This archived article was written by: Christopher Palo
Long after the warrior comes home, the war still rages within him. Whatever he may have seen or caused is compounded deep inside him. It affects his loved ones most. He doesn’t always see the pain he is inflicting or the consequences of his actions. Above all else, he is trying to deal. Deal with the screams, the blood, the terror, inflicted by both him and the enemy. Nobody understands that he is fighting to stay alive. He is raging a war within himself, with the beast that he had become. People sit and silently judge him because he won’t leave the house or the TV for that matter.
But he is fighting with everything he has to be human. His finger nails break off as he claws at the walls of his soul trying to free himself from the pain. Bloody and beaten on the inside from a war, he isn’t sure he will win. His angry outbursts aren’t him. They are the beast that has momentarily come to the surface before he could drag him back down.
But the damage has been done. He tries to apologize, but as he focuses on the “real world,” the battle within him starts to turn. He loses his grip on the fight and out comes the beast. He silently sobs at night for the pain and hurt he has caused both here and over there.
Before he went to war, his world was a picturesque dream world where everyone was nice and someone always protected him. In his world death, murder and hell were a million miles away in a far off “make believe” land that was only read about in books or seen in movies. Even after he goes to this land that the world has forgotten, his world remains unchanged.
One fateful afternoon, as they were out “playing” army, and essentially going on a guided tour of this strange and beautiful land, the man in front of him, his best friend, a person that he shared his most intimate secrets with, a man who over the weeks had become much more than a brother to him, suddenly drops. His body goes limp and he free falls. In one second he goes from best friend; talking and singing a horrible rendition of “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond to a lifeless lump on the ground.
There is scrambling and chaos; he doesn’t realize what has happened. At first, it seems like a dream because that is the only logical thing his mind can conceive. But then, from under the helmet, he sees it; shiny, wet and red: blood. In that instant, his mind makes the connection and like a thin pane of glass, his world shatters. Every belief he has ever had is up for grabs. What’s right? What’s wrong? At this point nobody knows.
Then he hears an ear-shattering pop and realizes he is being fired at. His training takes over. All that is left of this once care free and fun loving man is nothing more than tissue, bone, primal emotions and Uncle Sam’s training. Evil and horrible deeds are done. Archaic screams leave his lips. Muscles bulge and they fill with blood. Heat spreads across his body. He is now more animal than man.
Rage fills him. One single, extremely powerful emotion fills his mind and takes over every receptor and every molecule of grey matter. Kill! The word flows to his feet first. His feet find the enemy and propel his body in that direction. Next, are his arms. Kill! His weapon feels weightless. Next, his eyes. Kill! He aims at his target. There is no thought of what he is doing there is only kill.
Finally, his finger. Kill! With a soft, gentle squeeze and a slightly surprising pop, the round finds its target. But the blood rage hasn’t stopped. “Kill” has consumed his body. With each pull of the trigger, he loses himself and the beast takes over. Pain is absent and fatigue never comes. All there is…is blinding rage.
When the enemy has either been killed or has retreated, and he has returned to U.S.-controlled soil, he is nothing. After the rage subsides, he is left empty and hollow. He has to rebuild his life. The problem is he is constantly thrown back in to the mouth of Hell.
This constant barrage of bullets and explosions has become the reason he can’t deal with his world being shattered. He has even used this way of life as a defense mechanism for not dealing with his issues. To be honest, the beast has become his best chance of survival. The problem is, the more he uses the beast, the more he becomes the beast.
Then it’s time to return home. Soon after returning, he learns that he has brought the beast back with him.
The fight begins. It is a far more terrible fight than he has ever faced, for this enemy knows all of his strengths, all of his weaknesses and how to use his family against him. First, it gets rid of his friends, then it destroys his extended family and finally attacks his family.
The whole time he is fighting this demon in a war so terrible, that it would drop the biggest, strongest man to his knees and make him cry like he has never cried before.
The fight will continue for the rest of his life. Even after he has subdued the beast, he is forever in fear of it getting out again. He continues to pay the strictest attention to where he is, who he is with and what his surroundings are. Any of these triggers can release the caged beast. The next time it gets out, he may not be able to fight it off.