It was a dark rainy, wet evening when I started out. By the time I got to Manhattan, Kansas there was a thunderstorm announcing my arrival like I had never seen before. Lightening struck the ground like Thor up above was sending down lightening and it was the last days. Many days ahead I would feel like it was the last days.
Not long after I arrived, he would tell me he was leaving to go to Saudi Arabia. He was going to fight in, "Operation Desert Storm." Nice how they left the word war out of the title. It was also nice how my newly married husband left out he had been handed orders to go to the war as soon as he got there. I only found this out years later. Now he will swear he told me this at the time.
But I know he told me this weeks after I arrived and two weeks before he would be deployed. He never really came back. How differently he came back and what I experienced with my husband over the last twenty years was more than most could have dealt with. I have remained his wife. And I will remain his wife. As I write this accounting of what happened I am sure to be told how stupid I am. I have loved him through it all. And this is the story of US.
It is the story of how we got to where we are and what happens when you take away from a man his ability to believe there will ever be a better world. How he deals with it. What he does to himself and his family. What it is like to live with someone who has Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. And how you find yourself at every corner lost and astray stumbling in the dark to help the one you love. And dealing with the bitterness you have for your own government.
When I arrived in Manhattan the rain was streaming down along with lightening and thunder like an omen of what was to come. Our relationship would furthermore remind my of Kansas thunderstorms. And for anyone who does not know what a Kansas thunderstorm is like, imagine a thunderstorm where there is no calm in between the lightening and thunder. Imagine a storm where the cracking of the lightening on the ground is like the Arch Angel Michael throwing fire on the ground.
Many warriors our government makes start off in Fr. Riley Kansas. They are the Big Red One, 1/5, they are strong, and they fear not when they walk through the shadow of death. And if they do, they don’t even admit this to themselves. They are the strong and the brave, the first to walk into line to go into Baghdad and the first told to return. They saw the horror no one was suppose to talk about. And they did not. We heard about it when they were too drunk to care anymore and throwing us against the walls because they had forgotten time and space, we had turned into the enemy.
The warriors were between eighteen and nineteen and when they returned to their wives so were the enemies every time they got drunk. And sometimes just when they dreamt about the nightmare of their lives in Iraq. What did they see you wonder? I have wondered if I will be breaking any laws to tell the truth? But I just don’t care anymore because I want the truth to be told.
For just a glimpse of what he saw imagine, dead bodies piled higher than buildings. Imagine looking into the face of children that were lying there blown to pieces. Imagine sitting in the hospital with a broken arm while an old man is dying and the doctor says you are the priority soldier, come with me, but my husband had honor and for this I am proud of him. He said, “No you take the dying man first.” And they did. But imagine a world where the priorities in life and death only depend on your status as combatant and non-combatant. This is some of what he saw in Iraq.
And when he came back, the man who left was not present. He was just a shell of the man I married. Throughout the years I have seen the man I married leave and return more times than I care to count. I have pleaded and begged God to help. He now takes medication. The medication makes him better in some terms but in others lost is his ability to see life in terms of the living. In some ways those who come back from the war have left apart of them in that country where they went to fight, kill, destroy, and ultimately to win for our country.
On the night of February 26, 1991, the division my husband was deployed in fought the enemy forces and destroyed two of the enemies units. Enemy losses was more than forty tanks and forty infantry fighting vehicles for the enermy. The division my husband served in utilized this success to continue to demoralize the Iraqui forces and push forward. He has of yet to talk to me about this night. I have a degree in history. I am sure he realizes I know of this. Still I have not brought it up, it seems too personal to him, but perhaps the demon that causes so much trouble in our lives.
The flesh returns but where is the soul that left. Does our government have the right to steal it or is that written in the definition of a warrior? Do they lose the ability to care about hurt feelings? Does the war effect their emotional state to such an extent they are no longer who they were when they left and there is no hope of getting that person back? I don’t know but I intend on re-tracing our footsteps to see if there is something I missed and if we are capable of living, loving, and going on as a couple and now a family.
I intend on putting parts of battles and the timeline of the, “Desert Storm” into this story. I want to show how propaganda on the home front with the songs like “Can’t Touch This,” which referred to our troops when in the end many did die and still are in this war that has now went into Central Asia and Afghanistan and talks of having to change the life of how the average American lived due to oil shortages affected the mindset of the ordinary American surrounding deployment of troops. In the end, it has left of stripped of our constitutional rights and it is tearing our young men apart. But this story is ours. It is one case study of an individual and how his life has changed because of war.