Memorial Day Weekend

Memorial Day in America is a time that we remember the Service Members of our Armed Forces that paid the ultimate price, the ones that gave their lives in service to our nation. Yes, we have a three day holiday weekend, sales at all the stores, and family cook-outs. Most of our holidays are commercialized. And that’s fine, as long as we keep the meaning of why we have the three day weekends, sales, and cook-outs. I just ask that we take a few minutes and reflect as to why this holiday exists. As you enjoy your time off, save money on a big screen TV, and have some great burgers cooked on a grill, remember the ones that never came home from serving our country.

 

Below is a poem I wrote in 2009 while serving in Iraq. It was inspired by a memorial service held on the base I was at. It was in honor of a Soldier that died at a different base, but part of his unit was on the same base I was. I’m guessing each base held a ceremony. I never met the man, though I have personally known a couple Services Members that died in service to our nation. The memorial service in Iraq inspired the following poem.

 

Memorial Day in Iraq

(originally written/published May 2009 by David George)

 

The buildings may have fallen, But our spirits not shaken

They did not die in vain, Innocent lives that were taken.

And willingly we came, as so goes the story

Doing a job that has little glory.

 

Many here now were kids when it started

When the airplanes crashed, And America was smarted.

And when our kids study history and learn about this war,

They can say dad was there, To help settle the score.

 

In the battle for Justice, Some gave their lives

So the rest could live free and not sacrifice.

But I’ll go home, Alive and well

I think of those who didn’t and it hurts like hell.

 

We fight this war, for Freedom’s true cause

And remember the families that suffered a loss.

Just six feet above, are markers that stand,

Over American heroes, who died for their land.

 

Good day, God bless.

Dave

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I’m ok, I promise

I’m ok, I promise. That’s what I tell people sometimes. And I when I do, I mean it. It’s usually at the end of a conversation when I’ve admitted some things in my life that I’m dealing with or struggling with. I’m writing this post so I can share that I’m struggling, but I’m ok, I promise. Everything I’ve posted has been the real me, but I don’t always go into details. I don’t always share everything. I don’t always share all the darkest parts of my life or what’s going on in my mind. However, what I do share seems to be getting some great responses from people that can relate. To be honest, some of the responses lead me to believe that some of you think I have my shit together. For those of you that know me personally, you know I don’t. You know that I am much better than I was last year, but you also know that I have much work to do and a long road left to go.

About the responses I’ve been getting, I couldn’t be more thrilled and humbled at the same time. A fellow blogger and army veteran contacted me via email because of my blog and we’ve been emailing back and forth, encouraging each other. He has PTSD among other things, far worse than I do. But he let me know that my story helped him. Helped him enough that he even told his VA counselor about my blog. That is a huge encouragement to me because I didn’t set out to be anyone’s angel or savior. My blog was designed for my own personal therapy. But I admit, helping others makes me feel better about what I am doing here.  And I’ve found quite a few blogs that I find very encouraging myself.

Another fellow blogger asked me in the comments of one of my posts about helping a friend that was suicidal. I told her to email me. We exchanged a few emails about her friend, I told her what I would do in that situation. Being a subject matter expert in suicide prevention in the army helps me to give sound advice in such circumstances. (and yes, the irony is not lost on me that I’m a leader in suicide prevention, yet I tried to kill myself). I followed up with her for a couple days and her friend ended up being safe. Not from anything I did, not at all.  But that a fellow blogger that I’ve never met thought to ask me how to help in that situation was another reassurance that I’m making a positive impact on people with my writing.

Recently, a fellow blogger gave me a shout out on his blog, saying that my blog was the encouragement he needed to tell more of his story. He had been wondering if he should share or how he should share. He has PTSD and other issues but is now getting more comfortable in sharing more of his story. I know how liberating, and also scary, it can be to share my story and I’m glad he decided to follow suit. I know he will find some self-healing in his endeavors. And again, I didn’t set out to have that effect on him, but it makes me feel good that I make a difference to people I’ve never even met.

I share these stories because it seem like some of you seem to think I have it all together, but I don’t. I am moving in the right direction, but I’m nowhere close to the finished product. I’m a million miles passed the total darkness I was in last year, but I still struggle. Not as much, but I do. Only about six weeks ago I was struggling bad enough that I needed to reach out to an old army chaplain friend of mine. (Yeah, CH K, I called you old, sorry, LOL). He visited me in the hospital last year after my failed suicide attempt and keeps up with me from time to time. I was having horrible, potentially suicidal thoughts, so I reached out to him. I knew I wasn’t going to kill myself, but the thoughts were overwhelming.

In some of my lesser struggles, I have reach out to a number of other friends. I tell them what’s going in my life or my mind and I always finish with, “I’m ok, I promise.” I just need to talk sometimes to make sure I don’t get stuck on the road I was on last year that included me trying to take my own life. After my failed suicide attempt, I must have promised a hundred people that if I noticed anything in me that resembled the feelings or mindset that almost cost me life, I would reach out. I have kept that promise. And I will continue to keep that promise.  And I will continue to write about it.

I know that I’m not completely well, and I recognize that. But I’m ok, I promise.   And I’m getting better most days. It’s an ebb and flow kind of thing with me, as I’m sure it is for all of us. I’ll do well for a few days, have a bad day, and then do well again. That’s part of the healing process and living with PTSD and major depression and sleep issues and nightmares and anger issues and marital separation and life in general. Life isn’t easy, but it’s good now. At least mine is good right now in comparison to where I was last year. If you haven’t read my post from February titled Battlefield (https://davidegeorge.wordpress.com/2016/02/06/battlefield/), I encourage you to read it and see the progress I’ve made since that night I almost died, that night I should have died.

Thank you all for the positive feedback and for allowing me and my blog to be part of your life in some little way. This was all created for my own therapy and to give my family some insight into what I’ve gone through, where I’m at, and where I’m going. What all this has turned in to is amazing and humbling to me. And very encouraging. I feel like I have a purpose here and almost an obligation now to my readers to continue doing what I do. I will continue to post every Saturday for my own therapy. I will continue to share all this with the world in case it helps someone else. Share your story, you never who it might reach or help. Thank you for taking the time to read Story of my Life. And, I’m ok, I promise.

Good day, God bless.

Dave

Helicopter Ride

I’ve had two deployments, one to Iraq and one to Afghanistan. Those two deployments could not be more different from one another. My Afghanistan deployment (2013-2014) was exciting, dangerous, and filled with travel all over the country. My Iraq deployment (2008-2009), on the other hand, was relatively boring. I spent the majority of my time behind a desk or visiting with troops on the base. There was very little excitement at Camp Bucca, which at the time was the largest Theater Interment Facility in the world. Besides going home on leave for two weeks about half way through the deployment, I only got to leave the base on one mission. Only one. It was a boring deployment, but in some respects that’s not a bad thing. And only once during my time in Iraq did I think that it might be possible I could die over there. Here’s that story.

I was on my way back to Iraq, returning from being home on leave for two weeks. I was delayed in Kuwait for two or three extra days waiting on transportation. It wasn’t the best place to be stuck, but it was almost relaxing to be able to recover from my time off before having to get back to work it in Iraq. I slept a lot between checking with the travel team responsible for getting people from Point A to Point B. If I remember correctly, we had to check in once a day at a certain time. If there wasn’t any transportation to where I was going, I would go back in 24 hours. Boredom set in pretty quickly, but that was cured with naps.

Finally, after a couple days of waiting, I had a helicopter flight going to Camp Bucca. It was actually three CH-47 Chinooks, which we affectionately called Shithooks. All three helicopters were filled to capacity with personnel and gear.  All of us were going to the same place, a direct flight. I was in the last helicopter of the formation. We took off and headed north. I love flying in helicopters. It’s one of my favorite things I’ve done in the military.

The helicopter I was on didn’t seem to keep up with the other two. I could see the other two flying higher. I could feel mine ‘slipping’ like it was not wanting to stay in the air, like it would drop a few feet then go back up. I watched the tail gunner leave his position, talking to the pilots through his radio. The tail gunner opened a side panel above a passenger across from me and looked inside. He fiddled with some gadgets and reported to the pilots over the radio. All the while I could feel the helicopter doing its best to stay in the air, slipping and climbing, slipping and climbing. The guy next to me was fast asleep.

The tail gunner then moved to the center of the aircraft, climbing to the top off all the duffle bags and opened another panel in the ceiling. He banged on some pipes and fixtures with his fist, shook his head, and kept talking to the pilots over the radio. I could see just the slightest concern in the tail gunner’s face, but nothing alarming. I could see the other two helicopters were considerably higher than mine. I guess the good news would be that we would not fall as far from our lower position. The bad news would be that we were in closer range for small arms fire if there were anyone out there that wanted to take a shot. I watched all this, taking it all in, repositioning my body so that if we did have to make a hard landing or crash, my spine might not be broke in two. All this while the guy next to me slept peacefully.

Eventually we made it to our destination, the helicopter I was on did land somewhat hard, just short of the landing pad, then rolled up on to it. We gathered our gear and exited out the rear of the Chinook. I had to wake up the guy next to me and let him know we arrived. The other two helicopters took off after  being emptied of passengers and gear, but the one I was on stayed on the ground. It would be there until the next day when a repair crew could take a look at it. I don’t remember the exact statistics, but I do remember that most U.S. military deaths involving helicopters in Iraq during that time were due to malfunctions, poor maintenance, or weather, as opposed to enemy engagements. I’m glad I didn’t get to see that play out.

I wasn’t worried about dying, but I was aware that I was in a position that it could happen, even if only remotely. It didn’t bother me, it was more surreal than anything, watching the tail gunner lose a little confidence in the aircraft. This is actually one of the stories I like to tell, probably because the rest of my deployment to Iraq was so boring. The one thing I kept thinking about during the flight was whether or not I should wake up the guy sitting next to me. If we were going to crash, would he want to know in advance? Would it freak him out? Would he be upset if we crashed and I hadn’t woken him? Yep, those are the things that went through my mind during the time that it was possible we might fall out of the sky. It’s kind of weird, right? Would I want to wake up in that situation? Would you? I feel like that situation for me was more of a moral dilemma than a life or death situation. Did I have any kind of duty to the guy next to me to wake him up? I still don’t know the answer to that. But that does remind me of a funny story of being at Bagram, Afghanistan, in a tent, half asleep. In my groggy state I heard a whining generator or truck or something along with large shipping containers being moved and banged around. I woke everyone else up in the tent thinking we were under attack again. False alarm.

My different doctors and counselors over the last 9 months agree that my PTSD most likely started in Iraq, but I am certain the helicopter ride is not the genesis of it. There were other things far worse in Iraq than that helicopter ride that I can trace my PTSD to, images that sometimes are front and center when I close my eyes, even though I try to not remember them. Then add to that all the excitement from Afghanistan. I spent years denying I suffered from PTSD. I know now how bad that was for me. Bad for me that I wouldn’t admit to suffering from it. It almost cost me my life last year. I wouldn’t say I necessarily embrace having PTSD, but I definitely embrace the freedom I feel from talking about it, writing about it, and accepting it. I can’t change it, I can only learn to live with it and continue to tell my story.

Thanks for taking the time to read Story of My Life. Good day, God bless.

Dave

Rest In Peace, Billy

It’s been an interesting couple of weeks. I have been trying to figure out what to write about and as I finally have it, it changed. My step-dad passed away this morning. It was not unexpected, he had been sick for a while. Last weekend when I was visiting him and mom, he told me he was ready to go, ready to move on, ready to die. He told me that he had done everything he could to prepare for this and make it as easy as possible on mom. I guess he was satisfied with his preparations, he left this life, on his terms I imagine. That’ how he lived, I’m guessing that’s how he died.

I have mixed emotions when it comes to death. I’m not insensitive to it, I just don’t get all wrapped up in it. In this case, he is in a much better place, so it doesn’t seem too bad to me at all. He lived a long, productive life and will be missed. I just don’t really have the emotions any more when it comes to people dying. I think this might be what my psychologist referred to in one of our recent sessions when he said I show signs of being dissociative. I do tend to detach myself from things. It doesn’t mean I don’t feel it, I think it just means that I don’t let it affect me. The hardest part will be helping my mom. But I’m in a good mindset now to help.

Five weeks ago, or so, I would not have been able to help. I was a wreck in my own mind, not well. I was trying to salvage any sanity I had left at the time. It was five weeks ago that my step-dad began his final journey to the end of his life. He had been in and out of the hospital for years, but this was to be his swan song. Once or twice the last few years it appeared that he might be the end of life, but he was stubborn. He would only leave on his terms. And five weeks ago it was apparent that he was going to die sooner rather than later. And five weeks ago I would have been worthless to my mom. I know it sounds weird, and maybe wrong, but this is much better timing than five weeks ago. I can actually be of assistance. I feel like a dick for saying that, but I know some of you will understand.

See, the thing is, if I know I’m not in a good place to be able to help I shouldn’t be there. If I can’t function, how am I supposed to help anyone else? I know it looks bad to some, those few that don’t understand. But I have become well enough now to be able to say ‘No’ if needed, if I need it for me, for my own mental health. It’s not selfish, it’s reality. I can honestly say that now, today, and for the foreseeable I am much better and can be there for others as needed. It’s all a process, and I’m making it through it. It took a long time for me learn this: I have to put myself first sometimes to be able to be there for others. I make no apologies for that anymore.

A quick obituary. Billy was born in West Virginia in 1935. Died in Alabama today. He was a veteran of the U.S. Army, serving four years in the 1950’s. He was very active in coaching and scouting baseball for many years. He was captain of the deep sea fishing boat Lady Tina and a respected member of the Destin fishing community. The last decade or so Billy spent his time in the collectibles business, frequenting auctions and finding treasures. He is survived by my mom. He is also survived by many other family members too numerous for me to mention here. Rest in Peace, Billy.

To the rest of you, Good day, God bless.

Dave