John 15:13 — 4/19/2010

grave

SGT ‘Doc’ Rob Barrett, medic with the US Army, KIA 4/19/2010 in Kabul Afghanistan.  Attached to my unit and living on the same FOB.  Early morning before sunrise, 8 years ago today Rob and I were talking about Pizza!  Good pizza from ‘back home’.  How we missed it and couldn’t wait ot get back to the world in order to eat as much as possible!!

We both had a hot tiring day ahead of us, he was training some Afghan soldiers at the nearby airport in Kabul.  My team were heading to the mountains of Shakar Dara to conduct operations.  I told Doc I would swing by and check in on him and his guys later that afternoon.

The suicide bomber had gained access to the US held part of the airport with fake ID and an accurate Afghan Army uniform.  My guess is, someone simply let him on base to attack us.  Either way he made his way to our trucks and detonated himself.   Doc was the closest and took most of the blast.  The terrorist lay close, blown in half; his legs mangled and several feet away from the rest of his body.  Barrett lay motionless, scorched, smoking and in pieces.  Most of his throat and upper chest missing or exposed.  We tried in vain to put things back together and keep him with us.   I screamed in anger, crying out to God after we got him in the bird and on his way.  God must have needed a first class medic up there, and he must have needed one badly.

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Before he left Rob wrote a poem, below is an excerpt from that writing to his parent”

“I volunteered to put my life on the line for freedom and country. For my fellow soldiers, for my little girl, for my weeping mother and father, I am going to a land where American freedom is just a dream, a hope, a slow reality. I am an American soldier.”

Today is going to be a little unpleasant.  I am going to finish this and try to stay busy at work and keep my mind from wondering back to war.  I’m not very confident on this one though.  I can smell that day, I can hear the screaming, the shouting, the gun fire and the confusion.

The guilt on my shoulders remains heavy, there have been some dark dark days when carrying it nearly buried me.  Footprints in the sand always comes to mind during dark times and I can only pray that when I was unable to keep moving forward, God was carrying me.

“Dear Lord.  I know we can not understand all of your actions and why you sometimes do the things you do, or let happen the things that happen.  Lord, please hear me that I do trust you and I do trust your plan.  I ask that you pay special attention today to Rob’s family and friends  and especially his little girl Sophie.  Now, a 10 year old girl Lord who has only known her father through medals, pictures, memories and memorials.  May you bless her Lord and keep the memories of her brave father alive and vivid in her growing mind.  Dear Father, on this day I ask you to send the holy spirit  and cover me with grace and love and forgiveness.  And Lord, tell Doc that I am sorry I let him down that day.  On this day Holy Father I do thank you for sending me one of your most precious daughters; my wonderful wife Kaytee.   She supported me on a long and often dark, hellish journey.  I was still over there when I was physically here and she never gave up helping to guide me home.  Forgive me Lord, my life is yours Lord and I give it all to you.”

John 15:13 – Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

Hummer

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New year, Newer me?

OK, so I’ve never bought into the whole new years resolution thing and, still don’t participate when people ask what my resolutions are going to be.  I have no issues and do not think poorly of those that do, its just not my thing.  I don’t see how a new day, which happens to be January 1st is going to have a drastic impact on my decision making.  Again, some people do and I am all for that.

Having said that, it is the start of a ‘new’ year and I am in a new place.  We felt called by God to move down here so perhaps it can be the continuation of ‘new’ Mike, one I started back in Massachusetts about a year ago.

I am meeting my new medical team at the VA tomorrow which I am excited about (sounds weird I know) but am also feeling very anxious and nervous.  I’m deeply anxious about explaining things all over again, digging deep into who I am , who I was and, who I am trying to be.  Doing it alone in my own head is bad enough, so sharing it with people I don’t even know yet is a pretty terrifying idea.

I know I am a better person when I can speak with a professional about the war and about the disastrous ways PTSD has influenced my life.  I do have a better handle on things, that’s for sure.  However, when I go too long without talking and without taking medications I feel a change.  The hatred I have for myself, the world, people in the world and anything outside my world slowly creeps back inside me.  Its as if the Devil senses I am weak and he knows hate can harbor a safe place in my heart.  He jumps at the chance of using me again.

Although, I will never be the person some people would like me to be.  I am happy with the ‘nicer’ Mike and the less hateful Mike.  I know Jesus hates seeing me so torn and I hate feeling that/this way.

Fingers crossed for tomorrow and, for the rest of the year!!!

After all, its a World Cup year!! 🙂

I got your six!

 

 

 

 

I have scars but the worst is one you cannot see….

A book and it’s cover

The classic scene in the Jaws movie where ‘Quint’ and ‘Hooper’ compare scars always makes me laugh and think of something I could do with veterans, and of course non veterans, like in the movie.  Striking up a kinship through tails of bravado and luck.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not riddled with them but I have a few.  However, the scene very quickly takes my mind to the ones you cant see.  The weathered old navy veteran Quint reveals the ones you cant see are perhaps and often become the deepest and most punishing scars one can have.

God sent me down range for a reason.   Some of those reasons have already become apparent to me.  I can safely say, without boasting or doubt that there are people alive (well they were last time I saw them) because of actions I took or because I put my own life on the line to make sure they were ok.  Its a feeling of profound pride that I wouldn’t trade for all the tea in England. Having said that, I am also left with days that include terrifying memories, flash backs, hyper vigilance, nightmares plus feelings of hopelessness and loneliness.   I’m not complaining, I know he will explain it all to me when he takes me home.  Yet, I still find myself asking why? When the demons come and I cant get out of my own way I scream why!!??  I look ok, act ok (my wife may disagree!) and have a good career going well.  Still I am often frozen with fear and locked in the every present battle between Mike being home and Mike not quite being fully home.

So, don’t judge me by my exterior, you don’t know whats going on inside my head and heart.  Wait, I have full tattoo sleeves, a hate to shave, I drive a truck, wear a military cap most days and I am typically always carrying a gun…… you can judge me a little I guess! haha

Joking aside;  the non visibal scars run deep and they are unrelenting and do not care if you need a day off.  So why write this today you may ask!?  Well, I feel like I am winning.  Life is going surprisingly well and has come around 180 degrees in the last 12 months.  Of course I have complaints, gripes and general bitching here and there.  The demons don’t seem to want to play as much as they used to, my marriage feels wonderfully new and fresh and the pure hatred in my heart has started to subside.  Hatred has been such a strong factor in my life I often feel lost without it, but with it gone I am able to allow goodness into my life.  This feel good. God IS Good.

I have surrendered to the realization that God does love me and he does want the very best for me.  He sent me to be his sword on the field of battle and I hope I did him proud.    He didn’t send me to get back at me or to hurt me.  Was it to simply take the lives of my enemy? To save the lives of those being persecuted? Or to speak of his son Jesus Christ to the occupiers of the mountains of Afghanistan.

Another battle is looming on my horizon and I know its one that is going to take me to an even darker place. A place I know I don’t want to go.  God will guide me but my anger with him on this one is monumental.  I pray my faith is strong enough to defend my heart from the hate that is vying for it’s attention again.

I am my brothers keeper.  I need my 6 covered.

 

USAA

Fuming, absolutely fuming with USAA right now!

This is what I just sent them!

“I am absolutely disgusted that my life insurance application was denied based on my VA medical history of Combat related PTSD and Depression. Wow, thanks USAA!!! I currently have a $100k policy with you guys.  Since we have bought our first home I wanted to make sure that I had sufficient coverage should anything ever happen to me. I applied for an additional $200k to cover the home in full. DENIED! So USAA is for the vets, for the soldiers blah blah blah. I voluntarily enlist, get sent over there to fight (more than once) and praise God, make it back in one piece. Get married, settle down, land an awesome Government job  and we buy our first home. Trying to get my thing in order, be a responsible husband and make sure my home and wife’s future is finally in tact, JUST IN CASE a worse case scenario happens and, you guys Deny me!!

Seriously guys?? Wasn’t asking for a policy that would lead to generations of wealthy babies. Just enough to cover the remaining mortgage on the house and a little bit left over for incidentals. We recently moved to Texas and I was forced to switch our car insurance, which I really hated doing/leaving you guys for that coverage.  However, since your Texas coverage doubled our monthly premiums from Massachusetts I was left with no choice but to find a cheaper option. Actually got slightly better coverage for our cars through Geico Insurance at the same price we had been paying. So it looks like Geico will be getting the rest of our business in the very near future.  Our home owners Insurance for starters and the rental property insurance too.

I am so disappointed with your company and will encourage other veterans to seek other finance options moving forward. How can a company that is specifically designed for Veterans and Soldiers refuse to cover a Vet with life insurance????
I have always been such an advocate for your company, yet that stops today.  You guys make me sick and I look forward to the day that I have no business with you at all.

Thanks for nothing!
Mike”

Too much? Too emotional? Either way, I cannot hide the anger inside right now. The denial letter literally said “due to your PTSD and depression”.   Am I blind and/or ignorant to the fact that potentially all Combat Infantrymen are refused life insurance from USAA?  That cant be possible right? Maybe it is and I am over reacting?

Suggestions, feedback, advice and comments all welcomed!

 

Turkey time can be tough…..reach out to your brothers!

I spent Thanksgiving 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, and 2012 far away from family and friends while serving in the US Army.  Four of the mentioned years were spent deployed to various combat zones.

They all bring back memories, some not so great and some of them are my best Thanksgiving day memories.  Either way, they can bring bouts of loneliness and sadness.  Some of which are unexplainable considering I am now typically surrounded by loved ones and copious amounts of food and booze!  Which makes Mike a happy chap!

I thank God for bringing me back from all those times away and often ask him why he kept some of my brothers.  I have a feeling I am not going to get the answer to my every day question until its judgment day.  Having said that, I like to enjoy this time of year as a celebration of that fact he did bring me home.  Not quite the same bloke that arrived at Fort Benning in 2005, but never the less alive and physically in one piece!

Between mouthfuls of turkey, pumpkin pie and all that beer and wine, try not to forget those who made it home but who are not quite fully home.  We have brothers who, this week will feel overwhelming moments of sadness, guilt and, loneliness.  Some will succumb to the demons of war and lose their fight.  Remember, 22 veterans lose the fight every day in this Country.

A simple text, phone call and/ or visit to a veteran could literally save a life this week.

http://www.mission22.com

I am my brother’s keeper!!

Gobble gobble everyone and enjoy the festivities.

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:13

Sgt Robert Barrett,  KIA 4/19/2010 wrote this before deploying to Afghanistan in January 2010

“I volunteered to put my life on the line for freedom and country. For my fellow soldiers, for my little girl, for my weeping mother and father.  “I am going to a land where American freedom is just a dream, a hope, a slow reality. I am an American soldier.”

Tomorrow marks America’s Veterans Day.  It is a sad day for many of us veterans, it is also a proud day.  I have often, and continue to have those days where I scream and yell at God for sending me over there.  I did the maths one day (gave myself a headache too) and figured out that in a 7 year period of 2006-2013 I had spend roughly 3.5 years over seas on combat zones.  I was drafted, no one forced me to go.  I went of my own free will and sought opportunities to go back again and again. Why?  God knew I was going, he actually came to me in 2012 and told me to go on my final deployment.  He knew I was going to go and he knows my heart.  After all, he created it and knows it better than I do.

Why do I think I have the right then, to yell and scream at him for all the baggage I now carry?  I know the BS we went through, and I know the good and the bad that happened. Much of it unavoidable, but some of it was decided by ourselves.  Remember the ‘free will’ he gave us as a gift!?

Having said that I do and, I am embarrassed that I treat him in such a way at times.  But I know he can take it and I know that he’s ok with it, he just wants to draw me closer to him.   So tomorrow, I am sure I will have a word with him about the whole thing.  I’ll be hunting in the morning since work is closed to observe this sacred day.  Plenty of time to gather my thoughts and speak to him while I chase the ghost like creature I hope to eat for my dinner.  Perhaps some afternoon beverages with a fellow veteran to toast our brothers and sisters, pausing for moment to pray extra hard for ones that didn’t make it home, like my brother in arms, Sgt Barrett.

So I ask you to take a moment to pray for all our veterans.  Past, present and those just beginning the proud life changing journey.  Whether a vet stayed CONUS or was sent with rifle to meet the enemy on a far flung battle field, they all deserve a hand shake, and even a hug.  Even better, a cold beer! 🙂

And for all my screaming and shouting, tears and tantrums; I thank our Lord every single day for allowing me the opportunity to serve and proudly call myself a United States soldier.  There are perhaps something’s I would change, go left and not right for example.  Its in the past and I know I did the best I could in combat, lead by example and with courage for the guys to feed off and use.  I cry and I smile, I scream and I hide in loneness.  I yell out for help and I retreat to the comfort of myself and my self hate.  Its all part of being a child of God.

When a person dies and meets God, they may ask themselves “what did I give back to my fellow man? A veteran doesn’t have to worry about that question.

I am proud to be my brother’s keeper!!