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.

LOOK TO THE VETS: BOMBS, EMOTIONS, AND PTSD |

April 16, 2013

Name: Mikey Piro
Returned from: Iraq
Hometown: Lindenhurst, NY
Milblog: ptsdsurvivordaily
Email: mpiro45@gmail.com

I am sitting and watching the television as I try to work. The images streaming on the news channels are familiar. I see them and I am reminded of my other senses. Sulfur, burnt hair, melted plastic. The attacks that have just struck our society again are unfortunately more common in other parts of the world. Ironically, if you find a Veteran of the past ten years, there is a good chance they are more familiar with this scenario than most Americans. Hell, most of my Facebook friends are well versed in this drill. I hope we can lead the country at large around the pitfalls of these types of attacks.

“Chaos” is a singularly accurate word to describe these scenes, but singular descriptions are inadequate. I have written about the aftermath before. As a nation, we are firmly entrenched in a review of details.

We will watch video and listen to interviews, but I am now paying keen attention to the emotions. The emotions that will pour out of the trauma that has now affected thousands of people will take a long while to unwind. The feelings of people who ran towards the blast, people who ran away, those who panicked, those who resolved to stay and help; anger, sadness and helplessness will feed many nights of sleeplessness.

The images are now seared into the minds of the EMTs, the Police, the First Responders and, through the television, the rest of America. Feelings of a lack of safety, and hopelessness, but also hope and resolution, all juxtaposed in a heap like the crowds immediately after the blast. They are battered, bloody and waiting for triage. And even without the help of the evening news, they will replay over in our minds. I feel confident about these statements because it is a glimpse into my mind's eye after a few key events in my service overseas.

In My Head

I am anxious, but not as anxious as I would have been three years ago. My wife came home to see me at my desk with the news on as I sifted through work emails.

“You know you shouldn’t watch that all night,” she gently told me.

“Yeah, I haven’t been watching long...” I lied.

I have lived through the aftermath of more than one car bomb. One of the most traumatic events I have ever lived through was dealing with triage for hours on end as a result of a massive car bomb in Tal’afar, Iraq. The lines of amputees and severely burned stretched to our gates.

I am now neatly preparing my mind for the next few hours and days. I am eliminating the “stuck points,” or in laymen’s terms, using “always” or “never” in my opinions or feelings. I am forcing myself to stare at the triggers. The pictures of blood-stained concrete are all too familiar. In staring at them I force myself to realize that these are low probability events. There were half a million people at the race today. Three killed and over a hundred wounded is not much more unsafe than driving and maybe safer than some parts of urban Detroit.

This is what terrorism tries to do. It tries to impact your emotions into forming unreasonable and illogical conclusions. It plays on safety and fear, and it is powerful. I think that had we known more about the treatment of emotions I would not have been hastened back into conflict so quickly. Today and here we do not have to rush anyone back to work.

Stiffen and Strengthen

One more resolution is to stiffen against these attacks. I can feel the callouses return. I think this is in our nature.

F**k me?

No.

F**k You!

We can now replace the Brooklynese with Southie. I have even looked at signing up for another marathon, so I can qualify for the next Boston.

The details will unfold, but more important than the details of the day are how the details make you feel. That will be much more telling about what is happening, and what is to come. If you are waning or lost, and you know a Vet, look to them and reach out.  Both sides will benefit.

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