The "Warriors Code of Honor" has come to the attention of the Idaho Department of the Military Order of the Purple Heart. Its author wishes to remain anonymous. We know this about him though – his experiences as an 18 year-old rifleman in an infantry rifle platoon of the U. S Army 7th Infantry Division in Korea and his experiences coming home led him to write this Code. He is also a Purple Heart Medal recipient and a life time member of both the Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH) and the Disabled American Veterans (DAV).
The reason the Warrior's Code of Honor is so important is because it needs to get out to as many Veterans as possible – especially those suffering with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Currently 22 Purple Heart Medal Recipients (10 Army, 11 Marine, 1 Navy), plus PTSD experts, testify that it helps combat veterans, Warrior's currently serving, and their loved ones to read it. Currently the Code is now being routinely handed out by the Veterans Administration in the greater Augusta Georgia area to Vets diagnosed with PTSD, with the National VA being petitioned to do so nation-wide. The same is true for the Augusta Wounded Warrior's Care Project. At Fort Gordon near Augusta the Code is being handed out to those awaiting discharge and to new recruits etc. with the Department of Defense (DOD) being petitioned to adopt it world-wide. To verify the truth of these statements you are invited to visit the FEEDBACK FROM COMBAT VETERANS section immediately following the Warrior's Code at www.militarycodeofhonor.com.
The author's reasons for writing the Code are as follows and in his own words and ought to sound very familiar to those of us who are Combat Veterans no matter what war we fought in. His reasons for writing it are as pertinent as the Code itself.
"I wrote it because my coming home expectation that things would be more or less the same was so unrealistic that it crashed and burned, along with my heart. This happened because: I had no idea that I was so emotionally numbed-up/shut down that I could not feel my feelings (how do you know you are emotionally damaged if you cannot feel your emotions?) ;
I had no idea that I had changed so much that my High School friends would now be merely acquaintances;
I had no idea that I came home an adrenaline junkie, which made me consider those who were not willing to engage in dangerous but thrilling activities, not OK people;
The only people I wanted to relate to were other combat vets. It is a fact of life, however, that in virtually every social circle, the numbers of authentic combat veterans are few and none. This was true in my case; consequently there was nobody I wanted to talk to. The feeling of isolation, of being apart from anyone, of being alone in a crowd, made me consider myself deficient for being that way. I had no idea that my way of being was not unusual for a combat vet, but the usual. And so on. In short, coming home was hell for me.
Thanks to the G. I. Bill and multiple, simultaneous part-time jobs, I graduated from university and became a successful professional by day, and alcoholic and junkie by night. I was so happy burning the candle of my life at both ends that it was a real shock to discover – in a rare moment of self-
honesty/self-awareness – I covertly contemplated suicide. I was stunned. I suddenly realized that I had to change my life or die.
I abandoned my profession and went native. I spent a year alone in the wilderness of Honey Island Swamp, vowing to stop stumbling thru life happy on the outside, but inside bowed over with guilt for living while friends died. I kicked "cold turkey" alcohol and drugs, and came out clean as a whistle. I have been that way ever since.
Over the years I often wished that I had read something like the Code to forewarn me what coming home might REALLY be like. So I sat down and tortuously, tearfully allowed the painful repressed coming home and the repressed combat memories hiding in the darkness of my gut, to come out into the sunlight of awareness and be re-lived/suffered thru. Each time I accomplished this dreaded act, something wondrous slowly, imperceptibly, happened to me. Calmness and tranquility grew inside, inversely proportional to the decrease in emotional pain. The less pain, the more serenity earned. In sum, my self-inflicted pain and suffering enabled me to not only write the Code, but also to earn an ever-increasing degree of peace of mind. This increase is still going on to this day, thus I can testify from personal experience that there is no top to the mountain of serenity.
It is my life desire that my words will forewarn combat veterans about the danger of coming home with un-realistic expectations. If they return with realistic expectations, all will be well. If they do not, they will be in hell.
Ancient wisdom teaches that to be forewarned is to be forearmed. I came home un-forewarned, was thus unarmed, in hell, and bleeding – shot thru the heart by un-realistic expectations. And on that bloody hook, thereby hangs this tale. "
THE WARRIOR'S CODE OF HONOR
As a combat veteran wounded in one of America's wars, I offer to speak for those who cannot. Were the mouths of my fallen front-line friends not stopped with dust, they would testify that life revolves around honor. In war, it is understood that you give your word of honor to do your duty – that is – stand and fight instead of running away and deserting your friends. When you keep your word despite desperately desiring to flee the screaming hell all around, you earn honor.
Earning honor under fire changes who you are. The blast furnace of battle burns away impurities encrusting your soul. The white-hot forge of combat hammers you into a hardened, purified warrior willing to die rather than break your word to friends – your honor.
Combat is scary but exciting. You never feel so alive as when being shot at without result You never feel so triumphant as when shooting back – with result. You never feel love so pure as that burned into your heart by friends willing to die to keep their word to you. And they do.
The biggest sadness of your life is to see friends falling. The biggest surprise of your life is to survive the war. Although still alive on the outside, you are dead inside – shot thru the heart with nonsensical guilt for living while friends died. The biggest lie of your life torments you that you could have done something more, different, to save them. Their faces are the tombstones in your weeping eyes, their souls shine the true camaraderie you search for the rest of your life but never find.
You live a different world now. You always will. Your world is about waking up night after night silently screaming, back in battle. Your world is about your best friend bleeding to death in your arms, howling in pain for you to kill him. Your world is about shooting so many enemies the gun turns red and jams, letting the enemy grab you. Your world is about struggling hand-to-hand for one more breath of life.
You never speak of your world. Those who have seen combat do not talk about it. Those who talk about it have not seen combat.
You come home but a grim ghost of he who so lightheartedly went off to war. But home no longer exists That world shattered like a mirror the first time you were shot at. The splintering glass of everything you knew fell at your feet, revealing what was standing behind it – grinning death – and you are face to face, nose to nose with it! The shock was so great that the boy you were died of fright. He was replaced by a stranger who slipped into your body, a MAN from the Warrior's World. In that savage place, you give your word of honor to dance with death instead of run away from it. This suicidal waltz is known as: "doing your duty. "
You did your duty, survived the dance, and returned home. But not all of you came back to the civilian world. Your heart and mind are still in the Warrior's World, far beyond the Sun. They will always be in the Warrior's World. They will never leave, they are buried there. In that hallowed home of honor, life is about keeping your word.
People in the civilian world, however, have no idea that life is about keeping your word. They think life is about ballgames, backyards, barbecues, babies and business. The distance between the two worlds is as far as Mars from Earth. This is why, when you come home, you fell like an outsider, a visitor from another planet. You are.
Friends try to bridge the gaping gap. It is useless. They may as well look up at the sky and try to talk to a Martian as talk to you. Words fall like bricks between you. Serving with Warriors who died proving their word has made prewar friends seem too un-tested to be trusted – thus they are now mere acquaintances. The hard truth is that earning honor under fire makes you a stranger in your own home town, an alien visitor from a different world, alone in a crowd.
The only time you are not alone is when with another combat veteran. Only he understands that keeping your word, your honor, whilst standing face to face with death gives meaning and purpose to life. Only he understands that your terrifying – but thrilling – dance with death has made your old world of backyards, barbecues and ballgames seem deadly dull. Only he understands that your way of being due to combat damaged emotions is not the un- usual, but the usual, and you are OK.
A common consequence of combat is adrenaline addiction. Many combat veterans – including this writer – feel that war was the high point of our lives, and emotionally, life has been downhill ever since. This is because we came home adrenaline junkies. We got that way doing our duty in combat situations such as: crouching in a foxhole waiting for attacking enemy soldiers to get close enough for you to start shooting; hugging the ground, waiting for the signal to leap up and attack the enemy; sneaking along on a combat patrol out in no man's land, seeking a gunfight; suddenly realizing that you are walking in the middle of a mine field.
Circumstances like these skyrocket your feelings of aliveness far, far above and beyond anything you experienced in civilian life: never have you felt so terrified – yet so thrilled; never have you seen sky so blue, grass so green, breathed air so sweet, etc. ; because dancing with death makes you feel stratospheric – nay – intergalactic aliveness.
Then you come home, where the addictive, euphoric rush of aliveness/adrenaline hardly ever happens – naturally, that is. Then what often occurs? "Quick, pass me the motorcycle" (and /or fast car, drag race, speedboat, airplane, parachute, big game hunt, extreme sport, fist fight, gun fight, etc.)
Another reason Warriors may find the rush of adrenaline attractive is because it lets them feel something rather than nothing. The dirty little secret no one talks about is that many combat veterans come home unable to feel their feelings. It works like this. In battle, it is understood that you give your word of honor to not let your fear stop you from doing your duty. To keep your word, you must numb up/shut down your fear. But the numb-up/shut-down mechanism does not work like a tight, narrow rifle shot; it works like a broad, spreading shot gun blast. Thus when you numb up your fear, you numb up
virtually all your other feelings as well. The more combat, the more fear you must "not feel. " You may become so numbed up/shut down inside that you cannot feel much of anything. You become what is know as "battle-hardened, " meaning that you can feel hard feelings like hate and anger, but not soft, tender feelings (which is bad news for loved ones). The reason that the rush of adrenaline, alcohol, drugs, dangerous life style, etc. is so attractive is because you get to feel something, which is a step up from the awful deadness of feeling nothing.
Although you walk thru life alone, you are not lonely. You have a constant companion from combat – Death. It stands close behind, a little to the left. Death whispers in your ear; "Nothing matters outside my touch, and I have not touched you…YET! " Death never leaves you – it is your best friend, your most trusted advisor, your wisest teacher. Death teaches you that every day above ground is a fine day. Death teaches you to feel fortunate on good days, and bad days…well, they do not exist. Death teaches you that merely seeing one more sunrise is enough to fill your cup of life to the brim – pressed down and running over! Death teaches you that you can postpone its touch by earning serenity.
Serenity is earned by a lot of prayer and acceptance. Acceptance is taking one step out of denial and accepting/allowing your repressed, painful combat memories to be re-lived/suffered thru/shared with other combat vets – and thus de-fused. Each time you accomplish this dreaded act of courage/desperation: the pain gets less; more tormenting combat demons hiding in the darkness of your gut -- which you can feel but cannot language, thus are out of sight below the level of awareness --- are thrown out into the healing sunlight of awareness, thereby disappearing them; the less bedeviling combat demons, the more serenity earned.
Serenity is, regretfully, rather an indistinct quality, but it manifests as an immense feeling of fulfillment/satisfaction: from having proven your honor under fire; from having demonstrated to be a fact that you did your duty no matter what; and from being grateful to Higher Power/your Creator for sparing you. It is an iron law of nature that such serenity lengthens life span to the max.
Down thru the dusty centuries it has always been thus. It always will be, for what is seared into a man's soul who stands face to face with death never changes.
WRITER'S NOTE (1)
This work attempts to describe the world as seen thru the eyes of a combat veteran. It is a world virtually unknown to the public because few veterans can talk about it.
This is unfortunate since people who are trying to understand, and make meaningful contact with combat veterans, are kept in the dark. How do you establish a rapport with a combat veteran? It is very simple. Demonstrate to him out in the open in front of God and everybody that you too have a Code of Honor – that is, you also keep your word – no matter what!
Do it and you will forge a bond between you. Do it not and you will not. End of story. Case closed.
I offer these poor, inadequate words – bought not taught – in the hope that they may shed some small light on why combat veterans are like they are, and how they can fix it.
It is my life desire that this tortured work, despite its many defects, may yet still provide some tiny sliver of understanding which may blossom into tolerance – nay, acceptance – of a Warrior's perhaps unconventional way of being due to combat-damaged emotions from doing his duty under fire.
Signed, a Purple Heart Medal recipient who wishes to remain anonymous.
Dedicated to absent friends in unmarked graves.