We're pretty quiet about what we've done. Some of us have Guilt, some of us have Anger, most of us carry the scars of Fear and we all hear the Echos of Cadence. And as much as it may have damaged us, we miss it.
Last 4th of July was my first time out of the house in celebration since the war. In equal stride today was my first time out in open celebration of my status as a Combat Veteran.
I used to cringe when people thanked me for my service. "Your welcome, just don't ask me to do it again."
But today was a good day. I went to Applebees for lunch, where the Veterans eat for free! I walked in sporting my Operation Iraqi Freedom Veteran hat and my tan Dicky shirt with all my old Army patches sewn on it. As I was lead to my table I was met with eye contact and a nod for every guy in the room, who were all wearing their hats and patches.
Its an interesting exchange, through eye contact. We watch each other watching each other. Looking at patches and pins searching for the one we know, the one we earned, the one that hurt. That's why we're so quiet about it, its like holding a wide open punch bowl filled to the rim.
Always afraid we're going to spill ourselves all over a crowded room.
We keep it pretty simple. On my way out I saw his patch and he saw mine, I wore mine in the last war but he's had his since the second one. I stopping to shake his hand I said "Howdy Sir" and he replied "How'ya doing Sergeant?" There was too much so I just nodded.
I have not been called Sergeant in over six years, it gave my soul goose bumps.
His wife asked if we were in the Army together and I busted out laughing. Until he said yes.
Afterwords I went out to my truck and spilled my punch.