How do I break away from the warrior spirit the Marines instilled in me? As I venture in the civilian world I remember the best and worst times of my life. Serving at the age of 17 was an extreme honor, and regardless of how you feel about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, that was the pinnacle of my military service — being a part of the mission, a part of the team, and knowing that I was saving lives.
I deployed to Afghanistan when I was 20, an amazing feeling. I was serving, I was traveling and I was in the fight. Going over is such a high, and for me there is nothing more exciting than a fire fight when you know your life is on the line. It makes you step up your game. It makes you appreciate the downtime and also realize how good we all have it in the States. It also puts safety in perspective. As a mechanic I started off on the larger and more secure bases. However, due to the draw-down I was forced to leave the comfort of certain places and was assigned to more perilous situations. My 13-hour days of turning wrenches became 10 hour days of turning wrenches, 4-6 hours of static post at the entry control points ,and 2-4 hours of roving foot patrols inspecting the locals and working with British troops. Amazing how my perspective of safety changed.
Deployment changed my life; I was addicted. Afghanistan was a roller coaster of emotions — happy, sad, scared, grateful, anger, all in a matter of seconds — but after a little over seven months it was over. I returned to the States and was discharged six months later, still needing my fix, and for two years I longed for the desert and the feeling of my rifle. I worked at rowdy bars, drove a tow truck, started two small businesses (one of which was a bodyguard/security business), and even earned an Associates Degree while garnering honors. I dabbled in emergency services as I mentioned in a previous post, but I never felt satisfied. That is, until I went back overseas.
In October, I took a job as an armed forces protection agent for NATO and the US Department of State. It isn’t as high speed as Afghanistan, but being in a Balkan country slowly getting taken over by a foreign population south-west of them still is exciting. Most of all I’m a part of a team. I’m doing patrols, I’m training, and I’m in the fight. We protect a lot of personnel on this base. Politicians come on and off all the time. It makes you feel like you’re doing something and cuts out the mundane excess and micromanaging of the military. Everyone here is treated like an adult, and if you can’t hack it you leave.
Overall, being back overseas has made me feel better, I’m more at peace, and I’m happy again. I find this ironic given the creation of safe-spaces and trigger warnings being hammered into society by students and millennials. I used to look down on the notion that one can hide from the real world when things are not going their way, or when they feel uncomfortable, but yet aren’t I doing the same? My safe space is when I’m deployed, when I’m working and under stress. It’s said that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, but it also can make you a gluten for pain. The real world terrifies me so much that I need to leave my friends and family to feel at home. I feel at peace in some of the most terrible and dangerous countries in the world. So the question I ask now is: When does a warrior retire? When do I hang up my rifle and my sidearm and join my peers?