Friday, October 10, 2014

Retreat

Retreat

I watch with tears as you retreat
never from the war’s front lines
only further into the recess of your mind

your thoughts are plagued by violence and death
and you wonder if suicide is perhaps the best
way for you to surrender to your pain

your mind is wracked with feelings of guilt
for the families of the men you had to kill
and the child who’s life you had to end

but he was only playing pretend 
as the sunlight struck the barrel of his gun
he thought it was the right way to have some fun

and honor those who protected his land
then his blood soaked into the sand
while his father wept along with you

but you did what you had to do
your men were in clear and present danger
such is the life of an army ranger

There is a part of you that knows
that sometimes this is how it goes
while you protected your team

they surround you now, a protective band
telling you they understand
but you’re lost inside your mind like a darkened cave

You refuse to remember all the lives you saved
and the men you helped live another day
the ones you comforted at night

when the terrain was void of light
you held their hands and told them to hang on
they’d be with their families before too long

they flock by your side 
to show their respect
but you continue to deflect

from your terrors to theirs
because it’s easier to hear their sorrow
than try to look ahead to your tomorrow

With the pill bottles dropped on the floor
you tried to say I can take no more
but God’s not ready for you yet

and we aren’t willing to forget
the person you were before this carried shame
while you continue to feel at blame

Kill a kid and save your team
now he resides in all your dreams
when you cry out into the night

and wish for a death we don’t want
but for one you desire
so you can escape the hell fire

never forget who’ll be left standing
over your grave

your wife, your kids, and all that you gave 

This poem is dedicated to my nephew.  He did two tours of duty before the PTSD got it's claws in him and caused three suicide attempts in less than a year.  The last was this week.  If you're the praying sort, please pray for him and for all of us.

53 comments:

  1. Elsie, I'm sorry! I hope he gets the help he needs to sort through the pain and find joy in the world again. And may God touch and heal his heart.

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    1. Thank you, Alex. He's such a great "kid" (30) and has the best family around him, praying. I'm happy to say they pulled out the tube last night and he said his first words before heading back to sleep. Progress in his recovery! He should be headed back to the PTSD unit at the VA soon.

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  2. Elsie, I'm so sorry to hear about your nephew. I pray he recovers fully, physically and mentally.

    Do you ever wondered what has changed in the past 30-40 plus years to cause PTSD? Why are so many soldiers coming back messed up? My father served in WWII and my father-in-law in Vietnam, and while it was traumatic, neither knew hardly anyone who came back traumatized to that point. What is causing it?

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    1. Thank you very much, Diane. I don't know what's changed in the last few decades. Not sure if it's more acceptable to show and feel your emotions as a man and not drown them out with alcohol or other unhealthy behaviors or what…but his PTSD program has a waiting list for people all around the country. It's sad that they aren't more readily available around the country. From what he's told me, he and his guys had to do some pretty horrendous things, all of which were up front and personal with the enemy. So sad.

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  3. Oh no... God Bless him...

    I wish I had some words of wisdom to share...

    I'm certainly no expert in the area, but I think PTSD has always been with us... I think there was a time when one just 'manned up' and got over it... just didn't talk about it... or maybe we just 'stored' it away somewhere in the backs of our minds.

    When I was a small boy, I would ask my brother-in-law about his WWII experiences... he was at Omaha Beach on D-
    Day... and the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium... he would tell us some things that little boys would find 'cool,' but it wasn't until I grew up that I actually began to understand the horrors of what he must have experienced. As he aged (and I as well), I could see symptoms of what must have played out in his head many times...

    I will keep him in my thoughts and prayers...

    ~shoes~

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    1. Yep, I think you're right, shoes. I think men used to shove those feelings down and ignore them. But, it catches up with them eventually. In my nephew's program, there were men from Vietnam trying to recover from PTSD.

      Your story with your BIL reminds me of my FIL. He used to sit my boys down and share his stories about Korea. The kids found it fascinating but I think it may have been his way of talking it out a bit. Thank you for your prayers!

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    2. "Thank you for your prayers!"

      Always, dear... always...

      ~shoes~

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  4. This is so heartbreaking. Just so heartbreaking. I really pray he'll get help and honor that boy's life with living his.

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    1. Thank you, Kinley. I hope he does too. He has so much to live for, I just wish he'd remind himself of it.

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  5. Everyone is a victim in war, including the warrior. May your nephew find his way to a more peaceful life.

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    1. That's very kind, Debra. Thank you. I hope he finds peace too. He deserves it.

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  6. Awful they can't get the help they need with a waiting list long as can be. Hopefully he pulls through, gets the help he needs and can enjoy life again. What some of them have to do is just unheard of, not sure how one would ever truly get over it. Once people get in that suicide frame of mind, can be hard to snap out of there, seen it firsthand. But it can be done.

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    1. It is awful, Pat. It just sucks that it takes so long for them to get the help they need. My hubby contemplated suicide for a long time after I found out about his addiction. It took a long time for him not to feel like a burden to me, but eventually, he overcame it and the thoughts subsided. I hope the same happens for my nephew.

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  7. I am so sorry about your nephew. I will pray for him. I think so many--too many-- of our vets are coming home with memories that plague them. I wish there were more help available to them.

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    1. Thank you for your prayers, Robin. I appreciate them. I agree with you, I think so many of our vets are struggling and get lost in the system before they can find true help.

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  8. Im so sorry dear Elsie.Always hurt me when these things happens to any of us.
    All my love for you and your family and prayers of course!
    ♡♥♡♥

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    1. Thank you, Gloria. I appreciate the prayers. They mean a lot to me, my dear friend! xoxo

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  9. Oh Elsie I am so, so sorry for your nephew and your family. War is horrible and it takes an enormous toll on the psyche. I hope your nephew is able to get help so that he can cope with the PTSD. He's not alone.

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    1. No he's definitely not alone. He was in an inpatient program at the VA and would have been graduating in a couple of weeks. I think they'll probably end up sending him through again. He needs it.

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  10. On it, Elsie... what a curse to levy on those who defend us...

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    1. Thanks, Chris. It really is a curse they carry.

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  11. This is a beautiful poem and so sad but I hope you show it to him when you feel he can see it because you also show how much he helped. So many people do not know yet how PTSD works. In WW1 they called in Sheel Shock and in WW2 they called it battle fatigue. Many were considered cowards which is horrendous. There was one WW1 soldier who ended up in a mental facility and he finally passed away a few years ago at over 100 years of age. He spent over 80 sdome odd years there. Many did not talk about it yet so many became alcoholics or they withdrew. I have no idea why some can continue on and others deal with their self torment. I hope he finds some solace somewhere. He needs to find calmness and peace within himself and to have all around him loving and supporting him which it seems, he does. My thoughts are with you and the family

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    1. Thank you so much for kind words and prayers, Birgit. My family appreciates them. I had forgotten all about those terms shell shocked and battle fatigue. I can't believe they slipped my mind like that. It's so sad that man was never able to be helped properly. I have a neighbor who was in Vietnam and he suffers from PTSD. The sad part is that he drinks to drown his sorrows. It's been painful to watch him bury his pain.

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  12. So sorry to hear about your nephew. I hope help reaches into his mind and shoulders those burdens he finds unbearable.

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    1. Thank you, Loni. I'm hopeful that they'll let him back into to PTSD program so he can continue on with his group and individual therapy. I attended one of his group sessions and he really got a lot out of it.

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  13. We don't even know each other but your poem struck my heart and got me teary eyed. I know how it feels to worry about a loved one's getting ill.

    I am so sorry about your nephew. I hope and pray that he'll have the courage to fight this and get back to normal life so he could enjoy life with his loved ones like anybody should.

    I wish your family patience and strength to go though this difficult time.

    My prayers.

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    1. Thank you so much for your kind words. It sounds like you're familiar with family members going through tough things. It's tough to watch and not be able to do anything about it. It breaks my heart. But, the good thing to come from this is how he got to see his entire family flock around him and remind him how much we all love him and care about him.

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    2. Indeed emotional support is one big part of the healing process. That's where the patient derives the courage to fight. A strong reason and motivation. I've never been scared in my life until my husband has had health issues just several months ago. He is recovering well now and I hope your nephew does too.

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    3. I'm happy to hear you're husband in on a healthy road to recovery now. The power of love is very strong!

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  14. How terribly sad Elsie ~ I hope he recovers fully and find love and hope within his family and friends ~ Have a lovely weekend ~ Take care ~

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    1. Thank you so much, Grace. He is on the road to recovery on the health front, now it's time to start working on the mental health again. Enjoy your week!

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  15. what a hard life...giving it all and we dont treat our soldiers well...we dont help them once home like we should...so sad...i hope he finds a way beyond this...

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    1. Thanks, Brian. It really is sad how our vets are treat, especially those in rural areas. They have it the toughest. They need to allow them to seek care from someplace other than the VA without a referral.

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  16. Oh, Elsie. As I was reading this, I thought, "My God, how does she know this is what Vets go through?" The suicide rates are incredibly, tragically, phenomenally high? Your words are profoundly chilling and real - an exceptional poem that needs be shared. Your nephew is in my prayers.

    I'm not sure if you or your nephew/family know this, but the national suicide hotline has a separate line for veterans - to which veterans respond. It's 1(800)273-8255, then press one.

    Prayers and love.

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    1. Thank you for keeping him in your thoughts and prayers. It's greatly appreciated. I had no idea vets had their own suicide hotline. I recall they have a special number for vets and their dependents to call to get immediate counseling but that was for less immediate situations. Thank you, I'll pass it on to my brother.

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  17. Dear Elsie ... I feel for all your family and I can not really add to everyone's thoughts and feelings for you all; I'm pleased to read he's on the mend ... but I sincerely hope he can be somewhere he feels protected and can help him get past this terrible period in his life ... I'm sure he's lots to offer ... my thoughts to you all - Hilary

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    1. I appreciate your kind words, Hiliary. I'm so thankful he's on the mend too. We're waiting to find out if he will be able to return to the PTSD program he was in. I would think they would recommend his return after what happened.

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  18. This was heartbreaking to read. It's just sad to me how much is asked of these soldiers, how much they give the military, but when they come back, they get nothing. Just a cold shoulder while they suffer the aftereffects of what they saw and endured. I hope he's able to pull through.

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    1. Thanks, Bryan. I think he'll be okay if he can get back into the PTSD program. It was really helping him sort through his emotions and was helping him understand he's not a monster. That's his word, not mine. So freakin' sad.

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  19. The tragedy of war goes on and on and on.....
    I am so sorry and desperately wish these things will never happen again.
    It's a dream I have.

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    1. It's so tragic and it doesn't seem to matter what war they come home from, the come home damaged. I like your dream, Al.

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  20. Sounds such a hard way life...heartbreaking, really.

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  21. All I could thing was how sad when I read this

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    1. It's so damn sad. To hear him blame himself for all that happened breaks my heart.

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  22. The things that a soldier sees and must do in wartime are horrendous. Men and now women come home broken things, never to be the same again. And most countries do not support their military personnel upon return. We see this in England with the boys in Afghanistan as well. Both wars have the highest suicide rates in history. Yet more soldiers are being sent to war every day. It is unconscionable.

    I hope he finds a way out of the dark place he must be living in and can focus on those people who love him. You are all in my prayers.

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    1. Thank you, Anne. I appreciate your thoughts and prayers. There were stories he shared with me that turned my stomach. It's almost easier to think, "not my family, my family wouldn't have to do that or see that," but it's just not realistic. The men and women are told to put their emotions on hold so they can fight but when they come home, they don't know how to feel again, then it hits like a ton of bricks. My next prayers are that my son won't have to go over there next year.

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  23. I'm so sorry. I will pray for your nephew. So sad for all the young men and women that proudly serve our country, only to come home and relive the horrors they endured there over and over again in their minds.

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    1. Those mind movies are horrendous. I experienced relational trauma which caused a form to PTSD (not even close to what my nephew experiences) and the mind movies had the ability to bring me to my knees. I can't even imagine what he sees in his.

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  24. Such a sad tragedy that our soldiers come home and have to live life like this. Hope will be well with your nephew. Prayers for him and the family.

    Oh, and that turtle gif at the end was peering into my soul and was making me sympathize for the evil little reptile! I don't like it, make him go away! lol

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    1. It is a terrible tragedy. Thank you for the prayers, Dan. Truly appreciated.

      I love that my cute little turtle made you love him…admit it, you love him!!

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  25. Oh, I'm so sorry. I will hope for the best for your nephew. This is such a touching poem, made even more so by your personal note at the end. God bless your nephew.

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  26. Hi Elsie. I am so sorry to hear about your Nephew's PTSD. So sad. I pray he gets the help he needs and deserves.

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Thank you for taking the time to comment. I'm here to help any way I can.