Monthly Archives: August 2012

When Immortals Die: the stages of grief

Fiddlers’ Green in my minds eye

I don’t think any of us went into combat expecting anyone around us to die.  That was for someone else to do.  Then, someone did, and the ability to process and handle that fact had to be experienced and learned.  It was not covered in regs.  As these wars progressed, we developed a drill and a procedure.  Still, some losses for units and communities hurt more.  They cut deeper and bleed harder.

The Immortals

There were always some Leaders who stood out.  All Soldiers are special to me, but some just made you feel at ease.  They were Leaders who carried themselves through the conflicts leaving a trail of disciples who could do nothing but try to be more like their champion.  They had an instinct to time a smile or quip perfectly.  They inspired us to carry on through all the shit, (and there was a lot of shit.)  They were so good as to be clichés defining greatness yet did not use clichés themselves.  They were the Immortals.  They were untouchable in all of our minds.

When they fall they leave a crater.  I have lost a few throughout my Army career and some after I exited.

This week, we lost another two.  The Leaders killed this week are different in many ways from others lost in this conflict.  But, this groups stings more because they were targeted specifically because of their rank, position and influence.  They are the definition of an Immortal.

The Stages of Grief

The flurry of facebook posts and impromptu memorials is critical at this time.  Unfortunately, with two wars over a decade the small military community is familiar with the stages of grief.

Personally, if you stack up my grief there are smatterings of memorials in my own mind hovering in different places.  Some people get tucked away at this stage or that, some will start to move again with these new additions to the pack.  They all hold a special place in my heart.  I mourn them as deeply as I can feel about anything.

I think the thing I want to highlight at this time is that this is a process that will move at its own pace.  For some of us a few degrees away, it may move quicker.  For those close, it will probably take more time.  For the Soldiers and Leaders in the real world, (read Afghanistan) I hope you can find the time to mourn appropriately and carry on.  The rest of us here will muddle through.

I expect everyone to do their part, large or small, to help the families of the fallen.  When Immortals die, we all must do what we can to honor them and carry their memory forward.

How you can help

This page is set up specifically for one of the fallen.

Please contribute and share what you can.


Its not you, its me: Anger and #PTSD

And once again I find myself in a familiar place: staring at a blinking cursor in the middle of the night and wide awake.  I am alert.  Angry.

I think the ghosts of years past, especially my time in combat, echo this time of night.  In the bustle of work and family life each day I cannot hear them.  Hell, my wife will tell you I cannot hear anything.

But here I am. In the quiet and it is like they are screaming at me.

I have gotten use to being awake.  Well, that’s not true.  I think I have managed to cope with being awake.  Apparently the brave face I put on each day is a veil that is cracking.

It’s not you, its me

I have been told by no less than four different people in the past week I come across pissed off most of the time.

Them: “Are you ok?”

Me, fake smiling into the phone:  “Yeah why?”

Them:  “You just seem so pissed off and I want to make sure it is not me…”

Me: Sigh…

To be honest, I was surprised the first few times I heard it.  And here I thought I was blowing sunshine out my ass most days.  In combat I started “False Motivation Fridays” because false motivation is better than no motivation.  In the work place, with civilians who offend easily and most times have little clues or reminders about my plight, I work hard at pretending I am not angry most of the time.  I thought I was putting on my happy face.  My patience, after days of little sleep and stress from work and family, wears to a nub and the anger seeps through.

I need my job.  I need to support my family.  I am grateful, in a crap economy that I even have one.  I am even more grateful that I have one that really fits with my lifestyle given my new normal.  It gives me something different to focus on.

I try to execute patience with a deck stacked against me.  Ninety-nine percent of the time I don’t want to open up to my experiences in combat that keep me awake and on guard.  That is for my therapist and a select few who genuinely care.  Some days though, I want to drag everyone down into the mud and gore with me for a peek.  I want them to see the bodies just long enough to get me some breathing room and lend explanation to this fact:  I was not always like this.  War made me this way.

So, I thought about what is it that is really making me pissed?  I think it is that I am still wrestling with a lot of emotions.  My therapist had once said that men who are angry are really just depressed about something else.  On the surface, I really cannot think of anything that I am depressed about.  But, down in the deep, there is plenty that is still being resolved.

And so, on many days, I can dissipate the anger before it shows.  Unfortunately, there are some days when I cannot stop the bubble to the surface.  Please know that most of the time, it’s not you, it’s me.