You don’t know me, but you have impacted my life in an amazing way, and I want to say thank you.
I grew up in a small town, upper middle class in the area, my father is a pastor, mother is educated and graceful and I’m the 3rd of 4 boys.
I wouldn’t say we grew up sheltered, but definitely raised conservative Christian.
I have a kind heart, and I strive to see the beauty in things. I never had a calling in life, I never felt compelled to be anything in particular, other than a good person.
After graduating high school in 2000, I decided to join the military to have some adventure, and pay for college. I completed basic training and AIT, and prepared to head to Germany in August of 2001.
Couple weeks later and everyone knows what happens, our world is turned upside down by 9/11.
My unit didn’t deploy to Afghanistan, but in late 02, we started preparing for a massive deployment, destination unknown.
Turns out it’s Iraq, I won’t go into details but after a year of dirty, ugly, boring, terrifying, fighting – the tender hearted kid who loved to see the good in everything was radically changed.
Beyond asking myself how human beings could treat each other these ways, I truly felt like we were in the country for motives other than national security. It was what I’d call a ‘for profit’ war.
When I came home, I was welcomed like a hero. My whole street waved flags for me. We had a huge party.
Looking back, I was so confused and conflicted. I was angry that, to my perspective, these people sent me, and wanted me to go to another country to kill people, so they could feel safe.
In church, I spoke to children in Sunday school, kids I had babysat, looked at me and asked me, if I had shot anyone in the war.
All the while, inside me is just screaming anger and sadness. These people are being lied to, they’re asking me to do terrible things because of these lies. Then they want to celebrate these terrible deeds as if they’re heroic.
As I was preparing to leave the Army after my contract was finished, not long after getting back from deployment, the alienation and detachment I felt continued to grow. I forged all of my out processing documents. I did not want to participate in this system anymore. Although I couldn’t wait to be finished with the military, I had no direction.
My parents and girlfriend could tell that I was different. I couldn’t see it myself but my natural progression was that I disconnected more and more from society and these people. It was my 20s, all my friends were partying so of course I’m doing the same, just trying to numb the pain and survive.
What kills me, is that my parents really wanted to help, but I didn’t know the depth of what was wrong. We knew I was depressed, I had experienced lots of very difficult things. I tried explaining my point of view to my family, but it was not welcome.
Let that sink in, you sent me, I’m telling you what really happened, and you don’t want to hear it. Over 20 years now I’ve been holding this, stuck between my old life and my new reality with no way to bridge that gap. Time has shown the way I felt then about why we were there and what we were doing is in line with what I’ve felt the whole time, but that gap has remained.
I’ve been unstable and unreliable because I have disconnected drastically. A few times over the years I’ve been able to pull it together for a long enough time to survive, only to eventually feel abandoned and have to reset.
How do you live a full life, when you truly feel like it’s a lie?
I stopped believing in God, I ruined relationships, I did the bare minimum to survive, only because I didn’t want to die.
Mr Grusch, you are expressing the courage that I did not have, and the understanding I was incapable of, and I want to thank you so much for giving me a reason to believe that we’re not here just for nothing.
In the last months, I’ve been reaching out to family to reconnect and I really believe we’re going to be able to heal because YOU were a catalyst in my life.
These people have been lying to us for too long. It’s hurting our families and our country. I am going to repair the damage they did to my family and then I’m going to continue to fight for this with you in any way I can.
Thank you, truly and deeply, for your service and dedication.