Damien J. Martin Ms. Tamira A. Cole English 091 Most Life Changing Experience My choice to join the army was my most life changing experience. I was able to experience things I would not have ever experienced, had I not gone into the army. A few examples would be, leaving home and being on my own, the difficulty of deployment and the price of freedom and finally the happiness of marriage and the heartache of divorce. Finally, the last thing I made a connection with is something no one or nothing can prepare you for. My experience in the army never taught me how to handle depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
For the first time, (besides when I would go to summer camp as a child,) I would be on my own I was responsible for myself, and this was interesting. I joined the army in January of 1997 and was given a ship out date, just a few days after I finished my junior year of high school. Instead of spending time at the shore with my friends I would spend it in Fort Sill, Oklahoma completing my basic training. At the end of basic training I would come home to finish high school and then the following summer I would complete my training.
The first couple of weeks of basic training were difficult because the army is trying to mold you to be a soldier. That meant getting up at 5:30 am every morning for physical training. Most of the days at basic training consisted of learning military customs, drill and ceremony, marksmanship, hand to hand combat, and land navigation. I learned many different responsibilities such as having to make a bed the proper way, shining my boots, and taking my uniforms to the cleaners, and doing my own wash. In June of 1998 I returned to Fort Sill to complete my training. pon completing my scout sniper training and volunteered for airborne training while completing my airborne training it was at this time that an offer was made to attend ranger school. By far the most changeling task I would take on, because the rangers are an elite unit comprised of well-disciplined and physically fit soldiers. When I completed ranger school I was given orders to go to Fort Bragg, North Carolina were I was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division. After going through the reception battalion I was assigned to Charlie Battery 1st battalion 319th airborne field Artillery Regiment.
Being at Charlie battery was very different from what I had been experiencing in the army because I was no longer in a training environment. First of all, I would report for physical training Monday through Friday at 6 A. M. then report to work at 9 A. M. And the work day usually ended at 4:30P. M. Afterwards, I would be free to do as I pleased with the rest of my day plus my weekends. This was the time I was able to run to the dry cleaners or to get a haircut or just go out to a restaurant for dinner if I didn’t feel like eating at the dining hall.
This new found freedom I had was interesting I wasn’t use to having any free time to do anything I wanted to do. Next, in February 1999, we would be notified that we would need to prepare for our deployment. This would be my first deployment and one that I would never forget. In March, we got on a c-17 transport plane and flew to Germany then to Albania where we would continue to prepare for what we were going to face during our deployment. After about a month in Albania my unit Blackhawk helicopters and flew to nearby Macedonia so we could continue to stage our movements into Kosovo.
By doing this we were hoping to help and free and restore peace to the natives that had been going through hellish treatment from the Serbian army. I remember when we drove out of Macedonia and into Kosovo there were bullet filled buildings and people standing on the side of the road asking for food and water and cheering as they knew we were to help them out. When we reached our base camp, called Camp Bond Steel, one noticed it was big, open, grassy, and hilly area with some dirt roads through it. As we got to our assigned area we would had to put up some tents and cots so and that we would have a place to sleep.
The first mission we were assigned was to do a foot patrol in a small town were we met with some of the locals to find out if there were still any Serbian soldiers still in the area. While talking with the locals they shared their stories about what they had been through. They were even able to point out an area were the Serbian army had dumped the bodies of some of the men that they killed from the village. The site and smell of this mass grave made me very nauseous and was something that I would never forget. After that the missions didn’t get any easier.
My next mission put me in the line of fire as I went into a mine field to save a young boy that had stepped on a land mine and he had injured his leg. Many things about this deployment were difficult for example, we moved into an old government building and as we were checking the building we came across several rooms that had been used in torturing Albanian government officials. You could still see blood splatter on the walls and ceiling and on chairs that were used you were also still able to smell the death in the air.
After we got done with the government building our time in Kosovo was up and it was time to head home. Once I got back home I started to date a series of women. The first girl was Rachel I met her while I was home on leave after getting back from Kosovo. We meet at a music store. I was complaining about a price of a cd that I could have bought in Kosovo for half of the price and she said,’ Why didn’t you buy it there then,” I response with, “Because they didn’t have a credit card machine there. After she got off of work that night we went out for drinks and spent the whole night talking. It was an amazing night! Rachel and I were attached at the hip for the remainder of my leave. As time went by however, it was hard for us to stay together because I was in North Carolina and she was in New Jersey Then in March of 2000 while home on a weekend pass my cousin introduced me to her friend Melinda. It was love at first sight! We would talk on the phone at least once or twice a day, and when I could I come home for a weekend here and there.
In June I thought we could save more money so I went out and bought an engagement ring and headed home to ask her to marry me and, she said yes. So I headed back to North Carolina to continue to set the wedding plans and to buy a house. On July 3rd we got married and a week later she moved down. Things were up and down the first couple of weeks because work had been keeping me busy and Melinda didn’t know anyone here so she was a little bit lonely and home sick so I sent here home for a week so that she could see family.
That made things better for a little bit but I started to realize that either one of us was happy anymore I started to avoid coming home after work and she was always on the internet or phone with her parents so after three months we decide it be best if she just go back home. I was heartbroken that it had come to this. We had so many good times together but when we started to live together we started to notice little things about each that didn’t come out when we were talking on the phone.
Shortly, after Melinda went back to New Jersey I turned around and sold the house as it held so many memories for me. Melinda and I decided at Christmas that we would file for divorce. A month after the divorce I started to drink heavy and slipped into a bout of depression. First, I started to talk to my Chaplin about it and that seemed to help for a little bit. In April I started with having flashbacks and the depression was back again. I would drink almost every day that seemed to keep the flashbacks and nightmares at bay but that turned out to be a short solution for my problem.
One weekend while drinking I took a knife and cut my wrist lucky for me my roommate walked in and got me to the hospital were i seen someone from mental health and was admitted to the mental health unit were i got helped with the depression. The doctors there suggested that I see a therapist to talk about what was going on so I did. Seeing the therapist worked for about two months then again I was back to drink but this time the drink wasn’t enough to help suppress the flashbacks and nightmares so I started using street drugs like cocaine.
The feeling that cocaine gave me was enough to help me get through the days and nights but once again I hit another low point and tried to kill myself again and again I was up on the mental health floor but this time they held me for three weeks and ran several test and that’s where they discovered I was suffering from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) at this point the army felt the best thing to do was to have me medically retired. So after going in front of a board I received an honorable discharge.
Some people would think that having a baby, getting married, or even getting their driving license as their life’s most changing experience, all of which I have experienced. However, unless one would be able to say they have been around and have seen what I have seen and gone through the heartache and the emotional stress that I had in the army. I am sure one could concur and understand why I have picked this as my life changing experience