The statement that I have heard 102 separate times. "I bet you are so excited to get home" the typical response, "yes I cannot wait".
With every response I always wonder if they know I just lied to them. I had anticipated returning home as soon as myself, and my clean new boots left American soil. What they do not know, is that those same boots came back as an unrecognizable pair, internally as well as externally.
Here I am with dirty, used boots. These boots and I have walked across three hostile environments, slept in the same rack, sat in the moonlight pondering things within the world, walked miles in inadequate weather, fought through the fear of death, ran from ginormous spiders, and survived. These boots may have a damaged surface, a loss of its sole, and a lack of durability after the last 11 months. That is not all we have in common; I never would have thought I could compare myself to a silly pair of boots. The thing is these boots are not silly, they have marched on the same dirt particles where my brothers and sisters have lost their lives, that's more than I can say about any other footwear I own.
I need new shoes to walk around in, within this new civilization that I have yet to conform to. A civilization that is more foreign to me then the countries I am not a native to. What has happened while we have been gone? I must purchase new shoes to feel normal, is that normal? If I were to wear my boots and if these strangers knew the history of them, would the judgement dissipate? That, in my opinion is doubtful. I returned to a hurting society, a place where hate is the adapted common language, a country where it’s a trend to burn our flag, people will be admired for kneeling during a time where I am, and have been so proud to stand. These weathered tactical boots and I have the same morals with identical characteristics. We will be there for you while you kneel, always supporting you when you decide to stand back up, protect you when you don’t know you need protecting, be there to help you stand tall, support my brothers, my sisters, my neighbors, and my country till the day we can no longer do so.
Here I am taking my boots off in replacement of clean new shoes. As I lace them tight, I automatically notice the lack of motivation while doing so, as I stand my head is held lower, my proud stance is diminished, my stride has weakened, while my purpose and identity are sitting alongside the brown combat boots resting in the closet. These tennis shoes caress my unmotivated dragging feet, these shoes will be the next step, as I try and search for my new identity. Running into an old friend, an individual who has not experienced a bound with their boots, mentions "I bet it feels so nice wearing those new shoes after all that time in those boots!"
"I will miss those boots."
A message from the owner of portrayed boots: I have run into a lot of challenges within the process of returning home. I have not written since I was in high school, I needed a way of allowing my voice to be heard. Even if one person reads this and it helps them relate or understand they are not alone it will be worth it. This is just the beginning of a new chapter. To those who have a pair of dirty old boots at rest in their closet, I thank you. Simper Fidelis.