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From an Iraq War Vet in Portland....

by reposted Friday, Oct. 14, 2005 at 10:14 AM

There are times that I wish that I could wish everything away. Other times, I want to stand naked in front of the entire nation to force them to see what they've done to me. I want people to know what war really is. (Originally posted on the Portland IMC as a comment.)

From: "SeanT" < pdx42@yahoo.com>


My skin is broken out right now. There's this rash that crops up
occasionally. Two years ago was the worst. The dermatologist said that I had three different types of rashes covering more than 90% of my body. Nothing ever makes this go away but time. Ice will reduce the swelling. Caladryl will help, so will this prescription hormone ointment, but nothing makes it go away until it is ready to go.

For the past few months, I've been getting boils and blisters on my feet.
This week, the current iteration of this, is a weepy rash of blisters in the
crook of my left elbow. Sure, this is annoying and embarassing, but that's not the worst of it.

Unexplained skin rashes and hyper-sensitivity to skin allergies are symptoms of Persian Gulf War Syndrome (PGWS). When I look at my arm or clean my feet, I'm reminded of that.

I was not wounded during the war. As far as I know, no one ever shot directly at me. But I carry the physical scars through PGWS: my skin, my joints, my cognition. No scars from shrapnel, but I have all these things to remind me.

When I look at my arm, I can see the things I'd rather not think about.
The rash on my arm reminds me of the desert -- and what the fuck were we doing there?? It reminds me of that boy we killed, and the mass graves that we created. It reminds of the moment that I realized that I was not a soldier of freedom, but a protector of monarchy -- an Imperial Stormtrooper.

There are times that I wish that I could wish everything away. Other times, I want to stand naked in front of the entire nation to force them to see what they've done to me. I want people to know what war really is.

But I can't show them the deepest scars -- the scars that come from killing innocents, the scars that come from being a guinea pig for untested vaccinations and chemical weapons. I can't show America the nightmares that they have inflicted upon me while calling me "hero". America will never know that their yellow ribbons give me flashbacks to a time that I only want to forget, that their fervent "patriotism" is serving only to create more "heroes" like me.

I have felt alone most of my adult life, like no one understands, or the ones who do understand can't talk. I'm very lucky with the ones closest to me in my life now. They get it. Even without going through what I've gone through, they get it. They've a gift of empathy that allows them to understand me. It is only because of the loving support of those closest to me that I have not gone completely insane.

Peace and solidarity,
SeanT

Support troops, support veterans: http://www.soldiersheart.org/
Veterans for Peace: http://www.vfpchapter72.org/
The Angry Patriot: http://pdx42.livejournal.com/info

"No, war is not Hell. War is worse than Hell. There are no innocent bystanders in Hell, but war is full of them."
- CPT Benj. Franklin "Hawkeye" Pierce, 4077th M*A*S*H
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