The summer has come and gone. I didn't notice. I can't believe it's been almost 6 months since returning to the states. Half a year. Mathematically speaking, I should be wearing black and comforting my son. That hasn't happened. This is a good thing. Her cancer hasn't stopped. More like it's slowed to a crawl. The wife's cancer spread during this time. It went to her skin, her bones, her brain, and her spinal cord. She has had a stroke and lost control over half her face. She has persistent pain in her shoulder, her abdomen, and there is some sort of weird lump under her arm in a lymph node. There has been a tremor developing so bad that she can't even hold a cup of coffee.All day, every day, she is in pain. She has no strength to enjoy any activities. So depression sets in. With lack of activities, her strength is sapped as well. But she's alive. That's what matters. We see her friends and family. There is not a moment where pity isn't reflected in their eyes. They all love to offer help and support. Yet most of the time, it's just pretty words. That's okay, I understand. It's not a comfortable thing to deal with. A nice hollow offer of support, then...nothing, is the standard thing to do. Don't feel guilty. Those who actually do something are the rarity.I'm supposed to be helping with recruiting for the Marine Corps. High school teenagers with their self-centered sense of entitlement make me sick. I have no patience for those children. I have no patience for anyone anymore. This illness has shown me that in the end, there are only a few people to trust. We are inevitably alone. I've begun to seek the sweet numbness located at the bottom of a beer bottle. Screw this world. Screw this life. Friends? What friends? Family? None of mine bother.Job? Yeah right.This story will end with my son and I alone in this world, dealing with the void left by Denise. No sense in sugar-coating this shit. Yes I have become bitter. So what?You will read this and move to the next web page. Carry on reader. You don't need to stick around waiting for the train wreck.
Memories...Part 20830 Central Standard TimeApril 30th 2010Somewhere between Chicago and Green BayThe clouds pass the small window of the Embraer RJ145 aircraft. Their hypnotic motions reflect the already clouded mind of the tired Marine. It's been almost 50 hours since that meeting in the company office in the Afghanistan desert. He hasn't slept. There have been countless flights between then and now. This is it, the last flight. "Sir, are you done with your drink?" The Marine looks up to the pretty flight attendant with a confused look. Drink? What drink? He looks down. Water. Did he ask for that? His mind is throbbing. He picks up the cheap plastic cup and slams the water."Yeah, thank you ma'am." The water brings a little clarity back. He looks down as he hands the glass away. He's still in his dirty desert-patterned utilities. ("desert digis") The uniform feels greasy. Stupid. There is still dust and grime from Afghanistan covering him. He should have remembered to put his set of civilian clothes in his day pack. He should have had time to buy clothes at an airport. No time. He's literally run from one plane to another. He has to get home.The plane lands on schedule in Green Bay. He's back in his home state. The weary man picks up his dusty pack, places it on his shoulders and walks out of the plane. Ignoring the stares from the fellow passengers, he walks to the baggage claim. There will be no bags waiting for him. He had to leave them back at Camp Dwyer for Supply. Someone shakes his hand. Thank you. It shames him. He doesn't deserve that. He didn't do anything.In the baggage area he picks a car rental company at random. It doesn't matter. He'll only need the car for one day. The Sergeant drives to the Reserve Center to check in. Handshakes and welcome backs. The place, once familiar, seems strange and unreal. Is he really back? How did he get here? He looks at his watch. Time to go. He has an hour and a half drive back home. If he wants to make it back in time. His wife has an appointment at the hospital and finds out how bad the cancer is at 1100 hours. It is now 0915. He can make it. He has no phone and when he tried calling her at the Reserve Center, there was no answer at her workplace. He begins to drive. His eyes are heavy. His mind feels dull. The car begins to slow down to a stop. Reality snaps into focus. He's in his home town and a streetlight has turned red. How the hell did that happen? He can't remember the hour and half drive home. He looks at the clock in the dashboard...1030. Made good time. With no keys, no phone, and no contact with his wife, he doesn't know if she's already left to go to the hospital. With a deep breath, he makes a small detour and pulls into the driveway of his in-laws. Surprised looks. Hugs. The Sergeant asks for information regarding his wife. Finds out she is heading home. Good. A wave to the in-laws and he's on the road again. As he drives closer to his house, the fear and worrying begin to charge him. He feels like a stranger. Three blocks away...Nothing has changed while he's been gone. Two blocks away...What is he going to say to her? What will she say to him? One block away...There is his home! Her car is in the driveway! His heart is beating through his chest. He parks across the street so as not to block her car in. There is an appointment after all. Home...The Marine slowly walks to his home. Climbs the steps as he's done thousands of times before in another life. The door is open. Through the screen door he sees his wife. She is the most beautiful woman he's seen. He raises his hand and knocks softly on the door.His wife is startled by the noise and looks to the door in alarm. "Oh my god" she chokes out. She stands there in shock.The tired husband opens the door, drops his pack, walks forward, and embraces his wife."I made it hon, I'm home" he whispers into her ear. He can feel her arms tighten around him. "Everything will be all right..."With that, the pent-up emotions in the poor woman release. He can feel her sobs shuddering through their hug. The Marine stands tall. He hasn't slept in two days. He's left the battlefield and crossed the planet for this woman. She will be safe with him. He will protect her and help her in this fight. He will stand by her side no matter what. He looks into her eyes. "Let's go to the hospital. It's time..."
Memories...Part 10930 Local Time / 0500 ZuluApril 27th 2010Location: Camp Dwyer, Garmsir District, AfghanistanThe Marine Sergeant sits on the rickety field bench made out of wooden shipping pallets. Light grey dust covering everything, his boots, his fire-resistant desert cammies, everything. The sun beats down on his neck as the roar of 7-tons and MRAPs cut through the morning silence. A bead of sweat falls from his dirty forehead into his eyes. It stings. He can't feel it. His eyes are already burning. In his hands rest the letter he received. It's from his wife back in the states. He adjusts his rifle as he reaches into his cargo pocket. The bench creaking under his weight. He pulls a cigarette out, lights it, and takes a long drag. He reads the letter again to make sure."...turns out the lump I had biopsied was cancer. I'm scheduled for a CT scan to find out how bad it is next week.""Cancer!" He spits into the dust. The sand swallowing up the moisture immediately. "Fuck!" he whispers.The Sergeant's mind is supposed to be on creating the manifest for the next convoy, but the news has him shaken. For the past two days he's been out on a mission. No access to phones, no contact with the outside world. Now that he's got a moment, he's gotta think. This letter was his silent companion during the mission."Sergeant?" He shoves the crumpled letter back into his pocket and looks up. A dirt covered Lance Corporal is staring at him."The First Sergeant wants you to get over to the company office right now!" he quickly blurts as he turns and runs back to the line of trucks."Fuck!" He stabs the half smoked cigarette into the dirt. "What a waste..." he says to nobody. He stands up, drapes his M4 across his back, grabs his cover and places it on his sweaty head. He starts his slow trot across the dirty motor pool. The brightness of the sun reflects off the aptly-named "moondust", making it brighter than any Wisconsin winter. Pulling out his sunglasses and slipping them on quickly, he looks around."Fuck this place" he mutters. The rocky sand kicks up large puffs of dust with every step.The company office is just a plywood shack at the entrance to the motor pool. Some wires running to it and the addition of a couple of flags make it look important. The guidons hang limply at the entrance, cooking in the desert heat. The Marine opens the door and walks in. He takes his sunglasses and cover off and allows his eyes to adjust to the lower light. His friend is waiting for him. The air is stale, but it's slightly cooler in here."Dude, they're in there." gesturing to the back room with the door closed. "What the hell did you do?!" That door is never closed. Not a good sign."Dunno Roach. Guess I'll find out." He pats Roach on the shoulder and walks into the room. Inside there is the entire chain of command going up to the Battalion level. The Marine closes the door behind him, walks to the middle of the room briskly and snaps to attention. "Sergeant Bigback reporting as ordered!" He keeps his eyes level. Stare at that random knot of wood. Don't move. Wait. The Captain stands up and walks toward him. There is a piece of paper in his hand. "Read this Sergeant.""Aye sir." He takes the paper and looks at it. It is a piece of paper with the Red Cross logo across the top. He doesn't have to read it. He knows what it is. He catches bits of text here and there. The doctors have requested his presence back in the states to be with his wife due to the lung cancer. They felt it was important enough to send a Red Cross message to his chain of command and call him back. "You realize that this means you're going home right?" the Captain says sternly."Sir?""We are not in the habit of keeping Marines from their loved ones in their time of need. In fact, I'm going to have you call her right now to verify her state." as he hands the Sgt a phone. "Dial that number to get a stateside operator"A few minutes later he's talking to his wife. She doesn't know how bad the cancer is. Just that it's lung cancer. She says that she'll find out on the 30th. He tries to get more information about her status, but all she wants to do is tell him how much she misses him and how scared she is. The Sgt presses the issue and gets a quick answer. The officers in the room seem satisfied."Sergeant, you are leaving...right NOW. You have 30 minutes to pack your things and report to the flight line! Staff Sergeant! Make sure he gets a ride and turns in his ammo and weapon! LT, call Battalion and have them draft emergency orders. He'll pick them up at Leatherneck!"A chorus of "Aye sirs" ring out. Everyone stands up and starts moving at once. The Captain looks the Sergeant in the eye and shakes his hand. "Good luck son. Go home. Take care of her. Let us know if you need anything""Yes sir, thank you sir." With that...the Sergeant leaves...Thus ends his tour of duty in Afghanistan. Not a triumphant completion of duty with his Marines, the men who shed sweat and blood together for all these months. No, he leaves alone with a piece of paper and an unknown world in front of him. People need him elsewhere. Yet he can't help but feel that he's just abandoned his boys.
I'm Back...Yes, I went to the deserts of Afghanistan. Spent a month there, did missions. Whatever.Was called back when it was discovered that my wife has Stage IV Non-small cell lung cancer. Diagnosis date was April 30th. Since then I've been working as a recruiter in our town to allow me to stay on Active Duty while I take care of her. Her cancer spread to her bones, her skin, brain, and spine. Yes it sucks, but we are fighting it. I'm worried though, this last week has been particularly rough after this last round of radiation. I want her to feel better. I hate seeing her in so much pain. Life sucks.
Out of the Office...I'm sorry, the Marine you are looking for has been deployed with America's Finest, the United States Marine Corps, to parts unknown, for an unknown amount of time. Thank you for stopping in. If you would like to contact this Marine, please click on the Facebook link, and leave a message.
Update...The young man leans against the grey cinder block wall. Taking a slow drag from a cigarette, he looks around cautiously. Slow exhale...adjusting the rifle hanging from his shoulder..."Damn..."