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