Can you see…

A soldier gives his real answer to a question once asked between deployments to Iraq.

Can you see the horrors these eyes have seen? Can you see the death, destruction and pain this soul carries? Can you see the hurt this mind has endured time and again, never wavering or falling apart? Can you see the death these hands have brought? Can you see the places this body has been and the things it has been forced to do? Can you see the lives taken in its wake? All caused by man’s hatred?

Can you see the lives torn apart? Can you see the carnage? Can you see the bodies, the eyes of those now gone, and the horrors they bring when they force themselves back into my mind? Can you feel the torment I suffer for the things I have done, things other men said was for a just cause? Can you see the faces that haunt me? Can you see the mutilated children? Can you see the decapitated bodies of those who took their own lives trying to kill me? Can you see the corpses of the innocent caught in the crossfire? Can you see the tears of their loved ones? Can you feel their agony?

What do you know of loss, what do you know of torment?

When have you seen the things no man should ever see? When have you endured what would make others fall to pieces, then walked away indifferent?

You come to me and ask if I have killed anyone and ignore the glaze that comes over my eyes when it all comes rushing back from your simple, stupid words. But I do not become angry, for I know you are ignorant of these horrors. Truly, ignorance and innocence are bliss. Both were torn from me before I turned 18. I am a machine here, a finely tuned tool of death. What I do in Iraq comes as easily to me as reading the morning paper does to you. I am a soldier, and in time I will march on with my burden, asking only for solitude.

Can you see the horror now?

Can you see the torment?

Can you see inside my blackened soul?

Jared Engelhardt looks into the camera with his arm resting on a heavy caliber machine gun.

The author in Iraq.

The author is a 10-year Army veteran who deployed to Iraq in 2003 and 2005 to 2006, and to Afghanistan in 2007. He has completed a treatment program for post-traumatic stress disorder and now lives in Oklahoma.