Thank You for Your Service

Thank You for Your Service by David Finkel

Book: Thank You for Your Service by David Finkel Read Free Book Online
Authors: David Finkel
annual salary of $137,410.
    Galling. All of it. And most galling of all? That would be the attitude of the guy down the hall who told Adam about this job.
    His name is Calvin McCloy, and back in the war, during Adam’s second deployment, he and Adam were in the same unit together. Poor Calvin, who one day was up in a hatch of a Bradley Fighting Vehicle when a roadside bomb exploded and the Bradley caught on fire. He was thirty-six years old and a platoon sergeant, like Doster had been. He was burned over 40 percent of his body. His back was burned. His backside,too. His stomach. His wrists. Under his arms. His uniform was burnt off, all of it except for part of his T-shirt and boots. He spent four months in a hospital burn unit undergoing skin grafts and another year in compression clothing. He has PTSD and TBI and a limited range of motion and wears hearing aids in both ears. His brain was bruised and he passes out sometimes, without warning, just slumps and goes down, and a few times has awakened on the ground with his head busted wide open. He went through a guilt phase. He went through a pissed-off phase. He went through a why-me phase. He went through a pills phase, and two years of intensive therapy. “There comes a point when you have to make a decision,” he has told Adam of the point he finally came to, and so one day he made a decision. “It isn’t about what I want to do. It’s about what I have to do. I don’t want to be sitting behind a damn desk. If I had my say, I’d be a sergeant major, training soldiers. But I can’t do that. I’m not going to be able to change the way I think. I’m not going to be able to change my memory. I’m not going to make the brain injury go away. It’s not going to happen. So I have to find ways to live with the injuries I have.” So that was his decision, to be sitting gratefully behind a damn desk, and every night he not only sets his alarm, he lays out his clothing in a certain way in order not to forget anything when he wakes up in a daze the next morning. He hangs his pants and shirt on the bathroom door. He puts his socks and T-shirt on the nightstand. He puts his shoes at the foot of the nightstand and his rolled-up belt in one of his shoes. He puts his cell phone, wallet, and car keys by the microwave. It’s a system for getting by that in his previous life he might have found humiliating but not in this life because here he is, at work, on time, in a shirt and tie and pants free of fish blood, happy to have a job that depends on repetition, which is what he can handle, and happy to have become a man who never gets angry anymore, not even on his birthday when his coworkers decorate his cubicle with a banner while he’s at lunch, and Adam wants to put a frozen can of shaving cream in a desk drawer where it will explode, and the coworkers say that’s not such a good idea, and Adam instead takes several months’ worth of hole punches he’s been saving, thousands and thousands of little dots, and dumps them like confetti onto Calvin’s desk, his chair, his keyboard, everywhere. “In my drawers,too?” Calvin asks incredulously when he returns, which will be the closest he comes to losing his temper as he starts to clean up.
    Why, Adam wonders, can’t he be more like Calvin? Why can’t he get better? “You gotta face reality,” Calvin has told him, and is that all it takes? Making a decision? He sits at his desk. The hours go by. The days go by. The overhead fluorescent lights hum. The copy machine grinds. The water cooler bubbles. The phone lines blink with waiting callers. “Three calls in the queue,” the boss announces over the intercom to a roomful of well-dressed workers wearing rubber fingertips. “Oh my God,” Adam sighs. He switches his computer screen from his work e-mail to a news site. “Army Releases Report on Suicide Prevention” is one of the headlines. “Can the Army’s New Suicide Prevention Plan Really Work?” is another.

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