The Fight Within Every Veteran and with Those They Love

I left a good part of me in Iraq after my first tour in Iraq in 2003 as a Scout/Sniper Team Leader. After my second tour in 2004, I left even more. Or instead, did Iraq leave a piece of itself in me each time? For over 10 years now, I have struggled to make peace with the things I saw and did in combat. My struggle has left me determined to dedicate my life to showing Americans how the skills and experiences of combat veterans translate into success and love for anyone who wants to embrace them.

Unfortunately, this dedication and these skills and experiences haven’t been accepted, appreciated, or respected by the one’s I’ve loved. Counter to that, the one’s I’ve loved have come to resent me because of them. Why don’t I give up tilting at windmills and get a 9-5 job at Goldman Sachs or Wal-Mart or with the state?

My wife tells me on a consistent basis that I am a failure and need mental help because I still embrace the things I did and learned in the Marines and want to help others instead of worrying about keeping a regular job and paying for drinks, dinners, and vacations. I failed with my first attempt at running a business to help veterans and have struggled to make a second go at it paying  the bills. She tells me I have PTSD for wanting to integrate weapons and survival skills sets into my training.

They show me I am not alone. They give me hope. They tell me what I am doing is very valuable to the community and for veterans and not to give up.

In addition, she chose to sleep with other men throughout our relationship and blamed me for doing so because I was gone for military training and put her in financial peril because of my business. My wife telling me I am a mentally ill failure and blaming me for her sleeping with other men, coupled with my failure to make my purpose in life financially viable, has led me to believe that my only option at this point is to end my life.

So why haven’t I chosen that option? While most people in my life have chosen to remain disconnected or add their voice of judgement to my wife’s, a select few combat veterans have chosen to embrace the “Semper Fi” and “no man left behind” ethos inherent in the Marines and other service branches. When I’ve texted or called, they’ve answered. When I haven’t texted or called, they have. They bring with them an understanding of my experiences and a “give a damn” attitude.  At least four of my platoon buddies and another Recon Marine I know have had their wives treat them in similar ways. One of them played Russian roulette with himself.

They show me I am not alone. They give me hope. Others in the community do likewise. They tell me what I am doing is very valuable to the community and for veterans and not to give up.

I have failed many times, over and over again. I have sinned. I have judged. I have caused pain in the lives of my family members and friends. But so is the burden of life. I recognize my sins and mistakes. And I learn from them. My friends and those in the community recognize that. They understand it. But they also understand my purpose is greater than my mistakes. In fact, my mistakes are what teach me to be better, greater. They show me I am not alone. They give me hope.

The next time a veteran commits suicide will you join those who say “I had no idea? I wish there was something I could have done.” Or will you prevent the next time by choosing to understand and support?

[Photo: Flickr Commons]

This post originally appeared in Spotter Up on 18 June 2015.



  1. Ken Korkow 24 June, 2015 at 04:09 Reply

    In some ways – I understand. Khe Sanh. Purple Heart. Navy Cross. Medical discharge. 100% disabled. But I’ve found: shit happens / religion doesn’t help / but a personal relationship with Christ has saved my life & marriage & family. God doesn’t waste pain. The Commandant of the Corps has approved our faith-based approach to combat stress. If you want more info – free / no obligation – contact me. We meet vets where they are – or bring them to our ranch in South Dakota – and watch God do AMAZING THINGS. God’s blessings and my respect – ken

  2. Carl G. Pyper 24 June, 2015 at 05:08 Reply

    More POWER to you both; Matt Victoriano (whose name is “Victorious”) and to ken. I have long-since been interested in combat veterans’ stories (action and “after-action”) … to the extent that you want to share the same.

    I had many memorable experiences in the Marine Corps. Oddly enough, I did not experience the privilege of serving in Viet Nam … a Just War as has been the War on Terrorism a Just War. Unfortunately; fellow citizens who deprecate our Nation’s wars and warriors’ personal services rendered in those wars, put themselves in harm’s way and add to the difficulty of warriors’ personal recovery from the horrors of war.

    I hope that both of you will join Together We Served, fill in your folders (preserve your illustrious histories) and designate me as a Brother. Carl G. Pyper, USMC 1967, 1969-’72

  3. CAS 24 June, 2015 at 06:33 Reply


    This piece is short, but very powerful. Thanks for your willingness to be open about your/our struggles. You are an exceptional individual, and it is too bad your wife is not more supportive. Sorry to be blunt, but there it is. Never lose sight of your passion, especially when it serves a good cause. How many artists, musicians, and visionaries never see financial rewards for their skills and talents?

    Keep sharing, serving, loving, and your life will be a victory over the darkness!

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