Rock and Man

I spent the last week out in the woods of South Dakota. At night we slept in the bar; during the day we humped through the black hills of of the national forest. The elevation wasn’t too bad we would go from 5000 to 6250, but sometimes it would do that ascent in a hurry straight up a big ass piece of granite. But with anything, going up was always easier than coming down. There were a couple of times I would be hanging on the ledge knowing that my toes were just inches from the next ledge but I couldn’t reach. I couldn’t go back up because that would only slow my progress down off my rock island. So left with only one choice, buck up. Letting go of a nice solid hand hold and sliding into the abyss is about as natural as exiting a perfectly good airplane with the knowledge a private packed your chute. Sliding down the rock, hands spread, feeling for balance, my toes catch my knees give enough to keep me from flying off and I continue the descent. For some reason that brings to mind the Indiana Jones the last crusade when he makes that leap of faith.

I am not a very spiritual person anymore. I believe in god and that there is a higher power and purpose, but no one religion can fit my beliefs anymore, mainly because most have been killed in the name of. I am all for standing for what you believe in but when we are killing each other over a bunch of fables and missing the point of those fables completely, I take a big step back and say to hell with it. All that said, there is something powerful about being in those hills. Something awesome and amazing about having a piece of country kick your ass and you just love every minute of it. Something about walking around in crazy horse’s old stomping grounds and Teddy’s little vacation spot. But the single most spiritual thing about that place is the silence you find at the top of one of those hills. It hurts its so quiet. The wind blows and you can hear the wood of the trees strain and stretch as they bend with the wind.

That silence was the most incredible thing, it forced my buddy and I to whisper because it justseemed wrong to talk at normal levels. Sitting there I remembered all the noise from combat. All the noise of trucks and jets and machine guns and bombs and mother’s cries and the damn noise. It took your breath away. Then to its opposite contrast of sitting in the woods, where your heart was the loudest drum and rustle of the leaves was so loud it could be deafening, it took your breath away. They were so different despite they both made it hard to breathe. The noise sucks the life out of you, sucks the passion, sucks the patience, sucks the brilliance. You have no desire to create anything because you are afraid to add to the noise. When you are in the silence though, you see the hope, the possibility, you are filled with that vitality, and the strange human desire to fill it with just a little bit of noise.

I am sure I am not the only combat vet, who has given up on major religion. Especially from my era. Seeing what a couple of pricks with some uneducated religious people can do, makes you question everything. What I found out in those hills though was just about as close as I have come to finding faith since I have been back. I found a place I could think, believe, and trust in. I found a place where the only thing I was watching my back from was a mountain lion. I found a place that understood what I was far better than I or any person in a city does. I found a place where I fit, a place that the only adrenaline rushes found were self-induced. And in this trek through the woods is when it dawned on me like a 500lb bomb up-side the head.

Urban-warfare, this is the majority of the place where we were in combat. We fought in the streets and from our trucks and in the buildings. We were always on edge everywhere we went because there were predators and observers. Our lives were a constant battle of shooting in 360 degrees. Now that we are back, what if the city is just a big PTSD trigger. What if driving through traffic and walking around huge buildings or being in crowded rooms and restaurants is just one big PTSD trigger, not individual ones as we have made them. Well ain’t that a crappy thought, lol.


2 responses to “Rock and Man

  • Christina Cronk

    The silence is beautiful and powerful- what a wonderful post. Thank you for sharing!

  • Dan Van Buskirk

    I agree with you brother. The highest form of spirituality is demonstrated by our warriors each time they go out on patrol and are willing to give up everything to be there for their brothers and sisters.

    Thanks for all that you have done,


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