Rod Dreher

I had expected to write you tonight from our apartment in Philadelphia, but it took so long to get the mechanical stuff resolved with Julie’s car today (busted air compressor, not vital to repair today) that we got a late start north out of Knoxville. We tired out in Staunton, Va., and decided to call it a night here. I’ve had a stressful day, and arrived in town in an ultra-crabby mood.
The kids are super-finicky eaters, and the one thing they’ll agree to eat is quesadillas. We stopped at a Taco Bell; my stomach is so acidic from the stress of driving, and all the coffee I’ve been drinking, that I stepped outside to make a hotel reservation on the iPhone while Julie fed the kids. When I walked in, there was an odd-looking young man talking to Julie and the kids. He was blond, with a short blond beard, wearing camo pants and a hat that said “US Paratroopers). He was leaning in a little too close, and it looked like there was something wrong with him.
As I approached, he pulled down the collar of his T-shirt down to show the boys a scary scar on his chest, about five inches long and an inch across. He told them he got it on his last day in Baghdad. He spoke slower than normal, with a bit of a slur.
“Where were you stationed?” I asked.
“Which time?” he said. “I did three tours. The first time I was in the Green Zone at that river I can’t remember the name of. The second time I was about a hundred miles out of Baghdad. The third time, when I got shot, I was all over Baghdad.”
I could see that this poor soul was really messed up. He had sweet eyes, but they were muddied. Julie later told me that he had apologized to the kids for the way he talked, saying he’d had a head injury in Iraq.
“After everything that happened to me after I got back, I have to say I wish they’d have left me laying there in Iraq,” he said. “My wife left me. Took the kids. Said I’d changed too much. I lost my house too. I can’t get a job because nobody will take a chance on me. The Army said that with my head injury, I’m a loaded weapon. I tell them if I’m so dangerous, how come the state of Virginia still lets me carry my guns? How come they let me have a concealed weapon permit?”
I was getting uneasy about now, and said we had to get to the hotel, which had the virtue of being true. The sad young man told the kids goodbye, smiled at the boys, and said, “Hey fellas, remember one thing: Hoo-ah!
No day I’m going to have this week or any week is likely to be as bad as every day that soldier is going to live for the rest of his life.

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