I returned to Ft. Benning silently. I was able to turn in my ticket at the Frankfurt Airport and catch an earlier flight. I thought about the risk I took flying to Germany without telling my Commander. My Leave Request asked for five days to go home to Illinois. My travel plans were not only against U.C.M.J. (Uniformed Code of Military Justice), I was breaking international law by falsely representing my military I.D. in lieu of a passport. If i was asked for my orders, which was the only legal way for me to travel internationally, i would be exposed. Also, If something happened to me while traveling I would be exposed. I wasn’t sure exactly what the consequences would be for my exposure, but i knew it would be serious.
I adapted to the obstacles in the way of my mission and I overcame them. “Adapt and overcome soldier!”, Sgt. Walker would scream those words at me repeatedly during my training. Also, I went to propose my hand in marriage. When I reached my objective I observed my perimeter and “sliced the pie”. I reassessed my goal and made a decision to abort mission. “Assess your surroundings, find the threat and find the path.”
I had done what I was trained to do.
The problem was I now knew I was completely alone. The finality of my tour through Germany, including the deployment to combat, was over. The friends I survived the war with were gone. Annetta was really just a link holding me to a time and place I wasn’t ready to let go of when it ended. What I learned on the flight home from Germany was I still wasn’t ready to let go.
Most importantly, I learned that taking great risks camouflaged the feeling of loss. Adrenaline had become my drug of choice and “more” was the dosage I needed.
The questions upon my return to the barracks were inevitable. I addressed the questions head on and with brutal honesty. “No. I didn’t ask her.” “Yes. I gave her the ring” “No. I don’t expect to ever hear from her again.”
Normally, when there is no gravy hidden between words spoken, people don’t go looking for hidden meat or potatoes. I didn’t want to speak of her or Germany any longer. I left no gravy trail for anyone to investigate. I honestly believed that I could just close that chapter of my life and move on to the next chapter. Most people can do that I believe. Im not sure if my experience during the war, mixed with the immediate loss of my friends who were there with me, was overly traumatic. Human beings have survived far more traumatic events and scenarios. I tend to believe that the young man i was when I enlisted in the Army, like thousands of other young men, did the best he could with the information he had at the time.
I had several little nuggets of information. The most important nugget was alcohol numbed emotional pain. Second, anyone not like us was a threat. Threats, I had been taught, had to be removed in order to survive. Lastly, and most importantly, everyone I love is going to leave. In order to not feel the pain of loss I have to push them away.
Over the next two years of my life I nourished my nuggets of information into a way of life…