Monday, November 20, 2017, 0300 Hrs.
He tells me: “You did it, you did it, and you will never escape my voice, reminding that you did!”.
“He” being the demon who rides my back, looking over my shoulder and telling me that I am “not pristine, no matter my views on life’s importance.” He tells me that “even when I tried to save, I lost some of them, so I’m not such a lover of life after all!”
I hear this voice in my mind a lot. I did my best for all of them, I didn’t see any difference in any of them insofar as being in need of my help is concerned, I was trying to give them all that I could, in order that they could go on into a life. Of course, there were oases along the way. This is the life of a first-responder. Every day, we take the chance of coming home feeling that we weren’t good enough, fast enough, or brave enough.
Over the last couple of weeks, this demon has been yelling into my ears, shouting to me, letting me know that the show is not over yet.
The yelling started loudly almost two weeks ago with an early morning phone call. One of my friends had done the, unfortunately, “thinkable” for people like us. He had committed suicide! The shoulder demon went into full-volume screaming into my ear mode! “YOU FAILURE! YOU COULDN’T EVEN SAVE ONE OF YOUR OWN!”
The next day, I received two more calls telling me the same thing, and then Monday night, late, another! Four of the good guys were now gone, just wiped away from the planet, with very few who will ever know of the extent of their sacrifices and their dedication to a country, that at times had little good to say about or to them.
The voice was even more abrasive and even louder as it proclaimed the other three were gone into my mind. These were not guys that I knew, these were the guys who would have died for my life to go on and vice versa. This was a family who was thrown together by organizational randomness, who became indispensable to one another in ways I cannot begin to explain properly.
We were young men, just more than kids when we met for the first time. We had to train together, get to know one another and become usable as a team, very few groups come together to get this right from the start, but this group did it, and they did it with zeal, pleasure, and motivation to outdo one another for the good of the group, not for individual glory! We knew we would never be known, we just wanted to make sure that if the sh*t hit the fan, we’d all come home together and alive!
Even in training, the demon starts his bullsh*t! telling us that we would “fail”, and that we were “wasting our time!” we didn’t buy into the pain that was causing us to hear this, it was just a time when we had to get used to a new way of living and reacting to environmental changes. The deal was simple: it would one day come down to us, and no one else, to get the jobs done, and we were not about to let any one of the others suffer due to our lack of focus and expertise. We did the skunk work, we learned the boring stuff because it all added up to the whole we would need if the day came and we had to do it for real.
A lack of necessarily selfish respect for oneself has to often be forgotten when you become a part of a group, and a military squad is definitely one of the most important of all groups I can think of. Their unified movements and reactions have no second chance to get it right, to practice and to train, is the only time to hit reset and do it over again, when the real stuff is going down, it’s right, or you’re dead!
Making it home was the end of a bunch of factors that have little meaning to anyone who has never had to be so reliant upon the fearlessness of others, but you can have an idea of what it is that I am talking about. If one part falls apart, the car won’t run, and you could find yourself stuck in a very precarious situation. We made sure together, that this would not be an issue. We would carry one another on each other’s backs if it were how it had to be done. And there were several times when this was the case!
I realized over the past few days that I am pissed off at the demon because he won a set, and I didn’t think that anyone of us, was as weak as I had become that day couple of years ago when I was on the verge of doing “it”! I want to go to war against the demon now. I want a piece of his ass. A trophy to mount in memory of four GOOD men, who gave all that they could, and more than they should at times. My God, I can’t believe that pain of this sort is real for me again!
Smiles that I can’t ever forget, will haunt my mind as I try not to forget the people they were. Time and new memories can do a lot to replace or at least to make I difficult to remember the minute details of the people we’ve known, with a few, but very few, exceptions to this rule of life. Time does NOT heal ALL wounds, or we wouldn’t be here, talking about why we’re feeling not as whole as we should be!
I need these guys now because I want to go to war with this bastard demon, and it is because of their losses that I want to do so! Not having them at my back, makes me feel vulnerable and less than able than I am already! Few will live to know the invincibility we felt together as a group. We were ready to take on the devil and his minions themselves if it were necessary to have done so, and all of this, because we knew our asses were covered!
This week, as a matter of fact, is the week of Thanksgiving day in America. I have lost family this year, and then I have lost brothers who are irreplaceable, a piece of me, is in the grave this week. I have been sick for a while and fighting not to give in. these were four pillars, four inspirational sources, who lost a battle with their own demons, and now, I will carry on their fights, I will take theirs on, I know this because it’s personal for me. And I’m not the only one who feels this way.
We’ve said our “goodbyes” in the way that we do, and now, we’re all ready to face the fact, that none of us is immune to getting tired enough now, to give in and give up. We’re not those kids who met up thirty years ago, we’re middle-aged men, some of whom (me in particular) who are watching life slip slowly away without anything I can do to stop its progressive slide toward the edge of the ending of my own life. We’re fathers, grandfathers, and friends.
But yesterday afternoon when we met, we were just kids, who were sizing up the others, to see if there was something special to be said about any of them. Now as time has gone on. We’ve been godfathers to each other’s kids, uncles to our brothers from other mothers’ children, pallbearers to children who have passed on to the final reward. A family who were brought together by circumstances that happened because we each signed a piece of paper one day. An incidental coming together of like-minded persons.
God help me to erase my desire to fight this demon, let me live in peace with memories that still bring a smile to my face and uplift my spirits when I’m feeling low.
And I thank God for something else here as well: Sue, Journey, Kate, Natalie, Tim, Paul, Moxie, Debra, Naj, Banned tweets and others who have become significant, and no less indispensable to my peace of mind.
But as for this moment: I am declaring war on that demon who has chosen to look over my shoulder! I will pray myself out of it, I hope, but if I can’t, I’m sure my “frontline of defense” will be there for me!