On Aug. 8, 2010, ten days before I started my freshman year of college, my 22-year-old brother, Sergeant Timothy Smell, set out for his first deployment in southern Afghanistan. With his m.o.s, military occupational specialty, being infantry we were warned there was a good chance he was not going to make it home.
About two months into his deployment, he was brought home to see family. The war was getting worse; it was never said out loud, but it was clear to everyone that this might be the last time we saw him. I asked Tim to make me a promise; he was going to come home in one piece and not in a box. He promised he was going to come home; he was my big brother and always going to protect me.
“What you made me promise you right before I deployed ran through my head everyday I was over there,” he said, “and most times I thought I was going to break my promise to you of coming home, but somehow I managed to make it back in one piece and alive.”
It wasn’t until someone I loved was going to war that I realized how important our troops are, and how much freedom actually costs. Luckily someone watched over him and he made it home. According to Icasualities.org, in Afghanistan and the surrounding areas, U.S. fatalities have reached 2053 since 2001.
“To put it in perspective I lost 52 of my brothers on deployment and 37 were in the first two weeks,” said Sgt. Smell.
Troops deserve more respect than they are given. Hate groups bash soldiers but forget Thomas Jefferson’s Famous lines, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”
“I hear hate groups rip apart and protest the soldiers who gave them that right in the first place,” he said. “It’s funny to me because if they were anywhere else in the world they would probably be executed.”
For Sergeant Smell, everyday had new terrors waiting. The only consistency for his unit was the routine. They started with a three to four hour shift of tower guard, watching for suspicious activity outside of the coalition operated patrol base, after he would get something to eat.
Next, it was time to go on a mission; while carrying 100 lbs. of gear he walked about 10 miles through vegetation fields, through waist to chest high trenches, and climbed over walls. On a good day, a mission lasted another three to four hours.
After returning he would get a few minutes of relaxation, then it was time to hit the gym, grab some dinner, and return to tower guard duty for another two to three hours. Finally, it was time to catch a few hours of shuteye before his hell started all over again.
“I made my peace with god on deployment and I was ready to give my life,” he said.
It was hard for him to think about anything other than his mission; it’s not that he did not want to he just could not. Infantry soldiers carry great responsibility, he had to make split decisions that could save or end lives.
Once the thoughts of home started running through his head they would not leave, making it easier to get distracted. It was better to focus on the here and now rather than let his mind wander.
Sgt. Smell said, “I couldn’t bare the thought of one of my brothers getting hurt or dying because I made a mistake.”
Of course it was not all bad, Sgt. Smell and his brothers tried to have fun when possible. They would watch movies and goof around, trying to keep up morale while negative feelings lingered.
“Hatred for the enemy, sadness for your brother who got hurt, anger towards everything and everyone, grief for having to tell families what happens, helplessness and worthlessness,” Stg. Smell said. “We could never really know if we got the guy who hurt our brother.”
The list of feelings is endless; sometimes he was just numb. It was a good way keep from breaking down and to keeping pushing forward.
“Even then our emotions were twisted and backwards because we could laugh and be happy and joke about terrible things,” he said. “Once we were state side people would interrupt our conversations and ask us how we could joke about such horrifying and terrible things, but that’s how we cope I guess.”
Our soldiers push through some of the toughest times both mentally and physically, yet they still smile and find a way to cope. According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, experts say out of every 100 soldiers in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, 11-29 have posttraumatic stress disorder, PTSD.
PTSD develops from severe, long lasting traumatic experiences. An average deployment for Afghanistan and Iraq is 12 months.
He is proud to serve his country and has more respect for soldiers since his deployment. If you want to know what a soldier does, listen to the song “Soldiers and Jesus” by James Otto.
“One thing I tell everyone is I’m glad for my experience on the deployment, but what I saw and did, I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.”