My heart is heavy after learning of another loss of a Marine with whom I served. So much time has passed since I last wore the uniform, and the memories tend to fade. Some bonds that were once strong are now only held together by infrequent exchanges on social media or laughs shared through text messages. Then the news comes of one more gone; the laughter an afterthought.
It’s been mentioned that he was dealing with an internal struggle that so many service members have been known to have. There are mutual friends who were there for him, but their efforts were not enough. To the rest of the world, that will be unknown. To the rest of the world, he would be forgotten, another tally mark of those who lost an internal battle.
I go back to the thought that I only know this because of social media. Say I wasn’t so plugged in, I would have no clue. Well maybe it would be newsworthy. I search high and low mainly hoping not to find anything even though there are so many people giving their condolences. This must be denial; I don’t want to accept the fact that this could be true.
My search for news comes back empty. The next thought is about those who I can’t find through a Facebook search; those who are not plugged in. How are they doing? Because if this Marine lost his battle with ills of the brain and there is not mention of it outside of social media, what’s to say that more haven’t done the same? Time passes. Numbers change. People move. We grow apart. Yet, I am still concerned because we are all connected.
We shared a moment, if only for a few months, that this country says they care about. There was this outcry about how much veterans deserve to be respected by everyone. Then, I search again. Maybe the news is slow. There’s no way we love our veterans this much because I want to know if my comrade is really gone. Surely there’s one media outlet that will inform us that our brother is gone from this life. Surely, I am not expected to rely on Facebook to alert me of such news. The US veteran is held in high regard, and the end of his/her life will never go quietly into the night.
When my grandfather passed, I told myself that he lived a long life; seventy plus years is long enough. I could move on thinking that I should be so lucky. I told myself that his health failed him when my friend passed away short of thirty. Fate could be cheated by living strong and staying active. It didn’t remove the pain, but it helped me move on. A classmate died in an accident, and even though we weren’t close friends, the fact that he impacted so many people from my school year made it sting a bit. “Accidents happen,” I thought, and that eased the pain in my mind. This news seems to strike harder; there’s no fitness plan or safe driving tips to avoid this fate. One can’t box or outrun it. There’s no self defense course or weapon classes to beat it. Conventional wisdom says that counseling is the answer. It seems as though he was aware of his condition; it seems that he sought help, but how can someone help when they can only know what is shared with them?
Eventually, the wheel of thoughts rolls back around to me. I feel like I’m strong enough to deal with my inner demons, yet I know I’ve been on the edge of darkness. The fear of going back led me to make some irrational decisions of which I am not ashamed. The place I am in is one of peace. I fear that one day the security I have sought may not be enough because again, this battle isn’t one that can be resolved with punches and kicks. What about when the time comes when all of this isn’t enough?
We tend to think of suicide prevention when on this subject, but there are those who don’t make it to that step because it is terminal after all. Personally, I can say that I, like many others, hurt myself in other ways. I also hurt others around me all in a way of lashing out and vetting my inner pain. I know that this struggle is not done. It is only at a cease fire. So I can go back to the fortress that my circle has helped me build and hope that the dragon doesn’t return to tear it down.
John McGregor, my gunner for life, you will be missed brother. I only wish I could have been there for you when you needed someone the most. You will live on in our memories forever. Semper Fidelis. May you be at ease now Devil Dog.