Thursday, August 8, 2013

On Homecoming - a Powerful Look in the Mind of a Combat Veteran

Editor's note:  On Homecoming is reblogged from Operation Zeus. This is hands-down the best look into the mind and emotions of The New American Veteran and should be required reading for every citizen of the United States.  I've reformatted it for readability but have not changed the content.  Warning - it does contain strong language.


Coming home on leave (16 days at home about 2 times a year) was always fantastic, it really made me appreciate the world I lived in. After shit hit the fan in 2007, on a 15 month deployment where 8 dudes from my 30 man platoon got killed, and I got out, coming home for good, it wasn’t so nice. 
I moved back in with my mom (I was stationed in Germany), and had no idea what to do. Like 30 grand in the bank since I couldn’t really spend money deployed for 15 months, and absolutely no direction or desire. My mom called me out on being drunk for literally the first two days I was home, I mean not sleeping at all, I just stayed up all night, smoked cigarettes, and drank beer and 40s while looking at pictures of my friends who were still in, and those who died. She heard me sobbing at like 3 in the morning and came and sat with me, but I didn’t want her to, I didn’t want any relationships with anybody. I immediately missed everyone I served with. 
So I started sleeping and eating, and not being drunk EVERY day, but I didn’t know what to do. 23 or 24 years old, no one was around to tell me what to do anymore, and it sucked. I was depressed all the time, I couldn’t connect with my childhood and high school friends because we were so drastically different. I spent most nights driving two cities away, about 40 minutes, and getting shit faced until last call. Not trying to pick up girls, not having fun, just sitting at a bar drinking nonstop and playing pool with myself, then I would drive back home and go to sleep. I woke up after noon almost every day. 
Eventually I got pinched for a “Super Extreme DUI” (an Arizona thing) which netted me 45 days in jail and a total cost of about 9,000 dollars. I don’t remember if I was suicidal, but I had absolutely no emotion for anything going on in the world around me. 
I took drives to Oklahoma, where my buddy I told you about was from, and found solace in hanging out with his girlfriend, friends, and family (I didn’t move in on his girlfriend or anything, we were just friends). Being back home in Arizona was worse after going to Oklahoma. I tracked down two guys I served with who lived in North Carolina, and I threw everything I owned in my car, and drove across the country to live closer to them. I lived on my friend’s couch in West Virginia for about a week, but got burnt out by seeing him deal with his state job and his newly bought house, so I left him there. Made it to North Carolina, and my friends helped get me on track with college, I picked up a girlfriend, and lived in my buddy’s living room for about a year while I tried to figure everything out. 
Now, years later, I’m 5 classes from a BA in Communication Studies, and I still don’t really know what to do. I still drink a lot and have severe anger issues. I was a happy guy before Baghdad. So it sucks, man. 
I’m reflective enough to know that a lot of dudes like me lost any potential they may have had, depending on their time in the service. It’s not just that “war is ugly,” it’s so much more dynamic than that. No one I served with, no one I liked anyway, believed in the mission or the war, we just wanted to stay alive and go back home. A couple of us had been to Iraq two years earlier, and in 12 months we didn’t have to kill anybody. So we were like “Good. They left us alone, we’ll leave them alone.” But when we got to Baghdad the motherfuckers wouldn’t leave us alone. We weren’t kicking down doors or harassing people. We were just driving around for our patrols, checking out the city and talking to people, then going back to the base to jerk off, listen to music, sleep, and wait for the deployment to end. 
Then the bastards started killing us. 
First guy got shot in the back by a sniper, getting back into the hum vee to end the patrol. We cried, we learned to be more careful, and we learned that it wasn’t going to be the same. 
Then the fucking IEDs started coming. 
Dudes would dig big ass holes and stick hundreds of pounds of explosives in them, and we would drive over them and experience mass casualties. A guy laying in the road with no legs, his still booted and clothed legs lying on the curb a few feet away from him, and dudes full of shrapnel holes laying in the street, calmly saying “get me the fuck out of here,” through dirty, bloody grimaces. 
No Saving Private Ryan bullshit where dudes are hysterical, screaming for their mothers. Just wincing back tears, trying to look tough, even though a leg, or an arm was mangled like a plate of spaghetti, and they were completely defenseless. 18 year old guys, 19 year olds. Fucking teenagers, bleeding and dying in the streets. 
Anyway, we started to get mad. We started to hate the people for not warning us about bombs in the road, for not giving us info on the assholes who were hurting us. The Iraqis wouldn’t help us, and they wouldn’t help themselves. They just wanted to be left alone. But when your friends die in pieces, you get angry, you want blood, vengeance. It’s not about politics, nations, patriotism, revelry, or anything other than cold revenge. And we were armed to dish out that vengeance.
Unfortunately, we were fighting ghosts. We hardly ever got to kill our killers, so we had to pent up our anger and wait for an opportunity to release it. My platoon eventually quit, after one of our Bradleys (it’s like a tank, only a bunch of guys sit in the back of it) got flipped upside down, ripped in half, and killed all 5 of our soldiers inside of it. The driver burned alive, some dudes said they heard him screaming as they tried to get through the flames to save him. After that, my platoon quit. 
We told our leadership, straight up, “If you send us back into that city, we are going to kill everyone we see. We will go if you let us do that, but we are not going if you will not let us.” We all got punished, split apart, sent to other units. 
All our brotherhood and camaraderie was ripped from us. 
Then we got back to Germany. Then, guys like me, got out of the Army and went home for good, alone. Went home and took all that anger, all that resent, and all that fucking loss. It’s still there. It waits for a driver to cut us off, or some college kid to bitch about the war, then it comes out. 
Some of us drink to control it, to soothe it, to keep it at bay, but at a certain point alcohol just fucking amplifies it. Then, we do things like break our hand on a street sign, beat the shit out of some punk kid for saying something ignorant, or shooting a hole in our apartment wall because we were too drunk and nihilistic to give a fuck if the gun was loaded or not, sometimes it gets us into fights where we wake up in the street outside the bar after being choked out. 
Some guys kill themselves. Some keep themselves occupied with wives and kids, or 60 hour work weeks. Some of us just slip through life, hoping to be left alone. 
On Normandy Beach, when the Germans mowed down soldier’s buddies, the soldiers could take all their anger and frustration up the beach and throw it in the enemy’s face; they had a release. Our war doesn’t typically give us that, and it fucking sucks. It is crippling. so we survive. 
If you’re still with me here, there’s the short answer: Coming home sucks, and we just try to get by and act like everyone else.
— Words and image by anonymous (printed with author's permission)


  1. as Boone would key in;

  2. Thank you for serving for all of us. I know that the words mean little compared to what you have had to endure. I cried as I read your story.. It was a wake up call to me as well as many others. My problems seem so little in comparison to yours and I wish I could just give you a Big Hug from NY and let you know you are in my thoughts and Prayers.. No one can possible understand what you deal with every single day unless they have walked in your shoes. You are strong and you WILL GET THROUGH THIS... You didn't come home alive to die a slow death and I for one would support you 100% in anyway possible.. I am here always if you want to vent. God Bless Debbie Hugg

  3. Surviving. Ha! The same answer everyone gets from me when they ask, "How are you doing?" I've been through a little bit of all of that. But if there is one thing I try to get all of us to keep at the forefront of our minds is this; We're here. Somehow we miraculously survived everything that the enemy had to throw at us while many of our brothers did not survive. And we had damn well better not take it for granted. That's my constant motivation.

    1. Great speech to motivate the troops that are getting out.....this man got out and no longer feels the need to be patriotic to a country he fought for but can no longer feel like he is a part of...............where does your AR or any other military handbook tell you to place the blame next...some of us came out fucked up but do our best......MY constant motivation is that when it all falls apart on this soil, I'm equipped with enough attitude and resentment to stay alive.

  4. "Thank you for serving"

    You know how sick of hearing that we get? I don't tell people I was in the military to get attention, or recognition, or some fished-for ego boost... it's a warning to not say anything stupid around me. To not patronize me, or treat me like a dumb kid. I'm 34 years old, and I look 17 (except for the category 5 hurricane of bullshit and pain, behind my eyes)... "I was in the Army" doesn't mean "look at me... respect me... worship me".... it means "don't fuck with me", because my body sure as hell isn't putting off that message.

    Sick of hearing Republicans say that shit when the cameras are rolling, then stab us in the back when the doors are closed.
    Sick of hearing Democrats coddle us to use us as a voting block.
    Sick of Joe Blow on the streets acting like I'm some kind of hero, buying me a drink at the bar like I need his fucking charity.
    Sick of war protesters either screaming obscenities at me, or making me out to be some pitiful brainwashed ignorant animal in need of sympathy.

    If you don't have something beneficial to add to my life, then shut the fuck up, don't look at me, don't offer me your useless tears, and certainly don't try to be friendly to me. Unless you have something beneficial to my life... just do what you do to everyone else and ignore me.
    And if I offer you my advice or opinion on something I actually know shit about... it's because I noticed you were either about to dead yourself right in front of me, or you looked like a monkey trying to fuck a football. So, you might want to listen, because it will save your life or just make what you're doing easier, and I'm only going to say it once. Blow me off, and I'm going to just watch you accidentally commit suicide, and call you a dumbass as I'm dialing up the coroner.

  5. There are no words, nothing that can help you? If there is, please tell those of us that want to help. We'll be around, there's lots of us. If it works for you, try God. It won't hurt you any more than you've been hurt.

  6. I am an Australian and served in Vietnam 68/69..

    Last year I visited the Philippines for a holiday and a yank I was introduced to thanked me for my service.... I was immediately pissed off... I did not know why and as I stood there and in that split second I visualised the crimes committed by those who served, the politicians who lied and schemed and the millions who died....

    I'm with you... As I said to someone today when I read a Veterans Against War site... Why is it the veterans who are standing there at the open gate watching the horses arse disappear down the road.....

    How are we going to enlighten the young and stupid to stop participating in the political bullshit that destroys families and creates enemies all over the world....

  7. Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
    Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
    Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
    And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
    Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
    But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame, all blind;
    Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
    Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.

    Gas! GAS! Quick, boys! — An ecstasy of fumbling
    Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
    But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
    And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime.—
    Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
    As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
    In all my dreams before my helpless sight
    He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

    If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
    Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
    And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
    His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin,
    If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
    Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs
    Bitter as the cud
    Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, —
    My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
    To children ardent for some desperate glory,
    The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
    Pro patria mori.

    Wilfred Owen, KIA 1918

  8. Only those who have no soul say it was just a job. Or they are liers. What he said is what it's like. You will work to get over it and become whole again but it won't happen. Time will heal some but it's always there. It's a part of you. Have a life. Don't let it be all of you all the time. PTSD is real and the anger is real. Learn the triggers and avoid them. Give people a break for being stupid for God knows there are lot of them. But you're right in what you say. Do what brings peace. It will come but it won't stay. Keep moving, it gets better.
    Vietnam 1967/1968