Today has been a difficult day, no one did anything nasty to me, no angry outbursts, in fact a pretty good day spent with friends and brothers. I had the privilege of being the celebrant at our morning Eucharist, following which we discussed what returning Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen returning from combat tours in Iraq, Afghanistan or other areas of operations have to deal with. As people talked, my emotions got the best of me, I hadn’t slept well and had gotten up with what feels like a low level electrical current running through my body. My friend David and I had talked well into the night so long that I had forgotten to take my meds. Not a good start. My stomach has been somewhat gooned up, I figure due to the schedule and a different diet than I normally maintain, as well as my emotional state. Funny just how much mind and body are connected.
During the session one of my friends described his experience receiving the bodies of over 250 service members with mortuary affairs in Kuwait. In fact the last time I saw him was for about two minutes on the tarmac at Kuwait International as I was getting ready to board my flight out of theater as he was getting ready to great another flight of “Angels.” As people shared their experiences my mind and emotions were cascading. I had to leave that session to walk and eventually sit down in my rental car in the driveway. Afterward we went to lunch, two of us took my friend David back to the airport so he could head back to Fort Hood. David the the friend that in his short military career has spent most of it in Iraq winning two Bronze Stars and having done more than many get to do in a career. He is the one that I mentioned with the irreversible lung damage who will most likely within the next six months to a year be medically retired. It was a sad parting, he is a dear friend and I admire his courage, faith and desire to serve both his country and God’s people. The rest of the group went to dinner while we found a little Irish pub and continued our time with Yuengling Beer and Krispy Kreme donuts out at the hotel pool. Two Iraq vets trying to get through another day dealing with our own stuff. The good thing is that we have each other.
I came up to my room and turned on the TV. HBO was airing Taking Chance about a Marine officer who volunteered to escort the body of a fallen Marine back to his home following his death in Iraq in 2004. The film, if you have not seen it is incredibly powerful and triggered for me a very intense emotional reaction. I have made death notifications, done memorial services and military funerals for a good number of servicemen over the years. I’ve also been in hundreds of end of life situations in hospitals, including many traumatic deaths of young people. The movie brought back memories of some of these occasions. It also showed the simple yet profound thanks that so many Americans express for our servicemen and women, which were portrayed in the film, as well as some of the idiocy that travelers in uniform occasionally have to deal with from some TSA agents. I and probably most military members have experienced much of what LtCol. Stroeble, portrayed by Kevin Bacon in the film experienced. It is a part of the brotherhood, a brotherhood that extends across generations and even across national and cultural divides. God bless Mr. Bacon and the people who made this film and Lt.Col. Stroebel who wrote this story.
Today was a tough day, but it brought new insights and as well as appreciation of my journey. Peace, Steve+