Section Three: A Mission for the Future
This is from my second book, The Warrior’s Guide To Worlds at War: The Dragon has Awakened
Twelfth Tool… “Adapting to the Effects of War: Dreams, Memory Loss, Comfortable Places to Live, etc.”
You’ve touched down on the tarmac, turned in your weapons, been discharged “Inactive Duty,” and you’re standing just outside the base security. Looking out at the civilian world, you’re scared shitless. You’re thinkin”…
“How the hell do I adapt to this cluster fuck?”
Well now, my fellow brain-fried Warriors, I’m gonna run point for your green ass on your new mission! We’re gonna talk about your new “weapons issue.” You know, your tools for infiltrating uncharted territory as a Warrior in disguise!
That means we’re gonna sharpen your skills, adapt your strength as a Warrior, and give you what you need to get on with your life. And be advised, you will develop the right battle tactics to overcome any obstacle or any ambush up that trail to the Summit.
None of what we’re gonna talk about comes out of some dumb ass psychobabble book. It all comes from the experiences of battle hardened Warriors who walked point before you. This is what has worked for them, and it will damn sure work for you.
Hell, there were times in my life when I was in so damn much pain, it woulda killed any small animal under ten pounds! So I get the joke about the shit in your heads and the pain in your guts! All us old knuckle draggers understand that, or we wouldn’t be here now.
And don’t bullshit yourself. This ain’t easy. It takes a good bit of practice with a 100% effort, and the attitude of accomplishing your new mission objective.
Now, let’s move out!
If you’re like most of the Troops I’ve talked with, you feel like you’re standing in the middle of the Kandahar (Afghanistan) Airfield in a bright orange jump suit with a big red bull’s eye painted on your forehead; and someone cut the ass out of your jumpsuit! In other words you feel like you’re a bare-assed oddball, waitin’ for a sniper round, and you’re also feelin’ real alone.
But listen up! It’s true; you sure as hell ain’t center of bubble. But I’m gonna teach you how to dodge the bullets. And you are definitely not alone.
Note: These “Tools” are not in order of priority. It’s just the way they came out of my twisted green brain.
You’ve already got the “Attitude of Gratitude.” Hell, you don’t take nothin’ for granted. You appreciate everything from takin’ a hot shower without bein’ shot at, a real bed that’s not crawlin’ with fleas, or wakin’ up in the morning without a Camel Spider suckin’ you dry.
And how about that porcelain toilet? You know, the one you’re down on your knees prayin’ to, after too much holy nectar, or the one you’re sittin’ on without the down range, screamin’ shits? Yeah, I think you’ve got gratitude sacked up.
But now, there’s one real important “Attitude” you might need to work on a bit. It’s the, “I Don’t Give a Shit Attitude.” Here’s how it works. Yeah, I know I mentioned this before, but it’s well worth repeatin’.
Let’s suppose you and your dog are fortunate or unfortunate enough to be sharin’ your hooch with a sleep-in-the-same-bed partner. And your loving (?) partner bails on you, just because you’re sleepin’ with a Glock under your pillow that you love more than them.
You just say, “I don’t give a shit! I’ve still got my Glock and my dog.” And, “I’ll find someone else who really understands me.” Or what about all those folks you used to call friends? You know, before you became a tourist on a four-star holiday cruise to an exotic country; where you got to blow shit up and kill the natives?
Suppose all your “Old” friends don’t like you bein’ at their gatherings and parties, just because all you do is sit in the corner with drool runnin’ down your chin, mumbling something like, “I want to kill. I want to kill.” Don’t know why they wouldn’t want your enjoyable, slobbering ass comin’ to all their festive occasions? Do you? I mean, you’re just so damn much fun for the civvies.
Well then, my fellow twitchy Warriors, if you find yourself in that corner, wipe your chin and say, “I don’t give a shit!” Then you go out and look for other Warriors to drool with. There are a lot of your brain-fried Brothers and Sisters out here in the “world,” low crawlin’ under the civilian radar. You just gotta know where they hang out.
But don’t worry; you’ll meet up with ’em eventually. It ain’t that hard to figure out where to look. Just go to where YOU feel comfortable (Gun Shows, Bike Rallies, Vet Rallies?), and no shit, there’ll be others there, just waitin’ for your green ass to show up!
It’s strange to civilians how that works too. You can meet another Warrior you’ve never met before, and in one hand shake it’s like you’re kin; feelin’ comfortable and jokin’ like you’ve known each other all your lives.
Remember that, “If it ain’t life threatening, it ain’t nothin’!” And also remember to just say, “I Don’t Give a Shit!” You’re gonna feel a whole lot better the more you use this wonderful Attitude.
Sound familiar? You gotta remember that you don’t give up ANY of your military skills while adapting to the Gray World. And you must maintain vigilance at all times. For my Fellow Marines, vigilance means caution, alertness, awareness, or attention. In other words, you gotta be aware of your surroundings while evaluating the threat level to feel safe. So do it.
Check those blind spots and dark corners in buildings. Check for extraction points (Civilians: Exit signs) in stores, and look for snipers on the roof. Sit in the corner booth in a restaurant or with your back to the wall. But keep your coat on so no one sees the 9 mill or K-Bar lovingly tucked in your back belt. Don’t wanna be too obvious.
Civilians really don’t get this “Carryin’ Weapons” thing, either. Hell, you’re armed not only to protect yourself against the maggots brimming over onto the streets; you’re armed to protect the good civilians, too! You’d think they oughta feel safer? Maybe someday they will?
When you’re driving, be aware of other drivers by looking at their faces. If it’s a hot summer’s day and you detect the smell of goats, or you spot a glassy-eyed driver, chanting, “Death to Infidels” with an AK propped on the seat, you may have a problem to solve. Oh Boy! Would you like that one! Now don’t get your Beasty all excited, ‘cause that ain’t likely to happen here anyway. But Stay Frosty just the same, it’ll make you feel more comfortable. And feelin’ good is good enough!
Damn if you ain’t gonna be “blendin’” right into this gray, Alien World! And if you’re not dressed like you’re on patrol down range, no one will ever know WHO you really are. I’d say this is a pretty damn good covert op so far.
Ask yourself, “Do I hate everything and everyone?”
Well, my young rageful seeking-to-gut-people friends, hate is bad Juju. (Marines: Not candy.) You know, it ain’t real good to hate all the time. It’s sorta like drinkin’ “piss-ditch” water, so that you maintain a good solid case of real enjoyable, explosive diarrhea. (That’s called, “the down range shits.”)
So why do you hate everything? Real simple. The word hate means: You feel hostile. (Marines: Not a long-hair Hippie Commune.) Hostility means, you wanna rip peoples’ heads off and shit down their necks. And why? Well, once again, this ain’t rocket science.
Warriors feel hate because they were “conditioned” to feel hate. That’s so they have the right attitude to go out and kill people. So, my soon-to-not-be-hateful Warriors, ask yourself, “Who’s pullin’ my chain?” No shit! You got it! It’s your furry friend the Beast, tryin’ to lead you to the federal recreation center. You know, the slammer, the pen, the
big house…in other words, prison.
So how do you fire a tranquilizer dart into the ass of your Beasty? You practice and practice by first saying, “I don’t hate that fucker! I just feel better when he’s not around.”
Then when the tranquilizer kicks in, you say, “I don’t hate anyone. I just feel better when they’re not around.” Try it. It works!
“So how do I De-Hate myself?” you tensely ask, while sharpening your Smith and Wesson Combat Knife. The answer to this, my fellow Warriors, is as easy as Breathin’ and Squeezin’. You copy people who don’t hate! I’ll explain. And this is no bullshit, ‘cause I’ve done it, am still doing it, and it works.
Your brain is kind of a dumb shit. The more you think of something, the more it thinks your thoughts are normal. So you pretend to feel, until you do feel.
In other words, you copy how other people (normies?) act toward kids, animals, and adults; how they treat each other. And eventually, you will start to feel it yourself. In Squash Doc lingo, this is called remapping your brain. And like all this stuff, it takes practice and more practice to achieve the mission objective.
Sure it takes some time, but you will retrain your brain. Then you won’t feel like trippin’ the kid and kickin’ the dog. By picking “Role Models” to copy, you’ll know the right thing to do. (Marines: Role Models like Gandhi, Chesty Puller?) And you’re gonna feel a whole lot better the more you do it. Here are some examples.
When I got back from War, I was (and I still am) a stone cold killer. I didn’t feel shit about anyone or anything. Fact is I hated everyone and everything. But even bein’ a dumb ass Jar Head, I knew I was way too twitchy, and something was real wrong. I knew I had to adapt if I was gonna survive civilian life. No Shit!
I’ve been married to three truly fine and exceptional women in my life. My first wife (role model) taught me how to love children. She had one, so I had to learn fast. I copied her actions…and it worked!
My second wife (role model) taught me how to love animals. I copied her, opened my heart to these beautiful beings, and that worked!
My third, beautiful wife (and still my life partner) taught me not only how to love people, she also reinforced what I already learned (felt) about children and animals. Hell, she showed me how to feel connected to everything that lives! That is, everything that flies, walks, crawls and grows in the dirt!
So you see, after many times of asking myself, “How would they act/feel at this moment?” my brain copied their actions. Eventually, I began to feel just like my “Role Models” acted. Now I feel it myself.
Of course, I had to pretend at first, like a special forces operator in an enemy village. But eventually, I started to feel again. First it was compassion, and then it was love. That is, as a Warrior feels love.
You can do the exact same thing. You just gotta want to do it. This tool will make you feel a whole lot better about being part of this world, and you’re gonna feel a whole lot better about you.
So then, just remember to “feel better” when people you don’t like AREN’T AROUND, and copy those who you respect as examples of how you would like to be and how you would like to feel. You have the strength to do this one, too.
And cut yourself some slack while you’re at it. Stop drinkin’ those brain grenades for a bit, and force your green ass OUT to do something that makes you feel better, and ”calmer.” This brings us to the next Tool.
Sea turtles are a real fine example for us humans to copy. When they swim out into the surf, they slip under the waves. Mother Nature has taught them how to not get their asses kicked, doin’ what they like.
For you, your emotional waves will drag you to the bottom and grind you into the coral if you don’t do the same. You may be goin’ into emotionally heavy surf at times, but you’ll avoid gettin’ pounded in the rocks, and eatin’ starfish shit, by learning to change your focus. I’ll explain.
Remember, that when you’re stuck (fixated) in a battlefield moment in civilian society, “You can think anything you’d like. But you can’t do everything you think.” That’s just the way it is. So deal with it, unless you’re partial to bein’ on the receiving end of a gang rape in the big House.
If you’re gettin’ pounded by the emotional waves, you’ve gotta rapidly change your focus. It’s like this: If you’ve ever done any body surfing when you’re caught in the wave and it’s pounding the shit out of you, you’ve gotta relax your body. Then you float to the surface. The more you fight it, the more you stay stuck. The more of a beating you take.
So it’s just like when you’re caught in the surf. The way you emotionally “relax” is to tell yourself, “ I’m caught in my feelings of killing, of loss, of guilt,” and, “I’m gonna change my thinking by changing my actions.” “I’m goin’ for a drive to my Battle Buddy’s house, or I’m goin’ for a walk, or I’m goin’ to a movie and a meal”.
Anything will work that makes you feel better. I used to go for a run until I was exhausted, then I’d ride my motorcycle (sober) to a movie and a nice dinner; an artery clogging, puke-in-the-bag burger with double fries.
Again, in this case, you change your thinking by immediately changing your actions; what you’re doing at that moment. You are then forming new habits. And the more you do this, the more effective it will become. In shrinker terms, this is called remapping your brain; modifying the trails or pathways in your brain-housing-group.
I did it. So can you. And it works. So try it. Give it a test run.
Do you still feel the desire to kill?
That’s an affirmative! You always will. That’s one of the bennies of walkin’ off the battlefield. It kinda makes you feel good inside knowin’ that you truly are the Warrior Monk (Marines: A holy man, not a chimp) In other words, you can be the kind, compassionate, fuzzy and warm, save-the-whales, tree-hugger one moment, and the full-blown, raging killing machine the next.
In Ivory Tower Speak, they call this a paradox. This means you’ve got two opposite sides of who you are; living in the same body. The kind and loving pet-the-bunny side, and the gut-the-bunny and roast its ass for dinner side. I’d say that’s a pretty damn good combination!
So how do you learn to control your urge to kill two legged animals? Again, it’s practice in thinking and saying the right things to change your habits. You’ve gotta change the feel good habits of killing the enemy on the battlefield, to the feel good habits you find here in the land of endless baby-wipes.
What works for me is if I say, “Prison! Prison! Prison!” Or sometimes I’ll say to myself, “This maggot truly needs to die, but who’s gonna feed my animal friends?” You make up whatever you feel good about, then use it!
This whole thing of talking to your self is a real healthy thing to do. Well, at least that’s what the Squash Docs I know say. Seems to work pretty good, too. Hell, you can always talk to your furry friend anytime you want. It’s right inside of your head. I prefer to jabber away at the Angelic side. Smells better too.
One real smart shrinker came up with this notion of “Parts.” She said that us humans are all made up of different parts. It’s sorta like an MRE. You know, different “parts” of your tasty (?) meal all crammed in the same bag. Kinda like your airtight, brain-housing-group.
Just to list a few of these parts, so that you get an idea of what we’re talkin’ about here: There’s the rational part (The intellectual, egghead side); the emotional part (The feely-touchy side); the spiritual part (the warm and fuzzy, one with all creation side) and the primal part (That’s your loving, blood lusting Beasty side).
So you see, you can talk to any part of yourself you want, and not look like a dumb shit. Besides like I said before, with these new-fangled cell phones, with hearing-aid-like devices stuck in everybody’s ears, it looks like most of the folks in the supermarket are on Thorazine anyway; babblin’ like idiots at a potato or a dozen eggs. So relax, you’ll fit right in!
But let’s get real here. There are gonna be a lot of people you’ll meet who truly are worthless, and are very deserving of an appointment with Saint Peter. You know, at the big checkpoint in the sky? And yet, even though they are worth the fifty-cents a-round, they’re just not worth you destroying your life for.
So like we talked about early on about “Counting to Three,” they simply get to live today. You’re allowing them to live today. And once again, you’re gonna feel a whole lot better when they’re not around.
Just play the Pollyanna Glad Game. You know, “I’m so glad I’m not that asshole!” and “Have a nice day. Maybe you’ll do us all a favor and have a short life?”
But remember to always ask yourself, “Where are my feelings coming from at this moment?” Is it your snarly-toothed, hairy Beast, or is it the white-winged Angelic side? You know the difference.
Look, you’ve killed human beings and liked it, now you’ve gotta deal with the results. And the desire to kill never completely goes away. It was not a peaceful experience, and it’s stuck in all your memories until you check out.
You didn’t walk up to the enemy and say, “Gosh! You look just great today. What a nice outfit you have on, and it goes so well with your complexion. And oh, by the way, I’m sorry, but I have to put a round through your head. It won’t hurt. Just close your eyes and hum your peaceful mantra.” Don’t think so.
You don’t kill the enemy with compassion, loving kindness, courtesy or respect. Your Beast kills ’em unmercifully and longs for more.
That’s why you’ve gotta change your thinking to change your actions in civilian society. Get control over your emotions by practicing a few simple Tools that work.
You control your desire for killing with any thoughts and images you can. Then you don’t end up like the enemy you left gnarled up and dead on the battlefield.
You have the strength to do this, and you have the wisdom to understand what will happen if you don’t.
To look into the “Mirror of Self-Reflection” openly and honestly takes great courage and strength. In order to truly understand the evil viciousness you are capable of, you must walk in the darkness, side by side with the demons of your own nature.
It is not in the Light of Love and Compassion that you will find an understanding of the horrors of human malice, because in Light and Compassion they do not exist.
But unless we look at the greatest evil and the greatest good we are capable of, how then could we possibly know ourselves?
Look at it this way. As you may or may not have heard it said by other Warriors, “We consider ourselves The Half Dead.” This means that like it or not, part of us died in War. And we walk in the Shadow World at will.
In order for you to walk, even half alive, in the “Outer World” of civilian society, and find even a small measure of peace, you’ve got to learn WHO you are.
You learn who you are by looking at the worst and best parts of yourself. No matter how horrible it sounds, admit your feelings. No matter what non-combatants say about you, admit your feelings.
Now, this don’t mean you shuffle down to the T-Shirt shop and stick a sign on your chest that says, “I Love Killing People!” It means to admit your feelings to YOURSELF! That’s it. Real simple, well sorta?
I’ll give you an example. I’ve killed children in War. The Spirit within me recoils from the thought of this act, but lives within the very substance, the very essence of its host; that’s me. The Spirit in all of us strives to protect children, yet the demonic part of all of us longs to take more life in the cruelest manner possible; any and all life, including children.
It doesn’t mean I’m gonna run right out and start shootin’ kids. It means that I understand I’m capable of it. If you’re honest with yourself and understand what you’re capable of, then you can prevent yourself from doing it again.
Let’s put it another way, ‘cause this is real important. Suppose you like killing or some other sort of vicious cruelty in War. You admit that to yourself!
It’s OK to like it, because it was your Beast part that liked it, and you were conditioned to like it. That’s how we win battles; that’s how we must act in War; and that’s if we chose to come home at all. (Even half alive.)
Your intellectual part didn’t like it, and your Spirit certainly didn’t like it. But your Beast sure as hell did like it, and the more the better. So you see, it’s kinda like living in an apartment with some real good neighbors, and some real shit heads.
Trouble is, the apartment building is locked inside your skull. And unless you know all your neighbors real close-like, you may get yourself invited to the wrong apartment for chow. You may end up on the mess gear for dinner.
So the point of all this is to look at yourself, ALL of Yourself. Admit what you did, and even if you liked what you did, it’s OK. You’re not gonna be yelling this shit in the streets. You don’t even have to speak your feelings out loud to anyone. It’s your secret. Just don’t keep “your” secrets from yourself!
And up the trail to the Summit you go!
No shit! There is no greater rush than Combat Adrenaline! We’ve talked about that earlier. And remember, the closer you get to death, the greater the adrenaline hit. But look at that bullshit! The closer you get to death?
What the hell was in our corn flakes at the Chow Hall? How productive is that when you’re attempting to find some sort of peace in your life? When you’re attempting to Adapt to a new world?
Well then, my fine fellow-adrenaline-junky Warriors, there ain’t NOTHIN’ productive about huntin’ for adrenaline at all. Fact is, it’s your hairy friend that wants the hit, not any of its neighbors in your brain-housing-group apartment complex.
It’s your Primal-side part that wants you jumpin’ off a bridge with one of them fancy rubber bands strapped to your ass, or racin’ your crotch rocket when you’re so drunk you couldn’t look down to take a piss without fallin’ down. Think about it.
When you’ve reached the Summit of Knowing, the thought of recklessly, risking your life so your Beast can feel the wind in its fur don’t really sound so good.
Sure you’re gonna remember the rush of adrenalin in battle. But that doesn’t mean you gotta duplicate it here. Because there is absolutely no way that can be done without going to battle. And here, that means you’re breakin the law and goin’ to meet your new cell mates. It’s just not worth the price.
Remember, you ain’t who you used to be before War. And now you’ve gotta adapt to WHO you’ve now become. And Video Games don’t help.
I know Troops who sit in front of one of them damn TV monitors and play combat video games for hours. Hell, if they could, they’d sit there on their asses for days. But who’s playin’ the game? Right again! It’s your Beasty, purrin’ over the bloodshed and violence.
Look, I understand what’s happenin’ here. And it’s no different from watchin a War movie… for a short time. But what you’re doin’ is reliving your combat experiences.
Combat video games played over and over by a Combat Warrior will trigger their memories, their experiences of killing, loss, guilt and survivor guilt. You Warriors think about this one.
Re-experiencing war through a video game may be healthy to a point, in terms of processing the event, but it’s not healthy to be fixated in the past. And if all you do is sit there in front of the Lobotomy Tube without ever gettin’ any real good combat counseling help, then you’re treadin’ brown water; you’re headin’ for that screamin’ flush down the shitter to Fly Paradise. No insect repellant allowed.
So once again, you’ve gotta “REPLACE” the need for adrenaline with the opposite of what your Beast-Part wants. This means you get off your green ass, turn off that fuckin’ video and go out and do something for “yourself” by doing something for someone else.
The more you help others, the more you help yourself. You never lose by giving, and real giving is never expecting anything in return. It’ll make you feel good, and make another living being feel good, too.
Just go look into the eyes of a dog or a cat locked in a cage at the Animal Shelter. Or look into the eyes of someone who’s hungry when you load up a plate of good chow for ’em. You’re gonna feel good about yourself by helping them, and they’ll feel good because you do.
Remember that compassion replaces adrenaline. It calms the Beast. It puts you more in touch with who you truly are and who you truly wanna be. It re-focuses your thinking.
The more peace you feel in your life, the less likely you’ll feel like risking your life. Adrenaline will become a fond memory, but something you’re NOT gonna live your life to re-feel every waking moment.
Smoking lamp is lit for you Warriors… Take Ten Mikes.
Since I’ve mentioned the Shadow World several times, I thought it might be good to explain that a bit.
Did you ever wonder where Dante, as in Dante’s Inferno (Marines: Not a pizza restaurant) got his ideas about Hell, or the strange stuff he painted? Just a guessin’ here, but aside from folks thinkin’ he got into a bad batch of mushrooms, he was most likely walkin’ in the Shadow World.
Same-e-same with many other people like Edgar Allen Poe. It isn’t hard to go there. You just have to want to go there. And it’s open to all visitors.
You might be thinkin’ it’s time to drop the “Big Net” on the old Jar Head here, and send his green ass off the Wake Island. So if you will, just take all this with a grain of salt (black powder for Warriors) if you don’t buy into to it, that is. But it never hurts too much to keep an open mind? Your call.
Psychologists might say that what I’m about to discuss is merely a ”Product of Imagination.” But if you study ancient teachings a bit, a lot of people in other cultures talk about the Shadow World as bein’ a real place, too.
Way back in history, even before my time, someone once said, “Yea though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I shall fear no evil… ” Now just “where” do ya suppose he meant? Guess it could be San Bernardino Valley in California? Maybe 29 Palms?
The Valley of Death, The Phantom World, The Shadow World (along with other names for it), is a real place to a lot of people on the planet. And when I go there (at will), I fear no evil because my Beast (Oso) has his big, furry paw on my shoulder, watchin’ my six. He’s purrin’ too, ‘cause this is his kinda place; real warm and fuzzy for my Big Boy.
Personally at times, I find it more comfortable in The Shadow World than here. That’s because there’s no illusion of reality there; no illusion in The Land of the Dead. There are only their stories of how they got there.
Let’s bring this “reality thing” home a bit. Make it more personal. Ever ask yourself, “What is it that causes the sadness you see in the eyes of the Warrior you love?” It’s real simple. It’s the “distancing” from others of the human race. That is, it’s a distancing from the living: Those who have not been to War; those who are still fully alive.
Civilian society is not real to us; it’s an illusion. The Shadow World, whether we’re regular visitors or not, is real to us. A little dark perhaps, but nonetheless it is reality. Every Warrior fully knows this, because every Warrior knows we’re all gonna die. We fully embrace this timeless Truth.
And while we’re at it, let’s throw another carrot into the sadness pot to simmer over a bit. Yet another reason for the sadness we feel, is because of the sadness we’ve felt. I’ll explain.
Warriors have experienced firsthand what it’s like to live by the ultimate standards of human nobility. That is, we know what it means to live with Honor and self-sacrifice for those you love and who love you unconditionally.
But War has also taken a heavy toll. Warriors have been witness to the morbid, dark, and vivid truth about the human race. They have seen the viciousness and hate we are all capable of.
This in itself tends to close us off from participating in society again. Part of us is ashamed to be human, ashamed to know what we’re capable of. Talk about a wake-up call at eighteen years old!
So you see, by understanding this Truth about who we really are as “The Race of Humanity,” we become emotionally numb. We feel less likely (comfortable) to reach out to another human being, because every human being belongs to the same human race. That is, the part of the human race who hasn’t walked with us, side by side on the battlefield, living that true nobility of the Human Spirit. This is yet another reason why the Warrior Trust Bond is so strong between us.
If we already consider ourselves half dead, and if we think of most people in society as living in an illusion, and we’re certainly not afraid of death in the least, then why not ditty-bop around in a place where we understand things? That right! The Shadow World.
Many Troops have told me they’ve seen and/or heard the Angel of Death. Medics and Corpsmen have told me that, leaning over a fellow Warrior when he or she died in their arms, they felt a surge of energy (The Spirit or Soul?) pass through their own bodies. So why then would it be so difficult to believe in a place like The Shadow World? Think about it.
Alright Warriors! Back to your Tools!
What I’m about to explain to your green ass comes from over thirty five years of swimmin’ in the shit-brown lakes of Fly Paradise. So listen up! And by the way, I wasn’t there alone, either. There were lots of other Combat Vets snorklin’ right along with me. No dumb shit Jar Head ever gave us a briefing on “how not to be there.”
The Tools you’re learnin’ in this last section may well be the most important intel you can possibly stuff in your brain-housing-group. And the topic of “relationships” is right at the top of the list. That is, unless you wanna live in the mountains, chewin’ on bark with your Beasty; your only big, smelly friend.
There’s no doubt that what I’m about to explain is gonna sting a bit at first. Hell, it’s gonna damn right hurt! And make no bones about it, it’s gonna hurt those who loved you before you went to War. You just gotta deal with it, and you will. Maybe they will, too?
Somebody’s gotta finally say this shit, so I guess it’s gonna be the Dumb Ass Marine. That be me. So let’s get Oscar Mike (Operationally Mobile) here.
Now, if any of you readin’ this book haven’t figured a few things out yet, like the whole shit bath of War, let me crystallize it for you once again. It’s sorta like a variable power rifle scope, when the image comes into focus real clear. Let’s get this one in the cross hairs; “breathe and squeeze,” then take the sucker out!
- Warriors fight Wars.
- A Warrior’s job is to kill human beings called, “the enemy.”
- When Warriors kills human beings, the Warrior changes inside forever!
- When Warriors lose their friends in battle, the Warrior changes inside forever!
- Warriors DO NOT come back from War the same person, ever!
Now how much damn clearer can that be? And relationships are a BIG PART of your Warrior future, especially if you’re a youngin’ in your teens and early twenties. You know, young, dumb, and full of come.
Well anyway, we’ve talked about one of the reasons “Why” you feel like a numb-oid in section 1-7, the Warrior Trust Bond. Now let’s look a little closer into your ability to be warm and fuzzy with other human beings. Four legged animals are easy. You just love ’em and feed ’em. Two legged animals are a new and challenging mission.
So put on your body armor for the next five Mikes (Minutes) or so.
Let’s deal with you and “your” feelings first, then we’ll talk about how to salvage a relationship, or start one. That is, if you’d like to have a decent human relationship at some point in your future.
Here’s the first “Incoming Round.” It is EXTREMELY difficult to accept that those of us coming off the battlefields of War have not only lost the innocence of our youth, but that we have also lost the ability to Love human beings like we used to.
Now don’t go gettin’ too depressed and all (stuck between worlds) ‘cause life can still be damn good! You just gotta get used to WHO you are now, and adapt to your surroundings.
Think about it. Do you love your dog more than your partner? Do you “pretend” to act lovingly to someone who you know loves you? Do you feel like what your dog left on your neighbor’s front lawn, because you think you don’t know how to love human beings anymore?
Look, just because you can’t feel how you think you should, don’t mean there’s anything wrong with you. There’s a natural, self-protection reason for the way you feel closed off. It’s your brain protecting you again. It’s helping you avoid too much pain.
You’ve gotten close to people you’ve truly loved in battle, and you’ve lost ’em. Your brain remembers that, and it won’t let you get too close to people you’d like to care about now. That’s in case you lose those loved ones again. Real simple.
So what do you do? How do you Adapt? First of all, you cut yourself some slack. Love and compassion takes practice to RE-Feel when you’ve been trained and conditioned to hate.
If you’re now with someone, you love them as much as you can, and understand your limits. Here’s how it works.
You maintain your Code of Honor by being honest. But you don’t tell your partner all the bloody, horrifying details of your battlefield experiences. Believe me, this doesn’t work.
No other Combat Veteran I know has helped their relationship one little bit by a purge-your-soul-brain-dump. You know, spill your guts on the floor, hoping your partner will understand the pain you feel and why you’re a few cans shy of a six-pack?
This kind of way-too-honest-and-open-to-someone, who can’t understand you anyway, only makes them afraid of you, set their speed dial for 911, and look for the nearest AAA for free roadmaps back to the in-law’s base camp.
They get afraid of you because they don’t know all the PARTS of you. They’re only hearing the Beast Part, and they may not know you have the ability to control it.
Besides, most folks won’t even admit they have a Beast Part, so they might quickly go into denial. You know, it’s sorta like someone lookin’ at another person who got all banged up in an accident, or lookin’ at someone in the hospital dyin’ from cancer. Some people can’t admit to themselves, “That could be me there!” So they turn away, returning back into their fantasy world of make-believe.
The next thing you’ve gotta understand is that unless you’re hooked up with another Combat Warrior, a civilian partner ain’t gonna die for you. In other words, they’re not at your one hundred percent unconditional, battlefield-love-to-die-for standard. Accept it and cut’em some slack. They don’t have to die for you here! And you are not on the battlefield here. Deal with it by accepting this real simple fact. Say to yourself, “I’m not at War here!” Then don’t make it that way.
You see, my longing-for-a-relationship friend, you simply CAN’T judge the people you care about for what you think of as Warrior weakness. They ain’t Warriors, so again, cut ’em some slack.
You’re gonna have to develop some real tolerance until you get used to lookin’ at folks as just folks; not battle-hardened, knuckle draggin’ grunts.
So if someone you’d like to hang out with (for more than a day) does something you think isn’t up to the Warrior Standard, “Don’t Say Anything Critical!” Rather, “Don’t Say Anything At All,” or talk with them “Carefully,” or damn it, leave them alone. You know, give them some space. Let them fall down and learn from the experience. You ain’t the Drill Instructor and they ain’t in Boot Camp!
If all you do is criticize your partner, pushin’em and pushin’em to be the “different person you want”, then your relationship has about as much chance of surviving as a herd of goats in the splash down of a 500 pounder.
If you love the person you’re with (or wanna be with), and I mean love ’em at “Your Limits” of love, then accept them the way they are. If you’re lucky, they’ll accept you the way you are.
You gotta choose carefully too. Because the way I see it, there are only two kinds of people in this world. There are “Givers” and “Takers.” Choose a Giver to hang out with. You’ll feel a lot more joy in your life. You’ll know the difference right off. Just ask yourself, “How selfish is this person?” They’ll stand out like a “lazed target.”
And if you don’t agree with something your partner does, don’t let your Beast negotiate the treaty. When you feel your claws comin’ out, shut up, and if need be, extract to a safe LZ where you can calm down a bit. Arguing with the Beast is like arguing with a drunk or a meth-head.
Use some common sense, too. You ain’t gonna change your partner any more than your partner is gonna change you. Personally, I think that the purpose of a relationship is “Not” to change your partner anyway.
After all, don’t you like or even love ’em for the way they are? Isn’t that why you wanted to get together in the first place? If it was for sex, believe me, that won’t last. You’ve gotta get out of bed, or off the floor eventually. Then what have you got lookin’ back at you with bad breath in the morning? Be real sure you got a good one, and you be the other good one.
If you can’t completely accept your partner for who they are, and they can’t accept you for who you are, then why be miserable? Find another person to share what little time you have left. Enjoy your life, and enjoy the hell out of being close to another human being. There are some real fine ones out there. Tame your Beasty, and you’re sure to find one.
You Warriors, take another smoke break. Gotta talk to the Civvies again!
Let’s talk about pornography a bit. Now I can’t speak for women here, ‘cause I ain’t one. So I’ll discuss only male Warriors down range and back in the Land of the Big Post Exchange.
Part of this comes from some of the best Combat Clinicians I know. You may not like it, but this is just the way it is, so deal with it.
Back in ancient history, when I was “shittin’ and gettin’” with my Brothers in the Nam, we didn’t have computers. But we did have Playboy Magazines, and they worked just fine. Because the only sex we got was with Mrs. Thumb and her four daughters. You know, masturbation. That is, unless you wanted to risk catchin’ the Black Clap and never returnin’ home, which in fact did happen.
But aside from the physical part of lookin’ at sex, let’s talk about the psychological aspect as it applies to our Troops. I’ve talked to a lot of Combat Warriors whose partners were really gettin’ down on ’em for lookin’ at naked women on the computer.
Now, I’m not talkin’ about Kiddy Porn (child pornography) because that’s a “control” issue; a need for power and control (dominance) over another. I’m talkin’ about our male Troops lookin’ at real beautiful women on one of the many websites, compliments of the World Wide Web. And as I’ve been told, there’s a whole bunch of’ em.
Hell, I was lookin’ for an address in Washington, D.C. once, and Googled “The White House.” Yep! It came up a porn site. Had to double check, just to make sure some of our “Political Representatives” didn’t add a little spice to our Capital with taxpayer money. They didn’t, it was just operator error, mine.
Anyway, as the Squash Docs say, just because our Troops are lookin’ at porn, doesn’t mean they’re unhappy with their present relationship. But it does mean they’re in need of a comfort zone, a mental safe zone. I’ll explain.
As it’s been explained to me, male Combat Warriors who have been brain-fried from War, are lookin’ for a comfortable place to plug in their brains.
For some Warriors, a beautiful, warm, female image is what they need to safely hide in. When they look at certain kinds of porn, the female images bring them back to a place where they’re not judged; their brains flash back to a pleasant childhood memory. You know, the warm, nurturing mother image. It’s a way for the Warrior to escape the world that has become so painful.
There’s also the whole procreative (Marines: Not a professional artist) side of this too. So if you’re interested, then talk to a Combat Trauma Clinician for the details. In the meantime, cut your Warrior some slack.
Now, back again to your Warrior Tools!
Back in ancient times (The 1970’s) there was a good bit of talk about the stages of grieving. That is, how do you get through feeling like dried dog shit when someone you love dies.
A real smart shrinker named Elizabeth Kubler-Ross outlined what she figured are the Five Stages of Grieving in a book she wrote on Death and Dying. She said that the five stages, in their normal order for most folks, are as follows:
Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.
You’ve gotta remember that these are the typical civilian responses. Also, remember that the Warrior responses below are direct quotes from frontline combatants who actually felt and thought them. This ain’t no “theory” stuff, either.
So just for the hell of it, and to understand the Warrior Mind, let’s compare these five “responses to loss” between the typical civilian and the typical adrenaline-crazed, battle hardened Warrior. You Warriors might wanna know this sorta stuff in case you’re sittin’ across from a shrinker at some point in your future. And most likely, you will be.
The 1st Stage of Grieving is Denial
Civilian Response in Civilian Society:
The normal civilian response might be, “I feel fine.” (They don’t.) Or, “This can’t be happening to me!” (It did.) But they didn’t die; their friend did, someone they loved. This is where some folks get into the self-pity-trap, or the I’m-the-victim-trap. And that ain’t healthy.
Warrior Response on the Battlefield:
The normal Warrior response might be, “Who can I kill for payback!” Or, “That could have been me. Damn it! It wasn’t!” The Warrior will get pissed off first, then look for vengeance and follow the blood trail to “Get Some.” There is NO self-pity and no feeling of being the victim. The predator is on the hunt!
The 2nd Stage of Grieving is Anger.
Civilian Response in Civilian Society:
A normal civilian response might be, “Why me!” Or, “It’s not fair!” Or, “How could this be happening to me?” Or, “Who’s to blame?”
Maybe civilians think like this because they don’t face death every day? Your call. But there may also be elements of resentment and jealously with civilians, too; it depends on the individual, their past experiences, and just how honest they are about admitting their true feelings to themselves.
Warrior Response on the Battlefield:
A normal response might be, “Not me this time, maybe next time.” Or, “I damn sure as hell know who to blame!” Or, “I feel cheated, I wanna protect my friends on the other side!” Or, “Wonder what kind of weapons they got there?”
The 3rd Stage of Grieving is Bargaining.
Civilian Response in Civilian Society:
A normal response might be, “Just let me live long enough to see my grandchildren grow up.” Or, “I’ll do anything to live longer,” and so on. In other words, you’re trying to make a deal with God, Fate, Murphy, or whatever. You’re bargaining for a little more time to live.
Warrior Response on the Battlefield:
A normal response might be, “Please! Take me out of this shit hole!” Or “Can I be next?” Or, “I don’t give a rat’s ass about living here. Help me take out as many of the enemy as I can on the way out!”
The Warrior is completely resigned to death, and often, longs for it. There is no bargaining to live longer. To a lot of Warriors, life is often a curse, not a blessing.
The 4th Stage of Grieving is Depression.
Civilian Response in Civilian Society:
A normal response might be, “I feel so sad, I don’t want to do anything, why bother?” Or, “Why keep living?”
Warrior Response on the Battlefield and Stateside:
“Fuck this shithole!” Or, depression sets in (Stateside) because, “I can’t return to battle, kill people, and blow shit up!” Or, “I can’t be with people I trust and love!” Or, “ I’ve gotta live in this bullshit civilian world! I want payback! Gotta stay frosty!”
The 5th Stage of Grieving is Acceptance.
Civilian Response in Civilian Society:
A normal response might be, “It’s going to be OK.” Or, “I can’t control it, (Death) so I’ll just get ready for it.”
Look, you can’t blame people for thinking like this if they haven’t been to War. They just haven’t had the chance like us Warriors to understand that death is gonna come knockin’ sooner or later.
Warrior Response on the Battlefield:
“No Shit! Death is a part of life. I see death all the time. People I love die all the time.” Or, “Let’s Get It On!” Or, “Come to me, Angel of Death… Ready when you are! Standin’ By!”
Warriors feel death all around them. They understand that death is part of life, and they accept it completely. There is no fear of death to the Combat Hardened Warrior.
The point here is that Combat Warriors do not react in the same way as those who have not been on the battlefield. They cannot be grouped into the same behavioral statistics. Think about it.
Guilt is defined as: A feeling of having committed a crime or violation against another, letting down or disappointing another.
Let’s look at this idea of guilt in a Warrior’s way of thinkin’. A lot of times we feel guilty because we think we should have, or could have done something that might have prevented our Battle Buddies from getting hurt or killed.
And a lot of times that’s just plain bullshit. When it’s your time, it’s your time, and there’s nothin’ you can do to change what happened. It’s your feeling of what you think of as “Losing Control” in a situation that eats at your ass, and sucks you emotionally dry like an Ohio Deer Tick. Did you really think you ever had control over death? What about God, Fate, or whatever you believe shapes your destiny? Don’t think so.
Sure if you screwed the pooch, callin’ in an air strike or Arty, (Blue on Blue, Friendly Fire) and some of your friends got wasted or chewed up, you’re gonna feel like a dingleberry hangin’ on the south end of a northbound black bear. That would be a normal reaction. But you learn from it, and you sure as hell don’t make the same mistake twice.
But what about the survival guilt we feel for the living? What about our feelings of NOT being there (Down Range, not only the Afterworld) to protect our True Friends?
It’s real simple, my Fellow Warriors. Our guilt all has to do with love. That’s right, it has to do with us loving our Brothers and Sisters more than we love ourselves. That’s called unconditional love to die for. Ain’t nothin’ complicated about it.
We love ’em, wanna be with ’em, and feel like shit when we’re not. Even though we’re not there, we know what they’re goin’ through down range. And even if we’re not there, we want to share their suffering and watch their six, no matter how bad it is.
Once again, it’s impossible for someone to understand this if they’ve never developed a true Warrior Trust Bond, a “Bond of Unconditional Loving Friendship” with another human being.
Here’s somethin’ else to look at. Maybe you were an operator who worked alone in Spec. Ops. Maybe you thought you never formed a One-On-One friendship or the Trust Bond we’re talkin’ about here.
But don’t bullshit yourself. You do in fact have the Trust Bond with all other Warriors! You still love ’em and feel “connected” to ’em. You ways will.
It don’t matter if you are or were an independent operator or not. You’re still part of the Warrior Class, the Eternal Brother-Sister Hood of all Warriors. Accept it. Honor it. It’s what sets you apart from all others. It’s what allows you to live by the “Nobility of the Human Spirit.”
So how do you deal with Survival Guilt? That’s real simple, too. You keep lovin’ each and every one of the living, and each and every one of the dead. You can’t do squat shit about the dead; they’re in a better place, after all. But you sure as hell can do something about the living!
You can help your fellow Warriors now. You make a new mission objective for yourself. That means, you talk with ’em, support ’em, console ’em and watch their six at all times whenever possible.
You become an example to those Warriors who need an example, a hand to lift them up and out of their pain. You help them move up the trail to the Summit!
When we’re talkin’ about the fellow Warriors you’ve lost, you’ve gotta re-map your brain about survivor guilt. That means you’ve gotta form new habits of thinking. You do this by “Remembering the “Good” times you shared, and not when they died.” I’ll give you an example.
My “Doc” was killed in battle. I felt like shit for years. But then I learned to remember him when he was still alive. The best damn time I ever had with Doc was burnin’ down a village in the Nam.
I still remember him with his Zippo Lighter, holding it under the roof overhang of that grass hooch, and starting it on fire. He stood there watching it burn; then when the hooch really got cookin’, he turned to me, and with his arms outstretched, he yelled, “Semper Fucking Fi!”
The image of Doc standing in front of an inferno of flames with his arms outstretched and yelling, is how I remember him now. It took a while to re-map my thinking, to change my pathways of memory, but now it doesn’t hurt so much to think about my dear friend, my Doc.
I know, I know, this is simple to say but hard to do. But that’s the way it is, if you wanna get on with your life. You remember your loved ones as they were, and you release them to where they are now. We’ve been through hell, so they’ve gotta be in a better place.
And don’t worry, you’ll see ’em again. That’s one of the “changes” of life. Eventually, you’re gonna make the journey like everyone else, no exceptions. But you already know that.
When someone you love dies, and it don’t matter how, you’re gonna feel like a fresh cow patty, bakin’ in the hot sun for about a year or so. It takes the brain awhile to process this kinda thing.
But, “You Honor the dead by living by Honor”. Remember them, and live your life, as they would want you to. They wouldn’t want you to be miserable, stick the gun in your mouth, or commit suicide by cop. They’d want you to be an example of strength for others to follow. They’d want you to Honor your Creed by living the strength you have as a Warrior.
In a way, your strength is a responsibility to those who don’t have it. You know, you lift others up by example. And who better to run point than you? Sometimes us Warriors forget our strength, but it’s still there, just waitin’ for a mission. Think about it.
And always remember the very best times with your departed Brethren. Always remember your strength as a Warrior. And always live by Honor. That is your Code. Now get on with your life!
OK, so now we’ve gotta talk about how you get through each minute of each day. Then the days will grow into months and the months into years. And if you listen up, one day you’ll look back on your life without feeling like a dumb shit.
You’ve been trained and conditioned to achieve mission objectives in the military. You didn’t have to like it; you just had to do it. Now you get to make up your very own mission objectives!
Think about it. In the military, you thought in a “Military Mindset”. And I got news for you young Warriors, you always will. All that means is that you’ve gotta Adapt your training for life in Civvie-Land.
You’ve been trained to look ahead only to accomplish an immediate goal. Down range it might have been going on patrol, to win the hearts and minds of the natives. If they didn’t buy into the idea of havin’ an Infidel McDonalds on every corner and they gave you shit, you’d just call in the Cobras and kill their asses.
In the civilian world, you can’t call in Arty or the Cobra Gunships on Wal-Mart, but you still need a mission objective. So I’ll give you an example of what you can do.
When I used to get stuck between the Two Worlds, it was because I didn’t have a mission objective. So now, I set mission objectives every day. At zero dark thirty, I’m up, make my rack, have a cup of coffee and a cig, then make my battle plan for the day.
Usually, the first objective is to wake up enough so I don’t get the shit kicked out of me by one of the range horses. The second objective is to feed the animals, then pick up horse and cow shit. The next objective is, if I have to cut wood or pump water, or fix something that always breaks down on the shittiest day of winter, I do that.
It works for me, if while I’m suckin’ down a cup of java at first light, and pollutin’ my body with a wonderful cig, I make a list of objectives on a piece of paper.
If it’s mandatory to make a supply run to town, then that becomes my next mission objective after the chores are finished. When in town, my objective is not killin’ stupid, dumb asses that need to meet Jesus. That way, I can make it back to Base Camp to feed my animal friends later that evening.
So you see, you’ve gotta make small mission objectives to get through each day. And it works! That way you don’t get stuck between worlds, or spend your whole day cleanin’ weapons and talkin’ to the Shadow People.
At the end of the day when the chores are done, my mission objective is to feed my old cat and dogs, have a glass of wine, clean up, and feed myself. Then my reward is to put in a movie like Generation Kill or some other such soothing type entertainment.
By the way, just for a little sideline here. I haven’t watched TV in over four years. I wanted to “Reach out and touch someone (with a full metal jacket)” way too much. That’s because most of what’s on TV makes my Beasty upset. (Maybe it should be called RV? As in retard vision?) There ain’t a lot of good news or anything to make you feel comfortable on TV these days, so why watch the damn thing? Well, anyway.
So when your feet hit the deck in the morning and you’ve got one more day to live, plan out your day. Set mission objectives to get your ass through it.
And no shit! See yourself doin’ each one. (Shrinkers call this visualizing.) It’s like when I’ve gotta go into hostile territory (town) I see myself getting’ back home. With each mission objective, you stay focused in the moment, but you see yourself completing the mission. That’s called discipline. You’ve got it. So use it.
If it’s been an especially shit-bath day, I see myself completing the mission objectives and suckin’ down a glass of red nectar at the end of it. I focus on the mission, but I also see the reward at the end of it. Real simple. And it works outstanding!
Don’t matter what your reward is, just give yourself one. Your reward could be a real good meal (MREs or Mac & Cheese?), it could be a movie you rented (Jarhead?), a walk with your dog Kujo, or anything that makes you look forward to the end of the day. Anything that makes you feel comfortable.
In case you’re wondering, there’s a reason for the reward. I found that re-training my old green brain was sorta like re-training a rat with cheese. You’ve gotta give it a “treat” if you want it to crawl down the right trail. You know, reward it for completing your mission objectives. Damned if this don’t work, too!
Your Twelfth Tool is “Adapting to the Effects of War: Dreams, Memory Loss,
Comfortable Places to Live, etc.”
There’s no deep, dark mystery of why us Warriors do the things we do. There’s no need for five-year studies on why we kill ourselves, kill others, abuse ourselves, and abuse others. It’s real simple. If you wanna figure it out, then go to War.
Over the years, I’ve noticed a lot of really interesting behaviors that all Warriors have in common with one another. Don’t really know if this is gonna make you feel better or not so good. But it’s just the way it is. Hell, it ain’t so bad. My generation of Warriors has gotten right used to it by now.
Fact is, you youngins are not alone like we were, ‘cause we’ve damn sure got your six. But just think how you’d feel forty damn years from now, if no one told you until then that, “You’re Normal” for what you’ve been through. If no one ever told you that, “You’re different for sure, but you’re normal for a Warrior, strong, and able to have a decent life; maybe you’ll even love people again like you love your dog!”
You’d probably feel like us Old Knuckle Draggers do now. That is, a little cheated out of a good chunk of your life. Now that’s not self-pity talkin’, it’s just the facts of life. So us Old Vets just give it a 100% effort for what little time we’ve got left. We don’t ever want that happenin’ to you!
Well anyway, let’s talk about a few things that No One told us back in ancient times. Here’s one for ya.
Most of the time, without Warriors knowin’ it, they move to places that make them comfortable. For example, I’m just guessin’ here, but I’d put good money on the possibility that we’re gonna see a lot of Iraq Vets livin’ in the southwestern desert areas, like in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah.
The Afghanistan Vets might find it more comfortable in places like Durango, Colorado or the foothills in the southwestern states. And do you wanta know why? Are you sure we don’t need some dumb ass study to figure it out? Just kiddin’, ‘cause this is truly no mystery, either.
We go to places (environments) that make us comfortable, because it reminds us of the times when our lives had real meaning. Now of course not every Veteran from the Afghan and Iraq Wars is gonna move to the southwest, but it’s likely that many will for a time.
This need to feel comfortable with the terrain kinda fades with understanding. That is, it becomes less important as you develop more understanding of WHO you are. When you’re a fresh “Raptor” right out of the nest of War, you tend to act more by instinct (gut feeling). You get less “twitchy” the more you figure things out.
Now let’s talk about your memory, or the lack of one. Got CRS? That is, Can’t Remember Shit? I know it ain’t the greatest, but most Combat Warriors have a hard time with remembering things. Why is that? Again, real simple.
Yep! It’s your old green brain protecting your ass from painful memories and helping you adapt to your surroundings by not pushin’ you too much. I know that it’s nice to have your brain-buddy watchin your six, but it gets damned aggravating when you forget something from five seconds ago.
So you’ve really got to Adapt to this one! I make notes everywhere (Sometimes forgettin’ where the notes are!) and I always carry a pen and some paper with me to scratch down a thought. Everywhere I go, I have something to write on. Often, that includes my hand or arm, ‘cause that works good too, unless you’re in the rain.
You’ve just gotta go with the flow on this one, and not be critical of yourself. That’s a big point. Cut yourself some slack on all this stuff. It’s gonna take some time to figure out how all these Tools fit into your backpack. Alright then, so let’s talk about dreams a bit.
Do you have nightmares? Chances are that if you’re like most of us who came back from War, you do. Here’s how I understand this from talkin’ to the Squash Docs.
For a Warrior, dreams relate directly to bringing the War home as well as being at home in War. That means, there are parts of War you liked and want to remember, and there are parts you hated and don’t ever want to remember.
Trouble is, they’re all roommates in the same thick skull. If I get this right, nightmares are unprocessed events. This means that something happened down range that you need to come to terms with, talk about, and for sure get some good combat counseling to understand. It could be the killing, the loss of friends, survivor guilt, or something else.
Personally, I found that the more I began to control the Beast, the more the nightmares faded away. Nightmares often happen when you get stuck (fixated) in a past memory.
The word nightmare means “A dream arousing feelings of intense fear, horror, and distress.” This is all about your Primal-Side-Part, your Beast Part’s favorite territory to hang out in. So if you process (work out) the experience with the right counseling, or Self-Talk (especially with Battle Buddies) and learn to control the Beast, then you may be able to defuse these intense emotions. That should help prevent most, if not all of the nightmares. At least it did for me.
Strange thing about dreams too, is that when you’re down range, you dream about being stateside. When you’re stateside, you dream about being down range. For me and some of the Troops I’ve talked with, when we woke up in either place, we were disappointed at still bein’ human.
That’s because we were (Are) ashamed of what we’ve seen humans do to one another. Guess that’s not too hard to figure out.
You know that what some people call nightmares is all relative. What I mean is, a nightmare to a civilian might not be so bad to a battle hardened Warrior. Guess it’s all about degrees of intensity?
Here’s one last thought on you going to counseling. A good combat trauma counselor is worth his or her weight in gold. I know some damn good ones now. But their job is to walk you down the right trail, guide you in the right direction, and watch your six. It’s up to you to make the 100% effort to heal.
They’ll dig into your skull and help you find out what it is that’s causing your emotional problems. They might even be able to pull all your demons to the surface so you can beat the shit out of ’em. But if you don’t help your counselor help you by being open and honest, it’ll be like pullin’ hen’s teeth. You know, chickens don’t have any.
Good Combat counselors will give you the right weapons, but you’re the one who has to go to battle with ’em.
We’ve all got bad memories, because that’s part of life. But a bad memory is like a jammed round in your chamber. You’ve gotta get it out, if you want your weapon to fire properly.
And like everything else we’re talkin’ about, you’ve got the strength to do this one, too!
Now I gotta tell ya, after more than 70 jobs in my twisted life, and spending a good bit of time in the Bed of Thorns and Fly Paradise, I think I just might have a notion of what not to do here on this topic.
I used to think that all my bosses were assholes. I thought they showed me little or no respect, and that they treated me like trash. I was wrong. Most of them weren’t the asshole, I was the asshole.
They were civilians, and I was expecting them to be Warriors. I was looking for any and all reasons possible to leave a job, and I was looking for any and all reasons to disqualify them for not understanding me. But how could they?
They couldn’t understand me then, and they won’t understand you now. So what do you do?
First of all, you might make the effort to find a job in an area you think you’ll like. Maybe you like trees and plants (no legs at all?), so something in the Forest Service might fit. Maybe mechanics or welding sounds good, so you look into those fields.
Once you pick a field of interest, you can float around in that arena. In other words, once you gain a little experience, you can move to another job in the same field and still be doing what you’d like. That’s just in case your boss turns out to be an asshole? But if this happens, you best check in the mirror first… I mean, just to be sure.
One more thing to remember here, too, is to set Mission Objectives every day in the work place. That will keep you organized and focused.
The most important thing to remember in the work place is to be proud to be a Warrior and to not expect non-warriors to understand you. They can’t, and it’s not their fault. It’s no one’s fault. We’re different because War has made us different, and now we need to Adapt if we’re gonna successfully survive here. You can, and you will!
By the way, in case you either have or will have a disability rating for Combat Stress, don’t feel like your “productive” life has ended. That’s because it’s actually just the beginning of your productive life.
I know how you may be feelin’ firsthand, ‘cause it took me about a year to get used to the idea that I didn’t really have to work anymore. Actually, in my case, it was “implied” that I wasn’t allowed to work anymore. Some folks thought it was a bit too risky for the civilians.
I’ve had a 100% rating for PTSD (I don’t hate that term, I just feel better when I don’t hear it) for about fourteen years. And I’ve had a disability rating since 1980. Of course, I was brain fried when I got back from War in 1967.
Right now a hundred-percenter (As we call ourselves) gets around $2,500.00 a month. That ain’t a lot for nowadays, but it’ll pay the rent, and put food in the bowl for you and your dogs (cats, too).
What I’m sayin’ here, is Adapt to this disability thing, too. And don’t feel bad about takin’ the money. Just ask yourself, “How much is my life worth?” You have given your whole life to your country. No Shit!
Besides, if you don’t have to go out and work a nine-to-five job, then you’ll have more time to feel comfortable. You know, do things you like, form new mission objectives, and just maybe help another living soul? Just consider yourself inactive military. Standing by.
Here’s just a “By the Way Here”.
Has anyone in politics or the military ever thought about how much money it takes to support ONE Warrior who has now been brain-fried in War and on a 100% rating for PTSD? Well, folks, let’s just take an example from today’s roster.
I know several Troops that are twenty-four years old, and on a 100% rating for PTSD. Let’s suppose they live to be only sixty-five. That’s only forty-one years. Now take $30,000 a year times forty-one years. That’s right! It comes to $1,230,000.00 per Warrior.
And with a possible (minimum) two hundred thousand claims facing the VA from our new generation of Warriors, well, you do the math.
So what’s the point? The damn point is this! If we’d cut the bullshit and educate our Troops on the effects of battle before they go to War, during War, and when they come home from War, more than seventy percent of them wouldn’t need to be filing claims. They’d know how to deal with their traumas and how to adapt to life! This intel comes right out of the mouth of some of the best damn clinicians I know. And it makes sense.
How about bringing them home on ships, having decompression bases for reintegration, thorough debriefings and follow-up classes on all the things we’re talking about in both this book and the last book?
How about properly caring for our sons and daughters whose lives will never be the same after being down range? Well, if compassion ain’t gonna get the cake eaters to take action, then maybe money will? Think about it.
Let’s get back to your tools, before I need to go out and fire off a few rounds and pull the tab on a brain grenade.
Don’t be discouraged if you’re havin’ a hard time in college. You’ve really gotta set mission objectives on this one too. Because I didn’t have a mission objective and really didn’t have a focus on what I’d like to do with my life, it took me a long ass time to get a degree.
Fact is, without focused mission planning, it took me twenty years and five colleges to get a diploma. I’m absolutely certain that you youngins will do better a whole lot better than that.
You know the old saying that “The only free cheese in on a mouse trap”? Well, my fine soon-to-be-educated fellow Warriors, that’s the absolute truth. For you Marines, this rodent saying means that you gotta work your ass off for anything you want… OORAH!
You’ve gotta work hard at battle tactics in the military to be an excellent war fighter. You’ve gotta work hard at any relationship, if you wanna have one (for more than a week). You’ve gotta work hard at gettin’ your Beasty under control and clearin’ the chamber in your brain-housing-group (from the shit bath of War). And no shit, you’ve gotta work hard at gettin’ an education.
My first suggestion here is to find what’s called a “Vet Friendly College.” That means it’s a college that makes a real good effort toward working with Veterans, helping them get through school.
Some schools will place you into classes with other Combat Warriors.
It’s kind of a Battle Buddy program. They will also help you with tutoring and Veterans’
counseling. Some colleges even have a “Vets Only” student hall… civvies not allowed.
You can Google “Vet Friendly Colleges” to find out more about this, or check out my website at www.sgtbrandi.com . I’m real accessible too, so you can even email or call me if that would make you feel more comfortable.
Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado, is a good one. So is the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona. In New Mexico, a Combat Vet can go to school for free; books and tuition are paid for. There are others in the country, too, so do a little recon before you decide.
Trade schools are a real good choice too, and just as rewarding. Don’t it make sense that if you like “wrenchin,” you might look into bein’ a mechanic? If you like swingin’ a hammer, maybe learn to be a carpenter. I did that for years. It was a great way to make some bucks.
Being a Veteran, many unions and businesses will give you a “priority” when you apply to work there, as will government departments like the Post Office, Forest Service, and many Law Enforcement and Fire Fighting Services. Every little bit helps.
So once you find a school, what do you do to make it through the first year? Because, that’s usually when most Warriors get pissed off and drop out pukin’.
Like I said, start out with a full magazine. Pick a Vet Friendly College, get hooked up with other Warriors as quickly as possible, and set mission objectives.
If you’re like I was (which I doubt), don’t take all the rocket science classes first (like Chemistry and Physics), which require high levels of math, especially when you ain’t mastered your times tables yet.
In other words, take it easy your first year. There are lots of “soft” classes you need to take anyway. So take those first. Since I failed all my entrance tests, I had to take what they called “bonehead” classes in math and English first. I still don’t know if they just called ’em bonehead courses for me only? You know, bein’ a thick-skulled Marine and all?
So I respectfully suggest you low-crawl into school with easy classes the first year, and surround yourself with other Warriors (Friendlies). Find places that make you comfortable on campus (Veteran Student Hall), and don’t push yourself, pretending that you’re like all the other candy-ass college kids. ‘Cause you ain’t. Then just maybe you’ll be less likely to beat the shit out of them and your professors. I hear these stories all the time.
Think about it, do good recon, and pick your battles carefully. School can be an R&R from the full-blown civilian world. There are some real enjoyable things about gettin’ an education. Just don’t make it an extension of the battlefield.
Just a little reminder here about your Big, Furry Friend. You know, your Beast Part.
Many of the things that haunt you are related to the horrible experiences you’ve had in War. And during those horrible experiences, your Beast was in complete control.
That means, your Primal Side (Your Beasty) is directly connected to your terrible memories. When you gain control of your Beast, you gain control of your thinking. We’ve talked about how to do that early on.
The benefits of controlling your thinking are fewer if any nightmares; reduced or eliminated need for the adrenaline fix; getting in touch with and becoming comfortable with the New You and rejoining the human race; the good part of the human race, that is.
You have the intelligence, strength, and wisdom to have a good life. Perhaps it might be different from most, but a life in which you can and will find both love and peace. A life you can one day look back on and know, “It was a life well lived.”
Keep the faith in yourself, my Brothers and Sisters and live
by the Warrior Code of Honor!
Stay Low, Stay Frosty, and Watch your Six at all times!
But have a damn good life!
You owe it to yourselves!
And I’m damned proud of every one of you!!
Sgt. Brandi… .Standing By… ..OUT!