“When you’re persistently deleted from history, media, and any other channel to access information – or that information is distorted – it’s far worse than physically killing someone. It, instead, induces a form of psychological death. How can you truly be alive, how can you genuinely breathe, when everyone around you believes that you either don’t exist or are dead?”
― M.B. Dallocchio, The Desert Warrior
Out of all the stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance), denial was the shortest lived. After returning from Iraq, my "honeymoon phase" of being happy to be out of a combat zone was short-lived and compounded by new forms of trauma, triggers, and wading through microaggressions. The anger that followed was searing, a bright light that burned through any denial I had left. All the while, I was bargaining with myself – trying to find any way to make sense of it all, to keep going.
It is this state – depression – that led me to a form of clarity. In the depths of night - both physical and psychological - I decided to take action. I couldn't allow myself to be inundated in melancholy any longer. This decision led me to move from Massachusetts to Arizona in 2010, in an effort to start my life anew and spend time wandering through the desert - which I found quite peaceful. I wax poetic about it in "The Desert Warrior," but now it serves as a canvas in my mind's eye.
For us, the war is never over. We are living reminders of a time when the world was different, when we were different. We are ghosts haunting our own lives, struggling to find our way in a world that has largely forgotten us. In many ways, we are the walking dead.
But I refuse to be a ghost. I refuse to be a zombie. I am alive, and I will continue to fight – for myself, and for others like me. This is my story.