I believe my heroes wear fatigues.
American Soldiers accomplish incredible feats of bravery. They are my heroes.
I love them all as my brothers and sisters.
My heroes somehow overcome comfort and personal safety.
My heroes delight in sacrificing so much of themselves for this country and our interests.
My heroes truly want to make this world a safer place for all of us. They know that many won’t or can’t understand that, and although that’s frustrating, it’s real.
I owe so much to them.
I have joined them, worn-out and tried from another “Groundhog Day” of events as they find their corners deep in nooks of the base in the blistering heat of day where they find their lonely places to escape the monotony that combat really is. Doing what’s right is frequently and pervasively thankless and boring.
I have seen the black stains where their rifles rub on the backs of their uniforms as they dutifully wear them slung over their backs when they are not on patrol-still. They are vigilant; still, always one, large body movement away from one-shot-one-kill.
I have seen Soldiers scared.
They are red-eyed, tear-stained, and weary emerging quietly from portable toilets, sometimes their only sanctuary of solitude.
I have seen them spread prostrate on the chapel floor with heads down, wailing, pounding fists and grinding into the wear-easy carpet. I have seen them pointing awkwardly, and pleading in painful depths of sorrow and grief toward the altar, begging for relief and reason.
Men with their arms soaked in each others’ blood dragging a Soldier off the back ramp of an armored vehicle. They are agonizing and yet strangely relieved in purpose, direction and motivation of the rush toward the base hospital in front of me. “Must get to a safe place!” Must get to a place of hope!”
Now…here…I see their ghost.
Snap to reality of the emergency. It is unspoken.
I am there.
I am a Soldier, and my mind asks,
“Trouble me, and I will help carry you, buddy. I don’t even have to think about it. I don’t care who you are or what rank you are.”
See the horribly strained eyes and distress on their faces as they console and confirm. I must have the same expression, because I feel panic and urgency.
“I must be a calm leader.” That immediately calms me.
“It will be all right. It’s HOOAH!”
I know for the man with no foot below the ankle, and a shed of mangled meat where is arm should be…I do not see a hand. I will not look to see his face…I…I cannot this time. Stupid, irrelevant and random thoughts come. “Why have only one boot when the other is gone? Who will clean this blood off the ramp of the armored vehicle? Why do I have to see this? I didn’t even fire my weapon.”
I know it will not be all right.
It is not HOOAH.
I hear seven rifles firing three shots each, and I flinch at all three volleys even thought I know the second two are coming.
I cry inside and out.
Taps makes every Soldier cry even if there are no tears.
These images are seared into my memory. For others they may be much more or much less. I spent so little time there compared to them. I cannot speak for them, but this changes me. The visions sometimes torment me as ghastly spectral visions; they shake me as they jolt me awake me in a sweat-stained and immediate panic in the wee hours of the night for no reason. It’s not PTSD-it is memory.
It is that way tonight.
I am still here and now in the comfort of a warm, safe home. I have been home for two years.
I have to check the locks on all the doors.
I have to check on the children.
I pray, and I know that God is near.
I pray for God to spread His arms of protection over my brothers and sisters in uniform.
I hope they know that God is near.
I know it will be all right.
Until we meet again…
I wish my heroes in Heaven and on Earth a good night.
From a Soldier
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