RECOLLECTIONS OF CAPTAIN JACK BURR, ASSISTANT BRIGADE OPERATIONS OFFICER, 1/35 INFANTRY, 01-07/69.
Depression affects military men and women just as it does in the general population, but more frequently. My purpose here is to recognize that fact and to show that is OK to talk about it.
It was not unusual for an infantry officer to receive orders a second or even a third time. But it was a bit uncommon to be sent to the same division, same brigade, and ultimately the same battalion. It had been a year since I’d last been here. A short one.
After in-processing at 3rd Brigade Headquarters, the Personnel Officer changed my assignment to Brigade Operations. Such changes are common for incoming personnel. Usually Brigade Headquarters would be two echelons from the actual fighting; however, in this environment, front lines did not exit. Nonethe- less, it was a much safer place to be. At this echelon we had certain advantages: hot meals, a regular bed and scheduled work hours.
I was disappointed. To be an Infantry Company Commander was my desire. Vacancies were few and were coveted by many captains in the division. In the meantime I had a job to do.
To my discredit I did not make friends easily and had much time on my hands. I have always been somewhat of a loner. While depression is a strange and pervasive phenomenon, I would never admit its influence on me. But it was there. I slept in a nice bed, ate well prepared and tasty food but none of this alleviated or mitigated the effects of being depressed. If fact, these luxuries made things worse because of the amount of time I had on my hands.
In quiet times, my mind would drift to family. My wife Phyllis, was a strong and a lovely person, but I knew I had left her a heavy burden to make a home by herself, manage finances, care for three children and make decisions by herself. She never told me that she also struggled with depression as I had until years later.
But intuitively, I knew, and so in the darkest hours of the night a silent tear would leak from my eye. I was embarrassed and faulted myself for my own weakness and placing such burdens on her. I asked for double duty to counter my loneliness and worked even harder to erase my shortcomings.
Double duty seemed to rid me of depression. I had no time for self pity if that was the cause. At times such as that, God seemed so far away. But He was not!