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Posts Tagged ‘ptsd essay’

I was barely shaving when I left home, had barely been kissed before I
shipped out. I missed that whole part where one has fun growing up. I
sorta skipped over it and learned how to be a part of the team, the
solution, the big stick some fellas back in Washington like to use to
get their point across.
God, I’m tired…I’m way too young to have grown so old. And I wonder; can I ever really go home?

What am I to do when I get home? I haven’t been anywhere without my
pack, flak jacket, desert fatigues; rifle and sidearm, bandoleer and
ammo, for over a year. Gone anywhere without a hyperactive awareness of
looming death. I haven’t walked a block without a possibility that I
may have to take a life to survive walking another, for far too long.

What am I gonna do with all that quiet keeping me awake at night. I
fear the thunder of a kid’s 4000 watt stereo in his tuner car will be
reminiscent of artillery and the battle raging.

What am I to do on the fourth of July when the flags are raised,
burgers are grilling, and fireworks are exploding? Will I go back to a
place where death was abound? Will I be lost in the moments that might
never pass, in a state of confusion you won’t understand?

Who will I turn to when my squad is no longer at my side? Who will have
my back when the nightmares find me back in the midst of the fight, the
smoking charred HumVees, melted roadways and broken souls? Will I ever
feel at home again after living in this impossible hell? Will I hear
the sounds of the departing, the prayers and confessions that were
desperately offered up while the shit was going down?

And will people sense and resent the places I’ve been, the things duty
had me do, the horror I’ve witnessed and been a part of? Will they
sense the disregard for life I had to adopt for extended periods, the
instinct to survive and protect my fellow compatriots first? It was
just my mission…Will they sense what I’ve gleaned and will it be
misunderstood?

And what about the loss of trust in those around me? That luxury was
lost about the time I watched a morning market transformed to a scene
of slaughtered innocents without prejudice or regard. Exploding cars
are indiscriminate and callous. You just can’t imagine, even after
seeing the footage on CNN. There may have been survivors after the
smoke cleared, but even they were victims of what will prove to be
impossible to comprehend. I know I’ll never be the same. Nor will
mornings ever be the same…

I’m gonna need a place to lean, some souls that know the score. I’m so
full of what I hadn’t imagined, what I never really wanted to know. I’m
gonna feel the thump of artillery rounds, when it ravages the air and
assaults the ground. I’m gonna smell the smell of smoking rounds as the
lead takes leave of the barrel and a rainfall of hot brass makes a
spattered puddle of death around my feet. I’m gonna be filled with the
scents of fear that have surrounded me as a sense of fear enveloped me
and those brave souls that have lived, fought, and died all around me.

I’m gonna want to talk about it, gonna need to cry out loud, gonna have
to hold it in, gonna fight to keep it together. I’m a little afraid I
might feel this way forever, but it’s not the way I want to feel again,
ever.

I’m thinking, always thinking. Dreaming, sometimes wake up screaming. I
wonder who’s gonna want to share my room, who’s gonna have enough heart
to help me rediscover my dreams.

And I wonder if I’ll ever be able to stand the feel of gritty hot sand.
Sand belongs at the beach, in memories of childhood summers…now it has
become the stuff that stole my childhood, took away the joy I’d kept
inside. I know I’ve been fortunate to have escaped with my life, but in
truth, the life I lived before I deployed escaped the second I stepped
off that plane. The life I’ll live with has been unfolding in front of
me, and in the midst of this bedlam; lives have unraveled and been
shattered. Folks have been robbed of everything that mattered. Oh I
know this is the stuff that war is made of, but I never imagined that
same stuff would become an anchor within my mind and a shard of
lingered hurt in the heart in me.

To be sure, I’ve made some of the tightest friends over here, and I
hope we don’t simply wind up scattered in life’s wind. They’re the only
ones that will truly always understand…so I hope we’ll somehow manage
to keep in touch.

But I’m also gonna need some other special souls to reintroduce me to
the world at home. Some to hold me when I cry. I’m gonna need all of
you to be there when I get back. I need to feel your thanks, your
patience, and your willingness to accept there will always be some
things you won’t understand. And your wisdom to help me deal with parts
I won’t ever understand.

And please, be a good soul and keep in mind that the most painful and
misunderstood injuries can be ones that never break the skin. The most
decimated souls might be the ones with no outward sign of wounds at
all. Don’t forget that in war, we all become casualties, but some of us
aren’t fortunate enough to carry scars you all can see that make the
damage easier to accept and understand.

I only carried the weapon, the pack, the body armor and helmet for four
years, but I’m going to have to carry the residue of service to my
country forever. Discharge papers don’t wipe the slate or the memory
clean, but they might make a lot of folks at home forget to take care
of those who gave and keep giving so much to take care of them. I was
there for you in your hours of need, please be there when mine
arrive…I’ll be back presently, please see to it I find myself a home at
home.

Matthew Lyle Landsman
June 2008.

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