It’s hard to put into words how I’m feeling right now. The last couple of days have been a little exhausting after hearing the news of a former Thunderbolt taking his own life. I’m sure it’s been much, much more exhausting for others who were much closer to Alex Shelton. The thing is… I think about my deployment to Iraq every day. Since I’ve been out of the service, not a day goes by that I don’t think about my battle buddies, Iraq or Army life in general. Hell, I survived ten years in the service. It’s a lot longer than I thought I’d go.
Iraq was a difficult deployment for me because it wasn’t some field exercise in Hohenfels, Germany or somewhere in the backwoods of Kansas where everyone gets to go back to the barracks after a long day of training. Soldiers were getting killed on the battle field. Soldiers weren’t coming back for chow or to sleep in their bunks after a long day of running around in sector. Soldiers who were my friends, people I knew.
I joined the Army in April of 2000 as a tank mechanic because there wasn’t shit else to do with my life at the time. Who knew I’d be in Iraq five years later. I got out of the Army in 2003 and quickly rejoined the ranks in 2004 when America sent it’s men and women across the pond to war. I wanted to be an MP. I begged the recruiter to sign me up as an MP. I was just a shitbird needs of the Army recruit. Back to turning wrenches, back to wherever the Army needed me. Fort Riley, Kansas.
The shit I deal with every day probably doesn’t even come close to the some of the things my fellow soldiers had to endure during their time in combat. I’m not even going to sit here and compare. For most of my tour I sat in radio rooms, turned wrenches in motor pools and pulled many hours of boring, uneventful guard duty. All the while, my fellow soldiers were driving around getting blown up by IEDs and ambushed by the enemy.
I snuck out as much as I could. I ran with the Estonian Army and the Scouts (when they’d let me). I wanted to do my part on the battle field and not feel so useless in the radio room. I got to sit in those plush chairs day in and day out while the Infantry, Scouts and Mortar platoons trudged in and out of the outpost we managed to take over. Tired and beat down, they went on mission after mission.
I don’t know what Shelton endured during this tour of duty. Obviously, he had been through enough that he was fed up. For the most part, I can say I understand the pain. I live with guilt that I didn’t/couldn’t do more in combat for my Brothers. I live with physical pain from ten years of physical exercise that has worn my body down to a nub. I live with never-ending night terrors that, on most occasions, keep me up for hours on end at night. I have crying fits, long bouts of deep depression, paranoia…as some of the doctors say, my “combat switch” is still on, years later. If this is anything what Shelton has been feeling since he was honorably discharged from service, its extremely difficult to live with.
Some soldiers cope with this better than others. It doesn’t make us weak or lesser of a person if we cry or can’t soldier on through the day. We are human and we have been through a lot. The most important thing is; we have each other. Despite political beliefs, religious beliefs, personal opinions, or whatever…we have each other. I think of every 2/70th Armor Brother I had the pleasure of serving with in combat every single day of my life. I enjoy your Facebook updates, (no matter how fucked up they are) I read them and think about you guys every day. I love you like no other.
For the rest of you guys, Hurricanes (1/63AR) and you crazy 116th INF and 4-1ARTY guys, we had some awesome times as well, and like I said, despite any differences, I love you guys all the same.