In April 1991, I returned home from combat completely changed. A different human being. A grotesquely altered version of myself. All of the emotional trauma I'd experienced as a child (See previous blog posts) added to my experience in combat, had left me a shell of a person.
After all the "welcome homes" were over, it was time for me to be me again. But I wasn't me anymore. I had flipped a switch somewhere psychologically, and the results of that flipped switch would buffet me every day for the next 30 years, and even to this day, the switch has never flipped back. I use the term "flipped a switch" and other terms I created to explain serious and very complicated emotional, psychological and physiological changes that occurred to me.
The biggest area that had changed were my religious beliefs. I became a born again Christian in my teens, and I was very involved in church and church activities. Up to this point, with my wife Shari, I'd raisied my two young children within that belief system. I still very much believed in God and Christ and the Bible, and returned to my church activities as soon as I returned from the desert.
Nothing was the same. Nothing. Not my relationship with my wife and children, nor my relationships at church, nor any relationship in my life. Including my relationship with God. It was all different now. I was all different now. The others didn't change. It was something inside of me that'd changed. It was a change and an introduction to the darkness of my own soul, the darkness of life in general (epitomized to me by a world and universe where you could be terrorized as a child, grow up, go and kill people and be home with your wife and children in just a few days). Back to the place, society, where very few other people had ever had that dark experience. Mostly only other veterans.
The killing, to me, was the major introduction to that darkness. As I wrote previously (See Trauma #3, The War--Moral Injury and the Highway of Death). I had experienced a moral injury and I also would later be diagnosed by Army doctors with PTSD. I was confused. Angry. Depressed. Grieving. Anxious. Tired. Having nightmares. Horrible insomnia. I felt like I was still in combat, but I was playing with my kids. I was fighting with my wife. A lot.
I'd come home in April. Back to work at my artillery unit. A few weeks after returning, our unit deployed to the Yakima, WA desert for field exercises. It was a two-week deployment. I didn't sleep for two weeks. I spent the nights in the cab of a truck, having panic attacks and experiencing flashbacks. I was getting sicker and sicker. It was only the beginning.