Lost, Yet Found

February 19, 2012
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Suddenly, the school bus jolted as its tires dipped across a pothole. I awoke from dazing dreams, eyes still clouded with sleep. I was freshly discharged from duty. “Section 8, they said. Mentally unfit for service they said.”

“Bullshit”, I said.

I was still in my ACU when I stepped off of the bus and onto the busy Brooklyn sidewalk. I had never felt more lost in my life. I was used to the sting of gunpowder in my nostrils, but here, there was nothing but warm nuts and coffee to fill the air. I was used to the coarse grains of sand between my fingers, lightly scratching me a million times over, but this city, my birthplace, felt nothing like home.

My unit was the 1st SFOD-D, and our job was special operations, counter terrorism mostly, but a few sabotage missions here and there. My final mission before being declared “unfit for service” was an HVT (High Value Target) who had a deep connection to key Taliban figureheads. We were tasked to capture, interrogate the HVT, and await further orders.

The doorknob to my old apartment, a well-furnished, yet overly spacious place, was rusted and felt grainy when my hand twisted it. Unpacking my things, I decided it was late enough to sleep, but something kept me up.

It was just me in my apartment. No one else alive, no one else to talk to, no mother to hug, no father to call, all long gone. It was just me, and now I didn’t even have a job. All my ambitions were gone, my sense of purpose, gone, everything I was good at- gone. I couldn’t strap on body armor and save the world little by little anymore, I couldn’t. What did I have? Who did I have? I had never felt more lost in my life.
My unit had closed in on the HVT, and we had him pinned in a small, heavily guarded compound hidden in the Hindu Kush Mountains. We decided to take the direct approach, call in a bunker buster to knock the doors down, sweep, and clear. That’s just what we did. In fact, the plan worked like a charm, until just one door was between us and our objective.

I worked small, part-time jobs for a few months, but as I kept going, I felt myself sinking. What hurt me the most was the feeling of hopelessness. It was as if I would become a nothing for the rest of my life. How could these people live like this? Day in and day out, slaves to routine, doing nothing but earning an existence, wasted. It was bad, really bad, and after awhile I started having suicidal thoughts. I couldn’t get over the fact that my entire goddamn life had been surmised into a shitty apartment filled with cheap liquor and nothing to do but watch TV. It became so frustrating because my entire way of life, my talents, I had been rendered useless. It was my downward spiral. On New Year’s Day, I tried to kill myself with a box blade. It would have worked, had it not been for her.

Jenkins placed breaching charges on the door, and after the blast we followed standard CQC breaching procedures: Flash then pop. But when we entered, the room was empty. Then out of nowhere dozens of Taliban troops began swarming around us, and there was nothing we could do. Most fought and died, but I and a few others were captured. There were five of us left at this point, and they drug us to a room and tied us to chairs, and began shouting as the red dot blinked beside the lens. One of them pulled a large pistol out. He shot Jenkins in the head, point blank. Watching my dearest friend die before me was unbearable, the greatest pain imaginable burrowing into my soul. Part, if not all of me died that day.

Her name was Nadia, and she gave me hope. It turns out that when I passed out from blood loss, my body hitting the ground made a “thump” and, being my neighbor in the apartment complex, Nadia was concerned. She knocked on the door, but with no reply she almost left, until she saw some of my crimson blood, now under the door, permeating across the cherry wooden floor. Nadia stayed with me in the ambulance, and she was there when I woke. I can’t quite describe that moment I first saw her. I’ve never been a spiritual man, but I would swear I was in heaven when my gaze first touched her face. That was the first time I hadn’t felt alone since I’ve been back. She held my hand when I awoke, and even though she’d never met me before, tears were streaming down her cheeks. It seems I too was crying, not because I was sad, but because for the first time, someone cared about me. For the first time, someone relied on me.

After the other three of my remaining SFOD-D unit were executed by the Taliban agents, I was ransomed off back to the U.S government, and because of my ordeal, I was given a section 8.

After the hospital, Nadia started visiting me every night, checking in on me, making sure I was ok. I said I was fine every time she’d come to visit, saying “oh you really don’t have to”, but deep down inside, I didn’t want her to leave. It seemed Nadia’s very presence just put my mind at ease, let me know everything was going to be alright. We’d sit and watch movies together, play games, cook dinner. I think I really had feelings for her, and something told me she really felt something too, whether it was the way she smiled when she saw me, or how she would occasionally peek at me when we were watching movies on my couch. Whatever either of us feels, I’m not hopeless anymore, I’m happy.

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