Philosophy 101. Seemed like a class that could maybe provide me some answers to the many questions in my heart and head, or maybe just a different perspective. There were about 20 or 25 students in the class. Most of them wearing expensive fashionable clothing with North Face backpacks, Patagonia Gore Tex jackets, and Burkenstock sandals. I was dressed in faded Levis with a chew can ring in the back left pocket and torn knees, a tee shirt, hiking boots and my army field jacket with my combat patch.
The saying goes, "There are those who can pay (or more like their parents can pay) for a degree from Westminster, and those that are poor enough to be eligible for Pell Grants, student loans, etc. The money folks drove the BMW's, Mercedes', Land and Range Rovers , Jaguars, etc, while we drove beat up pickup, old rusted jeeps, VW Vans, economical Japan made rice rockets...or walked and /or biked to school.
I was the guy in the 1981 Ford F250 Tallboy edition with a 3 speed plus a granny manual transmission. The truck bed was 8 ft long, the lift was about mid-thigh height with 16.5" off road tires, sufficient rust to show I was country, but not so much to make it look like it should be on it;s way to the landfill. And on my raven black heavy duty oilfield steel bumper was painted two words in bright white: NO REGRETS! This was a message to bitch (see Gulf War Journal under War heading for reference), to the Gulf War and my new attitude towards life and everyone else in it around me.
I felt pretty uncomfortable and out of place when I sat down that morning. I got out a new notebook and a mechanical pencil and took a quick threat assessment of the room . I looked around me, but no one seemed to be aware of their surroundings or who was next to, in front if or to the side of them.
The professor began class with the normal introduction of himself and what philosophy meant to him. I had had the past year to contemplate a lot of philosophy, and before I knew it, I was back in the sandbox, in the heat, driving through battlefields where bodies and body part lie strewn across the sands like seeds scattered by the wind with the hope that something beautiful and great could come later from all of this. I pretty much just zoned out for the rest of the class thinking about the big litter box where the towel headed ones reside.
I went home after class and made a pot of coffee. It had been just a bit too much and a bit too soon. I had returned from War on May 17, and now I was back in college on August 19. 3 months had passed, 90 days or so, and I was supposed to be fine now, right? I should have toughed it up by then since it was all in my head anyway, right? Ya it was in my head. The nightmares were still there, I still slept with a gun, I jumped every time I heard a "bang" like a backfire from a vehicle or firecracker and civil service sirens (like air raid sirens) made my heart beat fast and brought back the feelings of helplessness and terror. I still had a lot of the bad stuff from the desert in my head and I didn't know that I needed help or had any idea what kind of help to get.
Days were sometimes quite difficult to get through. I was just this guy trying to get on with my life, but I wasn't sure what I needed to do to accomplish this.
There were many nights when I could not sleep. I would grab my rucksack, a sleeping bag, a mat and a bottle of something strong, and drive to a trailhead in the mountains, hike until I found a spot I liked, and would spend the night there under the stars. I did this all seasons of the year, even in snow storms.
I would also spontaneously drive to my parents house in Wyoming and sleep there. I would sometime leave my house at 1 or 2 am, drive the hour and a half, and sleep in my old room, in my old bed. Being at home, hanging out with my parents and family helped me calm down and feel better.
I also found that running, biking and exercising in the outdoors helped clear my head and brought some peace...at least temporarily.
I was extremely lucky that second year back that I met a goofy, fun-loving, cool, confident and kind guy named Danny. Danny taught me to rock climb, literally showing me the ropes.
I found that there was something parallel about putting on your harness, climbing shoes, helmet, organizing the gear rack and tying into the rope that was similar to getting ready for battle. Rock climbing also involved an aspect of danger, what we called, "calculated risk". We knew the hazards, and took steps to mitigate some of the dangers. I also like having a "battle buddy" there, with me, relying on me to watch his back, and he doing the same. Plus there was the high of going beyond what you think you mentally and physically can, and feeling like you cheated death.
...TO BE CONTINUED