Photo: Screengrab Marine Corps / Pinterest
Somewhere between the peak and the valley is the normal; where a human finds themselves most waking hours.I walked down the aisle on October 6, took the plunge, and pledged half of everything I do not yet own to my woman.
As I walked along the smiling faces I thought of all of those marriage casualties who had come before me, crawling along the sidelines and tugging at the extra fabric on my tux.
Of course, two of them were my parents, but blessed am I to have grown up with four of the greatest. Many people were married when I was in the service, and today most of the couples have dissolved the ties that once bound them.
The rumour had spread to Fallujah, Iraq in early 2005 that some of the wives of our unit had been caught running a brothel on our home base in Hawaii. As per many great substance-lacking rumours this one came with the catch that the reason our chain of command had not informed anyone was because they didn’t want Marines in a combat theatre going ape-shit with their loaded weapons while contemplating a different warrior’s welcome home than originally anticipated.
When we finally came home it turned out the story was true; many of those wives had fled and spent the deployment money as well. I specifically remember standing in some line behind a Marine who said, “After all of that (war/battle/survival) I just want my truck, but she won’t give it back. … This is fuck*d up shit!”
These are scary stories — colder than the poles, but like combat either the fuck*d Marine carries on, or dies.
Most carry on. Even given the crippling statistics a very few have been able to make it work. The reason strange and cruel divorce was such a happenstance in the Marines had to do with very young men marrying usually a high school sweetheart (first kiss), taking her far away from home and planting her in a house in Hawaii, where she finds herself alone for the first time in her life, for a year after the new husband deploys.
Looking at this raw situation honestly, it either sets a young woman up for a very lonely year of sacrifice, or the best year she has ever had with an endless surplus of tax-free deployment money just a pin number away. I don’t judge because I have not been a nineteen-year-old woman married to a rich nineteen-year-old Marine — all of our money is expendable when the house and food are paid for by Uncle Sam — the drill instructors warned us about such women.
I was married in Long Beach, Mississippi; we had a real Southern wedding and to say it went perfect does not give it justice. My step-brother/brother Michael found it appropriate to mention that never in a million years could he picture my wedding being in the South, making reference to our upbringing in suburban Southern California and on how this was a true act of Southern hospitality that left men from our background awe-stricken.
I find it important as a combat veteran to associate everything with war so that I may appreciate a greater importance and assign meaning to this thing that I find so meaningless and time consuming. The character “Walter” in the 1997 film “The Big Lebowski” had a knack for doing the same thing.
I think that civilians focus on such caricatures because like many stereotypes, this one has merit, akin to one of a grandfather barking at his kids, “You think this is bad? Let me tell you a little story called the battle of …” I am surprised to have found such a great match and to be so happy, but being surprised at this surprised me so greatly that I felt like analysing why.
I am a child of divorce, which has a negative connotation I do not accept as mentioned above. Where I come from, it was strange not to have divorced parents. My parents remarried two beautiful people and I cannot imagine a happier childhood without them or the siblings I was raised with, but I can imagine an unhappier childhood had they decided to continue fighting it out (risk/reward).
My love Katharine married me and I had one of those tunnel vision moments where I felt time stop and the computer in my head registering something for a long “save as” (happiest moment) to replace the previous “save as” (surviving Iraq).
Earlier in the morning I had my sunrise cigarette and found myself overwhelmed with emotion as I understood that this beautiful day would never be known by the young men who died single in Iraq 2004-05 (Walter Sobchak) Semper Fidelis, something known only to a warrior.
It is this understanding and respect for death that I have found the most meaningful lesson in life learned from war. Death will eventually take us all as it has everyone before, but we as living human beings, despite origin in culture and religion, always seem to find it important to celebrate certain living things universally.
I could feel connected to early man walking down the aisle the way I could feel a certain transcendence walking into battle. We were lucky to have our loved ones, I am sure other weddings full of unstable in-laws could understandably go quite another way; in grace our new Anderson family is blessed.
This moment was an opportunity for reflection; there was a girl I would write letters to when I was in Iraq back when I really didn’t know shit. Now I know some shit and the shit that I do know is deep. If I had not done everything I did the way that I did I never would have met my Mississippi bride in Portland, Oregon, she helps heal me and I now know what it means to be happy to be alive.
Things get better and sometimes they go backward but to me it is all worth the dime I paid to ride this ride. I have had the experience and there is so much more to come, and when I reflect again somewhere in time’s never-certain future I will know more than I do today just like they knew yesterday until there is no more day.
My dead brothers will walk with me and all of the others who remember them, that is part of our service, in this our joy is shared and the important sting of their loss is a reminder to remember how different this gathering of family could be and how each one was a loss that eternally disrupts history.
When I awoke the day after Corporal Michael Cohen was killed I had an epiphany that life would forever be this way, I knew he would be attached to me for every happy moment of my life, but he tells me it’s only because he wants to see too, so I let him.
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