A soldier's presence is their ultimate weapon. Attention to detail. Teamwork is key. Drilled into our bodies and minds, we lived or died by this simple idea. How else would you know the difference between a gunshot that whizzed around your general area and the sharp snap-TING of the one aimed at you?
What dreams may come
Just another day in paradise...
My Humvee rolls down the road. Palms and brush sway in the breeze. Chuckling, I thought how we had our own piece of paradise inside this war zone. These days, quiet ones spent on the road enjoying the landscape, silence broken only by the radio and rumbling of our trucks, were meditative.
A gunshot is a funny thing when you're on the receiving end. Behind the barrel, they fly in their parabolic trajectory taking less than a blink to reach their target. Yet, when you see the flash in your peripherals, a second becomes an eternity.
Adrenaline slams into your veins as the body goes into survival mode. The entire universe shrinks to: breathe, analyze, neutralize, and secure.
Breathe so that your aim is true. Analyze to expand your world view. Neutralize any and all invaders. Secure your brothers, think later.
Gunfire erupts from both sides. The .50 cal and 240B roar above, returning fire as these four horses gallop out of the kill zone. Metal met metal as rounds slam into the truck's armor, rocking two tons of rolling death side to side. The radio screamed to life as we called out targets, coordinating our truck's dance through debris and explosions.
The movies never get the sounds right... There is way more crunching of metal and unintelligible screams that fuel a chaotic tornado of sound. Over the radio we hear "Three Golf down!" and I see his LRAS shower the road with shrapnel.
Grip the steering wheel, press on.
We scream down the road expecting an escape but instead find an impassable roadblock cutting us off. "We're going back through, boys! Ammo check! Gut check! Let's do this!"
Back into the maw of the beast we went….
Some nights, I would wake up before we turned back down the road. Others, after the Hellfire missile lit up the treeline full of insurgents.
The unseen enemy is the most dangerous
PTSD is an insidious process for the service member. It begins in basic training when military behavior programming begins restructuring how the individual perceives the world around them and their response to life situations. Training, the military lifestyle, and the mental state needed to succeed eventually bore the humanity out of the soldier.
Veterans express PTSD in various ways. We are taught to go from 0-60 in the blink of an eye since every situation in a combat zone is potentially an emergency. This manifests in extreme states of stress (terror, uncontrollable impulses, uncontrolled rage) and then plunging into polar opposite states of total shut-down (exhaustion, emotional numbness, despair, and dissociation).
As the Vet suffers, so do the loved ones around them. Relationships suffer from the torrential ups and downs, day-to-day unpredictability, and the lack of empathy most soldiers inherit. Our entire military career, we live moment to moment, perfecting the art of leadership and professionalism necessary to play the game of life and death. What happens when death isn't knocking every day? Restlessness, indecision, and misguided aggression.
Marijuana allows veterans a normal life
My deployment, time in firefights, and waiting for an IED to explode left me with a very short perspective of the world. The first time I went to college a car backfired. Within seconds, I was face down on the ground looking around for the threat. A twenty-something student's car is hardly worth any response. PTSD, however will cause a person to associate similar stimuli with the most dangerous situation possible. Plan for the worst, hope for the best, as the saying goes.
That first bowl was an escape from stress and life in general. Years later, I no longer get high. I medicate because in the truest sense of the word, marijuana is a medicine. Our scientific understanding of it is far behind what our bodies have known for millennia - marijuana is beneficial for body and mind. I hope that telling my story will bring perspective to those who have doubts. To veterans, especially, I want them to know that the gears do stop turning.
Mary Jane flips the switch.