Re: #HONY (1/3)
Things you don’t tell your 10-year old niece about your time in the US Marines:
1. When 2/3’s battalion commander and sergeant major got blown up, along with the Fox Company commander, a captain; and in the rear at MCBH, you get sent with the CACO to talk to the captain’s widow about legal affairs. And the newer judge advocate with you, he starts going over the guardianship issues, and who the primary guardian is, and who they want to appoint as the secondary guardian, and the the widow breaks down and cries out “Am I supposed to presume everyone might die!?” Being a Lawyer and being a Legal Counsel are two very different things. One, you only need a law degree. The other demands more, more of which is not taught in school.
2. Everybody is invincible until the first person you personally know dies. People deal with it differently. I told myself after Eddie Lopez died in Iraq, that I would *never be surprised again. So when I was sitting on the tarmac on a California airbase, on a chartered jet with our battalion, to go to Afghanistan, I remember looking around, at the Marines on the plane, and reminding myself – chances are, somebody on this plane is not coming back. Turns out 19 Marines and Sailors did not come back. Doc Qi was amongst those who died in shitty Taghaz (where I froze my ass off and placed heated plastic water bottles at the bottom of my sleeping bag at night to help warm my extremities) when a suicide bomber with a vest full of ball-bearings took blew himself and Marines/Doc up. Sergeant Major Cottle’s LAV (driven by LCpl Centanni) rolled over an improvised explosive device. Despite the morbid mental exercises you might run through pre-deployment, you still don’t forget those days post-deployment.
Re: #HONY (2/3)
3. There is a huge ripple effect that people don’t see in the stats that measure KIA – the emotional trauma. Cpl Ross. Pvt Marshall … all coping differently, and really, in very, very, sad ways. Talking to the Haditha Marine sent collect photos of the civilian casualties, telling you his nightmares and how he can’t sleep, he keeps seeing the moment when he picked up the dead girl’s body, and how when he lifted her body up into his armd her brains spilled out of her head and onto his boot. And when he cries to you about how he wrecked his car at Camp Pendleton, you are thinking “brother, your car should be the last of your worries.” And you hope the Marine is not suicidal. Running into Sgt Smith’s parents at Arlington, who are also watching over Doc Qi’s grave one row up, and them relaying to you that Doc’s parents haven’t even told his grandparents that Doc passed away out of fear it would literally break their hearts – as parents who have lost a child, to have to hide that from their own parents, and to grieve on their own.
4. You don’t talk about being angry at the civilian-military divide, and the time it takes to learn to cope with the sense that people really don’t understand, and maybe don’t even care, and to let it go, and to channel the negative emotions into helping other veterans who do understand. On the flip side, you learn to not be embarrassed talking about things out of concern people will feel uncomfortable or think you have PTSD.
5. You don’t talk about your Iraqi partners showing a video of Iraqis who worked with the Coalition being executed in line by shots to the back of the head, and saying they showed you to remind you that when US forces leave, this is what they will still be facing in Iraq. “We will still be here after you leave.” And when you are traveling through Iraq with your Iraqi partner, and on US military bases, they are technically not allowed onto the DFAC’s and PXes, you learn to say Fuck That Shit, and just march them in like they belong, past the contracted guards (pulling some rank), so they can buy crap loads of American candy to take home their daughters from the PX after whizzing from Baghdad to Diyala to Ramadi with you. And the sense of guilt knowing they are right – that US forces will eventually leave some day, and what will happen to them. (Though nobody foresaw it would be ISIS). America can fail, and Americans will forget. The places the American Empire has left its footprint, the locals will continue to feel the consequences after we are long gone.