Marine Corps veteran shares memories from Afghanistan that continue to haunt him

Local news

A Marine Corps veteran recently shared some of his memories about the war in Afghanistan, many of which still haunt him today.

“There was something that I saw in Afghanistan that has stayed with me,” Cpl. James Hamilton recalled about the time he had received a radio call regarding three insurgents believed to be planting an improvised explosive device.

“We get out there and it’s not three insurgents. It’s a dad and his two sons,” Hamilton said.

The older boy was 14 or 15. The other was under 10 years old, Hamilton recalled.

An explosive device intended to kill U.S. service members had somehow been detonated, killing the two boys. Their father survived.

“Hearing him scream. Seeing what was laid out in front of me … That’s what I struggled with for a long time,” Hamilton said.

During his eight-month tour in 2013, Hamilton also experienced personal loss.

His friend, Lance Cpl. Matthew Rodriguez, was killed when a truck he was driving was destroyed in an attack.

“I had badly hurt my ankle,” Hamilton said. “He ended up taking my position as a driver.”

Hamilton later arrived at a flight deck where a plane was being loaded with Rodriguez’s body. “It was just something that shook me to my core,” he said.

Even after returning home to Laguna Hills, an internal war continued to rage on for the father of three.  

Hamilton recalled a time that he was sleeping on his couch and woke up late at night.

 He saw a shadow behind the couch and immediately jumped toward it with a knee out.

“I hear her start crying, and then it snaps in my head. That’s my little girl,” Hamilton said.

His oldest daughter had snuck downstairs and was sleeping behind the couch because she didn’t want her dad to be alone.

The incident caused Hamilton to drink even more, but he said he finally gave it up when his fiancee threatened to leave him.

Hamilton says he now tries to think of the good times he did experience in Afghanistan, like one time when it snowed.

“We built a snowman and promoted him to corporal,” Hamilton said before letting out a laugh.

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