"The sound of thousands of people chanting their prayers in the distance surrounding you in the early morning is one of the most haunting things I have ever heard. Could be beautiful, but knowing that some of the people you can hear are going to try to kill you later makes it creepy as f--k" (Source).
"My son was a combat medic in Afghanistan, on our way home from the airport after his welcome home celebration he was in the front seat of the car while I was driving. He was very nervous about cars getting to close to us. Then on the Fourth of July I noticed he was missing from our family cook out and I found him sitting nervously in a dark room because he couldn't handle the fire works. My son is a very well educated man, very strong and determined ,it took a few years to get grounded again but he is doing very well with his life now. New house, new wife (the old one cheated on him while he was deployed) and a very good job but he's not the happy go lucky kid that we watched leave for war" (Source).
"Nobody ever talks about the smell. That's what's most vivid in my memory. You watch movies that show war and you talk to guys that have already been there, but you never think about what it will smell like until you're clearing buildings, have to pop someone in the head for the first time, and then that smell hits you. Maybe it's the combo of blood and gunsmoke, but it reminded me of how your hands smell after holding a swing set chain. Between having to go weeks without showering, burning your own sh-t and garbage, and the dead people that aren't always properly interred... yea war is a smelly a-- place" (Source).
"Sailor here. They never mentioned I'd be jacking off in a rack with other dudes 24 inches above and below me. Some nights I needed the pitter patter of my shipmates fapping to help me sleep. Ah the memories. I've been fortunate enough to have not lost any shipperdoodles to suicide, though. Knock on wood. I've lost one to a car accident and one to a construction accident. Sunday is Thresher day, though, and I'm going to have a few drinks on them" (Source).
"That there ARE people who appreciate you being there. Maybe you were told that before you get there, but when you see the state it's in, you don't believe it. This image is burned into my head and literally made me tear up when I saw it. It was literally our first day out on patrol on our own (meaning those who were training us and teaching us the ropes when we arrived, had left) and we leave the gate and right outside the gate, there was this little boy (around 10 years old) was standing on this mound and was saluting us as we were driving by. I mean it really f--king hit my in the soft spot and really proved that there are people out there who want us there for protection and security (even though there were attacks by insurgents or forced attacks by farmers) but they felt safer with us there. Not only that but if someone needs help, they flag US down. If there was some kind of incident, they didn't go to the Iraqi Army for help, they searched for us and flagged us down and sent us over there because they knew we would know what to do. When I was there, unlike f--king stateside, I felt like I had a god damn purpose. I left like my life had meaning and every god damn waking day I wish I was back in the military. I wish I didn't get UC, I wish my back didn't get f--ked up, I wish I could have handled my mental state, I wish I would have had a more positive outlook while I was serving stateside, but it's in the past but still it eats me up every f--king day. I guess that's one other thing they don't tell you. For some of us, deployment gave us a purpose, and when we are done, we feel like we don't have a purpose anymore" (Source).
"As a fellow intel guy, we may not necessarily be down to the grindstone like those whose boots are the ground, but we have our own stresses. We see what you see. We see what everyone sees, and its f--king horrific. I've seen feeds akin to innocent civilians executed with det-cord, of children ripped to shreds by a chainsaw, of some mass of meat having what I could only assume was their head mashed to a pulp by the buttstock of an AK-47. Something inside you breaks a little each time. Some are better at dealing with it than others. Some, obviously, are not. Humans are disgusting pigs in human clothing, and I hate every single one of them. We're f--king monsters. We're f--king monsters, and that's one piece of information that I have no idea how to deal with" (Source).
"On my second deployment now. First to Iraq, this one is in Afghanistan (just got here a month ago). The f--king dust man. These countries are so damned dusty. Coming home you miss having your rifle all the time. Feels very weird to not have it. You will wear the same uniform for a week, even if you have a desk job. The insane amount of wasted money in these wars. We had some printers fail because of a dusty fuser in Iraq. The local vendors didn't sell the fuser. We bought new $1000 printers because going through contracting for a $5 part would have taken months.
Recently left a base where we were shooting a lot of mortars outgoing. The speakers would announce it so that people didn't think the booms were incoming IDF. Every time I heard it I'd think 'someone is dying right now...' The food is awful. Even if you are at a big base, you will really miss nice restaurants and home cooked food" (Source).
"You're never really the same. You get back and you want to be left alone. You don't feel that you're special for the things you did, but you don't want civilians to forget. Every movie or tv show that shows war somehow gets it all wrong and it fills you with rage. Every 'thank you for your service' feels fake, like a requirement. Everything back home is upsetting, does anyone remember that there's a war? Why is everybody so interested in a tv show about people singing? Those people singing haven't done anything special, they don't know what it's like to be scared sh-tless every night. Nobody could possibly understand what you've been through. Even other soldiers didn't have the same experience. You weren't at this place a this time so how could you understand? My war was the worst war. My tragedy is the most tragic. So you drink to stop being so angry. You drink so maybe you can laugh again. You drink because F--k you! I've served my goddamned country, what did you ever do? No one gets it, how could anyone? You wife wants to help, but she already looks like she's constantly disappointed in you, she doesn't know what you've done for this family. So you stuff it down, try to get your sh-t together, get out of the Army, get a civilian job. You still hate everyone, they haven't done sh-t for this country. You grab a beer with the dirty civilians from work, all of them act nervous around you. Like you are some sort of experiment that they need to keep an eye on. One civilian opens up to you about how his mother killed herself a few months ago, and asks how you deal with loss. Another talks about the cancer that killed their father. Another about the car crash that killed a friend. Wait....what? Theses civilians had tragedy too? Nah f--k that, they can't know what it feels like. They don't know, my war is the worst war. But wait, how can I dismiss their tragedy and expect them to always care about what I've been through? We all have tragedy, maybe mine was just compounded and compacted into a shorter time, but as it turns out, I'm not special. We are all in this together. Maybe I'm not the same, but I am not alone in facing this. ----so there's that and how it takes some time getting used to driving again and how you have to pay for energy drinks and water bottles again. Sorry to ramble folks" (Source).
"98% bullsh-t: -guarding things. Guarding all the things. Guard tower: thousands of hours of my life standing in 120F heat wearing 70lb of sh-t feeling sorry for myself hoping we get attacked so I can shoot the gun I have to clean every single day. Guarding latrines while wearing full gear because someone clogged the toilet and this is punishment. Guarding padlocked Humvees in the motor pool because we don't want our equipment stolen by other U.S. soldiers from other units. Guarding our tents because we share a base with Iraqi soldiers and we don't trust our own allies. Guarding all the things. -cleaning things. Cleaning all the things. Clean your weapon every single day, shoot it (maybe) once during the deployment, maybe. Some guys never fire a shot. Clean the vehicles before and after every mission. Clean your living space. I lived in what used to be someone's bathroom; we poured water down the sh-thole in the floor, called it good, set up cots, and that's where I slept. But I better make my bed every morning (straightening out my poncho liner that constituted my linen) and make sure my personal belongings and gear are packed up neatly, because we must keep the living area clean. Clean the outpost we live on: pick up all the trash and burn the trash-pile every day. Even though we live on an outpost where we burn our own sh-t in barrels a few hundred feet away from where we eat our meals. Clean all the things. -Maintenance. I signed up as an infantryman. One would, if uninformed, believe that mechanics fix vehicles. Wrong. We do our own maintenance on our Humvees, MRAPs, Bradleys, and M113s. Not only do we do pre-mission maintenance, post-mission checks, and weekly maintenance, but when something breaks, we fix it. Only when we CAN'T fix it - like something seriously wrong with the engine/transmission, do the mechanics do the work. Change track on a Bradley? There are about 180ish (it's been a few years, correct me if I'm wrong) track pads on 180ish track shoes on a Brad. We changed pads twice a month, or more often if they burned out. Driving 45kph on asphalt in 120F heat, the pads literally catch fire and melt off the track. We change the whole TRACK - the most backbreaking job in the mech-infantry - once a month. As a mech-grunt, I felt like I was 33% tanker (the tankers called us 'baby-tankers'), 33% mechanic, and 33% infantryman - with that last 1% constituting 'sorry motherf--ker'. -You will probably not kill anyone. The Apaches, fixed-wing jets, snipers, machine gunners, tank gunners, Bradley gunners, they do most of the killing. The guys with rifles are filling in slots to drive vehicles, kick doors, and detain prisoners. Only a few of the riflemen ever smoked anyone. Usually the killing is done with the bigger guns. When the shooting starts, almost ALL the fire is meant to suppress the enemy position so they hunker down and give us freedom of movement to maneuver on them, close with them, flank them, and engage them. Dudes would literally dump off dozens to hundreds of rounds in a gunfight and at the end of it, we either found no bodies, or didn't bother to look. -Nobody wins. The losers are the civilians. No matter how many bad dudes we smoked, the civilians always lost. When we go back to our outpost, the bad dudes go back to the villes we left and terrorize the locals. Innocent kids tortured, raped, and murdered. Rockets and mortars lobbed into a ville because it's the opposite sect from its opposing ville. We found over 90 bodies of 'extra-judicial killings' (murder victims) from Shiite-vs-Sunni sectarian violence in just the FIRST MONTH of my first combat tour - a tour that lasted 15 months. You will never convince me that the U.S.-led coalition won the 2003 Iraq War, but I can tell you who lost: the civilians of Iraq, by a f--kin landslide" (Source).
"I was in Iraq in '03 we had 40 gal metal drums that we cut in half and just hovered over to take a sh-t in. Then, when they became too full, we had to dump diesel in them and set them on fire. Well who gets that sh-t duty (pun intended) one might ask. Well in my unit, it was whoever f--ked something up most recently. If you did something wrong you were assigned to Sh-t Squad. The thing is, almost anything could get you on sh-t squad if the timing was wrong. If no one f--ked anything big up in a while, a pretty minor infraction like messing up the rank of a senior Marine would get you on Sh-t Squad. If the membership of Sh-t Squad swelled, the lower level f--k ups would get dismissed. If you were a member of Sh-t Squad you would hear the call go out 'Sh-t Squad up!' and you had better come running. Now burning sh-t is a far more complicated process than you may think. Sh-t burns ok on its own with a fuel added but piss and diarrhea do not burn well. In order to get this liquid mixture of baby wipes and piss sh-t to burn you would dump a few gallons of diesel on it and stir it for a little and then set it on fire. Then, as it burns, you would need to continue to stir it so the wettest part of the sh-t evaporates and he sh-t can actually burn. When the fuel burns off, you ensure the flames are completely extinguished and then add more diesel and repeat the process. That last part is extremely important, something many Sh-t Squad noobs would learn as they caught the diesel cans on fire when the sh-t can wasn't completely extinguished. We usually lost about 1 or 2 fuel cans a week to fire related accidents. Usually the entire process took about an hour if you didn't f--k around too much in the process. It's amazing how you can take a sh-tty job like that and turn it into something hilarious when the choice is between laughing at it or committing suicide when everyone falls asleep tonight. Sh-t Squad became a fun joke. We would play pranks on people like switching the diesel with the explosively flammable jp5 and watch the surprise when the sh-t can explodes with flames instead of gently igniting or tossing an aerosol can in someone else's sh-t can when they weren't paying attention so it explodes and sh-t goes everywhere. Even better was if you could frame someone on some trumped up charges to get them on Sh-t Squad. This was especially gratifying when someone would make a comment like 'I've never had to be on Sh-t Squad'. What, b--ch? Sh-t Squad is a right of passage. Everyone goes on Sh-t Squad. Even at the time though, we all referenced the fact that we were breathing that sh-t in with no protection. Prolly gonna be the thing that kills me" (Source).
"Boredom. Absolute, numbing boredom. After the first mission when you expect every rock and road sign to be an IED and reality sets in. That's when the boredom sets in. Boredom on a mission, after the boring mission you return to a boring rack where you spend the next few hours bored until a meal comes up. Then you go eat a boring MRE. After chow, only a sprinkling of a few hours filled with boredom before you can go to sleep in order to wake up and survive another day so packed full of boredom that you regret falling asleep when you wake up. Then one day on a mission, sh-t hits the fan and for a few hours you are living life 120 mph by the second. Adrenaline makes everything a blur and crystal clear all at the same time. When what seems like all day finally passed and you realize it's been a few hours the crushing weight of life comes back and the absolute soul crushing realization hits you. If you thought things were boring before then now it would be an existence of nothing. Your life is an endless channel of nothing but static waiting for the next flash of some faint image coming through the background and just as quick as it appeared it's gone. The boredom of before becomes an intolerable carousel of the same fake scenery passing by on a daily basis. Wake up. Eat. Mission. Sleep. Only the order changes. If you're lucky (unlucky) combat might enter the equation but more often then not it doesn't. Then after a certain amount of scenery rounds your time is up and it's your turn to go home. But hey it'll be better when you're home cause you'll be back in your old life. But your old life has zero chance of combat and that realization makes your old life you were so desperate to get back to seem...boring. For some people this is when thoughts of suicide creep in and without a support structure they start to entertain those thoughts. Luckily though, I had support. Cheers!" (Source).
"They can't prepare you for a human being dying in front of you. It's not like Hollywood where they tell you something important before they die; they cry, scream, sh-t & piss themselves, beg to stay alive or, worse yet, they just stop being there. The biggest thing they don't tell you is how to put up with f--king civilians asking questions about sh-t they have no right to ask about. But, the number one, biggest thing they tell don't ever you about war is this; some of you will like it a little too much" (Source).
"When you get back, people are going to assume that you have PTSD and will be remarkably vocal about it given that they have zero military experience. Anything that you do differently is going to be chalked up to some kind of mental issue. And while, yes, you're not going to come back exactly the same I think it's unrealistic to not expect someone to change at all over the course of an entire goddamn year regardless of where they are or what they're doing. You're going to be asked remarkable stupid questions for years. Did I kill any one? Did you parents teach you to think before you talk? Your civilian co-workers are going to give you sh-t for being 'too happy' at work just because you have a sense of perspective and don't get bent out of shape about the stupid, piddling minor inconveniences that you face at your new job. People with no military experience will also forever and always try to tell you 'what you went through' because they watched Hurt Locker or American Sniper. I think this is linked to the assumption that all Vets have PTSD" (Source).
"I'm a little nervous about posting this... but... I've read through this thread and most of this stuff as been covered in a documentary or a movie, or I've read it on another Reddit thread somewhere else. I have never been, nor am I, a soldier. However, since my SO has deployed, I have experienced something that I've never been told about, never seen in a movie or a documentary, never read in another Reddit thread. I don't know if this is true for the guys, but here's something extra sh-tty about being the woman staying behind for a deployment: Everyone assumes you're already cheating on him. It's default, you aren't gonna get away from it. It's so impossibly sh-tty, and it'll make you feel guilty just for leaving the house to get groceries. My SO has been deployed for 3 months, (1/4 of the way there, WOOHOO), and I have been about an inch away from punching some motherf--kers in the throat because of stupid sh-t they say. I don't know if the people who say these things are ex-military, civilians, or current military. But, goddamn it, people will say demeaning, rude, f--ked up things. I am shocked at how much disrespect people have toward me just because I'm with someone who is deployed. I'm not saying they should respect me, that's not it at all, but holy f--k why do I deserve to be treated like this? I was chatting with a coworker one day about the deployment and how some changes made to their orders were making me worry. This cunt had the f--king nerve to say 'You know, it'll make it easier if you just cheat'. Why on earth would anyone suggest that? There will be people who are less obvious about it, for example: 'oh I'm sure you're not THAT lonely' sly smile. I've had another person actually argue with me that I'm not cheating (calling me a liar, saying 'you all do it') and then dismissing me by laughing in my goddamned face. This is the reaction that hurts the most, because it devalues what you know is true just because it's not the juicy norm. And you can tell them anything you want. You can get mad, sad, disgusted, yell at them, it doesn't matter. To them, you're already cheating on your husband. It's so sh-tty. And after all of this happens and continues to happen, you'll still hear stories of women who sold everything and disappeared before the soldier got home- and let me tell you it will give you a feeling of such white-hot anger... Yes you're angry at her for disrespecting her husband/boyfriend and being a sh-tty human being, yes you're sad that his life is f--ked up now and he had to come home from a stressful situation to that sh-t-show. I am endlessly heartbroken for any soldier who had to experience this from their girlfriend or wife.... I'm being treated like this because of garbage like her. I don't think I'd be able to stop myself from choking a b--ch if I ever met someone like that in person. My point is, you will be judged and people wont censor what they say because they don't care. It's really easy to ignore on some days; water under the bridge. But those days that are 10000x harder than yesterday for no good reason, or the days where you'd spoon out your eye if it'd bring him home... those are the days that those words really hurt, they'll cripple you. Those are the days I eat saltine crackers all day instead of go out for groceries" (Source).
"Fear IS drilled into their brains. I was deployed in the army in '13, and before we left we had powerpoint after powerpoint of, give spouse X amount of money while overseas and put the rest in a bank account they don't know about. Don't give spouse power of attorney. Don't give spouse your credit card and terminate joint credit cards. It's all told to soldiers getting ready to deploy. It's sad that a few bad apples make everything so cumbersome, but that's what the military is and why I left it" (Source).
"Coming home to find out I was cheated on and being left broke me. You know you're doing the right the thing, keep doing it. There's a lot of guys out there who would kill to have someone like you. Keep your head up and f--k everyone else. Stay focused, go shopping, take care of yourself because no one else will, start going after everything you want in life and when he gets home hit the ground running and chasing after it together" (Source).
"I was surprised by this, mostly because I was expecting there to be zero gay people, but there were more than I came across in the civilian world, at least obvious ones. I know there's a chance I was misjudging some effeminate men who weren't gay, they were just effeminate, but there were quite a few that seemed like they were basically out of the closet but weren't allowed to talk about it because of 'don't ask, don't tell'" (Source).
"There's a place where you don't have to worry about your bills, mortgage, family, in-laws, homework, or neighbors. You can't get busted by the cops or shut down for having too good of a time. You're with your best friends in a valley for months and you get to fly in helicopters a couple times a week. You get to go camping all the time, and you'll be in the best shape of your life. You'll get paid more than you've ever been paid in your life. Seriously. It's tax-free. You get girl scout cookies at a certain point, and then it seems like every officer (and some of the medics) somehow never runs out. You don't have to do or fold your laundry, and you don't even have to get out of bed to pee. You shoot the biggest and coolest guns you've ever seen or heard of - and, goddamn, you shoot them a lot. And then you get back and you're 21 and drinking a bottle of liquor every night with your best friends, because you can afford it and it's a damn good time. Everyone at work thinks you're a hero and listens to what you have to say. What you say, goes. You are the expert in your field because you've earned the right through the blood, sweat, and tears you poured into something you didn't even really think about over the past year or so. It's just part of the job - deal with it, guys. The Army pats you on the butt on the way out and the Department of Labor says you'll do well getting a job going out - thanks for training the medics to replace you! You get home and it feels like leave. You think 'now it's real'. College classes are easy and part-time work is a joke. The VA is the hardest thing, because they ask you to describe in detail every ache and pain and irregularity you suffer - multiple times, to multiple people, and why. Each time you remember, you remember a little more, but it never feels like you had an incomplete picture to begin with. You remember the explosion, and you remember running your lieutenant to the bunker. It's your fourth or fifth firefight, and it's only his first one. He's cowering and trying to get his armor back on because he was giving a radio class to Afghans, but with the sound of incoming and outgoing gunfire praying to find each other, he can barely move. You laugh, and look to see if the story makes anyone else laugh. Instead, there are three horrified teenagers form your group project staring back at you. You miss that place. You miss it, and you got shot at every day, and you can't explain to anyone why" (Source).
"For all these reasons, men love war. But these are the easy reasons, the first circle the ones we can talk about without risk of disapproval, without plunging too far into the truth or ourselves. But there are other, more troubling reasons why men love war. The love of war stems from the union, deep in the core of our being between sex and destruction, beauty and horror, love and death. War may be the only way in which most men touch the mythic domains in our soul. It is, for men, at some terrible level, the closest thing to what childbirth is for women: the initiation into the power of life and death. It is like lifting off the corner of the universe and looking at what's underneath. To see war is to see into the dark heart of things, that no-man's-land between life and death, or even beyond" (Source).
"The things they taught in the 3 month train up were completely wrong compared to how things ran in country. For example, we deployed in '05, after the surge and on the cusp of the IED outbreak. In training their tactic for a far side ambush was to pull the vehicles into a diamond formation and return fire. Near side, pull a herringbone and return. Both had the likelihood of getting you targeted either by an IED or indirect mortar fire. All stateside training goes out the window when boots hit the ground and the real learning begins on the right-seat ride alongs with the outgoing unit... if you choose to listen. If you're part of a hard headed unit that chooses not to (looking at you Texas guard), then you're going to lose a lot of people learning the hard way" (Source).
"How much of it becomes so ingrained in you, that you'll be doing it weeks, months, years afterwards. I still check my corners when I enter a room. Check doorways. Entry/Exit points. Blind spots. How many people. How are they standing/body language. If needs be, what can I use as a weapon. I sit facing the door in a restaurant if I can. I scan left to right as I walk, 5s and 20s, just reading people and places. I wouldn't say it's a bad thing that I still do it, it's just part of who I am now. I personally think I'm the better for it, after all who wouldn't want to be more aware. I do miss the weight though. Body armour, weapon, daysack full of other peoples ammo. You feel ten times stronger walking around without it. Also, as an ex-UK soldier, the American PX in Bastion was like an Oasis, just a sight for sore eyes. Stopping over between chinooks and scavenging as much time there as possible just for a bloody coffee and decent beef jerky was a genuine highlight for me. You all were a pleasure to work with" (Source).
"That you are killing children. By direct fire, by indirect fire, by directing fire. There was this one girl they brought to Camp Warehouse when I was on guard, legs gone, shrapnel all over her body, somehow still alive. They just dropped her out of a taxi and took off. You get closer to her and you realize she is alive. You see the damage, you want to help, yet you stay back because you remember the last time they lured you into a trap and rigged a corpse with explosives. She breathes and says something you don't understand. Someone yells orders to stand back and get EOD. You cant leave her there. You just move and pick her up while someone yells at you to not touch her. She looks at you with a face of innocence and pain. You turn around and carry her inside the camp to medical. Now everyone helps. You hand her over and stay outside. Your sergeant starts yelling at you but his words don't reach you. You later learn that she died. At the briefing the next week the incident comes up again. She didn't step on a mine, she was hit by a 40 mm round during fighting. The guys who dropped her off were too afraid we shoot them too. War just sucks man, there is nothing heroic about it, it is just a giant tragedy. And its coming home with you" (Source).
"Didn't read everything so I hope I am not reposting but I was in S Korea 03-04 and Iraq 09-10. Three things they don't tell you. Your spouse will get on without you. I don't mean that they will just up and leave you.. although some do, I mean that they have to keep on living. Those little jobs you did around the house. They have been doing them the whole time your gone. Kids need to get to practice, They have been taking them. When you come home it can be a struggle to find where you fit anymore. It's kind of unsettling that everything has subtlety changed. You are out of date with the rest of the world. You just lost 6 months, a year, or more and new music is popular, people are quoting lines from movies you missed, New clothing is in. You feel a bit displaced from everything. You feel outside of your surroundings like your the new guy again coming into a group even with close friends and family. No one understands. Sure people will shake your hand and thank you for service and you will feel awkward every time they do that. But your friends and family, your old workmates and neighbors, They just don't really understand what you did or saw. to them you were just gone and now back. Your moments good or bad are yours. Try explaining your life overseas and you notice they have no clue. Try explaining about the day you got attacked really bad, had a close call, or were just living in the suck, and then they respond with their problems fixing their lawnmower or getting stuck in traffic. They just don't understand it and you will struggle to get them to understand something they just really never will" (Source).
"No one tells you it never goes away! When you're a stupid teenager with a death wish but end up returning home years later despite your best and secret efforts to die which others only see as bravery. Then you're shipped 'home' with no one or nothing to 'come home' to and you have no idea what to do because all you now know is death. It took over a year to learn how to live in the 'real world' when I never lived there in the first place which is why I joined - to escape, to die. 20 years later and I'm better now. I'm glad I survived, but I'm not proud of what I did over there. I burned my DD 214 and never put my service record on my resume. My wife knows more about my service from her being woken by my nightmares than from anything I have ever actually said to her about my experiences. No one tells you that sh-t and this, here and now, is the most I ever have said about it outside of my therapist's office" (Source).
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