The original I posted on my blog, here. Feel free to comment, share, and like (or dislike?).
There are times I struggle to figure out where it is that I sit in society. No longer part of the spear that stands ready to plunge into the hearts of our enemies, yet, not truly a part of the body that the spear protects. Seemingly somewhere in between. Educated, but not a professional. Longing to find a home, yet struggling to learn my place. Questioning having left, yet sure that I never would have made it farther than I had already gone.
A warrior adrift in a sea of sheep with no enemies to fight, and no support should that fight materialize. Finding friends for me is hard. I’m not just a “gun guy” stuck talking to sports fans, or a veteran stuck dealing with civilians. To me, being a citizen of this nation doesn’t revolve around putting your twenty in, and “earning” yourself a retirement and social security check. That goal- sitting on my duff every day after a hard day’s labor seems empty and incomplete. Retiring seems to me more of a death sentence than a goal to be yearned for.
Retirement in my mind is not an end state- it is the end of being for being is having purpose, and when I was in the Corps, I had purpose. Now, it seems, I live in a world where the mentality is, “Well, this is easy- I could do this until I retire.” The regular person has no drive to be more, and those that do face, at times, insurmountable odds. One would think that being a Marine would have prepared me for these tasks and pitfalls, but in hind sight, being a Marine has put a new spin on the whole meaning of difficulty.
A friend of mine jokingly said that veterans are mentally disabled, and to be honest, I think she may have a point. There are things that I LIKE to do that Joe Six Pack would never dream of doing- like throwing a fifty pound pack on my back and walking for six miles. I like doing that. It’s hard, it hurts, and it reminds me of where I place my true roots. I like shooting- though I am not just a “gun guy.” I’m a warrior at heart, and my desire for arms, and my other hobbies revolve around that end. I play wargames for the strategy and tactics- it’s a place I can fail and learn without fear of losing people. I hike and shoot as a means to retain the skills I learned as a Marine. My favorite hobby isn’t necessarily shooting or wargaming (though I enjoy both) but preparing for war. It’s in my blood, and THAT is how I am mentally disabled.
Her joke went on- veterans also have speech impediments. I know I do. At times, when calling a tech on the radio at work, I end my portion of the conversation with, “over.” I might be the only one who does. I’ll say, “Roger,” “Out,” “Copy.” I use slang from the service like “head” or “bulkhead.” I curse (more than I should), and I have more than once called someone a “Yoohoo.”
I knife hand things and people. I walk briskly with my head up and my eyes constantly scanning my environment. I look for potential weapons and avenues of egress, assess potential cover for its ability to offer me clear lines of advance should the worst occur. I even look at my vehicle and wonder where I could put something like a rifle or plate carrier just in case I ever need one or both. I carry (especially when I am with my family) and generally shun places that forbid weapons or have excessive amounts of people. I try and establish baselines for the places I go so I can tell if something is up. I still get frustrated with people who can’t move fast and who seem to lack purpose or just clog the doorway (don’t stop in the freaking doors). I don’t eat as fast as I used to- but I’m still done before the kids (my wife finishes before I do, but she eats way less too). I also holler… A lot…
To a civilian, I may appear broken and unreadable. Maybe I am, and maybe that’s why being a civilian is so damned hard for me. The competition really hasn’t gone away with regards to advancement- I’m just out of my league due to the fact that I never really wanted to civilian. Still don’t want to- civilians kinda suck. I say this with as much love as I can muster, cause none of them ever had to muster. It’s not in their nature. They’re not mentally disabled with a nasty speech impediment like me.
I’m also not well adjusted to coed work environments. In high school, I was that awkward kid that avoided girls. Then I joined the Marines as an infantryman (no women in the Grunts then) and never went to strip clubs. Didn’t have a girlfriend until I was old enough to drink and had already been to war. Only dated three girls (one is now my wife). Interactions with females were generally done from a distance, and I either had a rifle in my hands, or was on liberty with my friends. This isn’t to say that I didn’t have female friends, I just never really interacted much with them.
So here I am, mentally disabled, with a disgusting and at times frustrating speech impediment, and a strong dislike of sports (cause they are kinda boring to watch- I’d rather play) with no friends who would rather spend the day shooting, hiking, discussing small unit tactics and guerrilla warfare while playing a rousing game of chess or a good wargame. Yet- I still have to figure out how to communicate about thing I dislike while not seeming to be a weirdo for having a hobby (more like a pre-programmed pessimist complex) of preparing for the worst.
And then I’m here like- why can’t I just adjust to this civilian thing?
Must be a cultural thing… Funny thing is, I’m culturally incompatible with most of my fellow countrymen/women. Oh well, I guess I’ll just have to go put my baby girl back to sleep, and then maybe read Clauswitz or Sun Tzu or Poole, cause I don’t know of anyone else who will.