I see the dull rays of sunshine through the settling dust. With every slow step forward, they become brighter. Every unexpected gust sends yet another hail of dust into the air, striking the skin with a sting. For years there was no light to be seen. I was blackened by the dust; each gust invisible in the blackened state. All we could do was sit or wander aimlessly.
As I see the dusty rays, I turn around to the tattered and torn bodies emerging from their shadows. The tears turn the dust into mud as they fall from their cheeks. Their eyes gleam with the hope that what lay ahead is not a mirage. That the rays expose an end of unexplainable journey into aimless darkness.
I look upon the tattered and torn bodies emerging from their shadows and begin to turn dust into mud as a simple thought that all but brings me to my knees.
We all made it…
That thought, that word, it lingers. It echoes in my mind and haunts my soul. I turn dirt into mud as I quiver in the reality of it all. The mind is tormented by the endless darkness and aimlessness. The mind is tormented by the moments when the darkness separated, and the gusts swept away the calls for unity. To be tormented by the helplessness of the unknown. To be left in the darkness, alone, haunted by the thought that the settled dust would reveal the motionless bodies of those loved, lost to their own desperation and helplessness. That the darkness and aimlessness might blacken the light, and with it, the soul.
The anger, the pure rage begins when reflecting upon the man who stood by and watched. The man who could have changed it all. The man who stood untouched, rope in hand. To know that such a man was the guide who refused the simplest pleas for help. The man who refused not the pleas for my own help, but the help of those lost in the darkness, those I so desperately wanted to find. The anger of knowing he was always there, observable only in the peripheral; always observable, but never present.
I now grab the rope thrown by those who care. Those who answered the call through the dust and darkness. I grab the rope and walk towards the light, guided by those who sought to seek us out. Those who sought to find us aimless wanderers, not knowing he had stood by and watched.
With every step, we begin to emerge. All of us… alive.
Those words, those thoughts, will forever echo and haunt my mind and soul.
Jake Smith is a law enforcement officer and former Army Ranger with four deployments to Afghanistan.
As the Voice of the Veteran Community, The Havok Journal seeks to publish a variety of perspectives on a number of sensitive subjects. Unless specifically noted otherwise, nothing we publish is an official point of view of The Havok Journal or any part of the U.S. government.