A Three Sided Coin


When I am asked about the worst experiences of war, I usually respond with something along the lines of brutality or chaos. It’s a simple way to end or move along the conversation. It fits the common themes and narratives promoted by the media and often seen on tv and in movies. It’s also a lie.

For me, the worst part about war, is that it ended.

I think about war every day. I dream about war more nights than I don’t. It does not consume me, or my thoughts, but it is always there. It used to worry me, I used to wonder whether or not I was the only one who felt this way, but I have accepted it as a part of who I am, and I make no effort to control or restrict where my mind goes. In the simplest of terms, I miss it.

War is anything but beautiful, but it is also unmatched in its ability to teach. Killing taught me more about love and compassion than anything else I have experienced in life. Wading through destruction, suffering, and detritus forever changed my perspective and created an insatiable pursuit for appreciation. I have never experienced such clarity of focus, precision of thought, and sense of purpose. My brain and body functioned at a level I have never been able to replicate. I found and became my best self while looking down the sights of a rifle. I also found my worst. Each of these things live inside of me, every day, and it can be a difficult road to navigate.

I understand why people seek out the “black and white” stances and solutions. It makes the world around you easier to comprehend and navigate when there are rules and expectations. In my experience, war was anything but black and white. I often describe it as grey, but I have come to the conclusion that there is no “color,” because it is all of them, and none of them, simultaneously.

War is not a simple heads or tails proposition, neither is being a Veteran.

There are days when I feel normal and days where I feel lost. There are days when I understand the world around me, and days where I can make no sense of it.  I do not feel comfortable in a world where my choice is between only heads or tails. In all honesty, the only place I truly feel comfortable is in the microscopic space between those two, the third side of the coin. In that space are those that share my experiences. In that space are those that have seen how truly colorless our world can be. When I need to, or when I simply choose to, I retreat there. I shut down, keep my head down, and seek a place that provides me comfort. Although it seems comforting, it is the most dangerous place I can be. I’m not seeking health or happiness, I’m hiding.

I am not broken, I am not damaged, but I am different. I am less different from those around me than I am my former self, the young man who enlisted. I pursued a community that I viewed with a sense of awe, and after 17 years, left questioning whether or not I had been worthy enough to call myself a member of its ranks. I struggle with self-worth, purpose, and a drive that often robs me of satisfaction and happiness in the moment because “good” never seems to be good enough. I constantly catch myself judging and measuring my success or failure in the rear-view mirror, using a gold standard from an occupation and uniform I no longer wear, instead of what lies in front of me. It is a battle I fight within myself, every single day. Some days I win, some days I lose. It’s not all bad, but it certainly isn’t all roses.

Our country expects a great deal from our service members and veterans, and they should, because we are unique. We, as veterans have the ability, but more importantly, the obligation to serve as a beacon. In order to do so, we need to be honest. We must first face ourselves, and then our own community. Until we do, we are anything but a beacon, we are a burden. There are those that choose to wear their service on their sleeve, and those that choose to wear it on their heart. Neither is right, neither is wrong. Every effort must be made to ensure we have a positive impact, not a destructive one. People will look to you for guidance and as an example, be worthy of it.

For those that are thriving, it is my hope that you realize that you serve as an example to us all. For those that are suffering, I hope that you realize you are not alone. Resist the temptation to pull away, because I assure you, the path to health and happiness will not be found there. You are not damaged, you are just different, and so am I. It is not possible to return from war as the same man or woman you were before, but it is possible to build yourself into something better.

To those that have served or are serving, all I can offer you is my thanks and appreciation.  There is no profession more honorable, but please do not allow it to be all that you are, or all that you will become.

32 thoughts on “A Three Sided Coin

  1. “I struggle with self-worth, purpose, and a drive that often robs me of satisfaction and happiness in the moment because “good” never seems to be good enough. I constantly catch myself judging and measuring my success or failure in the rear-view mirror, using a gold standard from an occupation and uniform I no longer wear, instead of what lies in front of me. It is a battle I fight within myself, every single day. Some days I win, some days I lose. It’s not all bad, but it certainly isn’t all roses.”

    These are powerful words that cut deep and reveal the true struggle all of us deal with on a daily basis. First off I want to thank you for your service and everything you have done for this country. Your straight forward delivery resonates with the public and helps more people than you’ll ever know. You are a true hero sir, thank you and God Bless.


    • I am moved by your wise words and introspection. Thank you for sharing. Wish I could hold you in my arms and give you a hug of strength. Yes, spoken like a woman.


  2. Andy, Thank you for another well written and insightful sharing of your soul. After working with so many soldiers, active and veteran, you describe what I observed.

    As a retired teacher, whose passion was to “do what’s best for kids,” I can also relate to your missing the time of best performance and clarity of mission. When I was on a teaching team dedicated to good curriculum and practice, it was magic, but whenever it went well, the jealousy of others insured it didn’t last long. I retired weary of the battle with colleagues, administrators, and parents. My last year absolutely exhausted my entire being, so I left. I miss teaching but not the daily battle. I miss, more than all of it, being able to have my soldier friends share how they are people with a mission to serve, lifting up the less than 1% of citizens willing to defend the greatest(albeit not perfect) nation in the world.

    I know teaching is nowhere close to the battlefield you served in. I could never have taught without those willing to defend our nation. But in retirement, you share much of what I also think about my self and I found that strangely clarifying and relieving. Thank you for taking the time to write it. Now I plan to share it with a bunch of my friends!

    Best, Tracey

    Sent from my iPhone

    Tracey Cook, Ed. D.



  3. Mahalo Nui Loa Andy;
    For me your last paragraph resonates the most, especially the last line: “There is no profession more honorable, but please don’t allow it to be all that you are, or all that you will become.” We are proud of the man you were and the man you have become. With Aloha, Tony


  4. There ought to be a button that says Subscribe for More. You make me proud. Thank you for your service and for telling your truth.


  5. This is the best post you have ever submitted Andy. I’m not a veteran, but I do have a “mental health condition”. I felt like you were talking directly to me for parts of this post. I do not know war or military life, but I do know some of the feelings you speak of. I hope you’re wife and kids read this one and if you’v not already had this conversation, you have it with them. Thank you.


  6. Here, here brother, thank you. I always appreciate your writings, there is so much I relate to and so much I don’t, but I understand the gist.


  7. Pingback: Inspiration for the day | The Project: Me by Judy

  8. Thank for your courage to share your insights with those of us who nevered served in uniform. I again but an appreciation and a greater understanding how you and others have sacrificed for the greater good.


  9. Man, I love you Andy! (No hetero) just the way you are.

    I hope you have a source to refuel, the way your words most certainly re-fuel your fellow veterans.

    Bonnie Dutile CEO Gravity Gear, Inc. COO Bold Clothing Factory, Inc.



  10. Wow, I was not expecting that! I’ve heard Andy on most all his podcasts after first discovering him on The Joe Rogan Experience. That said, Andy was always entertaining, interesting and full of bull busting with his guests. All that listening time did not prepare me for such insightful and skillful writing. I need to read the other blogs and visit more often.

    If you are listening Andy, thanks so much for all this great audo and now written content. And most importantly, thank you for your service.


  11. It would indeed be a tragedy if the history of the human race proved to be nothing more than the story of a an ape playing with a box of matches on a petrol dump.
    – Buckminster Fuller


  12. I admire you tremendously and what you guys do in the field. I think Special Forces are the smartest weapon of war. I am a civilian humanitarian law practitioner and been in war zones with the International Red Cross, so I understand the need to prevail militarily over the enemy. But I recently heard your position on the Guantanamo detainees who become radicalize in US detention. Did I get you wrong or were you advocating for a massive war crime? Do you think the US should withdraw from the Geneva Conventions?


  13. I have a friend from childhood, named Kermit.. he offered me these words to ponder on that are very similar to your words.. “It’s not easy being green.”


  14. Perhaps this letter could be incorporated into the Military discharge process? Perhaps having this knowledge before enlisting/joining would benefit some..

    “…the microscopic space between those two[heads and tails].”
    This may be an ok place for me to spend a short amount of time reflecting, but LIVING in this space sucks while you’re living in it, and suck to look back upon and see a period where time and experiences were not fully appreciated. TIME, we can’t buy or acquire time. I remind myself daily to be in the moment and take full advantage of the X amount of time left to experience life.

    The memories I am making today…Will I look back on them fondly, or will I look back regretfully?

    Andy- thank you for this. You got me thinking critically in a positive way.


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