Day by Day

Monday, May 31, 2004

My Shame

I was reading a post from Puggs on Random Nuclear Strikes when I came across these words:

A reminder for me, like most veterans I was spared the trials of close combat. So these words bring sharply into focus an emotion I’ve felt since the day the towers fell. I didn’t do enough. I should have done more, I should have been able to enlist again, able to engage the enemy. I’m shamed that I can’t do these things, shamed that others are going while I simply watch. But a man who walks with a cane is not an asset. I’m sorry, for failing to join the fight, sorry, and ashamed.

Dear g-d, that nails it on the head.

On this day, as we remember those who died in service to their country, there's a thought that keeps hammering away at me. I can't get rid of it, I can't quiet it down, and the Lord knows I've tried.

My father served in the Marine Corps during the Viet Nam war. My grandfather served in the Navy in WWII. When I joined the Army, I knew there was a chance I would get sent somewhere, I knew the risks, and I was fine with them. Five years later, I was tired of my unit's bullshit in Ft. Riley, tired of the political games of the Clinton Administration, and the civilian life called. My one chance at a deployment was yanked because I was a witness in a court martial proceeding, and the Army didn't want to pay for me to go to Bosnia just to fly back for a few days. I ETSed in October of 2000. In five years as a MP, I had never fired a shot, and never been shot at. I considered myself lucky.

Less than one year later, all hell broke loose.

And I watched. I watched as my friends from my old unit got called up. I watched as people marched with their idiotic banners and signs, and I marched against them. But above all, I felt shame. I spoke a good long while with my father, agonizing about the whole issue. My dad tried to reassure me, "You stood your time on the wall. The fact that there weren't any shots fired during your watch is not your fault". But it still wasn't enough. Puggs nails it on the head -

I didn’t do enough. I should have done more, I should have been able to enlist again, able to engage the enemy. I’m shamed that I can’t do these things, shamed that others are going while I simply watch.

I finally had enough. I was done crying for friends who were in harms way. I went to the local recruiter and had a good long chat with him. I finished the paperwork two months ago. I went to MEPS last month. You want to know humiliation? The Shark Attack in basic was nothing. Getting yelled at was nothing. True humilation, in my eyes, is having some doctor stick a finger in your nutsack while telling you to turn your head and cough. Gimme ten Drill Seargents yelling at me any day, I can handle that. But that probing finger just squigged me out.

At the end of MEPS, I was told my eyesight wasn't up to par. Fine, yeah, same thing as the first time around, I'll get a waiver. Sent the paperwork up, figuring that by this time I'd be speaking with the MEPS 1SG and picking out the time and date of inprocessing.

Instead? Eyesight waiver denied.

Fuck! Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuckity fuckfuckfuck! Damn my eyes, my damned eyes. My eyesight kept me out of my Father's beloved Corps. And my eyesight looks like it'll keep me out of the Army this time around. The Navy and the Air Force don't want a used grunt, and the Coast Guard doesn't have any active duty slots open until some time next century. I have one last glimmer of hope left, but failing that my military career is over. Done. Finite. Kaput.

And I don't think that many people can understand the dispair I feel in that. The shame. It's like a coastal undertow that keeps dragging me back every time I see a man in uniform on the news. I should have done more. I need to be there. I should be there. It's my fucking duty to be there. I can't sit on my ass while other people are there, I should be in their place or marching with them. Men with families and wives should be able to be with them, because I SHOULD BE THERE, not them. Little kids shouldn't have to grow up without a father, the father should be at home while I'm over there in his place.

Fuck fuck fuck.

And the worst part is the wondering. What if I had stayed in? What if I had never left? Where would I be, what would I be doing, who would I be if I hadn't changed my life's path? I can honestly say I wouldn't give up an single ounce of what I gained as a civilian. I have one of the best women in the world as my fiance. I have ten acres of land in Northern Idaho that's waiting to have a house built on it. I have a motorcycle that has let me experience joys unknown to all who travel on four wheels only. I have a great dog. I have unbelievably good friends. I've got a decent job. But there is that pounding beat, a throbbing in my head, the staccato voice that never stops. I should have done more. I should be there. I should have done more. I should be there.

I tried to obey that voice. And my eyes, the bane of my life, the one factor that has held me back in more things than I can imagine, have finally kicked my feet out from under me. If I could rip them out of my head and replace them, I would. If I could have surgery on them, I would. Unfortunately, I discovered that A) Lasik or Radial Karectonomy is an instant precription for Glaucoma in my case, and B) the Army doesn't accept anyone who's had that surgery anyways. Unless the Hand of God comes down and heals them, they aren't going to get any better. In fact, they'll probably get worse. Fuck fuck fuck!

But as I said, I have that one glimmer of hope left. My recruiter and I are working on it, and we'll see how it turns out. I hope to g-d they let me back in, because that voice is still there, right now, pounding away inside my skull. You should have done more. You should be there. You should have done more.

I wonder if that little voice will follow me to my grave. It will be the inscription on my tombstone.

"I should have done more. I should be there."

One last thing - any troll comments on this post will get deleted. I'm not in the mood to play games.

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