I’m not your hero

When I was a kid, I had a lot of heroes like any child in America. Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, Batman, Superman, Ken Griffey Jr…just to name a handful. I always wondered why I thought these guys were so inspirational. Even though some of my heroes were fictional characters in a comic book or a Hollywood movie. My true, number one hero, though, was my father. What son in this wonderful world didn’t look up to their Dad? Well, unless he was some dead-beat junkie that sat on the couch all day and did nothing but drink beer. I never had a Father like that so I feel fortunate.

 

 

My hero went to work everyday, came home and interacted with me. As far as I can remember, I had a great childhood. I mean, there were times when my Dad yelled and disciplined me, of course. That’s because I didn’t know shit or I was up to no good. And it was his job to learn me the right way. I remember later on in life when I would ask him about the days when he rode motorcycles, he would tell me why he gave them up. He told he that he didn’t want to wreck his bikes and possibly risk death and leave his children in a world without a father. To me, that is the true definition of selflessness. He wanted his kids. He loved his kids and he didn’t ever want to abandon them for selfish reasons.

When I joined the Army at the young age of 19, I never knew I would be categorized as someone’s hero. Of course, no one really appreciates ones countries military until something catastrophic happens like 9/11, right?

After that happened, anyone that joined the service before and after that date instantly became a hero in America’s mind. You see a soldier walking through the airport with his or her duffel bag slung over their shoulder, you want to stop and clap. Or offer a handshake. Or simply walk up and thank them for their service without regard of what they’ve been through. I feel the same way about my predecessors though. The guys that fought in Vietnam and World War II. I want to thank them for what they’ve been through. I don’t know what stops me. I simply just stare at them.

Alas, I’m not your hero. I never saved a life in Iraq. I was never under attack where I had to make a decision to tell my guys to fire back. I never even saw an enemy except when I pulled guard duty in the detainee tent that stunk like a fucking rotten hamster cage or when we had to escort a 5-ton full of them to Biop (Baghdad International Airport) and dump them off into the hands of the 10th Mountain Division. I just stood there like a dumbfuck by the 5-ton watching the detainees get off the truck, scrambling around blindfolded. But it wasn’t me who had captured them.

I’m not sure it would make me a hero to get my ass shot off or to get blown up by an IED. A lot of soldiers did get their asses shot off and a lot have been hit by countless IEDs.

he·ro

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noun, plural he·roes; for 5 also he·ros.

1. a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities.
2. a person who, in the opinion of others, has heroic qualities or has performed a heroic act and is regarded as a model or ideal: He was a local hero when he saved the drowning child.
3. the principal male character in a story, play, film, etc.
4. Classical Mythology .

a. a being of godlike prowess and beneficence who often came to be honored as a divinity.
b. (in the Homeric period) a warrior-chieftain of special strength, courage, or ability.
c. (in later antiquity) an immortal being; demigod.
That’s the definition of “hero”. And the way I look at things, there are a lot more soldiers out there that have accomplished much more than I on their tour in combat. Even though I appreciate little old ladies approaching me and thanking me for my service, it’s not needed. Thank the Infantry. Thank the Scouts and Mortarmen. Thank the support elements that had to drive those fuel trucks everyday from FOB to FOB. Thank the guys that did multiple combat tours. Thank the guys that did back to back tours. I’m not your hero.
I’m not your hero.

 

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As long as we stand together…

The way I felt when I was deployed to Iraq was that I was pretty much invincible mixed with a lot of being afraid. But when you’re with your buddies it seems like no one can touch you. You know? Like, we got guns and trucks and bullets and grenades and all this shit that pretty much can send whatever country we occupy six feet down.

We really aren’t that invincible, though. Not in the slightest. I mean, you always hear about soldiers getting wasted in combat but until it’s one of your own, it really doesn’t hit home. I had been home from Iraq for about a year and I was back at Fort Riley. Our unit had disbanded and all my Army buddies that I was in combat with were either getting out of the Army, going to school for drill sergeant, recruiter or moving to a different Army post. Lots of changes were happening and happening fast. My deployment was finished but that didn’t mean it was finished for everyone else. I still had friends going back to Iraq in the upcoming months. I wanted to go back to Iraq with my buddies but the Army put me in a unit that was “fenced” in. Which meant I was stuck like chuck.

I also came to a crossroads in my career. I was trying to get promoted to staff sergeant and I needed all the promotion points I could muster up. Another deployment would delay my promotion by another year and my making E-6 was very important to me. I decided to enroll in college and dedicate my evenings to taking correspondence courses through the Army. Unfortunately, to become a staff sergeant in the United States Army as a tank mechanic, I’d need 750 promotion points. It’s do-able but nearly impossible.

My buddy Crow, who I had met at reception in 2004 when I first came to Fort Riley, was deploying to Iraq. I remembered the first story he had told me about his first deployment about how he got into a fire fight with some bad guys and his pants burned off. Or something to that effect. It was a goofy story but I enjoyed the entertainment. Needless to say, the sad part about being friends with Army guys during the time of war, is sometimes they get to go to war and they never come back.

“I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its stupidity.” DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER

Memoirs of an Army Recruiter (Part 2)

Alton, Recruiting Station. Alton, Illinois.

When I first arrived to Alton I was generously given ten days to find a place to live and establish myself. When those ten days were up it was simply time to go to work. My first day on the job, I was supposed to report to Scott Air force Base for Company Training at 0900 hours. I wasn’t aware of this until 0850 when I showed up for work the first day. So my first day on the job I would be late. I had no idea what this Company Training would consist of but it eventually turned into the bane of my very existence. Basically, once a month, Company Training was a chance for all the soldiers in the Company to get together in one room with the First Sergeant, and the Company Commander and they would complain about how bad we were doing as a Company or praise us if we were doing well. Really, it was a waste of time because the whole process never held any substance. The training was routine, the classes were the same every time, and nobody took it serious. Not even the Company Leadership. What made it worse was that some soldiers had to travel over two hours to come to this. I can recall one instance during Company Training when our Company was doing very well; our First Sergeant stated that since we are doing so well with our recruiting numbers now we can focus on other things. Like family issues. Pay issues. And other personal related things. Another instance I can recall was; we were at the VFW doing Company Training, and it was the last day on the job for the civilian work force and after our training the Company Commander proceeded to say that if you drove here in a Government vehicle you weren’t allowed to drink any alcoholic beverages. But if you came in your personal vehicle (which he did) feel free to indulge a little. I left as soon as I could.

The work load wasn’t an immense amount that a soldier couldn’t handle. It was the long hours that each soldier had to put in. The leadership put the weight on the soldiers’ shoulders that we were still in the Army. We still had to maintain physical fitness standards, and we still had to abide by the rules and regulations just like if we were on a Military Installation. Although, that was hardly the case. Soldiers and leaders alike would walk around without their headgear on, without being in proper uniform, standing outside without their battle dress tops on, or showing up to work in civilian clothes for no apparent reason. It’s like it became the norm. It’s just what we did. We didn’t have any direct supervision. People would argue that we didn’t need any. Most of us were seasoned leaders, senior Non Commissioned Officers, and we all acted like we had forgotten what organization we were a part of. This was the environment that I was walking into. We worked odd hours. Long hours. Sixteen hour days. We tried to make physical training a part of our day. We tried to fit it into our schedule. We even had a gym that we were able to utilize for free paid for by the Army. But when a soldier is getting off of work at 2000 or 2100 hours at night it makes it very difficult to get up at 0600 and make it to physical training. So in essence most soldiers’ physical fitness suffered dramatically.

The days were long, and very unfulfilling. Most days when soldiers were out driving around looking for potential recruits for the Army, they would just find an empty parking lot, recline the seats back, and take a two-hour nap. You could probably find the rest of the soldiers at home playing video games to decompress or to have a peaceful lunch or dinner without the constant harassment of people walking into the office or constant phone calls or the never-ending pressures of the Station Commander breathing down your neck every five seconds asking what you’re working on or how many phone calls you’ve made. When 1700 hours rolled around most people would just be getting off work. Not the Recruiters. We still had about three to four more hours of work. There were times where I had to drive two hours one way to meet a possible applicant’s parent. That parent didn’t get off work until 1800 hours. So I had to schedule the appointment late enough in the evening for them so everyone would be happy. I wouldn’t get home until 2300 hours or later. That happened more often than I can count. I would get back to the Recruiting Station around midnight to return the Government car, and the whole place would be locked up, lights out, and everyone would be gone. I remember coming from an Army that as long as you had soldiers out in the field you were there to support them. What really upset me was the fact that the Company Leadership Team was at home by 1800 nearly every night while most recruiting stations in the Company were still working well past 2000 hours.

With so much time spent cooped up in one office with the same people nearly six days a week, tension would soon rise and conflicts would soon be a part of the recruiting day. Arguments would break out over ways to get the mission accomplished and soon personal problems that became more of the focus on the soldiers end because of failure to resolve them in a timely manner would be the ultimate demise of the recruiting efforts in the Alton Recruiting Station. Pay issues were the common theme. The Battalion was mainly ran by civilians that probably couldn’t care less of the soldiers well-being. Having been a victim of having pay issues, and no one really considering it to be a serious matter, I jumped the chain of command to try to get things resolved. It took nine whole months to finally get my pay issues resolved, and by then I had lost total faith in my chain of command. I could no longer trust them. I could no longer feel supported by them. I could no longer work hard, and feel good about coming to work anymore. I felt let down, and betrayed. I wasn’t the only one. Another soldier shared the same torment and neglect that I had faced for nine months. The soldier’s initial complaint was greeted with a sarcastic, cold, callous remark. “I don’t care. Go back to work.” The rain tapped the windows gently as the awkward silence fell over the recruiting station. I looked to the soldier and I could feel the anger and the frustration as he stared back at me. It was the toxic leadership that those instructors at the school-house had been talking about all along. And now we were experiencing it tenfold.

The months dragged on. I felt physically sick to come to work. I had no desire to do anything. I couldn’t even make an attempt to try to do any work. The soldiers in the recruiting station struggled to maintain any kind of integrity. The Government cars always had contraband littered on the floor boards. Potential applicants were purposely avoided. There were more smoke breaks during our day than anything. Our chain of command didn’t support us. Why should we support the mission? The Station Commander hardly supported the soldiers. Anytime a soldier came to him with a grievance or an alternative way to accomplish the mission the soldiers were always greeted with a dismissive attitude or sarcastic retorts. It was hardly the definition of leadership. It was hardly an expression of the Army Values. It hardly motivated the soldiers to put in a solid 12-16 hours of quality work.

I think what initially delayed the inevitability of the downfall of my recruiting career was the fact that eventually our work hours were changed from 0900 to whenever to 0900 to 1700 hours. I could finally breathe easy and feel somewhat normal again. The problem was-the damage had already been done. My motivational levels were in the toilet, I wasn’t inspired to do any work and I hated everyone around me. Arguments and insubordination were a common trend in the recruiting office. No one followed direction. No one did the right thing. Most of the time, I was intoxicated at work. I spent the majority of the afternoon either playing video games in my apartment, drinking, sleeping or all of the above. When I’d go to interviews, I’d purposely sabotage it and talk the applicant out of joining just so I wouldn’t have additional work to do. And that’s even if I was able to make an appointment. I didn’t try anymore and I really didn’t care.

The First Sergeant walked into the classroom on a dreary morning and started ranting and raving about integrity, selfless service, doing the right thing blah, blah, blah. Usually I’m the type of guy to just ignore top leadership rants like this because I’m well aware of why it’s happening. The First Sergeant got his ass chewed out by his boss so now the shit is rolling downhill. The problem I was having is that this guy was such a pathetic leader it was hardly tolerable to accept his ass-chewing. I was getting more and more upset as he went on.  I wanted to desperately call him out on his own bullshit. I took one look around the room to see if anyone would have my back. I could only chuckle to myself. These recruiters were all sitting there with their heads down just taking it. Maybe a fight wasn’t worth it to them. Maybe a fight wasn’t in their blood or maybe they were just trying to get through the day. Maybe they were just ignoring the ranting First Sergeant hoping he’d just shut up and move on. At any rate, I knew I was flying solo on this mission but I didn’t care. I had to say something.

“First, Sergeant, what about you? You’re one to talk about integrity.” I squeaked.

Now you have to picture this guy. He’s sort of a cross between Alfred E. Newman and an idiot. He’s hardly intimidating. He’s not like one of those real First Sergeants in the Army that’d rip your head off in one swipe and leave you for dead. He was kind of like a scared little Chihuahua in a corner shaking like a leaf. I mean, the guy would talk so much shit over the phone because he could. But face to face, I could smell the fear.

“Excuse me? Sergeant, this isn’t an open conversation.” He replied.

“I don’t care if it is or not. You’re the last person to talk about doing the right thing around here, First Sergeant.” I refuted.

“Sergeant, at ease! Do you understand me?” He snapped.

“No, I don’t understa-“ and before I could finish, he was literally running out of the classroom. Where was this idiot running off to? I quickly stood up and demanded that he return to the classroom instead of running off like a chicken shit. I think I said something to the tune of “Get your ass back here and deal with the problem instead of always running to the commander.”

When I caught up with him, he was blubbering like a child to the Company Commander about how I disrespected him in the classroom. He turned to me and told me to stand at the position of attention and tell the captain what had happened. I sneered at the First Sergeant at that point. I’ve never wanted to kill a man so badly in my life. What a childish loon this guy was. I told the commander I needed a moment to collect my thoughts and I walked away from the situation.

That wasn’t the first time I got into with the First Sergeant. Before a crowd of about 1,000 people, the First Sergeant yelled to me, “I’m going to fuck you up.” because I had forgotten about some minor paperwork back at the office before we left for some three-day recruiting thing in Ohio. I was sitting about six rows back in this huge auditorium when he yelled those words to me and I literally wanted to jump those six rows and stab him in the heart with a chair. When he and I got outside the auditorium I didn’t waste any time. I stuck my finger in his face and told him if he ever talked to me like that again in front of my peers, I’d roll his dumbass up. Well, the end note was this; I ended up standing at parade rest with him apologizing to me.

I started my recruiting career in June of 2008 and it was over by October 2009. Combined with poor leadership, bad decision-making on my part and a much unmanaged, unsupervised organization, I spent the majority of my time sitting at the Company from 0900 hours to about noon on disciplinary probation for “threatening” my chain of command, five days a week for about a year before I was finally released from active duty. September 10th was my final day in the United States Army and I wasn’t sure where that road was going to lead me. Within that final year or recruiting, I managed to buy a home, get into a serious relationship and bring it all crashing down around me just as soon as I thought I had established something great and worth keeping. While sitting at the company headquarters, I watched many soldiers come through for various disciplinary problems and I watched a bumblefuck of a chain of command handle it. Recruiting was run on a “good ol’ boy” system. If you were successful, put a lot of bodies in the Army, it was okay to fail a drug test. Or receive/send nude pictures to applicants. Those were just a few examples of what I saw while watching the chain of command. They fought for who they liked best and let others fall. They only cared for their best interest. And it’s funny too, because the First Sergeant came from a battalion full of corrupt and ill-mannered individuals. I talked to one soldier that knew him personally, and all the wrongness he had done prior to coming over to the company I was currently in. He was, in my eyes, a total fuck up.

My demise came on a fateful night of heavy drinking and venting frustration to my station commander. I wanted to slaughter the whole chain of command because I was unhappy with my life. I was pissed off about the whole pay issue fiasco that took an eternity to get ironed out. And it wasn’t the length of time that upset me; it was the unwillingness for certain individuals to care about it. I was upset because I was living in some shit-hole apartment in a poverty-stricken area of town. I wasn’t eating right and I wasn’t getting adequate exercise because I was stuck at work 90% of the time. I had poor leadership, no friends and no way to really vent my frustrations. At this point in time in my life, I had no knowledge that I may be suffering from combat related injuries, until I spent three days in a behavior health hospital for losing my shit over the phone to my station commander.  The sad part was, he was sort of just an innocent bystander in the whole mess. He did what he could to help me with my problem, the hang-up was one above him; the First Sergeant.

Memoirs of an Army Recruiter (Part 1)

June 15th of 2008 would be the day of my Army career that would forever be remembered as the turning point of my life. Before I was selected to become an Army Recruiter through the Department of the Army, I had a easy-going job at Fort Riley, Kansas training senior leaders of Today’s Army combat readiness skills, and operations. Those senior leaders would form individual teams know as MITT ( Military Transition Teams ) and would go overseas to train the local fighting forces how to be combat ready like the soldiers in the United States Military. My day consisted of doing physical training for an hour each morning, reporting into work at 0900 hours, and getting the task listings for the day from my Platoon Sergeant. My day usually consisted of teaching soldiers the operations of the M19 Grenade Launcher or teaching the operations, and doing live fire events with the M2 .50 caliber machine gun. My day usually ended around 1400 hours unless we had other tasking or classes to teach beyond that time frame.  Generally we were home by 1400 hours.

I had a great relationship with my chain of command, I worked diligently with the other soldiers around me, and I never once doubted my chain of command that they couldn’t resolve any personal or work related issue that ever came abound while I was hard at work. I automatically trusted my Platoon Sergeant, and my First Sergeant, and my Company Commander, and my Battalion Sergeant Major, and my Battalion Commander, and my Brigade Sergeant Major, and my Brigade Commander because those leaders were in a position of authority and were put there to make sure the soldiers in their command were taken care of, and looked after so we could accomplish the overall mission. I didn’t have a choice not to trust these leaders. They were my family. They were my guidance, and they were who I went to if I had problems or issues. I felt confident that whatever happened I could always fall back on my chain of command to be understanding, and back me up 100% if I were in the right, and be empathetic and willing to listen if I were in the wrong. So in essence the moral level was very high.

Recruiting School. Fort Jackson, South Carolina. The “School House” soldiers would call it. They called any Military school that. I went into this eight week course with confidence, and integrity. The instructors were all former Station Commanders, 79R etc. One thing that all the instructors had in common was that every station they led, when they first took over that specific station was last in Battalion. Within six weeks they were on top. During ATC that station took all the awards. I thought it was a little odd that every single instructor shared the same story. I started to feel uneasy, and I questioned a lot of things in my mind during my eight week stay at Fort Jackson. I didn’t feel as though the integrity of the Army was there. One instructor even told us a story of how he was driving an applicant to MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Station) and this female was so gorgeous, and she was wearing these daisy duke cut-off shorts, and a white wife beater shirt, and she took off her shirt, and attempted to perform oral sex on the instructor while he was driving! I was astounded and somewhat relieved because all the other instructors shared similar stories. Was this how recruiting was? Driving around in Government cars receiving oral sex from applicants? Becoming a Station Commander of a Recruiting Station that was so poorly ran that it was in last place in Battalion? But your efforts and skills are so amazing that within six weeks that specific station is in first place in Battalion? It seemed like I was headed to the promise land.

Three days into the course we were given a physical training test. The push-up event, the sit-up event, and the two-mile run. I ran my two miles in 21:19. I failed the two-mile run. So in essence I failed the PT test. I wasn’t the only one. I was also supposed to get checked for body fat percentage because I was over the weight I was allowed to weigh for my age and height. I was never checked. I wasn’t the only one. In a class of about 65 soldiers, I would say that 50 Soldiers actually passed the physical requirements that allowed them to stay in the course.  So what about the other 15 soldiers that had some kind of issue with the physical requirements for the course? I remembered being asked one time why I didn’t get my body fat checked. I told the instructor I didn’t know I had to. This was the first time in my Army career that I was asked about my body fat. The instructors didn’t really make it all that clear that I needed that done in the first place. They just drew a pink highlighted mark through my PT card, and told me “I was good.” So I assumed everything was okay.  After being questioned about it I was instructed to bring my PT gear to class the next day. I complied with the orders, and the next day I showed up for class with my PT gear.  I was never instructed to do anything after that.

Recruiting School was never really physically demanding or mentally exhausting. It was really just a mind game between the students and the instructors. Humoring them and laughing at their jokes and stroking their overinflated egos. It was all just for show. We were always being threatened with being “recycled” if we didn’t do our homework, or if we didn’t show up for class on time. The classes were long and drawn out. The material was dry and boring and irrelevant. At one point or another just about every student fell asleep during class. There was no fear of not passing a test. The real fear was trying to stay awake and avoid being “recycled.” The instructors took everything so personal. I can recall one situation where one of the instructors got reprimanded for something, and he came to teach the following morning, and he was obviously in a depressed/upset mood. He taught the class anyway, but nobody paid any attention because he was just reading the slides on the PowerPoint Presentation, and not really giving any insight. It was like a roller coaster of emotions with these instructors. If we as a platoon showed up late for physical training in the morning they would be mad about it for the rest of the day. If we came back from lunch late the instructors would be upset for the remainder of the day, and we wouldn’t get anything out of the classes they taught.

Graduation day came and I couldn’t be any happier. The last eight weeks of my life was like spending it in a horrible relationship with a bi-polar person. Most of the attitudes in the school from the instructors were uncalled for and unnecessary. They held themselves on such high pedestals like they’ve single handedly saved the world. I was just happy to get my recruiter badge, graduate, and start the long trek from Fort Jackson, South Carolina back to Fort Riley, Kansas. The only thing I was concerned about was where I’d be recruiting out of. Everyone else had their recruiting assignment, but I didn’t. After graduation I had to run to the operations department of the school, and find some civilian that may or may not have my assignment. When I got there of course the civilian I was supposed to talk to wasn’t present. She managed to show up 30 minutes later. Meanwhile, I still have an 18 hour drive to complete, and it was getting later and later in the afternoon. I finally received my assignment.

 

My Tears Don’t Fall, They Crash.

I think I may be way off base here, but I think love fucking sucks. Every time I see a happy couple, I want to take a 2×4 and bash myself in the face with it. It’s not that I’m not happy for them; because I am. I think I get upset over it because I feel I’ve squandered my willingness to love and be the very best person I can be in a relationship.

Relationships are tough, no doubt about it. And I’ve been in many that have failed due to my own selfishness, probably. Within those failed relationships, I’ve learned a thing or too, though. So not all is lost. But with all that heart-break, heart ache and failures, I’ve become this cold, insecure human being that literally indirectly sabotages the beginning of relationships that I attempt to make work.

I view myself as way too emotional. I get frustrated with how things are going and I really let my emotions show. My usual response in an argument is a childish walk-away move. Yeah, I just get up and leave the room. And we are all preaching that communication is that answer to a relationship that ultimately survives. Am I right? Honesty is the best policy for a couple. That I can agree on. So why do I just walk away from an argument? I’m not really sure. My psychiatrist says it’s a defense mechanism

 

Another problem I have is I’m constantly wondering stupid things like, “does she still like me?” or “oh, what was that look for? Is she not interested anymore?” and those kinds of thoughts every day can seriously drive anyone crazy. I mean, what the fuck. I must be one messed up individual where I couldn’t possibly get my mind to calm the fuck down…because of a girl! And I’m not trying to be insensitive but what does your best friend always tell you after a breakup to make you feel better? “There are plenty more where that came from.” Well, that’s nice. I’m not sure I like what came from there already, why would I want more?

Random tangent… anyway. This whole “I can’t get a serious girlfriend” lull in my life should probably end sooner or later. I don’t do well alone. I have depression problems as it is and it helps to be with someone. It’s kind of like getting a therapy dog for anxiety. Girlfriends help with depression. Makes sense to me. But right now I can’t seem to get a serious one to save my life. I purposely antagonize just to see any emotion. Whether it be negative or positive. And that isn’t healthy. I guess it’s my way of seeing just how much they can tolerate before they call it quits. But over the years, I’ve learned to recognize  those nuances that I do and knock it off.

Well, in conclusion, I’ve cried some pretty hard tears for women in my day. I look back on those tears and question if they were worthy of it or not…and what kind of human can inflict so much pain on someone, more so, what kind of human can take such pain and suffering without finally dying..? I think humans are more tolerable to pain than we think. A broken heart is the most painful injury I’ve ever felt. It’s rocked my world, brought me to the brink of suicide and allowed me to see just how many punches I can take before I finally just let it go.

“The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it, will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get it and keep moving forward.” -Rocky Balboa

“Keep Your Head Down. -Love, Dad”

I never really connected much with my parents. Even at a young age I never really felt close to them. Especially my mother. It seemed like whenever I had a problem and I wanted to talk to her about it, she’d just tell me what she thought I wanted to hear to get me off her back. I guess it wasn’t until I left for Germany in 2000 when I really started to feel distant from both my mother and my father. Clearly, I always wanted their support, though.

My dad is a perfectionist. Still to this day he strives to be the best person he possibly can. He doesn’t take shortcuts, he doesn’t cheat people, he doesn’t fiddle-fuck around at work…he does the very best job that he possibly can, day in and day out. I wouldn’t call myself a perfectionist, but I don’t like taking shortcuts. And when I do, it bothers me forever. I want people to view me as a hard worker. I want people to view me as someone who cares and does a good job. Someone that can be trusted. I bring this up because I’ve always strived to mirror my father’s foot steps in every way imaginable. But I was never able to keep up. I sought his approval in every which way imaginable. And when I felt that I may have disappointed him in such a way, I literally felt useless.

My days in Iraq were spent day dreaming of killing bad guys. And getting the occasional email from Dad. Of course, my deployment to Iraq was nothing like what others have experienced. There weren’t mass explosions going off all around me while dragging my buddies to safety…

…and I was never pinned down in the jungles of Vietnam fending off short little yellow people with automatic machine guns, either:

But I did get to see some shit, I suppose. I got to experience combat even if it was just indirect fire. I got to be a gunner on some trucks, I got to hangout with my scout buddies in sector and I got to see the inside of a few homes owned by the locals. It’s not every day a person gets to spend 12 months in Iraq. So for that, I’m grateful.

As the deployment wore on, it was tough to stay motivated. It was tough to wake up every morning and report to guard duty or to the motor pool or whatever else I had to do. It was tough to stay on base and not just pack some gear and wander off. The one thing that kept me going was this little ending that my dad would end his emails with. “Keep your head down. Love, Dad.” That’s all it said. And it was enough. I felt like I had a purpose with my unit. I used to tell some of my Army buddies to keep their heads down when we were out fucking around outside the compound on one of those perimeter marches we’d do at 0600 hours in the morning with the First Sergeant. I wasn’t sure if terrorists were up at that hour, but if they were, it was a good idea to keep your head down.

;

To this day, I don’t speak to my parents much. If at all. I guess Facebook sort of forces that connection. When I returned home from the Army, things were upside down in my life. I had lost my first purchased home to a failed relationship, I spent nearly a month in a behavioral mental health hospital due to going completely fucking crazy when my ex-fiance left me, I was miserable, unemployed and distraught from being separated from the one family I truly loved. I thought I’d have peace back home with my parents, I’d attend college, get a job and everything would be hunky-fucking-dory. Yeah.

Finding peace in my life has been a struggle. I felt literally stabbed in the back when my mother used every angle to get me to move out and find my own way. Well, I don’t blame her, I suppose. I wouldn’t want a thirty-something single male living in my home, either. But then again, I’m not a crazy, miserable, selfish bitch. If I came across me on the street, I’d lend a helping hand. At any rate, it is what it is. I’ve nailed down two jobs, I’ve attended college off and on the last couple of years and I’ve managed to stay in shape. On top of that? I’m starting third base for a softball team this year. So fuck you, mom.

As for my dad? I felt I’ve let him down. I didn’t quite amount to his expectations.

The Cost of Hate

There was a time when I had an outlook on life in an optimistic point of view-where I saturated myself with happiness and carefree thoughts. I think the day everything really changed was in December of 2005. Well, I take that back. It might have changed earlier then that. I remember going out with the scouts in my M88 recovery vehicle. We had to switch out vehicles for maintenance purposes as we were staying in this shit hole outside of Camp Taji. Here’s a picture:

It wasn’t much. We had cable on a little 13-inch  tv and we mostly survived on MRE’s, pizza pockets and whatever else we could find. We all slept on Army cots and red Gatorade was the drink of choice. It was the true definition of “roughin’ it.”

As the maintenance guy, we had our M88 recovery vehicle parked outside near a gate  in case some asshole decided to run it, they’d have to get through a 45 ton road-block with some pissed off Army guy behind a .50 caliber machine gun. I remember driving across route “Islanders” or route “Thunder” or some crap like that and our vehicle had broken down on the road. We were also informed that the route was considered “black” which meant stay the hell off of it because of hostile enemies planting IEDs everywhere.

The scouts in my unit were highly trained and I had much respect for those guys. They worked hard and since I was friends with the platoon sergeant, I got to ride with them on a couple of missions here and there. I wanted to see what they went through every day. I wanted to experience their job. I wanted to be apart of something in Iraq. I didn’t want to just sit around the motor pool or guard a fucking radio all day. For the most part, that was my deployment. Sitting in the motor pool or guarding a radio. I didn’t do much else.

We stopped on the road with a busted transmission and myself and my soldier dismounted to help the scouts pull guard if need be. We didn’t want to get ambushed and that’s all I could think about because we had high grass fields on both sides of us. I kept day-dreaming of some asshole terrorist running through the grass, bending down on one knee and shooting an RPG at us from the grass. Hey, it could happen, right? I remember one of the scouts totally pissed off. He was cussing at everything and just mad as hell. He was rambling on about how he was done with the Army because he refused to lose another scout in combat.

I just stared at him. He was talking about Eisenhauer. He was the first scout we lost in battle. It dawned on me how combat affected everyone; including these scout soldiers. These guys were my rock. These guys took the fight to the enemy. These were the guys I respected and seeing one of their buddies die during a fight hurt them, too. And seeing how pissed off this guy was sorta made me pissed off, too.

I couldn’t imagine what it was like to lose a friend or a fellow soldier in combat. Especially when the bullets were flying. Your buddy gets hit and all you want to do is save his life. Fuck everything else-he’s your priority. But if the injury is too bad and trying to save him might end up costing you your own life or more lives, you gotta move on. I couldn’t imagine having to make that decision. And I think not being able to be in those situations has made me hate myself. I could’ve done more for my Army buddies. I could’ve been out there in the fight. I’m good at what I do. Every job I’ve ever taken in life, I have excelled at. I’ve always done exceptional jobs. But here I was, pulling radio watch while my buddies are out there getting shot at.

I don’t know how many times I’ve asked to go out with the scouts on missions. I think at one point, I just left the compound without permission from the Battle Captain. I was like, “fuck it. If he won’t let me go, I’m going anyway.” I even rolled out with the Estonian Army, too. Against orders. Fuck it, man. Watch your own goddamn radio, I would say to myself. The Estonia Army guys were all into this combat shit, though. We went into a couple of houses for some routine cordon and searches and they’d literally turn the house upside down and shake it like a snowglobe. I wasn’t all for bashing people’s’ shit up, and one Estonian Army guy called me out when I showed lack of enthusiasm.

“You act like you give a shit about these people, man.” he said.

I sorta just stared at him.

Back at the compound, the Estonian Army guys would literally beat the shit out of each other. You know, for fun. That’s how they were. They were tough and rugged. Durable. Mean and nasty. They were animals. I didn’t feel safe with them. But going out with them gave me a sense of accomplishment. Me, a fucking POG (Personnel other than Grunt or Piece of Garbage), went on a mission with the Estonian Army. I felt like a real bad-ass. I was hoping we’d find some piece of shit terrorist and get to torture the shit out of him like they do in James Bond movies. It was a total thrill ride. But alas, nothing happened.

In 2009 I got picked up for recruiting duty and I literally thought my life had ended. I wanted to go back to combat and be apart of this monster that was festering inside of me. It was eating at me. I hated going to work every day. I hated waking up. I hated going to bed. I hated where I lived and I hated everyone around me. I was now a paper-pushing bitch amongst a chain of command that had never seen what I’ve seen. The worst part about it was that they thought they were God’s gift to the Army. It was sickening.

“If it’s natural to kill, how come men have to go into training to learn how?” –Joan Baez