The Afghanistan Veteran Project: From the Fire: An Account of War by Luke Martin

As the project has grown so have our ambitions...Its time to bring some new soldiers into the fold and make this project an international project!  I'm super excited about this one, Luke is a super humble guy but he absolutely deserves the recognition for everything he has done.  His story truly speaks to the reality of war and the bonds that our military family create.  Please take the time to time to read Luke's story.  Specialist Luke Martin served in Afghanistan from May 2007 - August 2008 as part of Task Force Fury.

My name is Luke Martin. I was a Specialist with the 173rd Airborne Brigade, 1/503rd, C Co, 3rd Platoon (PL). My job was as a Forward Observer (FO) for my Infantry platoon. A job that was crucial in the fight, it was to provide the Artillery with the location of the enemy. I was in the US Army for 4 years. I was with the same unit the whole time and only went to Afghanistan once from May of 2007 to August of 2008, a 15 month deployment. For the most part we did missions our whole time there, a few breaks for refit but for the most part we were out of the wire for 300 of the 400+ days in country. We saw a lot of fighting, death, poverty, hate, appreciation, and disgust. We would look into the eyes of some men in a village and be able to tell that they would be fighting us later on. It truly was the strangest place I had ever been. 

My team mate Robbie Neary, from Illinois, and I were the 3rd PL FO's. He was one of those guys that could do anything, complete any task, and learn anything types. We hated each other when we first met, and I think that was why we were put together, some kind of character building test.  After getting into country we quickly became inseparable. It's hard to get shot at, and choose to not like one another. Over that year and three months we went through just about anything that two friends could in that desolate environment. We would set up targets along our routes, make the Fire Support op orders for what ever mission was going on that day, watch movies or play video games in our down time, eat chow and go over our job books. Well, after we made it home, all the way through a long, adventurous tour, Robbie went to Ranger School, and I started the process of getting out of the army to come home. He ended up getting out a bit after I did, within a day of being home he flipped the car he was driving and died. 

This is where my true battle began. I had no clue how to handle such a devastating blow. He was my best friend and teammate. We went everywhere together. I understood that Afghanistan was War. And as the saying goes, War Is Hell. I knew that the killing, fighting, shooting, rockets, mortars, and all the other stuff we had to deal with, was War. For the most part, I loved it. I loved the feeling of getting the quick reaction force call to roll out and help with the fight. I loved getting on a helicopter to get dropped some place in the middle of the night.  Walk down riverbeds tripping over everything because our night vision sucked. But a car accident? After all of the things we had been through I couldn’t accept that a car accident could be a cause of death. How was that fair to take such a great man in that way?

I lost it. I wanted to die. I couldn't get back into the fight fast enough and I knew that I would never be doing the things I had once done again.  I drank till I blacked out every night. If I had ran out of beer or liquor before I fell asleep I hopped in my jeep and drove to buy more. Sometimes just hoping I was going fast enough that if I hit a telephone pole it would be enough to kill me. Long nights of staring at my Smith and Wesson .40 cal wondering if I had the guts to kill myself. It was the constant question in my mind not of if I would kill myself but when. All of the drinking got me out of shape. All of the self-loathing turned me lazy and un-ambitious.

I was stuck in this hatred for myself, for not doing more. Not taking those steps to stay in the army, maybe me being there would have saved my best friends life. I kept thinking that I gave up on my team and myself. Perhaps if I had gone back for another deployment I would have felt better about myself, or maybe if I had tried out for something else that it would change how I feel now. But what-ifs get you killed. What-ifs take from what I did, I did sign my life for my country.  Had I died in combat, or if I die at 99 years of age with my wife by my side, I am going to remember that I went to a country that had no hope for help.  I went over with one of the best Units in the US Army and fought and made the difference we could. One tour isn't much at all. I'll never say that I did as much as I wish, but dammit Robbie, we did it, we survived, and I will never forget the fight. My fight’s not over, my life is a gift again and I am happy I brought the fight to their land, instead of letting it come this great land.