Please read the beginning of this story as shown within the “Afghanistan Story” tab above.
Afghanistan, June 2010, AUP Station in the Town of Delaram
My heart changed after I saw those men and the torture they had experienced in the name of…War? Oil? Family? Religion? Unbridled hate? Mental illness? It made no sense to me.
When I joined the Marine Corps, everyone in my hometown was stunned. I grew up as a peace-loving hippie. I wore flowy skirts and a bell anklet that jingled when I stepped. I sang in the church choir, played the flute (and oboe and piccolo) in the marching band, was in Latin Club, and attempted to play soccer. I listened to music and read my heart out. To the typical outsider, I was just a normal Georgian country girl.
However, to people who truly knew me, I was severely…unhappy. My family wasn’t fantastic. I grew up with alcoholic parents and a father who was an emotional abuser who wasn’t afraid to hit me. I attempted suicide when I was 16 and ended up in the ICU for a few days before being sent to a mental hospital for the mandated 72 hours. My church had rescinded their offer for me to be the youth elder, and people would avoid me in the hallways at school. A year of therapy later, my boyfriend would be murdered after a fight we had and I would only be able to remember the last thing I said to him; “I hate you.” I had to leave my hometown.
Everyone said I couldn’t be a Marine, that I wasn’t strong enough, or hard enough. I forged my mother’s signature when I was 17 and graduated high school early. While everyone in my class walked across the stage and got their high school diploma, I was leading Marines in communications school. And I was great. I was proving everyone wrong.
In Afghanistan, less than two years after my high school graduation, I was seeing the ruins of men who had probably never driven a five-speed recklessly through the country-side, who had never gone streaking on their high school football field, who had never picked honeysuckle from the vine and sucked its sweet juices from the flower. I didn’t know what it was like to grow up in a land of sand and sweat. I knew nothing of them but what the insides of their elbows looked like. But I know they felt the same fear that I did. I know they felt pain. And I know that my disgust with the human race, to include myself, would only grow.
I’m not sure what happened when I walked back inside the compound. I probably wandered back to the cot that held my pack and unhooked my flak. I’m sure I grabbed water and maybe some food since I hadn’t eaten since breakfast. Maybe I talked to Virkler about the men. I don’t know. I was so inside my own head, seeing the men’s screaming eyes and broken bodies, so that I was just going through the motions. I was trying to contemplate the circumstances of death and…why. This was no longer training. It was no longer something I heard about as tales from seasoned Marines. The war was real now.
I wanted to throw up. I wanted to run. I wanted to be held. I wanted to cry and hold their broken bodies.
And I wanted to kill. I wanted to use my thumbs and poke into the eye sockets of the men who murdered the innocent civilians. I wanted to see their eyes ripped out of their sockets while they screamed and know that I did it and that they felt pain for what they did. An eye for an eye makes the world blind? I didn’t fucking care. I was reduced to same as primal hate that caused those murderers to kill.
When Sgt. P said we were going to conduct a night patrol within an hour, I was ready.