I didn’t break any laws or do anything unethical in 4 combat tours as an Infantryman. To the best of my knowledge, I didn’t harm any innocents. But when I say my conscience is clear, I mean it only in the sense that I did what was necessary to achieve my mission goals and bring my troops home alive while keeping my honor and theirs intact.
I have nightmares about Iraq and Afghanistan. They come less frequently now after seven years, but I cannot escape the reality that young men died because of my actions. They died by my hand, and at my orders. They weren’t “demons”, and they weren’t evil, even as they were trying very hard to kill me and my troops.
I trained for that for years, and I’m sitting here today. I guess that I was good at it, or good enough anyway. I KNOW I did the best I could to be a good man. But I ended those lives. Some were young, some were not. Everything they ever were or ever would be, I took from them and I have to own that.
So when Darren Wilson says his conscience is clear and he sleeps well, I don’t know what he means. I suspect that his concept of a clear conscience and mine are two entirely different things. Because 7 years after my last tour, I still don’t sleep well. I smoke too much, and I drink too much, and I have occasional thoughts of suicide. Some days, I just don’t give a damn about anything.
A counsellor told me once that I “owed it to the guys who didn’t come back from those hellholes to live a good and happy life, because they can’t.” I try to be a good husband and a good parent, and I work hard at my job to support the VA in its mission of caring for those who have borne the battle. I try to find things to take joy in. But I can’t escape the fact that I don’t really deserve to be here.
So no, I don’t understand what Darren Wilson is talking about when he says he’s OK with what he did. I have feared for my life and I have fought for my life, and I don’t get to where he is. And while I feel broken a lot of the time, I think he may be more broken than I ever was.