Aug 28

“Whats it like to go to war?”

Well hello again from Corpus Christi Texas! It’s been hot and muggy here for the last couple of weeks, with a few nice days mixed in. I’ve managed to get a full diet of fresh fish and fun while I’ve been here. I’ve missed the fam and things back at home like my new dog, but I’ll get over it. It looks like we’ll be heading home via commercial air rather than on the helicopter and that’s a bit disappointing, but I can’t stay any longer, nearly 3 weeks away from home so soon after a deployment is long enough. I’ve had the privilege of speaking with Maria Edwards of Navigator books. She is a publisher, but has a soft spot for Vets like me so has kindly offered her help, which I graciously accepted. (Laughing to myself, don’t know how gracious I can be, but I was eager none the less.) She spoke for a while about wanting to help veterans suffering from PTSD, or other dysfunctions brought on by war and other stressful situations the military can put people under. I truly admire her and what she hopes to accomplish with the different programs she’s involved in. This conversation, paired with a couple of others recently made me think about this Blog post, and what I might say that would be of interest to others. A question I get asked a lot (surprisingly) is, “What’s it like to go to war?” That’s a loaded question, but I’ll bite. dustlanding resize

“Another day at the office”

dust landing, infill/exfill

I planned to do a movie review today. I have seen 2 Guns, Elysium, Percy Jackson, The mortal instruments and more. I will do a review, especially of mortal instruments as I’m an Urban Fantasy guy, but for some reason I felt this was an important post to do today. While I will give you some idea of what going to war is like, and how it makes soldiers like me feel, for each person the experience is different. I’m also no expert. I’ve only been deployed for a total of 13 months. Some guys did more than that on their first tour, and more often we have some who have spent 7 of the last 10 years in the desert fighting to maintain our freedom. These gentlemen and lady’s are true heroes, but maybe I can give you an inkling. team shank resize

Team Shank OEF 12-13


I have been in the Army now for 4 years, my first 9 months were all training, so that doesn’t really count to me as true active time, but the 3 years I’ve been on station, I’ve spent 1/3 of that time in Afghanistan, and another nearly 1/4 of the remainder in training of some kind, so being separated from family is a bit of an issue. That kind of time apart grows calluses on heart-strings that make it easier to go away when needed, and that isn’t always easy to undo. The separation doesn’t just take a toll on the soldier but also on the loved ones they leave behind. Children, spouses, pets and extended family all feel the tear of this separation. Not only that, they don’t heal instantly just because we come home from war. These tears and breaks in family relationships take time to heal and usually leave a scar. Even spending as much time together as possible  and doing fun things when we get home don’t fix what was torn, it just puts a bandage on it until the healing process can get moving. It requires time and patience and even then an acceptance that those months and precious experiences are lost and can’t be redone. I don’t mean this to sound horrible, the sacrifice is something every soldier is willing to pay, and most are happy doing their duty. It does wear on us over time, and those family strings of love and connection can be re-established after the cut and even become stronger over time than they would have been had we stayed home and not gone away.

Another aspect of war is what happens to the mind of a soldier. I have many memories that will stay with me for a life time from my two separate experiences. I’ve made friends that I will genuinely love as family and if they need me, I’ll be there for them no matter the cost. The war stories we share with each other make us laugh and sometimes feel sad depending on what we’re talking about. Most people listening from across the room won’t understand, but we do. A loud noise, a distant alarm, gun fire, helicopter rotor report, TV shows and sometimes a smell or waking up out of a dream can take us back to a scary place in an instant. It doesn’t mean we want or need to talk about it. For most people, they wouldn’t understand if we tried. It doesn’t mean we are broken, or scary people, or “potential terrorists” because we have seen or felt the reality of war. It simply means that the world looks and feels different to us than to others. If you see me and my eyes are unfocused and I seem to be staring off into the distance, it doesn’t mean I’m back in my tent on the FOB, or in the bunker after IDF hit near where I slept. I’m probably thinking about the novel I’m writing, or seeing my beautiful wife in her new dress (or out of it). Regardless I have to say, I appreciate your concern and the answer is “no thanks, I don’t want to talk about my feelings right now.” when you ask about what it was like to go to war. me resize

(Yours truly, looking awesome!)

I never planned to share my experiences in this post, nor do I now. I can however give you a little more on what it’s like to be there, not just to go and come home. War is a place where soldiers die to protect our people’s freedom here at home. For some it’s where they thrive. For others it’s what nightmares are made of. For yet others it is simply another duty station, or anther assignment from Uncle Sam and they just do their job, and look forward to going home. My experience was a lack of sleep, crappy food and a sometimes stressful situation that I didn’t fully understand. I felt like I was doing my part, I felt and feel grateful to God to have come home safe. I’m glad to know we killed or captured bad guys who wanted to hurt others and take away their freedom and I would do it again if called on. I’m glad to have done my job, and I hope done it well. “What’s it like to go to war?” The answer is varied and complex, but over all I would say “It is what you make of it, a lot like anything else in life.” Getting over it and having to explain to your loved ones that the world just doesn’t quite look the same as it once did is difficult, but not impossible and I’m glad to have the opportunity to try.

Well that’s it for this edition, look forward to the movie reviews I’ll try to get that done in the next day or two. For now as always I’m proud of my kids and my wife. Play to Win!! And…. you stay classy planet Earth.

About the author

Jon Pew

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