It is still very hard for me to write this because, although what I am about to tell you happened more than 3 years ago, in my heart is still fresh like it just happened. I am Josh, from Louisiana and I have been in the army for over 6 years. I have participated on several missions, last of which took place in Afghanistan back in 2013. I have always cherished the marine spirit, because on the battlefield a marine is your only salvation. He is your friend, your family, your savior and there is no one that can help you in need. Which is why you need to respect that and never betray that relationship.
You can understand how this reasoning conflicted with my homophobic views regarding homosexuals. I have never been one of those claiming that homosexuality is unnatural, but I have always looked at gay men as not real men, but some kind of pussies, especially the ones working in the army. Actually, I have always despised the idea that gay people should be allowed in the army. In my opinion they had no business in a men’s world. Then Ryan was moved to my unit and I knew right from the get-go that we were going to have problems. Ryan encompassed everything that I hated most about gays: he was open and proud of what he was. At that time I considered he had no shame and I was infuriated to see him acting all natural and not doing any effort in hiding or at least pretending.
I never considered him a real soldier. There were others that shared my view and soon we started making fun of him, teasing him all the time and bullying whenever possible. We never took him seriously and none of us respected him in any way.
The situation went like this for about 2 months then we had a mission in the Wardak province, and we had to traverse a very dangerous zone. Ryan was in the back of the truck like always, when the driver suddenly stopped and signaled us to move out. The APC had stopped about 10 meters ahead of us and several soldiers came out, taking the battle stances. We were close to the province, but someone had noticed suspect activity in the hills nearby and the entire column of vehicles went to a halt.
A group of 5 men were sent to investigate while the rest of us were waiting, ready for everything. After about 10 minutes we saw them returning and radio signals assured us that the situation was clear. The APC went ahead and we were about to get in the vehicle when I heard a scream: “IED!” Then someone tackled me and a massive explosion tore the APC in half subjecting us to a rain of shrapnel, fire and dust. I heard gunfire nearby, but I couldn’t see anything and I was partially deaf. I just grabbed the soldier that had jumped me and carried him in the transporter. That’s when I saw it was Ryan, badly hurt by the explosion.
I started performing CPR and I did so until we reached the base, but it was too late. Ryan had died and I felt somewhat broken. He had saved me, the only one out of the entire unit that hated him the most. He had given his life for me and I could not understand why. Why would you save someone that hates you?
I had to treat my injuries, but it was nothing serious. Then, after a week or so, one of Ryan’s friends, a soldier that was somewhat closer to Ryan, gave me a letter and told me that I should read it. It was from Ryan, a letter that he had written with 2 days prior to that tragic incident. That is when I first found out that Ryan was secretly in love with me and it was heartbreaking to find that out. I could not recognize Ryan in that letter, it was like it was another person. I could feel his broken heart, knowing that he was the slave of an impossible love, the love for his enemy.
I knew right then that my view was completely wrong. Ryan was a real man, more man than I could ever have hoped to be. It was a life changing experience and a man had to die to have my eyes opened. If I could give go back in time and save him I would. But what happened will forever remain in the past. I cannot change it, but I can change the future and I can change myself.
Everybody has the right to be who he really is. I have been living in a lie until now and I would like the world to know that I am deeply sorry for what I have done.
My message to gay people is this. Never let yourself intimidated by people like me. You deserve to be happy and no straight man should have other rights than you do.