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A Painful Story

May 8th, 2008 by skippy

This might be painful to read. Just a warning.

One of the things that tends to get glossed over in various discussions of the current war is the severe emotional toll that gets inflicted on our troops during a conflict. You occasionally hear something in the news, but for the most part people just don’t notice. And for many soldiers even admitting that these problems exits is taboo. Real soldiers don’t get worn down emotionally. Only weak soldiers do.

I have considered this carefully, and decided that I am going to share my experience on this subject. Long time readers may recall that I served in Bosnia and Kosovo. Bosnia wasn’t really all that bad. By the time I showed up the multi-national force had been in place for several years. I worked in an office, and for the most of the serious fighting had ended by the time I arrived.

But Kosovo was another matter.

Now before I go into this I want to stress a few things. I am not trying to claim that my experience in Kosovo was as bad as what soldiers in other conflicts had to deal with. This isn’t about being in some sort of pissing contest with other veterans. Soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq experienced far worse than me. I don’t even like imagining what soldiers in Viet Nam went through. And many soldiers got through those conflicts emotionally unscathed. This is actually what trips some people up. They compare themselves to other soldiers in other conflicts and go, “Well it wasn’t as bad as they had it. I don’t have the right to feel all messed up.” But it’s not about how bad other people had it. Its about what you went through, and how it made you feel.

In Kosovo I was in a non-combat, tactical unit. This meant we traveled around “outside the wire” all day, but we weren’t specifically tasked with patrolling or engaging hostile units. We got to speak to the locals, find out their needs, advise them on US Army activities, and try to help encourage a better relationship between them and US Forces. Oh, also we were supposed to undo roughly 300 years of ethnic strife.

I wasn’t involved with very much combat. There was some while I was there, but for the most part, I was pretty lucky and avoided the worst of it.

But the sheer amount of suffering that the locals had gone through started to grind on me after a while. That and the fact that even after all that suffering, nobody was willing to quit. It was like the entire country was one giant asylum filled with the violently insane. People treated grudges from four generation ago the way you or I would treat something that happened yesterday.

And when you’re in the Army, it’s not cool to talk about how stuff like that is starting to seriously bug you. And so I kept it to myself.

Eventually I shipped back to the states. And then I had trouble sleeping. And I started snapping at the people I worked around. Eventually I decided that I needed to take up some sort of hobby in an attempt to get back into a decent head space. Since I used to build models when I was in high school, I decided to give that a try. And as I have always been a huge history nerd, I got a scale model of a Mesopotamian step pyramid. Over the course of a week, I put that sucker together until after a particularly bad day, I took it out to the parking lot and set in on fire. One of my NCOs noticed me doing this and gave me a “Are you nuts?” look, but he left it alone.

Well I felt kind of stupid after that, so I bought another one, and tried to finish it again. I got closer to finishing it, but again, a bad day set me into a rage and I took it outside and put it to the torch.

The same NCO witnessed this act as well and he decided that something was wrong. And The next day I found myself ordered to go to the health clinic to see about getting some help.

And that’s when the doctor told me the news:

“Son, if you don’t stop smoking ziggurats it’s gonna kill you.”

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39 Responses to “A Painful Story”

  1. troymccluresf Says:

    You son of a bitch.

    Reply

    Minty reply on May 8th, 2008 8:31 am:

    Ditto. XD

    Reply

  2. Stickfodder Says:

    Wait… What? did the doctor think you were doing that stuff because of smoking or did he just completely misunderstand the problem?

    Reply

    realbadbaby reply on May 8th, 2008 8:23 am:

    a ziggurat is a mesopotamian steppe pyramid… it is sort of a play on words

    Reply

    Stickfodder reply on May 8th, 2008 10:31 am:

    Ohhhhh I guess I didn’t read the last line carefully enough to realize it said ziggurat but then again even if I had I probably wouldn’t have realized what it was

    Reply

    realbadbaby reply on May 8th, 2008 11:16 am:

    don’t sweat it, the term is fairly obscure in western (american) vocabulary

  3. Seth Says:

    Wow, best lead up to a joke ever..

    Reply

  4. Tony Says:

    wow…. just….wow

    Reply

  5. Sean Says:

    Wow, man…here I was, naively expecting a heart-felt story about how you dealt with your sh*t with the help of those around you, a real “triumph over adversity” kind of thing…and you were just leading into a pun. I’d offer a salute, but I’ve never served and you aren’t any longer.

    Reply

  6. L.B. Bryant Says:

    I have to admit, I have never once encountered another writer who was willing to go so very very far for one singular pun. lol

    Reply

  7. ArchaicDome Says:

    Wow. I was already to back you up since this is exactly what I’m going through too, and tell you about how my cousin’s all jacked up from Bosnia and Kosovo (permanent trenchfoot- ewwwww), and then I realized it.

    You’re a heartless bastard. But you’re funny, so it’s okay. We don’t expect better. :)

    Reply

  8. barry Says:

    thats fucked up

    Reply

  9. McNutcase Says:

    Sorry. Tolkien had a longer lead-in to a bad pun.

    Having commented on the pun, the points made earlier in the entry are entirely valid…

    Reply

    Snyarhedir reply on February 10th, 2011 12:41 am:

    Which pun is that?

    Reply

  10. Angelus Says:

    Skippy, you are pun-god amongst pun-children. Bravo, sir. Just… bravo.

    Reply

  11. Analee Says:

    I bow to the inherent greatness of that set-up.

    *bows*

    Reply

  12. SquidGeek Says:

    We patrolled the Adriatic during that timeframe. I’ll admit I was looking for the “I needed help, and nobody would listen” story….

    That said, AWESOME setup for the punchline!

    Reply

  13. Gene Says:

    Though I would love to lay claim to it, there’s a much longer, and equally as good a lead up at
    http://docs.google.com/Doc?id=dftzkpqc_2gf38jj

    Reply

  14. The Earth-Bound Misfit Says:

    I just about gave myself a concussion when I smacked my head into my desk reading that.

    Masterful, just masterful.

    Reply

  15. SrA Says:

    gotta love military docs. and they wonder why with all the resources “readily available for the mental health of our troops” guys still come back messed up. we had a guy go section 8 and they just shipped him home and set him on a desk. no docs no conseling nothing.Thank you for sharing. i wish more guys would admit to being bothered by experiences. it’s important. not macho. everyone is effected differently by stress and more people need to see that truth.

    Reply

  16. TheShadowCat Says:

    Yes, that was quite painful to read.

    You should be ashamed of yourself for that pun.

    Do you know what happens to the person who commits the perfect pun? They’re beaten to death.

    Reply

  17. Qotl Says:

    took me a few goes to get it… I’m blaming lack of sleep

    Reply

  18. falk Says:

    You are a bad, bad person.

    Reply

  19. MezzoSF Says:

    Oh my . . . that was . . . amazing.

    Reply

  20. Catbunny Says:

    … bastard. XD

    Reply

  21. Ty Says:

    I’m supprised they didnt give you some motrin and tell you to come back in a few days.

    Reply

  22. MarkHB Says:

    Oh you son of a bitch! What’s worse, I linked in here and didn’t realise it was from YOU, O Listmeister, until I’d QWERTYd my forehead a few times having reached the end.

    I shall now hold my nose and run screaming.

    Reply

  23. M578Jockey Says:

    That has to be the most involved set up I have ever seen. Congratultions! I laughed so hard I had to check to see if I had pulled any stitches.

    Reply

  24. JLynn Says:

    fantastic.

    Reply

  25. tzanti Says:

    Absolutely glorious. I don’t remember that last time a joke winded me.

    Nerdy-technical point: that’s actually a Shaggy Dog Story, so way more than just a pun.

    T.

    Reply

  26. Mike Says:

    Well said Troop. Well done. I salute you.

    Reply

  27. L K Tucker Says:

    I found your comments while reverse searching from hits to my site, VisionAndPsychosis.Net.

    I wondered if you have any of the behaviors that would cause Subliminal Distraction exposure. The few things you mentioned suggest that this is the case.

    If the first part of your post is not just a set up for the pun, Subliminal Distraction would cause just those problems. Trouble sleeping, unattributed fear, paranoia, panic attacks, depression and thoughts of suicide are symptoms of SD exposure.

    You are apparently a dedicated word-smith.

    If you need help surfing my site email me.

    Reply

  28. DensityDuck Says:

    “If the first part of your post is not just a set up for the pun…”

    You seem to be suffering from Post-Traumatic Inability To Get A Joke Disorder.

    Reply

  29. Basil Says:

    I smoked ziggaruts a bit as young man too…had to quit though cause it made my head feel puffy and all megalomanical and what not.

    …and then there were the hangovers of Nimrodic proportion…

    Reply

  30. the intel guy Says:

    I won’t lie- I looked up the definition of “ziggurat”.

    Reply

    Snyarhedir reply on February 10th, 2011 6:55 pm:

    I already knew the definition, because of certain books I had read.

    Reply

  31. Snyarhedir Says:

    Actually, as a lead-up to a pun, the story you mention (which I have just read) is far inferior to this one. For such a simple pun, it takes too long and goes into too much detail, but I understand that it is really a decent story with a twist of an ending just to prevent it from being all sad and mushy. As a lead-in to a pun, however, that story is the sort of thing that people refer to when they say, “Less is more.”

    Reply

    Snyarhedir reply on February 10th, 2011 6:56 pm:

    Fuck this server! That was supposed to be a reply to Gene’s comment, but ended up as a separate comment.

    Reply

  32. Denelian Says:

    you should let Spider Robinson read this – it’s perfect for a Callahan’s pun :D

    Reply

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