Hopeful Sadness

Today a veteran friend of mine resigned from his job.  He has been struggling greatly with the symptoms of PTSD and has walked farther and farther from stability.  He says that he doesn’t know what to do.  I look around and all of us in and around him don’t know how to help him.  He is receiving treatment but doesn’t seem to be getting better, and now he is pulling farther away from people.  I know that I for one am going to do what I can to help him, but I also know that I can’t share his pain and suffering.  I am and have been supportive, but I also know that I am fragile enough right now that there is only so much stress outside of myself that I can take on, and that thought hurts to admit.  In the military it is ground in to the marrow that you never leave a servicemen behind.  So why does it feel like we are not doing enough for my friend?  Why do I feel guilty that I can barely handle my own job and my family and can’t take on more?

When I was in infantry school, I was assigned to Camp Horno on Pendleton.  My fire team had a Marine that came to all of us one day away from everyone else and revealed that he had injured his knee.  He had gone to the doc and was told that if he couldn’t train that there was a good bet that he would get medically discharged.  He asked for our help.  He was able to hump in a straight line over even ground well-enough, but with his pack and combat load, going up hills especially was painful and near impossible.  As a team we decided to help.  We spread-loaded his gear across all of us and it became our practice upon movement that whenever there was an incline that two of us would race up and carry him up and he would become our 12 0’clock security.  Down hill he would grab a shoulder and we would move out, rotating in series.  It was an interesting thing to see and learning to move tactically with that set-up caused us some difficulty.  But it was worth it to us, to me.  My brother Marine had asked for help.  I’m going to say no?  Contrast that with another member of my platoon who had great difficulty in moving in urban terrain with gear and combat load.  A basic requirement of infantry training is jumping up to a roof line and pulling yourself up to the position where your team can help get you across or up.  But the majority has to be done by your own upper body strength.  This guy would never ask for help.  We offered to workout with him on weekends and evenings but he refused.  We walked away because he would not ask for help or do anything to help himself.  Ultimately, he would have been a liability to our platoon.

Now, you might ask the question, what is the difference between the two Marines?  The first asked for help.  He was certainly compromised but he also worked his rear off in other ways to help take up his slack.  He never quit, and I respect him for his courage.  Once he was in the fleet and healed, he would take that resolve and would be an asset to his Marine unit.  The second never tried.  He couldn’t meet the minimum requirements and did nothing to help himself or get help for himself.  He quit on himself and he quit on our platoon, and frankly, someone who can’t do the basic infantry skills is a danger to himself and those around him.

So, how do I resolve my feelings of responsibility to my friend?  I have to preface this in a metaphor…my bucket is already mostly full and I can only add so much before my stuff spills out.  I suppose the best way to look at this situation is in combat casualty stability.  When a brother or sister goes down in combat, you have to first suppress the incoming fire before you can move the casualty and begin to stabilize the wounded.  Would I be a better friend to my brother if I went down trying to help him, or is it better to support him by being at my best?  Please understand that I view my friend in the same way that I view that first Marine.  I respect him, and I have never seen quit in him.  But he is hurting and in need.

Perhaps in this case I need to look away from my military training for guidance.  Psalm 22:22-24 says that “I will proclaim Your name to my brothers; I will praise You in congregation.  You who fear God, praise Him!  All you descendants of Jacob honor Him!  All you descendants of Israel revere Him!  For He has not despised or detested the torment of the afflicted.  He did not hide His face from him but listened when he cried out for help.”  Ultimately I can not truly help my friend.  There is only One who can.  According to this psalm, my responsibility is to appeal to God, who is fully aware of what my friend is going through and is actively engaging in his situation.  I know that for some that type of thought is anathema or viewed as naive.  At the very least it can seem as a platitude to comfort myself.  But truth is defined as reality as God perceives it.  I have no doubt in any fiber of my being that He is intimately involved in our lives and that His overwhelming desire is compassion for my friend.  So, for me to say that I will yield to God and proclaim His authority as true healer is not a passive gesture, it is instead the most active and beneficial intervention that I have now at my disposal.  Can it be that all my attempts at standing up for my friend are less powerful than kneeling for him?

Blessings and Peace to Eric,

Qmo

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Fortunate Son

I spent some time today looking at some of my deployment pictures and it hit me, not for the first time, of just how fortunate I was to have the experiences that I did.  I was looking specifically at my cover photo for this blog.  I was in Iraqi Kurdistan in 2009 and I was able to go into the town of Sulimaniyah and look around the local bazaar.  We were visiting a Border Patrol Transition Team (BPiTT) that was assigned to assist and train the Peshmerga troops guarding the border of Iran.  That entire trip was something like a vacation in the midst of war.  As you can see in the photo, I am neither wearing armor or armed.  During that time (pre-ISIS) the area was deemed safe and just like walking around our towns here in full kit and armed would be strange, so it was in Kurdistan.  While I was there I even ran in my first half-marathon ever – a shadow of the Portland Marathon on a Peshmerga base with members of the BPiTT. At one point during the running of that race (and there were only 12 of us running it!) I was stopped in the road by a local goat-herder and his huge flock!  We went to a local restaurant and had a normal meal…just like a regular Saturday night.  I remember a fantastic mid-summer thunderstorm that was warm and took my breathe away with power and beauty.  If you also look closely in the photo you can see the people all around me and how there aren’t faces of fear or anger, just people about their daily lives.  I can’t tell you how precious that time was for me.  It was like being able to recharge and catch my breathe before wading back into the storm.  Little did I know then, that very soon I would be visiting a different BPiTT on the Syrian border with a much different outcome, a story for a different day.  In Psalm 3:5-6, it says that “I lie down and sleep; I wake again because the Lord sustains me.  I am not afraid of the thousands against me on every side.”  Sometimes, we know that we need rest.  Other times though, only God knows we need rest.  I know that the best times I have ever slept occurred when I knew that people I trusted were on guard around me.  It was in those times that I could rest and relax and not worry about what is out there in the night.  This is how God is for us.  He is always on guard watching out for us.  During those times when He has need for us, He always provides what we need to accomplish His will.  Some people may not buy any of this…and God gives each one of us that choice.  But for me and in my life, I have seen too many times when circumstances have come that the only explanation is that God is there and directs my path.  For me, the evidence is clear and my choice has been made.  I know that I am fortunate indeed.

Moving Forward,

Qmo

Trying to rebuild

Well, it certainly has been a long time.  I could come up with excuses, but that’s just what they are, excuses.  Over the past few weeks I have been sick with a stomach flu and I have only worked 1 day in the past 14.  During this time, I was able to really decompress and decide that I really want to get better.  And I mean all-around better.  I recently joined a group with my wife that is focusing on our weight, diet, and self-care.  So far, I have quite enjoyed it and I am seeing some slight changes in my daily routine.  Today, I prayed.  That may seem trivial, but for whatever reason I have really walked away from communicating with God.  I honestly don’t know if I am angry with Him, or if I am ashamed of me, or just hurt and numb over how my last deployment went, but I made the decision that it is time to be done with that period in my life.  I read my Bible with my youngest son the other day, a section out of Ezra, which talked about rebuilding the Temple.  Now, I could go into how neat it is that in scripture the word temple is interchangeable with the physical building in Israel and the individual person, but you get the idea.  The people in Ezra had to work hard to rebuild the temple.  It was no easy task.  They not only had to raise funds, they had to get the building items, actually build and repair, and also go about their daily lives.  And all this happened before the scripture even says that they were opposed.  I guess the guidance here is that it takes hard work to rebuild ourselves, and that while we are doing it we also have to live our lives.  And there will be opposition.  To expect smooth sailing and great times is not only unlikely, its foolish.  I know this, but I also know that I have a secret weapon.

When I was assigned to 3BDE/25ID as a Transition Team RST in 2009, there was a team that we needed to meet with in the town of Tikrit, Iraq.  My boss and I had to travel from COB Speicher to an Iraqi outpost in central Tikrit by way of a Combat-Logistic Patrol (CLiP).  We were basically baggage on this trip, but like everyone in the convoy, I attended the route briefing.  Specifically on that day, there were credible threats to American convoys moving in and around Tikrit and in fact, while we were enroute, the CLiP 5 minutes in front of us took fire.  During that time, the local insurgency was hitting convoys with RPG’s that could shred through our armor like butter.  I saw the remains of vehicle that was hit a few days earlier.  Now, we are heading into the same area and I can tell you that my adrenaline and fear peaked, especially since I had no way of controlling the situation at all – I was strapped in the back just waiting.  This time, nothing happened – the guys who fired at the first convoy had likely bugged out seconds after firing, that’s their M/O.  I knew that during the trip, I couldn’t just sit there stewing in my fear and trepidation, but I also knew that I had no actual way of changing anything.  So, I let my secret weapon take over.  I prayed a simple prayer that asked God to take my fear, keep the convoy safe, and that in any event that my only request was that God allow me to meet Him on my feet with honor if He should require my life that day.

See, there is something powerful about surrendering to your circumstances in the right way.  I’m not going to sit here tonight and inflate my service, but there have been many times that I have been in situations where my life could be required of me and I can tell you that in those moments is not the time you want to get ready.  You don’t want to have your final seconds be when you begin to build or rebuild your life.  That ships sails quickly. I always had the same prayer and request when I was going into missions: Lord, let me meet you with honor.  I had to make peace with who I was at that time, that what I had or hadn’t accomplished was going to be me.  And that I would stand by that as the best that I could do.

So, I sit yet again at another decision point and I have decided that I want to get well.  That I want to rebuild my life and move forward on the path that God has for me.  I am not naive, I know that it will take hard work and that opposition is inbound.  But, I also know that I have a secret weapon who is always on duty and that truly wants me to succeed.

Blessings,

Qmo