. My family thinks I’m not motivated, but I just don’t know what the right move is…yet.

  13. Thank you, Sharon, for this beautiful, inspiring story of hope. Much love to you!

  14. Wow!! Absolutely the single greatest thing I have EVER read. Seriously! The amount of people you will help just from this one exchange is immeasurable. THANKYOU from the bottom of my heart. I am a warrior of a different sort, fighting off a life of neglect and violence and PTSD. I have survived two suicide attempts because I thought I couldn’t possibly be worthy of being loved because I felt I wasn’t important enough to be saved. But…I didn’t die!! After feeling like, “Jesus, Proof I cant do anything right, including killing myself!” I guessed neither God nor the devil even wanted me. It took years of therapy and self care to finally realize I AM worthy. You hit the nail right on the head with telling us we HAVE another purpose. I found my purpose by working with animals. Turns out, I’m a natural “dog whisperer” and I started my own dog walking and pet sitting business 10 years ago. Dogs literally saved my life. Literally. I found my purpose and it gave me a whole new outlook on life. I turned 59 years old three weeks ago and I feel more alive than I ever had. Even if the retired warriors volunteer at different things until they find what works, this can help them find a purpose they never knew they had. I hope and pray that all of those who read this find their purpose and in turn find their worth. Start small. Baby steps. It took years to get you where you are now, your healing doesn’t happen overnight. But if you open yourself up to change, you will see how good it really can be. Do what makes you happy. What gives you the most JOY? Start with that and see where it leads. You’ll get there if you allow it to happen. You have purpose. You are loved. You are needed more than you think you are. Keep on staying in the positive. It will lead you to better things. I’m cheering you all on from the trenches and I am living proof you CAN do it! Good luck and happy transformation! 💋

  15. David, when I was in my early 20s, I had a chronic illness that baffled doctors and at one point, left me bedridden for six months. During that time, I had no idea if I would ever get well or if a life of being very limited physically in what I could do, would be my future. I realized during those endless days and nights, that the only thing I could control was my perspective. I could let the limitations define me and my choices, OR I could take them as they were and live the very best life I could.

    I could choose my mindset, choose how I would respond. And that was the ONLY thing I had control over. I remember at the time the following quote became a life-saver to me: “They also serve who only stand and wait.”

    Every day, I had to choose my attitude. I had to fight for it, fight the fear, fight the doubts, fight the self-pity, fight the need to know what comes next.

    I am grateful to say, I did recover with the exception of chronic pain. I’m 43 now and what I learned then has been perhaps the most important thing I’ve ever learned.

    Choose what you can control.

    Blessings to you and deep gratitude for your and your family’s devotion to service.

  16. Thank you, Paula. I am sorry for your losses. I hope this article will be of use to you in the future, to help reach others. Blessings to you.

  17. An awesome article. I’m a Former Marine in my 60’s and as my injuries caught up to me I felt like there was nothing left in this world for me. As I face the rest of my life feeling like I can’t protect myself and my family anymore. I feel like mentally I can do it but my Body Says “ Your days are over, I see people laughing, running, working out I Fucken hate them for that. I’m from a family that served since WW I until recently. The loss of my youth and the Warrior Mentality I still possess scares the shit out of me

  18. Not a service member myself, but I have watched from the outside as friends and loved ones have faced this struggle.
    Some succeeded. Some became addicts and never made it back. Some got treatment and still made good lives for themselves as counselors.
    Many, too many, chose to return home early. Chose to end their pain the only way they knew would work. I wish I’d had this to show them.
    Thank you.

  19. This is so true. I have felt incomplete since i left service. I now find serving youth to be extremely gratifying. Your words have given my feelings a voice. Thank you

  20. Jason, as long as you expect someone to give you your purpose, you will not find it. It’s not something someone else can create or define for you. It has to come from within, from your values, your heart, what matters to you. To work in the civilian world, you must adapt to it. You cannot expect them to conform to you. Civilian work is different, but that doesn’t mean you can’t decide to bring who you are and a purpose of service and creating impact (even if its just in the lives of those you supervise) for good to it. You decide. Not society.

  21. David, there is part of you that deeply needs rest and healing and another part that needs to open and embrace to newness. During any transition, there is a phase where you simply don’t know what comes next, and it’s really hard to accept the not knowing, but it is part of the journey. It’s okay to not know, point your heart and life to be open to discovering new purpose, new ways to put your values into play in your life. That intention will guide you.

  22. Sometimes the best way forward is not to try to get something out of your mind, but to start choosing new thoughts, new perspectives, new beliefs, and to keep choosing them and after awhile they take their place in your mind and give you a path forward.

  23. You are so welcome, John. I am grateful the words resonate with you and you are finding strength.

  24. Great words of encouragement. I’ve heard similar things before. It’s one thing to hear words, but it’s another to see proof that we are wanted and needed by our society. I retired after 22 plus years in the Army, Infantry. I’ve got four deployments under my belt. I turned down CSM because I knew that physically I had enough, but I realized later that my mind wasn’t ready to leave. It probably never would be. Since 2007 I’ve held a few supervisor jobs here and there, but none have been worth sticking with for longer than a couple years. Civilians initially want the military background, but then once they have you working for them, they want you to soften up to their standards. My thoughts have been, “this is not what you hired me for.” Bottom line, it’s very hard to find that calling outside the military that can equally fill that void. About all you can do is plead that no one ends their life because they feel they have nothing left. Maybe suggest other things like learning to appreciate nature, or volunteering at the VA. Or just keep trying. But the reality is, the majority of our civilian society doesn’t care to value us after we’re done, as I have found it very difficult to find suitable work and be accepted even by the VA.

  25. This is how i feel inside. And i called it retirement. Motivation is hard to muster up now, always tired and cant figure out what comes next its like you are stuck in limbo. And you feel all screwed up inside. This story defines me!!

  26. My hardest battle was not while I was in, but rather after I got out. It was readjusting back to civilian life, the days and nights not knowing who I am. It was the sights, the sounds ,and even the smells that I experienced being in that haunted me for days , weeks and even years. A warrior never stops being a warrior after they are out, the real battle for people to survive comes afterwards…and that war is what is trapped in their minds, and the mind is a prison that is hard to escape from

  27. Well said Doc, never saw combat in Vietnam, but lost my best friend, my father at 19, who was USMC @ Quadacanal, who found and lived his dreams, but still woke in nightmare of war and never shared the horror, on occasion we’d hear the humor of war stories, like stealing grape fruit juice from Navy, etc. Death by others for 5 cents a hour in Teamsters over 2 year labor dispute. Your words help me to go on to help others as he did, leaving the anger, to find new opportunities of hope. Thank you.

  28. It’s possible to expand your definition of “Warrior,” there are many forms of “battle” that can be and ought to be fought. The book “The Lord of the Rings” has been helpful to me, and it was written by a British Army Lieutenant who fought in the First World War Battle of the Somme. My favorite chapter in the book (not in the movie) is “The Scouring of the Shire.” After the little people (us) saved the world and returned the king to his throne, they were thanked for there service, released from active service, and returned home, with the understanding that the king might call on them in the future for additional service. When they returned to The Shire, they found out that evil had permeated their home and their countrymen were. in essence enslaved. Their warrior experience led them to Rouse their countrymen, defeat the malign forces, and work to set all thing right again. The very last battle in the Worldwide War of the Rings was the Battle of Bywater, and it was fought on their very doorstep. Such opportunities for continued service exist on the domestic front. Warriors often are the only ones who can provide this service, and they can do so in alliance with domestic veterans. Every community has some sort of problem, and Warriors exist to solve problems, whatever the problem might be.

  29. Yes a warrior is always going to be a warrior in its two different fights of his/her life. After the first service when that is done, the most strongest hardest fight of this warriors of their lives is when they become a fighter on their own selves. Then on top of that when we become the enemy because we are not compassionate enough to forgive actions being done by certain individuals. And what can we do for them on the hour of in need, the time of understanding what are we actually doing. That’s why to my husband, my brothers, my sister, I will keep trying my very best to let you know I’m not the enemy, I am someone that is always here to see what I can do for you, because I love you.

  30. Matthew, give me a call if you want to. I have walked that ground. Happy to walk it with you. Some days I think being retired from the army is worse than the ptsd.
    Joe
    406 871 0638
    Gicounselor7@gmail.com

  31. It’s amazing how people, articles, literature, etc find their way into our line of sight at just the right time. This article is exactly what I needed, exactly when i needed it.
    Thank you,
    -A maybe not-so-broken Veteran.

  32. Thank you, Matthew, for being here. It is time for you to focus on healing your body and your heart — while keeping in the back of your mind the fact that your purpose here is NOT yet done and that you are starting on a new path toward a new mission. Don’t let the pause and the time you need to heal your body and recalibrate your life and purpose discourage you. None of it is wasted. But be sure that something new and something else awaits you, and you are living into that, step by step, day by day.

  33. This is so very true. I’ve been on 2 deployments. One in 2004 in Iraq the other just recently 2017 in Syria. I now am being medically retired. I have proudly served for 18 years 10 months. I have severe PTSD,3 disks in my back that’s messed up. Nightmares,had triple hernia surgery,hearing loss in both ears. Hypertension, high blood pressure, depression,anxiety, and shakes. Also sleep apnea. As the saying goes. May be retired but my oath to serve and protect my country hasn’t expired. I love this country with every fiber of my being and I always will.

  34. I wished I could have read when I got out of the air Force, even though I never seen combat this really hits home to me thank you for sharing.

  35. Thank you for this candid expression of the retired veteran. This helps me as a family member/civilian make sense of my vet’s struggle. As I read this, I am reminded of those who have fought the good fight on mission fields to share the Gospel….those who left all comforts of civilization to reach out to those needing assistance…not only in jungles, but in local states hit by natural disasters. There IS purpose for a post battlefield warrior! There ARE battles to he fought for missions of world impacting purpose! Just broadening the scope of a warrior’s identity with different weapons requires a Divine perspective, and accepting marching orders from the ultimate CO.

  36. I served in the 80s when there were no hotspots at the time. Before that, I had no other place to go but into the military, since I was abusing drugs and alcohol heavily and was living on the streets. After I joined the military (Army), I realized, this was some serious shit. Now I had to actually learn to take care of myself and my buddies. I never had to do this prior to my entrance into the military. I can relate to this story. There is a purpose to drive on. To make the best of your life while you are on this planet.

  37. Thank YOU, Dottie, for your love and devotion to your husband. This article is being shared widely and I also hope it helps give people a voice who can’t find the words to express how they feel. Blessings to you!

  38. Duane, I am so deeply sorry for the loss of your son. I am humbled and grateful that the article has helped you understand him a bit more. Sending love and healing to your heart. Please email me at brittareque@gmail.com if I can be of more support to you and your family.

  39. Being a warrior doesn’t end after combat of when you retire from military service. Be a warrior for your family, be a warrior in fitness, be a warrior for your community. Keep the warrior mindset in everything you do, everyday, till the day you die.

  40. This is a powerful insight into the minds of those who served. I was married to a Air Force PJ for 23 years and the stories he would let out on bad days were incomprehensible to me! I know there was so much he never talked about and was too proud to seek help. He drank himself into oblivion just to cope and it cost him so much. I hope this article helps those in need and I pray it will be shared many times.

  41. Thank you for this.
    I was disappointed when a police chief said he did not need warriors (police shooting in community).
    I respectfully disagree. He needs to study what it means to be a warrior.
    Your writing could be a good place to start. Our society, our world needs more true warriors.
    cam

  42. Retired Trooper and retired Army Colonel also a Purple Heart recipient! True statement but to survive you must repurpose yourself and your soul. We are not one trick ponies, we bring many things to the fight. One of those things is our desire for what is right…..

  43. I only wish my son had seen this two years ago. Maybe it would have helped him understand that others were battling the same demons. Unfortunately the warrior inside him gave up the battle after struggling to cope with the demons within him. Your words are truly inspirational and have helped me to understand more the struggle he was battling. If this can help just one warrior to get through their struggles you have won the battle for now but the war continues on. Thanks for the wisdom you have bestowed on me. From one proud Marine’s dad. Semper Fi

  44. I’m a 26 year veteran of law enforcement and a former marine. Nothing I’ve read or studied or pill they gave me or counseling I’ve had made as much sense to me as this did. Thank you.
    Semper Fi

  45. Well said. I served my three Army years in Germany 65-68. I’ve never been in combat. I can only imagine what they have experienced. Especially the devistating injuries. And most of all losing a friend or friends. As you said, returning home even with all the family love and support, the battle field is still there. Some Warriors come home safe and sound only to be misunderstood. The VA situation can’t be ignored either. Some say that our men and women don’t have the mental toughness to tolerate combat. That is so far from the truth. Paragraph VI of the Military Code of Conduct states: I will never forget that I am an American fighting man, responsible for my actions, and dedicated to the principles which made my country free. I will trust in my God and the Unites States of America. I can’t say much more except we owe Warriors more than they are getting.

  46. This is so sad but true
    God bless our solders you are loved and I thank you from the bottom of my heart
    Please don’t give up you are still needed here BLESS YOU ALL

  47. Oh my!!!! What a beautiful view into the heart and life of a warrior!!!!! I hear you Coban and Christina !! I so appreciate what you both have sacrificed to serve your country and each of us!!! As a family we love and support you in this new venture to continue to serve your fellow “Warriors” and make their lives better, especially those Veterans who like you have served their country well and are moving on!!! Love you two!!!!!

  48. Thank you, Brenda. Those are all very insightful and valid points and yes, there is hope. Somewhere in the struggle there has to be a decision to believe in hope and healing. No one can make the decision for you or force it upon you. It has to come from deep within.

  49. I think it is deeply rooted in Warrior ethos. Hard to be a civilian when your very principles of duty never leave you. If you aren’t being productive and mission oriented in civilian life, your inner critic finds you not worthy of the mission. I think many warriors want to end it because they are feeling shame that they have “failed” the mission to transition to civilian, as well as moral injury that follows veterans that is so complex. In addition lack of support. In the Military even if someone was chewed up, you know when it came down to the line, they would have your back. We are reintegrated into civilian life and no one has your back so it is an exasperating mission of personal safety and threat to personal values when you live in a world where you feel alone because no one has your 6. There is hope and we can be healed from the wounds of war. We can move on, sharing individual stories help that, and know if you struggle post-war you are not alone.

  50. Your purpose here is not done. Find ways to be of service to the good of others, that’s where you build purpose into your life again. New purpose.

  51. Thank you, David, for sharing your story and encouraging others with the hope that they, too, can find their way through the darkness. Helping others is the best way to create new meaning in your life, and it doesn’t have to be big actions. The intention of helping and just doing small things starts building purpose. Blessings to you!

  52. I was there. I came so very close to ending it all I am amazed, now, that I got past that point in my life. I was saved by my 1SG who ended her vacation to drive 4 hours to my place of business to rescue me. I had planned to commit suicide as soon as I got off my shift. She, a retired VA State Trooper successfully saved me.

    It was a long road for me, but by the end of 2011, I was back from the depths of my own hell. Since that time I have shared my story with only a very few people, but what I gained from counseling has enriched my life. I believe I’ve prevented two from going down that path of no return and got them the help they needed.

    Today, I pour myself into being kind and helping others. I do a lot of professional woodworking building furniture at home. It pleases me to see what I can make next.

    I retired from the Army in 2014 with just two months shy of 37 years served. One combat tour, and several years in Germany and different bases around the U.S. I miss the life in uniform, but I can live on without it.

    Thank you for your post.

    David C. Hawk
    E7, US Army Ret.

  53. Thank you, Curt, for sharing this. Being of service for the good of others is where purpose lies. I’m so grateful you found yours through this path.

  54. After Vietnam, it took me years to sort myself out but I found new purpose as a Probation Officer and after years of working with adult offenders, at risk youth and for the last five years of my career, with PTS veterans through the Veteran’s Court were in many ways the most memorable because the men and women I worked with were reflections of myself and many others who had lost themselves. The way was never easy and the rewards never monetary, but the satisfaction I got from serving my fellow man was greater than the feeling I got in Vietnam. To all veterans feeling lost I would say look around, identify the enemy to our way of life, crime, drugs whatever, step up enlist in the fight and find a new commitment.

  55. WOW…I felt exactly like this for bout 6 years, no desire, feelings, anything of any value! Nothing really helped…the more depressed and anxious the worse my physical health got and vice a versa. Somehow my wonderful wife stayed hy me, I prayed to no avail it seemed qnd drug along with therapy was of little or value.
    Then something happened and I credit my strong willpower and making a conscious but difficult decision to go on and change my ways and attitude towards life. I decided that I wanted to live and be a happy, healthy, whole person. That’s first thing that ya h!ve to do, but once ya see some progress qnd are starting to enjoy life….it gets easier…doesn’t matter how old or miserable you were or are!
    Ya just fkn do it…Do or Die!!

  56. Thank you, Hugh, for sharing this and for not giving up. One day, one night, at a time.

  57. Britta
    You have just narrated my life up to this point.
    On top of my recently diagnosed PTS (d) I’m also a struggling but currently sober alcoholic for going on 30 days.

    Being a Gulf War Veteran doesn’t make it any better. I am a Warrior and that’s what I do know. Even as a kid I wanted to go to Vietnam. I remember being about 7.

    I got divorced about 10 years ago. I now have two kids of my own and their lives will include memories of my alcoholic and PTSD actions. One of the main reasons why I got divorced is because I didn’t want them to live with that.

    So now here I am all alone by choice. I figure if there’s no one around I can’t hurt therm anymore.
    Your words have described me to a “T”

    I’m searching for my purpose. It’s a search that I hate. In the time that I have left I don’t want to just wither away and die. That’s not gonna happen. I’m slowly coming back. It’s been hard coping and trying to manage that also.
    So thank you for writing what you write. It’s rare that I see anything that describes me so accurately. You are a very talented writer.
    Keep up the great work
    Signed,
    Col. HT McCarren
    US Army
    Airborne Infantry
    Combat Vet
    1982-1992

    Thanks Britta

  58. This is heart wrenching. So true. Thank you. My son served 20byers with SWCC. This is an eye opener.

  59. These words are true. The path of a warrior can take endless turns. It’s a messed up feeling to not have a meaningful purpose. There are many things to fight for. You can find your way!

    Mike

  60. Wow ! My son was Army Airborne Paratrooper and spent a year in Afghanistan. I understand so much better now. Thank you for sharing 💖

  61. Thank you for sharing this, Carl. That fire that burns so brightly in you, I hope you see that you’ve been a warrior in getting through every day since 1971. I know it’s not the same, and I hope that you will put that energy into service for the good of others. Being of service, helping people, that’s where you find purpose now.

  62. You entered my heart and my mind and tore out what I have been feeling.

    I didn’t think anybody understood.

  63. Read this last year and again today, cried a bit both times. Thank you for writing this.

  64. I’m 71 years old. I served in Vietnam for 34 months in Infantry and Ranger companies. I miss it everyday. It lives inside of me wanting out and I almost cry thinking about it. I was diagnosed with Combat Stress (PTSD) in 1971 and was Honorably discharged in early 72 and its a living hell everyday wondering why I feel this way. I dream of a day that I can become a Warrior again.

  65. These words have truly touched my soul and I hope that I can one day find my new purpose. I constantly struggle to maintain myself in a grounded state and the darkness has come close many times to consuming me. Yet for some unknown reason to me I remain, constantly looking for my purpose. Thank you for these words of inspiration.

  66. Jean there are no words that will console a grieving mother. Understanding your son’s experience will only provide partial answers but if you want I will try to fill in your gaps. Reach me at jdegijoe@gmail.com.

    I pray for you, mother. The nation is much better off for having had your son for 20 yrs. I know that is paltry compared to your losing him. Sometimes, we simply cannot see life any other way. We dont want to leave uniformed service. We cant see ourselves as the dreaded civilian word or we dont want to continue in a world that can be so cruel. Warriors are not heartless after all.

    Please contact me. I will do my best to help you sort thru it. In the meantime may Almighty God grant you peace and show you the value of you son’s too short life for those he served.

  67. Jean, I am so deeply sorry for your loss. I wish there were words to ease your pain. I honestly do not believe that your son understood the depth of pain his death would create. I believe he loved you and I believe he continues to love you and his daughter. Sending you and your family so much love and tender hugs. – Britta

  68. I am a grieving mother. I lost my soldier son to the PTSD & Suicide epidemic. He served 20 yrs in the Army Honorable discharge. Decorated uniform. My heart has been broken forever. He was my pride and joy. It has changed my whole life. I read these kinds of articles to get an understanding of why my precious son took his life and left the people that loved him the most of his parents and his 6 yr old daughter. He entered the Army right after high school. He came out of the service a changed person. my heart hurts every day. I just don’t understand.

  69. Adapt and overcome, it’s not just some cool saying. Yes I am a Soldier. Yes it is almost as big a part of me as my Christianity, but a warrior spirit is one that overcomes. It takes courage to leave everything you care about and serve at your own peril. We must learn at the end of our service to adapt to the new challenge. The battle within is literally another front we must learn to fight in. We must also in the bonds of brotherhood cover down on those who struggle and let them know they are not alone.

  70. Finally, someone understands what I have been going through since retiring 4 years ago. As chaplain I was noncombatant but I cared for wounded, dead & dying. Civilian ministry has no comparison. So glad I found your site. Thank you.

  71. If your a lost soul and want to be around other warriors there’s a place for you in TX we all served in afghan together and some with other marine units but it has help me a bunch along with being with others that understand also helping you get straight with VA and giving you the tools to succeed in the CIV DIV http://www.crosslandoilfieldservices.com check it out and join us in the fight to stay alive and matter and brand our mark on the pipeline industry

  72. Thank you, Fred, for sharing this. I’m grateful you have found a renewed sense of purpose. Blessings to you!

  73. Your article was so spot on. But it applies to more than just veterans. I joined the Coast Guard right out of high school and upon finishing my tour joined the fire service…that was forty years ago. All I knew was serving others and I dreaded the time when I would have to retire. Lets face firefighting is a young mans game not someone who has just turned 65. I am a paramedic as well. But I am more fortunate than most. I found an awesome organization that really gets me really gets veterans and what its like to lose your sense of purpose, your sense of direction, your sense of belonging. Team Rubicon is a veteran’s focused disaster response organization that responds to natural and even man-made disasters world wide. It was founded by two US Marines Jake Woods and WIlliam McNulty in 2010 in the wake of the Haiti earthquake. I joined the group in 2012 and while I really enjoyed helping others outside of my fire department career I felt deeply worried about what my future would hold when faced with having to retire. It was in the middle of the night in a make shift bunk room of a church hall in Magnolia Tx while serving as part of Team Rubicon’s first ever swift-water rescue team deployment for Hurricane Harvey that it became clear to me that even if I retire I can still make a difference through Team Rubicon. I could find that renewed sense of purpose, placing service above self while working side by side with other people who had or were feeling the same things as me. Not only could I make a difference in my own life, but in the lives of those I was serving and those I was serving with. I would highly recommend Team Rubicon to anyone seeking to find a renewed sense of purpose. You don;t need special skillsets other than wanting to make a difference and be willing to put service above self. They train you, feed you, supply you with the skills, tools, and equipment in things like Sawyer, Expedient Home Repair, Mucking out flooded homes, Heavy Equipment operations, International operations like paramedic etc. I can’t begin to explain the awesome things these folks do. They have a saying….”Disaster is our business, Veterans are our passion” and it is true. If anyone would like to learn more they can go to http://www.teamrubiconusa.org. Sorry if I sound like a salesman…not my intention but I know it can make a difference in so many lives. Thanks

  74. 2 Tours Iraq here, Civilian Career as a Corrections Officer. Know of a few Suicides & even more Overdoses locally. Your article is amazing & spot on. Thank You. ❤🇺🇸

  75. Thank you. My glory days are over due to health problems … And I just lost too many things including my family. Finding a new meaning can be is a long bumpy journey

  76. You’re still a warrior, you don’t wear a uniform and the battlefield has changed but you are as much needed where you are to protect, serve, and lead. Tho it may not have been apparent then, your greatest weapon was not your AR15, but love, because only love gives one the courage to face the demons you faced on behalf of others, only love can push one to risk their life for a complete stranger. Once a warrior always a warrior, continue to contend for life, yours and those around you who need a warrior ❤️

  77. When we gain a new perspective and new beliefs, we can change our lives and create possibility where we didn’t believe there was possibility before.

  78. Thank you, Billy, for making a difference and for all your years of service. Blessings to you!

  79. I am a psych nurse at a military hospital taking care of our warriors after leaving law enforcement after a nearly 20 year career. So glad I have the courage to care for our heroes who give such a price for all of us! Prayers for all our heroes & thank God for giving me my life after police work to be of service to our active duty veterans.

  80. This is a great article. I was a cub scout through boy scout, then Marine ROTC, then the Marines and stayed in for 16 years Active Duty. People don’t understand that the military is who you are, not what you do. I have been out for almost as long as I was in and I still struggle with relationships with anyone who was not in.

  81. this is a fantastic article! I am a veteran and a Case Manager for homeless veterans through the SSVF grant, I just distributed this article to all the other case managers in my office to remind all and enlighten our non veterans on what our men and women go through on a daily basis.

  82. Tim, you are not alone in how you feel. Our society has little tolerance for those who “can’t find their way” — meaning, can’t find their way to the status quo way of doing life. Sometimes we find Life, sometimes Life has to find us. I’m going to email you.

  83. Thank you, John, for sharing this here. Loss of purpose and identity comes in many forms, in all avenues of life. I am so sorry for your loss and I thank you, truly, for sharing your hope and healing practices here. If you ever need someone to listen, please email me at brittareque@gmail.com

  84. Marti, I would be honored to talk with you about Doug anytime. I will email you privately.

  85. I’m a former U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman.
    Since seeing and dealing with death while in the Service it has been absolutely miserable in the civilian world. I can’t go back to medicine because I can no longer separate my emotions from the fact that death happens regardless of medical skill.

    The only time I KNEW who or what I was, is when i served with my Sailors and Marines. I feel exactly the way you described in the beginning of your article.

    I haven’t even been able to hold down a job since I got out of the Service. I feel like I have let my Men, my Family, and my Country down because of my failures since I’ve been home.
    I feel like such a disgrace.

  86. I’ve never been in combat but I can relate to losing the identity that was “me” for forty years. When my beloved wife died I was all those things you describe about “the warrior no more.” I was “the husband no more; the caregiver no more, the lover no more, the provider, fixer, and comforter no more.” Who was I? All my dreams, my vision of a future, my reason for living were gone. I hated myself for feeling sorry for myself. Journal writing, reading about grief and resilience, group support, my Faith and Hope in a God who knew the reasons — all these became part of the hardest work I had ever done. I can relate to your loss.

  87. Thank you for your post. It brought tears to my eyes has I am hurting badly on the 13th death anniversary of my beloved son on Wednesday. He served in Irag 2003-2004 has the result of serving there he took his life January 16, 2006. I’ve been broken with hurt and pain since then.
    He was 35 and a wonderful person. Your post felt like it was Doug talking to me after all these years telling me what he wasn’t able to tell me; his mom. I have no other family or friends to talk to about my tragic loss of him. Everyone Walks away from me.
    Recently, there was a vet that pass whom tried to save him and was my Hero, had my back, and when I needed to talk about this he was always there for me. When he died I knew I would never find another like him for Support. Veterans I have met over the years aren’t there for me either.
    The worst thing a Mother goes threw is to bury her child. I want to tell everyone is this; if your Mother is still alive go to and tell her how much you love/need her because there may not be a tomorrow. For those whom might be thinking of ending your life; Stop, think about how very much you are important to your country especially your Mom and sink Help.
    Thank you all for your service to our country.

  88. You are so welcome, Sue. Please reach out to me at brittareque@gmail.com anytime if you would like to talk more or if you just need someone to listen as you navigate a path toward who you are becoming. Much love to you. XX

  89. This is also how I have been feeling since the death of my son… I was a mother/warrior…now? I am not. This perfectly explains my lack of desire to carry on… I have lost a giant part of myself, my identity, my reason for being. Finding something to care about is more than challenging, because nothing seems to matter… I never stopped to realize that I have been mourning the loss of ME. Thank you.

  90. If you’re still on this earth, you still have a purpose here. The best way to feel your life is meaningful is to help others in some way. Even the smallest of ways. Please email me at brittareque@gmail.com or message me on FB if you would like to explore more about how to find a way to make a difference. A big stumbling block is assuming that you aren’t making a difference right now, every day. It isn’t WHAT you do, but the spirit in which you do it that really makes an impact.

  91. You are so welcome, Joshua. I’m grateful it resonated with you. Please connect anytime.

  92. This is exactly how I feel. So many days…so many days where I just want to finish it. I struggle everyday searching for purpose in work and in the Bible but still am empty. I want to return to combat so bad because I did make a difference, I had purpose.

  93. I’m an 11B3V and this article really hit home. Thank you for writing this. I’ve wished that I’d have died in combat, especially losing 2 brothers and being shot and blown up myself. I still feel that I’m nothing like I was while I was in. I miss the brotherhood, the honor, even deploying. Again thank you.. God bless. RANGERS LEAD THE WAY!!

  94. You are so welcome. Tragically, so many have denied the health challenges from the first Gulf War… thank you for your courage in fighting this battle. Blessings to you!

  95. Thank you so much for sharing this. These are the exact sentiments I have heard from my Combat vet since 1991. For him and 1/3 of those that served with him, the health challenges have been brutal and have stolen the ability to do for others the way he is driven to. It’s a hard complex battle, but one worth fighting.

  96. Unbelievably amazing! Thank you! This may have just saved someone very dear to me!! 🙏💝

  97. Just read this today. Brought me to tears. Said everything I’ve tried to put my finger on for the last 10 years but couldn’t. Thank you.

  98. It sometimes help to write. This is one of my best work I think

    21 not 22
    We fought in a war, now we fight the battles in our heads, the battle are strong but our will to live is much stronger. There are days we feel ourselves, but then the days get dark. Our fight is weak in us, but yet we find the strength to fight on another day. We may have won the battle but the war is far from over, we are fighting for the same thing, life and this is our life and we must fight for it with all we have in us and we will win the war.
    By Thomas A. Desormeaux II
    United States Army
    OIF III

  99. There is a difference between a combat solder and a warrior . Warrior will always find the good fight and get over it .as there is some kind of fight in every thing we do so embrace it and fight on.I have done 23 years and did combat .I miss it from time to time but i work with hot steel and horses and if you lose what is in-portent you will get stomped on or burn yourself , in anyway you will learn what is in-portent fast. this is a way to keep your brain in the wright place.The big answer is stay active and stay focus .

  100. Ray, email me at brittareque@gmail.com or message me on FB… I’d like to learn more about your art and talk about your vision for it helping people….. how about teaching art to other veterans? it may not pay the bills, but if you can find a job that does pay bills and then focus the rest of your energy on using your art to serve, I think you’ll find a sense of wholeness.

  101. 2 days ago was the 11th anniversary of my return home from combat, I was an 11C in the Army, I fought, now what do I do? I feel like I have a purpose, but everything I’ve tried that might’ve helped me find what that is, has failed. Oddly enough I became an artist, and I’ve tried to use my work to help others, that didn’t work out well, though I still make art and try to do the same thing. Then I tried teaching, I taught art at a high school, trying to help my students see that there was life outside of the gangs and nonsense that was the norm, I wasn’t helping them, I was babysitting them and maybe getting through to a handful of kids out of the 160+ I taught, so I left that and moved to my wife’s home town hoping for something new, 6 months later I’m unemployed and the only thing I can “do” to keep my head above water is make art, that very few people will see. I want more than anything to serve again, to help people, really truly help them, but I am at a loss and I’m not sure where to go from here. I feel like I’m on a downward spiral sometimes…

  102. Yes, it does. And it also affects many people who have not seen direct combat. You can find a renewed purpose, Jason. Message me on FB or email me at brittareque@gmail.com and I’ll talk with you. There is HOPE for you. Don’t give up on yourself.

  103. I’m not a combat vet. My “front line” was the flight line. My “combat” was getting the helos re-armed, refueled, and back in the fight asafp. I lived for that. It’s gone. I’m empty. I’m done. I’m lost. So yeah, I know. I may not have been “in the trenches”, but it affects me just the same.

  104. We are created to be in a loving relationship with the Spirit of Divine Love — however you name it in your faith journey. Thank you for sharing your beliefs, your story and your number. Blessings to you!!

  105. We were created to worship something. Something to devote our time, energy and effort. We often end up worshipping our jobs, our relationships, or our possessions. When you spend too much time with one, other areas of your life suffer. Relationships suffer, marriage end at a high rate in the military, often because our careers is what we worship. When it ends, such as your military career, it leaves a void. Our purpose feels as though it is gone. The answer isn’t just fill it with something else. The answer is God. Worshipping God is our true purpose and when you discover this, it enriches every other aspect of your life. Jobs and relationships may come and go, possessions turn to dust but his love for you is eternal. Through only the blood of Jesus Christ do you find redemption and receive forgiveness and receive the ability to forgive.

    The inability to forgive is the true reason so many service members and veterans along with so many civilians take their life. Something so horrible happened to them or someone they loved, such as a battle buddy, or they feel like they did something so horrible they feel they can’t possibly forgive and put down that burden. Often they turn to alcohol, drugs, unhealthy relationships, self harm to ease the pain, but it still remains until they can no longer take the pain and turn to suicide. Those that commit suicide don’t want their life to end they want the pain in their life to end and don’t see a way to separate the two. Allow one to continue while ending the other.

    Forgiveness is the answer! Forgive yourself for taking a life, forgive those that took a life or caused harm to you or someone you love. Forgiveness isn’t for them, it’s for you, the hurting. Forgiveness doesn’t mean what happened was ok, it means you’re not going to allow the event that caused so much pain to continue to harm You!

    Anyone who struggles with this or has questions, know you are not alone.

    I just retired after 20 years in the Infantry with four deployments and experienced great pain and although I am eternally grateful for my time serving this great nation, I am excited for now I truly get to fulfill my purpose in serving the Lord.

    If you’d like to reach out and talk I’m always available and can be reached at (719)360-2872.
    Prefer text first.

  106. Thus the most awesome beautiful piece if gut wrenching message I’ve ever read. I do have a purpose. Well done

  107. Holding you in love for all the truth you have spoken here and for all you carry in your heart.

  108. Not a bad article and it hits on several issues we Warriors face. I lost 7 Marines to war and combat. The ones that hurt the most, a pain so everlasting that it invades the most joyous of times are the 2 of my Brothers, Marines, my best friends that put a round thru their own heads a few years after leaving active duty Marine Corps behind. Marc ended his struggle in 2008. Since then I have not had a day that I did not think of him and there are times that I shatter inside when reliving the memories. When they choose to end it all, they do not know just how much they hurt those around them. For those like Marc and myself, separated by vast distances of time & space, it can feel like we effectively abandoned our brothers. That is far from the truth. Though our lives take us in furthering directions, they are always with us, always together, and always willing to close the distance to die for the other. That love never ends and after a death, that love becomes a blade between the ribs that can never be physically removed!
    Rest In Peace Sgt Marc Thibert, Lcpl Tony Shott, TILL VALHALLA BROTHERS & Semper Fidelis Marines…

  109. It hits home for anyone who has lived a life where they have felt truly called or deeply aligned with their purpose and then that ends and they are left having to find a new path. You are not alone in this, Jeff. Please reach out via brittareque@gmail.com or on Facebook if you’d like. You’re always welcome.

  110. I served in law enforcement and as a contractor in many war zones. I returned to a civilian job 3 years ago and still feel lost. The cubicle life most people live seems sad an empty to me. Part of me will always be missing at home. You article hit home for me even though I served in a different way.

  111. Thank you for sharing this, Jose, and for giving others hope and courage to do the same.

  112. This… I needed to read this. To remind me there is still a task & purpose. Each day is a struggle, it is not losing the will to live but fighting for the will to live. My heart still beats like a warrior, but I had to evolve…so I became a healing Warrior. I had to heal myself and in turn help others heal… changing my story…yes, indeed

  113. There’s a reason warriors prefer to die in battle.

    That is a very powerful statement. Thank you for this article!

  114. It felt like I wrote this or at the very least ,whom ever did had a window to my soul. At 58 i can say it gets better but the thoughts are always there just below the surface.
    Holding on

  115. The level of peace one finds after losing a part of oneself — physical or in any other way — depends on how deeply you surrender to your new, altered state of identity. Acceptance is what creates peace and a starting point for building a future based on what is. The struggles presented by the conditions of the change don’t go away, and “overcoming” is often only found by once again surrendering to acceptance – looking at what you cannot change, accepting that — and then focusing on what you CAN change, which is usually one’s mindset, perspective and beliefs.

  116. I have often wondered if there is a difference between veterans who deal with amputations and those who deal with PTSD. On the one hand you are missing a limb or limbs but it strikes me that climbing a mountain or running a marathon and overcoming that issue must be very liberating. I do not confuse that with easy or fun. I am certain it is better to have all your original parts but there must be a sense of overcoming. With PTSD it is very different. In my experience facing down PTSD, and it is a bit different for all of us, is that constantly looking over your shoulder for the shady guy who has been following you to show up in the crowd again.

  117. We need you all- Thank you for your amazing, courageous examples of the sort of nobility this world knows nothing about-my prayer is for you to know the true Warrior Savior who alone understands your pain, loneliness and sacrifice, who ever lives to intercede for you to His Father and ours, the One who sent Him into battle and raised Him back to life again.

  118. Very well said! I’m going to print this out and when that thought enters my mind, I’ll have a hard copy to read!! Thank you

  119. Holy fuck bro, this spoke on a spiritual, emotional level like never before… art depicts life and your poetry has done this… maintain the rage bro

  120. The clearest understanding for me and what my boy faces that I’ve ever read. Thank you for your transparency. God bless you, warrior.

  121. Warriors come in all forms and in all ages. Many Men, and women are warriors everyday they wake up. In their own way even children can be warriors. Instead of charging and enemy position with loaded weapons we now charge and face down the obstacles in our own lives and even helping the lives of others in the process. The fight never ends. You don’t have to be in uniform to engage an enemy. Semper Fi

  122. Thank you for sharing this… THIS is incredibly beautiful and hope-filled. Such love and such light…. thank you for reminding us that it’s always in us……

  123. This my post on this from FB

    The wind blowing you from here to there over the years and all the booze to help with the pain. Divorced 3 times and can’t hold a job, but you keep trying and the wind keeps blowing you from here to there with feelings you can no longer trust. Then it seems a light that comes out of nowhere and lands on you. Yes, for the first time in years you can feel…..LOVE and she becomes your Wife and you give her the only thing you have left inside, that you did not know was still there. It’s hidden deep inside you and time did a good job keeping it there. Her light has open the door of darkness, you feel trust and love, in that empty husk. It’s been years since you felt it, with wind blowing you from here to there………I now have a purpose, to love and protect her forever……Our bodies grow older, time slips by to fast, and forever only lasts 27+ years, as her light went out. Yes the pain is heavy, it has always been and the darkness has come back. Yet I find she left me a lot of her light and love inside me, to get me through the days and nights ahead. So I will never quit, I will never give up!!!! And you should to. You never know when that light that comes out of nowhere will land on you…….To all my Brothers and Sister Warriors, My god bless you…………OldDoorGunner, The Nam 69/70

  124. You captured this to perfection. You were able to state what I’ve tried to explain to others. Finding purpose had been elusive…but I will stay I the fight. Thank you so very much.
    -E

  125. I was medically retired in 2010. Everyday I have looked for where I belong. But sadly many jobs and several relationships that i mess up later i am still adrift still searching still lost.

  126. I wrote it, Todd. You are right, the first step is setting an intention that you WILL find a new purpose and it is a journey…think of it more like a spiral, where you return to the same territory but if you keep walking the path, you spiral upward into newness. I’d be happy to connect with you via email at brittareque@gmail.com or on FB, if you wish. Don’t give up. – Britta

  127. Many firefighters, police officers and medics go through the same thing. While not military combat, civilian first responder combat can be a different kind of nasty and still screw with your head. If you end up leaving your career earlier than anticipated due to illness or injury, it makes it much worse especially if were elbows deep in doing your job the right way. Very few private sector jobs can use the skills, training and discipline that military and paramilitary brings to the table. But.. they are out there. Keep digging and looking to serve. Remember that family and friends close to you who did not actively serve still had skin in the game. Cut them a little slack. They really do have your best interests at heart. Peace!

  128. I don’t know who wrote this but this is my life, I no longer cancer because my arms and legs were takin in Afghanistan. I was the leader of 12 man and I was damn good at it, the story really hits home and at times I feel that way but then at times I don’t at times I feel like I’m doing right but then I still feel like I’m doing wrong one day I’ll get it and I’m working towards it but that’s the first step is working towards it

  129. This article literally reached inside of my head and said everything I feel. So lost and can’t explain the emptyness

  130. You are not alone in how you feel, Alain. I’m grateful you are giving help a chance. Please reach out by email at brittareque@gmail.com or on Facebook, if you’d like to talk privately.

  131. holy crap Do you know me? for a while there I was sure someone was attempting to reach out to me. The emptiness, feelling like an empty shell being here physically but your mind is elsewhere…. this is me now after 20 yrs being a warrior I had to change trade, I have tried to adapt and overcome but the smell of carbon exaling the chamber the rush of being out there full throttle and helping people that can’t help themselves. I will not get it from my new life now. The adrenaline is gone I just want to get lost in the bush living in a small cabine hunting to eat and be by my self away from that fake noise, fake life that all the people around me live. I know they are not to blame, I know I am the one whoès changed, but I just can’t play my part in that movie. I am tired to act as everything is great when I feel like shit. But yeah I will survive I have seek help and I am giving it a chance. Sorry for the spelling I am francophone and right now I don’t give a shit.

  132. Thank you so much for putting into words what so many of us feel. It was a very tough, dark road but I now serve God and I thank him each day for the privilege of making a difference in my community.

  133. Good article. Tough truth. I found comfort and support from the VA as well as visits to random retirements homes speaking with any old timer WW2 vets. They saw, did and endured longer than vets these days so I found them to be of great knowledge, service and support plus not one was unhappy to talk. If these Vets know they can help another it gives them renewed purpose and adds life to their remaining years. Give it a whirl!

  134. I recommend directing one’s focus to family, friends, church, gym … give back to those who were there during his/her Warrior times.

  135. Choose life and God and Jesus will give you a new life and reason to live. DON’T GIVE UP!

  136. I am so grateful that you have found a new direction, Pat. Thank you for sharing your hope here.

  137. Thank you, Karl, for sharing this. I am so grateful that you have a found a path.

  138. I had spent several years feeling lost in the ocean. I felt like I was aimlessly and endless treading water. I had no direction to go and I could not see land in any direction. It wasn’t until I found my new purpose that a finally saw land in the distance. I’m still in the ocean but now I have a direction to swim.

  139. After getting out of the Army (Infantry) I battled with PTSD. My wife had enough and divoced me. I lost everything and started on the downward spiral. One evening I was in a bar drinking myself stupid when a man, a brother, approached me. He noticed my Combat Vet hat. He talked to me as if he had known me my whole life. He understood me and my battle with myself. He helped me get a job working at a VA Hospital. I am just a housekeeper (janitor) but now I have the feeling that in some small way I am helping fellow Vets. And that small feeling is what keeps me going. I still have a rocky road to travel, but little by little I am making it.
    So if any of you go to a VA clinic or hospital, be sure to thank the guy mopping the floor and emptying the trash. I guarantee that you will make his day and five him a reason to keep fighting on and going forward.

  140. I am sorry this is happening to your husband and you. Very valid points. Thank you for sharing this.

  141. For my husband, he’s being released from his combat flight medic unit with 2 years left on his contract, just because he hit the 20 years mark. We’ve also been fighting for years to get the classes he needs to retire at an E7 instead of E5, but we’re blocked the entire way by no budget for Natl. Guardspeople (none for Resrvea before that0, stickler jackass people in charge who refused to let him take 1 or both classes while overseas despite there being openings in classes twice, etc. The bullshit of forcing soldiers and their families to pay for their housing, food, supplies, etc. during drill and even more so when deployed every 4th year for 365 days, then cutting them off without letting them advance or even finish their time makes me so incredibly angry. My husband didn’t even get to finish his last flight time. Now he just gets shuffled to some IRR for two years, wasting all the training and seniority he’s accrued to spend his last two years recruiting or doing nothing with the risk of being deployed oversees without even the poor amount of training monthly drills & 2+ weeks a year. It’s incredibly demoralizing and insulting to routinely oust -soldiers at the 20 year mark. It’s not like being in leither the reserves or Natl. Guard even pays for the expenses we accrue each month. Hotels, travel, food, etc. cost much more than the $50-$100 he earns for a drill weekend! So much needs to change. All the money goes to contractors and big shots, with nothing left to trickle down to the men & women who routinely serve for years-decades. No wonder our veterans are so depressed. They get kicked out rather than even let to retire with dignity.

  142. Jared, I am so grateful it resonated so deeply with you. Please know you are not alone in how you feel. And you can reach me directly anytime at brittareque@gmail.com if you wish.

  143. I have never in my life read exactly how my heart and soul feels like. I was medically discharged back in 2008 from the US Army and since then have had my battles with addiction, PTSD and suicidal thoughts as well as a shabby attempt. It’s literally a daily struggle to continue on, or CHARLIE MIKE, as my dad likes to tell me. I’ve lost several of my friends from the Army to suicide, and with each one not only the pain from their leaving comes, but, the jealousy of them moving on hits hard too. This article hits the nail on the head! Thank you

  144. Thank you, Stephen!! You can find more articles here on the blog and I continue to post them as I am led to write.

  145. I am grateful you are still here, John. And I am sorry that you have had to carry that guilt and rage alone for so long. Time does not seem to matter to these wounds, but it also means there is hope for healing. Not erasure, but healing. Please email me at brittareque@gmail.com if I can be of support to you.

  146. You can fill the hole (almost) with civil service. Or community service. The rest is a bitch. There is always that guilt for living. There is always that rage just below the skin. To quote Archie Bunker stifle it. I’ve lasted 46 years doing that and it is still hard. Wish you luck!

  147. You are so welcome, Randy. It is a journey and a transition , but if your heart chooses to keep seeking life, newness, ways to be of service…you will walk into what feels like a new-found (or anciently remembered) purpose.

  148. Excellent description of what it feels like when your military career is cut short by medical injuries. I have a very good full time job and it still feels like I’m trying to find my new place in life. Thank you for this article.

  149. You have a valid point, Joseph. It starts with the individual though to realize and believe that they have purpose. It’s not just about finding a new job, the purpose exists within regardless of the exact job.

  150. The article implies that all it takes is an individual effort of will. Another part of the equation is all the institutional obstacles placed in the way of the returning veteran. To name a few. Human resources directors who believe all soldiers are psycho PTSD cases, per the Hollywood myth. Byzantine state credentialing laws that prevent or delay the transition from a military job where you performed at a high level to a civilian job in a right to work state where you can be fired for any reason
    Almost incomprehensible military education benefits rules. And in the future, the side effects of the truncated retirement system. Not to mention the dwindling numbers of veterans in elected office, with some appreciation of how the system can be changed for the better.

  151. Very well said, Rob, and thank YOU for speaking up for all those who have felt this, military or not. I am grateful it resonates beyond the original scope and that you are still here to share this message of hope with thousands. Blessings to you!!!

  152. Thanks.

    I know this was meant for the obvious, but I am sure I am not the only one who was in a different carreer that was cut short where it is all you knew, you loved it, were great at it and it just ended. The word resonate with more people than you know. EVERY WORD applied to my situation.

    There are legions on middle aged people who have been down sized or replaced by technology who never saw it coming. You were a person who considered yourself a success and suddenly you find yourself saying, “What’s next, I only know “X”.” As an aside, there is a similar reason so many people pass away within a year of retirement or loosing a spouse after a 30+ year marriage.

    My “Loss” happened after about 30 years in a profession where I kicked ass. I was “the man” to many of my friends and collegues. I made relatively big money which had become much more of a score card for how I defined my success – more than just a financial entity. Ot was gone. The tap shut off.

    Technology and the financial crisis of 2008 relatively quickly took a job that I thought I may actually never retire from and upended my life. Naturally, I also was going through a divorce during this period which was the one-two punch that eliminated all my assets.

    Not being able to get out of bed suddenly became the norm. Moving from job to job trying to find something that, if not well paying, at least lit a fire of passion. Thoughts of giving up came every single day even though I have a partner that supported me financially an emotionally through all of it. I had to be reminded every day that I had a young child that would miss me. But the lack of purpose and having to rely on others for the first time since leaving home was crushing me.

    It has been about 8 years since that hit and I am not going to lie and say it is all blue sky and unicorns now and that I love my job but I am still here. I still occasionally have trouble getting out of bed more than is probably healthy and occasionally have dark thoughts but, the same persistance that once gave me success is healping me press on. On to see my beautiful daughter grow up and enjoy a great relationship with my partner. I have gotten used to living lower and, more important, to live with smaller victories. Hobbies have replaced some of what I had in my career for passion.

    All to say, it gets easier. And the longer you hang on, the more chance that fire can turn from a smouldering little ember, back into what feels like a raging fire again.

  153. Thank you, Michelle. So grateful it spoke to you and that you feel a new sense of purpose.

  154. Hands down the most articulate description of everything I feel and fight for now…everyday is like Groundhog Day, but I truly belive my new sense of purpose, my mission is worth it, I just can’t wait for the day my own realization catches and true fulfillment catches up to me. Thank you for sharing this, brother.

  155. Thank you so much for sharing this! I am so grateful you are still here, and one of the reasons you are still here is to say these words today and be read by thousands of warriors who need the hope of your story. Blessings to you and much love and respect.

  156. I shared this article yesterday, and I see some of my friends have shared it as well. I’ve re-read this article a few times now. These words are what I was searching for. 3 years ago was ready to give up, because of the emptiness that I felt and could not find anything to fill that vacuum. I had been a highly trained Special Operations Aircrew( MH-53 Helicopter Gunner) I flew a lot of combat missions. I was awarded the USAF Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor. I spent my last assignment as an instructor at the MH-53 school house training future gunners how to operate and how to stay alive and keep their crew alive while doing some crazy shit in the war zone. After I retired I worked as a contractor here in ABQ, Iraq, Clovis, and Afghanistan. The last gig in Afghanistan I flew missions everyday on my 90 day rotations collecting imagery to keep our Special Operations ground guy’s alive. That was a pretty big hole of emptiness to fill. I finally surrendered and spent 6 weeks in a residential rehab. That kept me alive. I found my soul again. Music, playing music, and building guitars. That hole can not be filled. But, you can go around it and find yourself again!

    So I write this to the suffering, my Brothers and Sisters, find you again, it is worth it!

  157. I am so grateful to you and your husband, Donna…for your presence and love and understanding…as well as service. Blessings to you!!

  158. Such a profound article…so very true.. my husband who was a veteran of the Vietnam war thank God had family to come home to to talk with but so many did not.. and even today.. it is a very real problem.. We try (my husband and I) try to do all we can for the Veterans.. our hearts go out but we all as Americans have to do more and stand by these brave men and women to help them and support them..

  159. Soldier, this lady knows you and you should hold onto her as hard as you can. She understands who you are, where you are and why you are what you are. Let her strength bring you back into the light. There is an end to the darkness you are serving today.

    God bless you
    David
    USA 1965-1967

  160. I am so happy and grateful to hear this, Allison!! Thank you for sharing this with me. Let me (or him) know that I’m here by email brittareque@gmail.com, if he ever wants to reach out privately or on FB. Blessings to you!

  161. This will be life changing for many wounded warriors. The young warrior who posted this to me, has been affected in a soulful, heart-rending way! Praise! Only a few months ago, he would have ignored it, as trash….if he read it at all. Instead, he read it, posted it so his Brothers could read it and was deeply encouraged by the content! 💖 This young man has struggled for YEARS, with his own feelings of being “misplaced “. Like a jigsaw puzzle piece, that just doesn’t FIT anywhere…..and never would again. His reaction to this decriptive post, gives all those who support and love him renewed hope! 😍 Thank you more than you know!

  162. Eddie, I am sending you so much love and am deeply moved by what you have shared here. Yes, of course you may carve the words…these words are FOR YOU. Please know I am here anytime you need someone to listen or remind you that it matters that you’re still here.

  163. Kristin, I hope your husband will find that, too. It makes so much sense that an org like Team Rubicon would provide that much needed sense of purpose and support.

  164. Very well said, Isolde. Thank you for saying this and for your neverending love and support of your dear son. He is blessed to have you!

  165. You are so welcome, Donna. Thank YOU for your strength and courage in loving him.

  166. Thank you, Shane. I am deeply grateful that it resonates with you and with so many….there is healing power in feeling deeply understood. Reach out at anytime via brittareque@gmail.com or on FB.

  167. I am a Veteran of nearly 70 months in Combat, six tours in five different theaters. I was wounded multiple times, my mind and soul more so than my body. I’ve had suicidal thoughts every day since getting out, I’ve sat with loaded guns trying to find reasons to live. I’ve attempted three times, to include an attempted ‘suicide by cop.’ I’ve experienced the loss of 31 friends, Brothers (and one Sister) – In – Arms. I want you to know that I’ve read many, many writings on being a Warrior; being a Sheepdog among the sheep watching for the Wolves. I have NEVER read anything more true than this. It brought my wife to tears, it brought me to tears. I am a master woodworker and a wood carver. I would like your permission to carve this into wood and hang it where I can read it everyday.

    Thank you so very, very much. This has given me and through me, my family, my grandsons new hope that I CAN make it; I WILL make it!

    Eddie
    USMC/US Army Retired

  168. My husband and brother are both combat Veterans, I watch my husband struggle with this on a daily basis and its heartbreaking. My brother struggled when he got out too until he found Team Rubicon. Now my brother has his sense of purpose back. He’s with veterans like himself constantly, helping communities during natural disasters and afterwards helping with cleanup efforts. I wish my husband could volunteer with their organization because I see how much they have helped my brother, but we live so far from the closest office that it just isn’t possible. One day I hope to convince my hubby to move closer to a Team Rubicon location. Until then, we will continue looking for something to give him a sense of camaraderie and purpose.

  169. Anyone married, related to or being a true friend of a combat veteran needs to read this. And so do civilian employers. Way to often people simply do not understand what our Veterans have to deal with, especially after actual combat. Ignorance is no excuse nowadays. It is so very true that our Veterans need to discover not necessarily a new purpose but channel their original purpose into a new path. This is easier said than done and they need all the genuine support of those around and dear to them. I know that first hand from watching my son after his combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and pray he will find himself once again. Yet, he will never be the same as before all the combat he was engaged in. There is this gnawing feeling deep inside of me that says innocence was lost on the battlefields in way too many young Marines.

  170. Great article!! Help me to gain a better understanding as a military wife.
    Thank you!!!

  171. This is powerful and deep. Truly inspiring and eye opening. Because for a lot of us this hit the nail on the head and feels like us. It was relatable for me from start to finish. Thank you.

  172. This is the first artical that I have read, that hit it right on the head. I’m a Marine Corps combat vet of multiple tours and I have been through book after book that haven’t even come close to this short artical. Thank you so much for writing this. I’ll be honest by the time I got done reading this my hands were shaking and I was full on crying because something finally clicked like someone took out what was in my brain and put it in front of my face for me to see clearly.

  173. Damn. Hits the mark exactly. Nice work…and just like the rest have said, it is exactly what is going on in my nugget at the moment. I know what it is…I know why it’s affecting me…it is just so damn hard to find that purpose on the outside. And I need that…otherwise I am just a fraction of what I used to be. Hear’s to finding that purpose ladies and gents. May we never exit stage left by our own two feet. Good luck and God Bless.

  174. Thank you for the perspective. This story was how I felt. I lived for my Brothers and Sisters in my group, my boat team. Civilians will never understand the closeness we felt for each other. The word Brother and Sister is not taken lightly in my circle of warriors. I love them all and your article, I will hope, should bring back those on the brink. I came back (I will never admit I was in that bad place) I have a purpose and a renewed love for life.
    Thank You 😇

  175. Excellent explanation. I am a combat vet and a LEO and give presentations to Vet groups and train new LEO’s on PTS.

  176. Thank you, Phillip. I am so glad Love has held you close and kept you here.

  177. So grateful for you, Wayne. Please keep in touch and let me know when your site is active.

  178. Thank you. I will look that book up as I have a lot of LEOs who face similar issues and there’s not much out there addressing it.

  179. Having fought with my own deamons for over 10 yrs. This all rings true! But it’s just not the battle within that hurts, but the pain caused to the ones we love! More should be done by helping the wives and family’s of servicemen/women that dont know what to do or say. Because it can take years to show symptoms of PTDS, and then like myself I never new what was wrong with me. I wanted to end it so many times, but it was my love for my family that keeps me fighting strong!

  180. I’m with you. Served 20. Deployed 3 times saw nothing out “there”. Saw death stateside but hey I was an Air Force cop. Afterward I became a combat trauma therapist at the Vet Center. Treated combat vets for 8 years. Made many an acquaintance but few friends. Took care of Vets from all branches all the way back to survivors of the Battle of the Bulge to Afghanistan. I write on suicide too. If ever I can be of service; call on me.

    Regards,
    Wayne

    My site is not active yet…

  181. My wife had me read “Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement’ back in 2006. (she is alpha female type, officer at the time and a psych major). I didn’t think it was pertinent since I was military and in special operations. I was wrong in hindsight. A lot of what is surfacing in the midst of veteran suicide is lack of a new identity or s sense of failure. This book extensively covered having more than your LE identity and the importance of it. I feel it is just as important for vets to realize their worth outside the military by re-inventing themselves and in some way continue to serve. I think you connected those dots very well in this article. Thanks,

  182. You are so welcome, Matt. Blessings to you and your daughter. Reach out anytime if I can be of support.

  183. Wow. Thank you for this. It is so hard to put in to words how this piece reaches me. I have felt like this for many years and then 4 years ago I welcomed my daughter into this world. She’s my purpose. She’s saved my life and doesn’t even know it that she’s a real hero.

  184. Very well done. I know I’ve struggled with many of these things in the past, and sometimes still do. You are here still to enjoy the all the things you’ve fought and suffered for, it’s just hard to see sometimes. Maybe it never goes away, but it’s so important to keep going, get help and know you are not alone. Thank you such an amazing piece.

  185. Give Jesus a chance. Forget the bad press you have heard about him. It’s fake. He’ll give you that sense of purpose, identity and belonging that you are missing. He is involved in a battle and enlists warriors who are devoted to him. And he is the ultimate winner! You can’t lose!

  186. What a beautiful piece, the true warrior needs to hear this and heed it, but it’s easier said than done. Thank you this is a giant step forward

  187. Thank you, Howard. Please reach out to me anytime via email at brittareque@gmail.com, if I can be of more support to you. You are not alone in how you are feeling and time doesn’t seem to matter in this.

  188. Thank you for this, it’s the greatest service to veterans to read pieces like this right now. Semper Fi

  189. Absolutely relate to this. It took years after leaving active duty to find something to cling to for purpose. Still after 10 years separated from the Corps, I feel that sense of emptiness not fulfilling the destiny I thought was laid out for me.

  190. One of the best reads I have had in awhile. When my battle was over, I took up another battle. That saved me. I went to school and became a therapist. Hopefully I will be able to work with my brothers and sisters who are still lost. Jim Clark, MSW

  191. You are so welcome, and absolutely! LEOs deal with much of the same trauma, and on top of it, the negative sentiment of the public. Please reach out by email at brittareque@gmail.com, if I can be of further support to you. I have many LEOs who connect with me. And thank YOU for being the guardians of our society.

  192. This also hits my heart as a retired city Police Officer of 20 years. Police have a job to defend the city streets and sometimes aren’t looked at as warriors! I’ve had 2 close friends get killed in the line of duty when I was a Police and have seen things that other civilians couldn’t handle! I thank God a lot for protecting me and my mind!
    Thank you for this article!

  193. So poignantly expressed, Crystal. Your service is as deep and soul-changing as his. You are a testament to what Love can do. Thank you for sharing this.

  194. Thank you for sharing this, Johnathan. You are not alone. Please reach out anytime if I can be of support to you or any veteran you know.

  195. My husband shared this on FB and I read it prior to sharing. It hits home so well. We have been married 21 yrs, together 23. Military service was always his calling, but he chose not to do it in our teenage/young adult years because “I can’t leave you behind.” I always have encouraged him to follow his heart. If he wanted to go in, I would have supported him, like I do now. Instead, he enlisted in the Army @ the age of 33, 12 yrs into our marriage, and 3 kids later. It was not easy by any means. Part of me died when he left for Basic/OSUT. He did what he had to do and I did the same. He then got his orders. We had a year together and another kid @ FH before he deployed. That first year in service was rough. While he was deployed, I did my best to stay grounded, for him, our kids, and newfound friends we called family.

    I have always been the strong one, but even the strongest of people break. Mine came after he came home. He came home in Aug and I gave birth to #5 in Nov. I got pregnant during R&R, yes. Our lives were turned upside down. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy and alot of things slapped me in the face. I even gave up a couple of times because I just couldn’t handle him anymore. I ultimately pulled myself back together and reined him back in.

    I worry about him everyday. His body is falling apart. I see the pain on his face, I feel his frustration. I am his verbal punching bag and his pillow when he needs a place to lay his head. I always have been and always will be his world, yet I worry daily that he will give up. That DD-214 may say you are out of military service, but the fact of the matter remains, a soldier is never out of service. They may not wear the uniform anymore, but they are still a soldier.

    So, to all of you military spouses, stay strong. Stay vigilant. You served right along with your soldier. The soldier may have done the grunt work, but you kept him going and remind him daily why he has a reason to live. Be his reason to live.

  196. Finally someone who gets it…
    i served 23 years.. through three tours of Afghanistan, one of Kosovo, and desert storm… i dunno why but i somehow always thought i was weird for feeling exactly like this article states.. its gotten to the point id rather be there than here sometimes… the only thing that saved me after i came back different and destroyed a marriage … was two dogs and a woman who was stubborn enough to hold me no matter how much i turned away..sometimes its hard to fill the void…i turned to late nights in the military .. but after you get out and there is nothing left what do you do? i’m sure this doesn’t affect everyone… but for me its been tough… i find things i loved to do before hard to go back to. i thank you for writing a very meaningful article.. and hopefully we as the veteran community will share this … this has made my day today reading this … and maybe just maybe by sharing we will reach that veteran that is teetering in the wrong direction.. thanks

  197. Dave, the secret is in what you have always done. The core of warriorhood is service to others. Combat is how we do that. Find ways to get engaged. I serve as an elder in the church, I also do armed security for a couple of churches in my area. I am working on a non profit that engages vets in fuel reduction in the national forests and private lands up here in montana. I am also toying with a mentorship program for vets to help out fatherless youth. Still trying to get my head around that one. But get the guys moving! sitting around discovering your new identity of “has-been with PTSD” is a recipe for disaster. Guys kill themselves because of TBI, PTSD, and loss of purpose. Do what you have always done and find those niches that others will not do for themselves.

    Joe

  198. Thank you, David. I am grateful that it resonates with your heart. Please reach out anytime if I can be of support to you.

  199. WOW. 27 years, four months and one day, I wore the uniform of a US Marine. I saw combat in Desert Storm, Somalia and finally in Iraq. I retired in 2005 and have been searching ever since for my calling in life. I dont know that I have found it or ever will, but such words are amazingly accurate. May God show us the way forward. Thank you for this. It articulates so clearly what so many of us are experiencing.

  200. Wow….I also found a documentary called That Which I Love Destroys Me that has been as eye opening as this article.

  201. I am so grateful it resonates with your heart and helps to give your feelings a voice. Please reach out if I can be of further support to you, Tony.

  202. This piece resonates with me so, so much. Whether it was coming home from Desert Storm, Somalia or Iraq, I always had the nagging feeling that something was missing. I never knew how to reconcile the dichotomy of combat and survival. I could never articulate my feelings, because I wasn’t cognizant of what they were, and there was no one to listen. The USMC taught me that the mission of the rifle squad was to “locate, close with, and destroy the enemy…” When you do this, you destroy parts of yourself, and you feel that there’s no absolution for you. This piece accurately describes this, and offers that there is a sense of absolution.

  203. Thank you, Charles. I am grateful it resonates and that you are going to share it. I agree; you don’t need to be a mental health professional. A heart willing to deeply listen with empathy and reverence is healing. Many blessings to you for walking your journey of sacrifice and love.

  204. Very moving, well written, and spot-on. Sharing this with the community of veterans with which I interact. My faith resonates strongly with what you have written and I think it gives many avenues of intersection for discussion; whether one is a mental health professional or not.
    Trying to improve the lives of those around us should be more than just a common courtesy…
    Former Navy Corpsman & ER Technician,
    retired Marine Infantry & Reconnaissance Officer
    Veteran Charity Cycling supporter

  205. Oh, Tony, it means a lot to me to hear your story and receive your encouragement. Thank YOU for not giving up on yourself (and thank you to that woman who stayed!) … you are a light unto many.

  206. Well said, Britta. I struggled for years going from one career, one marriage to another…landing in a prison cell after destroying a career as a nurse and paramedic (but a stubborn woman stuck with me) and now I work with those coming out of prison and jail with co-occurring and substance use disorders. That and my faith has given me a reason to live that has energized me even more than combat (both land and under the sea). Keep writing dear lady.

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