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.