How the Healing of One can Lead to the Healing of Many
My family was an immigrant family to the United States of America from Guatemala. When they came over, it was not the ideal situation for them. Both sides of my family were very rooted in their communities with great prospects. Alas, the never ending civil war that carried on in quiet but still very violent ways into the 70's hit close to home and it was time to leave. I was one and a half years old when we first came to the USA. I heard the stories of what it cost my parents to get to the USA. They both lost quite a bit in status both socially and economically but were given a chance to move beyond the violence and threats and find a small sense of security. As a result of knowing this and feeling a sense of duty and honor, I joined the Army when I was 17 years old. Any Veteran will tell you that their reasons for joining change as their military career advances or finishes. For me, a sense of service and paying back a debt while leaving and participating on a marvelous adventure led me to volunteering to jump out of airplanes and go the way of the Ranger Regiment.
People have often asked me to speak on my experiences within the military and how it impacted me. Some people ask darker, more curious questions with an appetite for carnage. I have learned to give the same elevator speech. My military service has allowed me to witness the wonders and beauty of the world. I’ve been aboard an aircraft carrier as a huge pod of dolphins swam along side, leaving a surreal phosphorus glow in the dark water of their wake. I’ve gazed upon sunsets sinking behind snow-capped mountains, overlooking triple canopy jungles. I’ve touched the great pyramids and have pondered the significance of the Sphinx on camel back.
I’ve witnessed people pull together in refugee camps, consoling each other and rising above war in order to establish a new way of life where love might exist and feuds of old might dissipate through dialogue and mutual strife. I’ve protected holy lands, knowing that very few others would ever see these places. I’ve played with children in streets just secured by American soldiers. I’ve kicked soccer balls with children who might forget me, but remember forever that an American soldier was kind to them. I’ve held the hands of toddlers as they walked me to their mothers to introduce me as their new friend.
I’ve broken bread with peoples of every walk of life and learned the impressive histories of their families, tribes, clans, states, and nations. I’ve sat at the feet of elders, discussing universal beliefs about what it means to live on this planet. I’ve experienced the erasing of lines on a map. I have joined in the liberation of others alongside heroes of other countries.
My path also took me into the choicest places of hell on earth. I witnessed the evil of mankind, spit bullets into the legions of hell, and fought against powers and principalities of the world, both, physically and spiritually. I have seen the pain in the eyes of mothers and youth of nations at the realization that their fathers were forever gone. I have wept as I held the bodies of children and raged as I witnessed the dehumanization of my brothers and sisters of this world. I witnessed as innocent blood stood in the gap between colliding heaven and hell, as an offering for peace so that no one would die for at least one more day. But they died none-the-less. I have looked into the eyes of sociopaths and saints. I have felt the seduction of evil and the overwhelming power of the Holy One. I served in the military for 18 years: 57 countries, 13 deployments, 13 buried friends, hundreds of fallen warriors, and thousands of fallen innocents. I saw firsthand the underbelly of the world.
After my deployments, while my decorations were pinned on my chest, I was unaware my experiences were ripping me up inside and, at times, motivating me to rip myself apart. I failed to pay attention to what was really happening in those surreal moments of glory and infamy. As C.S. Lewis wrote, “experience: that most brutal of teachers, but you learn, my God do you learn.” I ignored that part of the Ranger Creed that said, “fully knowing the hazards of my chosen profession.” I failed to “keep myself morally straight and mentally strong.” (Ranger Creed) As a result of this failure, I found myself living in an existence tied to my fear, which I quickly turned into anger both outwardly and inwardly. Like many warriors before and during my time, I became a member of fringe motorcycle club life and totally withdrew from the rest of society. I surrounded myself with other like minded people who as I look back now, know were equally as traumatized and living on the useless side of life as I was. There was a point in time where I considered becoming a police officer and after interviewing, testing and undergoing physical fitness evaluations, found myself top on the hiring list for a town north of Chicago's police department. A part of me knew I couldn't do it. That part of me eventually led me into my own criminal justice intersection.
Not long after getting on that list for the police force, the United States was attacked. The infamous 9/11 attacks cre