Thursday, October 27, 2011


"I'm back home.  At least that's what I keep telling myself.  I'm out of that God-forsaken place called Afghanistan.  I'm home, but I don't feel like I'm home.  It's just not the same it was....and I'm afraid it won't ever be again", said a young soldier I met recently. 

Those thoughts might be common to each of the 2,800 Iowa National Guard troops that returned home from their year deployment to Afghanistan this past summer.  Then again, maybe not.  Those who worked outside the wire saw far more than others.  Images that will stay with them for the rest of the lives.  And some of those images are not the ones you want to reflect on.  At least not over and over and over. 

The words you are about to read are from PV2 Pete (a name we've chosen for confidentiality).  These will be his words. ....his feelings.....his dealings.....his sufferings.  Pete was stationed in the northeast part of Afghanistan.  He was part of an infantry company that performed over 100 missions during their nine months on foreign soil.

"I experienced so much", he would say .  "Some of it was good and some, not so good.  It's the not so good that I'm having a hard time dealing with.  The first time I go shot at was a rush for sure.  My mind and heart were racing unbelievably fast.  I'll never, ever forget that.  There were  so many "firsts" that happened to me there.

 Death comes in so many ways.  It can be ugly, really ugly.  I think nowadays about the lives I've altered.  That's my thoughts now.  But when we were in Afghanistan, it was heads up and staying focused at all times. When you are in battle things happen that are reflex action   We're taught to act a certain way that in essence will keep us alive.  It's after the fight, when your mind starts working.  Do I have guilty feelings?.....for sure", he added.

When I spoke to Support Chaplain Gary Selof of the Iowa National Guard last week, he  mentioned the "guilt" aspect some soldiers hang onto.  Selof said that guilt is a difficult issue for soldiers to deal with.  "Each person handles it differently.  No matter if your religious or not, each has to answer to their maker in their own way", he said.

And that guilt is a big portion of what PV2 Pete is dealing with these days.  That and trying to reintegrate into a norm that feels "right".   Pete recalls some of the briefings that took place at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin when they returned to the states.  "I remember some things.  But frankly, my mind wasn't there.  At times it was back in Afghanistan and at other times it was at home.  They told us about things we'd do and things we'd experience, but not alot stuck between my ears", he mentioned.  "I went and bought a motorcycle....and soon thereafter I went and bought a gun.  The motorcycle helps replace the adrenalin rush that I had while in battle and the gun gives me a feeling of safety".

Both the motorcycle and gun were on a list supplied by military personnel of things soldiers purchase when they return home.   Pete has ridden his motorcycle over 120 miles per hour on more than one occasion.  "Probably pretty stupid, huh?", he'd ask of me.   He admitted some of his rides lacked in safety for his life and others as well.  With winter fast approaching, the motorcycle is about to go into storage.  Pete's undecided if he'll ride it again or sell it.  "Just have to wait and see", he softly added.  "The gun's another thing.  I might buy another one.  I'm not for sure yet....but I might.  It's my silent partner.  I keep my pistol close at hand.  You can't help but feel attached to a gun when you've had one with you night and day for over a year.  As crazy as these times are, I feel safer with one".  

The hardest part of the return has been employment, or perhaps I should say, lack of employment.  Pete mentioned it's been frustrating finding a job that will occupy his mind and one that he will find challenging.  "I haven't landed anything yet".  People don't realize the work ethic of a soldier enough.  After being responsible for millions of dollars worth of equipment, it's kind of humbling and disrespectful to think one of us wouldn't be a valued addition to any company.  If something doesn't break job-wise, I might redeploy.  I've thought about it.  The money would be good.......but".

"Are you talking to people?", I asked.  Do you have someone that you can share your thoughts with?  Someone that will understand where you are and what you're going through?  Not surprisingly, his answer was "not really".  "Most of my buddies are scattered across the state and we don't talk much", he said.  "They've got their own lives and I'm trying to find mine.  It's been about 90 days since I've been back and I thought things would slowly settle back into a rhythm.  But it hasn't.  At least, not yet.   I know I need to reach out to someone for help, but it's hard.  I've been trained to be tough and right now I feel less than that.  I might go and talk to someone.  I just might".....

As you can see, PV2 Pete has a number of "mights" that he lists off.....things he may or may not do.  As we concluded our week of talks, he shared several uplifting thoughts.  First, he'd took a gigantic first step.....he reached out to his pastor for help.  And he was glad he did.   And secondly, he memorized the Lord's Prayer for the first time in his life.
"Our Father, which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come.
Thy will be done in earth,
As it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive them that trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
The power, and the glory,
For ever and ever."

I wish I may, I wish I MIGHT.............

Pete talked of his "might" do's.  When he said that word time and again I thought of the old quote, "I wish I may I wish I MIGHT have the wish I wish tonight".  For the many soldiers who are experiencing what Pete is going through, know that there is a MIGHT that provides comfort.  The battle is not all yours.  Up Next:  PV2 Pete shares his "help" journey.

FYI...."My Father's Voice" celebrated a one anniversary this past week.  In that time,  we've had visitors from 118 countries.  I am in awe of you all for coming and reading and hopefully taking something away from our past year's experiences.  If you have any stories you'd like to share either openly or confidentially, please email me at




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