This is My Journey, Now Go and Live Yours: A Note to the Wayward Sons of GWOT
by Chris Duplantis
They looked out from their caves across unsheltered plains and knew all that lay out there was savage and hostile to their existence on that Earth. And they saw the threat and felt only the urge to stride out, to find food, bring it home, to survive. Continue.
The necessity of struggle.
The collective placed above the self.
-Inspector Edmund Reid
H Division, Scotland Yard
If you haven’t watch the BBC series “Ripper Street” on Netflix, do yourself a favor and do so. I’m not one who watches much TV. But I do have a soft place for BBC as that’s the only decent channel we got on FOB Farrah (Firebase Heredia). Between raising three toddlers, being a college student, National Guard soldier, husband and active member of my church, I am very particular on what shows will get my limited time. Now this is not a show review, though it would be biased if so. I would have to say that between the action, well-thought out story lines and overall nature of the show, I particularly enjoy the dialect.
I don’t watch it to simply zone out from the day to day event, but to listen. The phrase above is one of my favorite, it is from season 3 episode 6. The description of an individual who give of himself but not for himself, but for the greater good. To ensure that the tribe survives to live another day. This is not to be confused with any form of government collectivism, communism, socialism or anything in that realm. This is the selflessness to carry on with the mission, while knowing the risk. This is a very common trait in the military. Such acts are found in men like Sergeant Michael Ferschke of 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion and Staff Sergeant Christopher Antonik of 1st Raider Battalion, two posthumous Bronze Star with Valor recipients that I had the privilege to deploy with. Knowing the risk but being the first to go through the door, even if it may cost you your life. Self-Regard is then set aside, mission first, self-second.
This is where veterans began to feel the reality of civilian life at times. Once we have the sacred DD-214, we are free, or so we think. It is then that we must find our new “tribe’, a place to fit in. We become the “Wayward Sons” of the GWOT, lost looking for the next objective. The current atmosphere has also not helped. As a student of history, I feel that American society is still trying to make up for the way Vietnam troops were treated upon return. Men who went and did what they were told to do, not because any personal political agenda, but because it was their duty. Fast forward 40 years later and we have an opposite spectrum of thanks and welcome homes.
This is a good thing, but a balance is needed. The result of the combination of yellow ribbons and discounts everywhere that has created an environment that almost completely separates us into a category that keeps us from assimilating back into reality. This isn’t to say that most veteran’s transitions without any issues. For myself, and many others, I sought self-refuge and what I deemed a proper transition to the law enforcement field. Not long after I left active duty I found myself, on the sunless morning of Jan 3, 2012, standing at attention as the academy tactical instructors made their way with their campaign style covers, a very familiar but welcoming sign, which proceeded to bring us closer to the Earth.
This began a three and half year journey working for the Parish (Louisiana “County”) and city police. I did enjoy the work, but I do not believe that it was for me and in some way, I forced myself to do it. I thought it maybe something familiar, structured, a brotherhood perhaps. Now don’t read too far into this, I do not discount it at all and it was necessary for my journey. I like to think I was good at it and made a difference in at one life for the better. But, it was not for me. Thus, another part of the search for a meaning, purpose. That is how we ended up in Cheyenne.
While looking for the next objective, my wife and I began looking outside of the towns we grew up in (she is from Escondido, CA). Maybe what we are looking for is beyond that of what we are familiar with. When looking new place to live, the very first thing we checked was “what is the nearest base.” Particularly an air base. Air bases tend to have more joint forces, so I’ll find either Marines, Airman, Soldiers and Sailors. As a member of three branches, I can “speak” various armed forces languages so it makes for an easy transition and as a reservist/guardsman I need a place that will pay me two days out of the month.
For me, the Guard/Reserves keeps me in the balance where I can get my military “fix” while maintaining a “normal” life. But that is just a small fraction of my life. My wife and I are semi-nomadic and can do well wherever we end up. And that is my focus at all time now, is my family. They are my tribe. Being a father is by far the most important thing I’ll ever do. After a awhile I could not think of anything I did that was worth anything before becoming a parent. To raise and nurture the next generation. To watch them grow, learn, and live as the innocence thrives as they know no wrong, just love. This is my objective, the assurance that my tribe not only survives, but thrives.
I do know that this life is not for everyone. And it should not be for we all have our purpose, this is mine. And that therein lies your job, find your purpose, your life’s muse, any reason to thrive. And if you are not using every available resource provided, then get to it. The GI Bill alone has many avenues of use and you are bound to find something for it. If anything, it’s money in your pocket and a skill learned.
As veterans we find ourselves continually putting ourselves back into the same self-identity role of “veteran”. But that is not a resume builder. We mistakenly believe that our veteran status is the only way we can define ourselves. But that is farther from the truth. In the grand scheme of things, our service time is but a flash in the pan of all we will do. Use it, but don’t let it strictly define you. Because if you do, you’ll never go beyond that. Whether you were a special operations sniper, or an admin clerk getting paychecks pushed, we all played our part, and now we must take that, store it and move on. Be all that you can be, and make a difference.
This is my journey, now go and live yours.
“All it takes, is all you got”
SSgt Chris Antonik
This first appeared in The Havok Journal December 5, 2017.