August 01, 2011

Name: Garrett Phillip Anderson
Returned from: Iraq and Afghanistan
Hometown: Portland, OR
Email: [email protected]
Milblog: Iraq/Afghanistan and More 

The songbird singing on my windowsill will come and pass to be replaced by another and I will never notice. The old bird will come to rest in a shrub to be devoured by the cat, or maybe on a crowded sidewalk to be stepped over by the busy people of the day and I will have forgotten his song. Corporal Hunt killed himself two weeks ago in his Texas apartment. I didn’t know him but I could feel a lonely connection in deeper parts of my heart, and his story that made CNN headlines could not be shaken out of my head so I clocked out early today to write this.

Everything is so different out here, and it has been years since my last deployment. After my first hospitalization for an attempted suicide I took a trip to Eastern France with my father to do some book research. We were on a Marine Corps battlefields of WWI tour hosted by former Commandant of The Marine Corps General Michael Hagee. Wandering through a well-kept cemetery in the hamlet of Belleau, France the General lit up and guided us to a tombstone. “Here it is!” He exclaimed.

The General proceeded to tell us the story of Sergeant Streicher, who after his discharge in WW1 returned home to New York. He saved up enough money to take a trip to France and returned to the town of Belleau, where he had fought. The former Sergeant asked the mayor if he would be allowed to live in Belleau to be close to his friends buried in a nearby military cemetery. The mayor granted his request. Sometime later Sergeant Streicher wandered out to the wood line where he had fought and shot himself.

The Pentagon will not consider Corporal Hunt a war statistic, nor will they count the untold other number of post-military-service suicides. Sometimes I am walking through a parking lot checking the stubs to make sure that people paid for parking, and I will think about all of these cars driven by all of these people and how they do not know that I served and that even if they did they would not care. I am a dead sparrow on the ground being stepped over, and the weight of this thought is debilitating. I have sought help and sometimes I feel alright, and other times I am walking through this never-ending parking lot and it seems like I will never be able to leave. I always want everyone to know what my dead friends meant to me and what they should mean to their country, but I don’t know how to say it.

Today I was walking through a cemetery in Eastern France. I was joined by Sergeant Streicher and Corporal Hunt and my dead great Uncle Private Joesph Otto Turley, who was killed on the last day of WWI. We were researching his story. Private Turley tugged my arm and walked me to the church where he had died. The French sky was grey and the old church was simple. Sergeant Streicher took hold of the rope of the bell and told me that when I didn’t know what to say it would be a good idea to ring the bell. The four of us took ahold of the rope and gave it a yank and it sang, “Another dead Marine!” The ringing thundered through the world, Corporal Hunt was smiling and we had known each other. We sang together, “Listen up you motherfuckers! Listen you passers-by! Another dead Marine!” I shut my eyes and pulled the rope and when I awoke I was the only one ringing the bell.


You are correct, Sir. Very few care about your sacrifice. Very few want to hear your story. Very few want to hear of sacrifice. They are too wrapped up in their own hurt, sacrifice and terror.
It will never match the experiences you have lived through. But, for them it is more real because they are living it right now. Having never seen, smelled, lived through nor experienced the horrors that you have, they can only deal with what they are living through.
This is not an excuse for them, nor me. Having gone to a system that relies on the patriotic and financially restricted to pay the huge sacrifice of our safety and freedom has created a near-complete disconnect with the reality of military service for the masses. We have a second generation who has to go back to a grandparent to find out what military life is like. Most don't even ask.
You, sir, are an expendable commodity. You are nameless and faceless and that is the way most want you. Vietnam vets know the feeling. they suffered through an unpopular war and came home to a country that did not want to hear of their sacrifice and what they had experienced either.
As your dream is telling you, only those who have been there understand. Whatever you do, don't give in to the desires of your heart. What those across the battlefield did not accomplish, don't do to yourself. You will only be remembered for a fleeting moment by those who hear of your story on the assorted news outlets. If there is room for you to be mentioned that day.
Find the local Vet center and speak to those who understand and can appreciate what you have done. Don't waste your life for people who do not care. There are those out there who do appreciate what you have done. Most have stories of their own, as well.
From me, "Thank you". "Your service and sacrifice are both appreciated and understood."

Thanks for sharing your truths Garrett.
I to understand your feelings.
Roy as you know was right about us from the tragedy of Vietnam.
We all had at least once the thought of suicide if not more.
I can't imagine going to France and experiencing the feelings and emotions you did. Hopefully, it was a healing experience.
Take care and enjoy the moment if not just today.
Peace and happiness fellow Warrior,

Wow, that gave me chills. Keep writing and telling your stories, we need to hear them! That's how you will keep them alive. Use your talent to ensure no one ever forgets!

Thank you for your life,
Thank you for your contribution,
May God please bless your
Precious heart and soul,
and give you grace and peace.

People who have suffered and known pain understand pain all too well and honor those struggling with pain and suffering.

"May the long time sunshine call you
all love surround you.
And the pure light within you
guide your way on."


Thank you all for the comments. I feel that Kurt Vonnegut wrote it best with the quotation, "So it goes." Tim O'Brien, in an interview regarding Vietnam, said something to the effect that he thought war was something that a person should not get over, that some things a human being should remember. I agree that the impact of war should not be diluted in a fantasy that it never was, because when I break it down to the bare bones it was just people getting killed and most of the days were boring while we all did our deadly jobs. I don't think I ever once thought of the politics of it and I intend to keep it that way. Anthony Swofford said of his war, "Some wars are unavoidable and need well be fought, but this doesn't erase warfare's waste. Sorry, we must say to the mothers whose sons will die horribly. This will never end. Sorry.'"
If you have not read Erich Maria Remarque's "The Road Back," you should, because it is better than his famous, "All Quiet On The Western Front." Some people have been to war and like it, others could care less, and I feel that the writers remember the real story. I trust no man who speaks of war with great pride but I also cannot regret my service. It was a thankless act and my war will be remembered like the Korean conflict in twenty years; just in time to prepare my children. Please don't thank me for what I did because you will never know why and to what motive. All I know for any certainty is that I did. Semper Fi.

Robert E. Lee said, "It is good that war is so terrible. We should grow too fond of it."

Personally, I am anti war and an overall pacifist, but I appreciate the sacrifice that many make to serve. I am hearing, more and more, that the military is trying to remove the stigma from asking for help for the psychiatric problems caused by war. I am hearing about men and women from as far back as WWII finally asking for help for the nightmares and other behavioral problems caused by the violence. I hope that one day the tide finally turns to recognize that posttraumatic suicides and attempts are also casualties of war. It sounds as though you have sought help or had it foisted upon you. Either way, it also sounds as though it is doing you good. I wish all of you continued healing and strength.

There are those of us who CARE. If we know you've served, WE CARE. I won't say thank you, as you said I don't know the why and the what of what you did. I don't care about that, but I do care about you. I wish you peace in your life and in your dreams, a little more every day. It's true, some things in a person's life should and will never be "gotten over" or forgotten. But as a friend of mine said, it never goes away, it just gets quieter. Please keep writing - please. I CARE.

You are alive and you have a strong voice to sing. The cat missed you, you were strong enough to fly away. Keep on singing.

Why and for what motive don't matter. You went, you saw and you survived. The only clear thought is you survived.
As with any tragedy, those who survive often wonder and agonize of that fact, they survived. Take the gift handed to you and make the most of it. If not for yourself, then for those who weren't able to come back to crime, unemployment, leaders who can't and the overall American experience. Welcome home.
Now, tell your story. Better yet, tell their stories. Those who have no voice to speak, you be their voice. Will it hurt? Of course it will hurt. Just as badly as seeing them extinguished too early from this life. But, their lives and sacrifice need to be illuminated to the world. Especially one that doesn't care. Don't sugar-coat it. Warts and all. Warts and all. No one is perfect. This generation of military personnel volunteered. I knew guys from my generation who "enlisted" to stay out of jail. Perhaps you do as well. Some "soldiered on", most just kept being screw-ups. Lives changed. Men who would not have spoken to each other in my generation, became friends. War makes you do things you would not normally do.
Right or wrong, we make choices to preserve our lives. And, in some cases, give our lives for those we care about.
You gave your life. You can still tell the story. And theirs also. Do it.
If you can say "Semper Fi", and mean it, tell the stories you know.

We specialize on representing those who have been injured on the job and deserve prompt medical treatment and compensation for their lost wages.

This post brought tears to my eyes. You do matter, and so does your story, and your work, and your immense sacrifice and pain. I wish I could just hear everyone's story, but I am so glad this blog allows people like you to share your experience and thoughts and feelings.

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