Friday, August 23, 2013

Foreword, Written by Reaver 6-1, Special Operations Command


Reaver 6-1, Special Operations Command

Note from Maria: When I asked if he would write a Foreword for this book, I wasn’t expecting this type of response.  I’m not sure what I expected, but it wasn’t something that reads like a journal, like a peek into his mind and his experience.  He wrote something more than I could have ever asked for.   Thank you, Reaver 6-1, Special Operations Command.  The floor is all yours.

It's Thanksgiving Day.  Yesterday, I arrived to Fort Bragg, NC, an 18 year-old kid 3,000 miles away from home.  Needless to say I won't be partaking in any annual turkey with my kinfolk.   It's okay, though.  This guy everyone calls Sergeant Major has invited myself and another guy to his house for the celebration.  
I'm a little quiet.  I have a lot on my mind.  Before I left the building I will be working in, my boss alerted me not to unpack my gear because I would be leaving to support the invasion of Iraq in three days.  The next few days were spent eating leftovers, and calling friends and family.
Hey, what else can I do?
Six months later and I'm back home.  You really learn a lot about yourself and others when placed in that situation.  Coming from Compton, California, I wasn't too worried about a war zone; I mean, I kinda lived in one.
But this was different.
This was like being the Away Team, trying to hold on for four quarters and still keep enough in the tank to get back to the bus after the game.  But I was one of the lucky ones to make it back in one piece.  Some made it back.  Others, not so much.  Good people, too.  I'm going to miss them a lot.
But I can't dwell on that just yet.  I gotta get my mind right, because I just found out I have 16 days off, then I start training for a rapid push again.  Apparently, I impressed someone last time around.  Check me out:  Two combat missions and I can't legally have a drink yet.  I'm a bad ass.
Wow.  That was a rough one.  A constant wave of rockets and bombs come my way.  Stranded on top of a building for 3 or 4 days fighting sleep and the enemy at the same time.  Trying to explain to a woman who doesn't understand English or Spanish that her daughter's death was the result of her husband's road side bombs.
Yeah, we had our release valves.  We caught up on the many bad days of Jack Bauer on 24, educated ourselves to the mystical workings of women with Sex in the City. We even had the time to figure out why so many guys in the USA hate The Sound of Music. Personally, I think it's because they will never get a woman that hot who can sing.  Not all of us are Jay-Z.
Finding things to take your mind off the bad stuff is easy when you are around guys who suffer the suck with you.  We typically didn't address our struggles with each other.  It was an unwritten rule that you weren't allowed to bitch and moan to another guy who went through the same thing as you, and he's not bitching and moaning.  
So we just drove on.
We go out, spend some bullets, win some hearts and minds (that's what they call it now).  We come back, shower and eat, turn on a movie, get bombed, run outside, come back and go to sleep.  It becomes routine; you knew what to expect, so it became easy to deal with.
I am now the proud owner of more Combat Service Stripes than Time in Service Stripes.  Three Combat Stripes.  Eighteen months of combat service and I  receive my First Time in Service Stripe at three years.
But enough of that.  
I'm home now. Still not allowed to drink, but I can finally flaunt this war badge to the ladies in non-military towns.  Awesome! They are going to love me . . . love me as much as they want.  Yes!
Tomorrow, I leave for the airport.  That is, if tomorrow ever gets here.
I can't seem to fall asleep.  My mind is racing.  I'm thinking that something is wrong.  Something isn't secure.  Something is vulnerable.  I don't know what it is.  I thought it was jet lag at first, but it's been almost 2 weeks.
Nah, this is something different.  Something weird.
I feel really relaxed now, though.  Only if I could go to sleep. . .

What was that?

Okay, I know I heard that.  Let me check it out.  Okay, it was nothing.  Check the windows, check the doors, check every room, every corner.  Nothing.  Good.  Safe and secure.  Let me lay back down.

What was that….
My mom and dad are happy to see me.  They missed my 19th birthday,  so along with all my favorite foods, they have a cheesecake with candles; I prefer cheesecake to regular cake.
I see my uncles, aunts, cousins and siblings.  I also see a few people I don't know. My First Sergeant said, “A coming home party from war has a way of bringing new family members out."  I guess he was right; I didn't think I had Mexicans in my family. Let me watch them for a little while, make sure they don't try anything.
Yeah, I know.  But you never know.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Yeah, that's the official name for it.  You find this prominent in individuals returning home from a combat zone.  More recently, from the War on Terror.
The docs told me I have it.
Thankfully we were under doctor-patient privilege when I told him about my constant drinking and partying, my newfound knack for anger and my short temper.  He asked me about my hyper vigilance—I’m always on alert and prepared for the worst.  I told him it's a precaution to make sure things are in order.  
          He asked, "How many times?"  Six or seven throughout the night.  
          He asked, "How do you sleep?"  I'm now accustomed to about 4 hours of sleep each night.
"What brought this on?"  
          I can't answer that.
Maybe it was watching my buddy take one while he slept.  Maybe it was getting news over the wire about my boss getting halved by shrapnel.  Oh, did I mention all that happened after the President declared, “Mission accomplished?”
            Yeah, that made me mad.  Mad enough to want to go out and end the mission myself.  End it all.
Next came a friend who died in a helo crash getting back to the main base to have a severe sprain looked at because we didn't have X-Ray techs on our camp.
Oftentimes, people who don't understand, won't understand.  That's why it's so hard to treat PTSD on an individual level.  Everyone is different.  Everyone has their own demons and experience.  But one thing I can tell you:  This—whatever it is going on in my head—it doesn't do anything to me.  It takes away from me.
I never knew what it took away until I began to miss it.
I miss having a good night's sleep.  I miss being able to relax.  I miss the sound of the 4th of July.  I miss dreams; all I have these days are nightmares.  I miss being able to conduct myself in a crowd.  I miss having a drink just for fun; my mind has linked drinking to memory.  So I drink.  And I think about the guys I'm drinking to—the ones who should be drinking with me, the ones who should be drinking instead of me.  I miss the way morning used to make me feel so alive.  Now I question if today is my day.  You know, The Day.  I miss action movies; gun fire makes me a little jumpy.  I miss being able to eat steak.  Had a little incident where a bunch of people were hurt by some really hot stuff and, well . . . never mind.  I miss how making friends used to make me feel. Nowadays, if you haven't lived in my boots in some way, shape, or form, you don't belong.
But hey, it's not so bad.
I've had countless missions and one failed marriage—I think me dragging her outside to the MedEvac helo had something to do with it.  Yeah, I was dreaming.  The heavy drinking, screaming names in my sleep, and waking up to faces of baddies that got it from me . . . yeah, I think I made out good on this end.  Better than most.
Once the docs figure out how to treat this thing, though, I'll be good as new.  But for now, good enough is as good as it gets.  I still got a job to do.  Yeah, I may see some things that may make it worse, but remember:  if a 44 year-old man can do it, I damn sure can.

I'm 19 and not yet in my prime.  I still have a long way to go.

Keith Urban--For You

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