Your life is hard, but probably not as hard as it could be
If you’re reading this, you’re alive. That alone should be reason to rejoice. But we don’t.
Someone’s lunch exploded in the microwave. Traffic sucked. Your workouts have stopped working. You flew to Dallas and that meeting was cancelled. Your son didn’t make the team. Your wife is never in the mood.
All pretty legit complaints. Until you talk to some guys who have seen days that are at least 100 times worse than yours.
Think it’s safe to say that your worst day is better than their best day while deployed? Thought so.
So consider this veteran’s therapy: A hearty dose of good ol’ American perspective.
(And if you want to do more than just acknowledge their sacrifices, here’s a great way to do it. Consider donating to the Wounded Warrior Project. It’s how you can give back to the guys who put their lives on the line for us every day.)
Your Complaint: “Seven guys just bailed on our softball game tonight, which means we will have to forfeit. And it’s so close to the playoffs. This sucks.”
Troy Haley, who retired two years ago after 24 years of military service as an Intel Analyst and Operations Sergeant, knows how it feels to suffer a loss like that. Only much, much worse.
“We took a lot of hits when I was in Taji,” he says. “My unit lost 19 soldiers while we were there. One day, we lost seven guys. It was a tough day.”
“It was January 6th, 2005, and we had a Bradley fighting vehicle that got blown up, and we lost everyone.”
Your Complaint: “I’ve been planning this all-inclusive vacation for months, but I just got a call from the resort, and they got hit with a hurricane, so now I am totally screwed.”
Weather can be such a mother. Like when your vacation is ruined, or someone’s entire world is ruined.
“His body had been recovered, but the half of his leg with his foot still in the boot was in the floor board. I had to dig that out.”
That image stays with Haley, he says, “because you don’t wake up in the morning and say, ‘Today I’m going to dig some guy’s foot out of a melted dashboard.’”
Your Complaint: “I coach my son’s soccer team, and I feel like all I do all weekend is yell at 11-year-olds. It’s a grind, man.”
Kids today, right? They’re just so involved. Kind of like the ones in Afghanistan.
A veteran deployed there tells us about one such kid he met when he was there.
“I was there when an 11-year-old suicide bomber turned himself in,” he recalls. “His dad told him to blow himself up, and he just threw his hands up and told us, ‘I don’t want to do this.’”
Your Complaint: “My parents are on me to come home more often, but it’s just hard to find the time.”
Soldiers can be deployed for nine to 15 months at a time. That’s when it’s really hard to find the time for your family.
“Deployments are tough,” says Col. RJ Lillibridge, an active duty Army Infantry Colonel who has done six combat tours with the 101st Airborne Division. “Depending on a soldiers’ family, it can be two Christmases, two Thanksgivings, two anniversaries, two birthdays.”
“My son was born four days after 9/11, and I was gone more than half his life up through 2013.”
Your Complaint: “I’m so damn constipated. It sucks. I haven’t been able to take a dump in three days.”
Haley would probably trade your constipation for his fear of dying while taking a crap.
“There was always rocket fire outside the base,” he says. “Even when you are in the Porta-John you hear it, and you wish you could just go to the bathroom without worrying about dying on the toilet.”
“Right after the earthquake in Haiti in 2010, we went down there to help,” explains a combat veteran and mid-level staffer in the military, who asked not to be named. “We saw a lot of dead children. We saw surviving kids with no pants on, digging around in the garbage for food.”
“For months after that,” he says, “I projected those images I saw onto my own kids back home.”
Your Complaint: “Stuck in traffic. Again. I’m going about two miles per hour. I cannot wait to get out of this car.”
The beauty of a traffic jam in America is that when you can finally get out of your car, you can fully get out of your car. It was a different story for Haley.
“Between the airport and the green zone in Baghdad, there’s a road called Airport Road or Route Irish,” he says. “One of the journalists’ cars was blown up, and one of the guys in the security element was killed. We had to recover all the remains.”
“I always told everyone, ‘I get killed in the john, you guys have to make up a story.’”
Your Complaint: “I twisted my ankle at a pick-up game of basketball last weekend. And it is still killing me.”
Ouch. Does it hurt as much as watching someone’s arms and legs get blown off?
Tom Dutton, who was a sergeant in Military Occupational Specialty during his second tour in Yusufiyah, Iraq in 2007, was walking with his platoon back to their outpost, and came across some obstacles.
They were literally being funneled into a kill zone.
“You see the explosion before you hear any sound,” he says. “There is just enough time in between for your brain to digest what happened. There was a huge cloud of smoke and dirt. Out of the cloud came a torso flying through the air above the bridge.”
“I had seen enemies dead before, but this was my guy.”
“Sometimes, when I close my eyes, I see him emerging from the cloud of dirt and then landing on the other side of the canal.”
Your Complaint: “There are no good rock-climbing walls at the gyms around me anymore.”
Lillibridge’s rifle company felt the exact same way. They wanted to rock climb, and they didn’t have a rock climbing wall either. So they builtthemselves one.
“In Iraq in 2007 and 2008, we were at an austere combat outpost,” he says. “But we had free weights. We also had cross fit kits set up. We did muscle-ups off of a crane. And one of my rifle companies built a rock climbing wall.”
“They shipped us about 500 hand holds from the United States—and 2,000 screws—and they built a rock climbing wall at one of the combat outposts.”
Your Complaint: “Spent another eight hours tossing and turning in bed last night. My Ambien just never kicked in.”
If you’re in an actual bed, you might want to think about all the troops who slept on a cot—or worse—last night.
“For most of the Gulf war, I slept on the ground. It was pretty austere,” says Lillibridge. “It was generally too hot for a sleeping bag.”
But conditions have gotten better, he says. “During our second invasion of Iraq, if you got a cot, you were living large.”
Your Complaint: “My friend wants me to help him move into his new apartment this weekend. But I don’t know. It’s a walk up and he’s on the third floor. That’s asking a lot.”
“I ran from the safety of a building out to a rooftop position, under fire, to help a guy getting hammered by enemy fire,” says Dutton.
Is that walk-up apartment under enemy fire? Because if not, help the guy out, and just be happy you’re doing it in the safe and relatively peaceful US of A.