Topic: Reflections

Joel Searls visits 1st Lt. William Donnelly IV’s gravesite at Arlington National Cemetery. Photo courtesy of the author.

Come Thanksgiving, I Will Think of His Sacrifice and the Human Cost of War

I thought about his lost future and struggled to compose myself. I knew it was up to all of us who make it home to carry on the memory of those who don’t.
Sgt. Davis—“the best squad leader in the Marine Corps”—in an AAV during a field operation in 1995. Photo courtesy of the author.

I Had the Best Squad Leader in the Marine Corps. He Showed Us Kindness Is Not Weakness.

Sgt. Davis reminded me that Marines are part of something greater than themselves and that we are not alone.
Ryan Pavel helps a group of Iraqi soldiers work through a land navigation exercise. Photo courtesy of the author.

A Presumption of Guilt: The Uncomfortable Identity of a ‘Disabled’ Veteran Who Feels Like an Imposter

Had I been shot in the kneecap and collected compensation for loss of full use of my leg, I would feel less guilty about compensation.
The Virginia Air National Guard’s Virginia Beach-based 203rd Red Horse Squadron holds a memorial service March 3, 2014, at Camp Pendleton to honor 18 unit members and three Florida Army Guard aviators killed on that day in 2001 when the C-23 Sherpa they were flying in crashed in a cotton field near Unadilla, Georgia. The 203rd members were returning home after completing a two-week military construction project at Hurlburt Field, Florida. Photo by Master Sgt. A.J. Coyne, courtesy of the Virginia National Guard.

We All Have Stories. After All, We Didn’t Just Watch History, We Made It.

Inspiration abounds, and in uniform, it is everywhere, every day, because every day we do things of consequence for our nation.
“At his hands, I experienced military sexual trauma that was disguised as romance. First, he made me feel safe, then he made me feel important, and then he made me feel hopeless,” writes Andrea Rathbun. Photo by Paola Chaaya, courtesy of

He Used a Position of Power, In a Time of War, to Get What He Wanted. 

I wouldn’t know that this is when I lost my sense of service. I wouldn’t know that there was a reason I couldn’t stand to be alone in a room with a man.
Jessica Morse and her husband at a deployment homecoming in 2013 at Cannon Air Force Base in Clovis, New Mexico. Photo courtesy of the author.

‘Murphy’s Law of Deployment:’ What Can Go Wrong, Will Go Wrong. But I Am Brave Enough.

Fifteen years later, I no longer cry in bathrooms, but I do follow the terrified-looking new spouses in to reassure them they are brave enough.

Resilient Is a Label for Military Kids That Absolves a Nation of Further Reflection

Over time I realized that resilience was not a stain-repellent. Just because you can take something doesn’t mean you should have to.
A B-52 bomber takes off from Andersen Air Force Base in support of Linebacker II, the “Christmas bombings.” Photo courtesy of the U.S. Air Force.

Banana Meringue Pie, Smokey Robinson, and the Christmas Bombings of 1972

When a deafening roar woke me on the morning of Dec. 18, 1972, I raced outside and watched in awe as wave after wave of KC-135s headed off the island.
Ted Englemann spent Thanksgiving 2008 with soldiers in Iraq. Photo courtesy of the author.

Nobody Leaves War Emotionally Healthy. The Path to Recovery Is Unique to Each Person.

Traveling to Iraq left me with a continued understanding of wartime trauma but not why some people’s paths end in suicide.