An experience in the navy.
|In the dead of night he signaled the rescue team, grabbed the nearest oxygen tank, plunged into the sea, and swam underwater until he was hauled onto the craft.
Next day, in the debriefing room, he repeated the refrain, “I killed a man. I wish he had killed me first.”
“Mike, you are alive!”
“I killed a man. I wish he had killed me first.”
(“PTSD and survivor’s guilt,” wrote the psychologist.)
“Tell me what happened, Mike.”
“I killed a man. God, I killed a man! How...?”
“We trained you to do that so that you could come back to us, Mike. You’re a great SEAL!”
“Where are the others?”
“Mike, your friends won’t be visiting you. They're no longer with us."
“He can’t come to see you. But I am here, and the two officers. We’re here for you.”
The debriefing resumed the following day.
“How are you feeling Mike?”
“Sad, very sad.”
“We understand that.”
“Where’s Stephen? Won’t I ever see him?”
“Stephen and the rest of the team died, Mike. You are the only survivor of the mission. Your team was ambushed.”
Mike was still asleep when his cellphone rang.
“Hi. We’re meeting at Allan’s at nine tonight." Having just been awoken from his nightmare, Mike was still confused.
“Steve, Steve? Is that really you? I thought you were killed in the ambush.”
"What the hell are you talking about, Mike? What ambush?”
“Thank God you are alive, Steve. I must have had a dream.”
“A dream? About what?"
"That we went on our mission, and our team was ambushed. I was picked up by a rescue craft. In the dream I was debriefed and told that the rest of the team had been killed. I still feel traumatised!"
"That's crazy, Mike! The place we're going to is landlocked anyway. There aren't going to be any rescue crafts. You're just tensing up in anticipation. Anyway, I phoned to say we're going to Allan's tonight to drink to a successful mission. Be there at nine, OK?"
“I won’t be there.”
“You’re joking, mate!”
"I'm not joking. That nightmare - it frightened the guts out of me. I'm not going on the mission. I can't face it."
"You can't just opt out now, Mike, and you know that. You'll be court-martialled! You could go to prison!"
"Too bad. I'll serve time and then I'll leave the navy... Steve, after what I went through last night I know I'll break down, and that will compromise all of you badly."
"I can't believe what I'm hearing, Mike! SEALS don't break down. Just come drink with us tonight, have some fun, and you'll feel much better."
" No, I'm not joining you guys tonight and neither am I going back to the navy. Ever !"
Silence reigned for a while. Then tears welled up in Mike's eyes...
"Steve, please promise me you'll come back alive," he pleaded.