Except during his darkest days, Delmar Wilson has always had the kind of mind that holds onto dates and details.
Such as the scene outside the Mogadishu airport in Somalia in 1993 when, as a young Marine, he saw for the first time someone killed — hacked to death by machete over packaged meals that Wilson and others from his military aid station had just given out, fueling the bloodshed.
Or a decade later the young widow of a soldier who'd been blown apart in Iraq who demanded to see her husband's body so she could believe he was dead, and whose tiny son wondered aloud at the funeral where his daddy was.
Or aboard a medical transport plane from Iraq to Germany in spring 2007 when Wilson was surrounded by wounded soldiers stacked three high with torn faces, missing limbs and third-degree burns over most of their bodies. "You can't unsee that," Wilson said.
He can talk in depth about the deaths of friends and the suffering he was unable to prevent<NO1><NO>; his anguish over young soldiers killed before they'd really lived<NO1><NO>; the deterioration of his own diseased and damaged body through years of military service; the screaming nightmares and sleepless nights.
One day last year, he found himself weeping outside his son's East Bay high school.
<NO1><NO>He would try to take his own life that day. But in the year and a half since<NO1><NO><NO1><NO>, Wilson has begun to understand how he and thousands of other returning veterans found themselves living in emotional limbo, unable to leave the war behind yet incapable of rejoining life.
<NO1><NO><NO1><NO><NO1><NO>"It's like you live in this alternate reality," said Wilson, 39. "It's like you're operating between worlds," except "you're conscious of that fact."
But after many months at The Pathway Home, a nonprofit residential recovery program in Yountville, Wilson has new tools to work through his post-traumatic stress and depression<NO1><NO><NO1><NO>.
"I understand the things that I did and why I did them," he said. "I've shifted consciousness."