Red, White, and Blue Heart



by Caroline Bengali


I was watching a movie on my computer last night, my husband was doing dishes, I wasn’t feeling well. For some reason, I looked up and started watching him. Methodically, washing, rinsing, loading the dishes; with precision and total focus.


My eyes tear up and like a giant wrecking ball slamming into my heart, it hits me once again  what this man, that I do all of life’s huge and mundane things with, has been through.  He’s not just the funny dude in front of me in his comfortable jeans and his ‘Pollo Hermanos’ t-shirt, using sos pads, he’s a United States Marine that served in Desert Storm and the US invasion of Panama.


For two years he flew and jumped out of planes, helicopters, and led patrols into the heart of the conflicts.  He did many reconnaissance dives some in the middle of the night into the middle of nowhere. When the mission called for a convoy, he was always the driver.  This, he said, gave him some small sense of control in this chaotic existence.  He couldn’t control the bombs and bullets aimed at them but he could control the steering wheel.


He watched many friends die during the war. He has avoided death himself countless times.

He’s told me these stories throughout the years, sometimes I prod him, others he will just stare off and start talking.  Each time I sit there mummy like, unable to move, and I think what a great storyteller he is, only these aren’t fables, they are his ‘live throughs’ as I call them, because he didn’t die.


Not sure how he can just be here washing dishes, smiling telling something about work, me not really listening because I’m just staring, trying to figure out how he does this after he’s done ‘that’. So I blurt out ‘How do you do it?’ ‘Easy he says, you rinse…’ ‘No! I say teary eyed.’ (Now here is the perfect example of why men sometimes look at women like ‘wait, what?’)

He tells me that he has compartments in his brain.  Some big, some small.  They hold instances, memories, things he wants to remember and forget.  He has the key to these compartments and can open them at will, most of them, most of the time.  This is how he stays sane.  He knows ‘It’ is still there, but he has trained himself to be the keeper.  Doesn’t always work and I can only imagine the enormous amount of discipline, restraint and energy this feat requires.


I know many that have not been able to have a normal life after experiencing war.  

So for me, watching him put in the Cascade, still laughing about how he won the hot sauce eating contest at work, (true story), is a very meaningful memory.