So this is something I’ve been wanting to write about for a long time, and while I’m sure I’m going to upset a few people with this, I am excited to hear what some of you have to say about it.
I retired in June of 2016 and went to work as a white water rafting guide the next day. I had my own business to fall back on as well but as we all know, the struggle is most definitely real. I started going to school in the fall of 2016 at a local community college and that is where I first saw the image that most veterans are encouraging. What I’m talking about is the guy that everyone has seen on campus sporting his day pack he kept from supply with his t-shirt covered in veteran this and veteran that.
Point I’m making is this, the more we alienate ourselves from the rest of the world, the harder it is going to be to move forward. I love the fact that my military service, including the things I did, saw and was subjected to, made me the man I am today, and while I will forever hold onto those things with pride and honor, those things don’t make up who I am as a person. What is going to define me to the 99% of the population, which is the bank tellers, my kids’ school teacher, the lady at the front desk of the gym, is how I conduct myself in spite of those hardships.
What’s worse is that everyone automatically assumes that what we are experiencing is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and for some of us, that might be exactly what it is. There is a large body of us, however, that fails to recognize that what they’re actually experiencing is nothing more than growing pains. Separation anxiety from the tribe that we, at one point, fit into so perfectly. In the last year and a half that I’ve been out of the Marine Corps I have had several moments where I felt alone in a crowded room. I remember sitting in a raft on the river, guiding a group of thrill seekers through a calm stretch of water and reflecting on who I was and who I am becoming. It could be very easy for me to fall victim to the stereotypes thrown at all of us for the simple fact that I really just missed my friends.
I could write on this for hours but I don’t want to bore anyone. What I will do is throw down a challenge, one of many that I want to do with this blog. There are so many options for us that are available that we don’t utilize. So here is the challenge. When you feel yourself fall into this trap, don’t take to the internet and make a cryptic post like “How do I make it stop?” or “When will the nightmares end?” or something like that. Instead, pick up your phone and video call a friend. Don’t send them a text and don’t call them. Video chat with one or more of them. Make sure that you can see their face and they can see yours. I’ll say that again for emphasis, make sure that you can see their face and they can see yours. If these guys and gals really know you, they’re gonna see that you’re dealing with something.
After I was out for about 9 months I did this with a friend of mine. This guy had seen combat in Panama, Kuwait, Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan. This dude is the real deal and I have known him through some of the darkest moments of my life and for me to tell you that he lit up completely when he got to see me and I got to give him a quick video tour around my home, I would be completely understating it and it had the same effect on me.
You are all stronger because of what you went through. You are different from the rest of the world, and we’ll talk more on that later but for now, let’s take some baby steps and make that call.
If you enjoyed reading this, send me a comment. If you make a call to a few of your battle buddies and it had a profound effect on you, leave a comment. If you think I’m off base, leave a comment. Let’s have an open discussion about it and get it out there. If there is one thing I’ve learned it’s that what is easy for some is hard for others and vice versa so your comments will hopefully illicit some thoughts and actions from your brothers and sisters and don’t forget to check out my other website http://www.dollarmountainwoodworks.com to see how you can get a custom piece of art to show your pride in this great nation of ours.