It took me 10 months of memorizing, tens of thousands of dollars….why did I do it?
Was I trying to prove something? Maybe. Maybe just to myself. Or maybe just to make my time in the military significant for something. Let me explain…
I don’t know if this is something I should admit or not…
But it’s the truth.
A big part of the reason I did the wall was because I don’t feel like I did enough during my time in the military and my service to our country. Please don’t reply to this or send me a message saying, ‘Ron of course you did…blah…blah…blah…’ That isn’t was this post is about. I am not fishing for compliments or attention or whatever. I am just being candid about my motivation. Frankly it would piss me off if you did. So just read it and privately acknowledge it 🙂
When you are deployed to a war zone or perhaps just in the military. You want to do something worthwhile and significant. The story of Marcus Luttrell or Lt. Michael Murphy in Afghanistan men who without question can say they gave everything they had. Michael Murphy lost his life and Marcus narrowly escaped with his. When men are losing their life, facing gunfights and death and you don’t see a glimpse of that something in you wonders if you gave enough.
Once on a convoy back from Bagram to my base in Kabul an officer in the backseat of my vehicle was verbalizing this. He made comments that in his 20 years of he never fired his weapon in combat. My reply was, ‘Well that is good I hope it stays that way.’ I don’t remember his exact reply and nowhere in my heart do I believe he loved war or wanted war but his reply was something to the effect of, ‘I want to be on the team. I want to do something dangerous and risk more than not getting to dinner on time!’
That may sound like he was a war monger or I am one for understanding him. Not at all. It is more of a feeling of your brothers are going through hell and you escape without a scratch. Have you done all you can?
When your deployment is complete they send you to Kuwait for 2 weeks to eat cake and ice cream and listen to preachers and counselors talk. I remember one pastor saying:
When you get home some will thank you for all you did and you will say, ‘No, I didn’t do anything. I wasn’t near the battle. That guy over there was he had rockets landing 100 yards from him. He deserves your thanks.’ Then that guy will say, ‘No, I didn’t do anything that guy over there had bullets hitting 2 feet from him. He deserves your thanks, not me.’ Then that guy will say, ‘No, I didn’t do anything that guy had an IED blow up and took his leg. He deserves your thanks, not me.’ Then that guy will say, ‘No, I didn’t do anything my friends lost their life. They deserve your thanks, not me.’
When the pastor said this it stuck in my mind. He is right.
I left Afghanistan feeling I didn’t do enough. I screwed up in my job a few times (sure everyone does but I didn’t forget about it and it sticks out in my brain even if no one else recalls). I read a quote recently and I wish I could find it but the theme of the quote was basically – ‘only the dead are sure they they gave enough during war.’ It is my belief that everyone who goes to a war zone and returns unharmed feels exactly as I did. –>’That I didn’t do enough. That I didn’t give enough.’
So for me this wall was a way to do just a little more to ease that feeling of not doing enough. Of course, it was also my way of acknowledging the men and women who clearly gave enough. How can any who returns when others don’t ever be certain they did enough?
To be candid. It didn’t work. I am proud of the wall and will never forget it. But that feeling of not doing enough still lingers and I imagine it always will.
(please don’t reply to this saying I did. This post is to share my candid feelings and not solicit a response. Thank you)