GWOT: War, Death, and the Struggle with Civilian Life

Sangin, Afghanistan, GWOT, war, death, civilian life, service member, veteran, Marine Corps
Okyrie Royale CEO in Sangin, Afghanistan


Kind of scary to think about how okay I was with death – the idea of dying while I was in the in the military because it felt like that was okay, a part of the job. But it was also something I never shared with my family, and the rest of civilian life, because I did not want them to hurt from my mindset. A warrior’s death was an honor in some way, it was this idea that I died for something bigger than myself. I was dying for my brothers, my kin, and my country. In the military you almost become passive aggressive suicidal. You don’t want to die. You don’t hope you die… but you become so okay with the idea that it just becomes the normal. And psychologically I don’t think you ever come back from it.

You leave the military you try to go to school, you try to fit back in and adjust to civilian life once again. You struggle to relate with your family, you struggle to relate with other students, you struggle to relate to your coworkers. You find the only people that actually make sense to you are veterans or your friends that are still in. They understand you. They know the same feeling all too well. The only way to supplement this idea, is to find some kind of purpose. But it is rare to find another job that gives you the same level of purpose that you once felt.

I think that is why so many veterans feel so depressed and suicidal so often. We are lost. So extremely lost in the world. Searching to fill a void. Sometimes there are voids that we looked to be filled by joining the military, and for some it does for a while. Broken families breed some of the best Marines I have ever had the privilege of serving beside. Being a product of a broken family, I looked at the Marine Corps as a place to fill a void, to be a family and a sense of belonging I lacked growing up. And for the years I spent in, it did. I met some of the best people I’ve ever known, but our times in the Corps all ended at different times. But our pains all started again at different times. We longed for a family that we found. We bonded over pain, blood, sweat, and genuine love for one another. When we become separated from that family, the search for it begins again.

Some of us never find it, not in the same way we did before. Sure, you see veterans or old friends you served with at reunions or hikes. But that everyday living and suffering together, that is what you miss and long for once again. Since I got out it has been a constant struggle to find that sense of belonging, but I have yet to find it. It makes me question my career choices, the people I spent my time with, and worst of all it makes me wonder if I will ever have a purpose worth being alive for again.

Hidden behind forced smiles and sad eyes, I’m still empty searching for that thing to fill the void. I hope one day I find it. Or I am lucky enough to be granted a warrior’s death. Not sure which one I will find if either. But I will keep searching until I do find it. I am a broken warrior, but I keep fighting on…even though I feel like I am losing most days.

From the OR Team: In light of the recent US-Taliban peace agreement, we felt that this message was more relevant than ever. GWOT is officially, finally and hopefully, coming to a close. Yet here we are, as lost souls, looking for our next fight. Keep your head up, stay in the fight (of life) and keep pushing forward. We need you more than you may realize right now. Stay Dangerous.

Originally written and posted by Austin Hill

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