August 02, 2010

: Anthony McCloskey (Tadpole)
Posting date: 8/1/10
Returned from: Afghanistan
Milblog: ArmySailor.com

Stanley Kubrick’s 1987 cult-classic Full Metal Jacket was a brilliant piece of work. It nicely encapsulates the maddening experiences of the military, and war. For better or for worse, war changes a man, and there is no way to escape that reality. Anyone who witnesses the horrors and triumphs of war cannot possibly expect to walk away from the experience unchanged.

My experience in Afghanistan completely changed my own outlook on the world and life. In Afghanistan I discovered what real poverty and true desperation really is. I saw grown men cry, I sent friends home to their families in boxes. I saw the results of people who believe in absolutes, and follow the most extreme form of a religion zealously. I witnessed men do unspeakable and horrifying things to other men, and rationalize it with expressions like “war is hell” or celebrate it with “Allahu Akbar."

When I left Afghanistan I knew, with a good deal of certainty, that I was in “a world of shit”, but I also knew I was not alone, and I was not afraid, for I had grown stronger from the experience. I learned more about life, the world and myself in Afghanistan than anyone ever could in any school, from any parent, or even by reading all of the world’s philosophy. I had seen the best and worst man had to offer his fellow man, and it changed me. I left that desolate country in relative peace, with a strangely calm mind, and with no fear in my heart.

Since I have been home, things have changed. Now, three years after returning home, I am left with a continuously empty feeling of a job left unfinished. I hear stories about those who have returned, and I desperately wish to join them, though I also do not want to leave those I love. My mind is not so calm any more. I find it difficult to concentrate, I find it difficult to rationalize the mundane drudgery of day-to-day life in the relative comfort of modern America. I have discovered that I am in a world of shit, and I am full of fear.

No longer do I have the bond of brotherhood and camaraderie that was forged by shared hardship in a world where anything may kill you. No longer do I have the peace of mind knowing that no matter what happens tomorrow, I can count on the man to the left and to the right of me to do everything in their power to ensure we all make it home together. No longer am I living in a world of absolutes. Only now that I have rotated back to the real world do I realize that I am in a world of constant uncertainty and moral ambiguity. I live in a selfish, shallow world of politics and people who are only looking out for themselves, and I am afraid. I find it hard for my mind to find peace in this world.

I cannot find peace, because I cannot find others who seem to truly understand, or who share similar values. No, in this strange new world of home, people are shallow and selfish, obsessed with material things and meaningless pageantry. No one is willing to make a sacrifice for anything. Suddenly, I feel terribly, horrifyingly alone, without the peaceful, loving bond of my brothers-in-arms, and I just don’t know if I have the strength to make it. I find it hard to find the motivation or reasons to forge ahead, but I do. I keep going because that’s what we were trained to do -- to keep going, and to survive, even in the face of abject fear.


Note: Tadpole contributed many posts to The Sandbox during his deployment to Afghanistan in 2006-2007 (including The Dance, It's Not All Bad, Forgiving, and Coping With Homecoming), and he has continued to contribute to the site since. Four of his posts also appeared in Doonesbury.com's The Sandbox: Dispatches from Troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.


Thanks for your insight and honesty. You are not alone in your viewpoint, but all is not as you now see it. There are many of us who shared your perceptions until we discovered that there are so many who do care about someone other than themselves and are willing to seek out others with whom to share their thoughts and feelings. Your post is a great first step -- keep at it -- we will come to you if you cannot find us.


I'll second that Ger...

Be praying for you Tadpole...

Ger is right. I also suggest that you find a way to give of yourself in some way to help another just a little each day and you will find others who are doing the same. Thank you for your service and keep all of our active duty service men and women in your prayers. God Bless.

Im speachless after reading this. To a degree, i also feel this way, how materialistic and superficial life is in these United States. Although, i have not been in afghanistan, or the military at that. Ask yourself, what would you want to do if you could do anything, go anywhere, be with anyone. Are you close to your family? Are you still in the military?

Like others, I cannot comment on your military experiences being 78 years of age, however, your incredible honesty and clarity of thought is inspirational. It amazes me that all that ability survived the sheer base crudity of illegal and ill-managed war. As an admirer of things American since my teens, I have been totally perplexed by the Vietnam war, and have come round to the view that all this shit happens because of a few megalomaniacs who seek to perpetuate their immense profits, no lessons are ever learned relating to the inhumanity of it all, just the lesson of ever greater profit. No way that's democratic, and here in the U.K. politicians can wait to get at the trough (good old Carlyle Group in particular) but how the hell do we get rid of them and get back to humanity?

" . . . shallow and selfish, obsessed with material things and meaningless pageantry."

No fooling you, is there? You've caught on to the scum who want to addict us all to selfishness, with the flashy-shiny bread-and-circuses crap.

Lots of people here at home are in a world of hurt. Maureen's got it right; there are many who will value your willingness and effort. It will be different, and it may be more difficult for you; but you sound like you won't settle for the sham. Habitat For Humanity? Big Brothers?

Best wishes, Tadpole.

There are civilians out there who do understand values like brotherhood, sacrifice, and honor. They cannot always appreciate them in the same way that veterans like you do, but they still recognize the importance of such ideas over material and selfish personal considerations. We're out there - perhaps closer than you think. Hang in there.

Please visit soldiersheart.net. Ed Tick is doing alot for returning combat vets. He can hook you up with someone.
I'll pray for you.

Hi again, Tadpole,
I should've clarified that Soldiers Heart has a vet-to-vet mentoring program; so Ed can hook you up with another veteran. Their number is 518-274-0501. Or soldierheart.net
Take care,

I just wanted to thank you and any other vet reading this. You are the best of us and i pray your life yeilds happiness and love. Thank you for everything you have done.

Tad, been thinking about you. Let us all know how you're getting along.

This post is really deep and I think would make a lot of people question some of their feelings, thoughts, and values about life and the world in which they live. Your description of what you saw and experienced overseas was short, yet so graphic and eye opening. So many people in this country have no idea as to what kind of lifestyles others in poverty-stricken countries are living. They only worry about the materialistic things that you mentioned and their biggest worry day to day is something along the lines of which new phone to buy or what new store to shop at. Your talk of leaving there with a peace of mind and slowly losing that peace of mind over time as you have been back home made me feel deeply for you and what you are experiencing. Going from having that brotherhood you described to having that empty, feeling you now have must be very hard, but you have proven already that you are strong and you seem to have the right mindset in the sense that you know that you must just keep moving forward.

I am also in a World Of Shit. Everyone I know is losing their minds with overwhelming stress, rage, despair, crippling health problems, chronic outrage, chronic misery, and blah blah blah who the fuck even gives a shit? Or can read multiple fucking sentences before losing their attention?

I spent my life fighting for what's right. This gave me purpose in life. "Playing Hero" is how most people would joke about it. But I feel immersed in a society that only cares about how much money you have, how attractive you are, and superficial horseshit in general. If you're a selfish scumbag with a ton of money, most people assume you're a respectable person and hard worker and a hero, and you'll get everything you really need. If you're disabled and poor as a result of making sacrifices to do the right thing, people laugh at you, ridicule you, spit in your face, and either a) think you're a fucking moron for living to do the right thing, or b) think you're a fucking disgusting liar for pretending you're a good person -- AND you're constantly unable to get some things you truly NEED -- and you just keep deteriorating as a result.

Apparently, there is nothing more despicable than a lame-ass chronically depressed man who is crippled and can't support himself.

Admit it: the Good Guys lost. Stupid bullshit, selfishness, money, greed, soulless corporations, sold-out politicians, self-serving rationalizations, assholes, and lies have won. The world is a huge pile of shit and getting worse. And people like me can hardly keep fighting to continue living our shitty lives, much less fight for a world made up mostly of people who think I'm dogshit for being crippled and poor.

Statistically, 1 in 50 Americans kill themselves. I know -- amazing it's so few.

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