When I was younger and in awe of what the tough man my Dad was, I used to be amazed at how I watched him get older but at the same time more sentimental. My Dad was a tough as nails, a three combat tour Special Forces soldier. He was super strict and I only remember him showing emotion one time when I was a dumbass in elementary school and broke his heart.
However well after he retired and I moved from being a teen into man-hood I would see him show emotions more and more. I never understood why until a few years ago.
Somewhere along the way I started getting more and more emotional at some of the smallest things. I would see a commercial, watch a movie, hear a song and feel myself get choked up. I would think “WTF is wrong with me” and I would choke it back. Most of the time I think I would keep it suppressed but I think there were a few times my wife knew something was going on. I would just move past it, as sometimes it would only last a few seconds.
I have seen and done a lot of things in my years, with some of the most horrible being while I was deployed in Desert Storm, and Enduring Freedom. However I have done well at parking that shit in a locked away CONNEX in my head buried under sandbags and behind HESCOs. However it seems time and the appreciation of life and how short it is along with who knows what else has ripped open some of those sandbags and broken the side of those HESCOs to release some of those locked away memories. The winds of time are blowing away the sand.
Anyway, I am not always sure what would trigger those emotional outbursts or cause them to bubble up, but there are other times it is clear as crystal as to what the triggers are. In the last two months I have had 4 specific Trigger Moments and they have caused me to reflect, remember and cry. As of lately it seems to be certain music and alcohol as significant contributing factors.
A little over a month ago I was in an awesome bar in Nashville with lots of friends, but it took one old friend to show up along with significant amounts of hard liquor and I was ripped open like I don’t think has happened….ever. I don’t know what triggered it, and I am embarrassed because I don’t. Was it just the booze? Did I feel safe around people who really had no military background and therefor maybe would not judge me cause they didn’t know me as the NCO I was? Was it purely the booze lowering my wall guarding some deep pains?
Honestly I don’t know and I don’t think I ever will. I had a great time the rest of the night after I had my outburst, but the next day I woke up ashamed. I know I shouldn’t have felt that way, but I did. Mad at myself for letting out some of the demons, mad that I did it there under those circumstances, mad that I burdened friends who were out to celebrate my upcoming birthday with that crap. I wanted to apologize to them all, but I knew that would be awkward and they would say nice things and tell me not to worry about it.
Fast forward a couple of weeks and I am in the gym on the elliptical at my hotel in Australia. Five Finger Death Punch’s song “Wrong Side of Heaven” hits my earbuds and while working up a good sweat, images, thoughts, voices start bouncing around in my head and as I am alone in the dark early morning I just begin to weep. I again think of the incident in Nashville and wonder again what that was all about and why I was sitting there working out as a big sack of hot mess crying my eyes out as the lyrics pounded into my ears.
I thought about writing about all of this then, but I got into my work day and I was able to re-fill the sandbags and HESCOs and move on with life. Striking it up to being tired, over-worked or whatever.
Another moment happened after watching American Sniper (which wasn’t my first time seeing it), something I have watched 5 times in the last month after seeing it originally in the theater. It was one particular time while with friends and it was a private moment later after all went to bed.
The last trigger happened today. This fourth time was a sign to me that it was time to write about it. When I was deployed, blogging was a very good stress relief and helped defuse a lot of things. It is truly therapeutic so I knew what I needed to do that again.
I was driving from my parents house back to Nashville to fly home and a new song came on the radio. The DJ on Sirius’s channel “The Highway” said “stop what you are doing, put down the beer, step away from the BBQ and spend the next five minutes listening to this song. It is a new song from Zac Brown Band where they collaborated with Jewel. The song is called “Dress Blues” and I knew when he said what he did before the song came on and then looking at the radio to see the title that I was about to have a moment and glad I was alone.
I could barely see the road through the tears that flowed down while listening to the words reverberate around the vehicle. It is truly a great song with an awesome message and I knew it would rip the CONNEX doors open, which it did. Several minutes after it ended I was ok again, with the emotions leaving as quickly as they came but still leaving a lingering effect.
I have thought about these moments a lot and about my Dad and his outpouring of emotions, along with other old combat-hardened vets I know like CSM (r) Sneed, who I have seen cry openly and with compassion. The only thing I can surmise is that with the older we get the smarter we get, and with the smarter we get the more appreciative we are. I think they are not only tears of sadness but also tears of joy that we are still here, tears for our fallen friends and for the innocent people who’s lives were shattered, tears for our family members who had to suffer in silence because we were off being hoorah and full of bravado kicking ass and taking names.
Regardless of what it is or why it happens, it does happen. To the toughest, most stubborn and even those to prideful to normally show emotion. I don’t like that it happens, but it does. I can’t contain it, and many times can’t predict it. However it happens and I will chalk it up to God reminding me that we are still human, and still fragile. Regardless of what things we have done, what things we have seen and what persona we think we need to show, we will be humbled and in the end I am sure it is good for the soul.
Damn those trigger moments…..