I thought I had lost him. In my mind he had become like one of the countless grunts I saw die before my eyes. One of the-quick-become-dead-and-plastic-wrapped-in-green-poncho for battlefield removal as the wolf in my soul, orbiting 50 feet overhead in a helicopter gunship, howled to high heaven.
But he just called. So he lives! I feel like Scrooge on Christmas morning. Thank you, Lord.
Call him “Sam Brown.” The NSA eavesdroppers know his real name.
I met Sam five years ago at a PTSD retreat at Pendle Hill, the beautiful old Quaker retreat center near Philadelphia, that city of the broken Liberty Bell.
Sam’s snake-hard expression said, “Stay back.” It drew me in the way muzzle flashes used to. I walked up to him and stuck out my hand.
“Larry Shook,” I said.
He looked at me as though he might pull a knife. Reluctantly, he took my hand.
“Sam Brown,” he said finally.
“Who were you with?” I said.
He studied me as though trying to decide about the knife.
“Twenty-Fifth Infantry Division,” he said finally.
We were born again at that moment as brothers. The 25th was my favorite outfit to work with for the simple reason that 25th grunts didn’t seem to do as much stupid stuff as other infantry we supported. (That is, the mistakes of those in the firestorms below us could look to us the way a quarterback’s mistakes can appear to spectators in the stands. The difference is that they often died because of them.) And Twenty-Fifth grunts didn’t so often inconsiderately get themselves killed in front of me, cursing me with nightmares that still come at me like the world’s longest sniper shots.
Sam certainly has one of the finest minds I’ve ever encountered. He reads with the same intensity I do—like drowning men, we are, clawing the water for life rings, looking for the understanding that might finally save us from the craziness we brought home from Vietnam. Sam’s recovery from alcoholism whetted his mind into the most beautifully loving and dependable truth telling I have ever known.
I’ve found no such cure for the Quixotic madness that keeps me jousting with the world.
Anyway, I’ve never known anyone else like Sam. Last year I lost him when he sank into the black depression that stalks us all, that is the reason that four times more Vietnam veterans have killed themselves than died in the war. Sam turned to the VA’s anti-depressant meds in desperation. And suddenly he was gone. It was like seeing him shot right beneath my boots.
My wolf howled. The howling intensified after I posted that story two days ago about former CIA agent John Kiriakou condemning CIA torture.
Stupidly, I went online and started researching Kiriakou.
And then—even more stupidly—I updated myself on NSA whistle blower Edward Snowden (who, to my mind, is emerging as one of history’s great figures.) What these guys say about the Lord Voldemort-like evil of the Deep State, with its satanic enslaving surveillance power, freezes my blood.
Suddenly I missed my brother Sam Brown more than I could bear. I needed to talk to him, needed the covering fire of his understanding.
Because where my reporting is headed is right at the Deep State. It’s like being sucked out to sea by a deadly undertow.
You’ll see this if you study the stories below about “Raping Mary Kay.” You’ll see that the Deep State is guilty of the premeditated murder of America’s veterans and their families by denying them the quality behavioral health care that military service requires. The Deep State is killing us as surely as if it sent its jackals after us.
But I can’t roll in on the Deep State the way my gunship once rolled in on muzzle flashes. It’s very scary. I didn’t like killing people, but I sure liked being able to shoot back. How do you shoot back at the Deep State? The terror is stealing my sleep.
God, how I needed to talk to Sam! And then he called this morning. He’s off the meds. He’s back with that mind that burns in the darkness like a sun. This is the sort of grace cataract that proves the existence of God to me.
Thank you, God.