Silent Until Memorial Day

Veterans Day was last weekend.  I am a veteran of the Iraq war.  Yet, in my mind, a veteran is a bent man in his late eighties, sporting a cardigan.  I do not feel like a veteran.  I do not associate myself with veterans.  I still wrestle with my role in the United States Marine Corps and in Operation Iraqi Freedom.  I remain sitting when veterans are asked to stand and be recognized at church.  I delete the United States Marine Corps from my resume.  I pretend like I am something other than a veteran.  And, if I am honest, I start drinking as soon as it is socially acceptable.  I drink either scotch or its affordable little brother, bourbon.  I drink until I cry.  I sleep.  I wake.  I stuff it back down and think: while my war experience defines me, it is an unknown to those closest.  My wife does not know.  My children do not know.  My parents, siblings, and friends do not know.  I know.  Those I served with know.  And when we gather, we drink, we cry, and we wake to forget each other until the need once again arises.  This last Veterans Day I came no closer to truth.  Yet, I was reminded: there is a cost that outpaces Washington budgets.  I am neither hero, nor warrior—I am only struggling to understand the war that made me.  So, for now, the scotch lingers on the shelf, silent until Memorial Day.

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