Warfighters Seeking Purpose
By Kerry Patton
For over a year, I passively removed myself from the veteran community. I became engrossed with my new life after a long transition from years of wearing the uniform, to the contractual world, to becoming a husband and father, to now finding my face on a hit TV show called Outsiders on WGN America.
I didn’t go “off the grid” from the community; I just took a backseat.
While taking a backseat, I continued to observe. I have observed and observed and observed some more. I watched and listened. My facial muscles grew sore with smiles while my heart often ached with sadness.
During my time of observation, two key things struck me:
- We are a community that thrives on eating our own. We continue to try and rip apart those who move forward with their life successes. We run our mouths about people we once called brothers. We belittle, cause social media wars, and forget how we are supposed to represent the community as “one team, one fight.”
- We are a very misunderstood community. The public now gets a chance to observe us thanks to social media. They see things and hear things that often only makes sense to us. But what they often see and hear can be perceived as us failing to truly see, hear, and understand ourselves and our brethren.
One must wonder why points one and two exist? Is it due to self-defeat? Is it due to the ever confusingly label of PTSD? Or, is it due to the lack of purpose—you know, the one we once had while abroad that flowed through our blood every waking moment we lived. I don’t have the answers however I think it’s time we focus on “lack of purpose.”
How many of our brothers and sisters truly feel a sense of that purpose any longer? How many of us wake up early, fresh, ready to tackle the world before us and as they move about their day, they do so with 110% making them completely exhausted to the point, the moment their bodies hit the bed, they pass out? Compare that to the many that stay awake all day, behind a computer, making comments on social media, living off measly benefits making every excuse in the book NOT to get up and find a job.
Sure, I believe the numbers are very tilted to one side—meaning, yes, I believe more veterans are actually out there hitting the racks with complete exhaustion, kicking ass and taking names every single day versus those who decided to become social media warriors with zero passion in their lives. BUT, which of the two identified groups do you believe the public sees most?
This is not about those “go getters” out there. No, this is about those who lack a purpose in life—a purpose full of passion they once had while fighting abroad.
A friend of mine, who I truly do consider a brother, is intent on going back to Afghanistan. He is a Marine officer who served almost a full decade in Afghanistan as a civilian contractor—a full decade, straight.
He returned back to the United States facing some legal issues due to a nasty divorce—something relatively common in the veteran and contractual world. Due to the legalities of his situation, he went from living a fruitful monetary life to becoming homeless. Thankfully, he is a warrior who never gave up and has friends that refused to allow him to stay on the streets for too long. Of note, when I say homeless, I truly mean homeless—as in, he lived on the streets.
After packing what little he had, he managed to move from the North West to Texas. He was given a place to stay, was assisted in finding a new job, and even became a regular on a local radio show. He is moving forward.
Unfortunately, on the outside, it does look as though he is moving forward but deep down he is empty with little to no passion in his gut. I firmly believe many of us can understand what he is going through and have thought similarly as he is thinking today—let me explain.
After months of long lonely nights, my friend has decided living in the United States is just not “cutting it.” So, even after some of his closest of friends have told him his recent idea of leaving the country is absolutely ridiculously crazy, he is headed out of the US and trying to get back to Afghanistan.
It’s a place he feels most passionate. It is a place he feels he can assist others who will actually appreciate his contributions. It is a place where he feels he left a part of his soul.
How sad. How sad it is that so many of our brethren feel absolutely empty inside. How sad is it they feel the only place to find self-worth again is in a place that caused them mental, and at times, physical anguish. Unfortunately, that is a reality we as a nation must learn to contend with, today.
We are a nation with well over a million combat seasoned and capable warfighters living among us. The vast majority is moving leaps and bounds yet a minority is struggling to find a purpose—a gut wrenching, burning, and passionate purpose.
But a thing like my friend is trying to do make me wonder. Will places like Afghanistan and Iraq become new “vacation” destinations for some of our own? Will we see more and more crowd funding campaigns like what my friend put together to assist him on his journey of finding a purpose in life? I hope not but this is not the first crowd funding campaign I have watched related to similar activities and I am sure it won’t be the last. (The first one I saw involved an American Warfighter trying to find his way into Syria then a few months later, another popped up for Kurdistan, Iraq)
Personally, I will not be monetarily contributing to this crowd funding campaign due to selfish reasons—not wanting to see my friend go back to Afghanistan, on his own dime (well, really your dime) where things are MUCH worse today than they were 2, 5, or even 10 years ago.
He may despise that fact—that I will not assist him economically. But I hope he realizes from this writing, my heart is with him and I only wish he and other like him find an alternative means to find a purpose once again in this exceptional idea God granted us called “Life.”
So not to be the real asshole I have been known to be, I am including a link to his own site below so people can see what my friend Baba Tim is up to. And for those unlike me who think this is a great idea, you can learn how to contribute to his mission there.