Friday, November 20, 2009

Hello everyone,

I have been given the privilege of blogging for the Houston Chronicle. I will still post here from time to time, especially posts that may be to strongly worded for the Chronicle. The URL for the new blog is:

Check out the new blog and remember to check back here from time to time.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


Sharacracy- a system in which everything you own belongs to the collective; items to be excluded from the list of shared items include wives and girlfriends

According to a couple of our guys, that is the definition of a Sharacracy. It is a concept that they developed on the fly due to the fact that we all share everything we own. It is phenomenon that develops out of necessity. It’s is common to ask your buddy to borrow a pair of socks, or an undershirt, and external hard drives are passed around like an over eager groupie at a rock concert as guys swap movies and music. Gear is also swapped around as guys figure out what works best for them on their tactical kit.

I almost forgot cigarettes. I am willing to bet one month’s salary on the notion that prisoners, at a prison of your choice, have nothing on the smokers on our team when it comes to sharing cigarettes. I’ve seen one of our guys put multiple cigarettes in his mouth, light them and pass the lit death sticks around to the guys gathered around.

POGy bait (POG- Person other than grunt pronounced pouge; POGy – junk food, pronounced pougey, like clumsy) is the biggest factor in the equation. We all like to stash food away to keep hunger at bay or, in my case, avoid the trip to the chow hall. Guys stock up on junk food whenever the gut truck comes around or when they make their trip to the troop store. It is hilarious to hear the guys come ask each other for “our” Gatorade or “our” magazines. Just a few minutes ago James came over and asked me where “our” food was as he searched the bags in my wall locker.

There is one other trend that is emerging as part of the Sharacracy philosophy. The trend is based on the purchasing of goods for others as a type of credit for future purchases. For example, every time the gut truck comes around, one of the guys is either asked by the rest of the crew or designates himself as the person to purchase this round of POGy bait. That person will then have his tabbed picked up the next few times until it once again his turn.

Not everyone has embraced the Sharacracy philosophy; I thought it would fall apart after the first few days but it seems to be spreading slowly throughout the barracks as a few of the guys in the other sections have begun to slowly become assimilated into the culture. The strange thing is that they do not even realize it. They offer up their goodies and we, at a later point in time, reciprocate their gesture of benevolence.

My take on these developing trends are that we are allowing ourselves to open up to each other. We are getting to know each other a little better and we are beginning to trust each other. We still have our differences or issues that need to be tended to. Some of us still need to grow as individuals and embrace the struggle that we are all experiencing in order to make that fight a little easier but as a whole we are beginning to interact the way best friends do. I don’t mean the superficial friend that show up to drink your beer and eat your food and then move on to the next party. I am talking about the friend that is willing to sleep with the fat chick while you chase her hot friend. That is the buddy the will down a few beers, get in a bar fight, run from the cops, bail you out of jail, take you to breakfast, drop you off and do it all over again the next night.

It is always the little things, or the actions that take place out of the limelight, that go unnoticed but sometimes those are the things that begin to define who we are or who we become. Right now those little things are helping us come together as one big happy family.

I’ll leave you with a quote from our fearless leader.

Keep your heads up. I know it’s painful. We are all dealing with issues, both public and private. Don’t forget, we are all family and we can help each other.
--Our Company Commander

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Team building is one hell of an experience. Being on the high school football team is one thing, preparing to go to war with a group of guys are two completely different monsters. Knowing that the receiver, running back and tight end are going to run the play correctly and knowing that your buddy is going to stand his ground and put rounds down range when the time comes is like comparing a Ford Focus and a Lamborghini.

Our team has been coming together quite well in terms of camaraderie but we still are having issues with maturity and the decision making process. I see the guys growing up but it is difficult to know what is going on inside their heads and why it is taking so much time to realize that there is no reset button to the game that is about to commence.

A few of us have begun to babysit the guys that need it. I hate doing it but sometimes it is the only way. The issue in these types of environments is the ego. The ego either wants to stand its ground or it submits to the will and some of the guys do not have the will power to understand that their ego is detrimental to what we are here to accomplish.

Let visit about the term babysitting for a minute. I hate being on the business end of a babysitter and I hate being the babysitter. For example, our unit policy is that everyone moves around Camp McGregor in pairs. I get it, I understand it, but I do not like. I hate waiting on someone when I am ready to head to chow and why do I need someone holding my hand when I need to run to the PX to pick up a Gatorade? I understand the concept and how it keeps soldiers safe in a combat zone but it is driving me insane. I hate it so much I have stocked up a stash of foil packed tuna and chicken to munch on when I don’t feel like waiting on someone to head to chow.

Now when I have to stand over someone and ask them to clean their sleeping area several times I know they hate is just as much as I hate taking a buddy with me everywhere I go. However, a man can only be told to fix a problem so many times before he is either micro managed or fired, and in the Army, being fired is not an option.

The downside to having to babysitting these guys is that they will never grow up and if they are left to their own devices they will never change. The process is one vicious never ending cycle. If they have not gotten their heads in the game by now, it is not going to happen until the first bullet flies by their heads.

The issue then becomes one of trust. Can I trust this guy to maintain his sector of fire and not shoot at friendly forces (that means me)? Can I trust him to do what is necessary to keep himself and everyone else safe?

OK so you may be asking yourself, how does keeping a sleeping area cleans equates to trust ? I mentioned in a previous blog entry that a soldier is judged by his peers based on his level of professionalism and the decisions he makes. That concept holds true in the civilian world as well, just think of the coworker you dislike because of his questionable behavior either because he hates his job or he is stabbing everyone in the back in order to climb the corporate ladder. Would you trust him to lend a hand and help meet a deadline? The concept is the same but live rounds are a big part of the equation in our line of work and, the last time I checked, live rounds do a lot more than tickle when they come in contact with the human body.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I should have posted this sooner! It's a sitiation report (sitrep) on how our brigade is doing here at McGregor.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Soldiers always fight the war with ethics and morality and it is that war that comes to define the virtues of a professional soldier. There are thousands of instances where a soldier must make decisions that in any other setting would be mundane. However insignificant these decisions are, these instances cause us to evaluate and re-evaluate our belief system and this constantly challenges the very basis of those virtues. These are also the decisions that, in the eyes of our peers, project what each and every one of us is capable of. Loyalty, honor, respect, and self-discipline are a few of the virtues that a soldier must constantly work for to earn the mark of a professional. The story I am about to tell you is one of those instances.

We have be running around our FOB with blanks in our weapons to simulate walking around a FOB in a war zone with live rounds. A few days back one of the guys in my section lost his Magazine with five blanks in it. I don’t know the specifics of how this happened, but speculation has it that someone picked it up off his bunk and threw it in the trash. Fortunately the mag was found, but it is what happened in the 24 hours between the loss and the recovery that I am going to tell you about.

Shortly after the wag went missing, the Joe came up to me with his plan to replace the mag to avoid punishment. I was taking part in training that required me to be away from the rest of the company so he wanted me to lend him my mag with blanks while he acquired blanks at the training event the rest of the company was going to be attending. I declined his request for two reasons: one he is a grown man with a combat patch so I expected him to do the right thing and two; I am not in the business of babysitting grown men, especially men with combat patches.

If anything, they are the men that should be watching me and preparing me for the day we cross the imaginary line into a combat zone. Let me clarify this a little bit more, there is a fine line between babysitting men and being a leader. A babysitter never takes the training wheels off the bike when he sends his men out, but a leader slashes the front tire after taking the training wheels off. He allows his men the opportunity to grow and learn from the experience.

He and I are on the same team and this is where loyalty kicks in. I knew if I ran to our section Sergeant and dimed him out, I would lose the trust and respect of most of the guys in my section. I am about to go to war with these guys the last thing I want is half the guys hating me. My mistake was assuming he was going to do the right thing and take his mistake up the chain of command.

I know that assumption is the mother of all screw-ups and I wish I had taken that into account then because he did not come clean with his mistake until the next day. Like I mentioned earlier, I was separated from the company so, when I returned from my training that day I arrived to see him and the Non Commissioned Officers in our section tearing his living area apart looking for the missing mag.

What happen next made me feel like a dirt bag. Our section Sergeant walks up to me and asks why I hadn’t informed him of the incident. I didn’t want to sound defensive so I took a hit and ended up taking one of the other guys down with me. When the lost mag came to my attention I had asked one of the combat hardened Joes in our section for advice. He had the same mentality I had so we decided to let it ride out, hoping our buddy would do the right thing. The look of disappointment on my section Sergeant’s face made me want to crawl under my bunk and and curl up into the fetal position.

I have had very ambivalent feelings about the whole event. Part of me is upset that my buddy put me in that position but part of me does not care. We all make mistakes; it is how we learn. Part of me is upset because I should not have assumed that he would have done the right thing, while part of me knows babysitting is not in my job description. Part of me is upset because my reputation of being a turned on Joe took a hit but my loyalty to my guys did not. It is a very precarious situation to be in; I knew it then and I know it know. I may have lost a little trust from my chain of command and my honor as a soldier took a hit but it is a lesson learned. I must have forgotten to inflate the tire after the training wheels where removed.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

As Infantrymen we have every God given right to complain and it seems that regardless of how much conditions improve we still find something to gripe about. Complaining is something that comes with the territory; it comes along with the long hours and low pay. I know people working at taco stands that make more money than some lower enlisted soldiers.

When we were at Ft. Hood we were staying in a large bay where all but a handful of guys in the company were crammed into. The bunks were in excellent shape by infantrymen standards. The mattresses were a mixture of old, fabric covered, urine collectors and hard, cold, plastic covered bricks. Some of the bunks were so close together that you might as well jump into bed with the soldier next to you.

Our barracks here at Camp McGregor are like the Marriott compared to the last place. All the furnishings are new and there is ample space between bunks. We are still staying in a huge 36 man bay, but it is better than the 80 man bay at Ft. Hood.

These open bays are a soldier’s worst nightmare. People coming and going at all hours of the night is not conducive to a man’s sleep cycle. Some people are so bad about cleaning up their sleeping area that the stench of dirty laundry and sweaty boots permeate the barracks.

There is also the goober that sets his alarm for some strange hour of the night and does not wake up when it goes off. I have gotten out of my bed three times in the last ten days to wake up different people for being that guy. I am usually not nice about it either, not because I like to be an asshole but because I hate getting my sleep interrupted. I am like a Grizzly coming out of hibernation at the wrong time.

There are also hygiene issues that arise when 36 men are staying in the same room. When we were in processing, we were all pumped full of smallpox and anthrax vaccinations and just a few minutes ago one of the Joes was walking around with the blister that forms around the site of the smallpox vaccine injection exposed. We were told that the infection can spread easily to other parts of the body, if the enemy does not kill us, that idiot will. These barracks are like a Petri disk when one person gets sick the illness spreads like an STD at a college frat party.

This is just a taste of some of the complaints that the average Joe is capable of. I can sit here all day and write all day about all the jaw jacking that takes place on a daily basis but that would be the literary equivalent of being on death row and not knowing if your appeal is going to go through. I might as well end it now, on my own terms, instead of leaving it in the hands of others.

Monday, October 12, 2009

We have been at Ft. Bliss for a few days now. The weather is beautiful and, from what others tell me, the mock FOB (Forward Operating Base) we are staying at looks allot like Iraq. The Islam call to prayer even plays out over the loudspeakers five times a day to acclimate us to it.

The flight in to Ft. Bliss was interesting as well. We were driven out onto the tarmac from some rear entrance at the airport in chartered buses, loaded all the gear into the belly of the plane, took our seats and liftoff. No airport security and tickets to deal with, just simple and to the point. It reminded me of the scene in Jarhead where the Marines are seated in their plane for their first trip to the sandbox.

The first few days was a dog and pony show as we started and completed all the in processing that the army requires when we are activated. We are herded around like cattle until every administrative and medical task required is complete. Some of the guys would start mooing from time to time just to break the monotony of the routine. It was truly a circus show and the irony was that the whole process started in a big white tent that was big enough for a circus show. It even had the big peaks in the roof that are created when the tent poles are shoved tight up against the ceiling.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

This post is going to challenge my ability to omit profanity, but here goes nothing.

We have one last night of freedom before we report to Ft. Bliss for the remainder of our training. We have been at it for about a month now and most of the guys in our section are already foreseeing potential problems.

There is a newly minted junior NCO in our section that everyone is having difficulty adjusting to. The guy seems to mean well but he can be a complete jerk. He treats everyone like we are the two year old bastard child of a twenty dollar hooker. I understand that there are a few guys need to be tended to by a nanny but this guy is like the evil stepmother that beats her stepchildren.

This guy is getting under our skin so bad that a few of the guys and I had an impromptu pow-wow yesterday to figure out how to stay off this guys radar. At first I thought the guy was trying to flex his muscle when he first joined our section, so I have tried on a few occasions to try to get to know the guy. I wanted to give him the benefit of a doubt, but all that changed this morning.

I was the second person down in the cafeteria this morning to grab a bite to eat and he was the only guy in the place. I decided, as I grabbed my meal, to go sit with him and have a visit. This was where I was going to figure out if this guy was truly an (explicit) or not.

As I walked up to the table, I said something along the lines of, "Whats going on man?"

His response was, "I am not a morning person."

It was not his response that annoyed me, it was his tone. His tone of voice pretty much told me to go shove my thumb up my rectum. Without hesitating I sat down and didn't say another word. I knew the uncomfortable silence would piss him off. After he finished his breakfast he got up, without saying a word, and disappeared. At this point, I knew we were going to be in for a long year.

Later in the day a handful of us were taking part in some hip pocket training with our section leader. This junior NCO set an excellent example by making it clear that the training was irrelevant to our mission in Iraq. This guys is supposed to be a leader and the fact that he was reluctant to train, even after being told to do so by a senior NCO, pissed me off. Soldiers must train for every possible scenario and this guy thought that because he had a combat patch he could tell a senior NCO that he didn't want to take part in the training. Way to set an example for the men.

I understand that there are many styles of leadership but ultimately the goal is to keep the troops in high moral. Keeping the troops happy is a daunting task, but a soldier that knows he is being taken care of will move a mountain at a moments notice. Keep the troops happy and you will earn their respect. This guy does not know it but the troops are ready to bury him under that mountain.

Friday, October 2, 2009

I am fortunate. I am very fortunate that this is my first deployment. There are service members that have seen the mountains of Afghanistan or the sands of Iraq numerous times. That type of selfless service takes is toll on the human soul. The soul however is the last element of a man that the world can see suffering. To the protected, the families being torn apart by combat tours are the sad result of too much time away from home. Then there are the shots that are fired during a battle that is waged within the confines of our mind. These are the scars that are never seen.

For many of our Brigade, that battle began on September 10th as we left home and reported for duty. There will be a lull in the fight this weekend as battalions across the state have farewell ceremonies and soldiers get to spend a few precious days with their families. Loved ones will be reunited only to be torn apart one more time.

The cruelty of these moments are just one of the infinite sacrifices we are willing to endure. We carry the burden of these sacrifices so that the many can benefit from the actions of the few.

There have been many wars in our nation's history but this one is different. The war and its troops cannot be compared to the revolutionary ideals and the Founding Fathers, even a comparison to the Greatest Generation cannot be made. Every veteran or all wars have served admirably but the men and women that don the uniform today are of a different breed. They were not drafted or enlisted because it was the popular thing to do. They serve because it is what must be done to protect our colors, the flag that represents who we are and the legacy of those that fought before them.

As the war continues, our country needs to be reminded of the service of the men and women in uniform. They had a choice and they served when no one else answered the call. They are at times referred to as the next greatest generation but this moniker does not reflect who they are. These men and women served admirably, courageously, and selflessly at a cost to their own well being. They sacrificed when no one else would.

Every generation has it's hero's and this generation now has its own. They truly are a Selfless Generation.

Monday, September 21, 2009

It been a long week and the training is going well. I am at a cool marksmanship course but I'll save that story for another day. I thought I would share with you an email exchange with a buddy of mine, who happens to be a man of the law.

Let me begin by saying that I had been debating the pros and cons of having a will and I was having a difficult time planning for the "what if" factor that comes along with a combat tour. I did not care to have a JAG officer prepare the documents and my buddy offered to do it free of charge. These e-mail were exchanged back in August.


Hey Man,

Thanks for the help. Like I mentioned earlier, if I had the military do this they would find some way to fuck it up. My brother's full legal name is XXXX, and my full legal name is XXXX. I just need him to be able to handle my finances, bills and shit, and access my bank account if I need him to.

I also would like your opinion on a will. How does my property get split up if I kick the can and I don't have a will? I don't want a will because it's bad luck and besides, how many 26 year old people do you know with a will.




Hey man:

Couple of things:

1. I probably should have mentioned this on the phone -- my power of attorney for this purpose is generally done as part of a package:

-statutory durable power of attorney (this allows your brother to handle your finances)
-medical power of attorney (this allows whoever you choose to make medical decisions for you if you are unable)
-declaration of guardian (if a guardianship is instituted against you, this document picks your guardian)
-advance directive (this is a living will -- it determines whether you want the plug pulled)
-hipaa waiver (this allows your mpoa to review your health care information)

I suggest you do all of them. It doesn't take me any extra time to prepare the other docs with it.

2. You should definitely do a will. Speaking as someone who spends a lot of time fixing property transfers and the like because someone doesn't have a will, I can tell you that everyone should have a will. The fact that we're young doesn't mitigate the fact that we may have stuff to settle when we die. Creditors don't go away, they get expensive involuntary administrations started. Its much easier to just get the will.


Hey Man,

Good deal on the power of attorney. What else do you need from me to knock that out?

You are right about the will. It's just a little nerve rattling.

Thanks man,



Do you want your brother to handle all of the above, or just your financial matters? Do you want anyone to serve as a back-up if something happens to him, he's can't be reached, etc?

How do you want your stuff distributed? The 'default' -- if you died without a will or left everything to your 'heirs at law' -- would be for 1/2 of your property to go to your mother and 1/2 to your father. If either of them failed to survive you, then that person's 1/2 would go to your brothers and sisters. Texas Probate Code Section 37(a)(2). You can leave it to whomever you choose -- your siblings, parents, charity, Obama, me (actually, that's not true because I'm drafting the will) -- but you'll have to specify. You can leave special bequests -- your truck to your brother, your guitar to your sister, etc -- but there's no requirement that you do that. Many people make a very general bequest, something to the effect of "I devise and bequest all of my property, real and personal, to my brother, Bill."

You'll also need to appoint an executor of your estate, who makes sure all of your debts get settled and that all of your property goes to the beneficiary that you named. Let me know who you'd like it to be. Generally, I appoint executors to be independent (meaning that there is minimal supervision by the court, so the executor could, for example, sell your truck without getting the court's approval) and without bond (meaning that they do not post bond, so if they steal the assets, distribute them wrong, fail to collect them, etc, there won't be any bond money to attach, but it's much cheaper to administer the estate).

Also, I'm assuming that your estate (including life insurance) is valued at less than $3,500,000.00, which is the threshold for estate tax this year.

Kind regards,


Yeah, my brother can handle it all. I don't need a back up; if he punches the big ticket while I am gone, I can request to be removed from the action. (I think.)

My brother can have all my shit, unless you want a couple of acres of land smack dab in the middle of XXXXXXXXX. All those Hispanic people would love to have a Jewish couple as neighbors. I already have my life insurance policies set to be split up amongst my family so that's not an issue. Can you draft a simple will for me as well? I don't want my family members spending half a million dollars on brand new Escalades.


Here are the powers and other ancillary documents. Give them a read and let me know if you have any changes or questions.

Thanks again for jumping my car. I owe you a beer.


If anything, I owe you a beer for drafting this paperwork.


See the attached will.


Hey Man,

It's been awhile. I have one last favor to ask. Actually it's a change to my will. I told my buddy I would leave him my truck if I met my untimely demise. He promised he'd leave me his motorcycle. Can you make that change?


XXXX and XXXX will be back soon, they will be my witnesses.

The last email I sent him was after my good friend and NCO that would commute to drill weekends with me were joking about what we would do with our vehicles it we met our untimely demise. Like I have mentioned before, humor is our way of handling stress.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The ominous cloud that has been following us all year finally caught up to us, both literally and figuratively. The day we loaded our gear and jumped on a bus to report to Ft. Hood, the sky opened up and sent the gift of rain to the parched Texas landscape.

I can picture the war gods sitting up on their perch, laughing and giving each other high fives and planning their next prank. This whole mobilization feels like a prank; I am waiting for Ashton Kutcher and his film crew to pop out of a parked van. I know this is the real deal, but something still does not feel quite right. The only thing I can compare it to is going on vacation and not being able to get comfortable because you may have forgotten to lock the front door.

One thing I have noticed over the last few days is the transition from civilian to soldier that takes place anytime we train for a period of time longer than a weekend. Guys are starting to shave their heads and mustaches, focusing more on the art of soldiering than goofing off and playing video games in the barracks. Our minds are beginning to shift from our previous lifestyle, and the one weekend a month mindset, to the full time active duty military mindset; it truly is an interesting dynamic to be a part of.

I like to compare it to Clark Kent stepping into a phone booth and emerging as Superman. Ok, bullets do not bounce off our chest but at least some of my fears of the younger guys not having their head in the game are starting to fade. I did not see this type of transformation back in January when the entire battalion took part in a three week train up. I can only assume that the mindset did not change because of the duration of the training. The guys knew they were going home at the end of three weeks to be civilians again.

This time it is different, there is a sense of purpose. Most of us were reminded of what that purpose was when we caught glimpses of the 9/11 memorial ceremonies on the television in the chow hall. Here we were, one day after reporting for duty, being reminded of the events that took place eight years ago. This new found attitude has made most of us realize that we are only a few days into the mobilization and this is only the coin toss at a football game; we still have four quarter to go.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Zero Day

It's Zero day; the day before we report to the armory. Tomorrow I will drive to my unit headquarters; load my gear onto a bus and embark on a truly one of a kind adventure.

On my way in from Houston today I was so anxious that I felt like a little kid on his first trip to the amusement park. I want to ride the tallest roller coaster but I am scared out of my mind. I am not scared of the ride itself but of the my reaction at the first free fall. Will I scream like a little school girl or will I get in line for a second turn?

No one knows what lies ahead, but it is what makes the journey exciting. Not knowing what lies ahead is part of the experience. It is one of the intangible variables that is unique to what we do. It is a surreal feeling knowing that once I step foot on that bus, we will be embarking on a journey that over a course of a lifetime only a handful of people are willing to endure. I will soon find out if war is as glorious as Hollywood makes it our too be; nevertheless, it will be something that I will never forget.

I know that over time memories fade with age, but there is always the intrinsic properties of a memory that never leave you. Those are the properties that can invoke the most intimate human emotions and contribute to the soundtracks of our lives.

I look forward to sharing all the scenes that play out over the course of our train up and eventual deployment. Some of it will be a roller coaster ride; some of it will be 100% Hollywood, but most of it will be somewhere in between.

Monday, August 31, 2009

I finally made to my hometown after driving across the state and back. I grew up in a tiny south Texas town with the population of about 1200, dogs included. I enjoyed growing up in a small town, always saw the same faces and did’t have worry about a single thing. The biggest worry on a kid’s mind was getting up for school the next morning.

We would play baseball out in the yard or basketball in the driveway all summer long with all the neighborhood kids. Most of the time we would roll the basketball goal out to the edge of the street and play in the street. We would even go swimming in the river that runs thru town without even letting our parents know what we were up too. Our parents didn’t care, they didn’t have too; it is what you do in a small town. The speed limit was unofficially 10mph everywhere you went.

Growing up out there afforded me some of the experiences that would make overprotective parents lock their kids in the attic. At 15 I was learning how to use a blow torch, welder and I performed my first motor swap. I even learned how to drive when I was 12 on all the farms around town. One of my summer jobs was driving a tandem axle dump truck for the county road department and I did not even have a license yet.

I love the memories I have of this place and every time I go back I wish it would magically transform itself to those days again. The days when my buddies and I were all driving our first cars, drinking our first beers and finally realizing that the opposite sex did not have cooties.

I was back for one last visit before my government sponsored vacation, making my rounds and visiting what was left of my friends and family. In the last five years or so there has been a mass exodus, most of my childhood friends have left town in search of work, hence the road trip.

I left my buddy's ranch this morning and drove to town to visit with the few remaining characters of my childhood. After visiting a hand full of people who had more than their fair share in contributing to those childhood experiences, I finally made it over to my dad’s house. The door was unlocked so I let myself in, the dogs did not even lift their heads from their mid morning nap. I walked through the house and I found Dad passed out and smelling of alcohol. I never expect to see my dad sober. His alcoholism was the fuel that fanned the flame that destroyed my parents marriage. He’s been in rehab, in and out of the hospital and can never hold down and steady job. He is everything I do not want to be. Nevertheless, he is my dad and I at least want to see him before I get to go build sandcastles in the middle east.

I was a somewhat ticked off, it was a fucking Thursday morning and he had known for a over a week that I was going to be in town for the next few days. I woke him from his beer induced coma and instructed him to get out of bed, clean himself up and told him that I would be back later. I walked away without even shaking the man’s hand, in a small town that is about 20 years behind the rest of the world, that’s enough to get you killed.

After half an hour of cruising around town to cool my temper I headed back over to my dad’s place and noticed my uncle’s truck missing out of the driveway. At first I thought my uncle had woken up from his slumber to go grab a bite to eat. He works the night shift at the local cotton gin so he has an excuse to sleep all day. After walking through the house, I realized my dad had taken the truck without even asking.

After ten minutes or so my dad drives up with two 24oz beers and one of his buddy’s sitting next to him. He walks over to a picnic table in the backyard and pops one open.

“How’ve you been Son?”

I turned to his friend and asked, “What are you doing hanging out with this guy?” I was disgusted that my dad had not even showered and was still wearing the same clothes I found him passed out in. At this point all he cared about was his next buzz.

I ignored my dad and asked his buddy a few question’s about how his brother was doing. His brother is in a medical unit that will be going overseas with our brigade. This little town is sending three sons to war. There have been at least other three guys that I know of serve in the current wars, but never three during the same deployment.

My dad then asks me if I could give his buddy a ride home and was wondering if I could drop him off at his drinking buddy's house for a lunchtime bar-b-que.

“Will you drop me off at Jimenez’s, their gonna BBQ," he asked while swallowing what was left of his first beer.

I know he noticed the I wanna rip your fucking head off and shit down your neck look on my face and he added, “I’ll stay if you want to visit.”

I did not even try to care, ten minutes of seeing him was enough to make me contemplate violence. Here I am getting ready to embark on a journey that will test the most intricate variables of the human person and all he gave a shit about was his mid-day BBQ and beer.

I reluctantly told them to get in my truck and I drove the quarter mile to his buddies house and dropped him off. I continued to the location of the BBQ and as my dad was getting out of the truck I told him I was not coming to town anymore and that I was staying out at my buddy’s ranch. I told him if he wanted to see me he could drive out there to see me.

I know he does not get it and it, is everything. He had a brother fight in Vietnam while he was just a snot nosed little kid. If anyone would know about having a family member go to war it would be him. I remember how much more of a father he was before the alcoholism. Now he has regressed to the mindset of a high school dropout looking for the next party.

After dropping him off I headed over to the local gas station to pick up a few items and headed out to the ranch. Now lets fast forward to later that night. I was out at the ranch playing my guitar when my cell phone rang, it was a local number so I figured it was a buddy calling from a number I did not have stored in my phone. On the other end of the line I hear a garbled mess of words coming from the mouth of someone so drunk that I thought it was one of my buddies fucking with me.

“Hello, who is this,” I asked.
“It’s your dad, I wanna come out and see you.” He was so drunk he had to repeat the line twice so I could understand what he was saying. I could smell the alcohol over the phone.

Now I was about to blow a gasket. He was piss drunk, probably had not showered since I saw him that morning and now he wanted to drive the ten miles to the ranch house.
I lied. I had too. If he showed is face at that moment I would have smash my acoustic guitar over the godforsaken pile of shit he calls his head.

“You’re drunk and how are you going to get out here,” my dad does not even own a vehicle. “Besides I am getting ready for bed, I have shit I gotta do in the morning.”

He tried saying a few other things but I was having such a hard time understanding him. I cut him off and hung up.

Over the course of the weekend I had forgotten about him. I was having too much fun hanging out with my friends out at the ranch that the last thing on my mind was seeing him again. Monday morning came around and I figured I'd give it one last chance before I left town. I at least wanted to stop by and see my uncle when he got off work.

Same story, different chapter. He was passed out, woke up, drank and beer he had in the fridge and then immediately began hunting for loose change to go buy a second round. Pathetic.

I gave him a ride that day because I at least wanted to rip into his ass about sobering up but, when he jumped into the truck I was so furious I could not think of what to say. I do not want my last memories of my dad to be that of a pathetic, lonely man with a thirst for alcohol so great that it had become on obsession. I would compare it to Smeagol's lust for his precious ring and how it ultimately killed him.

I could care less about what he does with what's left of his life but it is hard to imagine that a grown man would not even care to clean him self up to say goodbye to his son. I know he doesn't understand the severity of the situation. Somewhere in his mind he thinks I will return from the middle east and I will drive over to his house because he is the first person I want to see. Honestly, I do not know if I'll ever see him again; his health is so bad I doubt he will live past my deployment. His next beer could be his last. I know it, he doesn't, at least I am ready for it.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

So, I've been traveling around the great state of Texas with my cousins, Slim and Woody, visiting friends and family before I have to report for military duty.This feels like the point of no return. After this trip is said and done there is no turning back. Well, it's not like turning back was ever an option, but you get the point. Every nuance, every detail, every motion, every sentence seems to have a deeper significance considering the fact that the next time I visit these places I will have been around the world and back.

I have had difficulty keeping my head in the right place the last few days. My phone has been ringing itself to death and the volume of texts messages would challenge the inbox of the best drug dealer in town. Everyone and their dog wants to know how I feel about mobilization and I keep giving them the same scripted answer.

"I am as ready as I can be," what a cliche; I can hear the Army recruiting theme song playing in my head when I say that. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind talking about it but sometimes I feel like I am in an open ended interview with Barbara Walters. I wouldn't even wish that upon my worst enemy.

We went to a minor league baseball game yesterday and something happened that made me realize that my head has been in the right place all along.

My brother, two cousins and I were standing in line buying beer and food. I realized I couldn't juggle a beer, nachos, a chicken sandwich, a bottle of Gatorade and napkins. Without hesitation, I proceeded to stuff my cargo short hip pockets with the Gatorade, napkins, and the pre wrapped chicken sandwich. These items joined the chewing tobacco and cell phone that had been there all along.

When we got back to our seat my bother turns to me and asks, "Where the Chicken sandwich?"

"In my pocket." everyone in the immediate vicinity started laughing. At first I was a little confused. Is it not normal to stuff things in your cargo pocket? Something that I thought was absolutely normal was somewhat alien to the people around me. My brother made a comment that he would have never thought to stuff the items into his cargo pocket. He's never had to carry all the gear that a soldier carries either.

Our military uniforms have an infinite amount of pockets. Every now and then I find a pocket that I never knew existed. It is normal to have every pocket stuffed with gear, food, hand sanitizer, weather proof note pads, and other nick knacks.

That instinctive action, regardless of how trivial is was, helped me gathered my thoughts as I reflected on the reaction of the crowd around me. Their reaction made me realize that they had never served in the military. The countless questions were coming from people merely curious as to what was going through my head as I prepare for war. They were not trying to be insensitive to my situation but they couldn't resist the human tendency to be curious either. I can understand that they are curious.

As I drank my Shiner Bock and watched the ball game I decided my head was always in the right place, but I had allowed Barbara to ask one too many questions. I was trying to disconnect from the world to avoid the endless questions and comments and somewhere in the process the struggle became one of the inner person. It's hard enough questioning oneself and struggling with your own personal demons but imagine the pressure when questions have you surrounded and their weapons are on full auto.

Mom made us breakfast this morning and I was the first of the hungover guys out of bed. I decided I wanted first dibs on the meal so I let the locust sleep before waking them to descend upon the breakfast table. After half an hour or so she had homemade tortillas, chorizo and egg, potatoes, bacon, biscuits, the works, all ready for the onslaught that was about to ensue.

After the meal I noticed a cake sitting on the counter, I figured it was for the BBQ later in the day. I walk over to it and what was written on it made my gut twist. I know my mom means well but holy rusted fucking metal batman. Across the American flag icing was HAPPY BIRTHDAY (MY NAME)! My birthday is three fucking months away.

I think I need to set up a therapy session with Dr. Phil. I know I will not be around this year for all the holidays but celebrating my birthday three months early upset me. No, that's an understatement, I wanted to crush the cake on sight. I dealt with it in my usual manner by cracking a joke about keeping my drunk cousin away from it before he ate it all and I walked away.

When I said this feels like the point of no return I meant it. I know my mom had nothing but good intentions with the gesture but she should have asked me first. Seeing that cake made me feel like I had terminal cancer or some incurable disease that will cut this trip around the sun a few months short.

I do not plan on dying in a foreign country. I plan on coming home and living a long healthy life. Seeing that cake made me think my family is prepared for the worst. It doesn't work that way; I don't work that way. I don't think they get it. Just when I thought I had my head in the right place I have to go chase down another demon.

Friday, August 14, 2009

I called my cousin yesterday. I wanted to give him a heads up about my trip back home to visit before we report for the mobilization. I occurred to me that every single time I have spoken to him in the last ten months or so, it has been because we are trying to dispel some of the rumors we have heard regarding the deployment or we are both in uniform.

The last phone conversation we had, we joked about being old men and talking about our war experience the way Vietnam vets do. Just a coupe of old men still reliving our days in the sandbox, talking about the things we did and reminiscing about the friends that were there with us. I could vividly picture us both old, gray, grumpy, with beer bellies and grand kids crying in the background. We are sitting on a porch somewhere, wearing our faded Iraq war era army jackets with a cold beer in our hands, laughing at the humor only he and I would understand and reflecting about the things we have seen. The thought of both of us hanging out forty years from now made me smile.

We even joked about shooting each other in the foot after a shitload of beer and a few cigars just to avoid going.

"Dude, we are going to get drunk and start crying and shit. We are going to end up shooting each other in the foot."

I was laughing so hard I could not get a word out. Leave it to my cousin and his hilarious sound effects, "Paaaa," simulating gunfire, "now shoot me"!

We were both laughing so hard I was fighting back tears. The truth behind it all is that we are both glad that the day is soon approaching. We both just want to go overseas and do our thing. It has been tough putting our lives on pause for our duty and as much as it sounds like a cliche it truly is the price we pay to play the game. We both feel the same way, we are glad our turn has come but we know the difficulties that lie ahead are unprecedented in our young naive lives. We both look forward to the day we can come back and hit play on the remote control.

He never lets me forget the first conversation we had after I got back from my Basic and Advanced Individual training almost three years ago. It was more like a few words than a conversation and he remembers it better than I do. The first things out of his mouth when I saw him were, "I heard our window for deployment is sometime in the next few years."

According to him my cold and unscripted response was, "I don't give a shit, I want to earn my strips."

Conversation over. He says it made him feel like a shit bag when I said that. He had been a Joe long enough to let the reality of an upcoming deployment set it, even if it was a few years away. I, on the other hand, had not even given it a second thought. He must bring up that verbal exchange every other time we visit and we both laugh every single time. I am sure we will do the same when we are drinking that cold beer sometime in the future.

I can only imagine what is going through his head. His baby will be four months old when we leave for MOB platform. If life was tough before, it just became exponentially more difficult to the n-th degree. He casually mentioned how he was going to miss the baby's first birthday and how he feared the baby would not know him when he returned. I could not offer any consolation; I could only sense what was going through the walnut in between his ginormous ears.

Those ears, we would kid and joke about those ears all the time when we were younger. The size of his ears were only dwarfed by the size of the umbrellas my brother called ears. At least my cousin grew into them and they are in no danger of getting shot off.

The last time I saw him we were both on a night qualification firing range and we had finagled our way into being each others safety during the qualification. Just to put things in perspective for you it was the night after I met the NCO that gave me all the advice about packing my gear. I don't remember how well I did but on the qualification range but the conversation was classic. During all the downtime we talked about things that would make a Somali pirate blush, maybe I'll tell you about it someday, but for now I'll save it for that day forty years from now.

Our phone conversation this time around was a little more business and little less bullshit. He was en route to his family readiness event with his unit and I was getting ready to go out with a couple of friends. Our conversation kept getting interrupted by what I assumed were calls on the other line. He told me how the sheriff's department he worked for was planning an "Off to War" party that same weekend I would be in town and that we would get together at some point. At least we will get to hang out outside a military environment one last time.

The sheer reality of it all is this; we are both about to make enough memories to last ten lifetimes. Some good, some bad, most of them somewhere in between but we both just want to sit on that porch forty years from now and watch the grass grow.

It's go time.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

I have had a few friends ask me about the amount comedy, cursing and sarcasm that one is exposed to after they had read one of my previous blog post. I think they just wanted to hear a few stories about some of the crazy shit that is said and done. Telling a good story might get a laugh or two but that is not my intention with this blog.

Storytelling might give people a peak at the characters that are willing to defend their country but a story has the potential to be skin deep. However, it also has the capability of introducing us to an entirely different understanding of the human condition if told in the right pretext. Some stories only tell us of the day to day actions of a person. What is usually left to the imagination are the most important details. I want people to understand who we are and why we do what we do. The world needs to know that we struggle with what we do. We never pray for war but if we do not serve, who will?

As I share our story with you, I hope that you will begin to understand not just who we are but that we are no different than you. We just chose to stand between you and the things that go bump in the night. I only wish that I am capable of conveying that image to you in my writing. You will begin to see what it is like to be in an INFANTRY battalion.

Infantry, let's think about that word for a minute. The word infantry is a license to say and do some of the most insulting, politically incorrect things when around other grunts and know that everyone is going to laugh. Nothing is off limits: sex, gender, race, religion or anything in between. Imagine placing Will Ferrell, Vince Vaughn, Stephen Colbert, Conan O'Brien, Larry the Cable Guy, Kat Williams, Jack Black, Jim Carry, and Steve Carell in a room with an infinite amount of alcohol, a get out of jail card, a handful of strippers, a few guns, a couple hundred thousand dollars, a gay guy, a goat, and three midgets. Just sit back an watch what happens. These are the things that bring us together as brothers. This level of camaraderie can never be experienced by those who have never donned the uniform.

It also means that we have families that we leave behind when we are called to duty. People outside the military bubble do not understand that when we deploy so do our friends and family. They never step foot into a combat zone but they are right there with us every step of they way. They worry about what might happen on the next patrol just as much as we do.

Infantry also means that there are moral and ethical dilemmas that are fought as we walk the battlefields of our mind. We question every mistake and ask ourselves were we erred. Mistakes in our business are not measured in dollars.

Comedy is not the only possible signature of the personality. Stress, anger, frustration, loyalty, duty, honor, respect, and motivation are a few of the factors that play keys roles in how each and everyone of us is defined as a person. Comedy just happens to be the tool of choice to fend off stress and fatigue. The fact of the matter is that a person could not do what we do without having a sense of humor. It nullifies all the bullshit we put ourselves through.

As the soldiers of or battalion embark on this journey, I only wish to show you all the emotions, sweat, anger, pain, tears, joy, sadness, loneliness, frustration, compassion, and all the moments that make us human.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Here is an article about how our upcoming deployment is affecting soldiers jobs. I am glad to see this topic covered in the media. (Thank you Lindsay Wise!)

I have seen a couple of my buddies "laid-off" but we all know that all the extra military duties we have taken on in the past few months is part of the reason they have been cut loose. A few others have mentioned that their employers are looking for reasons to let them go because we are called away by the Guard so often. The state of the economy makes it easier for employers to mask the reason why these guys are let go. The sad thing is that these employers do not realize that if soldiers do not fight they would not have a business to run.

P.S. Those you you who left comments arguing that the Guard is not meant to be deployed oversees...go read up on your military history.

Monday, July 27, 2009

My buddy and I were driving back home this weekend from our last "real" drill . We have one more drill in the chute but it will be dominated by a family readiness event. We were both sleep deprived and extremely exhausted. He was driving the first leg in route to Houston via I-10 while I tried to get some shut eye. The only thing I could think of was what the passengers of passing vehicles were thinking when they saw me wearing huge black ballistic goggles and ear plugs. The thought of it made me laugh a little; I had to block out the sunlight and music right?

As I shut my eyes I began to realize that the monkey that had been following me around all year had finally climbed onto my back. I occurred to me that we had one last road trip to and from drill. The unit will be hitting our second annual train-up soon with the mobilization immediately following that. Up until now, the thought of the upcoming mobilization has felt a little fake. There has been nothing that has given me any indication that the reality of the situation had finally caught up with the one constant in everyone lives, time. One minute, one hour, one day, one week; it doesn't matter what the measure of it is, it the same to us all. For the first time all year I realized that the monkey on my back was a biter; reality set its teeth deep into my back.

There were several other insignificant events that played out over the weekend that contributed to that bite mark on my back. One occurred when I was sitting outside the company orderly room waiting on another solider when one of the guys on the rear detachment came over to shoot the shit. He had been in the sandbox while on active duty and came into the Guard a few months back. He is on stabilization orders and cannot be deployed oversees until those orders expire.

"The operational tempo needs to slow the fuck down, this is the Guard," he said while swinging his arms and legs around as if he were playing the mythical drums of war.

"You guys are going to get there and end up guarding the chow hall."

We both started laughing our asses off. The one thing that I love about being with all the Joes is the amount of sarcasm, comedy and cursing that takes place. It is more than an art form, it is the signature of the personality. There was a little truth in what he said, we were so busy over those last four days that the guys in my section were averaging four hours of sleep a night.

I tried to sleep but the DVD player in my head replayed that moment and I knew that the operational tempo was what we should expect in country. Your always told to train like you fight.

The second came when I pulled a PFC in our section aside and had to play Daddy. He had failed to complete a task I had assigned. In addition to the failed task he had showed up late to our first formation. I was upset with him because he is a smart kid, very young, right out of high school,and very intelligent. Over the last few months I had come to the conclusion that some of the guys that hadn't been deployed to a combat zone were suffering from what I like to call Hollywood syndrome. These guys thought they were going to a Hollywood film shoot; reality hadn't set it. I've never been deployed but I didn't lose the 45 IQ points your required to lose when joining the ranks of the grunts. OK, so that was a joke that only a grunt will get, deal with it. Anyhow, I am aware of the situation we are putting ourselves into, he was not.

We began our conversation by talking about how the decisions he makes effects more people than he could ever imagine.

"When you first joined the army how many people did you think your decision affected," I asked.
"Me," he said as he shrugged his shoulders.

"Now that we are leaving, how many people has that decision touched."

"Everybody," he said as his smile faded and the severity of the situation set it.

I had burst his bubble, and that is an understatement. I could tell by the way he would look at the floor while he was thinking that I had flipped the right switch. That moment made me realize we were in this together. I had asked him those questions because I had struggled with them myself in one of those self analytical moments and I knew the effect they would have. He understood that soon his decisions could potentially have dire consequences.

The final moment came when I was standing out at the M-4 qualification range waiting to go through night qualification. I began to visit with an NCO that was in the same firing order as I when he mentioned the packing list for the deployment. I had never met the guy before but when I told him I had never deployed he began offering advice on what to pack.

"Bring your personal bed linens and pillows, maybe a laptop with some movies and books to keep you entertained while our gear catches up to us," he said.

Have a few hundred dollars at the ready when we get there because the guys we will be replacing will sell you all the stuff they can't pack. T.V., mini fridge, DVD player, video game consoles, if they cannot pack it and you want it, they'll sell it."

He went on explaining how some T.V. sets had changed hands four or five time because there is no point in bringing them back when you can help your replacement out by selling it to him dirt cheap. He said the army would not be happy if troops are bringing back large plasma televisions in army planes. I went on to ask him about smuggling my acoustic guitar into the combat zone.

"You can probably buy one too, if not have someone mail you yours. Make packages to yourself and number them. Keep a list of those numbered packages and their contents with you and when you call home you can ask to have a specific package sent to you."

I walk away form the conversation and went in sat in my Humvee and started making a list of items I would take and items I would have mailed to me. The only item I had on my mailing list; my guitar.

I was going to a far away land for a long time and all I want is my guitar. Playing guitar is my escape from life here, I am sure it will serve the same purpose overseas. It's the only thing that can remove me from time.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

God's message to me.

I read somewhere that only men at peace with themselves could go to war for the sake of others. I wish I could remember the source or the exact quote but that concept has haunted me for the past few weeks. Every grunt experiences the moral dilemmas unique to the experience of war. Every grunt also contemplates the many scenarios that may unfold in his presence while deployed in a combat zone. He begins to question his ability to react to situations that endanger himself and his fellow soldiers. All of these thoughts had been constantly flying through the grey matter between my ears until Friday June 19th, 2009.

I had gladly volunteer to drive to San Antonio to pick up the middle child of a family that treats me as one of their own. About an hour and a half into the trip, a car about half a mile ahead of me suddenly veered off the interstate and flipped three times. The only reason I realized an accident was occurring was the swerving of the big rigs up ahead. I drove up on the accident scene a few minutes later and I saw a few guys pulling a man from the wreckage. I knew this was not the way to move a man with potential life threatening injuries. As I drove by, the casualty was laying down with everyone standing around not sure what to do next. I decided to pull over and offer the limited medical knowledge I learned in Combat Lifesaver Course, more commonly known as CLS. A few others had already begun to manage traffic but I the injured man needed help. As I ran up to the guy and took control of his care, I issued a few orders to the bystanders, and they surprisingly complied. I told the man to remain still and asked the bystanders to help me find something to immobilize his neck. I then began asking the guy questions to check for a head injury. Not more than a few minutes had elapsed when a nurse and a doctor, who did not know each other and were traveling in different directions, stopped and offered assistance. Without saying a word, I deferred control to them and assisted in keeping the man calm. It soon became clear to us that the man was going to be fine; he was scratched up and battered, but he would probably walk away from it all after a thorough checkout at the ER thanks to everybody that pulled over to help.

Now I told you this story because of the manner in which I reacted, I was calm, collected, unphased and almost methodical in my actions. I never raised my voice, didn't feel any nerves fraying and kept my cool. As soon as the man was loaded into the ambulance I began a ARR or After Action Review to analyze my actions. ARR's are used in the military to critique the outcome of missions at every level, from the lowly fire team to the brigade command. I took my time walking back to the Suburban and began to compare my response to this situation to one that occurred a few months earlier.

In mid April I was returning to my unit headquarters from a military school that had ended that day when the person directly in front of me swerved to miss a braking car. The lady behind the wheel over corrected and began skidding all over the road. We just happened to be on a bridge and she bounced between the guardrails like a super ball being thrown across the room. I was just glad to be far enough behind to avoid getting hit but I wasn't phased by the danger. This time I was the first to stop and as approached the car I realized she was out cold. I went to open her door and nothing. It was locked. At that instant my legs began shaking uncontrollably, I began to yell at her through the window hoping she would stir. I quickly ran around the vehicle and checked all the doors while growing more desperate. I decided to smash one of the rear windows to get to her. I was about to swing at the rear driver side window with my elbow when I heard the unmistakable click of the power locks. She was beginning to stir. My nerves, however, were taking over. I could feel my body trembling and I could not seem to control the volume of my voice. Once I gained entry to the vehicle, another driver had stopped to give a hand and I was glad he did. He was more collected and began to speak to the lady, whom was still semi-unconscious. I on the other hand was mumbling whatever came to mind as my heart raced; I was still panicking. We must have been just minutes away from a fire station; not more that two or three minutes had passed before the first responders arrived and I was very relieved, the medics could now take over. After answering a few questions for the investigating officers, I jumped in my truck and began my ARR. In my self analysis I concluded that I felt powerless to help the lady once I realized the SUV was locked. I knew why I reacted the way I did. I had felt similar to this once before but it was not someone else I was trying to help.

On September 11th, 2008, I was over at my cousin's house, back in my hometown, helping him repair his sub flooring when the unthinkable happened. I was about to nail down a new sheet of decking material when I fell through the floor and put my arm through a window. The glass cut though my left forearm and severed everything until it hit bone. I had only seen arterial bleeding in the medical training video's during our CLS course but now I had a a front row seat to the taping.

After seeing my mangled arm my heart damm near torn through my chest. I could feel every beat pound against my chest so hard I thought a heavy metal band had booked a concert in my chest and the drummer had replaced his bass drum with my heart. I immediately knew that I was going to need a tourniquet but first I was going to apply a pressure dressing to the wound. My two cousins had run out the front door in a panic. I that point I realized that I needed to keep my head on straight or I was going to bleed to death. Retrospectively, I don't blame them, I would have shit myself too. I got up and walked to the front door to get my cousins' attention. Once I did I instructed them to remove my shirt an proceeded to instruct them to apply the makeshift pressure bandage. My cousins were afraid to hurt me and could not find it in them to tighten the dressing tight enough to stop the bleeding. I immediately began searching for something to use as a tourniquet. At this point, I was scared, but I was in control, issuing order's and maintaining situational awareness. That military training always seems to kick in without letting me know. I began to apply direct pressure to the wound with my one good arm right after I gave my cell phone to one of my cousins and instructing him to call 911. At this point I realized I was wearing a belt! Why hadn't I thought of it sooner? I had not worn a belt all week because it was packed somewhere in one of my bags and I could not find it. That morning however, I found it inside a laundry bag so I put it on. We were already in a bad situation, we were in a small town about 20 miles of country road away from the nearest hospital but what happen next made me lose my cool. My cousin turns to me and tells me he cannot figure out how to dial 911 on my blackberry. My cousins tell me I was yelling commands at them the entire time; I was probably just using my command voice, but at this point I knew I was yelling. Once we were in the truck and in motion, I dialed 911 while holding the end of the belt between my shoulder and chin, the way you would a telephone, to keep the belt tight around my arm. With that out of the way my next concern was getting a hold of myself. My heart was racing, my legs were shaking uncontrollably and my body had pumped itself so full of adrenaline that I could not feel the pain that should have been ripping through my arm. It also didn't help that we broke countless traffic laws several times over. I could feel my body shutting itself off. First I became extremely thirsty and my skin looked like a sheet of white copier paper. Once I started feeling sleepy, I turned to my cousin in the driver's seat a told him to pull the belt tight if I passed out. Then, a wall of white, my vision began to phase between a mild fogginess to a cloudy white. Retrospectively, If God was watching over me, he could not have picked a better day. It was at this moment that that my cousin first spotted the ambulance that was dispatched to meet us half way. For brevity's sake I'll cut the story short, but if you haven't figured it out yet I'm still kicking.

This experience on Sept. 11 was the catalyst. It turned the key to the engine that runs deepest darkest regions of my head. This is when I started analyzing life and death. It was at this instant that I knew I had taken for granted the delicate existence we call life. At first I could not understand why God would let me go through something so traumatic. God and I always had our differences; let's just say we never really saw each other eye to eye, but this time I was furious.

I could have died that day. Why was I spared? What if I had died. How many people would have attended my funeral? What would the world be like if I had died? Was my purpose on this plain of existence my fulfilled? These were only a few of the hamsters spinning the wheel in my head.

My initial thoughts brushed all these incidents aside as coincidences but then someone hit the light switch. There wasn't even a thought process involved. It was one of those moments where you figured out it was easier to peel the stickers off the Rubik's cube and place them on corresponding sides instead of finishing the puzzle. I realized that if I had died that September afternoon, I would not have been there to help those two people and I would not be here to deploy to the middle east. That day, as I continued my little trek to San Antonio, it dawned on me that God had intervened in all three experiences because he wanted me to be prepared. I cannot explain how this connection came to fruition but it was one of those eureka moments.

He was preparing me for something; he was helping my actions and reactions under extreme stress to evolve. He was giving me the courage and fortitude I needed to deal with what lies ahead. I do not mean to imply that God is preparing me for war. I would like to think that an omnipotent being would discount the very notion of war, although he allows if because it negates free will. I am merely stating that he is tending his flock. I realized that he wants me to be ready for something that is going to test my mettle. Whatever lies ahead is one of those unknowns that can drive a man insane, but at least I'll be ready for it.

This revelation has in turn subdued many of the dilemmas that I have contemplated over the last few months. A few remain but I am sure I will act accordingly when they present themselves. God had a strange why of shuffling the deck, he may have pocket aces and I do not think I can bluff myself out if this one.

Sunday, June 28, 2009


Well, if anyone had any hopes of the deployment being scratched, do not read the link to article. Those of you that have been relying in the RUMOR INTELLIGENCE, you need to read this. HAHA!!!

Are there Ghost in Iraq?

Well, operating under my insatiable need for information, I have been reading every Iraqistan war book I can get my hands on. I need to prepare myself for what is ahead, right? Well the book I just finished reading was Paul Rieckoff's Chasing Ghost. This man is a true Patriot. The are no words that can describe the intensity and sincerity of his beliefs.

His accounts of the fire fights and raids he and his men took part in were so realistic I could almost see myself running along side his men or riding in one of the SUV's they had to commandeer. The most incomprehensible issues presented was the constant lack of supplies and the clusterfuck his chain of command called communication. I do not want to ruin the book for those of you that have not read it so I'll stop there. The book is a must read for anyone trying to understand what a soldier goes through and where the war when wrong.

Other books I recommend are: My War: Killing time in Irag-Colby Buzzell, Fiasco-Thomas Ricks, The Mission, The Men, and Me-Pete Blaber, The Unforgiving Minute,-Craig m. Mullaney, Two Wars,-Nate Self

Sunday, April 19, 2009


Emotions are a bitch. One of the toughest things I've endured over the last few weeks is the feeling on uncertainty. When are we going? Where we going? What happens if one of us gets shot? How will I react if I get shot or hit by an IED. Will I pull the trigger when I am staring down the barrel of a Russian made AK-47. How will I react, that's the million dollar question. I am not scared of doing my duty, but I am petrified of the unknown. Not knowing how I am going to react the first time I am getting shot at is tearing me up inside. I would like to think that I am a going to keep a cool head, execute some fancy tactic that I am trained to execute and move on to complete the mission, but not knowing is a bitch. I do know that I don't want to be the idiot that pisses his pants. The number one thing I have learned in the military is to embrace the unknown.

I do know I love serving my country. I do know I don't want to die doing it. I do not want to be another name on a wall somewhere. I want to return to the States and life a happy life. I know I want to get married someday, I know I want kids, a nice job and a big house. I do not even know if I'll be back in one piece, physically and mentally. My buddies that have been to Iraqistan tell me PTSD is a bitch.

Preparing to go to war is the emotional. Emotional unknowns are the most difficult to deal with. How will I feel after after I've been shot at or after I have pulled the trigger myself. Lately I've been experiencing the full spectrum of human emotion and I haven't even left the States yet. I don't need my shitfaced buddies telling me, "Hey man don't go over and try to be a hero." Fuck them, I know what I got myself into, I love serving my country. They can stay home play video games, get up every morning drink their coffee and go to their job, if they still even have one. I will defend every one's right to call me a fucking baby killer, even after my buddy just lost his job because he has missed to much work due to military obligations. His employer can go fuck himself too. I don't need my mom telling me how she does not want to lose me. Fuck, I do not need to think about these things, I just want to live my life as I see fit. I do not need everyone questioning why I live the life I lead.

It's a powerful burden to carry but someone has to carry it.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Path We Walk

We were all trying to hold back laughter as we stood by our cots as stiff and straight as we possibly could while avoiding eye contact with each other. A few seconds before we were busting each others balls and trying to get a few minutes of rest before our next hard time. Some of the guys were talking about our up coming graduation and the insane amounts of booze and nicotine they were going to consume or the pornographic things they were going to do to their girlfriends or wives that first night out of here. All I could think of was sleep, a shower and the rest of the day's training. Call me short sighted but the Army indoctrination process had worked; get your head out of the game and you were dead. Here it was a game but we all knew that someday, soon, the blanks would be replaced with live ammo and we would be keeping score.
We were all just a bunch of Joes with different reasons for being here. Some of us had a duty to our country, some needed college money, but most of us needed a steady paycheck. There was even one guy who claimed to be the classic, “go to war or go to jail” case. Regardless of each persons reason for enlisting we had all joined the less than one percent of the population that is American Armed Services. Today however, we were biting our tongue’s trying to hide the hilarity of one of the Drill Sergeant’s antic’s.
The circumstances that led to the scene that was unfolding were unknown to us, but at the time it felt like we were the supporting cast in a movie staring Will Ferrell and Vince Vaughn. The only thing that was certain was that the Drill Sergeant had busted a private doing something he was not supposed to be doing, perhaps his head wasn't in the game. That, in basic training terms meant that the unfortunate soul was "smoked", or told to do push-ups, sit-ups and other exercises to the point of having an out of body experience, all this before being ordered to become the center of our attention.
The unknown Private was laying on an aid litter and covered with Old Glory as he was marched around the makeshift Forward Operating Base while some of the guys carried him. As the soldier was marched by our 40 man tent, I remember looking around and everyone looked as if they were about to piss their pants in laughter. A few moments later the entire platoon burst into a loud roar of profanity and laughter as we heard a twenty-one gun salute honor our fallen battle buddy. The Drill had made the Private play dead to teach us a lesson, we later concluded the he had fallen asleep out on an Observation Point, but the intended effect was a distant thought. We were not keeping score.

A few months before we were a ragtag bunch of guys that George Washington himself would not lead into battle, even if it meant surrendering the American cause to the British. Some of us had no idea what we were doing here but I am sure it all made sense one night over a case of beer right before being dared to drink the bong water.
Regardless of the insane story leading up to signing the dotted line, the crossing of our path’s had been triggered by different events in each of our lives that somehow converged at Kilo Troop’s front doors. Kilo Troop, also known as Killer Troop would be our home for the next 17 weeks, as we were broken down, some reduced to tears, then rebuilt, reprogrammed, slapped on the ass and sent off into the world as U.S. army Cavalry Scouts.
My path to those front doors began September 12, 2001. Ok, so this does sound like line out of a movie but it is the truth. After the events of the days before, I was still a little shell shocked, not knowing how our world had changed in the blink of an eye. The day before I was eating my breakfast in the University cafeteria with a few other classmates and one of my best friends when reports of the first plane slamming into the World trade center came in via the radio playing over the cafeteria’s overhead speaker system. My initial thoughts were that of a small plane striking the tower after its inexperienced pilot came to close. No one seemed to care until the reporter over the radio announced that the plane was a commercial airliner. I don't recall the conversation at the breakfast table but I don't think that anyone even thought of it being a terrorist attack. We all thought it was just a bad accident.
As my buddy and I arrived at our first class that morning our professor came in, tears on her face and her heart on her sleeve, canceled class and told us to find a television. Not knowing the severity of the situation, we made a beeline to the big screen on the second floor of the cafeteria we had just left. We made it a few minutes before the second plane changed our lives forever.
I was two weeks into my freshman year of college and I was in over my head. I did not know what I wanted or where I was going in life but I did know I wanted the animals responsible for our generations defining moment to pay. I did not want justice with its lawyers and jurors to decide their fate, I wanted these assholes dead. I wanted to tie the persons responsible to the nose of a jet plane and pilot the plane that was going fly his ass into the ground.
The morning of the 12th, as I walked to the same cafeteria where I sat the morning before, I walked passed a couple of Army recruiters who had set up a table at the doors on the north end of the building. I took one look at them, one look at recruiting literature on the table and without hesitation, kept walking. Why hadn’t I stopped? Till this day I could not answer that question. That moment replayed itself several times in my head over the next couple of years; haunting me, mocking me, flipping me the finger, making a fool of me and my inability to act on the feelings I had had inside. I was like the other ninety-nine percent.

I don’t remember much about the initial invasion of Afghanistan. I vaguely remember the nightly news reports of the battle of Tora Bora which we now know as Operation Anaconda and its attempts to kill or capture Osama bin Laden. I was too busy living the college life, lots of partying, little studying and the weekend greyhound bus trip home to jam with the metal band I was in, I even had the long rock star hair. I was so full of myself that my picture is next to the definition of smug in the dictionary.
Partying, there was enough partying in those first few years in college to last me ten lifetimes. I did not have the support structure back home to keep me grounded. My parents were recently separated and divorced, so as long as a kept to myself I could of formed a cult, convinced my followers to drink the punch and no one back home would have noticed. I was free to do as I pleased. The partying intensified and so did the hangovers, as the hangovers took control of my mornings, my grades began to suffer.
Like I mentioned earlier, I was in over my head. I was the oldest child and I was treading new waters. Who would I turn to if I needed advice or help? My Mother worked hard to help me financially but her pay as a cook at the mexican restaurant in our hometown was not enough to support her, my brother and sister in addition to supplementing what little income I had from student loans, grants and scholarships.
To make matters worst the dorms at our University had been deemed uninhabitable due to structural issues stemming form a tropical storm that battered the coast prior to our arrival. My roommate and I decided that an apartment near campus was the best solution. As money grew tighter I began contemplated leaving school to relieve the financial burden on my family.
If I were going to do this I needed a plan. I did not want to quit school, move back home and become another statistic. I wanted to finish school, receive a degree and land a job that would take me places. Now what? I weighed my option and put together plans of action. Plan A, I could go home, bruised ego and all and start taking classes at the local junior college. It was cheaper and closer to home. Plan B, join the military, serve my time, get the college money and come back to school.
Plan A required little research since I had attended the junior college while I was in high school and knew the nuances of the game. Plan B needed a little more exploration before I made my decision so I called an Air Force recruiter. At this point America was gearing up for round two in Iraq, as a kid I was amazed at the air campaign American pilots flew in the first Gulf War. Those bombing raids were all I could think of when those bomb alarms rang over the school's intercom system and our grade school teacher would run around the classroom making sure we had all made it under our desk. They were just bomb drills but I was young and knew that our bombs were blowing Iraqi buildings overseas, surly theirs could do the same to ours. The televised footage of the bombing raids were the dreams a young impressionable kid’s dreams were made of when he was playing war with he buddies in the back yard. The recruiter told me what I needed to know about education benefits and the enlistment process. After a little thought and a few illegal beers later I decided that Plan A would be the best option.
For the second time in my life I was shunning the military, but somewhere in the twelve pack I swallowed that night I promised that there would not be a third time. First, I had to finish what I has started, I could not be a failure. It was not an option. I had to have a piece of paper with a watermark, fancy font and my name on it to hang on a wall somewhere.

After two years at the junior college, and a little help from a man that would become a dear friend and mentor, I returned to the university where I stared my degree. Now I was a little older a little wiser and no longer full of myself, or so I thought. We were still fighting the war the Bush Administration affectionately called the Global War on Terror, but I was too ambitions to look past the flaws the administrations war strategy, if there ever was one, and put Plan B into motion. Once I entered my final year in college I began to make good on that promise I had made to myself a few years before. This time however, I was eager to go out into the world and put to use the knowledge and wisdom I had gained over the course of my education. The solution: look into joining the Reserves.