I really appreciate you sharing your experiences and what you have gone through as it isn’t always easy to talk about. I want to clarify before I start that I have never been on a deployment and I am glad that your experiences haven’t affected you as much as it has some others. I have always respected what you went through and what you do for the kids. Since, you shared your story I shall share mine.
I come from a long line of service members in my family. I have an uncle who served in WWII and one in Vietnam. My grandfather was a LTC in the Marines and served the end of WWII and through Korea. I have always been patriotic and have taken my military career seriously. I enlisted in Aug 20, 2001 just a few weeks before 9/11 as a combat medic paratrooper. After, 9/11 all I wanted to do was get deployed and serve my country. Due to them losing my airborne orders at medic school I was held up an extra two weeks at Ft. Sam Houston until they found my orders. This changed where my duty station would be and I ended up in Heidelburg MEDDAC instead of Vicenza, Italy with the 173rd Airborne. I was really depressed the first few months at HMEDDAC because it was a leg unit and people were lazy shit bags. Then one day the NCOIC of the E.R. holds a formation asking for volunteer’s to go TDY to Afghanistan to attach to 10th Mountain Division until they get enough medics in country. Without hesitation, I volunteered.
It wasn’t a long time only a month or so. It was actually pretty easy for the most part. I spent most of the time setting up the Aid-station and pulling sick call duties with the occasional mission coverage but never with any action. On one patrol, we took some small arms fire and one of my guys got shot in the leg. We took cover in a small building while the rest of squad secured the perimeter. Things started to die down and I started providing aid. The gunshot went clean through and with minimal bleeding. The rest of the squad returned to the building with two taliban soldiers zip tied as prisoners. One was unconscious and the other was being heavily watched . I pulled my suture kit out of my aid bag and started to close the wound. What we didnt know was that “unconscious one” slipped out of his zip ties and grabbed me from behind and tried to choke me out. I couldn’t reach my 9mm because of the way he was pulling me back and the only thing I could grab is my plastic handled scalpel. Which I used to stab blindly behind me to the point the scalpel broke and I was stabbing him with a broken piece of plastic. I remember his warm blood soaking my back. I remember the smell of his BO but most of all I remember the gurgling noise coming from the mangled hole I gouged out of his throat. To this day I can’t handle people coming up behind be and grabbing/hugging/scaring me.
Close to the end of my time in Afghanistan one of the patrols got hit pretty hard and I was called in to give aid to a soldier who had been hit. When I arrived, it was a young kid about the same age as me , had to be barely 18. He had a sucking chest wound from a GS wound that entered under his armpit right past his body armor. He was bleeding so much, blood was everywhere, screaming. So, much screaming. Everyone was yelling at me to do something to save him. My mind was racing, what do I do? what do I do?
I only had 3 months outside of medic school. No trauma experience, no life experience, and I was only 18 years old. I FROZE and did NOTHING. He DIED because of me and I didn’t even know his name! Everyone, talked shit about me and I got a reputation as the “Shitty Medic”. I spent the rest of the time pulling sick call, ashamed. after about 2-3 weeks the other medics arrived. The company commander pulled me into his office and gave me the option to extend to a full deployment or return to my unit since my TDY was officially coming to an end. I will never forgive myself for being a coward and I am ashamed that I asked to go back to Germany.
After I got back to Germany I focused on working my ass of to learn everything I could medically. I got in on every trauma, learned every skill I could, and worked my best to redeem myself. 3 months after Afghanistan, I got sent on a peace keeping mission to Uganda, Africa. We were 4 medics, a PA, a Dentist, and a dental hygienist. We provided medical care to Northern Ugandan’s who have been ravished by the civil war the country was in. We were no where near prepared for the amount of patients coming for aid. Their hospital was the size of a large bedroom and their ambulance was a bicycle with a wooden board bolted to it. Over the two months we were there we saw thousands of patients. Mostly children, who had their noses, ears, lips, and or hands cut off. At one point, the dentist ran out of Novocaine and was pulling teeth with no pain meds. We worked 24hrs a day rotating out for 5 hour sleep shifts.
Apparently, the Lord’s resistance Army got word we were in the area on a peace keeping mission. By the time we responded to the gunfire it was too late. The village was on fire and everyone was screaming. The rebels who were all between 10-17 years old had been rounding up other children to serve as soldiers. Those who resisted joining were mutilated or shot. Some who excepted were forced to shoot their own parents with AK’s. It was horrifying and we requested to open fire and to enter the village but we were denied by command. We had to sit there and just watch. One little fucker even had the nerve to salute us and smile as they drove away. As, soon as they left we secured the area and tried to provide what aid we could, there wasn’t much we could do. I will never forget the smell of the burning flesh of the babies they threw in the fires. I went into one hut and there was a mother holding her 3 year old son full of bullet holes and barely breathing. She shoved him into my arms screaming at what I can only imagine being “save my son.”. The boy looked into my eyes not crying or screaming but almost peaceful. He slowly closed his eye and died in my arms covered in blood. Again, I was helpless.
After, I got injured at Bragg I was forced to medically separate and discharged from the Army. I got a job right away and started doing phlebotomy and going to school for premed at Rockvalley college. Being at the hospital I was being constantly reminded of Afghanistan and Uganda. Every time, I’d see a burn patient I’d find myself in the bathroom crying and throwing up. Or every time I get called to a Code i’m reminded of the kid I didn’t save. Between a newborn baby and the nightmares I barely slept. I had no one to talk to, Steph knew nothing of my past because I was too ashamed to share it. How do you tell someone that you’re a coward? That you let someone die? That you saw children butchered? This is why it hasn’t come up till now. I HATE talking about it. It’s only the past year with the psychologist that has gotten me to even share this with anyone else. The only people that know about this is my doctor, Danielle, and now you. I had tried telling Steph parts of this when she asked for a divorce but it was too late.
You both may think I am making no effort to do anything with my life and that i’m not doing enough. Just remember that I went back to the medical field after art school because I HAD to, not because I wanted to. I put myself through a daily hell so i could provide child support. Even so, I’ve never had enough to survive and have barely made it by the last few years. If you guys are getting $364 bi weekly. That’s $728 a month and I only made 1800 a month. that leaves me with $1072. With that I had to pay rent ($925 a month), utilities, food, gas, car payment, and food, clothes, toys, for the kids and other random house bills (NC and Rockford). I HAD to go back to school to get a better paying job and GI Bill benefits but that ran out around July last year. That’s why my parents moved out here, to help the only way they could.
Lastly, I had to stop working because the nightmares and anxiety have just become too much. I could find the strength to make it through the work day but would be up constantly at night because of the nightmares. Nightmares so intense that I wet the bed. (How Manly is that?) and you wonder why I haven’t brought any of this up? For the most part it was really is none of your business but i’m tired of the fighting. I’m tired of being belittled and talked down to and most of all I’m tired of feeling like i’m a bad dad when the kids and I have an amazing relationship. Right now, I need to work on getting better, getting my disability claimed so I can at least get you guys steady child support and i’m working on getting my life back on track.
I wonder if his fiancee knows he's a poser?
Even when he is doing re-enactments, he wears his CMB on his uniform