My thinking is more like, "I was a man.....once", and know they'd look passed me if they knew what my deal really is.
We just re-read your post and this particular line just jumped out. That is EXACTLY how we feel. If they really knew the weight we carry around. The weight of the abuse, the fractured mind, the guilt and the weight of the things we experienced performing our duties. These things are what wake us in the night screaming or laying there in silence knowing we can never express these things to another human being.
I feel deep shame among other survivors, among other veterans. We spent a lifetime being the biggest badest motherfucker around, but what they didn't know was that in reality, it was all just an attempt to keep them away. The expression of hate, anger, and violence was a reflection of the demons who reside in the recesses of our shattered mind.
Since our fall (that is the most accurate description) we feel like there is a scarlet letter tattoed on our forehead. As if everyone who casually passes knows everything. And so I hide behind the vest, the sunglasses, the low hat, and the avoidance of contact.
Silently waiting for this all to end...