What have we done to the best and the brightest of our nation?
I say "we" because even though I did not agree with the war in Iraq--vehemently did not agree, they went in my name as well as yours. Everything they experienced, everything that was done to them, everything they had to endure, was done for our sakes -- yours and mine. We are guilty of doing this to them. You and I are guilty. All of us are guilty. Guilty.
Kayla Williams offers a penetrating, riveting, disturbing, spot-on, tear evoking account.
- It is 2004. I have been back from Iraq for a few months.
- The gun is heavy in my hand, cold, solid. I sit on the edge of my bathtub and stare at it. The door is shut and I am alone. I can hear my own breathing, uneven.
- This I can control.
- It feels like the only thing I can control. I can't control my anger, which flares up unexpectedly, making me lash out at those closest to me. I can't control the moments when my boyfriend, who sustained a Traumatic Brain Injury in Iraq and has severe Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, gets lost in his own rage and isolation. I can't control whether or not the Army will stop-loss me, or let me out and then call me back to Iraq before my contract is up -- back to another year with no control over where I sleep, what I eat, if rockets will fall on me in the Port-a-John, if an explosive will blow off my limbs.
- I can't control the memories that suddenly, with no warning, invade my consciousness: images of men screaming, thrashing, bleeding on the ground. I can't control that the smell of diesel makes me feel like I'm in Iraq again. I can't control my physical reactions, swerving to avoid trash in the road, flinching at sudden noises.
- Can't control my dreams.
- I can't imagine going to my Chain of Command, being put on public, humiliating suicide watch with no shoelaces or belt. I can't admit these feelings of weakness in front of my leaders or -- worse -- my soldiers. Can't own up to the shame of not knowing if I can do it anymore, take it, keep going at all. Can't talk to my friends from before -- can't even conceive of explaining the war to them; I'm not who they used to know. I can't burden my family with this, they are dealing with enough. I can't let everyone down and face them afterward.
- I sit and stare at the gun. This is mine, my choice, my way out, my freedom, my escape from fear and hopelessness and desperation.
- What will they go through, my boyfriend and my roommate, dealing with blood and brains and death on the bathroom floor? What about my father? I'm his only surviving child; he lost his sister to suicide.
- To all those soldiers still struggling today, know that you are not alone. You are part of a community of veterans who understands what you're going through. Civilians may not understand, but they do care.