The leaves had died and the snow had started to fall. Snow gathered on the side of my window sill, the only connection to the outside that I had in this prison cell. But this prison cell was my home. It had been my home for eight years. It was the summer of 2002 when I went into the army. I was sent into the Afghanistan War. It was a dreadful sight to see; there was so much death and too much for me to handle. I witnessed my friends and other servicemen get murdered out there. It was the worst experience of my life. Of course I'm proud that I served my country, but my life would've been a lot better if I hadn't.
The worst part began the day that I came home. I had received word that we were going home in late 2006. By “we” I meant the very few of us that survived an attack on our camp. Only 16 of us remained out of my whole troop. That was all behind me as soon as I came home to New York City. The city seemed different somehow; the entire world did. I had spent four years of my life in another country in a real-life horror movie, watching my friends go one-by-one. If I could make it through that, I could make it through anything.
I had no siblings and my mother had passed away when I was very young. When I was young, my father spent much of his time working to support our small family. He was a good father, and I'd happily go home to him, but I lost him last year. I was in Afghanistan when I received news from my uncle that he had passed away from a stroke. He was my father and this was heartbreaking, but after all of the death I had seen overseas, this was just another one to add to the list.
There was nobody to turn to. Some of my friends from the war were now gone, and I couldn't intrude a returning serviceman’s life. I was completely on my own in the large city of New York, fighting a war of my own. I was homeless, but I wasn't afraid. I'd seen much scarier things in Afghanistan. But I was independent, and I could make it on my own. So I decided I'd live on the streets. I'd make it myself to show what a true soldier I am.
But there was a problem. The war seemed to never go away even in America where I was supposed to be safe. Everywhere I went reminded me of the war. The loud volume of the city, from the car horns to the people chattering, reminded me of the blaring machine guns from Afghanistan. Airplanes brought up memories of fighter jets. The war had ruined me, and it was everywhere I looked. Have I even left Afghanistan; is this my imagination?
It seems as if the setting had changed, but I felt no different. Everything had me on edge. Who were the enemies? Who were my allies? Was I just going crazy? I didn't know what was real. I began to run down the street, but people were everywhere. What was going on? Who were these people and whose side were they on?
“Hey, would you watch it!” yelled a man.
“Someone stop that man, he must be crazy!” yelled another.
They must be my enemies. One tall man ran into me, and I knew this must've been it.
“What are you doing?!” he yelled. I reached for my gun but it wasn't there. What was I to do? I threw my fist straight to his face. He pushed me straight to the ground, and I continued to fight. I survived four years in this war, and I won't quit today. The next thing I knew, somebody was pulling me off of him. That didn't stop me; nothing could stop me.
“Handcuff him! Grab the pepper spray! He isn't stopping!” yelled one voice.
“Hurry, shove him in the car!” yelled another.
That was all I remembered. I woke up in a small room next to a doctor.
“Have I been shot?”
“Why would you have been shot? According to the police, you started the fight,” said the doctor.
“Fight?! It's a war, what do you mean?!”
“This is no war. This is New York City. Now, I've done some research on you, and you're clearly showing signs of severe PTSD.” PTSD? Aren't I still in Afghanistan?
“I also found through your records that your head was severely injured in battle and you've had to get a metal plate implanted. This can affect your ability to function and you need to be under careful watch. But if you continue to pose a threat to society, you will be taken to jail.”
“You're insane!” I yelled as I lunged at him.
“You must be on the other side! What are you, a spy?!”
“Nurse! I need help! Bring a sedative!” he yells.
“No! I won't give up now!” I screamed. But that was it. I felt a sharp pain in my side, and I looked to find a woman injecting me with a needle.
That was it. I woke up to find myself in a cold, lonely cell with no connection to the outside world besides a small window where snow gathered on the sill.