The babies are down for a nap, the older ones gone to school, my spouse is gone to work to earn the money I cannot. On the television YouTube is playing a random play list based on Five Finger Death Punch. Images of Soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan flash by.
As I am tidying the kitchen my thoughts wonder, and the demons of war slip out of their bonds. Memories of a foreign country, with a foreign people and culture flood back. The feelings of fear and terror, the memory of the adrenaline all rush back. My heart quickens, my senses are released from their bonds. I can feel the air moving, even the flicker of a bird’s wings outside draw my attention.
As the memories and emotions force their way to the surface, the demons hitch a ride. I feel the pain of losing brothers and sisters as if it was the day they were taken, I can see the sight picture down my rifle. My Finger can feel the trigger’s resistance. The prayers echo in my head, pleading for whomever to stop. I can remember the conscious decision to pull the trigger. The image clear as if I was there. I can see the imaginary line in the sand, the one that if crossed would change lives forever. I can remember the feeling of relief as my target turns away.
Then in a flash, the demon strikes. The target changes into a puff of red mist as my rounds turn his skull into mush. That’s what should have happened says the demon. You should have killed, you were trained to kill, meant to kill. Shame on you. I try to argue back about Rules of Engagement, the demon simply taunts me back.
My defenses down, another demon strikes. Life has become so complicated, so much has gone wrong. The plan has been deviated from, the schedule all but destroyed. Bills to pay, children to raise, a spouse who deserves attention and affection and a house to maintain. Different rules to follow. Everyone is working for themselves and not for the greater good. There is no clear mission. Trust has become a commodity, loyalty as rare as the most rarest metal on earth. Family who are anything but. Where is the purpose? What is the mission. There is no mission, no more purpose. All is lost. I would have been better off not returning home from the wars.
Then another thought emerges one that comes with a sense of purpose. I want to go back. Back to the desert, to the fear and the adrenaline. Back to where there was a sense of purpose and being. Where we had a mission. Life was, in some ways, simpler. You had a routine, everyone knew their jobs and their place. We all worked for the greater good, for the completion of the mission. The constant fear is what kept us alive. We learned to harness it, to use it as just another tool. Fear is what kept us alive. It allowed our senses to rise to a level, only those who have been there can understand.
I want to go back, I need to go back but I cannot go back, I am home now, my National Service terminated due to my health. I cannot go back to that life. Yet I no longer fit into this one. I am stuck in the middle of nowhere caught between two worlds. None of which wants me, both of which needs me. I was a soldier, I was a Medic and I was good at both. Now I am neither. But I am not a civilian either, I have seen to much, I have witnessed the horrors of war, I know the truth about the dangers we face.
I have a wife and children who care for me. I have a responsibility to them. My new job is to be here for them, to be the husband and father I wasn’t. But I want to go back. Every fiber of my being needs to go back to that life. I would give almost anything to go back. To put the uniform on once more, to again have that sense of purpose and belonging. Even knowing the price would be to lose all that I hold dear, I still want to go back.