I dislike military holidays. There, I said it. Why? Because I still have a lot of healing and work to do on myself that makes these days very hard to deal with. I shudder a little bit inside, every time someone thanks me for my service. You’re welcome? Really? Are you? Are you just saying that? Do you even have the faintest idea what is churning and roiling within me, ripping and tearing, screaming at the crusty scabs on my heart and soul. I’m battling a black slime of self-doubt that envelopes me, a lie that sweetly whispers in my inner ear, “You’re worthless now, you’ll never wear your uniform again because you’re useless now. You will never feel wanted and respected again. You don’t even have a physical injury to garner sympathy, no one really believes you’re injured. No one really thinks you did your part. You have no scars to prove you served at all. You don’t deserve anyone’s gratitude, now you’re just a pathetic leech, cowering in the corner of the VA hospital waiting rooms. You’re just a whiner. Go crawl in a hole and die, because no one will miss you, they’ll be glad you’re no longer a drain on their resources.”
This is what I hear inside, nearly all time. And when its a bad day, when that voice gets louder and more persuasive sounding, it’s days like that, that I wish they would have just cashed that blank check I signed my life on. Then at least I’d have the honor of having died for something worthwhile, right?
I wish I could say that the only thing that get’s me through the rough times is my family, or my friends, or God’s faithful promises and love. But it’s not just one thing, it’s all those and more and it’s not easy. I often need to lay there and scream and cry it out in God’s presence because He’s the only one who can understand the depth of my pain. Jesus willingly stepped into Hell to battle for my soul and sometimes I’m the one who needs a reminder, in the same way that our countrymen need reminding that they have all these freedoms because others selflessly died and were tormented, for them. Everyday, is Memorial Day for me. Everyday. Not just today, not just Easter, not even every Sunday. EVERYDAY.
I miss my battle buddies. I miss the stupid “hurry up & wait” that was the Army in a nutshell. I miss the crappy food that gave me man farts at the most in opportune times. I miss the roar and rumble of a humvee trying to go highway speeds. I miss the little head games I played to stay awake on duty or in long, boring, pointless formations. I miss the smell of oil on my hands after cleaning an old M16A2 that hadn’t been touched in a coon’s age, and the feeling of pride that, that fourty-five minutes spent chipping the carbon off the firing pin was my doing and made it look like new, though no one gave a damn. I miss the comfort of my favourite pair of boots. I miss knowing what I was wearing to work everyday with no trouble. I even miss those 0300 PT formations, when it’s still chilly enough to leave you covered in goose bumps, and looking forward to the knee grinding slow run even though you hate it so much. I miss the snapping sound the flag makes when it’s unfurled and held out over the coffin. I miss the smell of the spray-on starch. I miss the feel of the green wool blankets. I miss the shoulder numbing weight of my ruck. I miss the boring and ugly manuals that haven’t been updated since my grandpa served. I miss looking to my left and catching a glimpse in the bottom of my vision, of my MP brassard. I miss standing in line to shake hands with the newest promotion and punching them right on their newly earned insignia. I miss how my cap fit, perfectly, after countless times of ranger rolling it, “just so”. I miss feeling like I mattered in my small way in the grand scheme of things and having everyone, even people I had never met, know it and respect it.
I miss so much of that life, but I have to learn to let it go. Remembering and missing things is one thing, but dwelling on them and never getting beyond them, is another. I don’t regret enlisting, but I do regret how I handled my life during that time and how much opportunity I missed out on because of being young and dumb, ready to party and the drop of a hat. Being that typical E-4 Specialist, ya know?
But God uses all things for good. He scooped me up in His arms when I had fallen to the dusty depths and wiped my tears, and keeps wiping them away when they come flooding back. I wouldn’t be who I am today without Him, and without having gotten kicked in the crotch by Life(not sharing this part today). I could have chosen differently, and I’d still be a wreck. But I chose Jesus, I figured it couldn’t get any worse and those people I knew who talked about Him like He was their friend, seemed a lot happier even when things were tough. So I decided to see if He’d be my friend. I had nothing left to lose. I was told I had PTSD, and all the stigma that goes with it. Anxiety, depression, flashbacks, insomnia, headaches, panic attacks that left me a quivering, blubbering mess on the bathroom floor. Jesus was right there with me the whole time, even if I was so lost feeling that I couldn’t even see Him. He’s still holding my hand as I type all this and get it off my chest. It’s been over five years since my attack, and my career dive bombing because of it. But I’m slowly learning that my worth is not in what uniform I wore, or whether I still can wear it, but it’s in the fact that I’m the Daughter of a mighty warrior King, I’m a soldier in His Army now, and I fight battles daily. Sure I don’t always do very well, but He’s got my back.
Especially when that silky voice starts telling me the lies I used to believe. Jesus puts His hand on my shoulder and turns me away, toward the light and tells me to just keep moving forward, let it fall behind, where it belongs. I have to keep moving. To stop is to accept my doom. It’s a daily battle. And I stumble a lot. Sometimes I have to focus so hard on just taking that next step, that I seem standoffish and rude to people. I don’t mean to be, just know that I’m struggling and it’s not you, it’s me. Ohhh how cliché. Remember that, when you genuinely thank me for my service and I have to let a growl cross my face and pass, clear my throat and finally reply, “You’re welcome.” I mean it, I was and still am proud to have served you, and would do so again in a heartbeat. I’m in a different Army now, where I get no thanks or recognition and that’s ok, I’m learning to be ok with that. I’m still serving you, I’m battling for your eternal soul now, and not just your physical bodies and ideals. I’m a warrior by nature, I’m still battling. Thank you God, for not giving up on me, for not sending me home with a discharge. Thank you for showing me I’m still worth something.