Last week, at the monthly First Friday 'community gathering' (because wine-fueled hippie party doesn't have quite the same ring), some hooligans used the giant sunflowers surrounding the garden as cover to lob apples into the crowd. Maybe they were just some teenagers getting kicks but the community garden there has been the target of some criticism lately regarding said giant sunflowers obstructing sight lines, making the intersection unsafe for motorists, so I suspect perhaps these were aggressively shitty and spectacularly immature activist cowards. The first time that their projectile produce came down on the crowd, I thought perhaps ripe apples were merely falling naturally from a tree. When one hit me in the shoulder, with a clearly thrown-not-falling trajectory, I realized that there is no apple tree in the garden.
Now, I am all for shenanigans, tomfoolery, and semi-illegal, good, clean fun. But when I was the only one actually hit with a projectile, and no one else around me even noticed, I felt like a target under attack...by indirect fire. Now, as my fellow veterans of that certain hostile-takeover-but-its-not-about-the-oil can surely attest, indirect fire was a near-constant occurrence that became very unnerving over time. Sure, the further one gets into a deployment, the less they seek cover when mortars come flying into their base. But the constant harassing attacks, by an unseen enemy that you are unable to return fire on, cause a lot of frustration and feelings of helplessness. It was that frustration, and also the fact that everyone around me was oblivious to the incoming fruit bombs, that made me acutely feel my differences from 'normal' people.
I felt suddenly like the butt of a very cruel joke, that not only had I been assaulted via food, but that if I made others aware of what had happened, they would merely reprimand me for being uptight - which some asshole did when I informed the hostess what had happened. It is this kind of thing that I have to deal with all the time - not just the panic attacks, the subtle flashbacks, the difficulty in social interactions that stems from an acute knowledge of mortality and human frailty - no, it isn't just that, or the difficulties other people have relating to it. It is the constant stream of condescending claims that people do understand and care, the laughter that erupts when an unexpected BANG sends me sprawling onto the ground, and worst of all - that people see me react to being threatened and then somehow jump to the conclusion that I am dangerous.
If you really want to 'support the troops' how about taking down your yellow ribbon sticker, and instead, just be in your veterans' lives without trying to fix them. Thank you, that is all.