A couple of Sunday's ago I went in to work. When I got there J, my 24 hour driver for the day, wasn't there. He'd left his girlfriend a month or so earlier and had been couch surfing until he found a place to land, so the boss gave him one. He stayed at the spare room at the office on his 24 hour shifts since he didn't always have a parking spot for the truck wherever he was staying. He stayed there a site more than that but that wasn't supposed to be shared around. We all knew anyway.
His motorcycle was gone and I thought maybe he'd stepped out for a bite to eat. An accident call came in so I sent it to his app and then called him, because he didn't have the truck and needed to beat cheek to get on the road so we could meet the mandatory time frame the PD requires. It rang twice then went to voice mail. I hung up and called him right back and it went straight to voice mail and continued to do so. I got hold of the boss who woke up the only driver not out of town, who had run the Saturday 24 hour, and got him on the road, and then we started tracking J down. It was far easier said than done but we were worried about him and, frankly, he owes the boss money. We finally got hold of him yesterday.
J is a disabled veteran with PTSD. He was single in the military and after a while felt that if he was on the line that meant someone who was married could stay home. 5 years of near back to back tours left him confused, broken, drifting. When he got back he tried to go back to normal living. He got a job, a girl, and a sweet motorcycle. Still, the ugliness was never far away. He started drifting in with a lively crowd who welcomed him with open arms. I guess when you're confused the calm, reliable life he had been struggling to resume leaves too much quiet in your head, and that's a bad thing. Unfortunately we can pinpoint the moment it happened, the boss sent him out to strawberry to haul a cycle for one of them that live in a motorcycle club compound out there. Pretty soon he was going on road trips with them, and when his girlfriend complained his "brothers" said dump the old lady, she's a drag. So he did. Roaming the roads with people who not only excused but encouraged his PTSD moodiness into rages was easier than staying home and learning how to cope with life. He'd always been a good driver, he has the skills and the brains to handle most of what we threw him at, he showed up when he was supposed to, worked as long as we needed him, took on any shift we had for him, if he hadn't been reliable and trustworthy the boss wouldn't have set him up at work like he did. Shortly after the girl was gone they started working on us. We made him work too much, too long, and didn't get him, no one got him but them. That caused a real issue for J, because he knew we did right by him, but they worked on him and got him so conflicted that he just gave in and left.
J came in to the office for a few minutes today. One of his "brothers" was there with him, but he stayed out in the lot. J's not okay. He's been staying out in strawberry bar-tending for the club for free so he can sleep on the couch in the lounge. It's a private club so the bar is open 24 hours and he's constantly on call catering to their alcoholic needs. He's been using his disability money to replace what shows up missing when he passes out in exhaustion because he can't risk being kicked out, but they're his brothers and they're gonna look out for him and take care of him. It's obvious just how good of a job they're doing.
The boss talked to him for a while, and came to an agreement about things that needed wrapping up, and then chased him out to the parking lot to tell him to make sure to keep in contact with us. We have to have a place to send his tax forms to, you see. You really don't want the IRS out there looking for you. That got the brother's attention. J said he'd see what he could do, then climbed up on his cycle and took off, his buddy following him and flinging a one fingered salute our way. I sent him a text this evening, told him to drop me a line and we'd get together and he and Cave could exchange stories about the idiocy in the chain of command. I'll be very surprised if he responds.
I look around me on this Veterans day and I am humbled at the sacrifices, the loss, the suffering that goes on, every day, in the name of freedom, and it curdles my stomach to see that so many throw it away and roll over for a bigger pull on the government teat.