Until this blog, I never talked much about the war, or specific things that I did. It's a shame because you'd think I would be proud of being a part of what may be considered the most successful war ever fought in U.S. history. But I'm not proud of everything. They say war is hell, but you don't really know what hell is until you go through it. Maybe I didn't talk about the war because I knew that awful question, "Did you kill anyone?" would eventually come up. I worked hard at forgetting much of what went on. There are things that I wouldn't dare mention publicly, even in this blog. Oh yes, there is much more to the story than I have revealed, but I stated in the very beginning, I didn't want this to be another war story, so I focused mainly on what needed to be revealed. You don't really want to know every detail. You might think you do, but you are better off not knowing. Some things are too gruesome. Some things are too depressing. And some things are too shocking. The mind is a dangerous place when it harbors such thoughts. It's better never to have them than to try to get rid of them.
I had to work hard to forget things and had to work just as hard to remember certain things that I wanted to include in my posts. I knew the risks though. I knew by going back and reliving the experience would not just bring back memories I wanted to keep, but the ones I wanted to forget.
For a long time I struggled with certain things. I struggled with things as a Marine, as a person, and as a Christian. As a Marine, I struggled with knowing that I survived the war and others, like Pacman, and Lang didn't. Why did they have to die? It wasn't even enemy fire that killed them. I think about if that were me in Pacman's humvee when it was hit. I think about the pilot that launched that missile and wonder how he is dealing with it all. I think about the possibility of the grenade going off in my hands as I was trying to retrieve it from my pack, instead of it going off and killing Michael Lang. I think about Pacman and Lang's family, though I don't know them, and what they must suffer through every year on the anniversary of their death, or birthdays or holidays.
As a person, I struggled with inner peace and temperament. Before leaving Saudi Arabia, I saw a military psychologist. We discussed a few things until he finally asked me one simple question: "What do you fear the most about going back home?" My answer was, "I'm afraid that I'm going to be quick tempered." I had already seen it a couple of times. I had thoughts about killing another Marine that was getting on my nerves. Thank God I never acted upon that. I was ready to fight another Marine over a card game. I lost my temper and used profanity for the first time since being deployed. My temperament was never the same as before the war.
As a Christian I struggled with how to handle war in general and killing specifically. I can hear all the quotes from the Bible, "Thou shalt not kill." I can hear the anti-war demonstrators refer to us as killers. I wonder if the enemy was shooting at them, if they would return fire. I had to deal with this for the past twenty five years. I know that God can forgive me, but how do I forgive myself?
I hear the answer to that question in a song from one of my favorite artists, MercyMe. In their song titled Grace Wins, they wrote:
"There's a war between guilt and grace
And they're fighting for a sacred space
But I'm living proof
Grace wins every time
No more lying down in death's defeat
Now I'm rising up in victory
Grace wins every time"
And so I find the answer to life's problems in the grace of God. Jesus Christ is my Savior in more ways than one. He saved me from my sins. He saved me from my own guilt. He saved me from death itself during the war, but most importantly, eternal death. I needed spiritual healing and there is only one healer that could do that.
Why? The question that is never far away The healing doesn't come from being explained Jesus please don't let this go in vain You're all I have All that remains
So here I am What's left of me Where glory meets my suffering
I'm alive Even though a part of me has died You take my heart and breathe it back to life I fall into Your arms open wide When the hurt and the healer collide