Crossroads

My world no longer spins on its axis, my mind has thrown it off kilter.

The light and dark still come around, but now they fight for control.

Consistency is absent from my thoughts, stability does not exist.

 

The sea is calm in the distance, but the waves chomp and crash the shore.

Don’t believe everything you see on the surface, the ocean is deep.

And the rip current can only be felt when you are trapped in it.

 

The Crossroads don’t have to be the dangerous decision here today.

The hardest resolution would be to just keep moving forward, either road.

The choice doesn’t matter, it’s been made already, just move forward.

(Crossroads, by David George, March 2016)

*****

I’m at a crossroads in my life. It’s been a long time since I’ve ‘had it all together’ and now it’s unclear to me if I ever will again. I’m really not sure it’s a crossroads as much as it is a deep, engulfing pit of my own thoughts and fears where I drown myself daily. Our minds can be our own worst enemies at times and mine is certainly on the attack lately. I’m not sure how to fight back. It’s my mind. It’s not supposed to be my enemy. But there it is killing me, over and over.

In this blog in the last couple months I’ve shared things about my military service, PTSD, depression, and attempted suicide. I’ve been through a lot and what I’ve shared here only barely scratches the surface. I feel like I’m at war with the Veteran’s Administration. I haven’t worked in three months. I have little motivation most days. And my marriage is over, she moved out last week. But that last point has been a long time coming.

I have very few emotions in general about the marriage dissolving. But with that comes certain realizations that I need to address with myself. There is actually some relief in all this, but there are also overwhelming issues that I will have to deal with. And I’m scared of failing. I have never feared failure. Most of the things I’ve done in my life have a certain degree of risk and I’ve never been afraid to lose. But when I do, I get back up and keep going or do something different. But this isn’t a business, or a job, or a military exercise. I have my kids with me. Failure here would be the worst thing ever. And as my wife so kindly pointed out in an email, I have quit or failed at everything I’ve ever done in my life. I don’t see it that way, but it’s nice to know that others do. (sarcasm intended).

Let me give an example of the perception of success and failure. How many years will it be before another NFL quarterback walks off to retirement after a Super Bowl victory like Peyton Manning did? Was Dan Marino a failure since he never won a Super Bowl even though he had passing records that took many years to break? Are the Buffalo Bills the biggest losers ever in NFL history, losing four Super Bowls in a row? Just some things to ponder.

Every one of my failures in life have had some element of success or adventure or life experience that I wouldn’t trade. The only way to appreciate and truly recognize success is to know what failure tastes like. But this is completely different. If I fail with my kids, there is no getting up off the floor and moving on to something else, something new, something different. My kids are my world, my life. And I’m scared to death. I don’t take this lightly. I’m doing my best to keep these thoughts from consuming me. So far, so good. I think. It’s still early I guess.

I know this post is a little different from my other ones. I always share things that are somewhat personal, but I don’t usually share things of this matter out in the open. But I do write for my own therapy and I really needed to put this down somewhere. Thanks for taking the time to read this.

Good day, God bless.

Dave

P.S. Week one went well. All children accounted for and still breathing.  🙂

 

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With Force and With Grace

March is Women’s History Month. With that, I thought I’d share a poem I wrote a couple years ago in Afghanistan about women in the military. The military has changed quite a bit over the course it’s existence. One of those changes have been the role of women in the military. When my grandfather enlisted in the 40’s to serve in World War II, women’s roles in the military were largely limited to secretary, nurse, personnel, or some other jobs that might traditionally have been for women. When my dad enlisted in the late 60’s women’s roles had already started to expand. When I enlisted in 1989 women could do most any of the military jobs available, but were not supposed to go into combat, and there were still a number of roles that women couldn’t have. My son enlisted last year. Now, women can go to Ranger School, Combat Engineer School, and do a host of other military jobs that were traditionally left to men.

This poem is for all the women I’ve served with over the years and the ones that paved the way for the ones that serve today. Many women went into the inspiration of this piece. One in particular was Amy, that I served with in Afghanistan. She was on her sixth deployment in her army career. She was always professional, always sharp, knew her stuff, and took care of her Soldiers. Everything a Soldier should be, man or woman. There is a small handful of people that I have served with that I looked and knew I should model myself after, if I were to be a better Soldier. She is one of those.

I hope you enjoy the poem. Feel free to share it with a female Service Member in your life. Good day, and God bless.

Dave

With Force and With Grace

 

Hidden in her eyes are things we cannot see

Stories she won’t tell- not to you or me.

But to her fellow warriors, maybe it is told

Of how she served her country with the brave and the bold.

 

No more pretty dresses, or heels upon her feet

She dons a Soldier’s uniform, makes it nice and neat.

Her hair must now be tucked, underneath her hat

No more shiny earrings, or pretty stuff like that.

 

Been to war her share of times, the battles she did face

Got the job done every time, with Force and with Grace.

Rising up, in the ranks, to where she is today

Did not come without a cost, what price did she pay?

 

A Mother, Wife, Sister, Friend- but some don’t understand

How could she leave those things to fight on foreign land?

Many Titles she must carry, this is all too true

One that matters most in battle: “Soldier”, through and through.

 

She is a Female Warrior, fellow Soldier, and my Friend

Admiration and my loyalty, will likely never end.

Side by side we fought- the Enemy we did engage

As Soldiers, not a gender, putting rounds down range.

 

And she is a Soldier, tough and strong, yes, among the best

In every fight, in every challenge, she has passed the test.

Male or Female, boy or girl- should not be the theme

I have seen her in the battle, and want her on my team.

The Mirror

The Mirror

 

I see the man in my bathroom mirror

Staring back at me

He looks somewhat familiar

But in my memory I cannot see.

 

Was he someone I knew in passing

Or was he a close friend?

Did I do something to upset him

To make our friendship end?

 

He hasn’t said a word to me

Nor even tried to smile

Just glares at me with bloodshot eyes

Now, for quite a while.

 

I’m afraid to ask him who he is

Or why it is he’s here

But his silence is so very loud

That’s all that he’s made clear.

 

I see disappointment in his eyes

I wonder what he thinks.

Now his face becomes clear to me

My heart stops and sinks.

 

I see the man in my bathroom mirror

Staring back at me

I still don’t know who he is,

But I know that man is me.

***********************************

It’s a hell of a lot easier to go to war than it is to come home from it.  It takes a while to adjust.  I think my that lack of being able to adjust lead me to my attempted suicide.  I further believe that coming back from war wasn’t the problem with me, as far as trying to figure out who I was.  Once a Soldier, always a Soldier.  I just don’t know who I am now anymore.  I think it’s the aftermath of surviving suicide that makes me question my identity or what defines me now.

Sometimes I feel that I have no idea who I am.  I am unrecognizable to myself. I used to be motivated.  I used to desire to work.  I used to have a plan.  I used to feel invincible, that I could conquer the world.  Now, most days, it’s a challenge to conquer getting out of bed in the morning.  While I know I’m improving daily, I’m still searching for who I am.  I’m finding pleasure in writing again and that is helping.  Too bad it doesn’t pay the bills.

Those of us struggling with this will eventually recognize the person we used to be, even if we don’t know who we are now.  It can be disturbing for a number of reasons.  Either the person we used to be did horrible things and we can’t face that, or the person we used to be was a lot better person than we are now and we can’t accept whom we’ve become. One way or the other, we are changing daily.  Good or bad.  I made my downslope already in my changes.  It’s a tough climb back up, and I know I will never be who I was, but I will be me again, whomever that may be.

I write because it’s therapeutic for me.  I share it in case it helps someone else.  Thank you for reading my story, my message.  I welcome your feedback.  Feel free to share if you think it will help someone.

Good day, God bless.

Dave

Battlefield

On August 2, 2015, late in the evening just before midnight I almost died. In all the things I’ve done in my life and lived through, it was me that almost took my life. I attempted suicide. I failed. Not the first thing in my life I failed at and it certainly won’t be the last. It’s been six months. Part of me thinks I should already be further along to finding normal again. Part of me has accepted that I must find and accept a new normal. It is a daily struggle. It wasn’t until five months after my attempt that I was actually glad that it failed. But I do still struggle with my thoughts from time to time.

I had a good plan, but obviously it was flawed. I spent 3 days composing my suicide letter. I re-read it a couple months ago for the first time since I wrote it. It was dark. It was apparent that I was not even close to being in my right mind. I look back at the person that wrote it and I’m not even sure who I was at that time. I’ve tried to piece together all the details that took me to that point and it’s not as easy it should be.

I saw the police report. It was sobering to see how close I came to being dead. In the officers statement he said that he found me unresponsive, but breathing. He went on to say that as he approached me, he couldn’t see my face due to the condensation on the clear trash bag that I put over my head and tied around my neck. I don’t know how long I was out but when I woke up I hurt. My chest hurt, I was breathing hard, I couldn’t sit up and ended up falling on the floor. I was scared, confused, and didn’t know where I was at for a moment. Then it all came flooding back. I was supposed to die, but didn’t .

After getting me up and moving, and regaining my faculties, I got checked out by EMS. I was told that they’d be taking me to the hospital by cop car. I resisted briefly and made it clear that I wasn’t going anywhere with them. I saw the officer that was behind the one that had been talking to me take a more offensive stance. I guess when you tell the cops you aren’t going with them, they are up to the challenge. It didn’t come to that. They told me that my oldest daughter was on the scene and that I had a choice of going out to see her first, or to be dragged off in cuffs in front of her. Her being there saved me from further trouble and embarrassment. She still had to watch me get cuffed and put in the back of a police car, but it certainly could have been worse. The story of being in the hospital will be for another time.

A couple weeks after my attempt I wrote a poem called Battlefield. I’ve mostly kept it to myself.   The very few handful of people I’ve showed it to have encouraged me to share it, to publish it. I think I’m ready to do that now. Since I know some of you won’t get the “22” reference I will explain. Approximately 22 veterans a day commit suicide. There are a number of organizations that use “22” in their efforts to bring awareness to how many veterans take their own lives on a daily basis. I was almost one of the 22 on that day but I guess I waited too late into the night and the quota had already been met.

Here’s the poem.

Battlefield

By David George

On the battlefield he did not die

Fearlessly served by comrades’ side

Bullets and bombs whizzed on by,

But not everyone there came home alive.

 

His body intact, his mind gone mad

To see him now, doesn’t look so bad

But the wounds he carries are just as sad,

As the ones brought back in a body bag.

 

Try as you may, you don’t see his pain

But he can’t avoid it, it’s in his brain

His memory becomes one big stain,

Of war and darkness again and again.

 

The enemy failed in bringing him down

But he’s losing the battle of himself right now

Hard to reach out, he doesn’t know how,

But without some help, to his demons he’ll bow.

 

Fate is cruel and already knew

He’d be the next member of Club Twenty-two

He took his own life, sad but true,

Another one gone, what do you do?

 

Going to war was the easy part

Do your job and do it smart

Had all the training from the start,

His death this way should break your heart.


When you look at the number of Service Members that we’ve sent to war and brought home it’s sad that so many lose the battle of themselves after returning. I think I can speak for all of us who have been to the dark and hopeless desire to die that we would have much rather died on the battlefield than to go out by our own hand.

If you or someone you know needs help, help them. Get them help. Don’t let them slip through the cracks. You don’t have to have all the answers. You don’t even have to fix the problems, you can’t anyway. Just be there and help them get help. I had people helping me, but I cut them off and stopped letting them help. Don’t let that happen. Don’t get offended or take it personal. And don’t be afraid to ask if someone is thinking about suicide. Be direct. You get a more honest answer and a better opportunity to help.

I’ve still got a long road to go. I’m not in the dark place I was before, but I don’t exactly know where I’m at anymore. But I am ok. I promise.

Take care, God bless.

Dave

More Than Our Life

I’ve slacked off some in keeping the blog updated.  There’s only so much we can talk about from here and to be quite honest, every day is the same as yesterday at this point.  We have a countdown for us to go home but I’m trying to not pay attention to it yet.  To me it’s still a little early for that.  I have a few more missions to go on, I have tasks to complete, and I have a lot to keep me busy getting ready for our replacements.  I see the light at the end of the tunnel but I’m not keeping up with how many days are left until that light gets to me.

For those of you that keep up with my Facebook page, the poem I’m going to share in this blog might be familiar.  It’s called “More Than Our Life”.  I wrote it a couple of months ago after being inspired by real life events, some close to home.  But I didn’t tell the story of it on Facebook, just posted the poem.  As I tell this short story I will not be telling you anything that hasn’t already been release by the military or the Pentagon.

Sometimes events or people or combinations of multiple events and people inspire me to write.  Sometimes it comes out in the form of poetry.  This was one of those times with “More Than Our Life.”  On December 17, 2013, a helicopter went down in southern Afghanistan.  It was reported that all six Service Members died.  But it was reported in the media that a mechanical failure caused the crash and it was unknown if our enemy had any involvement with that or the deaths.  The report I saw later that evening on our secret email mentioned the enemy.  I won’t go into detail about those events, but the crew was killed by the enemy.  It was about three weeks after the crash that it was confirmed by the Pentagon that the crew was in fact killed by enemy fire.

That same day I was on a helicopter going from point A to point B.  But I made it safely to my destination.  I remember one time how one of our trips got delayed by a week.  During the time we would have been at that base, they lost six Service Members in three separate incidents.  One time we flew into a base just a few hours after a plane crashed short of the airfield, there were no survivors.  I remember sitting in bunker hearing the explosions getting closer with each boom (“Couldn’t help but wonder, was today the day?”).  But the rocket attacked stopped.  These might sound like near misses or close calls, but they are really bonding agents for those of us that work and travel together over here.  This is war, this stuff happens all the time.  And the poem that follows is my answer to people when they ask, “What’s it like to be there?”

More Than Our Life

David George

As the war goes on, we’re front and center

This Life and Death world, we chose to enter

Siblings of our Uncle, we call him Sam

Tho sometimes it feels he doesn’t give a damn.

 

We shared the same bunkers, Booms came down

Sirens blaring to us, all around

Showing no fear, but still afraid

Couldn’t help but wonder, was today the day?

 

The bonds we forge are not understood

By mortals back home, who only know Good.

For even if we die, we’ll still live on

In our fellow Soldier, we’ll carry on.

 

We trust each other with more than our life

With our thoughts, our secrets, and our strife

Forever we will be, for each other

Here in this life, and if there’s another.

 

And as the war draws down, we’ll try to go home

But never the same as when we started to roam

The memories of here, forever embedded

But for all the friendships, forever indebted.

 

Thanks for taking the time to read this.  Let us remember those that paid the ultimate sacrifice. Take care, God bless.

Dave