Pain

For each of us, in different ways, there are those moments that stop us. The good day stops. It just does. My day was penetrated with bad news shortly after work began. One of my dearest friends and her family is struggling with the health of one of her family members. I am intentionally vague to protect their privacy, but I just felt so lost. I couldn’t help. My love and appreciation for her is akin to family. She knows some of my biggest secrets and pains I’ve experienced in the last year. I wish I could be there for her more than I can right now.

My day began more stressful when I was given the news we’ve lost another veteran student to suicide. Trying to concentrate all day in light of this news was challenging. The loss of this veteran brought the pain of losing Kiernan back to the surface, more than his memory already seeps into my day at Tempe. This person left behind a family and friends who will forever be changed by their loss.

I tried listening to music today to focus on my work but there are little things from time to time about my work that bring up the worst of my deployment. Being confronted with the death of a student is the worst, as it would naturally be for anyone in my office and for all of our ASU community. But for me, it’s returning to my first deployment and being confronting with nothing by the deaths and injuries accumulating over twelve hour shifts and in the same moment, I must step out of that mode to deal with other student concerns. And now, it’s that knife that digs at the fresh wound of losing Kiernan back in November.  I cannot fully express what it’s like other than really sad.

While I wouldn’t say I was happy to leave work this evening, I was very relieved when my work day was over. Shortly before leaving, I tried listening to music to find some peace but one of the lines in Halsey’s “Colors” ruined my peace seeking:

I hope you make it to the day you’re 28 years old

I wish more people realized they do not need to carry their pain alone.

No one wants to lose a loved one to suicide.  To those loved ones, I am truly sorry for your loss and unfortunately, I equally understand your pain.

 

 

 

Looking Back: Progress on the Applied Project

We are nearing the midterms part of the semester and I am already falling a bit behind on those objectives I set out with you all in January.  I do not make time for the gym as much as I should and looking at my last post, which was 18 days ago, I am not keeping up on this site as much either.  Today, I’m tackling both.  I knocked out 40 minutes on our indoor bike and as I close out my day, I write to speak with you all about my applied project.

Writing about my history has not been an easy task.  This focus opens up a number of issues which I have not fully shared previously with my family, for one, and second, I am always burdened with how to share the experiences of others.  For my situation, this matter is complicated because those individuals died many years ago.  Like many other veterans, I do acknowledge survivors’ guilt for what it is in my life.  I simply lived through numerous occasions where our base was mortared (on the first deployment).  I also safely traveled through our area of operations without being ambushed; hit by an improvised explosive device (IED), a vehicle born IED, or rocket propelled grenade; nor did I encounter snipers along the way.  There is no way to describe the moments of safety in my deployment as anything other than sheer luck.  For my readers of faith, please understand why I do not say that it is by God’s grace because I feel, in small part, to say so also implies that God does not love his other children who perished.

The other reason this task presents some difficulty on my part is I have not revisited this information fully in years. For the duration of my first deployment, I spent twelve hours a day receiving word that people died or were injured.  In some cases, we received updated information that our wounded later died as a result of their injuries.  The best news I ever received came from our Lieutenant Colonel who informed my team our work prevented a unit from being ambushed.  This incident represents one of my greatest achievements and I greatly appreciate everyone’s efforts to do their jobs that day.  I am fairly certain I never recorded in my journal about the matter out of concern for operational security, as I consciously chose to do for many such occasions, with some exceptions such as Captain Brock’s death.  I was very honored though as a Lance Corporal to have a Lieutenant Colonel come over to let us know our work was so valuable.

As I open up the pages of my past hopefully my audience understands what it takes to share those experiences.  My research is heavily reliant on data available to me through MilitaryTimes, Iraqbodycount.org, and other resources such as BBC.com.  It will likely not encompass all the lives lost, on all sides, but is the closest possibility of this needed transparency.  I make this statement not as a fault of my research, but to remind everyone the limitations I work through.  Being reliant on the system keeping of others has given me some insights into the values of different organizations and additionally, witness through reporting sources the grief of families.  I am also seeing names, faces, ages, and backstories through the associated press articles on Military Times.  These new details are painful reminders of the past and also inspirations for the future.

Social media sites are a great way to express new meanings attributed to veterans, our storytelling, and in today’s time, our lived experiences in war.  I am also very hopeful that perhaps such honesty will invoke others to adopt a more liberal attitude towards many disadvantaged groups, especially war refugees.  I made the choice to serve in a war and I also knew I had the freedom to leave that region at the end of my tour, both times. More importantly, I was fortunate to make it home alive.  Again, both times.

Around the world, in so many places, individuals of all ages struggle because they live in war torn regions.  I cannot attest to their experiences but I can use my lens as a war veteran to share my story.  Perhaps in doing so, I can encourage others in my community, locally and globally, to understand why we should be listening to more of the narratives that come out of war than how organizations present those matters.  Organizations are not affected by war the same way people are. Organizations “see” and “shape” the crisis, but people live (or do not live) through those experiences.  Their stories matter.