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Heaney, E. (2013). Two Stories of War. Fort Da, 19(2):57-62.

(2013). Fort Da, 19(2):57-62

Two Stories of War

Elizabeth Heaney, M.A.

These short stories are about the impact of war. They are a conversation between those that went to war and those that await their return. These voices belong to the many soldiers that have to speak of difficult and sometimes unbearable feelings and thoughts, and the voice of one therapist who has chosen to listen and bear witness. These stories are nonfiction accounts of exchanges with soldiers (their names, ranks, and identifying information changed to protect privacy and confidentiality) excerpted from a forthcoming book, Soldiers.

“My Closet”

“I'm not crazy, ma'am.”

Corporal Springer repeats this phrase again and again while he tells me the odd things he feels compelled to do. He checks his refrigerator a hundred times a day, even though he knows exactly what's in it. While driving, he scans the side of the road for bombs or hidden enemies. He feels instant, rageful frustration if he has to wait in line for any reason at all, so he avoids grocery stores and home improvement stores. Since crowds make him nervous, he skips going to movies or to the mall. Stadiums or arenas are out of the question. He doesn't like having to interact with people, so he works as a landscaper, spending his days alone and silent.

After confessing each of these difficulties, Springer looks at me with his piercing blue eyes and repeats, “I'm not crazy, ma'am.”

I assure him I understand: he's not crazy. He's doing the things soldiers typically do when PTSD is scrambling their inner world. He's trying to feel safe while his neurological system is telling him danger is immense and immediate.

It's been seven years since Springer was deployed into Baghdad, at the very beginning of the war when the killing was crazy and out of control. He describes countless days when he and his buddies were fighting hard, never knowing who the enemy really was.

[This is a summary or excerpt from the full text of the book or article. The full text of the document is available to subscribers.]

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