Memorial Day Weekend

I feel like every Memorial Day weekend is based on sales, BBQ-ing and long weekends for people to travel and do whatever.

Recently I attended a Veterans Memorial and the elected officials that attended made a very remarkable statement. The statement, which by the way I can not recall word for word, really hit home. It surrounded around the idea that Veterans in this nation have sort of been pushed to the way side. We name our streets and plants trees for Veterans and have Veterans Day and Memorial Day and all these special dates, times and events, but all I see on social media are “Memorial Day Sale” and “Veterans Day Sale” and barbeques on sale and travel times, etc.

I hope Veterans aren’t forgotten. I hope people actually have a memorable weekend and keep those who served in their thoughts and prayers and don’t succumb to the pressures of a capitalistic weekend brought to you by Macy’s, Sears and whoever else. It’s sad that days like these are surrounded by greed.

But I digress.

I’m going to end this short blog entry with a message to a person who continues to leave comments. Or tries to. JHope@Yahoo.com, I’m sure you’ll read this and it’ll give you some sort of satisfaction that I acknowledged you. I even tried to email you but it says your email is invalid. You left a comment stating “I’m running away like a little bitch.” Yet, this is coming from a person who not only has an email specifically for trolling purposes, but won’t allow any incoming email. That to me says “coward”. I understand the internet is a fun place to go to harass people under an anonymous persona. You don’t have to take any responsibilities for the things you say and you can just disappear whenever you want.

This whole recruiting thing is in the past and forgotten about. It happened nearly ten years ago and I’ve let it all go and moved on. You seem to be thoroughly stuck on it like you want to squash some vendetta you have about the whole thing. Or maybe I’m just giving you too much credit. Who knows. I can’t even recall the First Sergeants name whom you’re speaking about; nor do I care what he’s doing or how he retired. If he retired with full benefits, good for him. Anyone who puts their time in no matter how great or poor of a leader they were, deserves such. Comparatively to the leaders in past units I served it, the ones I had in recruiting were extremely poor. When you have a Company Commander state that he hates recruiting and doesn’t want to be there, take a guess what that does to the morale. Recruiting is a tough gig all the way around. That’s all I need to say about that.

I’ve taken responsibility for the things that happened. And again, I was not kicked out of the service. I had a JAG lawyer and I signed a voluntary resignation and left the service under honorable conditions. Now I own a home, I have a good job and that’s that. If you’d like to open the lines of communication instead of hiding behind an email, I’m fine with that. You can also send me your address and we can talk face to face. I’m not hiding or running from anything.

You say you’re a Veteran, well, lets see.

Edit: JHope left another comment claiming he was in the same recruiting company I was in and insists I was “kicked out” of the Army. Yet, JHope continues to keep his emails blocked and won’t identify who he really is. He’s just “calling me out” on all my “lies” during my time in service. My time in service isn’t defined by 2 years and 8 months in recruiting but yet defined by my DD214 that says “General Discharge under Honorable Conditions”. That’s not being kicked out.

One day JHope will stop being so afraid and post his address along with allowing for emails because I have a pretty good idea who this JHope person really is.

 

Stop Thanking Service Members for their Service

“Rather than writing off the decision to serve with a sterile “thank you for your service” this year, own the sentiment and make it personal.

Thank a veteran that you knew you would be present for the birth of all your children.

Thank a veteran that you have pursued your educational goals safely and uninterrupted.

Thank a veteran that your biggest stress is not getting your training ride, workout, spin class, yoga, pilates, or run in for the day.

Thank a veteran that you can sit home nights and write.

Thank a veteran that you have pursued a successful professional career and living the high life.

Thank a veteran that you have the security to be a stay at home parent.

Thank a veteran that you have chosen to make your home close to your, or far form your family, close to the ocean or deep in the mountain… but you choose it.

Thank a veteran that you were able to attend every one of your child’s sporting events, music recitals, spelling bees and parent-teacher conferences.

Thank a veteran that your spouse or partner comes home predictably every day.

Thank a veteran that you have your weekends free.

Thank a veteran that you pursued your passion as an actor, professional athlete, model, musician, or under water basket weaver.

 

Thank a veteran that you don’t have to be one.”

The Wrong Side of Heaven

 

I heard this song on SiriusXM on my way to work the other day and wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. This morning I got on Youtube and saw the video for the song and decided to watch it.

It made me angry. I thought back on my time in Iraq and the handful of my battles buddies whom I lost during my deployment from 2005 to 2006.

I’ve been loosely following what’s been going on in Iraq for the past few weeks and when the whole ISIS thing initially started, a lot of my fellow Army comrades were posting things on Facebook that they were upset that things were escalating in the Middle East. I felt like chiming in with my liberal talking points and my “open your eyes and wake up” mentality but I decided to give it a rest and delete my Facebook account instead.

I recently saw on Facebook (yes, I reactivated my account this morning) that an interpreter from Iraq was calling ISIS “towel heads” and “Muslim pigs” because of what they’re doing in Iraq. My opinion on this is; it was just a matter of time after the United States military disengaged from Iraq that a group like this would form and take over the middle east. ISIS has always been in Iraq. They’re the Sunni tribe that was once the majority under Saddamn Hussein. Once the U.S invaded (in 2003) and we pushed the Sunni tribe out to allow the Kurdish and the Shia tribes to prosper, it created a heavy imbalance in the Iraqi economy. And once Hussein was ousted out of position, the problem escalated. The Iraqi army fell apart which left over 250,000 people out of work. No jobs, equals no money, equals desperate times, equals heavy recruiting for Al Qaeda and so on and so forth.

The United States occupied Iraq for ten plus years and we fought an insurgency that we created. It’s not like we got to Iraq and they were already there. If you talk to any Veteran who was apart of the invasion, they will tell you that they rolled around in soft door Humvees for a lot of their deployments. It wasn’t until 2004-2005 and on that things started to get hairy. Of course, there was ample push-back during the invasion, which makes sense, because what country would allow another country to just roll in with tanks and soldiers without fighting back? Things have gotten so bad in Iraq now that President Obama has issued bombings on high ISIS targets. That’s kind of how things got started under former President Bush.

This video really puts things into perspective for me since I’m an Army veteran. The problem is that we are a nation of consumers. As Americans, we hold ourselves very high on a pedestal. We are prideful and want to be the best in everything including having the biggest and baddest military in the world. Unfortunately, having the biggest military means we have to spend a lot of money on that. And when we take our military to war, especially with soldiers on the ground, that leads to having to take care of those soldiers once they are out of country and back in the States. Furthermore, even after those soldiers leave the military, we still must take care of them. It’s incredibly expensive and with the amount of money the government tries to cut every year and the amount of money that people don’t want to pay in taxes and the amount of money the top 1% of this country makes, it’s no wonder we don’t have the resources to tend to our veterans.

Former President Bush and Dick Cheney (among others) who made out like bandits over profiting on this Iraqi/Afghanistan war make me literally sick to my stomach. If you didn’t know, Dick Cheney used to be the CEO of Haliburton who, at the time, was Vice President of the United States. He gave no bid contracts to Haliburton during the Iraq war. Which, in turn, made him filthy rich. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.

If you have some time, I urge you to watch some documentaries that you may or may not have already seen:

Losing Iraq

Iraq for Sale

Donald Rumsfeld trailer

 

These documentaries might anger you or inspire you or you might totally disregard them. They make me angry because our political leaders used our military to become rich and profit off of our men and women who went to war for this nation because we thought we were doing what was best for America.

We were all sadly mistaken. And if you go back to the stats posted in the music video, that’s the price we are paying. It’s not the price America is paying because lets face it; only 1% of America’s population actually served in the United States military. It’s the price our veterans are paying. I have yet to hear any military veteran from the Iraq/Afghanistan war claim that they made millions of dollars like Bush and Co. did. Unjust, immoral and unfair are the words that immediately come to my mind.

460,000 veterans have PTSD from combat. Those numbers are staggering. Veterans are committing suicide every day, are homeless, on food stamps, welfare and unemployment. Thousands of veterans are a lay off away from being on the streets. And it makes sense. Americans are greedy, selfish, fat and lazy. We rank 36th in education. We have the highest obesity in the world. Our youth is more concerned about Justin Beiber’s social life and where they rank in sports then anything else. Social media has typically made everyone extremely anti-social and zombie-like it makes me sick. People can’t put their iPhones down for 30 seconds to carry on a lasting, intelligent conversation with each other. It seems if anyone has anything to say anymore, just check their Facebook account to see their latest rant about work, school or co-workers. But I digress.

If the United States of America decides to re-engage Iraq because of this ISIS bullsh*t, I hope everyone who supports that decision goes down to the nearest military recruiting office and signs up for a three year tour (infantry) and picks their duty station as “Iraq”. You people who have never served but wave your stupid little American flag (made in China) and wear your cheap clothing bought at Wal-mart (made in Indonesian) and drive your Toyota (parts assembled in Germany) to work every day claiming your patriotic and this and that- I hope you sign up for the military and actually show your patriotism. You can claim you have the right to this and that and blah, blah, blah.

Well, I leave you with this quote- “And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.”

 

This blog entry is dedicated to those who served and lost their lives during all combat operations. You all served your country bravely and valiantly and for that, I thank every last one of you. We are our brothers keepers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

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

Theory of a Hurricane

 

I’ve been listening to this song for a couple of weeks now; sadly it resembles my life. Let me back track a little bit, though. You know, to allow you to understand things a little more clearly.

In 2005 I was deployed to Iraq for the first time in my life. Yeah, I was a tank mechanic at the time, but working on tanks in the combat zone was far and few between. For the first six months, I endured guard duty. I can’t recall how long the shifts were, but it was boring, hot and miserable, mixed with sporadic times of excitement and being afraid. I remember one afternoon, while I was sitting in my lonely little guard shack far away from civilization, I could hear the faint whisper of what turned out to be a mortar shell. It landed about 20 feet from my position and I had just removed my helmet to indulge in a little bit of lunch. I had just pulled the MRE main meal from the heater and tore the tip open with my teeth when the explosion rocked the guard shack. The concussion was so strong it knocked my helmet off the shelf, my MRE went flying and I nearly fell out of my chair. I wish my story was cooler-you know, jumping up and grabbing two M240 machine guns and blazing down an entire village of terrorists…

…but that shit only happens in the movies. I suppose I could have exited my guard shack and popped off a few rounds; but the Army has always trained me to always have a target in sight before discharging my rifle. Besides, we had a couple of civilians working around our guard shack on miniscule projects that had to be saved. No, no one was injured. But they were running around like complete fucking retards not sure what to do. I hollered over the radio to give exact coordinates of where the mortar shell landed and the possible trajectory. That’s about all my job entailed.

I think that was my real first taste of combat- and it wasn’t much. Meanwhile, my brothers in the scout, mortar and infantry units were out in sector taking shit from all sides, more than likely. And here I was, sitting in a guard shack trying to eat an MRE. Well, we all choose our paths, I suppose. I joined the Army in 2000 when nothing was going on in my life (or the country for that matter). I had gotten into a huge fight with my parents at the ripe ol’ age of 19, thought I knew it all, had it all figured out, wrecked my Dad’s truck, told both my parents to go to hell, and joined the Army the next day. Two weeks later I was in the “suck” at Fort Jackson, South Carolina learning how to be a soldier and then off to Fort Knox to learn my Army trade-M1A1 tank systems maintainer. Originally,  I was supposed to be working on the turret as a 45E but when I got to Kentucky, the drill sergeants welcomed us with push-ups and a new job title.  63A. The Army had combined both tank jobs into one. Same pay, more work, right?

Anyway. After the mortar attack, I wasn’t like, hurt or anything, but something definitely clicked in my head. I went into survival mode. I went into combat mode. These motherfuckers were trying to fucking kill me and I didn’t like it. And it wasn’t like they walked up like badasses and shot at me. They shot rockets from hundreds of feet away like cowards. It sucked. It happened routinely. Nearly every-fucking-day we were getting some kind of indirect fire from these assholes. Its like, I couldn’t sleep because I was always worried about my buddies getting their asses shot off. I couldn’t sleep because I was always worried about incoming rocket attacks. I couldn’t turn it off. I’d lie down in my bunk, close my eyes and just listen to darkness. But I wasn’t sleeping. I wasn’t resting. I was waiting. I’d get a few hours of sleep, eventually, because I was so tired…and then I’d go sit in that hot, dirty guard shack some more.

What does all this have to do with the song I posted earlier? A lot, I suppose. My love life has suffered greatly because of my deployment to Iraq. I don’t do well alone. It’s nice to have someone, a significant person, you know…that you can count on. That gives a shit about you at the end of the day. It just seems that when I get involved with someone, I’m still waiting for that incoming rocket attack.