Eve’s husband, US Army veteran
I’ve been an NCO as well, so I’ve seen both sides of it. You do have a lot of soldiers that try to milk the system, and don’t want to deploy. Or for whatever reason, they don’t want to do their jobs. But then, when my wife and I have legitimate problems, the chain of command has had so many people that abuse the system that they don’t know what to believe. So what they do is treat everybody like they’re full of it. It’s not fair. They need to treat the actual problem, case by case, with each soldier.
So soldiers who have real problems tend to get abused under that mind-frame. They have a lack of respect for you. They put you on the worst details. They totally treat you as if you’re not a soldier. When I was a squared away NCO, I would never get in trouble, I had never been late, any of that. I was deployed to Iraq and got injured. And then they would say, “You suck, you’re a piece of crap.”
I ran around with eight pounds of gear on, outside my sector, and I have a banged up knee. So, I’m sorry, I can’t jump from building to building, kicking down doors, because I can barely walk. I went instantly from a squared away guy to a piece of shit. And I’d much rather be out in sector, because I have four guys who’re 18, 19 years old, never been off, never been nowhere. I’m responsible for these guys, so I don’t want to sit in the hooch all day and do nothing. That’s not what you’re paid for. I’m responsible for these four guys. That’s a thing I have to deal with, that’s a letter I have to write to those parents, because I can’t explain to them what happened, because I don’t know, because I wasn’t there. Because I pushed myself to the limit, and I didn’t want to be labeled as a shitbag. So I hurt myself even more.
You can go to sick call. They’ll ask, “What you going to sick call for?” The soldier says, “Oh, I got this.” “Drink water.” That’s basically what they tell you. My body right now is broken down. I’m in my late thirties. When I wake up, it takes me 15 minutes to get out of bed. I can’t walk like I used to.
Especially with mental issues, with PTSD, it can be from a car wreck, anything. I fell out of a tree when I was two years old, and I’m scared of heights now. You can get it from having a bad situation in Basic. Or you can be out in sector, and just that environment itself can be traumatic to you. Because of the things you have to do, or the things you have to ignore.
I have children, I have six of them. And it broke my heart every time I walked sector, I see a little kid that’s begging for food, or fighting for candy, or struggling for water. That kills me. So all those things can play a factor. We’re people. Yes, we’re soldiers. But we’re people. When you’re at the firing range, you’re shooting at targets, and when you go out in battle, in combat, they still try to make you think that you’re shooting at targets. We’re supposed to turn off the physical fact that you’re no longer a human, you’re a target. And you can get brainwashed into all that. But then when you step back, when you step away from it, you realize that those are not targets. Those are people.
You agreed to do this job, so you should be expected to do these things, but as people, as conscious thinkers, the reality of it is, it sucks. It hurts. You can’t look at somebody and say, “This is not a person.” And if you do that, then you end up having these relapses where—for me, I can only do my job, I get sweats at night, and nightmares, and all that stuff. Those mental things become physical.
The process is a whole lot better now than in 2007. When I got out in 2007, it was crazy. The chain of command says, “Oh, here we go again, we’ve got another guy, another soldier gone crazy because this or that.” We’re not machines, it’s not like you can throw WD-40 on us and send us back out there.
Multiple deployments have made this stuff worse. I was at Benning, and I was in the military for five years, from 2002 to 2007. And in that period of time, I had three deployments. In five years, I spent over 21 months in Iraq. And this is during the time when my wife is in the military, and she’s deployed twice. Our family life was nothing, it didn’t exist. The multiple deployments definitely make things worse. If you deploy, you’re gone for around twelve months. Then they give you a six-month block, where you take 30 days leave, and then you train up for the next deployment for the next four or five months. It’s hard on the family. It’s hard on the person. You don’t have a chance to recover. Six months is not long enough, and actually, 30 days is not long enough, to come down from a deployment.
It took my wife a whole year before she could even drive.
We’ve been together since we met in the military. We’ve grown together up through the ranks. At Benning I had a great lieutenant command, and it was good learning. They took care of soldiers. And so, from that experience, when we had people taking care of us, that’s how we were as leaders. Anything one of our soldiers needed, even if they were not even a soldier anymore—if he needed a babysitter right now, if he’s going through something, we say, “C’mon, bring the kids, we’ll keep them as long as you need them.”