War Is Personal

War Is Personal

A 25-year-old certified medic, home from Iraq, can’t escape the horrors of war.


We were certified medics, attached to a tank and artillery battalion. When our guys went after someone who fired on us, they were dead. Civilians were the casualties–crossfire people, people driving by or sitting outside their homes. You’d see explosive devices go off, and the gunners on the Humvees–guys who were 18 or 19–would shoot in that direction. There isn’t a policy; you just do it. But there was never any insurgent there, ’cause they detonated the IEDs from cellphones, from batteries in other places. So people driving the highways got caught: .50-
caliber bullets go right through doors, dashboards, engines. Whenever an IED went off, we would attend to civilian casualties–mostly women and children–and half of them died on me. There was nothing you could do. You’d get to this car and this guy was still holding the steering wheel with no head. Some guys laughed. Some put glow sticks in this one dead guy’s head, like he was a jack-o’-lantern. I mean, these were good guys who saw this too much.

My nightmares are pretty much always the same now. Somebody is chasing me with broomstick handles or machetes and there’s a set of doors that don’t lead me anywhere. And the floors are all slippery, and I keep slipping and slipping. On the train I’ll have a panic attack, palms sweaty, lightheaded; you think you’re having a heart attack. I don’t know why I keep calling the paramedics, because I know it’s only gonna last fifteen minutes. But during the fifteen minutes you go crazy. Last time I had a panic attack was 1:30 in the morning. My mother said I couldn’t talk. I heard her, saw her, but couldn’t respond. The words “I’m OK”–I couldn’t get them out.

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