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Human Parts
A publication from Medium about humanity: yours, mine, and ours.

War

In Human Parts. More on Medium.

LIVED THROUGH THIS

A veteran’s musings on leaving Afghanistan and the killing fields

Photo courtesy of the author

“Do you still think about war?”

I let my finger hover over the keyboard after I fire off the text message. I expect the responses might be slow or nonexistent, but a green bubble appears.

“I swore I would never be this person, and yet, I think about it every day,” my old…


Fiction

Ian discovers that everything is temporary, even when it seems eternal

Black and white photo of airport terminal with departure screen.
Black and white photo of airport terminal with departure screen.
Photos courtesy of the author.

“Excuse me, sir, you’re going to have to remove your watch, put it on the tray, and go through again.”

“I’m sorry, what?” Ian said. He shifted his gaze to the red light above him. He hadn’t missed the buzzing — it was audible over the cacophony of random noises and voices — but he figured he must have left some coins in his pocket. Or possibly had forgotten to take out his keys. Or… the metal Amex card in my wallet! he thought. It had triggered a metal detector once before.

“It’s my wallet. There’s a metal credit card…


Lived Through This

I owe my new life to my Marine husband’s hideous death

Photo courtesy of the author.

Cleve’s prosthetic leg stood in the corner of my living room, its plastic foot still wearing his khaki Converse shoe. It was the third anniversary of his death, and I stared at the socket that once held his nub, remembering its shape. After the amputation, it was rounded, a pink scar cut clean across the top. As the muscle atrophied, his flesh hung like a boneless chicken breast, the scar left amorphous and supple.

On April 1, 2006, men were hiding in bushes on the side of a steaming-hot road in Ramadi, Iraq, when the Humvee driven by my husband…


A frat boy joins the military to pay for college but ends up on the frontlines in the War on Terror

Photo: Vladimir Palyanov/Unsplash

“Hollywood” was the moniker they gave me.

Amid the simulated explosions, flash-bang grenades, and pop pop pop of simunition, my elbow rested on a concrete window ledge. Using the ledge as a prop for my left arm, I jammed the opposite hand’s index finger in my ear to muffle the sound. One might think I was on a radio calling in simulated air strikes, but this phone call was far more important than bombing Special Forces soldiers dressed in Middle Eastern thawbs attacking our position. No, my fraternity brother was in dire need of directions. …


A firsthand account of the horrors soldiers keep to themselves

Photos courtesy of the author.

The deep divots in the wall accentuated the blood splattered everywhere. It looked like a child had flung cans of paint across the room, which drank in the color. Bits of human remains coated the floor. Some men retched. Others — like me — couldn’t turn away from the horror. A few victims had been decapitated, and someone had strewn their organs along the streets. The…


Civilians often confuse war with combat — but for veterans returning home, it’s much more complicated

Photos: Benjamin Sledge

I screamed as the searing white heat of a bullet ripped through my hip.

No one knows how they’ll respond when injured, but for most, it’s with a string of expletives. True to form, I yelled “fuck.”

All around me, fellow soldiers bled while cries for medics echoed off the sparse mountain terrain. Soviet DShK rounds shredded the earth as I crawled behind a large rock. I yelled for a medic while the other soldiers continued to run up the side of the steep incline where Taliban held the high ground. I watched more DShK rounds rip through men, dead…


My winter at Camp Lejeune

Photo: Kypros/Getty Images

Jacksonville was a man’s world, the whole damn place a bachelor pad. The main road leading to Camp Lejeune wasn’t much more than asphalt and spindly pines. The rest was car lots, strip clubs, and tattoo parlors, chain restaurants, and a sad excuse for a mall. Young men with matching crew cuts roamed in packs on the sides of roads. Colorful hot rods purchased with deployment money revved up at red lights. And during rush hour, on the median of Western Boulevard, the Jacksonville Ninja, an anonymous man who seemed as natural to the place as the pines, practiced his…


Pop’s letters from Vietnam remind me how fiercely he fought his demons

Photos courtesy of Siobhan Adcock

My father was a good man. I really think he was. But when I was growing up, he was also violent. Frightening. Depressed. Alcoholic, and not in a fun-at-parties way. Often mean. Sometimes racist, as liberal, left-voting white people can casually be. He could be — as even the people who loved him most acknowledged — an asshole.

But he could also be heroic, as he was for me and my little sister, who adored and feared him. Pop was certainly a larger-than-life figure for the kids in our neighborhood, who he would load into the back of his pickup…


Veterans bear the burden of war long after they leave the battlefield. It’s time for America to acknowledge it.

Photo via Pixabay

“You can shoot her…” the First Sergeant tells me. “Technically.

We’re standing on a rooftop watching black smoke pillars rise from a section of the city where two of my teammates are taking machine gun fire. Below, the small cluster of homes we’ve taken over is taking sporadic fire as well. …


Love, resilience, and my husband’s war wounds

Illustration: Malte Mueller/Getty Images

The first time I saw an amputee was in April 2006 at Bethesda Naval Hospital. I was 20 years old. The man was attractive, in his late teens to early twenties, with overgrown brown hair, the beginnings of a beard, and both legs missing just above the knees. A woman with a platinum blond bob struggled to push his wheelchair up a series of inclines as they navigated the window-lined hallway connecting the basement cafeteria to the main hospital.

I was in the garden outside smoking a Marlboro Light, a worsening habit since I’d arrived in Maryland. The garden, with…

Human Parts

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