I was a US Army ranger serving in Iraq. I was assigned to do a night raid, in Baghdad. Knowing the hazards and risks of my chosen profession, I knew what the stakes and duties were going to be--call for that night.
I had already done several missions, raids and patrols that had resulted in combat. But none of them could compare to or prepare me for what I had experienced that night. When we began the raid we were caught by surprise, and flanked, so to speak. Scouts didn't find anything to report because the Taliban were hiding underground in the building until they heard the shots and flashbangs go off to start the mission.
This occurrence stretched us thin until the response team that we had could come to help. They were a click or two away from the danger close area. We rushed in hoping that we could dodge fire by being behind the walls. The only problem was now the element of surprise was gone, and we were now walking into a prepared and ready opposition.
We pushed through, raiding room after room. We only had sustained minor wounds on a few guys. A few grazes and through-and-throughs on arms and shoulders. We thought all would be well.
A call came in that the back up had arrived and was in full combat response with the flank side so we were able to regroup with our full strength. We cleared the building with no casualties. All went well.
Then it hit. As we were returning to help to the back up and push through the flank side, we came down a stair well that was on the danger-close side of the combat fire. We were instructed to go one at a time so that we could move down as fast as possible so that we would not get bunched up. That way if any bullets made it through we had a possibility of dodging past them.
The first three made it down. I was tail gunner on the squad. My battle ("battle buddy") was right in front of me, door man in front of him. Door man moved down, and got through untouched. Battle's turn. I tapped him to let him know I was right behind him and he went off.
Then the unthinkable happened. An RPG (rocket propelled grenade) hit the wall from the combat side. It was fired towards a group of guys just on the other side, but hit too high.
The blast sent my battle over the rail and down 2 stories. I pushed down and ran towards him.
He was dead.
The medics said that the blast had killed him, but I'm not sure what it was. He left behind a wife and a 5 year old kid.
This has broken me. I finally cracked. I had been the go-to-guy the whole time I was over there, always there for others. Nothing had effected me like this.
I can't get his image out of my head. I think about it all the time and dream about it almost every night. It has been a year and a half now--what am I to do? How can I push on past this? I want to put it behind me so that I focus on the good times and the memories that me and him had.
I need help please. Any advice that you can give me.
Thank you all so much for reading this and responding to me with your help.
To all my brothers and sisters out there, whether you be in war, or at home or retired, I want you to know that my heart is always with you and your families. And that you are the true guardians of our nation. I will always remember you, and give thanks to those that have gave their lives to protect our freedom.
No matter the service or the job, we are not just the Army, or Navy, or Air force, or Marines. We are America--and no one will ever take that away from us. At least not without the greatest ass-kicking fight of all time. Hooha! R.L.T.W. (Rangers lead the way.)
God be with you.
Response from Dr. DeFoore
Hello Daniel. Thank you for your service and sacrifice for our country and our safety. Your story touches me deeply. I can only imagine the depth of loss you feel from the death of your friend in combat.
I will do my best to help you. Take what is useful to you, and leave the rest.
I suggest you start by writing in total detail about your friend. How you met, the times you shared (good and bad), and how you got to be close in combat.
This is a way of honoring him, and this will help you. Write a tribute to him, even though you may not share it with anyone. Do it for yourself. Then if you choose to share it you can, but don't feel that you have to. This is just for you.
In this writing, be sure and express any pain, sorrow, anger or guilt you may have. This is for no one's eyes but yours, so don't worry about what anybody else might think.
Grieving is about honoring the life of the deceased, not just mourning their death. This tribute to your friend will help you to grieve.
It will also help you to try this visualization exercise:
Revisit the event that you can't get out of your mind, in your imagination. Just see yourself as the man you are today, going back into that situation where you have been stuck in your mind. Picture yourself at the moment that you first saw the image that won't go away in your mind. Go up to that younger Daniel, and put your hand on his shoulder, and say, "I'm here. You're not alone. You can stay here as long as you need to. And when you're ready, you can come home with me. You're a good man, and you did your best." If the younger Daniel will let you, put your arm around his shoulder and guide him out of the situation, to a safe and comfortable place of your choosing.
Even though this is all happening in your imagination, Daniel, it will help you if you take the time to do it. Imagery is a powerful tool, and you can use it to "unfreeze" that memory that just won't go away.
Keep writing about it and using the above imagery until you feel that it is resolved.
You can do this, Daniel. You have what it takes. You're a good man.
My very best to you,
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