“I’ve been shot! I’ve been shot! Medic help me!” He yelled at me with drying tears in the place where dark brown eyes use to sparkle. He clutched my hand …” They came out of the water….it was an ambush…I couldn’t see them but my legs have bullets in them.”
This wasn’t on a battlefield….it was early morning near a neighborhood park and the sheriff deputy had called us. He is only 32 years old. Marine. Purple heart. Homeless. Tormented by demons that none of us can see. I held his hand and said “it’s ok Marine, I’ve got you. Let’s get you safe.”
I grew up, not in a military home but in a military family. All branches serving WWII to Korea to Vietnam to Desert Storm to Iraq. So many friends, my age, have left pieces of their soul on the desert floor.
All of my family and friends came home. Or did they? I’ve been with friends as they’ve had panic attacks and flashbacks. I’ve seen them want to talk then change the subject. They are home. Physically. Mentally they will always be on the front lines.
There are homecoming parties, signs “welcome home soldier!” Written in glitter and bright colors, YouTube videos showing families getting surprised by their loved one on leave. Look through history books and you will see pictures of guys coming home being greeted by family…..
Then….then the demons become too much…family can’t handle it and they end up on the streets. They drink alcohol to forget and take drugs to numb the pain. They escape….or try to.
They loose the ability to go to the doctor because they feel the VA doesn’t have time because the VA has so many patients. They stop taking their meds. They regress to the battlefield while on their neighborhood streets. I hold their hand. I try to calm them down. Sometimes they are so far away and in the heat of enemy fire that I can only help them by sedating them. I help for the moment. Who is going to help tomorrow?
Those homeless people you see on the street corner…they probably are drunks and drug addicts…BUT at one time, they were 18, healthy, strong and signing papers to enlist… they were the best of the best. They had family and a home and someone to write them and care for them. The battle didn’t stop. You can’t take the war home so they keep fighting.
Tip your hat, buy them a water, a scarf, a pair of socks. Consider them. Imagine them. Love them….because they didn’t know you but loved you enough to risk their life to give you the luxury of freedom.
They are ghosts of themselves.
At one time they were Angels.
Thank a veteran.