The Sandbox

GWOT hot wash, straight from the wire

Welcome to The Sandbox, a forum for service members who have served or are currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, returned vets, spouses and caregivers. The Sandbox's focus is not on policy and partisanship (go to our Blowback page for that), but on the unclassified details of deployment -- the everyday, the extraordinary, the wonderful, the messed-up, the absurd. All correspondence is read, and as much as possible is posted, lightly edited. If you know someone who is deployed who might have something to say, please tell them about us. To submit a post click here.

ALIVE DAY |

September 14, 2007

ALIVE DAY
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.   

Comments

"even a bad day being alive is better than a good day being dead" As far as we know ;-)
Nice writing, good thoughts!

How about calling it a second "Birth Day" instead? This is a second chance at life, live it, enjoy it, don't risk it.

even a bad day being alive is better than a good day being dead . . .

amen to that.

I agree with you. That was your Alive Day for sure. And you are right. A bad day being alive is better than a good day dead.
Good luck and lots of love on your
bad days.

Now that you have done the dumb risky stuff, get on with being alive and being there for yourself and your loved ones. We are all glad you are here.

I am so glad you are here to write this account of the day you lived and did not die. Life is so good, but Aprille makes an excellent point with gentle humor. Take care of yourself, CAPT Tupper. There is something still to do.

I agree with everyone that a bad day being alive is better than a good day dead. I'm glad that you're still here to tell us about this! Thank you and good luck!

I agree with everyone that a bad day being alive is better than a good day dead. I'm glad that you're still here to tell us about this! Thank you and good luck!

What an incredible story! I've run into that sort of WTF attitude in others who've had near misses, but imagine it's truly magnified when you're a soldier whose every day has the potential to be an Alive Day for months on end during deployments. So pleased to know you came through the experience. Keep that tattoo where you can see whenever you get a "wild hare" as an old country friend of mine likes to say.

Its nice to see such optimism. I like the tattoo also. This was a nice reminder that we should be thankful for everyday.

Your words; "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.""

Kewl! A few small details, i.e, it never was YOUR money. House bets are stronger, but they lose eventually. Otherwise, nobody would play. But I know about, "I shoulda been dead . . ." Long term that thought may mellow into something like, "It just wasn't my turn." . . ."I still got some time left." . . . "There's some good thing I have left to do. I'll find it eventually." In the mean time, you owe luck, Gawd, Fate, or whatever you believe works, a debt to stay alive untill it really is your turn.

Uhmm, ah, not that I got a leg to stand on when it comes to criticising. I was riding my scoot down the road, minding my own business, when a squad of rice-rippers come whizzing up. They try to pass, revving the little mouse mills up to 15k. I got more in one lung then they got on any bike. So, Like A F**kin Idiot, I cracked the throttle, sped up to 120, pulled up to the lead ripper and said, casually, "Show me sumpin', bitch" and rolled the throttle wide open. These rigs top out at about 125-130, on a two lane mountian road. "No excuse, sir." I never realized I could be both proud and stupid at the same moment in my existance. But there it was.

My point is, it's easy to do stupid things, still, to this day. Let me be the cautionary tale, not you. Glad you made it. Welcome home.

I recently learned about the sympathetic nervous system and how when you go into shock, a lot of things shut down, such as most of your senses, like feeling and hearing. Like you experienced. Glad your ok. Praying for you guys!

Wow, that is a really moving story. Thanks for fighting for us in the Middle East. Good luck and come home safe, we're all praying for you guys back home.

I work with an organization (www.cause-usa.org) that supports the wounded and their families at WRAMC. During one of our holiday picnics at the Mologne House, I had a conversation with a young man with an above-the-knee amputation. He'd made it thru an Iraq tour unscathed, came home and, in his first act with all that money he'd saved, bought a fancy motorcycle. The leg-destroying crash was on the 3rd ride, if I remember his story correctly.

The moral of the story? Steel doesn't care whether or not it mangles human flesh & bone, be it in the US or overseas...so celebrate every "alive day!"

HL

Welcome Home GI! Thanks for a job well done. It is my hope you find the space for a life filled with beauty and grace.

Winston Churchill once said, "Nothing in life is so exhilarating as to be shot at without result."
:-) +++++++

Thank you--I have never been in a war zone but I know what it's like to be shot at---Your right every day after is a gift. stay safe and god bless you

Or to quote Ecclesiastes 9:4

"But all who are among the living have hope, because a living dog is better than a dead lion."

I am the parent of a soldier who stepped on an IED. After I finally took my first breath, my next thought was: HE'S ALIVE! I'm not speaking for my son, but this was a good day for me.

One of my Soldiers that was hit with an EFP likes to call it his "Kaboom Day." He makes sure that he is always off from work in order to reflect on things. The Doctors didn't know if he would ever walk normal again or be abl to have use of his arm, however he started walking just 4 months after he was hit and is now back in the Army teaching WLC. It will be a day that him, our fellow soldiers, or I will never forget and that day is a day that is both a day of reflection of what happened and where our lives have led. He is almost died and now he is able to train and prepare young soldiers at WLC from his experiences. That day is not always the happiest day...it's full of mixed emotions...but I always know that he was kept alive to carry on his knowledge and love for the Army to future Soldiers, and he is influencing the future of Soldiers lives everyday.

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