[Editor’s Note: This is a follow-up to Jake’s article: “Dismissed with Prejudice.”]
The words are heartfelt and genuine. They are the words of those most loved and cherished and those who all but forgot we existed. They are glad it is FINALLY over. For those loved and cherished, they understand the end is only a new beginning. Those who all but forgot we existed, their every handshake and pat on the back a delusion of absolution. As if their every handshake, pat on the back, and newfound support could absolve the years of neglect and isolation. One best forgives but never forgets. The fair weather are forever etched into my memory.
The truth is “it” is not over. The impact of such incidents can be everlasting. The impact of taking a life might be something to one that it is not to another. The impact of being criminally charged for doing what was necessary can consume the mind with endless second guesses. The impact of years of unknown as one vindictive human drags one through the mud can be lifelong. The impact of feeling forgotten by all, but a few, can be consuming. It can blacken the mind. On their own, each creates everlasting effects, but together they can be exponentially profound.
Yes, the charges have been dropped. Yes, I, we, are glad. But “it” is not over. The simple words and certified papers do not absolve what was experienced. It was as if we were on a never-ending roller coaster in a pitch-black world. It would pitch and roll with great force, causing whiplash after whiplash, only to abruptly coast with ease along the tracks, just to violently thrash and tear you from one side to another without warning. It would do so without warning. The mind is left only with the darkness.
Yes, the charges are no more, but “it” is not over. The phone calls still continue. My worry lessened, but still ever-present. The anxiety and stress of our return are obvious to even the blind onlooker. It lingers in the air. It is palpable. Call after call I try so desperately to ensure they are all ok. I try so hard to ensure they get what they need. I try so hard to ensure their stress and anxiety is manageable. I juggle their unique personalities among one another and myself. I try so hard to be what they need. Even when it is not what I need. Hour after hour I make call after call, day after day.
The truth is this has been my life for all these years. The truth is, I have laid awake wondering if this night or that night might be the one when it was all too much for one of them. It was like a virus shifting from one to another. Just as we managed to nurse one to health, another would become infected. It meant hours and hours of calls and gatherings day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year. I spent so many sleepless nights trying to navigate my position within the group.
When is it too much? When should I betray their trust and demand help from the outside? When are they OK? Are they really ok?
I have spent these years trying to ensure they got everything they needed just to survive this atrocity. The truth is, they only know about two-thirds of what I have tried to achieve. The truth is, I hope they never know the truth. I hope they never know how much I tried to consume the pain and suffering. I hope they never know how many frustrating conversations I had demanding and begging for the help they needed. I hope they never know the potential enemies I have made trying to ensure they got what they needed just to survive.
The truth is “it” is not over. It is there, every day, day after day. The truth is, I still worry about them. I still try to ensure they have what they need. But now I hope they get what they need to heal, if not thrive.
The truth is, it has been crushing for me to be all these things. It has been crushing to not only deal with my own struggles but with the struggles of our group. It is the struggle of trying to ensure we all live to see the end, and beyond. My only hope is they never truly know the overt and covert actions that helped guide us all to see the “end.”
The end I hope might be the beginning of healing from “it.”
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.