• Chapter 89: Red Flags

    April 11, 2016
  • I know I keep dancing around the topic of PTSD, but I will talk about it soon, I promise. I will cover that topic separately in a special post in late May. But I will say this: I was already seeing a few red flags prior to leaving the Gulf. One of those red flags were repeated nightmares. I had nightmares such as trying to throw a grenade and it blew up in my hand. This dream was constant and no matter how hard I tried to get rid of the grenade, it always blew up in my face. I'm sure it had to do with Lance Corporal Lang being killed by a captured Iraqi grenade as he was trying to retrieve it from his backpack so he could turn it. I also had one that I successful got rid of but the in the nightmares, I was never successful.

    I also dreamed of walking on a beach but I could never find the ocean. There was only sand everywhere. I had my combat boots on and kept drudging through the sand looking for the beach. There were several other dreams, but I won't bore anyone with them right now.

    Remember the night when I was forced to shoot an Iraqi soldier? If you missed that chapter or need a refresher, it's in chapter 62. If you read the chapter and remember, some of us posed for pictures laying down next to the Iraqi's body. Not only that, but I question whether or not he was a threat to us or was simply sneaking away in the night as a deserter trying to give himself up. Anyway, the Marine who took the pictures was sitting at a make-shift table we created in out tent looking over the pictures that he had developed along with a few others. I knew that that particular picture would be included so I avoided being in the group that was passing them around. At one point I heard someone say, "Is that Corporal Lovell?" And they all thought it was surprisingly funny because I had been such a great example of a Christian, but was seen there in the picture smiling next to a dead man's body. And to make matters worse, some of the guys apparently hadn't heard about the killing so the others were filling them in on it. I didn't want to hear all of this so I started digging out my headphones to drown them out. Just before I had the chance to turn the music on and crank it up I heard one of them say, "You'll burn in Hell for that one!"

    I was already starting to deal with a wide range of emotions. I had anger problems as well as feelings of guilt. I didn't realize it at the time, but I was dealing with acute PTSD. This is something that usually only lasts 1 to 3 months following the traumatic event.

    I was playing a card game one night when another Marine said something that set me off. I didn't like what he said, and I especially didn't like the tone of his voice. We got into a heated argument. I then stood up and told him to "Step outside and we'll handle this like men!" We went outside and both of us were using explicit language, the first time I used that kind of language the entire time I was deployed. The others came out of our tent as well as other surrounding tents because they heard us yelling at each other. One our Sergeants came out to find out what was going on. The fight ended before a punch was thrown, but I remember everyone looking at me like they didn't know who I was anymore. It was definitely a side I had not shown before. I even had a few comments from people.

    I was definitely changed to a certain point. I had the opportunity to see a military psychologist shortly before returning home. After talking about 30 minutes, he asked me to write down on a piece of paper what my greatest fear was about returning home to a normal life. I didn't even have to give it much thought. I wrote down, "I'm afraid that I'm going to be short tempered." Unfortunately, I never got any help in dealing with these issues and had a feeling of helplessness.

    “History will judge societies and governments — and their institutions 
    not by how big they are or how well they serve the rich and the powerful,
    but by how effectively they respond to the needs of the poor and the helpless.” 
    ― César Chávez