Carlos had also to come to terms with the fact that his life after the Marine Corps looked nothing like he thought it would when he enlisted as a kid.
“In Chicago I was a punk teenager, and I needed change. The Marine Corps was a way out. Where I was headed in my life, it was a bad route. I joined the Marine Corps to stay alive. I was either going to join a gang or work in Ace Hardware until I was sixty. My friends back there are all up to the same crap.”
But now, instead of becoming a businessman with a stellar military resume, going to a fancy job dressed in suit and tie each day, Carlos was a tattoo-covered veteran still dealing with war wounds invisible to the outside world.
He told me he almost wished he’d lost a limb instead of suffering a brain injury.
“If you’ve lost your legs, you have prosthetic legs or a wheelchair. There’s no prosthesis for lost brain cells.”
Carlos reminded me he was far from an anomaly, as tens of thousands of service members continued to return home from combat, forever altered by what they had seen and experienced in war. He wanted the people who read the blog posts I wrote to know this. That was why he told me his story.
“There are more people like me who need help than there are people who can help them.”
Carlos stood up from his chair to shake my hand as I left. It was only then I realized that Carlos was not the tall, imposing man I’d assumed him to be by listening to his story of survival.
He was barely my height, and I’m 5’ 6”.
Before I turned to go, Carlos had one last thing to say:
“I don’t want anybody feeling sorry for me. Let them know I’m still a man.”
Yes, Carlos Cruz is still a man. A man who has survived the unimaginable. A man with a dog who’s helping to make him whole again.
Next Week, "Even the Devil Can't Fool a Dog" - Epilogue
(Read the previous installment of “Even the Devil Can’t Fool a Dog” by clicking here.)