Echoes

I parked in a small lot behind the building and paused to compose myself. The rhythmic thump of my heartbeat in my ears grew louder as I stepped out into the heat. The ramp to the double glass doors was a tunnel collecting the roar of traffic and distant construction. A fine sheen of sweat collected on my forehead and the small of my back. The distant sound of guns filled my mind, and for a moment, I stood at the door with one foot in reality and the other in a distant past.

The sound of heavy doors and winding engines assailed me as I stepped inside. Down a long hall was the elevator. I headed for the stairway to the right of the elevator. I didn’t like confined spaces anymore. Pictures and tall potted plants sailed by as my stride opened up. Click, click, click. My heels sounded on the stone tiles. The smell of wet earth from the planters and the fresh wind on my face from the air conditioned hall eased me into the scene that welled up from the depths of my memory.

Choking sand swirled up under the churning blades of the chopper and poured into the open door like a gritty waterfall. I lay on the floor nauseated by the smell of blood and fuel burning. The odor of sand, smoke, blood, and now the hot oil and hydraulic fluid in the chopper cleared out as we gained altitude.

Hank’s hand grabbed my arm and squeezed. The pain of his grasp brought me around, and I looked over at him. He smiled at me as the medic worked like a madman to get an IV in him while the other one cut off his pants to get at the stubs that were left of his legs.

My vision narrowed on Hanks teeth where blood had collected in the spaces. The grinding hum of the chopper blades continued as the blue sky twisted and spun with each maneuver of the Blackhawk.  Another hard bank pitched my gaze back to Hank. His hand found mine, and he lifted our arms up like a referee does with a winning boxer. I looked at him as the world faded.

“You’re gonna make it,” he mouthed to me. He smiled again showing his red-rimmed teeth. Our arms fell limp to our sides. He spit out a blood clot and cursed. His chest shuddered and then he was gone. I could see his dirty face and smell the bitter stench of our bodies. His clear blue eyes shown through the monochrome tan of sand, sweat, and salt that coated our tattered uniforms and skin.

I don’t know how long I was standing in front of the doctor’s office door. I checked the name to make sure I was at the right place. It was time for my appointment. Hank was right. I’m gonna make it.

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21 thoughts on “Echoes

    1. Thank you Feathered Sleep. I try to bring awareness of PTSD by providing vignettes into the common occurances that fuel the demons that live in the psyche. But, most of all, I want to show that there is recovery if one seeks it. There are no easy or quick cures only the determination not to give in to it.

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  1. Reblogged this on Survivors Blog Here and commented:

    A little story about PTSD and finding one’s way through reflection and seeking the right kind of help. Often, the wounded turn to drugs and alcohol or high risk behaviors to drowned out the unwelcome thoughts and emotions. That only serves to further bury the living in the ninth ring of hell.

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    1. Thank you Kamus. It’s true. People that share hardships together form tight bonds. It’s an instinctive will to survive as a group by sacrificing for each other. When the hardship is over, those that remain are transformed by their memories.

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  2. Wow, that is very beautifully written Dan. Very real and touching, and captivating. Makes one think what soldiers go through. Usually we hear stories but can only imagine what it really feels like. Thank you for letting us have a feel of it through your story, even though we will never feel it the way it was really felt, as it would be impossible unless we were there, going through something so horrific. Was it from a real life experience?

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    1. Thank you so much, Natasha. It means a lot to read your comment. I try to share these snippets from time to time. I’m very anti-war having lived to witness the worst sins of humankind. This story is both autobiographical and a mix of different events over time. I recently went through a trial of medical tests and treatments 14 years after retirement from the military. The damage and struggle to live a good life continues long after the last round is fired. Part of my decision to get back to the beauty of nature comes from that desire to keep promises made long ago to friends that are no longer here. We wanted to do these things together and I was granted the privilege to carry on. I love those hikes in the great outdoors. Best medicine there is. 😉

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        1. You are such a kind and thoughtful friend, Natasha. Thank you for acknowledging the emotional impacts of such loss. I came to terms with the loss of good friends long ago. The good memories prevail and it is very much like a community of strong and benevolent souls that continue to keep watch over and commune with the living through memory. I am sometimes compelled to pay tribute to these ordinary men and women whose sacrifice and friendship was extraordinary and speaks of the potential of humankind to do more than what we believe is possible. The experience is compelling to never waste one’s potential and to live a good life no matter the circumstance. Thank you, Natasha. Your comments are always a ray of light.

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            1. I really like that. “Don’t wait for the summer.” I’m going to adopt that. I’m headed out to the mountains in a few, definitely NOT waiting for summer to see nature in her slumber of winter. 🙂

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    1. Thank you, Chris. You pretty much nail it in your comment. Memories good and bad tend to become triggers that can instantly catapult one back into the scene. Sometimes engaging in a getwell program brings a sense of joy and relief. It’s like making that step toward gaining control of one’s life again. That feels pretty darn good.

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  3. D
    The thoughts oF reality is so painful, you have written snippets in the past. I thrilled you took time of, get away from the non-stop working, writing and family. You can balance quite well. Has the Dragon story gone to print to still editing. I send you hugs for Christmas, and pray for your family.

    Did you get a couple of emails couple weeks ago. I’ll update you on the down turn in health.

    xx M

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    1. Hi M. Thank you for reading. Yes, I’m now out hiking and enjoying the great outdoors again. I’m letting the Dragons cool their heels 👠 while I do a little exploring. I did get some emails. I thought I replied but you never can tell. I get distracted easily. I’m sorry you are experiencing a downturn. I do hope it is temporary. I’m hoping you have a restful and nice Christmas and come back strong for 2017.

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    1. Hi Sara! What a wonderful surprise and thank you very much. This story is about letting go of the past and ensuring the future. Never an easy thing to do. I think a hiatus is good now and then. I certainly was captivated by your photo journal of Banff. What a dream come true. Not much going on over here with the blog at the moment. But, stories are always drifting in and out of my head. How are you coming along with your writing?

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