Maybe the ex-wife was right…he should avail himself of the psychological testing and treatments at the VA facility. Mike is not assimilating into civilian life very well. In fact, if he didn’t get help soon, he may find himself spending some time in county lockup. One night there, after a bar fight two weeks back, was enough to convince Mike he didn’t want to make that place his permanent residence. That night in county lockup almost cost him his cushy job at the dealership as a top-notch sales rep. He did little there but show new cars to customers and collect a nice paycheck. Everybody wanted to buy a car from him. He sat on his couch and was thinking what he wanted for dinner that night when his cell phone rang. “Hello? I’m not sure if you….Who is this again? Oh….yes….yes…….I might be interested. It depends on what the questions will be. It can’t be anything where I have to give names of any of the men involved. I don’t do that. I will give examples. I’ll give my experiences and…..yes, that sounds reasonable. Well, let me think it over and I will get back to you. I appreciate you contacting me with this offer. As I said, I’ll think it over and let you know. I will….goodbye.”
Interesting offer from a local TV station, Mike thought. With Veteran’s Day coming up, they wanted to do a special on area Vets. Mike’s name was first on the list they wanted to contact. His interview would last ten minutes, a full seven minutes longer than anyone else. Of course, there would have to be ground rules for the interview. Mike didn’t want to get in the nitty gritty of what he went through as a U.S. Marine. There were some things better left unsaid like that one brother Marine who haunts Mike almost every night….it was a patrol like all the others in Iraq. It was September in 2012. Mike had been in-country about two months, on his second tour in Iraq, when he was taken from his normal squad and put in with these combat veterans, a man short due to one being wounded, who were going on night patrol. Night patrol is when most bad things happen. Whether it be sniper fire, RPGs or the cursed IEDs which seemed to be during daylight hours. Everything happened fast as they took machine gun fire from what was thought to be a bombed out building. The topside gunner was feeding fire from his 7.62 mm machine gun into the building. He got hit and Mike rushed to take his place when they had a large explosion outside the APC. Mike figured that had to be a RPG. Mike took the machine gun out of the dead gunner’s hands and tried to open fire. But, it seemed to have jammed. What Mike didn’t see was a Jihadist preparing another RPG to fire at them. Somebody down below jumped up to grab Mike and drag him down. Machine gun fire raked at them both. Mike was hit, as well as the hero who saved his life. They got backup support almost immediately and the insurgents were eliminated before they got off another RPG. But, the damage was done; the guy who saved Mike was killed.
Mike blamed himself for the death of that Marine who saved his life. That Marine made the ultimate sacrifice, the same Mike himself would have made. But, he continued to blame himself due to not following protocol when attacked. Mike was only supposed to rescue the wounded top gunner who died. He wasn’t supposed to fire a weapon he was only vaguely familiar with at a time like that. So,, he took full responsibility for his rescuer’s death regardless. Mike decided he would not relate that story on the TV interview, the story that haunted him now and will forever. He would instead relate the sheer terror, the horror and paralyzing fear that comes with combat. The moment to moment fear when you either fight or get your ass blasted into eternity. If you stop and think about what could happen, you would find yourself face down in the sand with blood pouring out of your head or other parts of your body. Anybody that tells you they weren’t scared during a combat engagement had either never been in combat or was a damn liar. Maybe that’s why he received so many medals and commendations for combat action. Mike just didn’t think what could happen to him while engaged with the enemy. Or maybe he just had a death wish. Regardless, he won’t give out what combat was really like. Nobody really wants to know about that. Well, nobody that’s sane anyway.
Mike Barnett took the morning off from the dealership to do the TV interview. He was encouraged to mention that he had a job with the dealership.
It seems everybody was wanting a piece of him, Mike thought. His ex-wife, current girlfriend, family and so-called friends were as well. Now, here he was in the green room at the local TV station preparing to give an interview for Veteran’s Day. Everybody wants something out of me, something I can’t give, Mike pondered. The only people who wanted Mike for who he really is was his two little girls who he cherished and dearly loved more than anything else on earth. Mike started feeling uncomfortable waiting for his time on live TV. Maybe this was a bad idea. Mike was thinking of just getting up and walking out when the producer told him they had gone to break and he was up next. So, after brief introductions to the host and hostess (who didn’t even acknowledge him when he was in makeup, which Mike resisted at first), he sat down between two more plastic, generic morning hosts that you can find carbon copies of in any morning show across the nation. Damn, this is not going to be easy as I had anticipated, Mike thought. What was I thinking, he asked himself as they came back from break.
“I’m Margie Odom with Action 5 Weather. There will be partly cloudy skies in the Ft. Pierce area today. Expect a high of 86 today with a low of 73 overnight. We have a slow moving cold front moving in late this afternoon that could bring some much needed rain to our area. There is a 40% chance of rain after 6 PM. Back to you Gerald and Beverly.” Thanks Margie. We’re back with today’s theme in celebrating our nation’s veterans in preparation for Veteran’s Day next Monday. If you were with us from the start of this segment, you would have seen our interviews with two brave and courageous veterans from both Afghanistan and Iraq. Seated between Beverly and I is Mike Barnett. He served two tours each in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He has numerous medals and commendations for bravery in combat as you see scrolling across your screen. Mike is one of the most celebrated and recognized combat veterans of both wars in the state of Florida. Mike, it is a pleasure having you with us today as we honor our nation’s vets,” said the host.” “It’s a pleasure to be here,” Mike said quietly. No, not really a pleasure, Mike thought, Not at all. What the hell am I doing here?