My Turn: A returned soldier tells his story (Burlington Free Press)

By Benjamin

I know that my story is the same as many of my fellow soldiers who left to serve our country return only to be lost. I will speak of myself, for everyone's story over there is different and yet many have the same result.

I served twice in Iraq. When I came home, I felt no different, yet everything that I loved before no longer interested me. I found myself irritated by the smallest incidents. I refused to accept that I was different, and still do to myself most days. The war hadn't changed me, and no one could tell me it had. I was still the same loving, gentle person in my mind. At least, that is how I perceived myself. Others around me would definitely paint a different story if you were to ask them.

There is a strong dislike in the military for feelings for they will not get the job done and get in the way. This strongly accounts for why I was denying the symptoms to myself, a non-commissioned officer. I couldn't accept that I was damaged emotionally. That would be a sure sign of weakness in an institution where strengths are highlighted and sought after. I was not going to accept it.

Quickly, life changed for me as I got out of the military and tried to fit into society. I began drinking more after my first deployment, and it only intensified after the second. I found that people liked me better when I was drunk. So, it seemed natural to keep drinking because it made me a more likable person and it made me feel normal. This is the problem with such behavior: It only ends in disaster.

I have lost my marriage, my license and my pride. I found myself now seeking the help that I once denied needing, the help that I so desperately needed to keep from sleeping with a loaded handgun under my pillow for a year. I have found solace in joining the National Guard, to be around others like me, some more scarred and some less.

For a while we were banding together on our own personal time after work or such to talk and try and make ourselves feel better, but that was not a long affair. The drinking kept getting worse, only now the scared military man was still there when I drank -- he just wouldn't go away.

All my problems came crashing down early this November when I received my second DUI. Everything began making sense. Was I trying to die? Or maybe I felt invincible, or just lost all regard for living. That I am still not sure of. I am sure that things had to change not for me but for the two children I have who live with their mother. I might be lost, but those two boys need their dad, and I couldn't let them down any more.

I find myself now visiting the Veterans Administration for counseling and seeking solutions to get back that lost part of myself which loved life. I have found that I am having to bring myself back to the norms of our society. In Iraq, reality changed my thought processes. All I want now is to find myself, pick up that lost part and integrate back to who I was.

So next time you see one of my brothers or sisters, please remember we have given much and lost more then most could imagine. And I would do it again for our nation.
Army Sgt. Benjamin Hiscock lives in Barton.