W

  ar is shit. It is horrible, harsh, and unforgiving. It is an abusive relationship, but I think of it longingly, even though I shouldn’t. It beat me, hurt me, and at times broke me, but it also taught me who I am, at the deepest level of my being.  It has become a part of who I am as a person, and will be a permanent fixture in my life until I take my final breath. I take great pleasure in the fact that I got to experience it, and would never trade it for anything in the world. Even today, six years later, the memories are vivid; the environment as alive as it was in person.  As I sat outside of work yesterday afternoon smoking a cigarette, I ground my boot into the dirt, the sound so eerily similar to the satisfying crunch of an Afghan field. Relishing in that moment, I returned to that moment years ago that would be my first taste of a life I periodically long for so deeply.

 

 

Squeeze. Squeeze. Squeeze.

 

 

Life can be boring at times. I can be sitting at work, be at home, or running some mundane errands, and it just feels like my life has ground to a halt. Where’s the excitement at watching some new movie on Netflix, or picking up dog food at Wal-Mart? There is none, it’s a mundane life for mundane people. But the problem with that is that a few years ago, my life was the exact opposite. The excitement of deployment was a drug I took great pleasuring in partaking in, and its flirts with death gave me a natural high I will never replace. Now, it’s over. It’s over, and I miss it, or at least I think I do.

 

 

 The mind loves to reminisce about the times that were ripe with emotion, and the moments in time where life seemed pure. Racers love to remember the speed at which they used to barrel down the track, athletes love to relive that long drive they made to win a game, or the crack of the bat that produced the game-winning run. For me, it’s the thrill of the fight. The way my body prepared for the dance that was combat. My heart racing, my eyes focused, my right-index finger waiting for that one command the U.S. Government had trained me to give, with great effect.

 

 

Squeeze. Squeeze. Squeeze.

 

 

It was simple, yet complex; pure, yet dirty. So many emotions ran through me with each individual round, TIC, and patrol and I learned to love it. I still do, or at least, I still love the thought of it, the idea that I romantically created with myself to hold a private treasure that no one else could ever take from me. It’s not romantic, in the least bit; I was there to kill people, and those people were trying to kill me. This changes nothing for those memories though. I disregarded the dullness of Post, and pushed away the thoughts as best I could about WIAs/KIAs; I was where I wanted to be, and I loved it. I joined the Marine Corps to fight, and here I was, getting to do it with like-hearted men with great lust and fervor. I came to understand the old tales of mythology when warriors would become drunk on battle; the thrill of the fight, the sense of finding something inside of myself so ancient and primal was the greatest drug I’ll ever experience, and never forget.

 

 

 It’s easy to remember war like that, because in all fairness, war is fairly simplistic for the average guy on the ground. Back here at home, there are so many things to worry about, and they all feel trivial compared to the days of old. These days I’m allocating money for bills, making sure my mom doesn’t think I’m relapsing into a deep hole, count stuff at work, etc.  By themselves, any of these things and any number of the menial tasks I do every day/week/month is simple and easy. But all together they get convoluted and annoying and difficult and any other negative-connotation adjective I could type. Combat is none of those things. Combat is one thing and one thing only: be better at killing that guy then he is at killing you. Easy peasy. There’s nothing else to worry about other than making sure you don’t play wide receiver with a 7.62 round, step on an IED, or any other thing those clowns came up with. This is extremely oversimplified, but simple goal is simple, and since Marines like to keep it simple stupid, this was perfect for me. The Marine Corps spent a lot of money on me (and my leadership) to make sure that I could do these things for it, and I didn’t want to be a bad investment, so I did the best I could. The thing is, when the objective is so easy, it’s likewise easy to be good at. The human psyche needs that affirmation, that validation of self –worth. I’m ok at making sure my bills are paid on time, and that the dog always has water in her bowl, but I was good at working under pressure, slinging lead, and watching out for my buddies.

 

 

 It’s humid here in Georgia, making it like taking a shower every time I walk outside. Briefly, it crosses my mind that there’s no humidity in Afghanistan, except when walking through those damn cotton fields while trying to stay off the roads. This rolls into memories of patrols, TICs, and other assorted memories of my time overseas.  I realize now that these aren’t memories of events but memories of emotion, of love and terror, happiness and devastation.  The pure ecstasy of these feelings gave me a high I will never experience again, at least not to such a primal degree. I take a few more pulls off my cigarette, then put it out and throw it in the trash. Like my time in Afghanistan, my break is up, and I have to get back to the real world.

 

 

Squeeze. Squeeze. Squeeze.

 

 

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.

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