The human mind is a strange thing. Writing the last chapter, I felt very detached and panicky at the same time. When I write, I try to place my mind back in the moment to truly capture it. When I tried to place my mind back on that day, it was like my mind was revolting, throwing up mental blocks and not allowing me to put myself back in the moment. I suppose that is for a good reason.
But at night, your mind doesn’t let you have those blocks. For some reason, falling into a deep sleep can cause your mental protection to drop away and contorts your brain in ways that make you doubt your sanity.
I have a few nightmares about Dumaw that repeat themselves. One starts with Sgt P and I wandering through a sandstorm. We get shot at but we don’t care, we are trying to find Dumaw in the sandstorm because we can hear his screaming. We are rushing to find him, dodging bullets and explosions, and he is screaming. We can’t find him for what seems like hours. When we finally come across his mangled body, the dream turns to slow motion and I can’t call for help because my radio isn’t working. I wake up screaming.
The second one might be based in reality. I’m not sure. When I was cleaning out the vehicles, I went to the back of the fourth vehicle to clean out the large area that can hold a few troops. I think I started to open it and got a glance inside before the gunny slammed the door in my face.
When I think back on that time, it’s hard for me to place what actually happened. Did he slam the door before I saw anything? Or are my dreams real? Something happened with that fourth vehicle that my mind has twisted and warped into nightmares.
In the second dream, I open the back of the vehicle where Dumaw’s body was held as he died. In the second dream, sometimes I open the door and blood drips down slowly from the floor onto the sand. Sometimes I see his body.
I don’t think I actually saw his body. No one has told me or verified any of it, but would they have gone to the Chaplin with his body still in the back of the vehicle? Or did they drop it off to some morgue facility prior? I didn’t even think Delaram had a morgue area but that doesn’t make sense because other people died too. Where did they process the dead bodies? Either way, my brain fills in the blanks. Sometimes I see him, sometimes it’s just pools of blood at the bottom of the vehicle, and sometimes the gunny reaches me in time to stop me from seeing it. I wake up screaming in the dreams that I see his body.
The third nightmare is just Red’s face looking at me as he got out of the vehicle. No actor from any movie can capture the look of shock and disbelief and horror that I saw in him. He looks at me with dead eyes that turn accusatory until I wake up crying.
I don’t feel justified in these nightmares. I wasn’t there. I didn’t hold him while he died. I only heard what was coming through the radios being relayed from a person at the AUP station. Perhaps that is why I didn’t tell anyone how affected I was for so long. Leaders can tell their Marines to “go talk to the Chaplin” all day, but if someone feels like they don’t have a right to ask for help, what good will telling them to go to a Chaplin do? The only people who could help me, the men of PMT, were busy holding themselves together. I told no one because how on earth did I have a right to need help when I wasn’t there? How could I even tell them that I might have cost them the time that could have saved him? They probably would’ve hated me. So I turned in on myself with a loathing.
I also didn’t think that members of the platoon would read this telling. They saw and experienced so much more, and they have nightmares and regrets like I do, but they…they were there. And guys, I’m sorry if I’ve brought up things you don’t want to think about. But I know you think about them, either consciously blocking them out with alcohol or drugs or dangerous acts or subconsciously dreaming about them. I hope you are getting help. I hope you know that I am always here for you, to listen, to bullshit with…anything. Even if we barely know each other, I carry the pain of Dumaw’s death and each of your pain as you still experience it. I’m sorry that your friend and brother died. Semper Fidelis, Marines.
If you or someone you know is feeling suicidal, please call the National Suicide hotline at 1-800-273-8255.
For assistance with addiction, please call the professionals at 844-778-1026 or visit http://www.drugrehab.com.
For Marine Corps related stress assistance, please call DSTRESS at 1877-476-7734 or visit http://www.usmc-mccs.org/services/support/dstress-line/.
THESE RESOURCES ARE CONFIDENTIAL.