Tuesday, February 5, 2008

unwanted feelings

I turned the radio up so that I couldn't possibly hear anything else and notched the speedometer to just a tick under 100 mph. I was on my way to work at around 9pm and upset about something; nothing calms me down quite like deafeningly loud music and driving fast.

It was about 9 months or so after I originally got out of the Army, and I still had these uneasy feelings of guilt that came crashing down over me. They were usually triggered by a news report or hearing from one of my buddies still deployed. It would start as a little pang of guilt and quickly work itself into a full storm of anger on top of guilt. I wasn't even sure what I felt so bad about, which is what brought the anger on. I served a year in Afghanistan, I did my time honorably. Why should I feel bad about not having to go through all that again?

My initial decision to leave the military was a tough one, but I never had any real doubt about what I wanted. The biggest, and most obvious reason for me to get out was to start a family, which would be pretty tough to do if I was deploying every other year. There were other reasons though, and plenty of them. Still, a ridiculous deployment schedule was far and away reason numero uno.

The hardest part, though, was leaving the people. There is nothing in the world like the bond that gets formed between people in the military. The collective act of embracing the suck together forms bonds that are nearly impossible in any other organization. Try spending 10 rainy days in the box (also know as the training area) with 20 guys in the swamp-like conditions at Ft Polk and you'll know what I mean.

Of course, breaking that bond can have some pretty tough consequences. Sure, Soldiers PCS (permanent change of station) and change units all the time, but your not really breaking the bond because you go on to form new ones. So when I left the military, and all of my military friends deployed again to either Iraq or Afghanistan, I felt like the biggest dirt ball on earth. How could I be happy with my new car and house and wife when my friends were 6000 miles away embracing the suck together, again?

So I stopped watching the news. Didn't even pick up a newspaper. Listened to alot of sports radio. I still kept in contact with my friends who were deployed, but kept it to once a month or so. Then my best friend, Mark, got recalled off the IRR and I almost lost it. At that point I had a pretty firm grip on my choice and was even starting to feel truly happy about it, but the news that he would have to go back into Active Duty after over a year of being out was tough to swallow. So the cycle started up for me again. The random feelings of guilt and anger that would cycle on and off, pissing me off even more when I couldn't just be happy for what I had.

Eventually, though, that subsided as well. It happened more toward the end of Mark's deployment, when all my other friends were home and had subsequently ETSd (Expiration of Term of Service) themselves. One day, though, I had this sudden realization that I not only accepted my decision to get out, I was happy about it. I mean, my job was going great, Rachael and I were as happy as a couple could be and were thinking about starting a family. I had a lot of hope that when Mark got home for good, I could finally be rid of the nagging guilt I seemed to carry around with me all the time.

I never got the chance to see if that was the case, though. Soon after I accepted happiness I got a letter in the mail. I guess I wouldn't have a choice about feeling guilty for anything. Looking back, I laugh at what I felt and even how I phrase it as "accepting happiness". I mean, seriously, did it really have to be that difficult?


LT Nixon said...

You did your time, no need to feel guilty bro! Think of all the people our age who haven't done shit. I think I'm going to cope with getting out of the service by locking myself in a room with a lot of beer and access to the internet. Just a thought.

verybadcat said...

I can kind of understand why you feel guilty leaving. On the other hand, when you're done, you've fulfilled your responsibility to your country. You then have a responsibility to enjoy your life and your wife. :)

You are not an emotional tool. You're a thinker and a feeler, and I dig it, Jason, I really do.

David M said...

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 02/05/2008 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.

unhappycamper said...

I'll echo what the Lt. said.

You've done your time. Now make time for yourself.

Anonymous said...

I can only imagine the terrible feeling of being a human rope in the tug of war you feel, where your two worlds are pulling at your emotions. Just try and remember that there will always be problems that need fixing, there will always be people dying for a cause, you are one person, it is impossible for you to do it all. And, unfortunatly there will always be people in your life you will have to say good bye to, just never forget them! Take comfort in the fact that you have done more than most people, you have tried even when you didn't want to and done your best, and you have made many, many sacrifices for your country and your job. Its hard to accept that your friends will stay behind, but it is time for you to be a little selfish and enjoy what you have accomplished and relish in the future and all it holds for you! Don't ever feel guilty for being happy, everyone deserves to be happy. Happiness is all a matter of perspective and looks different for everyone. I know easier said than done, but when you are feeling angry about being home when others aren't remember that you were there for them and now you are going to be there for Rachael, your most important commrad!
See you soon. Love, Erin.

HUGGINS said...

Never regret your decision to live happy in your home! Never feel guilty because those who decide to remain in the service are called forth to do which they have made a sworn committment to do! Feel the freedom afforded us, by what you have done! No one will ever be able to say you didn't defend freedom, live in it by enjoying being around those you love very much!

Anonymous said...

Don't feel bad about it. DON'T!! you have a life; so live it.

Joe Donato said...

.....You’re a man of honor, an American who has successfully gave safety and security to the mothers, fathers, sons and daughters of this great land. Others may go on, some will leave, but all have the same common goal, duty, honor and country.

God bless you and all that have served.

Jo Castillo said...

I agree with Joe Donato. You do what makes you feel good at this point in your life. We appreciate all you have done, pass the baton.