By Samantha Horvath
It’s hard to explain what being in a war zone feels like, unless you have personally been there yourself. The rush of combat, the weight of the armor, plates, and weapons, and the subtle or sometimes not so subtle sound of gunfire in the background. The combination of all the various factors that provide the fundamental makeup of battle, is hard to forget, and impossible to imagine.
Though, there is a weight that can hang on some soldiers much more heavily, finding purpose once they are back stateside. There is nothing quite like the sound of guns firing in the distance, echoing off the landscape. But a backfiring car can bring the memories rearing to a head. And the imprinted training kicks in, without a qualm.
Finding purpose, after years of being told exactly what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. Having such an exact and regimented way of life impacts a person, and when that regime and order is gone, it can be harder to adjust than a civilian might realize.
A lot of soldiers have a difficult time finding their place in the calm, most of the time, civilian life that the average person lives every day. And this can be very daunting, especially for infantry or military police trained soldiers, who are used to combat. The constant need to look over your shoulder, having to sit with your back to the wall so you can see everything, and even the simple act of constantly having the desire to carry some type of weapon. Little quirks, but they can sometimes offer some type of stability that is calming. And a lot of veterans do it more than you might think, or without even realizing that they are doing it.
Life after war can be hard on everyone, especially if the soldier is returning home to a family. My husband was deployed overseas, and when he came back, it took a long time for things to get back to normal. My husband, a Marine, served in an Infantry Battalion within the 4th Marine Division, and for lack a better term, he was in the shit. There is no point in mincing words.
“There is nothing like being in a war zone, nothing else in the world that I can compare it to. All I could think about was my brother on my left, and my brother on my right. Serving your country is more than just the glory, that fades, but the sense of urgency to protect my brother’s life, even more than my own, that is something that never dies.” – David Hutchens
I asked David, my husband, what he missed most, once he was back stateside, and why he had a desire to reenlist, and his answer was simple: “The comradery that I had when I served can never be equaled, knowing that my brothers had my back, and I had theirs, that’s not something I can easily forget or manufacture with a regular civilian.”
Knowing that there is a level of sacrifice that these men would make for one another, is unbound by the thinking of an average civilian, no one understands the pure, unadulterated love they have for each other, knowing they would take a bullet for one another. That is one of the hardest realizations for any veteran to come to terms with, which in part, adds to the difficulty soldiers have when they return home.
Life after war for a veteran can be incredibly difficult, especially when in our society, similar to the returning soldiers from the Vietnam era, they are now generally frowned upon. No one stops to thank a soldier anymore, no one wants to pay respect to the flag that these men and women fought and died for. Life after war has become more and more difficult for our men and women; but there is nothing more painful than knowing that the majority of our country doesn’t have their back, while homeless veterans die in the street every day without a fight to stop the genocide.
Often times it is hard to find jobs who will hire veterans and place them where they can be successful and contribute to a company or business with the incredible skills they learned while serving. The problem is compounded by a market that is already competitive and lacking in jobs, companies want to hire the most experienced in their field, not the least. Veterans face so many issues emotionally, financially, and physically both in public and in private. As wives, we try to lessen the blow, curb the difficulty of reentry and show how much love exists on this side of war. With this brewing culture of under appreciation, the result for so many servicemen and women is simple, they go back to where they are understood, and where they find meaning and purpose.
Samantha Horvath is an OpsLens Contributor and the spouse of a U.S. Marine Corps veteran.