So here I am, two years out from the end of this “Afghan adventure” and at the beginning of what has been a far harder and more purposeful walk. I had written a series of newsletters and a mere two years later, I have transitioned from a path of uneven dusty rocks to fields of endless ambrosia. I’m in America! “Go anywhere, do anything”, they say. “It’s all there for you to go and do”… they say. Yet, I am a foreigner in my own house, an alien in my neighborhood. Friends have moved, married and had children. Abundance is everywhere and it makes me shameful. Connor is not a baby. I can barely get my pants on, my body hurts so much….
I have returned. Returned to my Kingdom only to find a Demon has come in with me. I am not sure where or when I acquired Him. Perhaps it was when I was afraid to depart the plane when I arrived home? We were at the gate in Orlando, the journey was completely and forever over. Could I have picked Him up then, left by another traveler? The silence was deafening in my head. There was an emptiness in my hart. I was home yet, I wanted to go back to Kabul…. What am I thinking?! There are people waiting to welcome me home. I don’t want to see anyone. I want to be left alone. I don’t know these people any more, I don’t know who I am any more…. The Delta agents were very kind. While they had no idea what was playing out in my head, they were understanding of my need to sit for a few moments, take a deep breath and let the reality settle in, I made it home. I slow walked through the empty airport terminal. Nothing was broken, except me. One year later I called every one of those who came that night and thanked them. To this day I am still uncomfortable with having people there. Crawling into a hole still seems like a better plan.
This Demon, It was certainly not bought in a local Afghan shop like Gizmo. No, this one must have snuck in while I was not looking. I have yet to see Him but I can sense He is there, all the time. Always watching, always smiling as he plays out his crippling unseen ruse against me. He is a great burden. He forces me to carry Him all around. At times I am light on my feet, other times I am being crushed by His immense strength over me as he places the world on my chest . I wish so desperately to set Him down, to throw Him into an abyss, to run far far away and never look back….
To rest completely….
To stop memories from invading my day.
Always do what you are afraid to do – Ralph Waldo Emerson
There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about Siaed. Even now I become a stumbling and bumbling fool when I try to write or speak about him. Two years out and I still have not come to grips with it. I fought so hard for him. The small group I was a part of, fought so hard for him and watched him succumb to Afghan apathy and American PC before any disease could take him. He lost his life before we were even given a chance to save him. Siaeds story is but one story in a long list of abuses perpetrated against the helpless soldiers of this forgotten land.
Afghan hospital policy states that all medications will be provided to a soldier. The Afghan MD’s required that Padar (Siaeds father) buy medications from the bazaar. Those shops are likely owned by those same physicians or their families. Patients being sent to buy the stollen American medications that were originally intended for the Afghan hospital is nothing more than abuse. Padar spent over $1000 of his own money with no chance of being recompensed. In the end his family spent multiple YEARS worth of savings while the US was not going to encourage it be paid back and the Afghans just didn’t care. When I pressed the issue of seeking a higher level of care for Siaed I was told no. Not that it was a bad idea but that it would make the Afghans look bad. Their words, not mine. What’s a life worth?
I must be quiet, He is closer. The stories to be told here are a bitter apothecary syrup.
You cannot save people, you can only love them. – Anais Nin
Siaed doesn’t haunt me. He reminds me every day how the real evil is willful injustice for personal gain perpetrated against a vulnerable population. How millions of US dollars were spent to aid the soldiers and it was stollen. The theft was known by us, we let it continue. Waste? Fraud? Abuse? All of the above. We let Afghans steal your tax dollars and in return they let their countrymen die. Medications bought were diverted by Afghan officials and sold, monies kept by those same corrupt Afghan officials. Medical supplies were diverted to Officers personal medical clinics and sold to the citizenry. Counterfeit medications were empathetically administered to the soldiers who suffered and died, all for what? I stood by and watched larceny and murder play out every day.
Do not be alarmed. These issues were investigated by Congress. Inspector General investigations were conducted. Our own General (Lt General Caldwell) was found guilty of obstructing IG’s access to the individuals who knew the most. He broke the LAW and still got to retire as a 3-star general. I saw my seniors (Carozza, Fassl, Geller) testify in Congress to the truth, I saw HIM in their eyes. My God! He is everywhere! He fears the truth will get out.
When everything feels like an uphill struggle, think of the view from the top! – Unknown
I remember on Christmas Eve in 2010, we sat on a C17 in Kuwait, He knocked at the door, no one moved. Was I the only one who heard it? Show no weakness I though…. The doors remained closed as we slowly lifted off, no one would have opened the door anyways had they known what He is capable of. We landed, safely. Christmas day was to begin! Peacefully relaxing into the arms of Christ. But, He followed me, He knows I’m here. He must have ridden on these wings of freedom. No? He was here the whole time…. The doors opened, I took a big breath of Bagram air….
Greek legend has it that when a baby is born, their first breath, charges their spirit, the soul. That breath is literally breathing a part of the cosmos into their bodies. The smell in Bagram is distinct, the world is on fire. This is not the homey fire smell your nose embraces on a cool and windy fall evening in New Hapshire…. No, this is an acidic plastic fiery smell that burns your nasal passages and tightens your lungs. Pneuma had changed my soul, infected it, blackened it. In one breath I grew up and died. The light of innocence left my eyes. It left all of our eyes. I was to now begin a far more dangerous fight for Afghanistan and to secure my spirit, my Kingdom.
For a month I blew my nose and black soot came out. Two years later the smell lingers in my nose and my head.
I wonder if Mothers cry as their sons and daughters embark on Wars journey not because they are seeing their child off to unimaginable dangers but because they know their child will never be the same? Their bundled, innocent, baby will hopefully come home but, they will never have their son or daughter back. They are now different, broken and disposable to the casual observer. The innocence and depth of ones eyes are forever lost to, Him. Sands between your toes in a raging river.
The first holiday home I had was Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is a holiday I really enjoy! I loved spending time with my family. Traveling to Connecticut to see my cousins, playing bumper-pool. Cheering for the Cowboys! Feeling sorry for the Lions. We were so loved there. Our biggest concern was a hated 2 hour drive home. Today in Florida, that Demon…
We sat at the dinner table, three of us, quietly. I didn’t have much to say, I have been speaking a different language called Silence. In Florida, thousands of miles from Afghanistan, His grasp still tightened around my chest and throat. This sense of fear, panic, longing, sadness, it swallowed me. It had been swallowing me, eating at me from sun up to sun down and sun down to sun up. I can feel His venom raise up my neck into my face. I am under his spell, thy will be done. Im black, cold, empty on the inside. I’m uncomfortable in my skin. I could run. Where would I go? I can hardly put my shoes on. I am not sure I can breath! I try to breathe, I can. Yet, I have no sense of relief from a cleansing exhale. Logic pails in comparison to His power and speed. Everyone is looking at me, I have shown too much. This is how I know He is getting ever so close….
“What’s wrong with you?”
It was always nothing. Show no weakness. The more I talk the easier it is for Him to find me. I don’t know where He comes from. Doesn’t He know I am not there any longer? I left there, I wanted to leave Him there! STOP THINKING ABOUT THAT PLACE, HE WILL FIND…..
He’s here, it’s happening again.
The Thanksgiving table was set nicely. Ample food for 10 people and enjoyed by 3. It disgusted me, He squeezed tighter. I spent 11 LONG months watching soldiers starve to death every day and here I am, enjoying a meal that the Afghans may never have seen. It has only to do with where I was born, a lucky win.
One small crack does not mean you are broken. It means you were put to the test and didn’t fall apart. – Linda Poindexter
Demons like Him frolic in weakness. They thirst for fear and feast on panic. I will not be another one of His apathetic fallen but, every day I slide closer to Him despite my inner objections. I will not let on that I am struggling. This plays out over, and over, and over again. Soon I am the problem and, am not “better”. The divide is obvious. Those I should trust, I can’t. I trust only one person, Connor. He doesn’t judge, he plays. He loves me and helps beat Him back. Connor is an answer. My battle buddy. I have no desire to do anything I used to love but, I can watch the innocence of his play all day. I so envy him.
While I was first home Connor and I were out walking a path when a LOUD clap came from behind us. It was probably some construction but to me it was a gun shot. GET OFF THE X! I grabbed Connor and rolled over him. We came to rest below the path in a small ditch. Heads down reaching for my gun, nothing. The venom is climbing again…. Reaching for my phone, STOP! A BOX! IED! Its a trap set by Him. Grabbing Connor I jump the path and slide down the knoll, heads down. I have skinned knees and elbows, Connor is unharmed and confused.
Use your phone I think.
Make the call for help I think.
They will surely see your weak. He will move in faster and farther.
My phone stays in my pocket….
All this in Orlando. No more shots heard. We were never under attack. I rolled off of Connor and he climbed on my chest. I felt stupid, He got me again. Who am I? Connor gave me a hug and patted my shoulder as if to say, “Its ok Dad, I’ve got your back.”
For months when I saw an unattended bag at a seat in a restaurant, a box on the side of a road, or a backpack I thought about explosions. To this day I pause when I see a cup placed on a walk way. It may be just a case of a litter-bug to you but, to me that represents a very nasty sting. I avoid them all, walking around. Once I tried to pick one up and throw it away, His grip holding my sweaty hand back. That fear I didn’t lose and I won’t face it yet.
For now, I carry Him. I show no signs of his presence. He lives in a nice small box, out of the way. He gets out from time to time and reminds me of memories from Afghanistan. Do not fear Him, He is my burden and it is not a communicable pestilence. You can’t fix me, I’m not broken just different.
What matters most is how well you walk through the fire. – Charles Bukowski
Listen and you shall hear a story of a Kingdom that sent its Warrior to War and found he came home with a Demon. How the Warrior had to learn to embrace a true Warrior spirit to fight enemies abroad and that enemy inside, The Demon. The fight continues every day in the harts of all service members but, I’ll be ok. I’ve got Connor, Jackson, and Holly. Turns out love, truth, justice, and patience are Apothecaries against Him.
Its a very difficult way but, its the only way,
A Warriors Way