Veteran's Affairs


I was traveling across the country with my family. We were not seated together, so I sat behind them and next to a complete stranger.

Ok, if you know me, you KNOW that being seated next to a stranger means that I'm about to make a new friend...

And there he was; a seemingly nice guy. He had a kind face, a soft tone in his voice, and history of violence that you wouldn't be able to detect from a first, or even a second glance.

He had served 3 tours in Afghanistan. As an explosives expert, and a member of the military police, he had been witness to countless explosions, insurgences, killings and passive deaths. He had been home for 2 years when we met.

I had asked him about his travels: where are you headed?

"Home. But just for a few days until I have to go and do a training at Quantico."

"Quantico? Are you FBI?"

"Nah. I'm just doing a training on explosives. That was my last job. Entering buildings with no doors." He laughed a little, but his head drooped in a way that was most uncomfortable looking.

"Are you looking forward to it? Sounds like a really important job, teaching people how to safely enter buildings with no doors."

"Yeah, it is a good job. It really is fine. But I feel like I need a new shirt to present myself right."

"There are lots of good shops in Virginia and DC to get a nice shirt. But don't go to "The Mall", it's not what you think!"

He laughed for a second and then I swear I saw fear flash across his face. "Shopping isn't my strong suit."

"Oh?"

"Have you ever had your vision change? Like you're looking through a telescope? That's kind of what happens to me when I go to a mall or a store. It's like everything blows up real big and I just don't move."

"I've heard that that can happen some times. I bet that does make buying a shirt a pretty big problem."

"Yeah. But it's ok. I'm managing it."

At that point in the conversation he hit on one of my buzz words. "Managing it? How is that working for you?"

"Well, I'm grateful for Amazon and shopping online. But it would be nice to feel normal shopping for clothes."

Buzz word number 2! "Feeling 'normal' is kind of a spectrum, I've heard. Actually, that is kind of my wheelhouse."

"Normal is your wheelhouse? What? Are you some kind of therapist?

"No, I'm not a therapist. I'm actually a behaviorist. So I help people, like a therapist does, but my methods are different. I don't talk to folks about the past. We focus on now and the future. So if one of your objectives is to be able to confidently walk into a store and purchase a shirt, we would start there - not with why it is difficult now. You probably already fully understand why, right?"

"How is that not therapy?"

"Well, on the legal side, it just isn't my title, so I wouldn't want to misrepresent myself. From the practical side, I do very different things than a therapist does. Would you like an example?

"Sure, we got 4.5 more hours to go, so sure, why not?"

We talked for the n