Thousand Yard Stare

“I’d like to order a twenty-ounce Black and White Mocha please.” He said to the Barista.
“Would you like whip cream on that?” she said with enthusiasm, as most baristas always do.
“Yes, please” he said with delight, as if the young lady’s enthusiasm had rubbed off on him in that moment.
“and what’s the name for the order?”
“Joesph”
Joesph grabbed his mocha, and heads directly to the back of the coffee shop, in the corner, by his favorite window. It was perfect, two chairs placed on each side of a round table, one of which had the best view, he could see the whole coffee shop, while being able to stare out the wall size windows that sat in front of the table. Not too loud, nor was there much foot traffic near his perfect table.
Joesph sat down on the far side of the table, nestled in the corner, away from all the noise; then he would put in his ear buds in his ears, and turn on what he would call, get his mind right music. Then he’d take a sip of his Mocha, and glance around the coffee shop, looking at all the diversity that would come through. Parents with their children, rushing to get some coffee, before they would get back to their hectic life, the businessman rushing through for his morning fix of caffeine, the numerous amount of people running late, while miraculously still having time to stop for their morning coffee, all of them, in and out, no time to stop, just go, go, go, as Joesph would just stare at the world moving around him, lost within the music inside his head. This was his routine every Friday, same time, same spot, same everything.
Joesph continued to stare of into the world, as if he were just a fly on the wall, oblivious to the noise around him, almost like he pushed the mute button on the TV remote. But as he stared off into the distance, something he hadn’t seen the Fridays before, came into the shop; it looked like a fog slowly flowing through the entrance, except this fog was dark, black as night for a matter of fact. It absorbed everything it came in contact with, consuming its existence, the people, the furniture, the light itself. But Joesph didn’t react, nor did anyone else, yet he stared at the darkness directly, where as everyone else acted as if the darkness was non-existent. Yet all Joesph could do was stare, as it crept closer and closer, crawling on the ground as if the darkness was reaching for him, until everything went black, and silence would sing its song, as his music faded away from his ears.

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He couldn’t speak, he couldn’t hear, he couldn’t even see, all that existed, was darkness, and silence. But he wasn’t scared, for something familiar seemed to comfort him, almost as if this darkness was a form of solitude, a place to gain clarity.

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Then a tap on his shoulder brought everything back, the light, the people, his music, and his perfect spot, the place he would get his mind right. Joesph looked up at the barista.
“How’s your coffee?” she said as he snapped back to reality.

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Deaths Curse

Four months into deployment overseas and the war began to take over, as the missiles flew across the sky, falling in various places on base, the sirens screaming the sound of danger approaching, telling us to get to bunkers. This was just a glimpse of my life as SW2 McDowell, that’s what the patch on my chest says anyways. Heck I still can’t get over being called by my last name for eight years. My days consisted of being driver, and sometimes a gunner in the harsh environment of Afghanistan, moving from one base to another. Sometimes down rigorous roads, up steep hill sides through the mountains of Afghanistan, and through small villages made from clay and straw, with no clear signs of electricity; all the while doing this during the darkness of night and sometimes during the scorching daylight.

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Most weeks involved explosions near the various bases and fobs (forward operating base) we were at, in this time I had seen death, heard death, smelled death, and feared death, wondering if I would ever go home or even make it home. As war starts to consume you, you try to find a way out, well my way out was going to be my M4 rifle; it could have been so easy, sitting there in my room, alone, with no one to interrupt me, a M4 by my side, with eight clips, thirty rounds in each one, of 5.56 rounds; granted I would only need one to take the pain away, to end it all, you could say “taking the easy way out.” At this point in my life, I had no god by my side, no family besides my brothers and sisters of the armed forces, I had no support but myself to make a choice, life or death.
“Now that’s the kicker isn’t it, with us losing 22-veterans a day to suicide” we all see it, we just choose not to believe it, until it becomes our issue.
It’s not that we don’t have support, or someone to call, it’s that the time we have alone, can be our most vulnerable point, it’s as if once left alone, we get locked in a box, with all the tools needed to give up, it becomes a mental battle, do we choose life or death, do we keeping driving on, or do we kill the engine?
As the night falls, the wind blows the smell of dirt, gunpowder, and death all around, and the sirens scream “take cover”, you stop to think, will this ever end? and if so when? Every day is the same here, somedays are different, but for the most part there is a way of life here, and nothing can stop it. It’s as if you’re in the land of death, where the reapers rome, watching and waiting for their next victim of war. At night while you sleep, the darkness embraces you in a blanket of fear, while during the day darkness confronts you around every corner, always keeping you on your toes, never knowing when your time could be.

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In a world unknown, we have the greatest strength a man or woman could ever find physically, but mentally we weaken as every day passes. Death becomes a part of you, whether you see it, hear it, smell it or think it, it’s there. Living with death everywhere, you begin to change, not much, but just enough for it to lay dormant in you until it finds its moment to attack you from the inside out. You don’t know it yet, but in time this darkness will reveal itself to you little by little, until you become someone who you can’t recognize in the mirror, it’s as if there is two of you, one side good and one side bad. This darkness begins to manifest itself as you, within yourself, where you can see yourself doing things you would never do, but you are helpless to stop it.
People, doctors, family and more never understand a veterans disabilities in a way the veteran can from their experiences of war; unless you experience it, you don’t know, some things are physical, such as amputees, or pains and aches, but the mental side of things is what you don’t understand from my perspective, whether it’s my dreams, or lack of sleep, depression, anxiety, anger and so much more, it all stems off our memories, you can’t erase my mind, or my thoughts, my experiences and memories, and this is the problem because whether it’s a year after this trauma or ten years, when you hear a boom, it takes you back; when you see a flash, it takes you back; there are so many triggers out there, that bring back memories, and every day is different; if it’s an off day for you, it can through you into an episode, sometimes small, sometimes big, sometimes it progresses throughout the day, week or even month. It all stems off memories, which makes this battle forever lasting.
What do you imagine when you think of death? Well what I imagined was what I’d already seen, which is friends and family dying from old age, disease, cancer and such, or the norm you could say, but the most horrific death I’ve seen firsthand was when I was at war.
Three days in and I saw the aftermath of a VBIED (vehicle-borne improvised explosive device,) while in a IED (improvised explosive device) training class, it was as if it were yesterday, standing there seeing two locals outside the wire walking to this spot in front of us about a hundred yards out, not quite knowing what they were doing until they stopped. Then one of them laid a flannel shirt down on the ground, the two men pick up the torso of the man who bombed the base in the VBIED; there were no arms, no legs, and no head on this torso, they picked up this body, laid it in a shirt, wrapped it up, then through it over their back like it was Santa with a bag of presents, then walked away as if nothing happened. If that doesn’t tell you this isn’t a game, I don’t know what does, because this image that’s burnt into my brain, will forever trap apart of myself here in the dessert.
The second time was at night, I was heading to the chow hall like I did every night, except I pushed it off this night, due to getting caught up in a conversation with my roommate, thankfully, because originally, I had planned on leaving thirty mins early, and the walk alone took ten minutes. But on my way to go eat, I heard this sound which I can only describe as a weapon of some sort having a miss fire, then a boom with the sound of something hitting metal. At this point I was nearly there. The missile that fell from the sky had hit the roof of the chow hall, the roof deflected most of it, but what had made it through, killed a 22-year-old EOD kid in the army, face down in his dinner, and a piece of scrap metal hit one of our senior chiefs in his neck, causing him to be life flighted to Germany. Everyone else either took cover, or ran for cover, until it was safe to help, go seek medical attention and get back to our way of things during war.
This one affected me because if I would have left when I wanted to, I might not be here today, and that’s not me procrastinating, that’s the truth, I would have been somewhere in that galley eating, at the mercy of flying metal with the force of death behind it. Not to mention there were plenty of close calls, from the IED explosions either on the road we were driving, bomb scares, and explosions right outside of where we were located, as well as driving through mind fields due to a careless driver, and one of our vehicles being hit by an anti-personnel mine which blew off the front of a tactical vehicle, injuring four of our people. Hell, our battalion even has its very own Forrest Gump, which will forever live with him. I still remember that day, Doc up on the wall, patrolling the perimeter, then wouldn’t you know it, we started receiving fire. Well guess what, Doc got shot in his ass. It wasn’t funny at the moment, but when everything was all said and done, we sure had one hell of a laugh. But this was just some of many incidences, it was the way of life at war.
Then lastly the death in our minds, from the nightmares of everything we have seen and experienced firsthand, the fear of dying and never coming home, how we could possible die in this country surrounded by death. Which all of this eventually manifest into death personally on the home front. An example would be, let’s say, driving. I always have these thoughts of dying in a car crash, sometimes by my own dewing, but other times by other drivers, then what I would do in my final moments of life, who would I call first, would I walk my bloody mangled body home to say my final words to my loving wife, my beautiful daughter, and my smart boy, what would I say? You see the thing is death lurks around the corner waiting for our moment; sometimes I feel as though I have a glimpse or an idea of how it will happen, but when? How bad? We fear what we can’t control, the mind being one of those things. Death is a very vivid picture in a veteran’s mind, whether it be the past, present or future. Many of us have seen death first hand, our lives revolved around the ultimate sacrifice for your country; not that we want to die, but that we would gladly lay our lives down for the people and country we love, so they may live a life of freedom.
“Isn’t that what we do for love? We sacrifice.”

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Demon’s within our mind’s.

Everyone has a story from which our demon’s are created; now demon’s is the word I use, and I’m sure many other’s use. Now your demon’s might be called aniexty, anger, depression, PTSD, etc. Call it what you want, but at the end of the day whatever you call them is what haunts our dreams, some may have it worse or better then others, some may not even notice them, or even have a name for what many suffer from. Some may be temporary and some may be long lasting if not indefinite. No matter your situation, how we learn to live with them or get rid of them can be life saving, and I would know, but at the same time my battle goes on. 

This is just my story, maybe you will relate to it, maybe you will get some inspiration from it, or even just come to a realization that maybe you will need help whether it’s professional or family and friends, some kind of support. We are all different some can handle more then others, but don’t ever hesitate to reach out, humanity hasn’t died yet.

For the people who don’t have demon’s reading this, maybe you will get some incite on what we go through on a regular basis, and possibly understand that this might be why we do the things we do. Now for the ones that can relate enjoy the  journey into my mind, and life.

I want you to imagine your place of peace in your mind or even reality, mine for instance, is deep in the forest of Oregon with a little wooden cabin tucked in the trees, away from and big towns or just towns in general. When you come to this cabin you instantly feel at peace, from the smell of fresh air, the nosies of nature, the sight of trees, not to mention the smell of wood burning from the fireplace within the cabin, but you knew that before even smelling it since you could see the smoke belowing from the chimney, as you continue to walk closer you can see animals scuring about the forest from blue jays flying , chipmonks scurrying, deers running, etc. You stop to look around, and take it all in, from the white clouds in the light blue sky, birds flying though out nature, maybe you can see Mt. Hood or just trees, but then you start to look at the cabin, and you can see the beautiful grain of each piece of wood this house was built out of, as well as the fishing poles on the deck that has noticeable wear to it like it has been used a lot, or even the axe on the stump where the wood is chopped to bring into the house, every little detail you see just says “I’m at peace” with a simplicity to life, like not a care in the world besides living. (There’s a beautiful feeling we get from going outdoors or even just away to where you get your peace, but for me when I drive to the mountian, or forest it’s as if a weight is lifted as i get closer and closer; the weight of life like work, money, bills, school, projects, etc. It all falls off piece by piece until all is left is a human in nature with one task, which is to be one with earth, enjoy a fire, the sound of a bird or frog maybe even a cricket or the sound of a stream, to smell the fresh air away from pollution, free of headaches, maybe a drink from a fresh spring, the taste of a fresh caught fish cooked over a fire, maybe just a walk in nature, heck even just the warmth of a fire is tranquil.) Now inside this cabin it continues to show us simplicity, a calmness, love, and compassion for the small things in life. This cabin isn’t big but just enough, the kitchen is just right with everything you need to cook a good hearty meal, this kitchen wasn’t meant for takeout or a tv dinner but real home grown food. The living room is comfortable, enough room to host a gathering of friends or family, not a lot of technology or as i would say “distractions from life” this cabin has 3 bedrooms for a small family. On the walls you see pictures, hand made art, animal pelts or head mounts, not a lot but a specific type of feeling of art and nature, even the decorations around the house have a natures touch with real wood, or plants growing. It is clean and organized just as we all wish to have and keep. This is my place of peace both in reality, and in my mind.

But somethings missing, where are the people who live here? As you begin to do another sweep you notice two bedroom doors are closed and locked with a picture of a little girl on one door and a teenage boy on the other of which these must be the children, but no one is in them, then you see the master bedroom door open, and it looks like a bedroom but there’s a picture above one side of the bed of a women possibly the mother, but nothing on the other side, even though there is evidence of someone being on this side as for the father and husband. But where is he? Now as you stand here in God’s country at peace in nature you begin to worry and get a errie feeling as the emptiness closes in. Before you know it things begin to change, the wood on the walls start cracking and changing color, cob webs form in the corners, the lights begin to dim, the sounds of nature disappear, the fresh air becomes dry and stale and before you know it, it’s nothing but darkness around you with no sound.