I don't know where it came from, but I was feeling really nostalgic late last night and was poring over everything I had written since I got back. I was even looking for the discs of pictures. Nothing was satisfying or fulfilling the feeling that I was missing something. I got really frustrated and eventually went to bed a little after midnight. Something woke me up before the alarm. I felt compelled to sit down and search my mind for what was bothering me. I finally figured it out when I looked at the date: March 29th.
It all came flooding back. I was with the mobile interrogation team. Don't remember where. I just remember the guy they brought in. He was a wounded Iraqi soldier. They wanted me to interrogate and find out if the guy had any information. He was so terrified he had wet himself. When he saw me, he defecated himself. His uniform was singed in places and he looked like he had been through hell already. I wanted to show him compassion, but my job as a translator was to mirror the mood, tone, and inflection of the interrogator. So I held my place. Then the interrogator did something I will never forget. He grabbed the soldier's arm. Something so simple, right? He grabbed his arm.
The Iraqi detainee went into shock. I rushed over and pulled up his sleeve and couldn't believe my eyes. He had been close enough to a serious explosion that the concussion had shattered his arm. His arm was a collection of fracture blisters. No one had caught this. The Iraqi soldier was so scared of us that he never once asked for help or treatment.
I knelt and did what I could to comfort the man as the medics worked to stabilize him. I told him not to worry, that we have the best doctors. I told him to stay calm and to look at me - he kept on looking at his arm and getting even more scared. So he stared. And stared. And stared. He blinked really hard and looked at me with a look I couldn't understand. Then he smiled a sad smile and thanked me, "Shukran, ya Saydi" I watched at the light faded from his eyes. His body just couldn't process the fear and trauma.
His last words were to thank me and address me with a title of respect. I looked at my watch: 0632. 3/29
I remember thinking: 42 more detainees inbound - 30 mikes out. It's going to be a long day.
I know my compassion must have shone through and provided this poor man comfort, but I still felt like shit. yet another day and anniversary to watch out for. I can understand why I suppressed this memory. I really can. The question I have is why now? Why today? And is it coincidence that the memory came back at 0632 in the morning? Was that was jogged my memory? The memory is too real. Too clear in my mind. The look of the fracture blisters...don't think I'll be eating much today.
I will spend time with my daughter today and I will be processing this mess of emotions in the back of my mind. My daughter calms me. Her simple perspective and unconditional love make it possible for me to process this. She'll know something is wrong and will want a lot of hugs from Daddy today. That's OK with me. We'll play and I'll process and maybe I'll find a way to make sense of the feelings I have. I guess I will see how it goes.
As I continue my life with PTSD, I will share my challenges and discoveries on this blog.