Thank You For Your Service

They love you when you carry a gun. Not so much when you’re pushing around a shopping cart, out on the street trying to stay alive.

I think it was easier to stay alive in Iraq. At least you had your buddies helping you, looking out for you.

In Iraq, it was a muddle. We didn’t know those people and they didn’t know us. We couldn’t tell enemies from friends. We didn’t know who to shoot, so we shot whoever we were told to shoot. I got numb pretty quick. So much death can make you crazy, so you tune it out even when it’s you who’s doing the killing.

I came back unscathed, at least physically. Others guys weren’t so lucky. So, I’m grateful. I really am.

But I came back to no job, no opportunities, no help.

I try to stay presentable even though I don’t have the supplies to, say, spit shine my shoes. (Okay, I still have the spit—but no polish.) I wear my fatigues and medals. Sometimes, actually surprisingly often, people come up to me and shake my hand and thank me for my service. I appreciate that, at least for a moment, until reality settles back in.

So, I was wandering around and came to what I suppose was an old armory. There was a gun show inside. I left my cart on the sidewalk, something I almost never do, and went inside.

It was big. Rows of booths, rows of dealers. The possibilities seemed endless. Admission was free and the proprietors were friendly. They’d let me try out guns. They didn’t know I had no money and hey, I’m a veteran.

I’m playing with a semi-automatic rifle. It feels good in my hands. There’s a site scope and I look through it. Great view. I can see clear to the other side of the building. I ask questions. I slide in a clip.

I’m looking through the scope again, looking at a the dealers, one by one. And I’m hearing them, or imagining I’m hearing them.

They say the same thing, over and over. “Thank you for your service. Thank you for your service. Thank you for your service.”

I continue firing until my clip is empty, then I put down the gun and sit cross-legged on the cold concrete floor. Let ’em arrest me. I’m done now.