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.

THE FOG OF LIFE |

March 14, 2008

THE FOG OF LIFE
Name: MSGT Ken Mahoy
Posting date: 3/14/08
Stationed in: Afghanistan
Milblog: Third Time's A Charm!

I struggle. I struggle with what to even write sometimes. We have all reached the stage of this deployment where we can officially declare, “The honeymoon is over.” No more silent anxiety from the rookies worried about traveling to a war-torn country, no more pumped up bravado from men wanting to kick the enemy’s tail, no more patriotic propaganda and pep rallies urging us to “Be all we can be!" Just hard, cold reality setting in. Those realities that finally catch up to you when you just can’t push past the pain of how much you miss your kids, or how much you miss your girlfriend or wife. And other realities, such as realizing how frustrating even some of your fellow comrades are, and how damaging they can be to everyone’s morale.

That’s where I’m at today. I suppose there should be a “blogging prerequisite” or S.O.P. that states you shouldn’t write when you’re tired and frustrated, but I can’t help it. When I was in Iraq five years ago I kept a daily journal in which I would write the events of the day along with my most personal feelings. It was filled with my most private experiences and only one person has ever been allowed to read it.

I’ve come to realize that I can’t really do that here in this blog. This is not a diary. Quite frankly, you don’t want to know what I’m thinking sometimes. But allow me this rare moment to speak about the “other” side of war that most don’t get to see.

Framed_mahoy_struggle_1_3 I miss my kids. As a divorced father, I came here prewired with guilt about my failures as a father and husband, but traveling halfway around the world just exacerbates those feelings. I worry about them. I wonder how they’re doing. I wonder how they’ll cope if somehow I don’t make it home. I wonder if they begin to forget about me -- if their mother even includes me in their lives by mentioning my name.

Moreover, do my “kids” even talk about me much? I’m painfully aware that they read this blog, so I hope that they also understand that their Daddy is a human being with feelings -- and with flaws -- who thinks about them every minute of every day. To my kids: I love you!

Framed_mahoy_struggle_3_2 Shortly before deploying, my visitation with my kids, while much too short, was filled with lots of fun-filled days and new memories. I still see vividly in my mind all of us dancing around and lip-synching to the music of High School Musical 2. We even had wigs and a play microphone. My youngest son loves to play his mini-electric guitar and jam to the music playing in the background. I can still see him rocking out to “Rockstar” by Nickelback and running and sliding on his knees while never missing a riff! *lol*

Framed_mahoy_struggle_2_3 I miss finding my older son lying on the floor next to Ellie, our black lab, and quietly stroking her belly. He claims -- and I believe him -- to be able to talk to all animals in their language. He is such an encyclopedia of animal facts and trivia, he just amazes me!

I miss cooking with my daughter, my oldest child. It doesn’t matter how little time my kids have at my house, she always wants to whip something up. She has her own separate “nook” in the kitchen with her own cooking utensils, cookbooks, ingredients, and apron, and she uses it like there is no tomorrow. Hmmm. Ironic.

I miss my best friend, the one who has evolved into an inseparable part of my life. The other half of my once-broken heart. All of the difficulties of the past few years have always been met with her encouraging words and unconditional love and support. She has reminded me more times than I care to admit that it’s not the end of the world, and that while God may close a door, He also opens a window -- if we just look. She was so right. I miss her encouragement. I miss her smile. I just...miss her!

Framed_mahoy_struggle_4_5 Update: As I typed that last sentence I just received an email from her, and learned of the passing of her grandpa. This is yet another side of deployment that is heart-breaking. The passing of loved ones, the births of children -- significant events in your life that you can’t be there for. I want so badly to be there to comfort her in this difficult time but have to sit here and wonder how she is doing. Is she holding up? Is she struggling like I am?

The pressures here are great. But while we’re human, replete with our many anxieties and flaws, we don’t have the luxury of letting those feelings consume us and detract us from our mission at hand. We are so pent-up at times fighting our true feelings -- often stoic -- that it’s no wonder so many soldiers suffer from PTSD when they return home and have trouble adjusting to a “normal” life again. You find that PTSD has really very little to do with “the fog of war” or actual combat, but rather “the fog of life.” At least the “life” we know while serving overseas, as we await the return of our “normal” life back home. Until then, I think I will continue to struggle.

Comments

Thanks, and keep hanging on to those that love you, that you will never love enough for they are the reason you will be great in life, you do it with love.

If it means anything to you, and it might not. It doesn't have to. This is not new. You are not alone. We were all lonely while deployed. Nobody talked about it, well almost nobody, because it revealed a vulnerability, a weakness. And weakness could get you killed.

We all counted down to get back to the 'world' -- that is, the world as we wanted, so desperately, for it to be. The world as it never was. We wanted to go back to a world where our service mattered, where we won a battle to save our homes and families. Where we would be welcomed and recognised, not particularly as heroes, but as good and honorable men.

None of that happened. We were reviled, spit on, and cursed as losers. None of that was true either, but it was remarkably different from what he needed. It was so different from what some needed, demanded, that it drove them to the edge.

The whole mess was eventually called PTSD. It was societys way of blaming the victim for its' failings. The failing to honor the social contract between a country and its' defendeers.

Am I justifying the Texas Tower guy? No, not at all. But every social system failed that man before he did that. I can't justify that failure either. I'm just saying . . .

Your kids, I am sure, think about you every day. Our neighbor was deployed in Iraq. His boy hung with mine. ANY time there was ANY news about Iraq on tv, he would immediately zone in on that tv for any news of his dad. He never said much, but you could tell what he was thinking.

So yeah, they care. They think about you. They miss you. And knowing that, you can believe they love you.

you def are not alone- reading your essay was like a script of the last 16 months of my life...
time passes, life is good. its better to be 6 feet up with ptsd and divorced than the alternative. as i write this, my 4 kids are tearing up my new house (new, because i also came home tweaked, got divorced, etc), and ya know what- its nice. its nice to be alive....

As an attorney I've been involved in a lot of marriages, divorces, custody and visitation squabbles, and every kind of family trauma imaginable.

It's good that you write of the pain of your separation and put it out there for your kids to see. It's good for them to know that their father treasures them and more than anything else in the world wants to be with them, and it hurts him not to be with them. Too often we try to spare our children our pain, but if you did not admit the separation pains you, what would that tell your kids? Children need to know that they are so valued by their parents it hurts the parents not to be with them. Kids are resilient, resourceful characters, and it's evident from your photos and the things you write that you understand your children very well. The only thing which can really sap a child's resilience is the sense of being unloved or misunderstood or undervalued. You obviously love your children very much and want more than anything to be with them. This shines through your post and will be evident to your children as they read it. I think you may find upon your return that they treasure your words and your open affection for them. Though thousands of miles apart from them you have a better relationship with your children than some parents I've met who live with their kids.

Keep it up, don't lose hope, remember always that children who know they are well-loved return that love in kind. You and they will get through this.

You 2 looked so good together, I think you sound like a good person, and hope you can still resolve the differences.

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