Once a Soldier

( Intermediate Level )

No one understands what a soldier goes through when they dedicate their lives to the service of their country. Specialist Randy Brown does. He dedicated four years of his life to serving his country. Never did he realize his life would be forever changed.

Randy grew up in a small town in Louisiana where the poverty level is below the federal poverty line. Growing up his parents always struggled. His father had quit school at the age of 17, to help his parents, so he never finished high school.

Randy wanted to break the cycle of poverty and give his parents a comfortable lifestyle so he joined the United States Army in 1997 just after graduating from high school.

In just two years he found himself in the middle of a conflict in a foreign country. The things he saw, smelled, and experienced forever changed him. He went from a young naïve graduate from high school to a soldier and survivor.

It was an easy choice for him not to reenlist. His family back home would understand why he didn’t want to reenlist, even though it was an opportunity for him to have a career.

He knew, if he did stay in longer, his mental state may never be the same. Already his nightmares taunted him. The tossing and turning in his bed each night The sounds of gunfire in his dreams haunted him. He spent many sleepless nights reliving the day he had spent out in the field.

His discharge papers were signed. His last physical exam was complete. All he had to do was board the plane home. He had mixed emotions, as he boarded the plane. Could he adapt to his normal lifestyle again? Would his parents understand him now?

His plane ride home was long and tiring. Randy stared out the window most of the trip. He didn’t want to sleep. He did not want to experience those dreadful nightmares with a plane full of people.

Twenty-two hours later, Randy finally arrived home. A familiar sight and oddly enough, foreign to him. It seemed a lifetime since he saw the trees, smelled clean air, and didn’t hear helicopters hovering above.

Randy’s father had met him at the airport. As soon as he saw his son he broke down and cried. He was thankful to have his son arrive home safely and in one piece. Randy embraced his father and held on tight.

The ride home was silent. Both father and son were lost in their own thoughts. Randy’s father was all too familiar with how soldiers felt when they arrived back to their normal lives, especially what they went through.

He had many friends whose sons had arrived home and had trouble adjusting. He knew he had to give his son time. How much time he didn’t know. His son had grown up fast while in the military. He never had the chance to experience what other young boys experience right out of high school.

Until Randy was ready he would not push him. Let him do things on his own time. He hoped his son would realize he was safe and he and his mom would be there for him, no matter what.

Months had passed and Randy still had his nightmares. but not as frequent. Somedays, his temper was quick, other days nothing bothered him. His parents were understanding and never wavered in their support towards him

Randy had monthly appointments with a psychiatrist, provided by the military, for as long as he felt he needed them. He attended a support group, held weekly, who really understood what he went through over there.

Randy knew he would never be who he was before. He hoped, in time, the nightmares’ would subside and the memories would fade.

He was once told, “Once a soldier always a soldier. When you least expect it, something will trigger a memory. With time, understanding, and love from the people around you, life will be ok.

Written by: Angel

“Veterans Day, November 11th, is the day, in America, we thank and honor all who have served in the military living or deceased, particularly the living veterans among us. These men and woman have dedicated their lives to serving and protecting us. Thank you for your service.” – Angel

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dedicated – adjective: devoted or loyal

poverty – noun: extremely poor

naïve – adjective: lacking experience or wisdom

survivor – noun: remaining alive

reenlist – verb: enlist in military again

taunted – verb: provoke or challenge

reliving – gerund: live through again

discharge papers – noun: papers allowing someone to officially leave the military

dreadful – adjective: fear, suffering or unhappiness

embraced – verb: hold close

adjusting – verb: alter or move

wavered – verb: unsteady or unreliable

subside – verb: less intense

trigger – verb: cause an event


Do you know anyone who served or is currently in the military?

If so, have they spoke about their experiences(s)?