Dear Doc/Dear Winston, 02.25.13

Dear Doc,

I hate waking up and looking outside to see it gray and cold, rain setting in. It just feels like a day for a funeral.

I think about shit like that. When you have seen death like I have, it puts a damper on life, sometimes. You know that pain, the pain that hurts like hell, and you would do anything to take it all back or make it go away.

Well, after a while that goes away, but not mine. It stays and grows inside of me. It’s like I have hooks in my body and chains pulling at it all directions, and you can see fucking pain. You can see a little light at the end of a tunnel, but can never get close to it. And people keep telling you it’s all going to be okay, that they are praying for me and that they think about me and all that shit.

Well, I think about war, hate, life—why are we here? What is the purpose, or why do we continue to go on? You just keep going living in a life that is miserable. Why do I do it? I don’t know.

It’s hard when you want to live a life of war, filled with selfishness and anger. I now know why the Templars loved their lives, because they fought their whole lives and had God at the tip of their swords, striking down evil.



Dear Winston,

The writer Michael Howard wrote this comment on yesterday’s post:

“One of the real-life WWII characters I am writing about in my book survived Peleliu … In the early 60’s he would wake up his boy in the middle of the night to take him out on patrols. When I bounce the story off people who know nothing of PTSD, they tend to think it is fiction.”

Remember also what I wrote about you in Empty Chairs, Empty Tables: From Paris to Fallujah and Kandahar?:

“Yet also, had I not just spent the previous minutes with him, absorbing his words, not just hearing them, I could have looked at him and thought: grief that can’t be spoken? Seriously?”

In just these past two months, how our relationship has changed, hasn’t it? Gone is any distancing, defensiveness on your part. In its stead is the warmth, the humor that I know has always been you. True, if I pay close attention, I can notice still a hesitancy on your part, but quite easily I could chalk that up to the deference that a younger man can show an older man. Had I known nothing of you, I would have thought nothing of it.

Hence, my own words in that entry come back to smack me in the face:

“Just because a grief can’t be seen doesn’t mean that it can’t be spoken.”

Because of your willingness to speak your heart, Winston, I do so hope that at least a few more people can understand how the truism “Looks can be deceiving” can instead be a profound truth of combat trauma. Yes, a part of you wants to live a life of selfishness and anger, filled with righteous hate. Yet a part of you, night after night, searches for that little girl in your dreams, feels that pain of a father trying to heal the infected leg of a son, wants to understand why, why, why.

How appropriate perhaps it is, then, that you refer to the Knights Templar. Remember “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”? Remember the knight who stayed by the Holy Grail for seven hundred years, protecting it from those who would use it for their own glory and power?

The Knights were certainly no strangers to the atrocities of the Crusades, atrocities which continue to burn in the souls of Muslims and Jews to this very day. Yet somewhere there, within at least some of them, was a faithfulness, an honor, a duty that has lasted enough through the centuries to make a character in a fantasy-adventure film if not believable, then at least understandable.

I know that The War still can rage within you, filling you with all its annihilation, even its allure. And I know that you are there, perhaps, if I might say, a Templar in the best sense, one who has known all that War can do to a soul, one who wants to remain faithful to a vision that was good in its outset, even if complex and even destructive in its fulfillment, one who waits, hoping against hope.

That is the man whom I see.


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