(I wasn’t sure I ever wanted to publish this story but I did publish it for the first time on Memorial Day 2013. I have decided to publish this again in honor of my husband and all soldiers; past, present and future) and anyone considering suicide. There is help out there.
“But You Didn’t See Their Faces”
He was raised by Christian parents in the rural part of Tennessee. Each Sunday the whole family would go to church to learn about God and the 10 Commandments. As he grew a little older the family unit, although still with their Christian beliefs began to fall apart. He left home when he was 14 and traveled to a far away place new and unknown to him.
As a young man of 14, he was tempted by many evils of the world and he fell prey to some of them but his upbringing and faith was still inside him.
At 17 he had a brush with the law and was given a choice of spending time in jail or serving in the military.
At that age, he still needed his parents permission to join the Army so he traveled back to his hometown and things were no different, so he obtained the signed papers from his father to be allowed to join the US Army.
He had finally found his home and where he felt like he belonged. He excelled in everything he tried, won awards, medals, honors and certificates. He moved up the ranks in the Army at a very fast rate with high commendations and felt the Airborne Rangers calling out to him.
Again, as an Airborne Ranger, he excelled in every way possible and was one of the most dedicated, trained and honorable members of this prestigious sector of the armed forces.
He didn’t really think too far ahead about what being an active soldier would involve. It seemed like a game while he was training.
Then came the day that he was deployed in Desert Storm. Reality was presenting itself in full force. This means there is actually going to be a time that he may have to kill or be killed and follow orders to kill.
His Christian upbringing had taught him over and over that killing is wrong. What is a young man to do when they want to serve their country but the orders they receive go against everything they believe in?
He followed orders and performed his duties as a soldier as he was taught and had trained for.
With his heart breaking, he had to create a hardness to his heart so he could act upon the orders that he was given.
Thirty years later and many “kills” recorded on his record he retired and came home to try and learn how to deal with the sins he had committed in the name of a “soldier following orders and protecting his country.”
Many, many sleepless nights were to haunt him with visions that he could not get out of his head of what had happened, what he was ordered to do and what he had to do.
As his wife, I saw the anguish and torture he was going through and tried to help the best way that I knew how.
PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) affects every soldier; man or woman that has been on active duty in a foreign country at war.
The sights, the sounds, the smells and the visions, they cannot escape. They have to live with the torment for the rest of their lives.
Wounded Warrior Project and organizations to help the returning soldiers was not around at the time he was discharged. I doubt he would have asked for help since “Airborne Rangers” are taught to “suck it up” and never to show any sign of weakness.
Many days and nights he would weep in my arms wondering if God could or would ever forgive him for the sins he had committed as a soldier. I told him that I believed that God does forgive those sins because he was following orders and it was not his choice to decide to kill anyone.
Many of his buddies also were going through the same torture of their experiences. Too many times he would retreat further and further from me and I soon learned at these times he had received word that a man he had served with or a man he had trained had survived the war, only to come home and not be able to survive the memories and they committed suicide.
Suicide was one of the 10 commandments that he was taught as a young child that was wrong and it was a sin. Many times he thought of suicide himself because of his pain and the memories he could not escape. I sometimes worried about him but I felt relief in knowing that his Christian teaching was instilled in him so deep that this was wrong and that he would never take his own life.
There were still many times of overwhelming sadness, grief and crying over the horrors that he had seen and done.
As I held him one night and tried to comfort him as best as I could and told him to ask God to forgive him for what he was ordered to do. He said that he had asked God to forgive him but then he said something I don’t think I will ever forget as long as I live.
With tears streaming down his face, he looked up at me and said,
“But You Didn’t See Their Faces!”