Once a week we visit Quora, an amazing question and answer site, for military related questions. This week's question:
Michael Nguyen, Ramadi, '07-'08; Al Asad, '09
Not even close.
What you don't experience is the training, the hazing, the being the guy on the bottom of the totem pole. You don't feel the sweat, the grime, the agony of your muscles giving out, but you have to keep going.
You don't witness the grown warriors sobbing on the phone in a box in the desert because their wife is leaving them and taking the dog. The same guy who five hours ago was yelling at you to keep formation and stay alert is now crying like a child who lost his mother.
You don't see the moments after you get home when you visit a friend in the hospital and both his legs are gone. You wonder what he is going to do after this. Then you realize it's better you don't.
You don't see the guy who came back from Afghanistan and had to pick up the pieces of his buddy because they didn't bring body bags for whatever reason. His wife pops bubble wrap while he's asleep and he freaks out, draws a gun, and points it at her.
You don't fall victim to the ineptness of the bureaucracy, the politicizing of every action you take, the balancing act on the razor-edge that is standard operating procedure and you can't fall off because doing so either gets people killed or lands you an NJP, court martial, or prison.
You don't feel the alienation when you come back home. Sure, everybody nods, gives you your space, realize you did something noble, but it sure as hell doesn't feel noble. It just feels like the world kept moving when you were gone, and nobody stayed back to wait for you.
Finally, you feel that deep, deep sorrow. It persists for years after you're done. Every time you pick up a newspaper and find out that the place you were in just turned worse, and more people are dying. You wonder if you ever did anything. If you ever truly "served" anything but political and likely business interest.
Video games are entertainment. Real life is...real. For better, and for worse.