“I get three nights off a week. And I drink and take pills to help me sleep at night. I do what I can to help myself.” -Michael Goss Igave the Army seven years. It was supposed to be my career. I did two tours in Iraq, in 2003 and 2005. But during the last one, I started to get depressed. I lost faith in my chain of command. I became known as a rogue NCO. That’s how I got my other-than-honorable discharge. One night they said to me, “Sgt. Goss, gather your best guys.” I say, “Where we going?” They say, “Don’t worry about it, just come on:’ So we get in the car and go. We drive three blocks away, and there’s six dead soldiers on the ground. They say, “You’re casualty collecting tonight.” I’m not prepared for that. I wasn’t taught how to do that. But you’re there. So you pick them up, and you put them in a body bag, pieces by pieces, and you go back to your unit, and you stand inside your room. And they’re like, “You’re going on a patrol, come on.” You’re like, “Hang on a minute. Let me think about what I just did here.” I just put six American guys in damn body bags. Nobody’s prepared for that. Nobody’s prepared for that thing to blow up on the side of the road. You’re talking, and you’re driving, and then something blows up, and the next thing you know, two of your guys are missing their faces. They just want you to get up the next day and go, go, let’s do it again, you’re a soldier. Yeah, I got the soldier part, OK? It gets to the point where they numb you. They numb you to death. They numb you to anything. You come back, and it starts coming back to you slowly. Now you gotta figure out a way to deal with it. In Iraq you had a way to deal with it because they kept pushing you back out there. Keep pushing you back out into the streets. Go go go. Hey, I just shot four people today. Yeah, and in about four hours you’re going to go back out, and you’ll probably shoot six more. So let’s go. Just deal with it. We’ll fix it when we get back. That’s basically what they’re telling you. We’ll fix it all when we get back. We’ll get your head right and everything when we get back to the States. I’m sorry, it’s not like that. It’s not supposed to be like that. All the soldiers have post-traumatic stress disorder, and they’re like, “Hey, you’re good. You went to counseling four times, you can go back to Iraq. It’s OK:’ No. It doesn’t work that way. I have PTSD. I know when I got itthe night I killed an 8-year-old girl. Her family was trying to cross a checkpoint. We’d just shot three guys who’d tried to run a checkpoint. And during that mess, they were just trying to get through to get away from it all. And we ended up shooting all them, too. It was a family of six. The only one that survived was a 13-month-old and her mother. And the worst part about it all was that where I shot my bullets, when I went to see what I’d shot at, there was an 8-year-old girl there. I tried my best to bring her back to life, but there was no use. But that’s what triggered my depression. When I got out of the Army, I had 10 days to get off base. There was no reintegration counseling. As soon as I got back, nobody gave a fuck about anything except that piece of paper that said I got everything out of my room. I got out of the Army, and everything went to shit from there. My wife ended up finding another guy. I’m getting divorced, and I’m fighting for custody. She wants child support, the house, the car, the boys. I get three nights off a week. And I drink and take pills to help me sleep at night. I do what I can to help myself. I talk to friends. Soldiers who were there. Once in a while one of my old soldiers will call me, drunk off his ass, crying about the stuff he saw in Iraq. And all I can do is tell him, “You and me both are going to have to find a way to work this out?’ That’s the only thing I can tell him. I do martial arts, that’s what I do. I go in a cage and I fight. It helps take my mind off of things. I get hurt, but I can’t feel it. I don’t feel it until after it’s all over with. Michael Goss, 29, served two tours in Iraq. He grew up in Corpus Christi and returned there after his other-than-honorable discharge. He lives with his brother. He is divorced and sees his children every other weekend while working the graveyard shift as a bail bondsman. He is quietly intelligent, thoughtful, and attentive, always saying ma’am and holding the door. He struggles with severe PTSD and is obsessed with learning about the insurgency by studying reports and videos online. He is awaiting treatment from the Veterans Administration. He has been waiting for over a year. JUNE 29, 2007 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 17
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