I am honored to call myself a veteran.
Even though my time in active service was not as long as other vets, the hardships and struggles that happened while serving has scarred me for life. I have PSTD from my service and it effects every part of my life.
My PTSD is from the way I was trained by our government – trained so that both the safety of the soliders and the safety of the people we might have given our lives for were safe. I was trained to, in the blink of an eye, act out the direct orders of the president for the good of everyone. Living with these memories is a constant nightmare that I cannot wake up from. The stresses that trigger this are as unique as every solider is, having to do with the amount of time served, as well as the type of service.
I served during the war called Desert Storm. I never saw sand, but was on constant alert to be shipped at any time. I was being trained as an Aviation Electronics Specialist, with the rank of 2nd class chief petty officer. In my training, I was trained to lose everything that is normal in civilian life. I was remolded as a number, a soldier that the government can control. I learned that all that mattered was the protection of others.
Earlier wars (like for my dad who served in the Marine Corps during the Cuban missile crisis) had stronger challenges and hardships to bear. In Desert Storm, we had to deal with knowing that, if you were on the ground, you would see inhumane acts like child suicide bombers strapped with explosives – and sometimes that child would exploding right in front of a soldier. These soldiers also saw children trained at young age to carry a weapon to kill any U.S. solider they saw.
I live with this every day. When conflict comes up in my life, I flash back to my training. I feel that I do not matter, that I am just a machine, and that the needs of others are more important than mine. I am trained to not think – because, in time of war, if we think, we are dead. If we are given the order to move away from another fellow solider, we act. If we do not, we could die from an incoming grenade.
I lean on faith as my anchor – it keeps the demons away. The Lord saves me.
I salute all fellow vets that are here, both not in service and currently serving. I also give a deeper respect for all the soldiers who are not here. Out of unconditional respect and love for all who we protect, they have passed on. They are the truest heroes.
The last thought I will be leaving with you is this: when we answer the call to serve and to protect all unconditionally, we give our lives to be changed in a manner which transforms each person so much that, after the war ends, we can never be the same as before we entered into service. We continue to face the horrors of service every second of the day. With the thoughts of the killing and acts of violence, we cry every night, for we never wanted to take the life of another.
But if we had to, we did so that you can be free and not have to worry.