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.