“The first was a religious experience; the next several thousand were getting the job done."
Scott Lee, writer and founder of PTSD: A Soldier's Perspective continues his narrative on his experiences in combat during Operation Desert Storm. Reclaiming parts of his memory has helped him to regain lost bits and pieces of himself; by putting together this Combat Narrative, Scott continues his journey to regain a significant part of his life that has influenced him in many negative ways. This written record of his narrative will assist further in reclaiming his past and coming to terms with his service and his sacrifice over time. The Graffiti of War Project is honored to feature Scott and we encourage our fans and suppoerters who wish to gain further insight into their own experiences or those of their veteran and warfighter family members to watch it unfold here, on The Graffiti of War Project Blog.
War, in all of it's horror, is not pretty and descriptions of it are not always free of it's gruesomeness and rawness, the below is presented uncensored, please don't let your children read it, descretion is advised
For those who missed the first installment - Read it Here!
This begins the epic story of the 3rdBrigade of the 1st AD, in the Greatest Tank Battle in the history of war, where I learned the Intimacy of War. Our second engagement commenced within the 100-Hour Ground War, but to get there, I had to drive balls-to-the-wall as part of the Army’s VIICorps mission to cut off the Iraqi forces before our “Hail Mary” pass into Kuwait. As I was blazing 50 MPH across the sands towards the front line, my 32-ton, combat-loaded Bradley drove over a sand dune and straight into a landmine field. SGT “T” flipped out and started cursing, and I could hear my captain in the background cursing and asking why we had stopped. As they both continued the barrage of swearing and demanding a reason, I screamed, “Shut the fuck up and look out your window; we are in a minefield!” As the reality of the situation sunk in, I assessed our trajectory into the field; we had landed at an angle and missed detonating a single mine that was stopping us in our tracks.
What took less than two seconds to get into, took us about 15 to 20 minutes to get out of, a paltry amount of time when you have all the time you need; however, we had to be out in the front of our tanks to guide them into battle, and being 20 minutes late to the show was not an option. In this moment, the Intimacy of War took its hold upon my squad; we had already become one in body through training, now we would complete the process in mind and spirit. With the welling up of emotions within, circling the drain of despair, I had to release them or be consumed by the downward spiral. I was to either succumb to the pressure or prevail in spirit over my mind and tune into my surroundings in a way that I would fail miserably to describe.
SGT “T” had to stand out of his hatch to give me directions to thread back through our tracks previously laid down, without any deviance from the trail. SGT“T” directed me, “Straight, stop! Left back, stop. Right, back, stop. Forward left, stop!” As I was driving blindly, my thoughts went to a conversation we had had the night before. I was complaining about driving for two days straight without sleep, and SGT “T” said, “The only way your backup driver is going to drive is if you are dead! Got that soldier?” I welled up with pride—high praise from a sergeant to his biggest pain-in-the-ass soldier. At that moment, the implicit trust and respect for each other was expressed. I was now able to read his inflections, his marked tone of voice indicating I was on the track in the sand.
This proved to be a moment of complete and utter faith that would carry over into our catching up with the VII Corp and leading the charge of “Shock and Awe” that would spill blood and ignite fires across the sands. I looked above as our Multiple Long-Range Rocket systems hailed the night with eerily beautiful, red streaks, filling the sky from horizon to horizon. Underneath the belly of the deadly mosaic-red lines, our Apache helicopters were firing Hellfire missiles, snaking through the air seemingly without aim, yet at the last minute administering vaporizing showers of demise. Beneath the Apaches, our M1A’s were firing and hitting the enemy tanks, where columns of erupting fire would jet over 100 feet in the air. Later, I would see the turrets flipping end over end atop the jet of roiling plasma. Coming through the MLRS curtain of fire, where our artillery rounds were lobbing to find their targets, I was finally seeing what “fire for effect” truly means. As a firecracker repetition of bursting bombs was rending reality for some unlucky crew, I was in awe of our “shock and awe.”
May you never know the Intimacy of War as I see my own nightmares walk in the light of day. Bodies rendered, splayed and sprayed in showers of molten metal and steel; the first was a religious experience, the next several thousand were getting the job done. One hundred and ten degrees outside and 160-180 degrees roasting inside the belly of my Bradley Fighting Vehicle, I was sitting next to a 600 hp Cummins turbo-charged diesel engine, separated by a 3/16-inch steel plate. I was broiling inside my body armor—a zip-up, full-body, fire-retardant suit and a MOPP suit—a chemical warfare suit we used to wear in Germany to stay warm. For 172 hours straight? Yeah, that turn looks like it goes straight through Hell. My hope in conveying to you my inner world is that you can glimpse a silhouette of my demons and behold a rebirth of my passions. Surrendering or quitting was never an option then; we were trained be invincible, and with the right support, at times we were. However, we were not trained to bring home the fight we had left in us. We were not given the tools to successfully circumvent the pitfalls of reality, which is quite different than the fantasy island of what we dreamed home would be. Combat PTSD and TBI can wrest away the capacity for intimacy—a grievous wound of war.
The intimacy of war can invade our hearts, minds and spirit if we cannot reconcile our past. The machinations of Shock and Awe can go beyond the halls of war and infect the walls of the home. In combat, we must thread a fluidity of boundaries between intimacy and camaraderie from combat throughout the fabric of life. It changes how we think about closeness, and it will change our perceptions and expectations of our loved ones. We begin to compare the closeness of our squad—those with whom we shared the burden of war—to our loved ones—those with whom we share our life. If we are not cognizant of these changes in ourselves and perceptions of others, it may affect how we care for and expect others to care for us. Love becomes the Battlefield in the Combat-PTSD/TBI home, where intimacy can become lost in the fray. The Caregiver is forced to reevaluate expectations and learn to read cues from the veteran. The fluid boundaries of the PTSD/MTBI veteran can confuse the family and wreak havoc. By educating the family on the why and how of mommy’s or daddy's mental wounds of war and by providing the support, we can mitigate many of the chronic problems that plague the Combat Veterans and their families.
Scott Lee is a Milblogger at PTSD: A Soldier’s Perspective and an Internet Radio Personality at VOW Talk Radio: Veteran’s Edition on BlogTalkRadio. He writes and speaks out on the Hidden Cost of War to educate the public on how an Army veteran navigates life with Combat PTSD and how it interrelates to his everyday existence.
The nature of Combat PTSD leaves us with great conflicts within that can overwhelm our cognitive machinations and not only confuse others, but many times ourselves. He hopes that by reading his story the general public will begin to understand the situation that our
Iraqi and Afghanistan veterans will face in the coming years.
For more information on Scott Lee, his efforts to raise public awareness for those suffering from the invisible wounds of war, visit his website, www.ptsdasoldiersperspective.blogspot.com or Fan his page on Facebook, www.Facebook.com/CombatPTSDBlog.