"My co-workers know I was in the Army, and I have my down days here and there. Today was one, and when they asked how I was, I couldn't bring myself to tell them..."
Thank you to Redditor 'dailyPTSDsurvivor' for having the courage to tell his story. Link at the end of the article.
I was in the Army for six years, and served two tours of duty: one in Iraq, one in Afghanistan. I joined in 2002, partly because of 9/11, partly because it was my chance to get out of middle-of-nowhere USA, and go see middle-of-nowhere Anywhere Else.
During my Afghanistan tour, I was stationed near Kabul. Most days it was the same old routine. Drive in the front, look for IED's, and shoot back whenever someone shoots at you.
Just the calm, low-key desk job I was looking for. Sometimes you even get where you're going in one piece, without getting shot at or blown up.
September 20, 2006. Just another day. Get to go home in about a month, assuming I don't die. Everyone gears up, we all head out.
Apparently there's some middle-of-nowhere Afghanistan town about 25 miles away that some high ranking Al-Qaeda guys are hiding out. Naturally, we want to go out there and get them.
This was one of the days where no one shot at us and blew us up. I hated those days. Felt like you were just sitting on the edge of your seat waiting for the action to start already.
We get to this town, if you could call it that, and it was maybe 200-300 people, mostly shepherds and their families. We go door to door, looking for the Al-Qaeda guys. We get two-thirds of the way through, nothing turns up.
By now I'm thinking it was a bad lead, we're out here looking for shadows, and generally pissing these shepherds off.
I knock on another door, no answer. Knock again, no answer, but I hear movement from inside. So I think, "This might be our guy..."
Keep reading on the next page.
I call some backup over, break down the door, and low and behold, there's a guy with an AK pointed right at us. I shot first, killed him.
Never pleasant, but good to know you beat him to it. These guys were clever though. There were three more in the house right across from this one, and we had our backs turned to them.
They come out shooting, get one of our guys in the arm, and another in the chest (thank god for body armor). I grab the guy shot in the arm, another grabs the guy in the chest, and we back into the cleared house for cover, laying down a few shots every few seconds to keep them at bay.
And here's where I screwed the pooch. I looked around the door, saw movement, and shoot. Pop pop pop, just like that. But I didn't get one of the attackers, I shot a boy who couldn't have been more than 14 years old.
I shot him three times, and watched him fall like a bag of rocks. Killing a man who has a gun pointed at you is one thing, but a child... I can't describe it.
It's instant guilt and anger. Why didn't you pause to look for half a second? Why three shots, why not two, or one? Why was he there? Why why why why why???
I don't remember much from the rest of the incident. Apparently I just sat there, staring at him the whole fight. Some guys assumed I was dead, since I just sort of slumped over and stopped moving...
Keep reading on the next page.
We killed two, and wounded one. We turned the wounded guy over to Afghani security forces, dressed our guy's arm, and pulled our other guy out on a stretcher because we didn't want him moving after a shot to the chest.
I shuffled my way though it all, got through the rest of my tour doing desk duty and counselling. I got cleared of what I'd done, since it was "the heat of battle." Came home, saw my family, got treatment. Lived my life, lived the American dream. And every day, I thought about that boy.
He never got to have his life. Friends, family he had, family he would have had. For the first few years, this is how I thought. I took that from him, but I still had it for me. How was that fair?
So after a night of heavy drinking, alone, I decided that the right thing to do would be to kill myself so I wouldn't get to experience the opportunities I took from him.
I had one shot for me, toasted another for him, got in my car, turned it on, and waited to suffocate. I passed out from the fumes and the drinks, but my wife came home early, found me unconscious, and called 911.
I woke up in the hospital two days later. By all accounts, I should have died. While I was recovering, I saw my situation in one of two ways. Either 1) God was flipping me the bird, or 2) I was meant to go on living, and every day, I'd have to live for that boy.
See something funny? Bet he would have smiled. See someone in need? Bet he would have wanted to help. I can't just be the best person I can be, I have to be twice that, because I'm living for two people.
In the past six years, I think I've become a better person. I don't try to forget what I did. I can't. I won't. And because of that, I still have my down and out days. I'm not a hundred percent, and I doubt I ever will be again, but I get a little closer every day.