While working my way through learning LexisNexis, I found a people-finder section. And in it, I found old running buddy’s phone number.
When I was in the Army, in Germany, one of my best friends — no, he was my best friend — and I were so close we could finish each others sentences and knew when a scene in a bar was about to go bad. He was my brother in every sense that mattered.
He was the guy who always had my back. We met on detail and became fast friends. During Desert Storm, we were in different companies, but still located the same general area. I ran into him once at a phone bank they set up for us. We also met and cried at a field funeral for a lost comrade-in-arms.
As the Army frequently does, we left Germany and were sent to different bases. Before I got out of the Army, I had heard he re-enlisted and made his E5. Several years later, I heard he was out of the Army and living in South Carolina. That surprised me. He was always a tried and true Texan.
The years haven’t treated many of the guys with whom I served well. One crawled into a bottle and remains there still. One went back to Iraq and bought it. Several are disabled. Matt apparently had a tough go of it. He was back at his parents’ house in Texas working 3rd shift at Lowes. We talked for 15 minutes and it was a pained, awkward conversation. The ease and carelessness of youth were gone.
Some of the guys from 4-66 Armor in Aschaffenburg have discussed getting together for a reunion to drink a couple of beers and swap lies about the old days. When I mentioned it to Matt, he quietly said money was an issue. And then it hit me. Matt is just getting back from the Gulf. His trip was longer than some and he hasn’t quite made the journey back from that day under the Saudi sun when we said goodbye to another friend.
In that 15 minutes, I was reminded of one reason I came to law school. There are thousands of veterans like Matt, a little lost and trying to find their way back to a home that no longer exists.
Many of those warriors are on paths that lead them into legal issues, criminal, civil or family law. Our society is intolerant of people coloring outside the lines. They need assistance from people that understand why you can’t sleep with your back exposed to a door or window or why your blood pumps a little faster walking across the quad between buildings.
Our veterans are in need of lawyers to help guide them through the morass that is VA paperwork and adaptation issues.
Am I my brother’s keeper? Not yet. But I will be in three years.
We need to help them find their way home.