Written By: Cody Williams
For those reading this who do not know me, I am and United States Army Veteran. Instead of focusing on the specifics of my tour in Iraq, I instead want to talk about the aftermath. So, lets skip ahead 18 months when the tour is over because that’s where it matters. I was finally back home and other than Kayla, I felt so alone. I had a “family” in the military, the people I had spent the past 18 months with were now, nowhere to be found. The unit I deployed with was made up of people who had been taken out of their home units and transferred to another just for this particular deployment. Nobody really knew each other before we left, and when I came back we all went back to our respective homes. This meant that for most of us we never spoke to each other again. And as much as I wanted to see them for me, there is a piece that never wants to see them again. This is simply because it was a horrible reminder of every bad thing you had ever been a part of. Sure, you have your biological family, but my family while in combat were just as important. We had survived something most don’t have to. War.
When we were in the desert, it was chaos, but organized chaos if you can imagine. Everyday it was between 120-140 degrees outside, and each had the possibility of being a nightmare. As crazy as it sounds, there are times I have missed being there even in the midst of the risks I took. In its own way, it had become home.
When I left to go to war, it was difficult because you didn’t know what would happen. Everything was at stake and I am not big on taking chances. I am more than a little over prepared. But you can’t prepare for a deployment like this. In my opinion, the enemy was fighting for something stronger than we were. They had a very twisted view of how the world should be and were driven by an extremely perverted religion. When you are fighting for something you truly believe in, it’s hard to be stopped- especially if you are firm in it.
Once I had returned, there was so much malice and contempt towards others and this made my re-acclimation into the regular world even that much harder. It wasn’t long before I was diagnosed with MS. Which wasn’t exactly tipping the scales in my favor. If you could imagine every single troubling emotion – I was feeling them all at once and going out of my mind. I was beyond numb to people and at the same time falling to pieces inside. It’s hard to be two people at once because they conflict, but my insides were doing just that. I believe I hated myself more than anything. I had so much shame about what all had happened and what I had become. Being conflicted about my service is a very nice or tame way of putting it.
Some things made a lot of sense to me, and some not so much. One million people could have surrounded me, and I would have still felt alone. It was if a glass had been thrown to the ground and I was trying to pick up the broken pieces. I believed in Jesus and knew he could help me, but was so lost simply because of the circumstances. I had turned to drinking as a way of coping with the thoughts in my head. There were also some other incidences that I thought were helping me to cope- but nothing was working. As cliché as it sounds, war changes a man. It had changed me.
Here is where Jesus gets to truly shine and show who is in control. This is the idea I believe many vets have in their minds- Change is impossible-. As much as I tried to force it, for years I could barley sit through a church service or sing a song at church. I couldn’t have a conversation without my mind going elsewhere. At no fault of their own, many could understand but not fully comprehend what it was like. It really is something that requires the experience to fully be engulfed in what was being talked about.
I can say this. I do believe that if you have been to war that you will never be the same, but things CAN change. Yes, I sometimes am still very angry, but that doesn’t mean I can’t change under God’s hand and authority. Many people think I am an extrovert; however, I am actually the opposite. I am very much an introvert, I could be by myself for months and be alright with that. But here is something amazing and that shows off Jesus and His amazing work. This messed up person isn’t drinking like a fish anymore or doing drugs just to numb the pain just to make it until tomorrow.
Jesus helped me make it back in church. I get to serve again. I have hope. I can have a conversation without thinking the absolute worst. I thought God had stopped listening because everyday was so agonizing. Forget the MS. That is a walk in the park compared to everything else. Feeling like you are lower than dirt is far worse. I survived and came home. Over the years, I still have many quirks, but He has helped me navigate through them. He placed the correct people in my life to help me not do life alone.
I found something out. Iraq is just a place that I associate with bad trauma that has happened. The war was at home when I returned. I will never regret joining or the deployment. It made me grow up and showed me more of what Christ can do. Jesus let me go and brought me home. He didn’t waste the time he put me there. He changed me into what he wants. As much as I struggle, I know that He is in control and has all say. I think we should be thanking Him for that despite what we consider hard times to us. It’s very simple to me. They aren’t hard for Him.