Sword and Shield Revised
by Trey Tull
We begin our lives all the same at birth and from there the years that follow we define our destinies and chart our impact on this world. For some, that is entering the workforce and providing a valuable service for the population. For others, that is dawning the helmet and bearing a shield and sword. While in modern days the shield and sword often represent armor and a weapon, the context is still the same, a warrior is created. These two paths are very different in the services provided and the impact it has on one’s life.
The life of the warrior is among the highest honor and to die for the cause is the ultimate honor. To travel the world and fight for a cause alongside some of the greatest men and women is something that cannot be put into words. To know what it is like to hold the fate of another in one’s own hands is almost God-like. The power is entrancing, enticing, and for some it is hard to leave behind. When the time comes to transition from the world fight to the local fight: the battleground, rules of engagement, and enemies all change.
On the home-front, you no longer hold a life in the balance but must first find a way to try and save that life. A concept that comes slowly for some and easily for others. Those that have trouble adapting are the true hunters, what some would call an apex predator. Years of training and discipline go into creating a hunter and to ask them to stop hunting and start pacifying is not easy. While maintaining a warrior ethos assists those hunters on the home-front, it also creates internal turmoil for some. The warrior may feel as though they lose their edge because the battle on the home-front requires one to adapt in a manner inconsistent with how they were trained.
The internal struggle that begins will affect how long the warrior can bear the burden of hunting with a modified set of rules. The new rules cause friction internally and externally. The external friction often causes disciplinary problems within the new hunting grounds placing careers and families in jeopardy. The internal friction can damage the core of the warrior.
What happens when the warrior steps away from the hunting grounds for good? The statistical outlook is often grim. The numbers show a rate of permanent removal without showing the rate of success many have after walking away. One can transition their skillset and become successful. The skill that transitions is that of mental fortitude. The warrior is mentally strong, they know that they can overcome the odds as they have cheated death many times. They think back to that near-miss or that second chance they were given and realize it’s not to waste.
I chose the warrior’s path (both afar and home). For me, the hardest part has been removing myself from it. Over the past fifteen years, I have carried the burden of the fallen and the living and it is difficult to bear. I have since removed the armor and laid down the sword but the shield I still bear. No longer in service of protecting others, I am now in service of protecting myself. I now examine my self-interests and focus on self-preservation. However, I must also bear the shield now to protect myself from myself.
This new course in life comes with new struggles. I know that I can adapt and become something great again, what I don’t know is if I can wait. I’ve always been given a directive and created a plan to ensure the task was accomplished. Now the tasks are muddied by everyday life. Never did I know the outcome of tasks in life or deployments, but I knew what needed to be done and the risks that came with it. I am no longer consumed with being the best for the sake of my survival and the survival of those with whom I serve. It is in this loss that I find myself lost.
Lost in the sense of having a purpose. I am on a path to find a purpose and see why the numbers are grim and the outlook portrayed for the worst. To find one’s purpose without orders is not easy. I have the freedom of choice but no knowledge on how to implement it. I’ve created stagnation in my life in a very short amount of time and don’t know how to break it. The things that keep me tuned and focused in the past no longer serve the same purpose. My ability to perform no longer parallels my ability to survive. The things I once did no longer satisfy me as they did in the days of old.
One trait I still maintain, and always will, is the ability to hide the internal struggle. I’ve learned to speak of it but that’s all I’m doing. I’m only talking about what I’m battling with rather than fighting the battle. The new battle that rages requires a stronger shield, one I can not bear alone. Finding someone to bear the shield with me comes at a price I’m not sure I’m willing to pay. The risk of the shield becoming too heavy for another is fear of them dropping the shield and my defenses becoming vulnerable to attack.
The incoming attack will be swift, too swift for me to regain the strength of carrying the shield alone. Shield weight is inadequate because, with help, we ease our load and efforts and learn to not bear it alone. What I must answer for myself is: Can I forever carry this shield alone? Or do I play the odds that life has shown are not favorable to an unmatched foe?
Trey Tull is a veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan. He entered law enforcement after the military and worked in various capacities ending his career as a K9 Handler. Trey was a certified Drug Recognition Expert and held instructor certifications in: Standardized Field Sobriety Testing, Close Quarter Combat, Active Shooter, Safari Land Wallbanger, and Less Lethal, Chemical, and Impact Munitions. Trey is currently back in school working towards his Juris Doctorate.