Monday, September 19, 2011

War Wounds

"And you know what the worst part was? He was one of the Army guys who just got back [from Iraq on Tuesday]." 

My brother's voice reverberated in my head as I drove through the back roads and geological wonders of central Oregon, racing towards my first home. My weekend plans for a run with my BFF in Bend, shopping, and picking up our anniversary project from the ceramic shop cut short by a 7 am phone call. A night in the ER, seven stitches total, missing teeth, possible jaw fracture. The Flag didn't drop to the ground and neither did he.

The story I had heard played over in my head, despite Safe Haven audiobook on level 15 volume trying to drown out my sobs. A night with friends, two beers, visiting with the bartender who used to be our neighbor, leaving at 1 am for home. Hearing a crack as he left, turning the corner to see what was going on. Then it happened.

My brother, full of righteous anger, grabbed the Flag from the ground, drenched in urine, started folding it, and asked the guy who the f *ck he thought he was pissing on the American flag. The "kid" rose to the challenge and asked Bobby what he knew about the damn flag. My brother told him he was a Marine for six years, fought for the flag, had friends that died for the flag, that he almost died for it, so who the hell was he. He was one of the Army guys, young, just returned from Iraq. Then the kid charged.

My heart caught in my throat again as I remembered that part of the story. "You know what the worst part was? He was one of the Army guys who just got back." My brother and I had started sobbing three hundred some miles apart. "I couldn't hit him. He was my brother. He was wrong, but he was my brother. I took three to the face like a champ, never hit the ground, and had a death grip on the flag. I should have killed him, and I would have gone to prison and I'd be okay with that, but I couldn't even hit him back."

At first, in the confusion, the crowd had held my brother back, but when the fourth punch landed they realized there was only one aggressor in that "fight." The kid walked away and Bobby went back inside to wash his hands. Then he caught his reflection.

Three missing teeth, one barely hanging on, seven stitches total, possible jaw fracture and oral surgery, liquid diet. And one heck of a swollen lip. He never raised a hand to the kid who obviously had war demons of his own. The Flag didn't hit the ground and neither did he.

***
Author's Note: I wrote this post a number of ways on my four hour drive on Sunday from Bend to Baker. I cried a lot and I cried more remembering the pain in my brother's voice as he told his story. In the end, I decided to leave out the commentary in my head on lack of veteran support and reintegration and tell the story simply as it played in my head. What struck me the most on the drive home was until this point my brother's war scars had been mental. Now, a civilian for a month, he received some very physical war wounds on the street of his hometown, from a fellow soldier and veteran. That is the part that hurts all of us the most.

9 comments:

Carly said...

So proud of Bobby and at the same time so sad he had to be in this situation. He's a true patriot & hero, and I hope he heals quickly. I know your family will never forget this experience, for generations even. What an awesome example and legacy to pass down.

Bobby said...

Thank you, Nike, for writing my story for everyone to see. The part at the end is what hit me the most. You were dead on when you said my war wounds were all mental up until now. It was an experience that I will never forget... another memory to add to my war stories from the past. I just hope that if anyone else were in my shoes that they would take the same course of action that I did. It wasn't worth fighting him for. I don't know why I didn't hit back other than I was more worried about the flag touching the ground again.

Carly, thank you for your kind words. I hope that you're right about me being an example and a legacy to pass down for years to come. Maybe I should have Nike write a book about my military life? Lol...

Mom said...

Someone asked me to describe, in one word, someone I have great respect for, and then to explain why. I posted "Hero", and then gave a short explination of Bobby's night. He has always been this person, this young man who stands for what he believes in and he doesn't back down. My saddness for his physical pain,his emotional and mental anguish...as a Mother I only wish to take that pain away. Knowing I can not only makes the pain worse in my heart. The saying "Time heals all wounds" is not exactly true, as some wounds run deeply. I can only hope and pray that justice will be served, and the young man who did this will be helped to deal with his war demons. Thank you Nike for your blog.

george rede said...

I am completely blown away by this blog post. The soldier's behavior is wrong on so many levels that it seems surreal -- as if didn't happen. And yet it did, with horrible physical injury to Bobby and, worse, the realization that his attacker is dealing with some real demons. I can understand his anger (who knows what he experienced in Iraq?) but I can't grasp why he wouldn't have stopped in his tracks when Bobby identified himself as a Marine. I admire Bobby's composure and courage in a situation that only would have gotten worse had he chosen to retaliate.
Yes, Nike, thank you for your blog. And, Bobby, thank you for your service and your dedication to the flag. May you recover swiftly and completely.

Bobby said...

Thank you everyone. I am no hero, I just took a beating for what I thought was worth taking a beating over.He MIGHT have demons of his own, but his real demon was alcohol. Even knowing that, I still stand by my passive actions. It would have only been worse if I had fought back... Worse for the both of us. I would have made him look like I do now (or worse) and I would probably be sitting in jail next to him. He will get his in the end, and my physical injuries will heal. I have no regrets about how it happened. I just hope that if it would've been anyone else other than me that they would have done the same thing.

Tess said...

I'm months late to add to this commentary. I linked in from somewhere, blog to a blog to a blog. My son is a Marine and I have a bonus son who is a Marine. Both would have done just what Bobby did. We don't always have to love or agree with the course of action but the love of country cannot be denied. My heart is aching for the young man in so much pain. I hope he got help. I'm sorry he took it out in this way. Thank you, Bobby, for your service and your dedication.

Bobby said...

Thank you Tess I'm glad people are still coming across my story one way or another. I'm healing well and about to start surgeries for implants. I'll have a new bright smile soon enough. :-) Tell those boys of yours they are always in my thoughts and to stay safe. Wish I could still be serving by their side, but for now I'll hold down the fort at home.

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