The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Afghanistan war veteran copes with war’s after-effects

    When I first met Jeremy, it was my first day at a new job — the midnight shift at the Greensboro UPS hub. Like the timid newcomer I was, I showed up for work some 20 minutes early, after a week of hilariously outdated training videos had successfully made me afraid of losing my newly found employment. I waited at the time card machine in my work area, PD-2, stretching and hydrating as per the videos’ recommendation. My assigned trainer, Rufus, showed up some 15 minutes later.

“I’ve got to warn you, there’s a guy in PD-2 who might mess with you,” said Rufus. “But he’s a good guy. He just likes to mess with people.”

I told him I didn’t mind — I had survived the horrors of high school as a gangly, acne-ridden shrimp, after all. I figured I’d heard just about every combination of swear words and insults known to man. My supervisor at the time, Joel, was the next to arrive. We shook hands, introduced ourselves, and went through all of the typical pleasantries. Joel, too, gave me an ominous warning of this foul-mouthed member of PD-2.

Then Jeremy showed up.

I admired Jeremy as soon as I met him. He was unwilling to bow down to the artifice and authority of our countless bosses; he said things that all of the rest of the truck loaders wanted to say, but didn’t dare to. Most of all, he demanded respect, and for that alone, I respected him.

As the weeks came and went, my nervousness about losing my job slowly dissipated. I began to pay more attention to the more intricate workings of PD-2. Most of the time, Jeremy was a leader among our group of loaders. Some days, he would lash out at supervisors or coworkers who he felt were slacking or dragging down the department. And on rare occasion, he would let anger get the best of him.

Jeremy’s girlfriend is a student at UNCG. She’s got a full schedule, and shares an apartment with him and their two pit bulls, Lola and M.J. Some nights, she would get wrapped up with schoolwork, and would have to pick up Jeremy late from work. I offered to give him a ride back to his place one night, and the real conversation began.

First, he apologized to me for his potentially offensive comments at work. I was thrown off: how could such a brazen personality also have the humility to apologize?

“I’m just so blunt from being in the military,” Jeremy said. “I mean they tell you how it is. If you’re a piece of s***, you’re a piece of s***, and they’re gonna tell you. They don’t bulls***.”

He went on to say that sometimes he overreacts to stressful situations. Then he told me that he’s an Afghanistan War veteran — infantry.

A few weeks later, I mustered up the guts to ask him for a series of interviews. He again surprised me by agreeing, and further surprised me with his brutal honesty during the interviews. Some parts of the interview had to be cut from publication due to the disquieting and graphic nature of his experiences.

Disclaimer: Jeremy is not meant to represent the whole, or even majority, of young war veterans, nor of military personnel in general. This is simply one young man sharing his experiences, thoughts, and views. With respect for his rights in mind, and to protect his identity, Jeremy and The Guilfordian have cooperatively decided to keep a first-name basis.

Paul: As an opening question: was your overall experience in the military service positive?

Jeremy: Oh, yeah. I loved every bit of it. It helped me grow up in so many different ways. It’s another form of college, pretty much.

P: You seem like you’re much older than you are.

J: Yeah, I mean, I don’t feel it (laughing). The military is hard, but it is an amazing livelihood. You are taken care of.

P: How did you go from a combat situation to adjusting back to American life?

J: It was hard. It was definitely hard… Be more specific.

P: Okay. You know, you take off the 100-pound weight that you’ve been carrying everywhere, you put on a T-shirt and shorts, and you’re expected to act like this is sort of just, just — get reacquainted with…

J: They have transition classes for that. You go through probably a month and a half, two months, of transition classes before you go back to civilian life. That’s what it’s called in the military. You go talk to people — counselors, if you need to. They help you find a job.

The more we spoke, the more intrigued I became. Jeremy told me that he believes he may be suffering from symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). As we continued, his at-work behavior became more and more understandable. I quickly realized that these interviews were going to be a learning experience for me.

P: Okay, so you’re back here in the states, you’re back to civilian life. And you find yourself still sort of in that jump from calm to “rage” mode, as you put it. Which, if we’re going on the assumption that you’ve experienced or are experiencing symptoms of PTSD, means that these are stress reactions, basically. You feel stressed, and that’s your reaction.

J: I mean I’ve always had an anger problem, but it’s never been this bad. It was never that bad until I got home. Then I noticed a huge change in how I am.

P: So, apart from the actual moment when you’re reacting to stress, how do you typically cope with stress?

J: It has to be something pretty big to stress me out. I mean, the little s*** doesn’t bother me anymore. Just cause there’s bigger things in life to worry about. And a lot of people will think it’s the end of the world, or it’s a terrible thing. I mean don’t get me wrong, it’s bad, but f*** it. S*** happens. That’s just how I view life now, ever since. S*** happens.

Jeremy described feeling anxious and jittery when he heard certain sounds as well.

J: Yeah, and you just go back into that mode. It just takes time. Time is everything.

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