As I have been watching Sports Center and the tragedy that unfolded at the stadium in Arlington Texas, I cannot help but empathize with Josh Hamilton. I can see the pain on his face and the anguish behind his eyes.
A routine act seemingly ends in a death. The unfortunate part is that of all of the thousands of variables that led to the tragedy in question, the one that his mind focuses on is the act he had control over. For a Veteran with PTSD, there are many instances where ultimately, the lines are drawn in our minds that raise the little voice, “If only I had just….” It is not fair, and it takes time to remove.
Guilt with a Capital G
I claim my Catholic up brining as a contributing factor to the Guilt that, after an extreme dose of war, helps me ruminate on the series of events that led to more than a few tragedies. As a parent now, I know that Guilt is a powerful tool ingrained in us to conform and act appropriately. But, life dictates circumstances where that guilt does us more harm than good.
The stuck points and the “If only…” took me years to work out in therapy. I still look at events in that light, but I can now do it with a healthier perspective. In one instance, in a prolonged raid/firefight I instructed a group of Soldiers to move on and assist another team forward of our position. I can see them in my mind’s eye forming up and moving out after my instructions. There were dozens of points of enemy contact that morning and we all had our plates full with reporting, maneuvering and avoiding getting shot ourselves. The group of American and Iraqi Soldiers moved away from my position in a neat tactical formation. The point man never returned alive.
I have carried his death with me to this day. When they retrieved his body and tried in vain to resuscitate him I had a front row seat. I can still see that too.
I have replayed that day in my mind thousands of times. What could I have done differently to prevent that? I strain my mind to recall details that would contribute to a different scenario. It wasn’t until a poignant question by my therapist about stuck points that the rumination began to lessen and unwind.
“Did you pull the trigger on the gun that killed him?”
“So is it reasonable to say you didn’t kill him, the enemy killed him?”
“So even if you changed everything you could affect that day, he still could have died?”
I hope that the people that surround Josh Hamilton are effective in convincing him of his minor role in this tragedy. Could he have thrown the ball harder? Absolutely. But, there could have been a net installed below the seats, and there could have been a higher rail, and the gentlemen could have been wearing sneakers instead of flip-flops and he could have not reached for the ball and…. You get the point. I’m not saying it will be easy. The mind has an uncanny way of not letting us forget. I hope it gets easier quicker, and he is able to maintain his performance, and more importantly, his sobriety.