ALIVE DAY |
September 14, 2007
Name: CAPT Benjamin Tupper
Posting date: 9/14/07
Returned from: Afghanistan
Hometown: Syracuse, NY
I recently watched an HBO special titled Alive Day Memories. This documentary focused on Iraq and Afghan veterans, each telling of the day they almost died in combat -- their "Alive Day". I had never heard Alive Day used before this program, but I was very familiar with the concept.
One of the first things I did when I came home from Afghanistan on leave was tattoo the date 26 June 2006 on my right forearm. On this date, in a small village in Ghazni Province, I had my Alive Day. In the midst of an ambush by Taliban forces on our patrol, I heard the distinctive blast of an RPG behind me. I turned my head to see the football shaped warhead searing through the air towards me.
It may sound like a cliché, but for the first time in my life time did slow down. Some part of my brain hit the slow motion button and turned off the volume. The RPG landed in front of me. A ball of silent fire and dirt clumps filled my field of vision. I felt like I was watching it on TV with the mute button on.
The eardrum-shattering explosion and the concussion were nonexistent. Don't get me wrong, they were there, but I didn't feel them or hear them. That's how I know this day was my Alive Day. Reality was suspended momentarily. Normal physical rules of life (sound, sensation) were paused, and in the process, my life was extended.
The stories told during the HBO documentary were very moving, but they focused more on the injuries sustained than the Alive Day concept. I was hoping for more reflection on the emotional implications of the day. Perhaps this is because I wasn't physically injured on my Alive Day. Perhaps it was because these soldiers have more pressing issues to deal with (missing arms and legs) than to wax philosophic about it.
Regardless, 26 June 2006 has had some good and bad effects on me. It has shown itself to be both a therapeutic tool and a dangerous outlet. The downside is that I treat every day since my Alive Day as bonus time. It's easy to rationalize doing dumb or risky things because I'm playing with house money. I've heard many stories from my Afghan comrades -- all with their own Alive Days -- that involved an admission of engaging in high risk behavior.Their stories all end with, "Yeah, it was dumb for me to do that, but I should be dead anyways, so what the f*ck."
The positive side of the Alive Day for me is that whenever I am depressed, or hosting a one-man pity party, I catch a glimpse of the date tattooed on my arm, and I remember that even a bad day being alive is better than a good day being dead.