Soldier Boy

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2 years ago

I have a feeling this is going to be a freewriting blog of rambling thoughts and words.

My mind is on the war in Ukraine. It is all over the news and social media outlets. When I think of war, I remember having a terrible sinking feeling in my stomach that my husband would get called to fight in the Gulf War.

He was, eventually, deployed to Bosnia.

My husband doesn't talk about his experiences in the war very often and I don't ask very often. When I do, my questions are not the standard, "What was it like?"

There is no way I could ever understand beyond an intellectual idea what war and war-torn countries are like. There is no way I could ever understand the transition from a soldier doing his job to a civilian trying to find a job. Especially when the job the soldier was trained for entails the killing of other human beings. What kind of job does that even qualify a person for?

Police? Private security? The soldiers I know have a real problem with the militarization of the police forces in the U.S. They do not want to work in paramilitary jobs.

There is no way I can ever understand "kill or be killed" other than as a thought exercise. There is no way I can understand the sheer desolation, destruction, and poverty that ultimately accompanies any war or violent conflict.

Some of the questions I have asked when he has indicated a willingness to answer questions are:

Were there any, no matter how small, bright spots? Yes, throwing MREs to the kids and watching their eyes light up.

What did you do to unwind? Play Magic the Gathering, work out at the gym, drink - a lot

Did you decorate anything (such as your helmet)? Yes, I had a Treasure Troll attached to the front of the Vehicle.

Do you ever miss being in the army? Yes, because I was good at it.

I've never asked him if he has killed anyone or what it is like to kill anyone. I know the answers to those questions, even without truly asking and even without truly understanding the answers.

I know because he has PTSD. He has nightmares. He talks in his sleep. When he drinks (a lot) he rambles about things. He rambles about his experiences. I don't even know if he remembers any of his ramblings. But I do.

When he has PTSD-induced nightmares, he runs. He doesn't get out of bed, but his legs are running in place. Sometimes he tells the dream, sometimes he doesn't. When he does it is very brusque, short, and to the point, "I was clearing building trying to look around the corner but the corner was never-ending."

He told me about a dream he had about a South East Asian woman (probably Korean - he spent a few years in Korea), an older woman. A mamasan he called her. He was riding past this mamasan on a tank. She was standing in front of her house. As he passed, she raised a chicken to her mouth and bit off its head. He couldn't shake that dream for a long time.

He has dreamed I have been kidnapped. The kidnappers were taking me away and for whatever reason, he couldn't save me.

He has never lashed out physically in his sleep or in an extremely drunken moment. He doesn't shout or yell or scream. He does throw his pillow across the room.

I might not be able to understand the facts of war, but I do understand PTSD. I am the one who shouts, yells, screams, and lashes out physically. I have elbowed him. I have punched the wall or the headboard. I have woken myself up shouting.

I have fought on the frontlines of a very different kind of war.

My husband is safe from being conscripted into the military or sent to another country to fight someone else's war. For now. But the women in Ukraine can't say the same. Men as old as in their 60s are being called to serve. Women are enlisting. Even Miss Ukraine enlisted.

While everyone seems to be talking about the political ramifications, I feel for those caught up in the whirlwind of war who will suffer the most dire of consequences. The people. The families. On both sides. The regular people. The families of the soldiers, the families of the dead and injured. The people who have been saving their entire lives who are terrified and lost because their money is suddenly worthless.

I feel for the pets who will get caught up, injured, killed, and abandoned. Keith said there were huge packs of dogs that had gone feral and wild. You would see a german shepherd next to a toy poodle. Dogs of all breeds running in a pack, starving, fighting over scraps of trash, hunting smaller animals.

I understand the need for sanctions. I really do. I understand the desire to lash out and to boycott Russian imports (people are pouring out their bottles of Vodka, restaurants, and bars are refusing to stock Vodka) boycott Russian sports teams. I understand the desire to protest the Russian government. I understand it, but I feel these boycotts and protests will ultimately be unsuccessful.

It is not the fault of the Russian people that their leader is a power-hungry tyrant. The footballers just want to play. The people just want to work and feed their families.

I also understand from a philosophical point of view, tyrants only have the power people give them. And people have a lot more power than they think. That does nothing to negate the consequences of leaders who want to embroil their country in a war of greed.

I may not have to worry about my husband dying in a war, but many wives and husbands, parents and children, friends and relatives DO have to worry about death and injury and loss of livelihood.

The world is changing. War is coming. War HAS come to Europe.

War hasn't come to the U.S. - YET

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Lead image Keith Matthews with his baby girl circa 1988. Photo credit: Jonica Bradley

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2 years ago


Soldiers appear to be the bravest men as they go to wars, fight for whatever they're fighting for may it be sovereignty, tyranny, or terrorism but they got episodes of remembering their experiences and somehow it's haunting them. I was told by my friend who's a soldier, the first one he killed before it died, it looked into his eyes pleading for his life but he got no choice but to do what he's being told. It haunts him every time he closes his eyes. He's guilty of what he has done. War is the absence of peace. Watching the news about the tension between Russia and Ukraine is very alarming. If their conflict continues, there would be more casualties and lives that will be sacrificed. Children lose their fathers, wives lose their husbands, and mothers lose their sons. I hope this adversity comes to an end.

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2 years ago

The people left behind are also heroes.

$ 0.00
2 years ago

True. They are strong enough to let their loved ones go and fight for their country.

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2 years ago