Thursday, October 27, 2005

Our Walk Through Life

What is the human condition? Here in Iraq we fight terrorists and insurgents. We give them names (haji, towel head, rag head) to peal away their humanity. We focus only on the horrible things that have happened so that we can bring ourselves to kill, but in doing so we too become changed. No longer do we fit in when we get home. We become outsiders and misfits amongst our own families and distance ourselves as others too distance themselves from us.

Alone, it becomes easier with time to be that way. You can't let others know the things you have done because they would never understand and it would only serve to make us even more alone.

We must build as well; we become so proficient at building that we could be engineers. Walls are our specialty, so we build them thick and high around ourselves. Theses walls shut out all the pain and hurt we feel when others can't seem to understand why we are the way we are, or when they judge and condemn us as if they were God Himself. The walls don't just keep those things out, but they serve to keep so much in as well. All of it, the guilt, the pain, and the fears we have can be kept deep inside where nobody will have to see them except ourselves.

That is ok though, because from there we can learn one last and important skill, that of the beast tamer. Like a monster everything we keep inside locked away can take on a mind of its own creating even more pain. Some of us fall apart at this point, hitting the ground so hard that we decide we can not get up and so it ends.

The rest of us learn tricks to keep that beast inside so that nobody will ever have to see how much of a monster we have become. In doing so we can continue our walk through life. That is the soldier's cost of war, and it is ours to bear alone until the end.


Kate said...

Soon you'll be able to start tearing down those walls, Zach, with the help of your wife and kids. I know you will be able to. I hope you share that story with us too.

Take care and stay safe, eloquent friend --

Other Lisa said...

Zach, I don't know you, but I've been reading your posts here, and I want you to know, I love you and I care about you. Hang in there, dude.

Household6 said...

Wow this breaks my heart. I know it is a product of war but I hope that with the love of your family, friends and with time that you will be able to find peace and life after serving in Iraq.


Josh Ing said...

First of all thank you for that raw and passionate post. Only the brave men and women like you over there can truly know the horrors of Iraq in the last couple of years.

One thing that came to mind when I read that post. There is a movie with Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez among others called ["The War at Home"]. It focuses on the life of a soldier coming back from Vietnam and how he copes with readjustment at home.

Snag said...

Be careful Zach. It's so easy to hide in a bottle when you're clear of the madness. It's one of the worst things you can do, but such an easy and convenient way to self-medicate. I did it for years and my uncles and grandfathers never stopped. I would suggest starting to plan projects and occupations to allow you slip into a "Zen" when you get back.
Imagining that my "soldier self" was a "role", like in a theatrical production, helped me disassociate myself from it. Not to trivilaize the horrors of it, but at the end of the day one has to hang up the costume (you never fully do though). Remember, you are not alone in your experience. War has been, is, and will be. Millions have gone before us.
Civilians haven't shared my experience, but then again I haven't necessarily shared theirs, so I have something to learn and something to teach. You go away a student and return a teacher.
Good luck Zach and stay safe.

bonnie said...

My heart aches for you. You are certainly being given chances to learn what you need to learn and contribute what you need to contribute. And, in that process, you have become a blessing to others. Thank you, Zach. Stay safe.

Daedalus said...

hey, zach, take pleasure in knowing that tomorrow, some of those who sent you there are going down! stay safe, keep writing. you're on your last lap, insha'allah.

constansl said...

I am praying for you and all the people in Iraq. God Bless you!!

Chris said...

Zach, you're going to get through this. I'm praying for you. I can't tell you how moving your blog is every time I read it. Hang in there, there are so many people who care about you. I can't tell you how pissed I am the more I think about this war and the lives it is destroying. I hope that this administration will be held accountable for this disaster. With the Plamegate investigation coming to some sort of conclusion tomorrow I think it will open more doors and expose this war for what is.

I wish I could meet you one day and give you a big hug. Take care of yourself.


"I wish the world was run by love, and absolutely nothing more."

Ocelotnut said...

You guys probably grew up loving, being loved, or exposed to love on some level, yet you're very profession requires you to vanquish, destroy, and elminate that which most, if not all, people, hold as being life's ultimate purpose. You guys have a grievous job; you get paid to kill and stay alive. When you do a good job, stay alive and kill, you get shit on; when you do a bad job, kill and die, you get shit on. It's the most noble profession on Earth as far as I'm concerned: you see life on a base level, you live it on a base level, and then you guys get shit on for being evil, when you're not. You are noblemen.

Audrey said...

My heart broke reading this post. What you describe is exactly the anguish my soldier lives with day in and day out. But there is hope...slowly he is being restored, not to his former self, but to a new and more whole person. You too will find that restoration in time. My prayers are with you...and with your family.

Papa Ray said...

Yea, been there done that for almost thirty years.

I kept waiting for it to get better, while numbing myself with drugs, booze and risky behavior.

Didn't help one damn bit. Finally a kind lady convinced me to go see a head doctor, I told her the VA had tried that several times. She said "humor me and I will be there to back you up."

Well, it took about three years and was more work than I thought anything could be. But, in the end, I did finally rid myself of most of the anger, guilt and rage.

You might try it sometime, just don't wait thirty years like I did.

Continue YOUR Mission.

Papa Ray
West Texas

Anonymous said...

Hey Zach,
You will be ok because you have a conscious and you are a good person and a great soldier. We need more like you. My little girl who is 8 wants to honor you at our local school for veterans day. At least that should make you feel good. I was surprised that she has obviously listened to me about you or when I read something you write. She said "You know that soldier you ahve in your favorites." I then knew exactly who she wanted to honor. So although you may not feel honor in what you are doing or have done, my little girl feels you should be honored just because of who you are and what you are going through. On another note today is my son's 16th birthday and I want this war to end. I have told him I don't want him talking to the recruiters who have already sought him out. He's the kind of kid who would go. I feel bad telling him not to do something that should be his choice, but I don't care. I love him and I don't want him to go to a war anywhere.I don't want him to feel the way you do. I care so much about what happens to you Zach as you can see my kids do and we don't even personally know you. Keep your head up and your heart open. You will come home and you will be ok. I believe that. You will work it out.
Love, Margie from New York

Anonymous said...

the words used by the American soldiers, (i mean the liberators to those whom they liberate) make me wonder where all the humanities have gone?

brainwashed bigots who will come back home and tell me,they are more patriotic than I am for serving this nation make me sick.

Wonder how many of them stuck between great soldiers like you?

Laura said...

thanks for taking the hit for the rest of us, brother....

Anonymous said...

Dear Zach, I'm with you son and I know you will survive fully and teach others because you already do. You will put your pain and guilt and secrets into action because you always have and we'll all grow up. With heart, Mom

Anonymous said...

Zach~ don't forget to allow others to love you and remember to love them back in return. My Love taught me that. It took me long enough to learn this.
At the time it is necessary to have the fortress. It's also scary once they're down but there's also a huge amount of relief. God Bless You. Alex

Kim Ponders said...

All walls leak and they are not sound-proof. Those who care can hear the beasts inside. I hope that as you and others return home we will all understand and help you guys out.
You are not alone.
Take care,


Nida said...

Thank you for sharing so much of yourself with us during your time away. I and so many others are listening. I hope you can find your way once you get home. I think, from what I've read, you are the type of person who will.

Take care of yourself, and get home safe.

figurepornography said...

Just wanted to say that I stumbled across your blog while doing an Altavista search.

Am incredibly impressed and moved by what you've written.

I disagree with this war and the people who started it.

But, I respect any member of the Poor Bloody Infantry, whether Army or Marine, who has to live and work as best they can with what they have over in Iraq.

Stay strong, stay safe, and, if you're ever in Las Vegas, Nevada, please look me up, and I'll be the first here in town to have the honour of whatever libation you prefer.

You do your duty as you see fit, and I do mine as I see fit.

Come home alive and well to your family and may you and they be blessed all the days of your lives.

If you so wish, I've a blog on blogspot too. It's called A Fistful Of Teeth and can be seen at this address,

It contains, mainly, action figure pics, including some depicting scenes from the Iraq War, plus a very few so-so socio-political rants of scant use or value to anyone.

If you should ever get the time or the inclination, I would be honoured if you stopped by and left a comment or two.

Thank you for the moving prose pictures of your Iraq War experiences.

Yours, Donald Rilea.

Anonymous said...

Good news, Zach - you'll soon have some new colleagues to share the burden, at least according to the BBC:

Peace and safe home-coming to all in Iraq

Josh Johnson said...

Those that do what you say, keep the burden to themselves forever, are the people I work with daily right now. They are the people that have lost everything over time, their whole lives becoming fodder for the growing beast they won't let out. The men I work with are damaged, addicted, unable to work or relate with anyone because of their shame and anger. The slightest challenge sets off completely unreasonable levels of reaction. They are so defensive they get in fights over people taking too much bread, leaving things lay around, or phrasing things wrongly.

You can't tame that beast Zach. It will devour you. You have to let it out, let go of it. The shame and judgement you may face is nothing compared to the damage your experiences can do inside you if kept secret. You have to tell someone you trust, a therapist, your wife, Scott or I, someone. You have to give them the chance to forgive you, to give yourself the chance to forgive yourself. The Catholics have a good idea. It's very helpful to share your shame and then believe someone when they tell you that you are forgiven.

If you do not share your burden it will destroy you. How's your faith Zach? do you still pray? Trust in God? Lift your burden up to God, Zach. Confess everything, tearfully, meaningfully, to Christ and let him take your burden from you. Do not hold on to your burden, you do not need it. You did what you had to, now accept the grace which is offered freely. Lay it on Christ's altar as an offering, and make sure you are truly giving it up, and not just offering and holding on.

Be well my friend. Know that I love you and always will, no matter what you do or have done.


Anonymous said...

I love him Zach.... *tears* Remember, your comment right around Christmas time. I think I might've deleted that blog... don't know whether he and I will ever speak again but that wall is definitely way up, I tell ya. Hope you are well and are enjoying the time with your wife and kids. Awww Zach, thanks for all your blogs. Be well and be happy...