Sunday, May 22, 2016

DV, the new ED Hardy/Tapout for vets?

This is bound to get quite a few people up in arms, but I ask that you read it in the fullest before making statements bellow.
            First I’d like to lead off with this in case someone is unclear as to the comparison. Ed Hardy was a popular and at one point in time an expensive brand of clothing. It was soon taken over by the “hipsters” of the early 2000’s and the, well for lack of a better term, douche bags we all seen around where we work and live. Tapout followed the same path, a clothing company that was designed for MMA and those types of people soon turned to represent people that had the attitude of “I wear it so I am it”. Now alas, it seems to me and a lot of vets that DV has started down this road.
            I’ll be the first to say, I liked their clothing as a funny thing. Their stuff said things that I thought and/or agreed with, but wouldn’t wear it around. Not because I would be embarrassed by it but because for the added attention it would bring to me.
            For example, “Does not play well with others” and “Stay back 100 meters”. It’s funny, it’s part of a lot of deployments, and yes it makes me chuckle. But not for the reasons you think. It makes me laugh because for someone wearing a “Does not play well with others” it would appear to me that you are wanting the added and unnecessary attention that it is bringing to you. Of course when you wear a shirt that says something like that people are going to do one of two things. They are either going to ask you about it forcing you to explain what it’s about (or blow them off furthering the bad attitude stereotype that veterans have, which we’ll cover in a post coming soon), or they will smirk and make quiet comments about how ridiculous and idiotic it is for someone to wear something along those lines and when finding out it’s a veteran’s shirt and clothing line it will again add to the poor stereotype that the veteran community is facing in this day and age.
            It seems to me that if you really are a “dysfunctional” individual you wouldn’t want people to interact with you. But a NARCOSIST would…. you WANT people to ask about the shirt, you WANT people to inquire about your service, and you WANT to propagate the bad stereotypes that people are getting about veterans now days. You think it’s “cool” and “funny” to watch “potatoes” look at your shirt and walk away. You think it’s funny that “potatoes” can’t understand your “sense of humor” or will ever be able to “get” you. News flash bub/bubbets, if you climb down off the pedestal you’ve put yourselves up on and actually TALK and COMMUNICATE with people you’ll find you are actually NO BETTER THAN ANYONE ELSE……..HOLY SHIT……did the wind just get taken out of your sails?
            You are a VETERAN! Yes, you took an oath to defend this country, you volunteered to serve this GREAT nation, and yes, you ARE the 3%. But what you are not is better than a civilian that did not serve. Everyone has a calling and not everyone’s calling is to serve in the military. But putting that aside just because you did serve does not make you any better than anyone else. That’s a does or reality number one.
            Dose number 2, just because you are a veteran does not mean you are “dysfunctional”. Surprise, surprise sunshine, I know momma told you that you were special but that doesn’t mean the same thing. Something that is extremely funny to me and I’ve set back and watched this the last couple of years is the number of people that wear and act the “dysfunctional” way. I’m not tooting my own horn here but merely setting an example. I fought in the invasion of Iraq in 2003 AND in the first battle of Ah Fallujah in 2004, both as an Infantry Machine gunner. My brothers and I saw a lot of stuff and experienced a lot of things. You know how many of them preach the teachings of “dysfunctional veteran”? Not very many, actually less than 5%. We all thing the clothing and facebook post are funny (mostly) but that’s as far as it goes. The reason I set this here is for my next observation. The amount of people I see wearing and boasting about being “dysfunctional” are generally people that seen or done little to no combat missions let alone tours. Before you get to butt hurt, yes, I do understand that NOT being in combat doesn’t mean you can’t “suffer” from PTSD or feel “dysfunctional”. Just hold on I’ll be clarifying my stance shortly. I say this because, in my and some of my brothers experiences, the ones that wear these shirts and talk (loudly most of the time) about DV are ones that will tell you a “war story” in a heartbeat without even being asked about it or will have a very detailed and gnarly story to share that seems more tailored to make the listener understand “why they are a dv” and less about letting someone know that they are in fact a veteran. A lot of this comes from the entitlement mentality (that I will be sharing another post all about soon) that a lot of our veterans have. New age vets seem to be taught and coached on how to get what disability ratings from the VA when the only disability they actually have is laziness to not work. So instead of becoming a productive member of society that happens to be a veteran they don on “veteran” gear, put on an act at the VA, get very defensive to anyone that indicates they aren’t buying their act, are rude and disrespectful to “potatoes”, and generally are not someone that any self-respecting human wants anything to do with.
            Third dose of reality. Believe it or not, there ARE some civilians that have had it (mentally and/or physically) worse than you. Just because they never served doesn’t mean that that civilian you just were rude to doesn’t have PTSD/PTS/TBI. That “potato” that you just scoffed at or thing has no idea what you’ve “been through” does in fact know what you’ve been through 10 fold. That “civie” that you thing “wouldn’t get my humor” has a more twisted sense of humor than you ever thought, mainly because they actually think it’s funny where as you think it’s funny because DV said so…you see where I’m going with this?
            You want to put veterans up on a pedestal and then act like a damned fool then wonder why/how vets have such a bad name. You, who have no actual reason for being “dysfunctional” other than being a veteran, you have just become that “douche bag” that dons on the ed hardy and tapout gear thinking it makes you look badass or like you are somebody.
            I was taught both in life and the military, the actions of a man determine the character not his looks or appearance. That squared away Marine may be the biggest shit bird in the unit but he keeps is camies nice and pressed. That Marine that hasn’t used an iron in years will more than likely be the best damned Marine in the battalion. Your cloths only make you look foolish and draws attention to you, attention that you claim you don’t want.


Monday, November 9, 2015

The beginning end

Let me set the scene for you.

It’s a sunny, getting hot morning probably around 1000, July 2nd day. Normal activity is going on around a OP (Observation Post) that we have affectionately dubbed “OP 88” or simply “Aiming Stake” (as best my depleting memory will serve me). We dubbed it this simply because the insurgents of Iraq in 2004 seemed to be using it as an aiming stake for their mortars for a couple weeks or so up until this particular day. They were sporadic, a couple one day, none for a couple of days then one. Never developing a pattern nor accurate with the mortar fire. Some would be close, others nowhere near us. They had made impact on the OP one time before this date, no major injuries, and it was in the evening time so they undoubtedly had no clue they had made impact. But today, today was different, there was an uneasy “peace” with the morning. There hadn’t been any mortars for a couple of days, looking back, it was a strange sense that morning and no one had the slightest clue. I even believe a comment had been made about them giving up or was slacking on showing us their marksmanship. You got to understand, if you’re not a GRUNT, we have a very twisted sense of humor. At this point in time my company and battalion had so many Purple Hearts awarded that we started calling them “Iraqi Marksmanship Badges”. There was good humor in the air this morning though. We had all been out of the FOB for 2 to 4 days and was finally getting to go back with a chance of an actual shower, not a baby wipe shower, and some half assed slop they called food in our chow tent, if the fobbets didn’t eat it all up and use up all the water before we got back. Our gear was half ready to pick up the moment the trucks got there and half ready to deploy in case of a firefight. We were there, we were ready, or so we thought. I can’t tell you what time it was, I can’t explain to you the sinking feeling when you hear the sudden THUD of a launching mortar that you KNOW isn’t your own mortar sections tubes firing. But I can try.

The first THUD sounded, we all knew what it was, so we ducked inside of the bunkers set up on each corner of this OP. BOOM, first impact, probably 50 meters or so away. Time had ceased to exist after the first launch, and hindsight being 20/20, I knew something was going to change that day. The air seemed to grow stale and sounds seemed to be louder and bass’ier than any other time. BOOM! Second impact, those sons of bitches were walking them in on us! I, to this day, have no clue how many mortars dropped on us that day but I just know the ones I remember. We’re all in our bunker now, half thinking this is a normal shoot and miss like usual, and half thinking “Is this our number?”. Then BOOOOOOMMM!!!!!! IMPACT INSIDE OP and the dreaded, unnerving, familiar voice scream out…..”I’M HIT, I’M HIT, I’M HIT!!!” I remember the impact, it was so close, seemed to hit right on the bunker door. I remember it rocking me harder than any close explosion had a couple months prior inside of Fallujah. I remember taking a step towards the door because that was a fellow Devil Dog that was hit and hurting out there. What I don’t remember, is what happened next. I’ve been told that I went out there to pull that Devil Dog into our bunker. I’ve been told that when that mortar landed beside me within 15 or so feet, it threw me up against the HESCO barrier like a rag doll. I’ve also been told that shrapnel impacted that HESCO all around me but left me mostly untouched. I’ve been told that the Marine hit first had ended up in a rut or something and that shielded him from the last mortar. What I do remember though, is coming to with my squad leader looking at me with a look of sincere concern and asked me, “ARE YOU HIT?” I know that sounds ridiculous, but honestly looking back, I wasn’t rattled with holes, my gear and cloths weren’t ripped off of me, and for all I knew I was just hit in the head with a rock. We began working on the hit Marine. Hole in the arm, torso punctures, and leg entry wounds. His arm was unusable, he was terrified, he was human. Let me say that again, HE WAS HUMAN. I know that sounds pointless, but you just don’t understand if you think that way. We had just come out, months earlier, of some of the bloodiest house to house fighting seen since Hue City, Vietnam. We felt inhuman, invincible even. Even though we lost a lot, we had survived, I’m speaking solely from my own thoughts here, but that’s how I felt over all. This young Marine was injured, no one knew how badly, all we knew, MEDAVAC was happening and it was happening yesterday. We have lost to many to let another one go. Then, out of nowhere, BAM! A sharp searing pain in my leg like I had a piece of molten steel hop out a weld and into my leg. “DAMNIT!!! I’M HIT”, pulling down my trousers there it is, a hole about a half inch around right in my upper left thigh. All I could think was “You mother fuckers, gave me the damn Forrest Gump wound!” Oh I was pissed, and hurting. I had no idea what lay in wait for me, but I knew this...I’m not sitting down for the MEDAVAC ride. Not with hot steel in my ass. I stood the whole way to the RAS (Regimental Aide Station), got seen by a nurse while lying in the bed next to the Marine that was hit before me. For a skinny dude he was stout, he was giving those Doc’s a work out trying to calm him down and asses his situation. They hook up the good ole morphine to me, but it’s not working, touch my leg and now I’m feeling EVERYTHING! “OUCH!” Nurses can’t figure out why I’m able to feel them poking and prodding me. They realize my arm was up and not allowing the medicine to flow, straighten out my arm and BAM a sea of numbness washes over me. It seems 2 seconds later I feel my body moving and look down to see a nurse full length finger deep in my leg trying to feel for the shrapnel, with no luck. Wouldn’t you know it, surgery here I come. In the end, I find out it missed my sciatic nerve by a half inch or so and months later after getting state side I had small fragments working their way to the surface of my skin. The Marine that was injured before me, he made a full recovery and is living a full and vibrant life, I think he is even going for his PhD is a field of science.

After it was all said and done, all the brothers we lost, all the blood that was shed in that god forsaken sand box, what did we really leave behind. I know my injuries were nowhere near the extent most others were. But a big piece of me stayed there when I came home. We left a job undone because politics became more important than seeing our task all the way through. We left a city unsecured and a worse place to go for the next wave to go through it later that same year. But that day, that fateful day of July 2nd, that was a rebirth and a death of me. I knew and know I am lucky to have been spared and unscathed as I was. But at the same time a large chunk of my personal motivation and drive died that day. It has sense began to return, but at night, when it gets really quiet, and I am in that magically deceitful hell in between sleep and awake. My mind relives that point over and over and over again. To the point I swear I can hear the primer striking before the explosion. Time after time I hear that scream, “I’M HIT”, I feel that concussion wave, and I feel myself tell myself goodbye. It’s taken me years, to be able to put all this into words and I know there are a great number of people out there that understand what I am saying without the little explanations I’m putting out as well. But to come to the realization that a large chuck of me has separated from myself and I will never be the whole man I was when I left to go on this deployment is something that I have struggled with for a while. It wasn’t until I talked to an older Marine who was a Korean Vet that pulled my head out of the water and let me see a light. He said to me very short words but struck chords within myself that will forever be ringing. “We all see battles and actions that should have been done differently, those of us luck enough to come home owe it to those that wasn’t to live our lives as fully and wholly as we possibly can. Got it lil brother?”

In the end, I leave you with this. A lot of us have some sort of survivor’s guilt in one way shape or form. But Odin didn’t see fit to have his Valkyries call us to Valhalla. Instead he seen fit to let us roam the lands for a time further. Our battles were not over then, nor are they now. As a veteran, it is our duty to keep in contact with our brothers and sisters. We all fight demons in our own way, but we never fight them alone. Do a buddy check on the 22nd of each month, or on a time that you see fit. But do one, you never know what the phone call or text message may be the stopping someone from doing. Semper Fi family, we are the 3%, we have to watch each other’s 6’s.

Tired. Old. Hands.

Yes, it was intentional to put the periods between these words. You can say these words together all day long and the same thoughts will come to mind. But, if you will, take a look at your hands. Now close your eyes and say these words like I have typed them out. 
Did it change anything for you? For me it did. I had never put much thought into. It's something that I have said out loud and to myself numerous times throughout the years. We have all lived different and similar lives, done all the things that has made us who we are today, and had our own perspective of what we did vary even with the brothers and sisters that were right beside of us. But today, as my mind got to pondering over my upcoming 240th birthday (OORAH MARINE CORPS) and Veterans Day following it the next day, those three simple little words jumped out to me. As I settle into my hotel room, actually watching as my fingers move while typing this very sentence, it's resonating with me more and more. Here is what those three simple little words are saying to me.

I watched my hands work, on auto-pilot, taking my contacts out, placing them on their dishes and putting the fluid in the container. Sealing the lid on JUST tight enough. I watch as I rewash my hands afterwards, thinking about all the things I have done with this set of tired aching hands. I grew up playing and running around in the Kentucky woods I called home. I trained and became a Marine, beating and banging every ounce of strength I could squeeze out of these hands to just do ONE MORE PULL UP. Or the time in boot camp when we were on a formation run when I tripped over a root and got ran over by 4 or 5 guys that were running behind me, getting to the training dome for MCMAP and going through all the hand to hang training for the day while my finger and thumb nail was wanting to fall off because I feared like a mutha sucka about being dropped back to TD 1 and pushed through everything I had to with pull ups and all the IT'ing to keep from failing anything. Had skin ripped off my fingers and knuckles while learning the art of Machine Gunning through School Of Infantry. Hot brass and links burning the piss out them while training on hot ranges while in the fleet. All the training pre deployments, all at a time before gloves were a mandatory thing in the military, we had a thing called callouses. All the trash, crap, rocks, you name it, all over the sandbox called Iraq. These hands have patched wounds, caused wounds, held the hands of the fading away. They have caught more tears than any hand ever should. Sometimes they shake from anticipation, from anxiety, from love, from memories I would rather not have, and from memories I pray I never lose but are fading more and more as the same hands reach out clinging to every fiber of the memory that they can possibly hold onto. These hands have felt the loving touch of cold hard steel of that blade and firearm that is more of a tool to me than a screwdriver is to an electrician. A finger that better knows what the feel of a proper trigger squeeze and sear reset is more so than what his own wife’s hands feel like just from memory. These hands have dealt punches and blows in fights and brawls to idiots that want to exercise their freedom of speech to a group of returning Marines in a bar that should had just stayed home to drink. These hands, these worn out hands, what pain and suffering they have delivered in their short time on this earth.
But, these hands have done marvelous things as well. These hands, these old tired hands, they have traveled the world. They have helped build up countries in the worst of conditions. They have held the hand of a small child and played patty-cake with a young girl that isn't even 8 years old yet and has seen more death and destruction than most adults that have lived in a "First World Nation" ever will in their life to include watching the T.V. They have held the embrace of a fellow brother that "just had enough" and needed to be held while he broke down because the demons had finally made head way in his mind. They have held the hand of a spouse and children of a brother that couldn't take it any longer and took the step that he never can come back from. They have been sheathed into my pockets while my body to an onslaught of slaps and punches from a spouse that couldn't find anyone else to blame when their husband took that final step away from the world. These hands have felt the loving embrace of family. They have held the son that I was told I would never have, that same finger that knows the trigger squeeze like a lover was held oh so tightly by my son. These hands have been held and acted as a conduit of love and understanding by my wife in times I felt myself slipping into a dark dark world, and always unsure if the journey out of will be possible. They have held the hand of my mother as she spent her last hours on earth, and the hands of my father that had to say good bye to his wife, soulmate, friend, and partner of 30 years.

At the end of each long and eventful day it's this pair of old tired hands that turns off all the lights, puts the children to bed,  pulls the blankets up and over the body, and settles into the most comfortable position that they can so we can get up and start the day all over again in the morning. Though we have all went through our own personal journeys in this life, we have all ended up in relatively the same place. Our paths have crossed at least one time if not many. We have seen and been through our own fair share of trials and tribulations and have come out of them stronger and more experienced than we entered them. So I want to leave you all with this as a final thought. As Veterans Day draws near and passes, think about where we have been, what we have accomplished, and keep our fallen brothers and sisters’ memory alive. Write down your memories while you remember the details because i assure you, one day they will start to fade. At the end of the day when your washing up before bed, take a look at your hands, take a long look, and see the journey that you have made and the one you are working on now. Everything we have done has lead us here, where will you go tomorrow......


Monday, October 12, 2015

the beginning

     “Glad I set up shop early, damn sun sets in Oklahoma.” He said as he took the last couple pulls off a crumbly stale cigar. It begins to fall apart as he rolls it between his finger and thumb,
     “They don’t make them like they used to. Shaun would tell me I didn’t add enough water to the bag, I’d tell Shaun that it doesn’t fucking matter when the shops humidor probably quit working 2 years ago!” He tosses the cigar on the ground angrily as he struggles to get out of his fold out chair.           The last few years has been rough on him and his body was telling him daily. He straightens his body and stretches out his arms while stiffing the rest of his body. Then out of nowhere, he lets out a stretching yell. “AGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!” and laughs. “Ha ha ha, good ole Mongo, scaring up the wildlife again” Off in the distance roosting birds in the trees fly off squawking at him.
      He folds his chair up, carefully places it in its sleeve, and lowers it into the RV. He hears a sound off in the distance and knows they will be in his area anytime now but he’s not in a hurry. As long as the sun stays out he knows he’s safe. “Ha, safe, that’s a thing that we haven’t actually seen in years.” He mumbles to himself as he looks off to the sunset. “As long as you keep burning my dear, so will I. Well damn, there you go off to the other side of the world and I’m not even buttoned up yet, bitch.” He gives one last wave to the sun and slides down the ladder to the inside of the RV.
      As he is locking the last of the four securing pins he hears them again but this time he knows they have watched him. “Damnit, they seen you get in!” He said as he looked into the mirror. “Now they’re going to be tearing at Beast all night. Well, at least I’m in Beast instead of some stock P.O.S. out there. HA! HA! HA! Plus I got me some of those noise canceling headphones so I don’t have to listen to those damn nails scratching at the steel again.”
      He walks around doing one last safety check in his live in tank, turns out all the lights, and gets settled in his easy chair for the night. “Well ole girl, once morning comes we’ll be headed to Ohio to the plant to see if we can get you a bigger engine, and maybe some more steel plating. But until then, you keep me safe one more night and I’ll make sure your dash is polished like you like.” He said as he clicked on the red lights, pulls up his blanket and waits.
     “Shit” he exclaimed as he jumped at the first sound. “You’d think I’d be used to that after 2 damn years.” He settles back into his chair getting comfortable under his blanket. As he interlocks his fingers behind his head he listens to the rhythm of the thumping and scratching and thinks of the old days as he drifts off to sleep.