Former Fighter

Former Fighter

I never had things my way. Things never came easy, like it seemed for most people. I used to fight for everything all the time. I’d get what I wanted rarely, but it was always a big struggle. Recently I did work within myself to release some traits that no longer served my highest good, my superior intentions: jealousy, bitterness.

I tried to let go of some of those “shields” my friend, Nancy, pointed out. She was a big help. “You gotta stop fighting everything,” she’d say.

And fighting is one of the things I released. I thought it was better to shift my defenses to allow for more ease. Better for overall karma, right?

Nancy noticed changes. And gradually, other friends did, too. At first, I felt great, powerful. But, then another pattern emerged. I became a “yes” person.

I went from one side to the complete other. I’d skipped through the middle ground. Danced right past the peaceful, placid, humble place I’d so desired. And I’d worked my ass off to get where I was.

It wasn’t easy to wake before dawn for months. To endure boot camp, to take on those fuckers every day, pretending they were the enemy. Yes, sir. They were the insurgents. Yes, sir. They were the ones I’d trained to get, to maim, to kill. Yes, sir. Yes, sir.

Off we flew toward the land of the Middle East, Kool- Aid drank, motives repeated in our brains like a bad movie, in our core. Brains scrambled like my aching heart.

And then the universe served a challenge on a grand scale to see how much I’d really learned. I experienced hell on earth, up close, not through the lens of a camera, or through a television screen. Smelled rotting flesh. Saw something beyond fear in children’s eyes. Heard other soldiers express grief at night into pillowcases.

So I decided, “I’m not fighting anymore…I’m done.” I gave up. Before a week passed, I knew it wasn’t my truth. I couldn’t do it.

I’m sorry that I didn’t fight for myself. Or my family, friends, for all the things that I’d worked for, including my life.

When the times got tough, I curled up like a potato bug. Silently screamed “uncle.”

I failed you, and our community. And our country.

I don’t know how to live with that.


About Robert Vaughan

Originally from NY, Robert leads week long National writing retreats at sites like Mabel Dodge Luhan House, Synergia Ranch, and EarthRise IONS. His poems and fiction are published in over 500 print and online magazines, such as Necessary Fiction, BlazeVOX, Los Angeles Weekly, Literary Orphans and Smokelong Quarterly. He is Editor-in-Chief at (b)OINK magazine and leads round- tables for Redoak Writing in Milwaukee. He is six times a Pushcart Prize Nominee and his fiction and poetry have won awards, including a Micro-Fiction runner-up (2012) and twice a finalist in the Gertrude Stein Fiction Award (2013-14). His books are: Microtones (Cervena Barva Press); Diptychs + Triptychs + Lipsticks + Dipshits (Deadly Chaps); Addicts & Basements (Civil Coping Mechanisms); RIFT, co-authored with Kathy Fish (Unknown Press), and FUNHOUSE (Unknown Press).
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12 Responses to Former Fighter

  1. Shari says:

    This is heavy, hit me in the stomach. Woof. Intense like no other piece you have written.

  2. JR Price says:

    Is this a monologue? It would be very powerful to hear this as spoken word. As a character speaking to a live audience. Some of the working caught me in the sense that the words spoken seem a little New Age’ish? But maybe that is the character you are getting at here? Seems to be a stretch for someone in the military? Not sure.

  3. Beverly says:

    The over- consuming guilt for this character’s choices (not sure if it was male or female, maybe you want it that way?) seemed to really hit me, especially toward the end. How does someone extricate themselves from warfare in this situation? Really intrigues me.

  4. Wallace says:

    Love this line: ‘When the times got tough, I curled up like a potato bug.’ That image is wonderful. Great writing, kept my interest and the ending doesn’t feel resolved, or “wrapped up with a bow,” like so many stories I read these days.

  5. Yasmine says:

    I’m not sure I entirely get this one? I wasn’t sure who the “fucker’s” are? And is this character in the military at the beginning of the piece or does he or she become involved at the point you mention boot camp, etc. The overall tone of the piece is powerful, just not sure I understand it. Mystifying.

  6. Mom says:

    So sweet and I think we can all relate to the feelings going on.
    Love you so,

  7. Angela says:

    Kool-Aid drank. My fave. Very interesting story – the internal perceptions of one going from a fighter personality to a yes “person” – who then goes to fight. I was drawn into the emotion of being trained as a soldier and then not being able to handle the realities of battle. It is sad to me that this character feels like a failure after discovering their “truth.” I am so appreciative to those who have fought for the liberties we enjoy today in the U.S., and I also think war is ridiculous.

  8. Don says:

    So many things going on in this sketch that I commend you on all of the feelings that this person/ soldier has. And to feel upset, or like a failure is not what I would feel if I had these same choices to make.Easy for me to say, perhaps not so easy for those who are fighting every waking moment of their lives. Nice exploration here.

  9. Dez says:

    Heavy duty stuff here. Had to read it a couple of times before I got it, and still not certain that I do. I’m a big dummy, but it might just be the way it is written, more like a monologue. This is an interesting character to work on, and I also think that whole veteran, or even soldier character is so interesting. Like taking on a 500 pound herring! LOL

  10. david says:

    love it

  11. G says:

    quite the intense read for a Sunday night. A soul searching piece that speaks to everyone who read this in some form or another.

    scribe on

  12. Tom Froehlich says:

    Always a fan of your dialogue ans character development. This stream of consciousness kind made me feel lost.

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