The sun has long slid beyond the horizon. Engulfed by the darkness, the old familiar friend, I return home. I strip away the weight of my light and radio, placing them in their charging mounts. I release both levels of retention, remove that which both saves and strips life, and place it into the kydex. The sound is all too familiar as it clanks against both holsters. I unlatch the buckle, unvelcro it from the liner, and hang it on its rung. I unlatch the mount that holds my camera. It snaps as the magnets latch to the metal on the stand.
I unbutton and unzip the gray uniform. I unlace the once polished boots, now marked from a hard-worn day. I remove them from my feet and lay them to rest next to the stand. I remove the black pants and hang them with my shirt, resting at the end of the stand.
I strip away the tools of the day and rest them on the stand made by my brother. I strip away the tangible, leaving me only the untouchable reminder of the day. I am now left with only my thoughts. I must sort through the mundane and horrific. I am left with the mental strain of a day filled with decisions, decisions that could mean life or death. Decisions made in fractions of seconds and that will be examined for months to come. I am left with all the good and bad as I pet my dogs and slide into bed with my wife. I am left exhausted from the hard-worn day. I am left tormented by the memories of the day as I want nothing more than sleep. My mind and body are exhausted and yet I’m wide awake.
Jake Smith is a law enforcement officer and former Army Ranger with four deployments to Afghanistan.