Monday, May 26, 2008


It is Memorial Day and I take finger to keyboard in an effort to honor the day in some manner. On the other hand, perhaps it might be due to the fact that I have been able to write for a number of days now, and I do not wish to break a pattern. Either way, you opened it, so you get to live with it.

I have a number of things I would recollect that need telling (or retelling) and most of them would be true. True, that is, once you remove the artistic license I take from time to time. I could cajole into thinking something is important and in need of recall. I could totally make something up and you might never be the wiser. Well, today I choose to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. I will not ask God’s help in this as the memory is not one I wish I ever gained, and it will not go away regardless of long effort and craving.

Being a veteran, it would be germane to speak of absent comrades and honor their service and bravery. Although I am not a combat veteran, I do have people I know who gave their lives for their country. My Uncle Buddy comes to mind. It is a stretch to believe that a man who drank himself to death died in service to his country, but that is another piece of work I have somewhere in my catalogue. I know the anguish of losing a loved one, and I remember them for their spirit and love.

I wish to speak of some other individuals who have passed on to the other side. Two in particular. Both are veterans and both died by their own hand. These men were members of the same twelve-step program I credit with saving my life. I met them both during a period in which my occupational life path led me to manage a halfway house for men in recovery from drugs and alcohol. I will not reveal their names as it would be a violation of the main precept of the program. Anonymity.

One was about my age, and the other much younger. One was a Vietnam Veteran and the other served in both Desert Shield, and Desert Storm. The older flew helicopters, and the younger was sailor assigned to shore duty in Kuwait. The older man suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and the younger dealt with both Bipolar Disorder and was Borderline Personality Disorder. Each had great difficulty staying clean and suffered whenever they ingest any mind-altering, mood-altering substance. My pilot had the advanced stages of kidney and liver maladies associated with massive use of alcohol. My sailor was a crack addict.

The pilot never suffered the usual losses an addict might. He had kept a job all his life and maintained an average lifestyle. His wife divorced him and that proved to be the end of the road for him. He fell into the bottle and stayed there until he lost his job and had to move out of his house. He moved into the halfway house after a stay in the intensive care ward of the local hospital. The doctors gave him his death sentence, which he not only accepted but also looked forward to. Relief being the attitude he held.

I spent many hours with this man in an effort to aid him towards some peace in his life. All my best efforts went for naught. He incessantly harped on the idea that recovery held no attraction for him. All he was doing is waiting to die and get it over with. He found a job and worked feverishly until he had saved enough to get an apartment and three months bills. He moved out of the recovery house, sat in his apartment, and drank himself to death.

The younger man had spent most of his life in privilege. His family was one of the wealthiest in town. There were several multimillionaires within his lineage going back several generations. There was also the disease of addiction rampant in the current generation and the family wealth had dwindled as a result. There was a seeming prevalence in this particular gene pool toward a predilection for mental illness. The correlation between the dope and insanity has been suggested by many, but I do not have time for such a theoretical conversation, and fully believe any such dialogue is the ilk of research scientists and not for me. As one with the responsibility to aid those seeking help I do, strictly from experience, know that being crazy might be lessened through the ingestion of certain drugs. On the other side of the equation, the ingestion of certain drugs can certainly make someone crazy.

This man came in and out of the program many times during the time I knew him. He came to meetings and left to go get high. I found him on the side of the road, beaten and bloody, and discovered that after he got out of the hospital I took him to, he went straight back to the same neighborhood to get more drugs. He would get into relationships with women and leave them either pregnant of penniless as a direct result of his fanatical need to get crack cocaine. He went to jail, treatment, jail again, Christian camps, prison, and the halfway house where I resided.

He left again and I did not see him for quite some time. I showed up at a meeting one night and there he sat, weeping quietly. I sat down and spoke with him until the meeting began, and for several hours after. We renewed a bond and he asked me to be his sponsor. He told me that he had sold the baby he had with a girl who deserted him and the baby...for about twenty dollars of crack. The child died of pneumonia when the dope dealer left it behind a dumpster. The young man sat in my car distraught and consumed with remorse. I attempted to get him to a psych hospital and failed. A week later, he hung himself.

Both men wee intelligent, caring men when not drunk and high. The things they did when under the influence are terrible actions for a human being. I can see that some might say they got what they deserved. The older for the misery he gave his family, and the younger for the baby. I do not know. I am not, or would ever want to be, judge and jury for these men.

I do not really know what inspired this page. I know that these men came to my mind when I sat down at the keyboard. I know that each had demons within them. They also had worth. I know this from the time I spent with each. I believe all people need remembering…is that not what the day is about? Now some might say that it is for the men who fell in defense of our country. Some might also say that it is a day for heroes. Well both of these men fell trying to defend the world from…themselves. They also were both recipients of the Purple Heart, and the Bronze Star earned in combat. That tells me they deserve remembering. Peace.