Where does a person begin to untangle the mess that is left after the War. Where does one start to decipher and interpret what has just been experienced. It is a complicated mess. A cluster*#@, in layman’s terms. A Conundrum if you will. No matter how you look at it , it’s just overwhelming to say the least. The very thought of attempting is enough to make me hyperventilate. 

As I’ve looked back on my service, at the several times that I had the “luxurious” opportunity to spend a week , decompressing at Arif Jan, Kuwait baking in the sun at 120º, soaking in a pool, surrounded by other vets , that by the looks of it , were equally as perplexed at the fact that we survived against such incredible odds. All of them with somber faces. Silent. All of them lost in thought. Again,  where does one begin? How long will we have before we are back in country? Getting off the plane, turning off the aggressor and defender switch and assuming the role of (fill in the blank) father, brother, husband, daughter, wife, mother. 

Truth is there isn’t. There isn’t enough time. We suddenly are thrown right into the regular rhythm of life and we are expected to simply operate as if nothing happened, simply function. There isn’t enough time to be able to sift through our memories and truly take a look at ourselves with calmness, peace, and an open mind to re-discover ourselves and find who we truly really are in the middle of all that has occurred. 

 

I find that , one of the ways that I can explain it to people is that I look back at my life, while serving with the Infantry on the battlefield at war, and I find that the very best of me, is intertwined with the very worst. I think we all feel that we had the confidence and the courage necessary,  that we executed the mission to the best of our ability, and we were darn good at what we did.I find that all of my success as a Navy Corpsman on the battlefield is sadly directly linked to the full capability of destruction and carnage that we were able to inflict and cause. Sadly it balances out.  And so it goes for the images of the world that we capture while overseas. 

I remember so many long rides up and down MSR Tampa, crossing Iraq North to South ,  sitting in the back of the Humvee, looking out onto the very beautiful, ever changing, amazing horizons out in the distance. Of course with the disconcerting hope that it wouldn’t  be the day that you get blown up by an IED. 

Or how about on patrol taking a bend around a dry , arid mountain side only to come across the most incredibly lush and green valleys of Afghanistan. Of course , we know, that only caveat about being caught in an ambush if not careful. 

One more, sitting on the gun, at dusk on watch, on a valley way up in the mountains of Afghanistan , bewildered at how a place so beautiful can be filled with such chaos.

My point is, just as we didn’t and sometimes lacked upon returning, the opportunity to detangle our identity , our human nature, our true selves from the mess that we experience, we also lacked the opportunity to detangle the world, nature, life, its beauty. Everything gets jumbled up into a never-ending mess that is the hopelessness of a world at war. 

This is what is so special of being able to take one of these expeditions , the opportunity to  separate yourselves from the current situation. At times it might seem like a far fetched goal, or a fear of failure, or the inadequacy of being confronted with the person in the mirror. Trust me, it is worth making the effort. Imagine if you will , an opportunity to simply listen to silence. The opportunity to look out into the vast wild and simply feel at peace. At peace with yourself and at peace with the world. With absolutely no risk, no threat (of course the wild can be menacing , but that is for another post on survival or something). It is an incredible opportunity to work out a lot of the things that we carry, things that prevent us from living truly happy lives.  

In summary, friends the world is a beautiful place, you are a beautiful person. We are blessed to be walking 6 feet above ground. Take a moment this week. Find a park , find a trail , find a field , a stream , a lake , somewhere you can sit for a few moments and simply breathe. I assure you a million thoughts will rush into your mind. Push passed that and you’ll discover that there is incredible power and peace that is available , simply by taking a moment. 

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