Write it down. Not to sell–there are plenty of non-fiction veteran authors chomping at the bit to share their combat experiences with the world. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that, but that’s not what I’m talking about here.
The last mission of my last deployment was pretty hairy. Without getting into it, people died and many were severely wounded. When I got back, my dad suggested that I write everything down.
Now, I’ve been a writer in some form or another for as long as I could remember, but coming out of an experience like that—I had no interest in putting it on paper. It was replaying in my head often enough. But I did anyway, and I didn’t worry about grammar or structure or style—I just vomited up words onto my keyboard and left it as it was. I haven’t changed it since. To show you what I mean, here’s a quick excerpt:
It was an unremarkable, regular ride in the back of a 47. 160th was flying us that night, so I don’t remember being worried about the pilots at all. They probably did a surprise test fire, which probably freaked me out for a split second, as usual.