Why We Go Back...
“When I’m at war all I think about is home, When I am home all I think about is war,”- That is a quote I’ve heard several times since returning home from downrange and it is 100% accurate. Once your foot touches American soil, immediately you go down the checklist of all the things you dreamed of doing while you were in the shit. Women, beer, food, fishing, football, and family. The list can go on forever. And you enjoy every minute of it because for most of us we really didn’t believe we would ever make it home alive. You repeat your post-war bucket list over and over with each time being better than the last. Eventually, though you hear that bugle call once again and it’s time to snap back to reality and transform back into a motivated soldier and a decent civilian overnight. We have all been there, knowing the last day would come. The day you find yourself standing remotely thinking “okay, now what?”
Being home is great, but it gets old fast. You quickly realize how dull but stressful life is at the same time. After 2 weeks, I was ready to go right back to Afghanistan. People back home couldn’t imagine why in the hell anyone would be willing to go through all that anguish again. A lot of them think we’ve become bloodthirsty savages. "All you want to do is kill people." Others call it “PTSD” and believe we have been so tortured by our experiences we literally have gone insane, even suicidal and volunteer to go back with the intent of returning in a box. These are all reasonable ideas - I guess, especially for someone who has never served and believes they completely understand soldiers and their issues because they watch CNN every night. But we are not as complicated or insane as people make us out to be. The thing always drawing most of us back, making it easy to join all over again, is simplicity. The day to day life of an infantryman in Afghanistan was downright grueling. We were exposed to unimaginable dangers everywhere and were paired with a battle rhythm that kept us in a continual rotation of patrol, refit, patrol, QRF, patrol and on and on. We were constantly exhausted physically, mentally and emotionally. We were dehydrated, sleep deprived, hungry, filthy and in desperate need of love and something mind numbing. While all around us are men who possess the latest automatic weapons and bomb-making skills, desperately wanting to kill us.
Sounds more like a nightmare than a simple life. But any grunt knows and appreciates its normalcy. And they would take that deal in place of a stress of life back home. There is a bubble that exists on deployment where nothing and no one else matters other than what is happening in this hallowed space. That bubble is our whole world and the vapid routines of life back home do not exist here.