Jeremy Bergantini served in the US Army and deployed to Iraq from 2008-2009. I dabbled in writing when I was in high school, and thanks to PCVI I am beginning to explore it again. I’m not profound, just a man making a sound (squeaky wheels get the grease…). Hopefully, my words will help someone, somehow.
How We Died
Good evening, everyone.
I want to start by taking a moment to truly thank you all for taking time from your evening to be here with us tonight at “Veteran’s Voices: A Green Light, Ghost Light” event. Your willingness to give us your time is so much more meaningful than repeating an empty phrase.
I want you all to think of something for me. I want you to think of an animal, cats in particular. Now, I want you to think about the phrase “cats have nine lives”.
Have any of you ever really turned that over in your minds before? I’ve been thinking about this phrase a bit lately, and what it means. How did it start? Did someone witness a cat defy death? Maybe they swore a cat had died but saw it the next day alive and well.
What if, instead of any of that, someone observed cats and their day-to-day goings on; and maybe that made them think about the “lives of a cat”. What if they thought about the cat’s different types of lives; like a social life, indoor life, outdoor life, and others?
So, I’m sure you’re wondering why I’m up here talking about cats tonight. Well, I bring this up because I think humans have at least 3 lives at any given time. Our Social Life, Our Family Life, Our Love Life, and others.
You see, I need to tell you all a secret: You’re listening to a dead man speak. Maybe you’ve heard other dead speakers tonight. Some, most, maybe all of us here have died in at least one of our lives in service to our country and our fellow citizens.
Some of us have died socially. We don’t have friends. We can’t go out in public anymore. We can’t handle being in groups of people or having our back to a window or door in a public place. Or we’ve turned into assholes, angry and snippy all the time for seemingly no reason the minute we’re around people we don’t know intimately.
We have died in our families. Absent from family functions, or clearly vacant if we do show up. Maybe we’re hammered or high…You think we don’t feel your judgmental looks or hear your sidebars? We know we’re a fucking mess, and those things only make us take deeper hits or longer pulls from the flask. It’s torture for some of us to just show up because of injuries or PTSD, let alone meet your expectations or live up to a memory.
We have died emotionally. We don’t feel emotions like we used to; we don’t process them like we used to. Some of us know only hate or anger now and can’t figure out why. Do you know what it’s like to love? Do you know what it feels like to have “loved and lost” that love? Now tell me, do you know what it feels like to have loved, and then lost the ability to love or feel loved? We have but fleeting memories of maybe loving something, once, long ago.
Hell, some of us live every day like we’re dead in every aspect, not just metaphysical ones. Personally, I grapple most nights with reality itself, and trying to figure out if I died when that mortar round landed under the dumpster behind us. Do I know for sure that it didn’t go off? Or can my brain not process it and this whole time I’ve been in the process of dying and this is all a DMT induced hallucination before my light is extinguished.
I know that most, if not all of you, are here to try to learn more and gain a better understanding. You might be angry with me for what I’m saying. That’s actually a good thing; that means you care. That’s part of the point.
I’m not here to tell you things that make you feel good. I’m not here to tell you how your words lift us up, or how your pity makes us feel better. I’m not here to beg or plead with words you’ve heard time and time again.
I’m here to tell you the things that we have been holding inside for far too long; because we fear losing the little bits of support we get thus far, by being brutally honest.
I’m here to tell you the truth.
I’m here to tell you how most, if not all of us, feel like puzzle pieces with no puzzle…cast aside together in the junk box of mis-matched pieces, dead pens and forgotten toys. I’m here to talk about how most of us are a different form of dead inside since our time in our respective services. To tell you the TRUE ramifications of war. To tell you how, no matter how much some of us try, no matter how much some of you may want us to, we can never, EVER get back to what we were.
I’m here to tell you how we are forever changed, and how you should be too. How war isn’t a “Veteran problem”, or “an active-duty problem”, but how it’s a societal problem. How war affects each and every one of us, whether or not we realize or understand how. I’m here to start the conversations we’ve all needed but have been avoiding.
What I want all of you to take away from tonight, is that we are more than just veterans, we are human beings that have sometimes seen the absolute depravity of the human soul. That we have been to the event horizon of human decency, and that one cannot just come back from that and not have been affected by its gravity. I want you all to understand that all of us make up our society, and there for all of us have been to the event horizon, and its far past time for us to begin talking about it.