Know them as tears fill their eyes at the sight of a child while memories repeat a vision of dead, militated, burnt children cast beside the road to Baghdad.
Know them as they smile while talking about their best friend dying.
Know them as you discover they sleep on the floor and run nightly patrols.
Know them as a slight disagreement explodes into a killing rage and the vet is stepping backwards seeking his knives and guns.
Know them as they get and lose as many different jobs as they have years separated from the war.
Know them as they condemn themselves for the smallest mistake because in their world a mistake will kill someone.
Know them as they display anti-social and addictive behavior.
Know them as they struggle with borderline personality disorders and have extreme difficulties with interpersonal relationships.
Know them who suffer the pain as they pronounce that others deserve veterans benefits more than they do.
Know them as you ask when they fought a major battle and they say, “Last night.”
Know them as they walk in the woods while keeping a proper spacing between people they are with and constantly registering the next closest spot for cover and concealment.
Know them as they drive white knuckled, holding back the urge to “SHOUT,SHOW,AND SHOOT” at the driver who gets too close on the highway and fight the desire to swerve away from anything that might contain an IED
Know them as they travel across six states to help a friend but they would not cross the street to save their own ass.
Know them as they will not come to you for help. They are to proud.
Know them as you would your own. Provide for them for the rest of their lives the mental, medical and social tools that reflect our ability to honor the veteran.
Poem by Tom Skiens, with shout, show and shoot line by two tour
Afghanistan vet James Dowmen