Saturday, November 12, 2011

You Are My Hero

My cousin Randy Linquist has written an open letter to his son Peter on the occasion of Veterans Day.  Peter served two tours in Iraq as a United States Marine.  It is a moving tribute to Peter, and to all the young people nobly serving their country since 9/11.
My Dear Son Peter,

I have never served in battle nor have I known the discipline of military life. Because I do not share these intimacies with veterans of war I cannot know and share the bond of brotherhood you share with those you served with in Iraq. I can only share with you the bond of a father and a son. You cannot take me where you have been and I cannot share the vision of what you have seen. You have witnessed horrors that my life has spared me. I can only witness the shadow of the horrors when I hold you crying in my arms when the weight of all you have done and seen is more than you can bear. I try to be strong as a father and tell you it will be all right as we all do with our children when they are in pain. But in my heart I know you shall live the rest of you life carrying this weight.

You returned from Iraq after two tours and seemed to live a normal life for nearly three years. Your Mother and I felt blessed that you had returned safely and we put the war behind us after long months of worry and long weeks of not hearing from you when you told us you would be on a mission and could not communicate with us or tell us any more. You returned whole and we were so thankful and relieved. After living in OH, attending school, and serving as a volunteer fireman, you moved here to stay with us while you waited for a fireman post you had earned in South Carolina. Though living with us you were a master at hiding your pain and suffering. You did not want to concern us with your troubles; the night terrors, the anxiety attacks. You got a job on the island and decided to stay, opting not to take the firefighting position in South Carolina. You got your own apartment and seemed to be doing well. As parents we were proud and pleased with your good fortune and happy to have you close. We thought the war was behind us.

Then, as happens to many veterans, the demons of war caught up with you. You could no longer suffer the pains alone and you broke down. How you hid your pain and kept the demons at bey for 3 years I will never know. But when they caught up to you they came with a vengeance and your world came to a halt. You could not go on and needed help. Help that we did not know how to give you. We reached out to the VA and found after three frustrating years that our government was quick to go to war but slow to count the cost of it. The system is broken and it is obvious that caring for our warriors returning from duty took a back seat to preparations for combat. As a nation we need to learn this lesson. We are pros at war yet amateurs at healing the aftermath and consequences war brings home.

You are now for the second time in the VA Hospital in Salisbury, NC for the six week PTSD program. You did your duty and excelled earning the rank of Sergent in the USMC. For that you have our nation's gratitude and pride. You are now a civilian with disabilities who must find your way and create a meaningful life. While many others your age are struggling to get through school and find jobs, you have lived a lifetime already. You and your brother veterans still carry the horrors of war with you as warriors returned home. The war in Iraq is over for us as a nation but you and your brothers in arms must now carry the the true cost and consequences within you. The rest of us can never understand. We can only say Thank You. So trite and small against such a great sacrifice.

You are young and strong. Your demons are real but I know you are strong enough to manage them. You have already shown your strength and courage. You are my Hero and I love you and could not be more proud. You have been a leader on the battlefield and have been a great help to your fellow Marines at home by starting We Can Do This Together. Never give up, Peter. Many depend on you. And many love you.

- Dad

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