Blake is a Co-founder and Staff Writer for RTB. He served in the USMC as an infantryman from 2009-2013, deploying to Afghanistan in 2010 and 2011. The constant onslaught of new lieutenants forced him to leave active-duty. He presently works in asset protection in Georgia, where he lives with his dog. His views are his own. Follow Blake on Twitter.
ack in 12th Grade, I thought I had it all figured out. I was joining the Marine Corps, going Infantry, and I would talk you into joining with me. Being best friends, we would have each other’s backs, fighting the good fight while looking out for one another. It was such an awesome idea, I thought, but you weren’t having any of it. You were skeptical on your own, but your dad, a Sergeant Major in the Army, was not on board. You were going to see where your baseball skills could take you, and I was going to far off lands, not knowing what would become of me. Now, years down the road, I’m thankful you went your own way, that you didn’t bow to my incessant pestering about joining the Marines with me.
At first I was mad. Why wouldn’t you join? Was it your dad, dictating how you would live your life after school; was it your girlfriend, who was afraid you wouldn’t come home; or, were you just scared? I don’t know. Maybe it was one of those things, or a combination of them all, or something else entirely. All I knew was that it felt like you were leaving me out to dry, and best friends weren’t supposed to do that to each other. We went to prom together, your girlfriend yelling at me for my driving on the highway because it was too reckless for her, all dressed up and thinking we were high class for getting valet parking at the Cheesecake Factory. We walked miles to the gas station in pitch dark one night because both of our parents were out of town one weekend when I crashed at your place because we had managed to eat all the food while playing Halo for almost 24 hours straight. We did a lot of stuff together, but the thing I needed most, you had denied, and I felt betrayed. There was nothing to be done about it though; you had made your decision. We had marked our own paths in the sand, whether I liked it or not.
Jumping forward to after bootcamp, and periodically after I had hit the fleet, I’d come home, and we’d hang out. Do the usual stuff, play video games, swim, all that jazz we did in High School, but something felt off. We were the same people, just growing in different paths; you in College, me in the Military. We had different obligations; him whether it was school work, baseball practice, or what have you, while I had training, ranges and field ops to prep for deployment, and we were making new friends that were going through the same things as us, and didn’t share as many collective experiences as we once did; just living completely different lives at the end of the day. I’m not sure if you felt the same way; I tried to not let it show, not let you know that I felt there was a growing schism in our friendship. Hell, maybe I was wrong, maybe there wasn’t; perhaps I just harbored some anger against you still. I was still young, still stupid thinking that you owed me anything.
Eventually, I went to Afghanistan. I didn’t think much about you not joining with me during that time, but in fairness I didn’t think much about anything back in the States. There were more important things to worry about than childish resentment. I can’t remember if I ever had the chance to talk to you during those months, but I think Mom said she ran into you every now and then, that you were doing OK. There wasn’t much time to think about it, with everything going on. People were getting hurt, and while some made it through, others didn’t. It’s funny, I didn’t think about the chance of these things happening to you had you joined with me, but, how could it? I would’ve been there, watching your back. Nothing would’ve happened to you, would it? I could’ve stopped those kinds of things, right? Hell, part of me didn’t think my buddies would get hurt at all, even though I knew better. There was nothing I could do for Stinson, nothing I could do for Eufrazio. Would it have been the same for you?
I came home from deployment, and the answer hit me like a speeding train. And if those things had happened to you? I came home a wreck enough as it was, but you? It would’ve been my fault, or at least I would have held myself accountable, for coercing you all those times. Others would have told me that it wasn’t my fault, but it wouldn’t have mattered. I would’ve lost myself, ashamed to even approach your family for taking their son from them. To be honest, I was in rough enough spot as it was, and I don’t know what would’ve happened had it been you. There was no place for you over there, and I say that as selfishly as possible, and I didn’t realize it until after the fact. We have a ritual. I tell you thanks for not coming.
Join the Discussion