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Two weeks after the last shot

Two weeks ago I busted my chin up in a firefight in Afghanistan’s Kunar Province, today I’m writing this blog from a cubicle in Washington.

Transitioning from a combat zone back to normalcy can be hard and unpredictable.

Marine in Afghanistan

Cpl. Bryan Lett prepares for a patrol in Afghanistan.

I’m not writing about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, I’m writing about the transition from combat to a more standard military life, and I’m writing only about my experiences.

After many months deployed, it came down to what seemed to be a rushed transition.  I was in Afghanistan one day and Washington the next.

Decompression time did not exist, nor did the time to simply allow my mind to register the fact that I’m no longer in a combat zone. Even the ride home from the airport was off-putting and weird. I spent much of my deployment wishing I was home, however, when I finally got back, It no longer felt like home and I still don’t enjoy it. I would be more comfortable and at ease in Afghanistan.

The sights and sounds can drive me crazy, so loud and so busy. I got to a point in combat where I was focused on every sight, sound and smell without realizing it. The normal craziness of DC is too much for me to digest and process. I want to yell at everyone to stop moving and let me register my surroundings.

I deployed as an individual augment and not with a full unit, which I believe makes the transition harder. I went to Afghanistan on my own and returned alone. I don’t have a core group of guys to talk to about the deployment and shared experiences. I tend to walk around in a daze. I’ve had trouble focusing at work; my mind drifts off to combat related memories or horrors.

I’ve struggled with vivid nightmares and dreams since I returned, even as I write this, certain memories pop in my head. I get angered much easier than before I left. I don’t like people walking behind me, I find myself slowing down to let them pass or just turning around to put eyes on what’s going on. I like sitting where I can see the door or lookout a window.

I was out for dinner my first full day back and a helicopter flew by, I began looking around for my weapon, kevlar and flak jacket because my mind was certain the bird was landing and I needed to get on it. Just a few days ago I was at a funeral and when the 21 gun salute began, I jumped to the sky and then just about hit the deck. It’s these sights, sounds and dreams that play with my head.

I did sit down with a counselor a few days ago, and if my problems remain over the next few months then maybe I have longer term issues to deal with. I don’t think this will be the case, I think it’s natural to feel this way immediately after returning.

I did a video blog while I was deployed, so my family could see me, know I was ok, and see what I was doing.  However, before too long, the blog became my escape — my way to talk about my experiences and ease my own mind.

Watch The Afghan Blog by Cpl. Bryan Lett.

In my two weeks back I found just talking openly about these issues can go a long way and remind you that you’re not alone. Many, many Marines have deployed and dealt with what I am dealing with now.  Ways to deal with these emotions and feelings vary individual to individual. The gym has been a place of refuge for me. No one talks to me, no one bothers me, I can just escape and let my frustration out.

I would strongly urge any service member dealing with similar feelings to be open. Talk to people about the way you feel, and find activities that help you, whether it’s the gym or just hanging around friends. Don’t try and get through it on your own.

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  • cj

    Hey Cpl.Lett,

    Know how you feel, just retired out of the corp and have been too many bull rides, its hard dealing with so called normalcy, but extreme sports have kept me going, skydiving, base jumping scuba diving.
    Semper-Fi

  • Cmerriman1488

    they do. its called taps.

  • egg foo yung

    Wow, same experiences in 1969 except I was 17 days from last patrol with 3rd Recon team to civilian on streets of San Francisco. Curfews in Berkley because of riots, civilians hostile to vets, etc, etc., etc, for awhile life was more surreal than combat.. Best of luck brother – Semper Fi

  • Gunny Nun

    Sgt Lett,

    First I want to congratulate you on your promotion in February 2011.

    Thank you for sharing your experiences with the Marines — Your Marines. Our Marines.

    For me being in Iraq and transitioning back was difficult. But I rallied around the support of my family and friends. I learned more than I could ever imagine while I was deployed and those experiences changed my life.

    If you need any support from me, please let me know how I can help.

  • SSG Lonnie Watson (Army)

    I feel you bro. When I was there in Afghanistan I wanted to be home. Now a year later I want to go back. I had myself recalled out of retirement to go the first time (I had done my 20 yrs). How can I be so driven to do something that literally could kill me? I miss the comradeship, my friends, and doing the job.

    Lonnie

  • j c morris jr

    Marine, i write this to tell you , how envious i am of you and your service. I served during peacetime. just after the Vietnam war. I was considered one of the first volunteer force. I was shipped to 2/9 while it was on the west coast. 2 tours overseas, spent time in japan,Philippines,Korea,and of course Okinawa. I volunteered to be a grunt. we trained hard, in different jungles, and deserts. Stood down may times on the parade deck waiting for orders for minor conflicts going on, but never got the call. I ended up injuring my self in Okinawa, and wasn’t able to reenlist back into my mos. my batt xo offered me a waiver, to stay another 2 years, but i turned it down.My time as a grunt was gone.i was a sgt. when i got out. I even had problems just adjusting to civilian life. My chain of command was gone , my authority , was gone , my rank , which i worked so hard for was gone. I entered the job force as an aviation mech..everyone thinks i was a airwinger..no way i was grunt to the bone. MY problem was i was put into a position as supervisor. They thought a lot of me with my hard charging attitude. Eventually, i was demoted ,because of it. I expect everything to run in civilian life , like it did when it was in the corps. I was wrong, got into a lot of fights , expected people in my charge to do what i said. it caused me probs for years , even now i still , get that flush feeling from co-workers that don’t follow protocol. I just wanted to say that i understand!! the envy part, well i wanted to go to combat. It just wasn’t my karma !! the old saying , time heals all..Is true to some extent..But us Marines..we learn to improvise , and accomplish the mission. mine is to be a good father, and take care of my kid’s!!!Me i don’t need anything, except that i know, i was a good Marine , and shall be until i take my last breath. I know what honor ,and respect IS !!and Most Marines , past and present , have that for you…rember that!!! take time to heal !!! You did a good job Marine, you served your country…I hope any of this makes sense to you !!! Semper-Fi…. Sgt morris , wpns co , 81′s plt 2/9 79-85

  • jeramiah holck

    hey umm i need some help im seventeen turning eighteen next year umm im scared of wat im bout to do with my life and stuff wat should i be looking forward to any hints for me or suggentions

  • Bill

    Thank you for your service! Your dedication, courage and sacrifice is appreciated.
    -Bill-

  • joseph kratt

    I can’t tell you how close this hit home .I left Nam and with in a week we were in the “world” states they kept us for a week to settle down. so within two weeks + i was home. Lost so lost.I had a fungus all over me from sleeping on ground for a year, got on my wife “head n shoulders got rid of it in about a month.Everything he said I felt things moving to fast looking for rifle constantly watching over shoulder all the time.I was in a CAP unit 6/8 of Us I don’t remember there names or much of the good although I know there was.40 years later and sometimes i cry all daylong.Don’t really know why?Can’t shake what We/I did.To much killing I killed a 15 year old.I believe in Carma and now my son is a Border patrol I can’t shake the idea that I will get paid back by taking my son.two bronze stars one USA one Vietnamese.Venting is the best therapy but who yo surely not the VA be careful of who you vent to!

  • “Sarge” Groncki

    “Welcome Home”
    I am so happy to see the support you’re receiving!!43 yrs ago this month, I was at Con Thien(DMZ)nam. Besides the multiple shrapnel received there, Feb “68″ gunshots both legs at Khe Sahn. However the deepest wound I suffered was my mind. Booze, drugs,etc left me homeless & wandering for 15yrs. PTSD is a “REAL” disability. I spent decades talking about it every week at a Vet Center/VA Stratton. The Veterans Admin sent me notification 2 months ago that you, young Men, will no longer have to fight so hard to receive a “disability” rating for this crippling injury. Keep reaching out~keep talking!!
    Take it from this old geezer, IT WORKS!
    A site to check-WHI(welcome home int)Web:www.CtKcenter.org. A fantastic Free retreat for you Vets. Happy Birthday,Marine-235yrs strong!
    Honor,Courage,Commitment still “our” value…
    May God Bless You
    Sarge
    9th Marines

  • http://www.marines.mil Sgt. Sneden

    Bayley,
    Everyone is different. There is no way to tell how a person will be affected by their experiences on a deployment. I am good friends with Cpl. Lett and my husband has also been changed by his combat experiences. From my experience, I suggest that you be there to LISTEN when your Marine needs you, if he chooses to express his feelings to you. Don’t pressure him and most of all don’t add unnecessary stress on your relationship. You said he has a year before he deploys therefore don’t stress about it now. Support him while he is deployed and don’t vent to him about how hard you’ve got it at home waiting for him because I guarantee things will be significantly difficult for him too. Good luck. Semper Fidelis!

  • Bayley

    hey… i am dating a marine , he drieves the trucks and is beyond excited to go over, i am a airforce brat and my dad is out now but my cousin has gone over a few times and is currently stationed in japan. but i am worried and scared and many things all at the same time about him going over, i have about a year before he is maybe goiong over.. and i know that is weird but what should i expect iv seen it change my cousin alot he is harder and colder is this the same with just about everyone that goes over? my family wont talk about it with me because they know that i have lost many friends over there. i guess this is a plee for answeres what can i expect?

  • Rebecca

    I think these blogs are a terrific way of communicating reality. Thank you SO much for sharing from your heart, Bryan. As a mother, my heart hurts for you. My son is beginning his second week of Marine boot camp in San Diego. I’m proud of him. I had to learn to turn my own fears into proudness. What you wrote about has been my concern for all of those returning from oversea tours. I don’t think one soldier would have a problem relating to your story. We need to continue to pray for your mental wellness as we pray for your physical safety! God bless you and thank you for your service to this country, Bryan!
    Semper Fidelis!
    Rebecca

  • VPM of Brian

    My son is two days away from being shipped to boot camp. I am SO proud but also SO sad because I know he will never be the person he is now.
    He will be a Marine. And he absolutely feels it is his calling and I absolutely support him and believe it too. But it doesn’t make the emotions I am having any better. Anyway, the point I am trying to get to is I would like to see the military have a ‘boot camp’ for returning soldiers to make the transition from combat to civilian life a better one. It is the least that should be done to show support and thanks to all the men and women who have given so much, some with their life…..thank you. Semper Fi

  • Lisa

    Dear Marine,
    First, thank you for your service. I have a son at Parris Island right now. He will graduate November 5th. I just finished earning my psychology degree and hope to someday work with soldiers, who like you really only need someone to talk to. PTSD takes many forms, some mild some very frighting. I think by talking openly about your experiences you are not only helping yourself but also other soldiers. Keep up with your counseling and be good to yourself. Remember that there are people that love you and want to help you. Time and an open mind will heal you. Good luck and God bless you.

  • catherine

    Dear one, I will listen, I will give my heart, I see you. You are my son,my brother,you are my father. I cry for you.As you have taken your journeys you were not alone. God is with you and he will carry you to ware YOU want to go and who you want to be. My words may seem empty to you now but as you grow old with many that love you and thank-you and cherish you I hold you close to my heart and pray your will be filled with comfort and peace of mind
    .Give yourself patients and hand your troubled mind over to the most high. Words seem empty wish you could see my eyes.

  • Momma T

    Thank you for all you have done.
    Time heals all things.
    By writing and having the blog it will help all families of Marines for when there marine comes home. I want to share this with my Marines friends here so they will realize he may need time to readjust.
    Bless You and Thank You.

  • Miwukman

    Thank you for your service.
    My son is in the Corps and just got out of boot camp and is in MIT at Pendelton. I know he will probably end up going like you after his MOS training and I pray that he will be able to face these issues in the same way that you are. These things cannot held inside and I hope that you get used to being “home” ASAP.
    Semper Fi…

  • Charline

    Dear Marine,
    Thank you for your service to our Nation. Those of us who know and love someone in our Nations service value all you do. We are grateful for the freedom you insure for us and pray we can restore our nation to greatness and be worthy of your sacrifice.
    A Marine Mom

  • christine

    good on you bryan for haveing the courage to speak about something that iam sure a lot of you guys are going through.
    If people like you didnt do this, then i am sure a lot of service men would just struggle along alone suffering silently.
    Goodluck with your journey, may it finally get better for you, god bless
    kind regards chris newstead

  • David Coldwell

    Welcome Sir and thank U for your service! I understand what U going through! Nothing is the same being Home! U are not the only one going through this! Hang in there!

  • Lois

    please talk to someone..That is the best thing you can do..Ask for time to get adjusted. I will continue to pray for all the military..

  • Phil Mason (Cpl E-4 long time ago…)

    Welcome home brother….keep in mind it will get better with time and appreciate that some things never change.

    Semper Fi

  • Chris Gill

    Hey brother,
    I came back a few years ago, in almost the same way, in pretty much the same condition. It was about 8 months before I started to talk about it to anyone. After hearing a Vietnam Vet give a speech about how he had destroyed every relationship he ever had because he wouldn’t talk about it to anyone; I decided, then and there, that I was not going to be that guy. I wasn’t going to be 50 before I stopped carrying that stuff around. The past few years have been rough, but it only got easier with time. It sounds like you are off to a good start, keep talking about it. Many Vets hold it in out of fear of being misunderstood, but that’s absurd. Of course, people who’ve never been there won’t understand. It would be a like a man, blind from birth, trying to understand blue. Our loved ones don’t need to understand, they just need to relate in some way to what you are going through. The old school idea of silence has to go before the sons and daughters of another generation of Vets grows up with distant or absent fathers. God bless you Marine, hang tough. Semper Fi

  • HT

    May God bless you as you adjust to being home. Thank you for your service, the words “thank you” don’t seem adequate but I don’t know what else to say. I appreciate this blog entry very much. I’m glad you’ve found an outlet for your emotions, and are able to talk about it too!

  • ParaFrog

    Bryan:

    Your not alone out there although you were an augmentee which made your process more severe than others, you did your duty and your job. All those times coming back myself like you, were spent alone with no one to greet me.

    Journaling and expressing your experience on paper is very important so don’t stop. It helps us with PTSD and any returning Vet to memorilize and find peace in those deployments. Combat is a funny thing, we live on the edge so don’t expect it to just turn off. Rather, understand the triggers and make a journey to keep in the now, differentiate and understand….the confusion may never go away, but you’ll know what it means.

    Pain shared is pain divided…

    Semper Fi
    Mike

  • Mike Wesolowski

    Cpl. Lett-
    I wish you the absolute very best in your recovery from your wounds and the PTSD you are experiencing. You may not call it PTSD, but if you look up the VA’s definition, your picture will be next to the definition. I do not speak as one who suffers from it, but from someone whoexperienced a Father who suffered from it his entire life after two tours in Viet Nam with our brloved Corps as a Grunt. After his return, when he tried to see the VA, he was told that Viet Nam was not considered a war and he could not get help. (About 1970) Only after he retired from a Police Force did he seek help from the VA for PTSD. The feelings you describe are exactly how he acted and reacted his entire life and to this day. Please continue to see your counselor and seek out others that have shared your experience. The VFW, American Legion, the Marince Corps League are all great places to connect with your Brother and Sister Marines.
    I wish you Fair Winds and Following Seas and the best of luck.
    Semper Fidelis
    Mike Wesolowski, SSgt USMC (ret.)

  • Jane Weekley

    You have my sincere thanks and gratitude for your service. I am the Mother of a deployed Marine, So happy to have you home safe…again Thank You!
    Jane

  • Eric Brownell

    The transition from combat back to regular everyday life is not an easy road. It takes time, patience, and lots of pratice. The road is tough, but if anybody can pull though, it would be Cpl. Bryan Lett United States Marine Corps. You can do it! Semper Fi Marine!

  • Eric Gruss

    Great article. I sure hope your transition becomes easier as time goes on. Transitioning is something that the military definitely needs to address more so than they’re doing now. It’s difficult because I usually do not like to complain about something unless I have some sort of solution myself, but I am far from being a shrink and would not even know where to start. Hang in there Devil Dog.

  • Marshall

    It took me a long time to even realize there was something wrong with me. I just thought I was running as normal and that everyone else was different. After the first couple of years and a battery charge I finally figured out it was me. I didn’t get help but the process of me understanding that I was running at 100 mph at all times and not shutting off helped me to calm down. I still have the dreams and wake up when even the A/C turns on at night. All I can say is losing brothers and seeing these things over time will never be less painful but from time to time you will forget for short periods. During which you can be happy. Then you will remember and feel bad for knowing you forgot and it starts all over. Just know God is there and he helps. Semper Fi

    “Once a Marine, Always a Marine”

  • Bill Mattocks

    Welcome home, Corporal. Thank you for your service to our nation. I hope that as time goes by, and with help, you’ll find your balance and feel comfortable again. Semper Fi, brother.

    Bill Mattocks
    Former Sgt, USMC (1979-1986)

  • Diane Donovan

    First I would like to thank you for your service. Thank you Marine. I am glad you recognized you were battling a problem and sought help. Many did not and lost their lives not in battle or on foreign soil, but by their own hand after their return. I am sure you will overcome your current battle as recognizing and seeking help is the major hurdle to overcome. You still have a mission Marine. It is up to you, and other Marines like yourself, to help your brother Marines newly returned or returning to see the warning signs and assist them in seeking help. I wish you all the Best Marine. Thank you.

  • Daniel Amster, SGT, USMCR

    Cpl Lett, first off, WELCOME HOME. Thank you for your service. I am a Marine who served two tours in Iraq back in 03 and 05 – I can totally relate to your post here. I applaud your ability to be open about these things so soon. You say you are talking only about your experiences and not PTSD, but from my experience in two homecomings and then the aftermath, you speak of some of the symptoms of PTSD. I’m not a doctor nor an expert, but in my experience, this is what happened with me. I think it’s great that you have seen a counselor so soon, and can only hope that you continue to do so if you need to. I have recovered from most of my PTSD symptoms through the help of counselors and mentors and other veterans. There is no shame or weakness in asking for help. Thank you for being an example to other Marines who may be feeling the same way, and Semper Fidelis!

  • Dena East

    Thank you for publishing this. My nephew was just shot in Afhanistan two days ago. Thankfully the bullet when through his calf. He’s awaiting transport to Germany. I think this article might help him in dealing with things when he gets shipped back home also.
    Thanks again for serving our country and publishing this.

  • D. Phillips

    I have not served in the Armed Forces, however, I have a son scheduled to leave for Camp Pendleton June 27, 2011. Even prior to his birth, I valued the sacrifices the men and women have given for us and I just want you to know that I still do and always will. Thank you for what you have given. I wish you a speedy process of feeling some sense of normalcy now that you are on back on American soil. I hate that you have to feel this way and just know that there are those that do care. Thanks again for your service. I wish you all the best.

  • Donna Lord

    Cpl Lett….Thank you so much for serving our country so proudly. So many times we do not say it enough. Having a son that is currently serving in Afghanistan and having already served two previous tours in Iraq I wish there was more of a decompression time for you. I pray for you and the other Marines that come back to have peace with what you went thru during your deployment. Thank you so much and God Bless You

  • I Guenther

    Honestly, it doesn’t matter to me that you’re not writing about PTSD, only about your experiences and appreciate the fact that you are encouraging others to get help, talk, whatever it takes. As the mom of a Marine who is deployed right now, I can only be thankful that you are home and that you made it back safely. I wish you the best!
    May God bless you always!

  • Richard Cutting

    Cpl. Lett:

    Great piece you wrote here.

    I work with a Vets organization called Veteran Artist Program (VAP) in Baltimore, and I help run one of its subsidiaries called Vets On Sets (VOS). We are not an “art therapy” group, but rather we are dedicated to getting vets work in the film and TV business.

    You’re a good writer. While I realize you are still currently-serving, please feel free to get hold of me (you other Vets too !), if you want to look into the film and TV business in our area (Balto/DC).

    VAP is HQ’d in a loft in Balto where recently discharged Vets who are talented artists hang out and share experiences. Its a good and growing crew. Marines are welcome at VAP !

    Check us out, at:

    The POC at VAP is BR McDonald.

    Thanks for your service ! Hang in there.

    Cheers,
    Richard

  • SrA Jay Hernandez

    Feel ya man. Sometimes I wish I was back with our team in Afghanistan, Or at least all together in a green zone where we could relax and recoup at the same time. “Home” has never been more foreign for me. Take care man. Hope to see you sometime down the line.
    -Herni