You Don’t See Me

I had a conversation with the new Command Sergeant Major at my army reserve battalion. It was a little one-sided. Those of you who have served in the military know what I’m talking about. I’m coming up on the end of my military career in the reserves, an ending that is not as much my choice as it is the army’s. With that said, I’m a little less likely to hold my tongue than I might have before. I’m still respectful, I just don’t pull my punches anymore, I leave no doubt as to what I’m thinking. I don’t remember exactly what I said that started, “With all due respect Sergeant Major.” But I know it was the truth. Then the Sergeant Major spoke. And what he said was also the truth. I had hoped to talk with him more that weekend, but with a busy training schedule it wasn’t to happen. So, I thought I’d write out what I would have liked to say to him.

The Sergeant Major doesn’t see me, the soldier. He only sees what’s left of me, the soldier. He sees the old guy whose best days are behind him. He doesn’t see that I came back into service at 36 years old after a 14-year break, because the army needed people to do a job. They needed people really bad at the time, and I answered the call. And I would do it again.

https://storyofmylife.blog/2016/03/26/the-cost-2/ (click here for more).

The Sergeant Major sees a soldier that can’t pass the army physical fitness test. But he doesn’t see that until my deployment to Afghanistan (2013-14), I was passing the PT test at the standards of an 18-year old (the standards get easier as the soldier gets older). Yeah, I was in my early 40’s passing it with the numbers an 18-year old would have to do to pass. He sees an older, slower soldier. But he doesn’t see that the last two months of my deployment to Afghanistan I was injured. I sucked it up and completed my mission. He doesn’t know the doctor at my little base over there suggested I go to Germany for treatment, then home. He doesn’t know I decided to stay, despite the pain I was in.

https://storyofmylife.blog/2016/06/18/yard-work-and-running/ (click here for more).

The Sergeant Major sees a soldier that moves slowly. He doesn’t see that on my two deployments, I brought my chaplains back safe and sound. And that on my last deployment, we traveled Afghanistan extensively. He doesn’t see that in the narrative of my Bronze Star award it tells how I performed my duties under hostile enemy attacks. He doesn’t see that while I was serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, there were soldiers that had been hiding in the instructor unit (my current unit) for a decade or longer.

Left:  Kabul, Afghanistan 2103.  Right:  Umm Qasr, Iraq 2008.

The Sergeant Major sees a soldier that lacks motivation. He doesn’t see my ribbon rack on my dress uniform. He doesn’t see that if I were to update my rack, I’d have 15 different awards on my chest. He doesn’t see all the times I volunteered for different things. He doesn’t see that at a previous unit, I had used up all my allowed time for the fiscal year but still drove 50 miles to give a brief for free (retirement points only). He doesn’t see that I coordinated the suicide intervention training for a CACOM I was in, and that my CACOM was the only command in USACAPOC that met standards by the deadline. Yeah, I got an award from the USACAPOC Command Chaplain for that.

The Sergeant Major sees a somewhat disgruntled soldier. He doesn’t see that I’ve been stuck in a broken system that hasn’t fully addressed my physical and mental injuries. He doesn’t see that I never chose to be a substandard soldier, that in fact, at one time, I was a damn good soldier. He doesn’t see that the circumstances and stresses of all that I’ve gone through have made me what I am now. He doesn’t see that the weight I bear from the physical and mental issues of not being able to perform like I used to was a contributing factor in my suicide attempt in 2015. That, among other things. He doesn’t see how much this kills me inside, only how it currently affects my attitude, something I know I need to work on.

https://storyofmylife.blog/2016/06/25/breathe-in-breath-out-if-you-can/ (click here for more).

The Sergeant Major doesn’t see me. He only sees what’s left of me. That’s not fair to either one of us. He probably doesn’t see that I’m my own worst critic and that I absolutely hate that I’m not able to do the things I used to do or handle situations and stress like I have in the past. He has no idea how valuable an asset I can be in the right environment. I could see it in his eyes that he plans on creating the right environment. I could hear it in his voice when he spoke to me. It’s a big job he’s taking on, and I don’t think the odds are in his favor, only because the problems he wants to fix have been there for so long. But I truly hope he pulls it off. It’s probably too late for me to experience the right environment again, but perhaps it will be there for future soldiers in that unit. When my time in the army reserves is over, I will leave satisfied that I made my area a better place overall. I might limp across the finish line, or even fall short of it altogether, but I did my job and did it well. And no one can ever take that from me, no matter what’s left of me at this point.

Thanks for stopping by Story of My Life this week. Good day, God bless.

Dave

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12 thoughts on “You Don’t See Me

  1. David, I personally thank you for your service to our Country. I know you did your best and beyond. I am Proud of the Service my Son has done for the Army and the Country. I don’t know what you went through in all your missions , but I do know that you Carried them out to the Best of Your ability and succeeded. I know that you and Your Chaplains did a great Job for our Troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. So you mean a Great deal to me, and Your service makes me Very proud of you. All our service time comes to an end, mine did after 20 year, 2 months and 22 days. It was my fault I had to retire when I did, would loved to have stayed in at least another for years, but I failed. I missed out on Iraq, and Desert Storm, I did serve in Saudi Arabia several times over several years. But, that pales in comparison to the Service you did for out Country. I know it hurts you that your career in the Reserves is coming to an end, but it to you will overcome. Press on with your life. Make your life count. I Love you Son. I am Proud of your service. Pop

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dave,

    I have several of the same issues you have and I am slowly coming to terms with this fact.

    It isnt how others see us. It is how we see ourselves. You can never prove to someone that what you did was worthy when all they care about is what you can do now. From his perspective, you haven’t earned the right to have the benefit of the doubt and you are wasting your time trying to earn that from him.

    But, you have earned the right to give yourself a pass. You have earned the right to wear the uniform with pride and honor. You have earned the right to tell yourself that you did a great job and you have earned the right to believe it.

    I say all those things because I don’t think I have earned the right to live with self-respect yet. A poor self-image is a tough thing to live with. Stay strong!

    rob

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t necessarily have a poor self image, like I used to. I’ve really accepted my limitation. I don’t like it, but I accept it.

      You served, you deserve to live with self respect.

      Like

  3. As the wife of a former (but never deployed) Marine, I first thank you for your service.
    Secondly, I thank you more for writing posts like this. We have friends who did serve in Iraq, and it’s really sad how unless you’re standing side by side with them, you don’t really ‘see’ that person. Their strength, and their experience. But I, as well as my husband, feel stories like this create support an d community for our veterans.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The bottom line is that you know you’ve done you duty (and obviously gone above the call of duty given your Bronze Star). While it may be aggravating that Sergeant Major doesn’t see things in the right perspective, you know what’s what. Your chaplains appreciate what you did and if your Sergeant doesn’t, too bad for him. I know you have trouble sleeping sometimes, but I’m sure it’s not because you feel you didn’t live up to your duty. Always informative hearing you share your story.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I recently had a conversation with this same individual while he was in my area. It left me feeling very similar to what you shared here. I shared something very similar to my squad leader via text message. But that’s a whole ‘nother story. Or not.
    It’s always an enjoyable time reading your blog. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences in life for the world to see!

    Like

  6. Pingback: Co-worker’s Post – Welcome Home, Selah

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