“You see, this is what I understood: alcohol is the best cure from the psychological trauma of war. Alcohol numbs that terrible past, which is always with you. That past does not leave you alone. War never ends in your soul. Years, decades, nights, and days—you have to fight, to take the wounded from the battlefield under fire and explosions. It is best to face this war with a bottle of whiskey. The worst part is withdrawal in the morning, and you have to drink again. Then depression begins . . . I read somewhere that every day in the States about twenty veterans commit suicide. It’s hard to comprehend, Pete. Imagine: today twenty more of our veterans will kill themselves! Have you ever called the Veteran hospital? No? Do it, and an answering machine will immediately provide you with the extension for the hotline in case you have suicidal thoughts right now and want to kill yourself. I had called that number too.”
Listening to Adam, I couldn’t help but recall my years of service in the Russian army, in which I served for 2 years before being admitted to the College (in Russia every young man must serve in the army).
Many soldiers on our platoon loved booze. We drank as long as we had money and could get our hands on alcohol. We drank not only vodka and wine, but also moonshine. Some even drank cologne. We drank at any opportunity, using any dishware available when we didn’t have mugs. Pots, bowls. I remember we even unscrewed the headlight cover from an armored vehicle to use as an impromptu drinking vessel.
At the time I served in the army there was a second war between Russia and Chechnya (Russian North Caucasus region) going on. I did not take part in that war, although it was a good possibility. A few soldiers from our platoon were deployed there. Many soldiers, including me, actually asked to go there, submitting written requests.
The propaganda worked. It was poured into our ears every day that the Chechens were our enemies and that the US was helping them to destroy great Russia.
I asked to be sent to the war, and if they had deployed me there, I would have been glad. I was nineteen years old then, just as brainwashed by propaganda and turned into a robot as most of my Army comrades. I was a young man, and I wanted to be a hero.