19 JULY 2019
It was the seventh bag of blood that I was gently squeezing, to replenish the blood loss, caused by the self-inflicted gunshot wound in his skull. The crimson soaked gauze stretched with the swelling, as I saw the blood I was pushing drip and splatter to the ground, bouncing to the boots of other combat medics attempting to help.
I had noticed, around bag two or three, the raccoon eyes and battle scars behind his left ear lobe, reminiscent of the pictures they showed us at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, evidence of his eventual death.
Not knowing who the patient was, I found myself relating to him, based on information I received later, that he was also an army combat medic. He had arrived in Iraq a few weeks prior, his relationship back home was in disarray, and he felt powerless to affect it.
Now he was dead. A single drop of his blood, on my boot. Rather than keeping my boots clean, I got a new pair of boots to wear on duty. Doctors said it was a symptom of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Having gone through a divorce (2008), I realized the potential that dying while on deployment (2009-2010), would benefit my estranged son and prayed that either that would be the outcome, or that God would utilize the experience to get me to the place he created me to be.
I kept my distance from most of my fellow soldiers leading to separating from the military (2012). Whether it be new duty stations, deployments, alcohol abuse, drugs, cancer, suicide, we were all bound to lose each other sooner than later. There was no point in getting too close.
Reintegration after deployment had its ups and downs. Biggest “UPS” meeting my best friend and wife (2011) and our seven year old son. Lowest “DOWN” has been a constant battle within myself, choosing to live, just to see what happens next.
I have utilized the Post 9/11 GI Bill and acquired my BFA Interdisciplinary Film & Digital Media (2017), and began Next Step Media Productions, LLC (2014), working with nonprofits, veterans organizations, government, small businesses, entrepreneurs, and putting out my own thoughts on life. I haven’t given up on people, or myself……not yet.
As I look out to 2020 and beyond, I have many fears, however, I have Faith. Learning to respond kindly to those who would hurt me. Finding gratitude and appreciation for simple kindnesses and approach each stranger with a delightful joy to bring them happiness. Creating peace through patience, steady perseverance, and a loving stillness. Finding excellence in the goodness and generosity I have been given and able to give. Looking for reliable, trustworthy situations to engage in respectful disciplines.
It took me ten years to throw those boots away, the drop of blood still present. To this day, I never found out his name. I kept the boots to remember to keep living. I threw them away, because I no longer need the reminder.