A terrific Veterans Day piece by US Marine vet Matt Ufford, filled with harrowing memories and aching thoughts about coming home from war, from the new sports website The Classical, which you should all be following if you love great writing about sports. This passage is especially memorable:
From there, we trade text messages. I try to tell him that everything he feels is normal and justified. When he tells me “I’d rather be dead than them men,” I call him. It’s after midnight.
I text him back: “No way. I’d rather live with guilt and bad memories than be dead. Dead folks don’t get drunk or laid.”
A few minutes later, he calls me back. Steel Curtain was bad fucking news, man. The mech company commander – beloved by his Marines and family – stepped on a double-stacked land mine, and half of his dead body landed on the front of Jack’s tank. But there was a mission to accomplish, and in the Marine Corps, nothing comes before the mission. Jack went into battle with the major’s blood on his tank.
What do you say to that? I tell Jack he stands shoulder to shoulder with Marine heroes, with Dan Daly and Smedley Butler and a host of names that mean nothing to people who weren’t Marines. And I believe it: Jack is rough-edged, impervious to danger, and the only vehicle he ever loved more than his Harley was his tank. He will be forgotten by history, but not by anyone who knows him.
We make plans for a visit, which makes me feel like maybe he’s not going to kill himself. Before we get off the phone, I tell him, “It’s a shitty life, but it beats the hell out of being dead.”
The phone call lasts 33 minutes. I hang up and sob.