I was in the U.S. Navy for a little over 3 years. The episode that caused me to leave was a shipmate committing suicide. This aggravated a case of anxiety that I had over my father having committed suicide as well and in turn caused me to suffer from PTSD.
People who have been in the military are different in mindset. We’ve been exposed to a very formed way of thinking and acting. A specific way of doing things that will be there in the back of our minds for the rest of our lives. When someone in our unit or division that we’ve been friends with dies it’s kind of like losing a limb. You always remember what it felt like to have them there, to rely on them. Then they are just, gone.
I will always remember Miller’s face. That is to say I will remember a particular expression he wore. This kind of pensive, confused, desperate look. So I asked him that day, “Hey, are you ok man? You don’t look so hot, can I do anything for you?”
His expression changed to relief. Absolute utter relief. He said, “No, but thanks for noticing. It helped.”
And it did seem to help for awhile, but one person noticing is just not enough. I did send up notices through the command structure to document what I’d seen and let people know when his personality escalated dangerously. I didn’t think he belonged anywhere near weapons.
I was right. Because one day someone couldn’t find him. And I got this cold feeling in my chest. And when we checked on him it was too late, he was gone.
So encountering others of my own “species” from the military can be rough on me. Especially people I know who are veterans who have been forced to begging. I feel this fluttery desperation in my chest. I don’t want them to hurt, I don’t want them to be cold or hungry or sad. I’ve given out some hugs in my day. This morning was not too different. A man I know had been a vet was in front of the post office and I stopped to talk to him for a moment.
I felt bitter and uncomfortable. I had nothing to give him except a smile and a moment of my time. I could do nothing but be one person, noticing him, another person. And although I know he appreciated it today, it doesn’t seem enough.