Today they lay to rest a comrade who fell in battle against his demons.
Went up a mountain and back today with him on my mind, looking for something fucking insightful or profound to say about it.
After reading Junger's latest, I think what kept me from PTSD more than anything else was that instead of a bottle or a dragon, I wound up falling in the arms of a loved one.
While I'm grateful beyond measure for that, I realize such a save required two things.
One, a loved one willing to see how dark it actually gets. I've been blessed in that regard many times over.
Two, it required me being willing to fall.
Either one is hard to come by. Both, all the more so.
A lot of people don't want to think about or acknowledge that over 2 million of us fought a fifteen-year-long war, with all that entails.
A lot of veterans came back to a world that was even more intimately disconnected than when they left.
On top of that, the vulnerability needed to open up is severely hard for a lot of them. The real world tries seeing it in a masculinity lens, a whole, "you're not a man if you show weakness."
In reality, it's more of a, "if you're not strong enough to make this happen, those around you die. You may or may not go with them."
Imagine the physical strength to haul your furniture up the complex stairs being the deciding factor in whether your roommates live or die. Or the physical strength and technical skill to change a tire in the mud. Face that shit for a few years, then somehow be able to show weakness to someone.
Both ways are wrapping their heads around completely alien (and usually terrifying) outlooks.
Not long ago I was helping an actor friend portray a Marine. And with every anecdote, every history lesson, every discussion, I was wondering when I was just going to cross a line I didn't see and break their head Cthulu-style.
(FWIW, I never did. That actor speaks good if not entirely fluent Marine now, and by all accounts their portrayal was incredible.)
So yeah, more of both needs to happen.
If you're a vet and your demons won't shut up, get help wherever you can. There's no shame in dropping your pack if you really are about to be a casualty. Gods know I've been woken up with enough late night phone calls to prefer dealing with them over seeing another fallen friend. I've officially lost more comrades to civilian life than I did to Afghanistan, and I'm not even 40 yet.
If you're a civilian wanting to help, that's fucking awesome. I'm honestly loving seeing the 22pushup challenge circulating among the fight family.
But the serious helping? That comes in listening. And sometimes that's uncomfortable listening. Maybe the stories hit too close to home. Maybe offensive colloquialisms fall out of their mouth. Maybe you catch them checking out your ass when your back is turned, could be anything. But remember, you're not only listening to someone who probably needs it, you're reaching across a cultural divide. And that doesn't work if your brain shuts down. I'm not saying you have to intentionally subject yourself to such things and deal. But I am saying realize that that's the risk you take in crossing that divide.
I've already taken too long.
Go say something you've left unsaid.