My name is Seth. You can call me Milo. It's been my pseudonym for as long as I can remember.
Let's get the obvious out of the way: I'm an Army veteran, having joined the Reserve in 2004 before going Active-Duty in 2005. I was stationed in Germany for a few years, and spent 15 months of that deployed to Iraq. My MOS was 21C - Bridge Crewmember, which means that I helped build, maintain, inspect, and perform reconnaissance of military bridges. I received two ARCOMs during my time downrange, and I returned home in December of 2007. In June of 2008, I ETS'ed.
It's been almost two years since I got out, and during that time I've made a new life for myself in the Pacific Northwest. Many things are the same, but many things are also different. I'm back in college on the GI Bill, and also working a full-time job in tech-support. I have a tightly-knit circle of friends, and a sense of what I want from life and how to get there. On Wednesday mornings, I take my wife downtown for bagels and coffee. I've been out for a while now, and compared to most of the other vets I know, I'm doing alright. I've attained a measure of happiness.
My adjustment has not always been easy. Coming back from a war, transitioning from military to civilian--these things are never easy. But I had help--good friends, a loving wife--and a sense of why my choices were my own. I spent so much time in Iraq making deals with myself, so once I got out, there seemed little reason not to keep that focus alive. Compared to two years ago, I'm a happier, more complete person overall. My priorities have shifted, and I count myself grateful.
But not everyone is so lucky.
I still keep in touch with people I knew. One friend received a head injury while downrange, and for almost two years has been waiting on a med-board. Another turned to alcohol, and got kicked out when I couldn't be there anymore to cover for him. Another friend from outside my unit, he joined up with PSYOPs, and just married a girl from Thailand. He's a lifer through-and-through, but I can see now that he suffers misgivings.
I've spent time out the wire, been mortared, rocketed, shot at. But I never got hit with an IED. I never had to raise my weapon to another human being. I've never killed, and I've never watched a close friend die. Some soldiers might be ashamed of this, but I'm not. I credit these things with being part of why I've been able to cope. And a lot of people I know aren't so lucky. So this is why I'm writing--for them.
Being a veteran, you spent a lot of time wrestling with guilt. There's always someone who had it worse than you, so you feel bad for talking about things that still bother you. Sometimes your fellow soldiers only reinforce this, with all their talk about POGs and Grunts. I existed somewhere between these labels. You tell yourself things--If I'd just done one more mission, re-upped for one more tour--and you feel bad, hearing about friends that are going yet again. And when you get that call from the friend who's been drinking again, you feel hollow afterward, because you got out okay. That is a weird feeling--like what right do you have to have your stable marriage and GI Bill? These are the things that haunt you.
But that's all over now.
I don't believe in a God, but I am thankful every day that I got out. I have been delivered out of Egypt, and that is why I'm writing. I'm tired of seeing friends that can't adjust, tired of seeing spouses not know what to do. I am tired of never talking about my experiences because someone might not believe me. I am tired of watching good friends suffer. I want to help them, and this is the best way that I can think of that doesn't involve signs or slogans. All I have are my words. But I hope that they can be enough.
This blog is by a veteran, for veterans and their loved ones. It may not always be about the war; it may not even be a great source of information. But I hope that it can be a source of comfort. I hope that, through my words, some might see that it gets better. Through my words, maybe someone can figure out how to be happy, how to be whole again. If my words can accomplish that, then that will be enough for me.
So that no one ever has to have it worse.