“I came home for that Christmas in 2003, and things were a lot different. When I left for the Marine Corps, I was this guy that always liked to have fun and hang out with my friends, never took anything real serious and when I got back, things were real hard for me.”
Oskar found he couldn’t hold down a job and being around people seemed like a huge ordeal. So he says thinking back waiting tables as his first job out of the Marines was maybe not the best choice.
“It got really hard when I’m at a table and somebody’s being a jerk, I couldn’t take it. So for anybody who’s barely getting out of the military, waiting tables is not the first job you should have.”
Oskar can easily joke about it now, but back then he was withdrawing from the world he had grown up in — the only world he’d known before the Marines.
“I didn’t want to see any of my friends. I talked to my mom; I barely talked to my dad. I didn’t want to see grandparents or anything like that. I had a dog and I’d go running with my dog. I’d exercise, exercise was my time to get away from people and just forget about it.”
He was trying to forget about what had happened in Iraq, but also what he had done.
In part one of Oskar’s story, he talked about only ever shooting at paper targets, so I asked him, “While you were in Iraq did you ever shoot at a real target?”
He froze and asked not to answer me, but later in the interview he came back that question.
“You’re not proud of the things that you do in war, but there are things that you have to live with. It’s been what seven years, I still battle everyday with a lot of stuff that happens. You go through a lot of stuff and number one thing that you have to remember is that it’s just not your fault.”
He still visibly wrestles with his demons. And he believes he always will, but things have turned around for Oskar. Now he works with the U.S. Veterans Initiative here in Houston, helping other veterans get back on their feet — a job which he believes has played a huge part in giving him a new sense of purpose.
“If I could tell any employer I’d say look at me. I started off with this organization four years ago driving a van! Four years later, because they were willing to work with me and my PTSD and I’m being faithful to them. Four years later, I am now the department head.”
And just like in Iraq he’s taking it one day at a time.
“I’ve come a long way in a lot of my therapy. I love people now. I love to talk to people. I’ve become more loving. I joke again. I let people touch me. I hug now and every day is healing.”