This place gets to you, man. I mean it can get under your skin. It can do something to you.
Every once in a while someone pops.
“You hear about Sgt. H?” someone asked me yesterday.
“From S6?” I asked back.
“Yeah, he’s gone.”
“Gone?! I just saw him the other day.”
“Yup, went nuts. He’s headed back to the states.”
Or the girl that had been manning our staff desk.
“Where’s your battle?” I asked one of our normal front-deskers, “battle” meaning short for battle buddy for the non-mils.
“Oh her? She’s headed home, bulimic and all sorts of other stuff.”
Or one of the DFAC girls. Turns out she threatened to kill a couple of people, so they took her weapon away and tucked her away in a corner somewhere.
There has been a few of those, actually. The ones that the combat stress center can patch together stay, the rest go home.
I can feel it too, though. The unending procession of days. The never ending load of crap to do, things to stock, repair, pictures to take, stories to write, meetings, briefings, sit reps, weapon cleaning, laundry, heat, heat, the relentless heat, setting fire to the madness, burning each second into hours.
Stay alert. Maintain a high state of readiness. Don’t get complacent. The enemy is watching. He’s everywhere. The enemy will get you. Vary your patterns. Never let up. Go, go, go from dawn to dawn.
And then the small talk, passing others at work or on the way home. “Well, another day done.”
“Just X more to go.”
Some amount of days left. Some weeks. Some months. With the extra year, home just got a whole lot farther away.
It gets to you, man. It’s crazy.
Try 30 months.
I always wondered how the sham factor worked out there. Part of me thought that once you’re there, you’ve pretty much shot your chances at the “eating your boogers/mental sick call” escape route.
But then again, from your descriptions, I can see how day to day life could drive people legitimately mad.