You know, I was going to write about basic training and how hard it is, but the reality is is that it really isn’t hard. Sure, it sucks all the push ups and running. People yelling at you isn’t the greatest feeling the world, but that’s really all it is. You get yelled at, you run and you learn. The hardest part of basic training is actually being away from home. It was for me at least. That first night, after you arrive at whatever base you’re going to be trained at (Fort Knox for me), and you’re stripped and check out and given clothes, and you’re laying in bed and the lights go out and you realize the gravity of the situation you’re in, when you know it’s real and you’re kind of on your own, that’s the hard part. Those nights where you’re left with nothing but your own mind and memories, that’s when it’s hard.
Thinking about home,it’s a double edged sword. For me, it was hard being away from my parents. I never really had friends back in Indiana when I was twenty two and my biggest priority was to get laid. But my parents were always the ones that were there for me. Now they were gone, and I had to rely on the strangers next to me. It’s hard for a lot of people. But what happens when you’re about to leave the military? When I got my orders to go home, I was on a plane from Germany to Chicago. I was a massive plane that looked like it could hold three hundred people, and I swear to God, when I was flying home, I was one of maybe ten passengers. So I had to sit on an eight hour flight, with, again, nothing but my own mind to keep me company. I was so nervous that I had forgotten to pack a personal bag with me. I didn’t even have a book to keep me company.
Now, I have been shot at, I have been in fights (kinda), I have been in a jail cell and I have never been more scared of anything than flying home a civilian. I think it was because I had no idea who I was or what I was going to do with myself. I still don’t. When I was in the Army, I heard a lot of talk about honor, community and brotherhood, but the truth is, is that all of that is bullshit. No one gives a fuck who you are in the military. You enlist, your are trained, you are used and you are let go. What bothers me now is this shit right here…
This is propaganda. This is a recruiting method that doesn’t fool me any more. It’s bullshit, but it’s bullshit that I endure now…mostly because the Hurt Locker and Jeremy Renner are awesome. It’s stupid that the Army still tells people to be all that they can be, because when I was in, I met a bunch of bullies who used rank to intimidate others. I met cowards who claimed to have PTSD in an attempt to get out of a deployment. I met idiots who used minor injuries to avoid responsibility and I acted like an arrogant, drunk moron and I wasted four years of my life and probably hundreds of thousands of government dollars supporting me. What was I going to do now that I was going home?
Honestly, I did the same things in the civilian world as I did in the military. I got drunk, I got sad, angry and arrogant. I alienated my parents and eventually ended up in that jail cell I mentioned before. I ended up in AA and found a support group called Frontline that helped me out a lot. Eventually, I graduated college and had a family. I am now a struggling writer who can’t keep up with it anymore and has to start facing the real world again. It’s still hard being out of the Army, mostly because now, I’m having a harder and harder time remembering my time in service. That’s why I wrote these few articles, I wanted to make sure that I never forgot some things and I wanted to be honest about it. I wasn’t a good soldier. I wasn’t bad at it, and I wasn’t a troublemaker, I just wasn’t a lifer. I wasn’t going to be in for twenty years and earn a pension. I don’t know how to end this thing, the only thing I can tell you, whoever you are, is that if you meet a veteran or a serviceman, don’t put them on a pedestal. They’re just guys like you.