A Grunt’s Pain
By Damian Rivera
The pain a grunt feels is deep and everlasting. It is not a sharp and piercing pain but a pain that lingers quietly inside and reveals itself only in those quiet moments when a grunt is alone or hidden from public view. It is an emotion that grips the very soul, if there is such a thing, of a grunt and forces him to relive the hell that is war until his dying breathe. It is for him to bear and no one else. Not because he is stronger or braver but because he must. He must carry the burden so that others may not have to.
He does not resent the pain nor the causes for it. No, on the contrary, he accepts the pain and allows it to build a home inside. Not because he enjoys misery or because it fuels hatred but because in reminds him of the great feats he and his brethren went through. The hardships, victories, losses; the literal blood, sweat, and tears his brothers in arms shed, not for a country, territory, religious beliefs, or ideologies but for each other and for those incapable of defending themselves. It is a badge, imprint, tattoo, scar, symbol that he carries forever.
The weight is heavy. Weighted down by each day he spent face to face with death and the horrors that only man is capable of. But even with that weight bearing down on his shoulders, he remains steadfast. He remains resilient. He must for he knows that he chose this life. A life filled with Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal courage. A life driven by an ethos that was embedded into his very being through trial by fire. He has lived within the shadows that most, either deny exists or only have dreamt about in nightmares. He has seen the evil that exists in those shadows and has marched straight into it without hesitation. It is not that he is without fear but that he feels fear and choses to continue in spite of it.
It is here where the pain is born from the unnatural ability to override the human nature of self-preservation. It is here where fear is melted down into courage and flows through a grunt like a flood willing him to continue when most would not.
A grunt that lives to see another morning is not without his scars. Some are physical and some are hidden from the naked eye buried deep within but known only to a grunt. At times, faces and names haunt him like a specter in the middle of the night whispering in his ear. Sounds and images from the war play in his mind in a continuous loop while he lies awake in darkness. His throat becomes tight and his chest becomes heavy. A flood of emotions overcome his senses. For a moment, he is paralyzed by it all. The weight becomes unbearable and he fears his foundation will not hold.
Damian Rivera served in the United States Army Infantry with 1/87 Infantry, 10th Mountain Division from 2004-2009. He conducted two combat tours in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. After his service, he went on to earn a BA in Psychology from Drew University in Madison, NJ. He currently resides in NJ and works as a personal protection specialist.