My neighbor has a haunted son, a veteran for whom the wars made no sense and have left him empty. He says he has a connection with the newly released soldier captured in Afghanistan.
We are getting to know Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. His Facebook page was found by The Associated Press Wednesday. Bergdahl opened the page under the name “Wandering Monk.” His last post was made May 22, 2009, a few weeks before he was taken prisoner. Personal journals from the young soldier have also been uncovered. http://www.usatoday.com/…
In one of those journal entries, prior to his deployment to Afghanistan, he appeared to detail his struggle to maintain his mental stability.
“I’m worried,” he wrote in an entry before deployment. “The closer I get to ship day, the calmer the voices are. I’m reverting. I’m getting colder. My feelings are being flushed with the frozen logic and the training, all the unfeeling cold judgment of the darkness.”
Later, he wrote, “I will not lose this mind, this world I have deep inside. I will not lose this passion of beauty.”
As we now know Bergdahl had left the Coast Guard in 2006 with a general release apparently related to emotional problems. When he joined the Army in 2008, the military was dealing with wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and unable to meet its recruitment goals. Waivers that allowed people with criminal records, health conditions and other problems to enlist were commonplace.
I live in rural Missouri, farm country. A lot of “kids” from around here join the military.
One of my neighbors has a son who served two tours in Iraq and two in Afghanistan. He was a combat team specialist. “That means I was trained to clear buildings and secure enemy flashpoints,” he told me. “I experience a lot of up-close combat.”
He is nearly 26 now and lives with his folks.
His dad tells me that he does not seem to be able to focus on anything long term. He has no goals. No plans. He tried to work and live on his own when he left the army last year- having been in uniform from 18 to 25. He failed. He began drinking, lost two jobs and then was pushed out of his apartment for not keeping up on the rent.
His mom insisted that they take him back in. He is now working with his dad on the farm. “He does ok,” said his dad. “But I worry because we have a lot of heavy machinery and his mind wanders. I find him staring off into the fields or the woods a lot. When I say his name he does not respond. I touch his shoulder and he jumps.”
I have met him. He looks SO young but he does not smile. He still wears the buzz cut he had in army. He is very thin, with brown hair, deep blue eyes, a light complexion, and sad, old eyes. He sighs a lot. His dad tells me that he sees tears from time to time in his eyes which seem unrelated to what is going on at the moment.
His dad tells me that he does not talk about his war experience but “I know he saw a lot of action because he was in a special combat unit and stationed in the hot spots. He was usually in the front lines.”
He is supposed to be getting counseling from the VA but that is not going well. They are understaffed and it is a long drive into the city. His dad says he worries about him driving because he cannot concentrate.
I saw him tonight. The young man was with his dad at a meeting of our coop. After the meeting he came up to me and said that he knew I did a lot of writing on line. He told me: “I get Bergdahl- been there. I don’t think it was right for him to leave his post and walk away from his buddies- really bad things can happen when your guard is let down. But, I think I know how he felt. There were a lot of nights, out in the field, when I would have given anything to be almost anywhere else. What is really hard is that so much of it didn’t make any sense to me. Who were we fighting and why? The native people- all they ever looked was scared when we were nearby. Hated it.”
And then he walked away. I had, and still do not have, any idea what to say.
FOLLOWUP: THANKS TO A LOT OF GOOD ADVICE…..A couple of phone calls made the day after this conversation….connecting to two organizations.
I stopped over to the young man’s house with the info I had gathered. He and his Dad made the calls they needed to.
A vet came over to see him that evening. The two vet, both from the Iraq theater, sat on the back porch drinking ice tea and eating his mom’s cookies. His dad called me later that night and said it was the first time in many months that his son did not seem to be alone. He had found a kindred soul.
The vet is a trained adviser and hooked the young man up with a pro bono PTSD counselor and a support group. He went to his first meeting last night. The organization is also helping him make a better connection with the VA.
Good news I think.
CROSSPOSTED AT Daily Kos and Planet POV.
Great story Murph. When war is based on lies is it any wonder troops become disillusioned? The so called ‘Wars’ on ‘Terror’ and ‘Drugs’ are nothing more than a funnel. They funnel taxpayer money to corporate thugs. Unfortunately the government is bought by the corporations while the people who want to believe in our country suffer…
Thanks again for writing this article and especially for helping this young man!
Thank you murph.
Reading your story, gave me goosebumps and made me want to cry. I know that many soldiers suffer like this. It is not a new condition. My husbands uncle was a pilot during the 2nd WW. He was shot down 3 times behind enemy lines. The 3rd time he was captured. When he came home he would not speak of his experiences with anyone. His depression was great and his sadness intense.
“War is hell” and many who do not fall in combat, cannot survive or become re integrated into society.
People like you, who really care, deserve our thanks.
Well done, murph. And all the best to that young fellow as he struggles to come back from hell.
One day, our leaders will wake up to the reality that war does terrible things to young people. One day, they will wake up to the reality that there is nothing glorious about 100,000 dead bodies strewn mangled across a battlefield, sacrificed in the name of… what?
Thank you so much for sharing this, Murph. By now I should be incapable of shock at the lack of empathy I see in the public sphere, but in the case of Bergdahl, I think a large share of the responses have gone beyond an inability to comprehend someone’s particular experience or even to acknowledge it as such, but bordering on and sometimes crossing a line into a denial of his humanity through a denial of their own emotions, foibles, fears and failures.
Honestly, how many of us can say with any certainty how we would react if we found ourselves in his situation, or even more to the point, can honestly say that we have never even in the most mundane of circumstances realizing we have volunteered for responsibilities we resent or fear or make us angry reacted in ways that might be judged by others as a betrayal of trust or cowardly or simply inexplicable?
That some of his fellow soldiers would feel all of those things is completely understandable, but can we not admit as your story illustrates that when it comes to betrayal, they might if they allowed themselves feel a much greater sense of abandonment when it comes to a country that engaged in wars of choice with no real thought given to the consequences, not just abroad, but here at home. Worse, many of the same people judging Bergdahl with knee jerk platitudes about loyalty and service and blah, blah, blah are the very same people responsible for helping to create the cascading series of disastrous events leading to the precarious situation that our soldiers and so many of our vets find themselves in today.
I am so glad that you were able to lend a hand to your neighbor. We all need to do that every day and on a grand scale.
Real Wisdom Here…Helloise
The more I reflect on how willing this young man was to associate himself with Bergdahl the more I wondered about how other like him might feel.
I got a chance yesterday to meet one of those vet counselors and he said that on the side lots of vets speak about a sense of complete disillusionment with our national purpose vs. their loyalty to each other.
I think that this is all immensely complex and your post provides a further reflection on how difficult it is to judge rightly and well in matters like this one.
Thanks for your thoughts.
Watching so many of our decision makers still talking about the wars as necessary and expressing the possibility that it might be necessary for us to send men like this back in again.
I have read the same about soldiers in the Good Wars whose revulsion was just as great but who were buttressed during active duty and after they left service by a belief that they were part of a crusade.
None of that is in place in these two wars.
Well Murph the article is quite a mind bender meaning good.
First off my father served in WW2 at the age of 15 yrs 3 months in the pacific and Korea for 4 more yes. At 15 i was in the ninth grade trying to get good grades and playing golf to a very low handicap.
As a child from 10 to 15 i spent many a time in a VFW because he would have to watch me after school. It is enlightening to hear vets talk. They are from many wars and many different backgrounds.
IN all that time i had never heard them go into details of the battles they fought. I am sure there where some but i did not notice them. The one time he talked to me about the wars he related fighting in the caves and tunnels in the pacific. HE always went in first,a knife and a pistol your not supposed to use. Well he had manyinjuries on his shoulders. The fight was so descriptive it made me sick and frightened at the same time. That was the only time we talked about the fighting. Mental shock has many forms but they all have a key thing in common. You fear something and look to avoid that situation.
The flash back trigger, which can be almost anything brings you right back to the what happened and is as real in your mind as what you experienced. In time the longer you live it gets to be less of an effect. Talking and redirecting the issue helps over time and you become what quote is well again. The two in the article may become fine friends for life.
The one thing politicians should learn and do is actually serve and fight in the military action on the front lines. NO special favors for a month. You see many wars would not be started if the politicians where required to do this until the age of 70.
The word for american presidents, senators and congressmen in battles in my native language is translated to HINDMOST!
Think on that word for a while and modulate it to different relative keys. When you return you will have the reason why wars are not stopped these days.
How did your father get into the military at 15?
I imagine your VFW after school time was eye-opening. It is not surprising that what they spoke of was their comradeship and not their battle experience. Very typical.
It sounds as if he did the kind of work that made the Pacific Theater so horrifying (much like the Russian front). What branch of service was he in?
Not only are our leaders exempt from the ravages of war but so are their children- the creation of the volunteer army made a system of money based virtual deferment permanent. Now, the leader can wage war without fear of its ravages getting too close.
HI Murph, MY Dad got special permission from his Mom and dad.
He and his older brothers all went to war in ww2 .
Dad in the Army, Uncle Eddie in the army, uncle Richard in the Marines. They all served in Korea also. Richard also served at an embassy in Italy.
I could not even write in this format what my dad told me he did in the tunnels and caves in the pacific.
Yes the politicians and their children have nothing to worry about. Send the military in and they will collect the money for the most part.
American Indians had their war like tribes but they did not last in history as long. You see even chiefs had to fight even at old ages. Not many got to stay home when there was war.
Also borders where flexible so most conflict got settled another way. That is why there where not that many wars.
You see American Indians are progressives and conservatives where the CAST OUT.
The indian cultures could have be very large, except we where not in hurry and knew the limits of nature and the food supplies. SO Indians did not have many kids, 2 of 3 almost all the time. They knew to much population will take up all the food and resources.
Don’t be offended Murph the biggest mistake the America Indians did was let the boats land and let the invaders have living areas. You see bows where better weapons then and those little boats could not hold that much ammo or food. If the boats never made it back to europe, for the next 200 yrs the illegal aliens would have been turned back and the constitution may not have even existed.
live long and prosper!!
That happened a lot.
My friend’s father joing the Navy at 15. Served aboard a battleship during WWII. When he tired of the ill treatment, he admitted his real age and was sent home after almost two years.
My next door neighbor joined at 16 and served in the South Pacific, seeing Japanese Kamakazi pilots up close and personal.
Another friend served in Korea at age 17.
All three enlisted to earn money to support their families.
It has been so heartbreaking to read stories like this, but also to see all the venom directed towards an obviously troubled young man, all from those who have never set foot for one second in the military. We can not possibly know what those men and women went through and are still going through, yet the judgement is so free. My brother in law has never been the same- to this day, he still hits the ground in terror with a car backfiring.
thanks for bringing this story to where it belongs. Maybe somebody on Daily Caller can read it.
So good of you to make such a substantive comment. Thanks.
You are right on the mark with this. Not only are our leaders exempt from the ravages of war but so are their children- the creation of the volunteer army made a system of money based virtual deferment permanent. Now, the leader can wage war without fear of its ravages getting too close.
I got a chance yesterday to meet a vet counselors and he said that on the side lots of vets speak about a sense of complete disillusionment with our national purpose vs. their loyalty to each other. It put Bergdahl’s sense of torment into perspective.
Heart wrenching Murph. There must be so many out there in our world who feel this way that we will never know about. As Marvin Gaye says in this beautiful and timeless song, “War is not the answer” and it never will be again.
My heart goes out to all of those who came back broken, feeling helpless and fragile, with hope that time will heal, but knowing that for so many, it never does.
From an album I still treasure. As true today as it was then.
Marvin Gaye “What’s Going On – What’s Happening Brother”
Hey there…fine thoughts. I sent the video to my friend, the father of the young man in this post.
I got a note back this morning.
“Not my kind of music, but I get what the guy is saying…and right now I know he is right….I was so proud when my kid enlisted and now I wish he had never even considered it…..Figting for his country, BS.”
Sounds like the video hit a bulleye.
Oh, ok Murph, although this is the first time I’ve heard “Not my kind of music” about a classic song that went worldwide, and touched so many hearts regardless of race or religion.You don’t have to like the music to understand the words, they are as universal as Marvin Gaye himself.
Murph, thanks so much for getting this story out there. It truly does need to be told.
I’ve seen the looks on the faces of war vets too. And you’re right — there’s something about their eyes. A sort of faraway look.
Sometimes I think that they must look around at the relatively frivolous way that so many people — just their age — spend their days and it must seem as though there’s a Grand Canyon of experience between them and their peers. Not that there’s anything at all wrong with parties, video games, having a few beers and dancing, going to class — all the normal things kids do. But how many 24 year olds have seen and done what these veteran “kids” have? In a way they must feel decades older than their cohort.
That’s got to be lonely.
I know I’ve mentioned this before, but if anyone hasn’t yet seen the film “Body of War,” featuring Tomas Young, it’s well worth a look. It’s available on Netflix.
Kes, that is a thousand yard stare. And yes when you have experience like that you do feel older than you are.
Peace, my friend.
That’s the term, Nirek! Now that you write it, I recall hearing it referred to as the “thousand yard stare.” I can only imagine how hard it must be to relate to another 24 year old who’s been an intern in a stock broker’s office while you’ve been in close combat in a foreign country!
Like talking to someone from Mars.
Peace, dear Nirek!
I have heard the term….did not connect it in this way before.
Murph, so many who experienced war will not talk about it. They are the ones with the thousand yard stare. Those who are lucky enough to have a Dad to make them talk about it or someone else to talk with are able to overcome that stare.
Trust me when I say peace is the best thing.
And in the world of the volunteer army…the gulf between the privileged and underprivileged opens even further.
Not only are our leaders exempt from the ravages of war but so are their children- the creation of the volunteer army made a system of money based virtual deferment permanent. Now, the leader can wage war without fear of its ravages getting too close.
So many in the trenches in war are drawn from the have nots and from the ranks of the ideologically dedicated, the zealous. Both get deeply hurt in the face of war. The have nots see themselve in the faces of those in the war theater and the zealous discover their so called crusade is not as it seemed to be.
Murph, I understand how you feel about the draft. After all, I was drafted. I am actually in favor of the all volunteer military. The wealthy and the powerful would find a way to keep their family members out even if we still had the draft.
It is always the rich and powerful to lead us to war and the young to die. Or even worse suffer horrendous wounds, external or internal.
Those same rich and powerful “leaders” also deny the returning military the rightful benefits. All in the name of profits!
Murph, there but for the grace of God, go I. As I have said before, my Dad saved me from being like the young man in your story. Upon my return from Vietnam I was having nightmares. One night I woke up screaming. Dad said to come downstairs and he made me talk about my experience. He knew what I had gone through. He was a career soldier. He had spent all of WWII and then a tour in the Korean War. He shared some of his experiences with me. Dads wisdom is the reason I am not suffering PTSD.
This young man should talk about what he did and was exposed to. Getting it out in the open is the best way to handle it.
Thanks , Murph. For bringing this story to us. We need to understand what these vets have been exposed to and understand how each of them can process it. Some can overcome the nightmares and some can’t. With help those who are having a hard time coping can get by.
I have shared my admiration of your father before.
So few vets would have done what he did. Risked his own exposure in doing it.
I have spoken with this young man’ dad and he says that he has made connections with fellow “broken warriors.” I am happy for him.
Kudos Murph! You’ve done a wonderful thing for this young man. There certainly are veteran’s organizations out there.
It certainly sounds like this guy is suffering from PTSD. One on one counseling is essential, and so is group therapy. Being around other vets in a group, who have had similar experiences really does work. It takes time and patience , for sure. I wonder if he is on any meds. Many times PTSD is treated with a two pronged approach, counselling and medication. Staying active and not spending long periods alone are also essential in recovery.
You mention the military lowering it’s recruitment standards to meet quotas. They did this a lot during the Vietnam war. I was one those “recruits.”
I was very anti-war in my late teens, into the counter-culture and was what I jokingly refer to as a “hippie in training.” Well, one night, that came to a pretty abrupt halt. I got busted for possession of LSD. I was arrested on a secret indictment for an incident that had happened 4 months before. I helped two undercover narcs (which I had no idea they were narcs) buy some acid. I was 17 when this happened, but when I was arrested 4 months later, I was 18. Holy SHIT! My whole world came crashing down on me the night of my arrest.
Long story short, my dad had talked with prosecutors (while I pined away behind bars) and they reached a deal. They said that if I joined the military, all charges would be dropped, but if I ever went AWOL or deserted, they would be reinstated.
The only branch of the service that would take me were the Marines. This was in 1972. I knew I could very well be sent to Vietnam, but that sounded better than spending 5 years in state prison.
KT, As you know I was drafted when I was 21 in 1967. Had a ton of training and spent 1969 in Vietnam. As an infantryman I saw a lot of action. My training kept me alive. But I was against the WAR before I was drafted. When I got home after my two year tour in the Army, I was anti war.
I would discourage any young person from joining. But that is me.
Peace is best.
Nirek, the only thing that saved me from being sent to Vietnam, very ironically, was Nixon’s Vietnamization Program.
I enlisted in December of 72, and began boot at Parris Island in early February of 73. If I had enlisted 6 months earlier, I surely would have received orders for Vietnam.
KT, I’m glad you didn’t have to go there. Trust me, war is not fun.
Your training saved you- ironic is it not? To be saved from being the warrior you did not want to become you had to become a good soldier.
The young man is getting both- one to one and group counseling. He seems to be better- his dad says he is now in a brotherhood of “broken warriors.”
I did not know your story.
I knew others who were entrapped as you were. I see that you did not have to go “in country” because of Vietnamization. Fortunate. Those last months of U.S. involvement were among the most brutal. Still you were a Marine and that means you experienced your own brand of brutal.
Hey Murph. Marine boot IS tough and sometimes a little brutal, but for me, the toughest part was psychological. Bergdahl wrote, “I will not lose this mind, this world I have deep inside. I will not lose this passion of beauty.”
I did a double take when I read that line. I made the very same promise to myself. I vowed NOT to let them turn me into some sort of machine, an automaton. They succeeded to a certain extent, or I would never have graduated from Parris Island, but I think I kept that promise to myself. I think that Bergdahl did too, under much worse conditions.
Thanks Murph. Excellent subject for discussion. My man is a disabled vet (peacetime – seizure disorder) and we recently got him an advocate at our local veterans’ assoc. His advocate is a young, twice deployed Afghan vet. He has told me that working for this advocacy group is helping him to cope. He is living in his mom’s multi-family, even as he realizes what a sacrifice it is for her to lose a higher rent paid by a tenant. He also related the fact that he was basically curled up in a ball for 5 years. Part of the problem is that they are indoctrinated during boot that these people are the enemy. Then they get over to the conflict and see that these are mostly, tragically impoverished people that just want to go about their lives. For a feeling person, that must be devastating.
SLM,too many people are damaged in service to our country. I hope your man gets all the help he needs.
Vets helping vets is a good thing.
Thanks Murph. His meds are currently keeping it to about one seizure a month. Which is very good. More compelling is his advocate’s story. He and I have good political discussions, he’s a Rand Paul libertarian but he may come around with more discussions. Lol
He will come around and common sense will come through. Keep working on him , we need him.
This sounds very much like the experience of my neighbor and of Bergdahl. I think this is very common and I think that it is unacceptable, still, to say so.
For many of our young vets, the mythology of the brave warrior haunts them when they are, in fact, broken and angry.
I am adding your story to my growing list.
When you say this young man is an advocate- it sounds like your man is the one taking care of this young man. Is that so?
Quite the opposite. The young man works for a veterans’ support organization. My man is the one who needs assistance…
Oh, Murph – this is heartbreaking and not at all uncommon. I deal with a lot of homeless vets from Vietnam who have that same sad emptiness all these many years later. The NY Times just ran an article on how much the PTSD intervention is NOT working, never has worked for too many vets.
At the core of this lies guilt I suspect. However much they believe in helping their nation, they are engaged in a far more ‘up close’ kind of combat than we saw in WW II. They have committed acts against people who are NOT our enemies because they are not Al Q’aeda but ‘collateral damage’. We began that heartless dismissal of civilian casualties in Vietnam and carried it into the Mideast. It is one reason I do not focus my opposition on drone strikes that have bad consequences but in far fewer numbers to bystanders. I remember when in 2003 our forces bombed a bazaar in Baghdad – ONLY civilians were killed and in the hundreds. I have no idea how many were wounded. It is war we should revile, not hardware.
But the emptiness of purpose and heartache of people such as your young neighbor cannot be measured. They are our ‘lost generation’ again. WW I, Korea, Vietnam, Mideast – we’ve waged countless wars that had no reason to exist and our young people know it. They have seen and done horrific things to people that are not our enemies. How anyone gets past that is unknown.
Bowe Bergdahl is the face of all those who’ve come home gutted by what they experienced. If I live long enough I think I’ll be seeing more and more of this generation sleeping in our parks, wandering the streets, hopeless and lost in the power of their stark and horrific memories. There is nothing we can do for them unless we make them and their recovery a major priority. They are not just collateral damage. They are our neighbors and our children. We are failing them once again.
CL, on behalf of all vets, thanks. You are a Godsend for so many people who need help.
Bless you, peace.
Nirek – however stupid it sounds, we currently have a mountain lion roaming our very urban streets. (Climate change, lack of game, desperation.)
So comments in the local paper are to let it be – maybe it will eat homeless people.
I went ballistic because about 50% of our homeless men are veterans. They are harassed, despised, reviled – and because of that one is currently living on my front porch to give him safe haven. He took up the care of a dog of another homeless vet I’ve written about who died in our alley in March. The last thing I promised him was care for Puppy (we all lack imagination on names) but Pat took her over, and I don’t have to integrate one demented cat and one sad and lonely dog. The least I can do is take care of both Pat and Puppy when the police won’t let them be.
For all the good fucking faux “Chrissss tians” in my neighborhood who do round-robin phone calls to the cops complaining falsely about these homeless vets, several of us actually care. This is my payback to Pat – I have him as a ‘boarder’ with a dog on my porch. That is the opposite of what Old and New Testaments require of us – first fruits for the poor. Now? They get the dregs. And they get no regard for the wars the naysayers pushed them into, for the sacrifices of health and heart and mind that are those legacies of war.
I’m just waiting for the second round – the Iraq and Afghanistan vets – to show up. I must say our VA does a great job, but it’s not evenly operated through the nation. We are lucky – most of the guys get at least medical care. Housing? Not so much. But it’s a start.
I cannot wrap my mind around being the daughter of a WW II vet who got all kinds of help living today with men who get almost nothing. How did we, the descendants of the “Greatest Generation” abandon those who also fought and gave so much? I was very anti-war in Vietnam. I was never opposed to the men and, yes, women, who were there.
Maybe if we take back the House we will once again honor the men and women whom we sent into harm’s way. I sure the hell hope so.
We will not say it…we will not even whisper it but the feeling that the Vietnam Vets represent America’ first lost war hangs like a boulder around their necks.
From then on, the volunteer armed forces (read mercenary forces) made it easy NOT to invest in the vets way we had with the WWII generation.
Your story captures that well- or rather sadly.
You are a good lady, choice…and well named.
Why not make your story an article/post so it can be discussed more fully.
Thank you CL for your time and energy spent helping America’s veterans. You’re doing good lady!
Great accompanying comment.
Your statement that “They are our ‘lost generation’ again. WW I, Korea, Vietnam, Mideast — we’ve waged countless wars that had no reason to exist and our young people know it.” resonates very strongly with me.
What made WWII and Korea as memory bearable for many of our soldiers, sailors and airmen was the sense of having been part of a noble crusade against a demonstrable evil that enslaved the people we were forced to fight.
This meme does not fit the wars in your list and that, I think, increases the pain by a factor of three.
Of note, I read an article that said that one of the considerations by those who planned the war in the desert, the Gulf War, were concern about PTSD.
Your last paragraph is stunning.
Very touching story, Murph. So sad. I suspect it repeats all across the country.
Greenchica, I don’t think we have met. Welcome to the Planet. Yes, Murph has a way of putting words together coherently. We are lucky to have him here.
I hope to see you here more.
Hi Nirek, Thanks for the welcome but we’ve met actually. I’m just escribacat disguised as GreenChica now. (Found a “leak” in my anonymity so decided a new name was in order).
Thanks for the heads up GC, I thought it was funny that two people had the same avatar.
As the many comments here point out- his experience is not at all rare. Thanks for the kudo.