Story 1 – From the wife of a veteran
“Your only option is to take him to the VA in Cheyenne, WY miss,” the VA helpline operator tells me. My husband of all of three months had become a shell of his former self overnight. He had gone from a hardworking, compassionate, independent man to someone whose hands tremor so badly he can’t tie his own shoes and has night terrors so vivid he is often hoarse the next morning.
Story 2: “I’ve never escaped”
“All men who go to war die kid, anybody who comes back, well they came back cheated.”
In a poorly lit bunker that stunk of smoke, strong alcohol and vomit, that was something that one of hardened GI’s said to me the first night I was deployed. Its stuck with me all these years, more years than you have probably been alive for Mr Nolan.
War, I believe, dare not be commented on by those who has yet to experience it. Until you kill other human beings for survival, what could you possibly say about it? It assaults all your scenes, the smell of death and the machines that cause it. Noises so loud you feel like an ant under a lawnmower. It is incomprehensible.
During my deployment (to a country that wasn’t officially at war) Children, woman, teenagers and men alike all met an indiscriminate end at my hand. On my best days I tell myself I killed to survive, on my worst my mind tells me I committed acts of madness so that i didn’t go mad.
There are a lot of grudges that I hold close to my heart, in some sense it means that I will always be at war. At war with my actions, at war with my survival, at war with suits who tell you that you kill for a good cause and that we (the west) were/are the good guys.
I know you asked for stories of veterans dealing VA and I’m not one of them, hell I’m almost as far away from The United States as you can possibly get. But today I couldn’t escape what i had done more than 40 years ago. Although I came back, I’ve never escaped. And although i survived, how much of me died in the piece of shit swamp?
I may have cheated death, but just like that Joe prophetically said in smoke fueled haze all those years ago, life has cheated me.
Story 3: US Veteran of Iraq War
I am a veteran of several trips to Iraq.
I have been diagnosed with fairly severe PTSD. I can still function and work. Some days I have to go and sit in my car because I just feel out of control of my own emotions.
God bless my boss who knows about my situation but employs me and covers for me, but there are usually several days a month where my wife has to make sure she and my toddler son basically need to stay away from me because I can get pretty emotionally unstable for reasons I still can’t explain because I have yet to really put a better finger on my triggers.
After leaving the military, I spent almost a decade fucking, fighting, and having random emotionally erratic episodes and just chalking it up to drinking (I became a drunk) and partying (my family and friends noticed a marked difference in me, but were too worried to mention it to me (temper issues)).
It wasn’t until I left my psycho, alcoholic ex-gf (nothing worse than living in a co-dependent bubble that you don’t even know you’re in), that I found someone (my wife) and I learned normal human behavior and how love should actually work.