Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Memorial Day

I cried. It was Memorial Day and it hit me so hard, my first Memorial Day since leaving the Army. She watched me and felt helpless as I sat there and quietly broke down in long silent sobs as the memories came flooding back and the guilt started again. My wife didn’t know exactly what to do, she made sure my son and daughter were still playing together in the other room and she held me.

She suggested we go to my father’s house so that I could talk to him. He had served in Vietnam and I knew he would know what I was going through. I drove without saying a word as I turned on the radio to NPR and listened to vets talk about those they lost, they had one vet for each war since World War I. I drove with big rolling tears quietly so that my children wouldn’t know that their father was so weak right then.

I saw my father in his backyard watering the grass and as I walked up to him Tara drove off with the kids. In a heap I crumpled when he turned to me and I couldn’t make it stop. Memories I thought I had filed away came flying back hitting me and without control I finally sobbed aloud as he walked over and extended his hand.

The only thing he said just then was, “you feel guilty don’t you?” He knew without even needing to ask. I was so very grateful for him at that moment. Not to have to talk about it and try to explain, just being able to have someone understand without asking anything was like gold. After a few minutes I calmed down and asked him if it was ever that hard for him. He told me it was. The memories and feeling that guilt for coming back alive while so many others have died both soldiers and civilians. That was all I could think about that day, why me? God, why did you let me live when you took so many others? But it wasn’t God; it was us, mankind that did this.

My father helped me put myself back together piece by piece until I felt complete again and like that it was over. The rest of the day was uneventful, but in the back of my mind I realize that the guilt is still there, it always was I just didn’t see it until that day. I love you dad and I know why you came back alive from Vietnam. You came back because I needed you.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wow, your post filled my eyes with tears. Thank you so much for sharing this. The world needs people like you who are unafraid to say how war has affected them. By writing this you might be helping another soldier who is feeling like you and thought he was alone.

Thank goodness for your wonderful dad! I wish you all the best going forward.

I support Combat Stress, a British charity for the mental welfare of ex-servicemen. Is there a U.S. equivalent that maybe your readers could contribute to?

http://www.combatstress.org.uk/

Anonymous said...

Lean on your father, Zach. His love and experience will get you through.

-roamer in mich

Jana Lane said...

Maybe your children would understand more than you think. If they see their father crying they know he cares about some thngs to cry. Also, it helps them understand that it is all for them to cry about some things, too. Most of what a father teaches his children, he teaches by example. As young as they are, I am sure they understand that you are human. Never feel bad about that.

seaurchin said...

Why you?

Why not you?

Don't feel guilty about living Zach. Your purpose in life has not been fulfilled or completed. There is more in store for you to do. Perhaps only God knows why right now, but at some point, you will discover the answer as well.

As for your fallen brothers, their mission in life was fulfilled. Why them? He has that answer as well, and it is not for us to question.

Live one day at a time Zach and make it a masterpiece. By doing so, your worthiness of life will be evident.

Kim said...

Zach, you have my prayers and my thanks. I know of a program called the Phoenix Project that is a retreat setting for returning soldiers and their spouses. I hope you take a minute to go to this website and see if it is something that might help. http://www.mvfa.org
My son volunteered to work at the retreat last weekend and he said it was something that he would never forget.

FreeCyprus said...

Praying for all the men and women fighting to protect freedom and battling tyranny all over the world.

-- FreeCyprus
Hellenic Reporter

Alain said...

"You came back because I needed you"
and you came back because your kids needs you...

Take care dude,

Al

Spencer B. said...

I am in Iraq currently on my second deployment, I was visiting home on Memorial Day and I have to say oyu are not the only one who feels guilt and remorse. I accompanied my two small nephews to a Memorial Day parade and when I heard the sound of marching bands and saw the marching men all I could think about was the funeral of a man we lost who I deeply respecting. I broke down and had to leave and seek refuge at my brothers home til the fit passed. Just wanted to share that with you.

Anonymous said...

Your Dad is a beautiful man and one that sounds much like you. One day you can offer that moment of compassion to your son. When that happens remember this day

Anonymous said...

i saw your post in the sand box, just had to write you. i am a vietnam vet like your father. reading your blog made all those feelings flood back again. they will never leave you, but you will understand their meaning the older you get. just don't be afraid to talk about it. and a tear now and then is good for the soul, it proves real men do cry. i am so glad you are home safe.

welcome home brother

jim

Rose said...

Zach,

I read your blog from time to time and I found this particular post to be very powerful. My brother did a tour of duty in Iraq and just hasn't been the same since. He was also able to speak to my dad about some things b/c like your dad, my dad was also in Vietnam.

Best of luck to you and your family!

Patrick Merrithew said...

Hi Zach,
I just wanted to respond to this entry that you worte to let you know how great it is that you can write to anyone so clearly how you felt. I found your webpage as part of an English project that my class is doing, and now I am very glad that I did, because otherwise I would never have read this and would never get to tell you that what you wrote here is an amazing story that I would never even have considered thinking about. I hope that you can learn to deal with the guilt that you may feel, I'm not sure if I understand what you feel or why, but I can see that you are deeply touched by it so I wish you luck. Maybe someday I will understand, but better yet, maybe you feel this so that the guys in my generation don't have to understand.

Thank You for what you did.

Patrick

Patrick Merrithew said...

Sorry, but I forgot to ask you if you read this Zach to please respond somehow or email me back. It would mean alot to me.
If you need my email address let me know, otherwise hang loose.

Patrick

Kitty Antonik Wakfer said...

I haven't checked your blog in many months, so I didn't know you were no longer in Iraq - although still in the Army I see from your bio. Zach, even though I pointed out in the past here that your emotional turmoil is because of your military activity, I am pleased to hear that you are still alive.

Your statement "God, why did you let me live when you took so many others? But it wasn’t God; it was us, mankind that did this." contains a very big flaw. "Mankind" did not do anything; only individuals can think and act. And an individual reaps the consequences of his/her (hir) own actions. Until you (and similar others) understand and fully accept the concept of self-responsibility and all that it entails - including restitution to those you have responsibly harmed, you will continue to have periodic attacks of conscience (what I'd term one's background processors) that haunt you. I sincerely recommend for your reading, "Self-Responsibility and Social Order" - http://selfsip.org/fundamentals/selfresponsibility.html

**Kitty Antonik Wakfer

MoreLife for the rational - http://morelife.org
Reality based tools for more life in quantity and quality
Self-Sovereign Individual Project - http://selfsip.org
Rational freedom by self-sovereignty & social contracting

hluebner said...

Tears from a man are not a sign of weakness. They are a sign of emotion; that you are affected by strong sentiments. Allowing your children to see you showing your feelings, your passions…will show them that you care.
Children comprehend more than you can understand. If you will just explain to them that their father is celebrating a day of remembrance for all the children who have lost their daddies.