Before now poetry has taken notice
Of wars, and what are wars but politics
Transformed from chronic to acute and bloody?
from "Build Soil"
Robert Frost

Thursday, March 01, 2007

War Cocaine

There's a rush that comes on the heels of significant events here.

After the IED explodes, or the RPG whistles overhead, or the shot cracks past, there's a moment of panic as you process the fact that you are still alive- that this time, they missed you. After that seconds hesitation, the rush hits.

No one really knows what it is, exactly, but we all feel it. It's physical. It's emotional. For some, it's spiritual.Some say it's endorphins or adrenaline; some say it's rage, or hate, or joy. Some say it's safety- the knowledge that Someone is watching out for you. It's different for everyone, but it's always there.

For me, the rush is mostly exhilaration. It's a feeling of invulnerability. I've heard the unforgettable sound of an RPG somewhere very, very near my little sector of space, and stood a little taller yelling "Missed me, you bastards!" as I spin the turret and look for the shooter.

The first time I got blown up, I had to remind myself to get up and look around for the trigger man or possible gunmen set to take advantage of the confusion. I felt like I was floating through a world where time stood still. There's something about looking directly at an artillery shell and seeing it vanish with a sharp crack and rush of dust and debris that changes you. My brain was yelling at me "This isn't normal! You shouldn't be alive and thinking right now!", and my body was yelling back "Well, I'm definitely alive, so hoist your doubting ass up into the turret!"

I've never felt more alive than I do in the moments after a near miss. I feel the same way after a big jump skiing, or after jumping off a bridge, but here the feeling is magnified a hundredfold. It's incredible when you do something that you shouldn't live through but do.

Some might call me sick, or crazy. I assure you that I am sane, and very much alive.


  1. An intimidating insight about combat. Certainly those who have not been there cannot fully appreciate what you describe. I would think it best not to become addicted to that rush. Thank you.

  2. Maybe it's youth! No, I think it must be part of our survival instinct. It helps you get the job done. I mean, getting shot at isn't fun so there has to be a reason to go back out there and get shot at again. Or blown up. (and believe it or not, I've actually experienced it myself!)
    But I agree with the historian...dont get addicted to it!

  3. Anonymous1/3/07 16:42

    My goodness! And Jim always told me he was doing "missions and stuff-- nothing major, babe, don't worry!!"

    AH! I knew I was worried for a good reason.
    You are most certainly in my prayers daily....

  4. Anonymous1/3/07 17:15

    Probably an inappropriate comment...but awesome!!

  5. Anonymous1/3/07 18:46

    my heart was pounding as I read that. Keep your head down, son.

  6. Anonymous1/3/07 19:01

    Congratulations ! Maybe you should consider publishing your stories when you get back home...

    Awesome writing under the harsh conditions you're living in.

    I've got one word: Respect!

  7. I know the feeling man, why is it we get addicted to such horrible stuff? A small part of what PTSD folks are suffering is withdrawl from that addiction which is always lurking in the back of your head. They're out there looking for meaning, that color and don't know what they are looking for when they got home. So they try finding replacements, drinking, anger and spend years yearning for that feeling not knowing what it is. Be careful man and congrats again!

  8. Anonymous1/3/07 20:11

    I have had a reoccuring nightmare since I was a little girl of being surrounded in darkness and hearing the "thoomp" of enemy warfare. In the dream I run mad, hoping to dodge the weapons before they hit the ground in bursting flames around me. I often think of you and of all the men and women at war on those nights that I wake up from that terrible dream. I'm relieved to hear that you are fine and in good spirits.

  9. Anonymous2/3/07 08:32

    All - if you haven't read it yet, immediately buy COL Dave Grossman's new book "On Combat". It addresses combat elation, depression, PTSD, etc and has a ton of interviews - this blog entry could have come straight from the book. I just finished it, and Grossman "gets it".

  10. Anonymous2/3/07 09:10

    It's an adreniline rush and fight or flight. It happenes in any situation like this. It's what keeps the guy standing, throwing rounds downrange has rounds are being thwon back at him.

    I don't know if they teach it to you in training, they didn't in 1983. But we learned about it at the police academy here in the 1st CivDiv. "Stand and Fight" is the term they use. You can fight after being shot. You must fight after being shot.

    There is also the phenomonon of tunnel vision. The world collapses around you and you zero in on the threat even during a high stress incident. Police do it in fights, car chases, gun battles, etc. It is a physiological reaction to stress and danger.

  11. Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 03/02/2007
    A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention.

  12. Good Friday morning TD !
    You are an outstanding writer ! You describe it so well, it is easy to visualize it !
    Adrenaline rushes, htat feeling of sweet heady power, of being alive, invulnerable, are indeed addictive !
    Do I sense a law enforcement career beckoning after you come home safe and sane and sound ??? With maybe being a writer on the side ???
    Blessings for you -- be safe...

  13. Anonymous2/3/07 12:50

    "There is nothing as exhilirating as being shot at and missed."
    -- Winston Churchill, when he was a news correspondent in the Boer War

  14. Stay Safe Brother

    Everything for a reason, my friend.

    It is often said that God only gives us what we can handle, nothing more. There is therefore in all occurrences, meaning and all actions a conclusive lesson.

    I suppose we spend a significant part of our lives trying to determine the purpose of our creation. Yet we only find truth and discovery in the gravest of situations. That seems odd at first, but makes sense upon further examination; it is in that moment we receive our greatest revelation and begin to encroach on that hidden purpose.

    I for one, look forward to the day when you tell us you are home. For that will be the greatest affirmation of your divine protection; then it will be time to reflect and embark on a new journey.

    You and your brothers stay safe; for in you is our hope and dreams for a better future. There is no greater love shown then that by a generation of patriots willing to risk all for their fellow man. We are forever indebted.

    Drop me an email when you’re done dodging the Derka man.

  15. you are an amazing writer... congratulations on winning the milbloggies contest :)... sending much love your way... -Krissy

  16. Anonymous2/3/07 20:50

    Yep, Been there and felt that. It was a long time ago in Vietnam, but I still remember the rush. Whatever causes it, hormones, chemicals, or ?? it's there.

    Good on ya TD. I'm behind you and all our warriors in Iraq all the way. Keep your head on a swivel and stay safe.

  17. It can only be defined as "The Rush". Comes in dozens of different feelings, but it is The Rush. Kudos on the award. I count on your take on things as I diqest my days intake. You are doing it right. AND!! Thank you for your service!
    nuf sed

  18. Anonymous3/3/07 19:46

    Well, my friend, I envy you the rush. And also I must admit to you, though this will only happen once, that I missed you briefly the other day. Ya know, in that "Gee, I wish there was someone here that I could be completely and utterly boneheaded with" kinda way.

    Keep up the good blogging and keep getting missed by RPGs and whatnot.

  19. Anonymous4/3/07 16:48

    Just found, and bookmarked, your blog. Vivid - and powerful descriptions...

  20. Anonymous4/3/07 16:54

    Humans are the apex of the apex and it must be for a reason, or it would not be. To try to deny or squelch any part of our natural selves is an interesting phenomenon of humans. I think humans must always be vigilant of doing anything too much, but God created us thus. We are in the process of learning how to be better at everything.

    I think the key is your awareness and willingness to hold it up to the light. Your writing is quite good, and so you are blessed with a gift. Please use it often, you share so much when you do.

    Thank you for your service dear Soldier, from every part of my heart. You are prayed for each time you are thought of and you are thought of often.

  21. Anonymous4/3/07 23:05

    From A Really Old Grunt.

    Been there done that; don't sweat the naysayers, just keep on keepin' on -- and Stay Alert!

    You do good work!

  22. I experience the anger and not the exhilaration. My typical reaction is the thought, “What dumb %$@*#^ was stupid enough to shoot at me?” Then I begin to use the tools available to explain Darwinism to him.

  23. Anonymous6/3/07 06:13

    No-one - but no-one looks at an artillary shell exploding and stays alive - I thought this post was just BS - someone who talks the talk but ...

  24. Anonymous6/3/07 14:19

    Anon, How much time have you spent in the box?

    The rush is just as real when an IED go's off or when young sunni males are hurling bricks through your windshield.

  25. "A small part of what PTSD folks are suffering is withdrawl from that addiction which is always lurking in the back of your head. They're out there looking for meaning, that color and don't know what they are looking for when they got home. So they try finding replacements, drinking, anger and spend years yearning for that feeling not knowing what it is."

    The above was a too true statement for me when I cam back to the world.

    I never did find what I had left behind, well except that my buds who came home before me, but not on their two feet were waiting for me in my dreams.

    I went nearly ten years, causing my life to be very, very hard and made the lives of my family and friends hard also.

    Don't let it happen to you.

    Get help if you need it, but don't wait for you to understand that, take others advice, I waited way to long before someone made me get help.

    Continue the Mission.

    Papa Ray
    West Texas

  26. If you'll permit a know-nothing's pov, I seem to recognize my own dim reflection's of what you describe in situations such as a biker gang deciding they're going to wait outside and kill your band and somehow your band wins, or even those moments when the music you're playing is clicking and a thousand revelers are fixed within the movement of your fingers, or when your first child is cut emergency cesarian section from your wife's womb and placed in your arms - it's life focused to the NOW and brooking no B.S. distractions. Just keep in mind that it's a part of life, not the purpose of life.

    Keep your head about you, come home and have your child placed in your arms and see if I'm not too far off.

  27. Anonymous7/3/07 00:56

    I'm reminded of what the late Karl Wallenda said about his high-wire act: "On the wire, that is life. The rest is waiting."

  28. Go get 'em tiger. Swing that turret and send destruction back at our enemies. Thanks for what you do for all of us.

  29. Anonymous7/3/07 19:37

    So when you come home, you're going bungy-jumping with me, right? I promise it's really fun. =D

  30. Anonymous said...
    No-one - but no-one looks at an artillary shell exploding and stays alive - I thought this post was just BS - someone who talks the talk but ...

    Never been blown up by an IED, I see, or else you wouldn't be so doubtful.

    Be careful not to judge people and their experiences when you have never experienced the same.


  31. No-one - but no-one looks at an artillary shell exploding and stays alive - I thought this post was just BS - someone who talks the talk but ...

    Because you've been hit by artillery and know, right?

  32. I blogged this and will probably post it aroud to some of the other blogs where I have posting privledges.

    The Rush - War Cocaine

    My war stories are much tamer.

    Simon - Tonkin Gulf Yacht Club '66

    BTW I cover PTSD extensively. This might be of interest:

    Cannabis is the Best Medicine

    Of course it is illegal and you will be tested. Here is what they did in America's Civil War:

    The Soldiers Disease

    The most important thing about fixing this problem, once you get back to the world, is anger management. Anger is not a given. It is a choice.

    Also note that long term PTSD is genetic.

    Fear memories, the amygdala, and the CB1 receptor

    PTSD and the Endocannabinoid System

    I had to stop being angry at ANYTHING for 3 years to get it under control. Now it is at least moderately smooth sailing.

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