He sits idly scratching at his newly grown facial hair. A crimson tie neatly tracing his neck with an even knot lying neatly against a slim-fit grey dress shirt. Darting eyes scanning a screen in front of him searching to construct words from letters. Eyes that show a glint of which reflects not a sparkle but relief in pain. Sometimes simple sentences feel like dissertations and words jumble and mumble from stumbling lips. Inside he knows that he is damaged despite his sparkling professional appearance. Across the enclosed room a coworker innocently clicks a pen as she is lost deep in thought. A rhythmic Click-Click….Click-Click…Click-Click.

Click-Click…the metallic bolt slides forced forward as the weapon, his lifeline, jams. Rage erupts inside. He presses his body into some humid foreign soil, rolls on his back, and scrambles to fix the jam.

“Medic”

In the newfound quite of a silent weapon, one word shrieks solidly through ringing ears. In the haze and thunder and dust this echos alarmingly clear. Wild thoughts and eyes dart directly left. Blood runs from the bank escaping a U.S. military uniform. Glaring, stricken with anger, at a heaving chest as the last breaths escape.  Adrenaline escapes the body as it lies limp turned to now inactive flesh. Inside he blames himself as if somehow his weapons jam caused an increase of fire on his friend.

Click-Click, and he returns to his office. Recovering from being unknowingly to his coworkers, forced to reflect on times when more dust than air filled his gasping lungs. A body cast into turmoil struggling to keep a human pulse. More machine than man; calloused, scarred, scared, and determined. The man takes a deep breath realizing that those foreign soils are now replaced by air conditioning and eight hour days. He is scarred to remember his friend and others lost that day. The flag still presses tacked to the wall in his basement.

“Long day huh” a joking coworker walks past.

“Something like that” he grants a response under a deep sigh.

Remembrance of times of conflict is not something Americans widely can relate too. Reports dancing across nightly news are very much different than having to live them yourself. America does not want to forget but we struggle as a nation to understand what we put our young service members through. These individuals are called upon in the name of freedom. Lives are changed forever. If you are wondering what you can do start with this….

Never leave them alone with their own tormenting thoughts

Demons of memories, ghosts of scars, and echoes of actions haunt these people. They don’t want the alienation of being pushed to a category or group. Give thanks sure, but don’t be afraid to ask if someone needs help or wants to talk. Sometimes all someone needs is a lifeline. We are losing these individuals on our own hallowed soil at an alarming rate. They are ending their lives running from silent killers named memories and thoughts. A reality we all can change.

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