Introduction by GJS:
You’re about to read something by a man who can run faster, swim further, shoot straighter, fight dirtier, drink stronger, cuss filthier, suffer quieter, not give-a-fuck harder, yet inspire deeper and look the abyss dead-in-the-face longer, than most likely anyone you have ever met.
I’ve known J.P. for what in my life, would be considered a long time. Maybe it’s my life style, maybe it’s theirs, probably both, but the people who I call friends generally aren’t in the rotation for as long as I would like. People move away or they change. Sometimes they die and other times they just disappear; More often than not the latter of the two. So, my list of friends is short. I know many people, but actual friends are few.
J.P. came to me about writing a post and without any hesitation I said “Hell yes.” Over the years, even amongst my friends, he stands out as someone who has always had an insightful perspective; never simply recycling the same trite crap that most people toss around. He’s a man who has seen the world, has won some battles and lost others, and has been a leader of men. There’s a humanity to him that you can’t know unless you’ve spent time together and which simply does not exist in most people these days.
He’s not a plastic human or a disposable, sanitary option. He’s not a weak, half-assed photo-copy or a 10 dollar celebrity t-shirt. He’s real. I’m proud that he calls me his friend.
This article is an incredibly personal one and to me it says things that for many, including myself, are terribly difficult to put into words. A lot of people don’t “get” me. They just don’t, and they never will because they don’t know what I know and haven’t taken the path I have. Frankly speaking, you might have known me for years, but in reality you don’t know me at all. JP and I have shared the path together at times, and although we’re in very different places now, he knows. He always seems to know.
Reading this might confuse you and it will surely challenge some of your sensibilities, but these are things you don’t often get in everyday life. This thing, which has become such a rarity, even amongst the people closest to you is what you are about to be exposed to…
My Mission. My War. My Life.
Guest Post by “J.P.”
There comes a time for all things to end.
No matter how good or bad something may be, it does not last forever. This is the case in my situation. I was diagnosed over a year ago with chronic PTSD. I will soon be medically retired from the one thing that I have clutched to my heart for almost half of my life, the United States Marine Corps.
The news comes to me as both a source of panic and one of relief. I am relieved because I will be getting the treatment that I so desperately need to function normally in the outside world, yet panicked because I do not know how I will get along in a world among a populace where 99% of the people I meet simply do not “get it”.
I know that there are many who do not support, and even frown upon war, but it has made me the person that I am today. For better or for worse, I will always carry the ghosts of many with me for the rest of my life. The ghosts of my friends and my enemies.
I joined a profession of men who train to kill for a living. Some of those men never get the chance, but I am not among them. It may seem like tears in the ocean, but I have spent 88 days of my 37 years of life engaged in mortal combat with an enemy. Killing people comes with a price and a satisfaction that only one other action can give you, and that’s saving one. I stopped truly counting how many men I have killed somewhere past 40, and instead began weighing how many lives I have saved by doing so. When you can look into a dying man’s eyes and respond to him when he says “Tell my wife I love her” with “Tell her yourself”, it empowers you to a point that nothing else can top.
Taking a man’s life is infinitely easier than saving one.
So, as I will soon transition to a life where I do not kill or train people to kill for a living, I am uncertain of what life will hold for me. I can without a doubt say that war and training for the acts of war has made me a better person overall.
I can also say with absolute certainty that I have worked with and trained some of the most amazing men on the planet.
One of those men is Mr. Gaijinass himself. I will leave the stories about Eric and I for him to tell, but I will say that he is among a select few that has what it takes to be a professional killer.
I have seen in my exploits some of the toughest men cry like children when faced with certain death. I have seen people who were considered weak by many standards rise to the occasion when the chips were down, and turn the tide of battle in the name of saving that man on his left or his right. I have personally had to make a decision to let someone die so that others may live (one of the hardest decisions I have ever made).
To look at a man who is desperately trying to save his friend’s life
(a nearly decapitated Marine) and tell him that there is nothing he can do to save him, and make him go fight a pressing enemy is something that I will both always and never regret doing. The profession that Eric and I chose was one that is both unsavory and thankless. It is also necessary to maintain order and balance in the world.
Warriors live and die knowing that every move in combat could be their last. They do terrible things in the name of a cause that others are not willing to do. I fear that my tenacity as a human being is a bit over the top for the general populace. I look around at the world and I wonder if what I have done in life (as a professional killer) has made a difference. I wonder if the ghosts I carry with me are all for naught.
Generally speaking, I say no.
I would not give up what I have done for anything. No amount of money or fame could ever replace the feelings I had when all I could do was fight to survive. Those moments are what truly gave me life.
The burdens I carry from my PTSD are many. I have sleep disorders caused mostly by nightmares, and I often see things that aren’t there. It has caused me to take things so seriously, that I hold everyone to a higher standard in life.
I expect everyone to do things as if their lives depended on it. I expect everyone to take pride in every aspect of their lives.
I expect everyone to try to do everything better than whatever it was they did last.
The issues that I have and the approach that I take with them have a tendency to make people feel small. Call it paranoia if you will, but if you aren’t doing things to your absolute best, then someone else has to pay the price for it. I see this in every aspect of life now. You could be in any profession, and if you aren’t doing what you can do to top your last effort, then you are a failure and should promptly remove yourself from the gene pool. The world as I see it has become soft because people have taken less and less pride in what they do as humans. They look for shortcuts and handouts. They choose to take the path of least resistance, even though in many cases the rewards are much less.
I understand that peace is ultimately better than war, but I also know that the only way to stop war is with more war. This is the endless cycle. I know that life “out there” is not combat, but it does not change how I feel about how people should operate.
There is a natural order to the world, and it begins and ends with how much effort you put into something. I am a true believer that a person can not truly be a person until they have faced and overcome dire adversity. I believe that you can only truly appreciate life as we know it when you have personally seen how delicate it is and how quickly it can end.
I secretly long for a day when the apocalypse happens, and the world becomes a place where only those that can earn it by any means necessary can have it. I know it seems childish, but this is how I have lived the last 7 years of my life. What’s mine is mine, and the only way you are going to get it is to pry it from the hands of my stiff corpse.
I know that this topic is not something that you would normally see here, but I have known Eric as a friend, brother, student, and colleague for almost 15 years. I asked him if I could write something about what is going on with me on his blog, because I feel that it is a more limited forum of intellectual people.
I know that I may be judged for my opinions, and I am OK with that. I also know that most of the people that browse this blog have faced adversities of many types in their lives. I know that in the end, I will succeed in life, but I am hoping to maybe gain some advice from people on how to not want to hold people to the standards that I feel the world so desperately needs. I know that the terms “good, bad, right, and wrong” are all relative to the person looking at them.
For those that are interested, I plan on going back to school to become a computer forensics specialist. I will also most likely volunteer some of my spare time to help people with PTSD issues like myself. I am not here for sympathy, just advice on what will probably be the most difficult transition of my life.
Thanks to all of you in advance for reading this, and again thanks if you have some advice for me, no matter how harsh it may be.
If this was your thing, you might like these:
|7 Books for Warriors||Kickboxing in Japan||The best Star Wars behind the scenes yet||Enlisting in the USMC||The American Occupation of Okinawa|
I understand what you are saying. You have seen part of the other side of life, and I can definitively respect that.
However don’t have it too hard on the others, I share some of your feeling about the ‘softness’ of today, but even those who seem oblivious to the true nature of life will share their lot, one day or the other (or maybe in another life). The best thing you can do is share your experience with other people, to make them learn more about life and that yes sometimes life involve death, self-assertion, and strength.
I wish you luck, between school and volunteering you should be good!
This is a great comment. Thanks. J.P. Will be reading these as well, and responding as he see’s fit.
J.P, thanks for the honest post. I can’t even begin to imagine some of the shit you have been through out there. At the end of the day, an action which you believe is right, is right even if no one else thinks so. For me personally, I think the overload of information out there would do my head in more so than the actual killing part in itself, after going through all of that shit and witnessing death like that to come home and have someone tell you that it was all in vain, or something like that. Just the massive amounts of information going into your brain, without any clear right or wrong in there from the internet and mass media. I often wonder if this is why more soldiers are getting illnesses like PTSD than in the old days, or it is just because of improvements and awareness in mental medicine.
I don’t know where you fought, but my honest opinion is that Iraq was a load of bullshit and it’s just the U.S repeating the same mistake over again. In that instance, I think the war did more harm than good. Afghanistan is a whole different can of worms, on one side you have attacks from the US which kill civilians, yet combatants will disguise themselves as civilians, so it just makes everything really fucked up and hard to get anywhere without hurting innocent people and hence polarising or radicalising them to terrorism. I disagree with reducing troop numbers out there though, it is a shame that the resources from the Iraq war weren’t all put into Afghanistan, as they could have done a decent job without going broke. I don’t like how they are planning to withdraw troops in a few years either, it is a betrayal of the lives taken in my opinion.
That being said, what happens on a micro-level and macro-level are two different stories, even if one does serve in a war which is fucked up on a macro-level, it doesn’t mean that no good was done on a micro-level. Undoubtedly, some of the tough decisions you had to make saved people’s lives and therefore no matter how fucked up a war is on the whole, an individual’s actions can still make a difference. Even if one hundred guys end up hating your country or whatever, there will always be at least one person who sees the humanity in your actions, even if they don’t say or show any indication that they have noticed.
This sort of stuff applies to the whole of society I believe. Yeah, most people just don’t have a clue, it has probably been like that forever; but thanks to the internet and technology we are now aware of their bullshit more then ever. Then again, there are people out there going through struggles just as painful as yours, but with completely different origins. I think it is important to keep an open enough frame of mind to listen to and try to understand other people’s struggles, no matter how much like bullshit it may seem at first. It will ultimately help you in the end too.
The comments you made about people who don’t give 110% all of the time should be removed from the gene pool is probably something you need to get over before you can heal from PTSD. I don’t know much about that, but I know that attitudes like that are classic signs of other mental illnesses, such as depression. With depression there is some serious shit going on in the brain which can make someone feel really shit, so trying one’s best provides a temporary reprieve from the hell going on the brain. Also the ideals of perfectionism seems to be a reaction to a world that doesn’t recognise mental illness very well yet and if it does, it is a really shallow understanding thinking that taking a few pills and taking a month off work will fix everything, kind of like having the flu or something. Going balls out all of the time may feel good at the time, but things build up and there are a lot of instances where people do something silly including suicide attempts.
I guess it’s like training, even when you’re fit and healthy, you should have a rest day a few days a week and in the event of an injury, one has to take months off even for something such as inflammation. For a serious injury, it could take years to heal properly, however most people can’t rest for that period of time and end up worsening the injury and further lengthening the process. The brain and soul is like that too, they need time to heal from all of the distress that has occurred. Our brains are constantly engaged in this world, so it is probably one of the hardest areas to rest. I would recommend meditation as one way of learning how to rest the mind.
Anyway good luck with your forensics specialist training and your pursuits in helping PTSD patients too. I hope the transition is as smooth as possible back into society. Just remember to take a deep breath every so often and enjoy the reality in the present time, like the texture of something you are touching or the taste and feeling of something you are eating and drinking. Those five senses are the way out from the spirals going on in the mind from the past and your perceived future.
Apologies for the arm chair commentary too about war, as I have no military personal experience.
Thanks for the great post.
Thanks for the great response. I spent some time in Iraq during a 2 year span where there were more mercenaries than actual uniformed enemy. Jordanians, Syrians, Russians, and Chechens were all over the place. They were guns for hire and generally not aligned politically to anyone. They blended in like the enemy in Afghanistan and caused a whole lot of problems. The vast majority of them were well trained and could do a number on you in a hurry if you were caught unawares. I spent some time on the Syrian border as well as South East Asia doing ops against groups of insurgents down there.
There are some intelligence (operationally) things that I can’t get in to right now, but generally speaking local terrorists do not operate within their home towns. The may often utilize extortion or coercion to sway the local populace but they will generally hire out to actually kill people within their home areas.
You are absolutely right about micro and macro wins and losses. For guys like me and Eric, our world is very egocentric. Our elements are so small that every decision we make can have serious implications. The U.S. Civil war wasn’t decided on one or two major battles. It was decided by multiple small level engagements. That being said, you can kick all the ass you want in your area of operations, but if the rest of your team isn’t, you will eventually be driven back and lose the battle as a whole.
I agree about varying origins of PTSD. I know that currently in Japan there is a heightened awareness for PTSD due to last years Tsunami. I see folks in the news who in the blink of an eye lost everything they had. Home, car, personal possessions, family members, and even jobs, all gone. It is traumatic to say the least.
“I often wonder if this is why more soldiers are getting illnesses like PTSD than in the old days, or it is just because of improvements and awareness in mental medicine.” This comment is actually a combination of the two. There was a time when the entire nation got behind the war(s). Coming back home to ticker-tape parades, and media coverage of our victories was something that supported the men and women who paid the prices for said victories. Now that has all changed. Political views, and media presence trying to make a fast buck or a vote for a journalism prize have put their own spins on what is the truth. Those weigh in on your brain to varying degrees, but I have learned to brush them off in my own way.
The second part to that is that there IS a greater overall awareness to PTSD as an illness. There are an alarming number of vets from the last 65+ years who have had their issues swept under the rug for x, y, or z reason. It is most likely the most beneficial thing the media has done for us. Silver linings as Eric would say.
As for the resting of the mind and the body, this is 100% the main reason people in my profession suffer from PTSD. As an operator, you are constantly on the go. You may have just lost someone you have known for years in a firefight, but guess what?; you have a mission to continue. After that mission, another, and another, and so on. So after a few years of just learning to deal with it on the fly, when you aren’t on the fly that’s when the mind (subconscious) starts it’s cleansing process. There is a lot of psycho babble that I could get into, but basically it comes down to not wasting time to heal your injuries. Some times that isn’t possible, but it must be done as frequently as possible.
Thank you for your well wishes and positive advice. I will eventually learn to deal with other peoples “shortcomings” but there will always be a part of me that clings to it.
Thanks again for the excellent response.
Thanks for the reply J.P.
I guess you are pretty tied with security issues, but I would be very interested in any of your other experiences, as the sterile view of war put on the telly and then the actual reality is another world. Honestly, there should be a parade for people when they come back, but we live in a world where power is maintained through the division of the populace, so when in fact people should be organising a general strike to object to the war that they don’t want, they are left powerless through a lack of organisation and also ideological division. Being in debt and having a credit driven society obviously doesn’t help either. It is therefore easier through an indirect ideological channelling even to be the point of being encouraged to take out one’s frustrations on the individual instead, in this case being the soldiers who have already gone through hell and back. Then again, in the old days the parade was only alright if you were male, white and heterosexual, so that is something to consider too.
I remember reading a couple of articles online about some of the working conditions that soldiers (Australian) have to go through, often working for weeks on end without any rest and odd hours and so forth. That coupled with the harsh mental environment is obviously a recipe for mental illness. I guess it is just anarchy out there, so the things people accept as normal such as having a rest everyday, having a hot bath and a warm bed, etc.; have no reason to exist.
Sometimes Eric posts up a fictional story on this blog, which may or may not be influenced by some of his personal experiences in this country. I would encourage you to do the same if you feel up to it, it would also offer an avenue of release without getting yourself in trouble, as it would be a fictional story of course. I enjoy the ones he posts and I would love to read anything that you may have to contribute. I recently bought the book ‘On Killing’ and am hoping it may provide a good insight into the experiences that people go through.
Anyway, look after yourself.
This is a great post and even though I did military training,so can relate to a lot of your post from that, I did not see any action as at that time my country was not involved in any wars where I would have been deployed. However, from my general everyday life over the years, I can relate to the rest of your post completely.
Re;.”but I am hoping to maybe gain some advice from people on how to not want to hold people to the standards that I feel the world so desperately needs. I know that the terms “good, bad, right, and wrong” are all relative to the person looking at them.”
Personally, I think this ball of mud we call home is a mess and most of the problems I believe come from weak, greedy, messed up people who do not try their best at what ever they are doing in life. This attitude in turn affects everyone and everything around them..
I sometimes actually think some people should take themselves outside and shoot them selves they are such a waste of space and the air they breathe.
Having said this, we all know that is the way it is out their and we all have to put up with each other’s good points and bad just to continue living in society.
So the only advice I could offer and I don’t usually look at myself as one who can or should offer advice to many people, mostly because I am usually working on how to improve myself so as to not leave heavy foot prints where ever I go in life, is this simple point that I try to live by.
Treat others as you wish to be treated yourself, steer clear of those who would pull you down and learn to be patient…very patient with those who simply do not match your own expectations, and there will be many. Find the good people with whom you want to work and share your life and enjoy that and take pride in the fact that what you do, you do well and that it fits with your view of good and bad, that is what matters.
Good luck with your return to civi life and have a GOOD life.
Thanks Mark. Patience is something that I have been desperately working on. Yes there are many.
Lately I have not been able to find my voice.
Lately all words seem to fail me.
My grades have even slipped from this.
I am ending the winter term on a slow climb and may get my GPA back up.
But that is not the point here.
My point is that this is important and I really hope my words don’t let me down right now.
J.P. you have been a weapon of American freedom and rights. Even when used for greed and oil, you were signed up for and defending my freedom and rights. Your very presence was yet one more weapon between my freedom and loss of it. I owe you more than I can ever give back. I can’t thank you enough for serving.
You have put your life in danger to protect every silly right and freedom from voting to nipple piercings. From speaking out for democracy to speaking out for racism. We can only do those things, no matter how great, no matter how horrible, thanks to those who have served.
Most of us take it for granted. I try not too. Truth is, though, I take it for granted. I have to admit there are days when I go an entire day not even thinking of what you put on the line, what anyone who serves puts on the line. You don’t get that luxury. You whom have served and killed, who has seen men lose everything, DO NOT get to spend your day acting like an order gone wrong at a fast food drive through lane is the end of the world.
I thank you. I wish I could do more. You have lost much, and probably do not realise how much, just yet, you have given up for people who will never give a damn. I am sure it is hitting you in devastating waves. Still to see all you have lost in serving the American citizen you will have to live a very long life. Living it with PTSD is not going to be easy either.
Those that serve are weapons of freedom. Weapons used by people who will never see the horrors of combat. Weapons that get used till they break, then tossed aside.
If you wish to help others with the dissorder then you are going to have to help yourself first. This isn’t some stupid saying from a hallmark card. You need to find out what helps, what works, and why. So you can use that to help others. First study as much psychology as you can. Subscribe to magazines and make it your hobby. The human mind is whats been broken. It was honed to a killing edge, but no atention was paid to the humanity still there in the background.
Second sociology. Not modern help the world as a social worker sociology. That kind wants to do away with naming disorders. That makes getting answers difficult and won’t help our troops. You need the old school sociology as the science of crowds, both a crowds effects on the individual mind, the individuals effects on the crowd, and a crowds thoughts. To make it through basic you have to learn to think as a group. We learn to hone that group to a knifes edge for war in basic training. So you will need to be able to start getting to these troops from that perspective and see exactly what it has done. Then deprogram these weapons for civilian life and its selfish, self-centered crazyness.
Many have tried. Some have had a bit of success. Not much published on the success. More is published on failed atempts to drum up support, but that doesn’t tell you what you need to know to fix things.
I hope you succeed in whatever you choose to do with your life, from this point forward. I hope you can also help others who have PTSD. Don’t worry too much about your high-standards, you may find a job where those work for you.
I will never begin to understand what you have been through. I have too many health issues to enlist. I also have my own problems and differences, from most people, when it comes to harming others that prevent me from ever really understanding the emotional and mental damage, that can come from hurting others.
I just want to thank you sir. Not enough people do. Good luck and again thank you. Your post was excellent and has found a good home. I have no doubt you will be well respected here. Keep writing. I look forward to future posts from you.
Gaijin thanks for letting J.P. guest post. It was a good one.
oh, I should mention some of the PTSD and other problem situations friends and family have had with serving.
One friends dad, whom I have known for years, First saw people fighting over bread and shots got fired. Then another time a buddy of his stepped on a mine while going to piss, and after running outside the tent he got to see the aftermath. Another time going through the desert his convoy got swarmed by kids asking for candy, it was too far between towns so it shouldn’t have happened, they thought it was a trap. Another time a coffee can with an explosive in it got rolled towards them.
He ended up to messed up from all of it and ended up divorcing his wife and moving. He can’t really connect with his son anymore. He is just too distant (mentally and emotionally), and so doesn’t see his grandchildren, or anyone, much.
A friend of mine came back a bit different. He wouldn’t say what happened. He just started cheating on his wife like crazy. He couldn’t face her and couldn’t relate to her, or explain what he had been through and was still going through. So he kept looking for it in any woman he came across. He never formed any kind of lasting relationship with any of them. He ended up divorcing his wife out of guilt and his inabllity to explain any of what he was going through. He even had a rather difficult incident with his daughter. It was her birthday party. A balloon popped and next thing he knew he was screaming and trying to reach for a gun (that wasn’t there). He scared his daughter and all her friends.
One friend didn’t make it through basic as his leg got damaged. The tendons are all messed up. He is in his twenties and has to use a cane. The pain in his leg is so bad he is on methadone and can’t keep a job. His young wife left him for one of his best friends.
Another friend didn’t make it through basic, due to the selfishness of others. His wife was sending him messed up letters constantly. She sent a lot about how he missed his child’s birth. He eventually cracked. He ended up on mental discharge and is a total mess. His wife talked him into doing something horrible. He was on meds and didnt really know what was going on. She got the divorce she wanted and he will be spending a long time in jail. If anyone in the prison finds out what he did he won’t live. Also, no one is ever going to visit, or write him.
There are a few others. These ones just seem to stick out in my mind. I have a cousin that spent a very long time in the air force. He is a total nutcase and had to go through a lot of therapy. His mental issues even lead to a very warped vision of the bibles messages. He ended up divorcing and rarely ever gets to see his three children. He did remarry and have another kid however.
Divorce seems to be a common occurance with service. So, J.P., pay special attention to helping spouses relate to soldiers and helping soldiers talk to their spouses. The spouse is the most important person in someones life. The distance service can put between a married couple, emotionally, mentally, and physically, is a very tough hurdle. With everything else a soldier/marine/etc. goes through losing the one person they need most…this part is just way too hard to word correctly. I hope your getting what I mean with all the babble.
I get all of it Potz. I have seen the 99th% of what you can possibly see in combat. Some things that would make horror movie enthusiasts turn away. Combine that with the before during and after, and you have some nasty things to deal with.
As far as spouses go, I am very fortunate to have one that I can lean on. We have been married for almost 9 years, and she has taken all of this better than I could have ever hoped for. It isn’t always easy. How do you tell your wife and best friend the things you have done and seen without freaking her out. What she knows, she has taken well. She knew some of the people I lost personally, so at times we lean on each other down the path.
When she was pregnant with our first child, she saw part of a live 4 hour feed of my squad caught in an ambush on Fox. It was hands down the most vicious fight I had ever been in (even though OUR casualties were minimal). 14 of us vs. 180. Everyone thought we were dead. We brought everyone back alive but 1. She didn’t get to see the end, but let’s just say that though she was worried, she convinced herself that I was going to be OK. And here we are.
She is hands down the most important person in my life. Without her I know exactly what path I would take, and it would not end pretty.
I plan on retiring with her in an undisclosed destination where we will be sipping rum on the beach for the rest of our days. I just have to get there first.
Congratulations J.P., it sounds like you have found a very strong partner and a special love. I wish you both the best. Also, her input may help other wives deal with their husbands who have PTSD. It really does affect the entire family.
J.P. man you mentioning all the private contractors that worked in Iraq, it really gets me to thinking about things, people we both know, a couple that are gone, all because of all that proxy shit that was going on over there.
Someday, at some point, I will have to write the truth about one of them, everything I know about it. I honestly don’t think people would can deal with that now. Whatever.
Also, a comment that is difficult to put into words properly but, regarding “The War” and the people fighting it. Micro or Macro etc.
I think our politics are different. Based on what I’ve seen, experienced, read and been exposed to I have very particular ideas about Americas military choices abroad, and domestically for that matter. That having been said though, my respect, possibly obsession with The Warrior and that lifestyle would never allow me to say something negative about the people actually doing the killing. It doesn’t even allow me to think it. Is that hypocritical? I don’t know, or care. But that’s how I’m organized.
People use phrases like “transition back into society” and I can’t help asking you plainly- is that something you really want to do? For me, it conjures up images of just being another cog in the wheel, just another credit card number. I worry that this is something associated with taking care of PTSD, some kind of quest to “be normal”. Because I think that sounds like bullshit.
Balance as it’s excepted today is complacency, debt, boredom and bad health. Is that something you want? I know it’s not.
My point, circuitous though it may be, is that once you reconcile with the demons that are haunting you to the point that functioning safely from day to day is not really a worry anymore, do you abandon a skill set of intangibles (VOA…Intensity) in exchange for normality? Can you? Would you want to?
Again, hard to put these feelings into words. Also, questions I could ask myself.
As far as that fine specimen of a warrior we know, and that I know you are talking about goes……absolutely. I use his tale to enlighten those in search of “greener pastures”, so that they understand the risks that they don’t openly see. To answer your questions Eric…..
My skill set is something I keep like a shotgun under a trench coat or a knife in my boot. It will always be there, readily accessible when the time arises. Just because you don’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. I will probably maintain a certain level of proficiency even though I am not a current practitioner.
No I will not end up as a cog in the wheel. I plan on striking out on my own as far as making a living goes. Work my own hours etc. I will have to go with the current during my training and probably dance the dance from time to time, but I will by no means ever settle for just settling.
“Normality” is something I will never truly attain. I will always look under my car for bombs and check my perimeters wherever I go. I will always do my best to spot the enemy (figurative) before he spots me.
My goal in all of this is to do so while holding onto some mental stability in my life. I just don’t want to end up on the 10 O’clock news because I climbed a water tower and slayed 200 people over something that is liveable if not curable.
I think you knew all the answers when you asked them.
Again I thank you for this brother.
There are never any clear cut happy endings when the day comes that a Marine has to leave their beloved corps against his own will. I swear I have seen salty First Sergeants stay in only because no one had the heart to tell them they were no longer needed or fit for duty. Not only are you leaving behind the Marine Corps, but you are also leaving behind your friendships and a way of life among warriors that you can count on in the battlefield and at the bar, regardless if you too get along personally.
I admire your honest assessment about your situation, and you are facing your PTSD instead of neglecting it and hiding it with other unhealthy activities. The one thing that I know helped me after i got back from my limited time in Iraq was to hang out with other Marines, because only they can understand without judging all the bullshit you’ve been through.
Make sure you have compassion for those that are not warriors, or Marines. It is not their fault for choosing a different path in life than yours. Sometimes, they judge because they do not have the courage to put themselves in your shoes. One privilege that us Marines have over any other branches, is that we don’t bullshit our reality, and in fact face it, and embrace it to overcome the hardships we go through. I expect a follow up.
Evil Ed…awesome comment man. Looking forward to seeing you here soon.
“Make sure you have compassion for those that are not warriors, or Marines.”
I will take this close to my heart. Thank you.
Eric and I knew Marines like this when we were together in the 90’s Somali vets….
One of them in particular had severe PTSD issues (which is way hindsight at this point).
Thanks, J.P. That was some great writing, and the honesty was refreshing. I’m Air Force, and I doubt I’ll ever be tested the way you were, but I certainly appreciate what you all do.
I completely understand how you could long for an apocalypse. We’d probably watch a lot of people just roll over and die before they tried to tackle a real challenge. I want to tell these people to just change their fucking tampons and get a life instead of “occupying” places.
Anyway, best of luck moving on. That kind of change is rough, but it’s just a different challenge for you to face. I’m sure you’ll kick its ass.
” I expect everyone to take pride in every aspect of their lives.”
I started my site to confess to 2 things that I did that I’m not able to tell anyone. It got big fast and the situation…the moment was lost and my sites mission statement was and is worth shit now. I can allude to things or leave bread crumbs which I’ve done but beyond that….I value my freedom so…
I have never been under siege by an enemy armed to the teeth or had the thuds of bombs rumbling under me. I didn’t take lives for another so on a buncha levels I cannot empathize with certain points any better than most.
Were you not a perfectionist before this? I have always held others to a very high ideal that is almost intentionally impossible to reach so that I may hurt them with what I consider reason.
It’s why I did my things not an after effect. Am I missreading you or was it just enhanced by the realities of war? Did you not feel that most folks are inferior to you….sheep shuffling from one side of the field to another by a government ruled by those with less moral fiber than our own. Did you not join to release that frustration? I tried to join but was refused for a criminal juvenile record which involved firearms.
I went on to set some shit right later in life. I warned those involved. The were wrong to ignore what I said. Some of us mean every fucking word that comes out of our mouths. I don’t speak to hear the sound of my own voice. I said what would happen if “A” did______. Twice in my life and a third with another I had to correct someone. With my hands fists and feet.
They fucked themselves. Time passes and that has never changed…my view of those events. I can either type this and eat a chef salad (like I’m doing now) or let it eat me because I think it’s supposed to. I tried to feel it but I can’t. I did what I said I’d do. Why should I feel bad about that?
Why do you? You were paid and trained to kill to preserve the world as we know it. Love America or Hate it …it’s the only bully on the block strong enough to keep the junior busters in check.
Why you feel bad? You should be proud. You did your job. You signed up for that. Your a motherfucking man. The sheeple get to grovel cuz you protected the right for them to do so. You always were better than others.
You hold your head high. Did you kill kids? Women? No? Then you were a piece on a chess board that others moved around and the pieces you knocked over were on the same board. Your still here. They are not.
Love your woman like you live your life. 100%. Teach your kids or anyone around you that being less than who they could be is a waste. No half stepping.
If your stresses are more related to the overall experience of war than I cannot relate but can still say you should be proud. Some folks do and others think…think about doing. You do. Keep doing in everything in your life big and small whether everyone knows or no one will ever know but you. If I “get you”…you look in your own eyes when you look in the mirror….to check yourself….make sure your still there.
Sounds like your all there bro.
Thank you Gaijinass for giving me a post with some meat on it…the J-web sorely lacks meat on it’s bone.
I agree. Ironic thing is, without a doubt, some of the J-webbers reading this will be “upset” because it isn’t about a manga convention, some quirky Japanese shrine or a noodle shop. Almost without exception every time we put up a “heavy” post someone gets their little box hurt. But guess what part of my body they can all take turns kissing?
Let them explain what giri choco is for the thousandth time and go fuck themselves after. I googled it and found 1.73 million hits. I googled Stupid expat and only got 1,400…..Their is a lack of balance in the “Force” 😉
I like to think WE are the Empire. But in this one, Nobody stops the death star. Do not underestimate the dark side of the force.
“Love America or Hate it …it’s the only bully on the block strong enough to keep the junior busters in check.”
This is going to be my facebook status today.
I joined when I was 20. I also had a juvie record. I did have high standards back then, but I wasn’t a professional anything in those years. I joined in peace time, because I felt that my skill sets in life were best suited for that job.
I was a perfectionist in my own way back then, but it was unguided and lacked discipline. (Discipline is the cornerstone of success on any level.)
I agree that half stepping is bad, and that going all out is the way to handle it. “All out” is another one of those relative terms
I am proud of what I have done. I do not have survivor’s guilt, because we never left a mission unfinished. The decision to take a life is yours and yours alone. It generally should be reserved for times where if you didn’t you or someone else would die instead.
My stresses are from what lies out there. For lack of a better term, I am institutionalized. Transitioning into a world where my standards are out of place is startling. Having an occupation that enables high standards is hard to forget when you move in to one that may not.
I do check the mirror every day. For the most part, I’m still here. I’m changed, but I’m still here.
Glad you got some meat with that chef salad. Thanks for the response.
Thanks for the response.
I used to check the mirror to practice for staredowns before fights to build confidence and see what I looked like to others at that moment…. and then I could see myself..looking back at me ..and I stared back. …at me. I have never met anyone who didn’t think it was crazy unless they stood in a ring.
I realized that I could judge my own level of self comfort by looking into my own eyes like I was judging myself. When I don’t wanna see the mirror or can’t get “into it” I know I’m not O.K.
It is amazing how many people have seen the mirror everyday of their lives but they have never really looked in it…looked at their eyes and evaluated themselves. Like looking at your own soul for just a second…scary but refreshing.
Thanks for getting that part. I wanted to know that.
Thank you for having the courage to post this. It really moved and resonated with some part of me. I have a completely different background than you, and no military experience whatsoever, unlike the majority of the posters above. However, what really struck me was when you mentioned the apocalypse.
Ever since my own experiences with death, for a long time I wish people could have seen what I had, to know death up close and to, for once, understand how fragile life is and how everyday is a chance to make the best use of the time we’re given, because it really is very short and we never know when it’ll end.
These high expectations you hold of others is natural, and in fact, one I would expect you to have considering what you’ve been through and the knowledge that if one person fucks up, the team is finished. The world we non-combatants inhabit is different. The majority of us are here to do a job, get a paycheck and live our lives the way we want to (and I thank you for defending that). If someone doesn’t do their job well, the worst punishment they receive is getting fired and having to find another job.
Clearly, the stakes aren’t as high. Perhaps this is why people are willing to do a mediocre job. Or in the case of some people, they do the best they think they can and shy away from pushing themselves to do more.
However, you cannot feasibly hold everyone else to the same standards you hold yourself to. It just isn’t practical. They have grown up in different environments and don’t see living and existing the same way you do. Even if you expect more of them, they will probably not deliver and you’ll just become resentful. And as a famous person (Carrie Fisher in my memory) said: “Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” It serves no purpose for you to get upset at the world, in addition to the substantial burdens you already carry.
On the flip side, take the time to get to know some of the people you would otherwise disregard because they do not do things the way you expect them to. Their different upbringing and ways of thinking are things you can add to your own library of ways to view the world and understand your position in it all. Just as you hide your skills like a shotgun under a trench coat, you may find that others have things that can’t be seen just at a glance (the dominatrix post comes to mind).
I am rather inexperienced in most things, but I have found that simply letting things go, and accepting others as they are is a much more relaxing approach to life. The standards I keep are strictly for me, and it is unfair to apply them to others. However, because of these standards, I will be able to achieve and do more with the time that I’m given (at least I hope), and I believe that this is one of the possible conclusions that you may come to.
Perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned from my adverse experiences is that life is really too short to spend it sad, resentful or angry. Sure these emotions will occur, but perhaps something that will help you overcome PTSD is just that knowledge that life is to be enjoyed and savored, and time spent dwelling on the past is time that could be spent doing something more productive. Talk is cheap, and I understand you have a long road ahead of you in overcoming the things you’ve seen and done. But just the fact that you’re going to get help for it is wonderful to hear, and you’ve already taken the hardest step I believe.
The transition will not be easy, and I wish you the best. Your wife will be a pillar of support at this time, and I believe talking with her about everything you are allowed to will make things much easier. I believe it might be good to talk to a good mix of marines and others that have served, and regular civilians like myself so you can acclimate better and find balance between the world you’re leaving and the one you’re coming back to.
Your skill set will always be there and it will be useful in the future I believe. Skills I never thought I’d use have been handy in the strangest of situations. I wish you the best of luck at school and I know that you will achieve and succeed at whatever it is you put your mind to. Those that put in the effort generally see the rewards sooner or later. Thank you again for serving, and for writing this heartfelt and candid piece. Best of luck to you.
Carrie Fisher also said “This bucket of bolts’s never gonna get us past that blockade”.
Never doubt the Millenium Falcon…….
I have often pushed people to strive for more. When they can’t or they fail while trying to do so, I mentor them and encourage they try again. This is what training is for.
People outside of my occupation don’t necessarily understand mentoring, and can take it as patronizing since their lives don’t depend on it.
Part of my leadership style is to learn things about people. If you know something small and personal about someone such as what city they are from, sports teams they like, or what their children’s names are, it make them feel more comfortable around you. It also gives you something to talk about when you are idling between missions and training.
It is important for people that work with you to know that you give a shit about them. I understand that inside each uniform is a human being. I am reasonably accepting of others, but when it counts, it counts.
Since a few people have mentioned this, I will also talk about using other Marines to help with the issues of PTSD. It is a very dangerous road.
There are times when you end up re-living certain moments. In small controlled doses it can be helpful, but there is no clear cut line to cross into the point of no return.
When you cross it, bad things can happen. It is better to generalize with others than to get into specifics. This is why my original post was generally broad based instead of specific. The things I have seen and done are hard for some to take. Had I posted a specific issue that I am having troubles with, (as in specific PTSD related incident) I would have had to re-live it as I was typing it.
I am not trying to avoid the demons, but there are many and I can not take them all at once. Some of this stuff has been buried for 7 years now.
So while Marines are a good source of help in these cases, you must be careful how far and fast you go.
Thanks for reading and the excellent response Jon.
It IS the ship that made the Kessel run in under 12 parsecs after all. Just sayin’.
Thanks for the comment. Still waiting for your guest post by the way.
As one of the 99%, I am not qualified to give advice. What I will do is offer perspective to add to the collective response to your request.
“How to not want to hold people to the standards that you feel the world is so desperately in need of?”
If people cannot meet those standards, cannot they at least be brought up from where they are?
You mention something I have been thinking about and trying to understand, consequently something I have little experience with: mentoring. From my life, very few people come to mind in terms of really understanding the true value of what that entails. You apparently do understand, not from mere theory, but from first-hand experience. As far as I’m concerned, the wisdom that you have gained is worth something…something immeasurable in human terms.
Though I am quite willing to bet that I would not apparently meet the standards you may feel the world is in need of, I would argue that simply by making the initial post, your actions have brought me closer… although I may not agree with or even be aware of what those standards are. But I do think I ‘get’ what you are saying; it translates.
On a side-note, I cringe when I hear the word intellectual because most ‘professionals’ who fancy themselves as such seem to me to be, more often than not, petty, aloof, whimsical, and lacking integrity. Honesty is tough for a lot of people.
The fact that you can still look in the mirror and see what you see is good.
Holding people to standards. That’s part of a dialogue I’ve witnessed from the sidelines as men and women, who later became elders, sat and talked in trying to deal with this thing we are a part of. We hold, we let go. We grasp, we release. Some things are hard to let go of or put down even when we want to. With a little luck, after we’ve grieved and those tears have been shed, we’ll accept/embrace that which we cannot refuse.
Simply by reading your post (and consequent responses) I feel I have gained far more from this exchange than what I can offer.
That’s my perspective.
Forgive my ignorance, but what is PTSD? I’ve never heard this term before.
Great post. I’m pretty much goes against everything I believe in (especially because Australian troops get dragged into these conflicts for reasons our leaders can justify) but there are so many sides to this issue.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder- PTSD.
Well Gaijin has already told you what the acronym stands for. A bit of a regular public explanation would be something like this… If your stressed to the point of cracking then something pushes you over the edge you are likely to have a nervous breakdown which is similar to a computer crashing and some files getting corrupted, only its your brain. Another reaction might be an anxiety attack which is like your cardio vascular (lungs and heart) getting overclocked and your brain doing a bit of an overheat. This can easily include stroke or heart attack. If its one event (which may be sudden or drawn out over the course of a few years) that is the cause and your brain basically short circuits and fries some connectors then your a good candidate for PTSD.
You will have anxiety issues, nightmares, flashbacks (not always complete may be partial like just noises or just visual or sometimes weird stuff like smells and tastes), and a whole bunch of other crap that can make life suck.. Chronic fatigue can be common and is generally realted to the sleep issues. Sometimes super weird stuff like muscles doing things your not telling them too.
It really opens the brain up to all manner of mental dissorders that generally lead to physical symptoms as well. It can be caused by somewhat silly things, but is usually caused by things most people can not deal with. In the case of silly stuff, to that person it wasnt silly at all and they just couldn’t handle it.
Recent wars have really brought it into the public consciousness, awareness, eye etc. As more troops seem to be having it than in the past. Some of this is due to past cases not being properly diagnosed. Still the occurance is higher in recent military engagements. Shell shock cases would often be PTSD that was manifesting on a more frequent basis. War is not the only thing that causes it.
Physical abuse, torture even. Rape also. Extreme disasters are a common cause for it. The person is never really the same afterward and seems to have a shorter tolerance for negative situations. It tends to age a person quicker and their health generally takes a negative turn from the time they developed it till the time they die.
If the event had some major trauma at a particular date or time then the person often will be more affected by this mental illness when that date or time comes around again. Relapsing can occur at any time. People who have reportedly recovered can ten or twenty years later suddenly and inexplicably commit suicide, or have the worst symptoms re occur. You never really get rid of it, or recover completely.
From all that seems to happen with it mentally and its similarities to other major dissorders, I bet you would see a very distinct change in brain activity and what parts of the brain are active when. I am of course speaking of a before PTSD and after PTSD scenario. Victims of electro shock therapy exhibit many similarities.
“The world as I see it has become soft because people have taken less and less pride in what they do as humans.”
I have felt this way too about the world in general and it takes some hard work not to take it out on the world around you. The more years go by the more I feel like an angry old granny yelling at the punk kids to get off my grass and turn down that rock n roll music, but I am only 31. When I was young I worked hard to strive for my independence, for my own pocket money and for my own road in life. I look around and even my little brother who is 9 years my junior has become soft. He has been offered a great job in the garment industry where he would be trained and would get to go to trade shows around the world and make good money but he declined. He is happy being a cart pusher at Wal-Mart because he doesn’t want to be a “workaholic”; he has no steam no gumption. He is content with being momma’s boy and getting by on enough money to afford him beer and video games while living with a horde of roomies or at my mom’s when he can’t afford living with roomies.
I hope the care you need to help with your PTSD will also help you deal with the soft world as it is today. As someone who has suffered PTSD; I can tell you the road ahead of you won’t be easy but don’t make it hard on yourself. Be open minded and have an open heart, the world is a hard place to be sometimes when you have to work through your feelings and overcome the ghosts of the past. But it is worth it, you will find the one or two gems in life that will help you smile upon the world and make you feel it’s worth it.
I wish you luck in your future studies and your therapy.
I’m afraid I can’t be of much help when it comes to dealing with people or getting by in society – I have trouble with both, and my only excuse is a bad temper. I have got some interesting and relevant information on the latest advances in the future of chemical treatment for PTSD, though, and the biological reason for why your brain is fucking with you. I admit it isn’t as stirring as most of the stuff I’ve read in the comments thus far, but it’s what I’ve got, and it can never hurt to know what’s going on under the hood. Those of you who want to manage your own problems without injecting experimental drugs into the brains of rats can just skip away, and I’m sorry for cluttering up your comments section, because that’s pretty much all I know. For those of you with an eye to the future…
There are some fairly exciting things happening in the field of memory research right now. Specifically, even the most entrenched memories seem to be more malleable than previously thought. When you create a memory, your brain is consolidating a network of neural pathways with pretty responsive connections. We’ve known that for a while. But word on the neuroscience street, which I admit is the nerdiest street this side of MIT, is that we actually reforge those connections every time we recall the memory. If my leg hurts when I remember my backpacking trip, then I remember the knee pain more clearly, but since I’m not as hungry I don’t remember the meals I had quite as well. So, memories change, often times more drastically than you’d credit, depending on the circumstances under which you recall them. It’s called reconsolidation. One of the guys on the forefront of this is named Karim Nader, credit where it’s due.
This explains one of the weirder findings in the whole PTSD therapy repertoire, which was that MDMA (ecstasy) turned out to be one of the most effective drugs for treating the disorder ever, causing dramatic reduction in symptoms in something like 80% of those tested in just about two months. It worked because the subjects were made to recall the sources of their trauma, writing it out in detail (and thus reconsolidating the neural connections for the memory), while the drug chemically overrode the negative emotions associated with the event, effectively balancing out of the newly reconsolidated memory. It’s not perfect, it takes a while, and it essentially just buries the bad sensations under an equal helping of good, but if you’ve read this far, then there’s good news for you, because recent advances have made things a whole lot cooler.
Basically, scientists went looking to figure out exactly which molecules and proteins were in charge of rebuilding the neural connections every time they reconsolidated, specifically in the instance of long term memories, and figured out how to temporarily shut them off (the protein is called PKMzeta, and the inhibitor is ZIP, or zeta-interacting protein). So, take some of this stuff, try to remember something, the neural network attempts to reconsolidate but can’t rebuild the bridges it burned, and blammo – selective perfect amnesia. The best part is that, because the brain stores memories across different sectors – what you heard here, what you saw over there, and what you felt emotionally in yet another place, by targeting only certain parts of the brain, only certain parts of the memory get nuked.
The amygdala, the bitchiest part of the brain, is in charge of negative emotions in memories. Say I got beat down in a hypothetical bank robbery and now I have panic attacks whenever I see an ATM – that’s the amygdala’s fault. So say I then have a man with a licence and very steady hands inject my amygdala with PKMzeta, and then I write out my recollection of the bank robbery in detail, when my brain reconsolidates the memory the amygdala’s input will be left out. I’ll still remember the event in as much detail as I did, but the sensations of fear, panic, etc. will be absent from the equation. Theoretically, so will the ATM induced panic attacks.
Now, all that is still in mice, so to speak, but the results are solid and it’s moving up the chain. As for the needles in the brain, that’s not a huge problem, we’ve been working out ways to keep drugs from activating except in specific parts of the brain for quite a while now. No big deal. The biggest hurdle is ironically the potential of the treatment – this is literal Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind stuff here, but even more perfect and targeted. It has the potential to be for therapists what ether was to surgeons, back in the day, but make a few of these pills and give them to someone like the powers that be in Pyongyang and things could go very wrong.
Well, that’s all I’ve got. Sorry if it’s not all that well explained, but I study neuroscience for the babes, not so I can explain things in ways people might actually understand. Last I checked, there was going to be a big for-the-layman article published in the March edition of Wired magazine, I know they post their articles on their website but I don’t think it’s gone to press yet.
Wait, one more thing. A lot of this stuff got shot down by the most respected names in the field, multiple times. Hell, there was a lead in the 70’s I think, and that got killed dead. It wasn’t the people who believed in themselves and what they knew who helped these few guys who made the breakthroughs get published. It was the guys who weren’t sure of what they thought, the ones who hesitated. In a way they were the weak ones, but from that particular coalition of compromise and uncertainty, the real progress emerges. When I’m arguing a point with someone who won’t stick to their guns, I have to remind myself that, while the world needs devoted folks too, that certain kind of weakness makes the world go ’round.
Wow. Long-ass comment. Sorry about that.
Cool Comment. Interesting research. Terrifying potential roads leading into the future. Nobody needs to feel bad anymore. Very “Equilibrium”.
Its hard being trained and honed for one job, and then being transferred to a job full of complacent people.
Got trained by my pops ( he was in GAFE )
in order to make it to PJ school here in the Air Force, aced the past test and ASVAB ,but my eye sight is what got me. I was told go ahead and join anyway, because the service offered free Lasik. Should have read between the lines, got almost two years in and still waiting for it. Almost got it I want to transfer and cross train from this job so bad, feels like I am a caged lion sometimes got the itch. kind of like those dogs that go crazy from not fighting. Its strange feeling feel aloof and unattached sometimes. Being a Jet Engine Mechanic is fine, but got this empty feeling.
Fuck the Airforce and go get your own lasik done. Finance it if you have to.
I’ve tried that route, but was told doing so was illegal and could get me in some shit for some reason, would have thought the air force would have loved it if i saved them some money. Being here in Okinawa i need to get my third eye exam by the military done then, i have to apply for a permissive TDY to Hawaii and if its granted i have to pay for my own flight there >< so much bull shit and red tape with the military healthcare sometimes i wonder what its good for.
Interesting. I was under the impression that if you first got an OK through your medical officer, then you could do it quickly through a trusted civilian center. I know someone that did it a couple years ago.
Thanks to all of you who read my post. Sorry if I didn’t get back to all of you, but I did learn or reaffirm a few things. Mostly that I must learn to tolerate those that either don’t have a need for, or just plain don’t have the experiences to warrant higher standards.
I also got the idea that I am not alone in thinking that the world has gone soft. For that I am glad.
In all honesty there are more people affected with PTSD outside of the military than in. It just has a tendency to resonate farther and longer for us due to how we are trained and our operational tempos.
I will press on and do my best to make things right with myself. I know I have a long road ahead of me, and I also know that it will most likely get worse before it gets better.
To all of you with your own issues that you shared, I thank you and wish you well in both enduring and conquering them.
I may take some of your (collective) advice and write a “fictional” story for Eric to post later. I have a lot of material to choose from.
Thanks again to all of you, and especially you Eric for allowing me to do this.
“May you have the hindsight to know where you’ve been, The foresight to know where you are going, And the insight to know when you have gone too far” – Irish Blessing