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Today... by Marco Cuevas (USN 2001-2015 (OEF 2009-2010)

It’s been almost 7 years since returning from Afghanistan... Today is hard. Nothing prompted it, nothing startled me, and nothing can stop it when it starts, at least nothing I have figured out yet.Still getting my bearings of what my new position would be and the command structure I was going to fall under, the front gate to my base was attacked, my only solace was the Kevlar around me, the bunker I was in and the M-16 I carried. I hadn’t even met the people I was going to be working with yet. I was 25 years old when I sat down with a lawyer to draft my will... the gravity of my voluntary act finally sinking in. I turned 26 before I deployed... “Would I make it to 27?” crossed my mind more than I can count; and it was only day 3 of more than 270 left.

A soldier holding a flag in Iraq - photo courtesy of Military.com

By in large, my deployment was moderately uneventful save for several incidents: but this is not about them; this is about Today... The thoughts and feelings never go away. The memories and stories of people you knew never leave you. The acts of honor, valor, heroism you saw or heard follow you. There are countless other nuances and seemingly insignificant details of normally routine, often benign duties which craft the entirety of one’s memories. What is the hardest for me, more often than not, is what all of it stood for and what it means to serve. Forget the hate, the pop culture, the politicians, the money, the reasons why, the facts, the lies... NONE of it makes a difference. Our Brother’s and Sister’s make the difference, Our ideals matter, Our values are significant... Our heritage is why we are proud.When a fallen military member is laid to rest, a flag is presented to the next of kin...

“On behalf of the President of the United States, the [branch of service] and a grateful nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your son’s / daughter’s / husband’s / wife's honorable and faithful service and sacrifice.”

A grateful nation... many in society have forgotten how to act as part of a grateful nation. MSM perverts these stories and glorifies rebellion, dishonor, and disrespect. While these stories are not really the highlight of our society, the preservation of our Constitution (for which I fought) the First Amendment being part of it, allows for personal opinion.Upon returning, I kept focusing on being productive, keeping my mind occupied, pushing all the bad stuff out. Maybe that’s why my processing of deployment didn’t start until 6 years after getting back. Now I deal with this when it comes up. I see my wife and family and love where my life has been to get me here. I’m very proud of my service and continue to give myself in service to them, other veterans and my community.However, when Today happens... It’s very hard... you wont know I’m going through it. You don’t know I struggle to see my computer screen through the tears. You don’t notice me pull to the side of the road because I forgot what I was doing or where I was headed. You don’t see me avoid crowds. You don’t see my head on a swivel. You don’t see me hide my red face to avoid questions or sympathy. I don’t want sympathy, I don’t want to be known for my ailment. I want to be known and recognized for my work, not for how my past affects me. You don’t know what it means to be free they way a Veteran knows. You don’t know the cost of keeping you free... you don’t know how we still pay the price long after returning for you to enjoy the liberties available to you. You don’t know I would do it all again. You don’t know I would still die to protect you.Finally, to all my Brothers and Sisters, only you understand this:

"For those that will fight for it...FREEDOM ...has a flavor the protected shall never know." - L/Cpl Edwin L. "Tim" Craft, B Co 3rd AT's, Khe Sanh Combat Base, February, 1968

Today happens, tomorrow will be better.

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