"Sharing can be a way of healing. Grief and loss can isolate,
anger even alienate. Shared with others, emotions unite
as we see we aren't alone. We realize others weep with us."
~Susan Wittig Albert

Through our writing, we walk out of the darkness into the light
together, one small step at a time, recording history, educating
America, and we are healing.
~CJ/Todd Dierdorff

Friday, November 12, 2010

David Westfall: Being Home

"Dad.  Dad?  DAD!"  As I return with a start, I see my young daughter standing before me. “Daddy? You were staring again. What were you staring at?”  she says, with a little giggle in her voice.

I’m actually relieved. At least this time I wasn’t screaming, with the tears I didn’t know I was crying, which I explain away as having something in my eyes.

How many times have I repeated this scene in my life?  Both the one inside my head, and the one here in the present with my daughter.  Countless times. Too many times.  Awake is supposed to be the calm time, the time for peace, the time I can control. I control it so little though. My mind does what it wants and takes me back. My teeth are cracking from the constant stress-induced jaw clenching.

Night time comes and I don’t want to sleep. Who will watch over my family if I don’t stand watch? I must protect them, just like my buddies and I used to protect each other. Then there are the dreams. How do you explain to your wonderful wife the screaming, sweating, and thrashing that possesses you while you are supposed to be resting? How do you say, 'I’m sorry' for attacking her and all while you are asleep?

You want to go back. You want to go back for real. Maybe you can finish things. Maybe you can save one of the babies that is fighting the current war. Maybe you will find the camaraderie you have never found in the civilian world. Maybe you will get lucky and the horror will end ...

CJ, I don't worry about my daughter at this point.  She thinks it's kind of funny when Daddy stares, almost like we are playing a game.  I think your Doug would have been fine.  He had a selfless, caring, strong woman to come home to.  I'm not saying he would have been perfect, but like me, he would have survived living.  

When I came home, my then wife, was unsympathetic.  Maybe because before I left I seemed like Superman, capable of withstanding anything.  When I came home, I came home broken both physically and mentally.  Do I need to say our marriage only lasted a couple of years after my return?  My current wife is wonderful.  Even when she was scared to come home at night for fear of finding me dead from a self inflicted wound, she still did.

Counseling is huge for recovery.  Group counseling with people who can relate to you is key.  I was in groups where any member could have finished just about any of my sentences.  We understood each other.  This is one of the times of the year that I get sullen, so I thought I would get some of it out.  I took all of five minutes to write this one, but it's out.  And if nobody has ever said it, thank you for being a military wife.  Trust me when I say that Doug's life during his time in combat was made tolerable only by knowing you were at home supporting him.  After all, being a military wife is the toughest job in the military. 


Thank YOU, David. 

Memoirs has been a blessing for me, and you and the others are now a part of that blessing.  You have all become my comrades, the ones who can finish my sentences ... 
My warmest regards and respect,

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do. And by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

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  1. David, I'm 61 and and spent 20 years self-medicating and my first wife felt all what you described...we were both sick to be honest.
    Once I got clean a year I met my current wife and she is a rock, she worked to find out what I suffer with, she prays for my comfort and at night she has suffered my nightmares, my shouts and even some physical abuse but she refuses to leave my side...she wants to be there when I suddenly wakes up knowing her face, her concern will make a difference.
    Yes, CJ has been a blessing by allowing us to write our thoughts, fears and memories...driven by her love for writing but perhaps even more for her love of Doug.
    Be strong my brother, keep fighting because we will be blessed for our fight as will our best allie---our family and friends. God is good and faithful. I pray daily for our fellow vets and all the men and women under colors. Thanks for sharing, it IS the best of treatments. Thanks CJ for providing the prescription....
    Michael: 101st Airborne Division, 1970-71

  2. Thank you Doug and Michael. Since I'm a first Gulf War and Somalia Veteran, and not a Vietnam Vet, I truly appreciate everyone letting me participate on this forum. Before they canceled it, my Anger Management group at the VA was me, one other Gulf War Vet and the rest were Vietnam Vets. Those were the guys who could finish my sentences, just as I could finish theirs. It doesn't matter what war you fought in, the horrors and results are the same. We did the same stuff, just with different scenery. Thank you both for your service.


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