They Said It Better Than I Ever Could...

These words that I write, they keep me from total insanity. -Charles Bukowski

Who is the happier man, he who has braved the storm of life and lived, or he who has stayed securely on shore and merely existed? -Dr. Hunter S. Thompson

Aug 27, 2010

It's Been A Year...

Not My Fight...

I sat quietly on the mountaintop.  Looking out across the landscape I realized just how big the world really was.  When you are sitting on top of a mountain in the middle of a desert you can’t help but feel small.

Then the rain came.  It fell lightly, so lightly it almost felt like you were being kissed by a child.
Let’s take a step back for a minute.  The mountaintop of which I was speaking could not accurately be called a mountaintop.  Its more of a large hill right in between two gargantuan mountains.  Looking out east or west, you see the tops of those mountains towering above you with their tops capped with snow.  Between my hilltop and those mountaintops was a valley.
A valley peppered with brush and cut in two by a small, dry creek bed.  Under the moon and star light you could see nocturnal animals moving about.  Getting down to whatever business a nocturnal animal needs to attend to.  I found myself watching intently as a pool began to collect on the side of the mountain and the water began to flow down the side of the mountain and move into the dry creek bed.  
The rain began to fall harder.  Raindrops that had not even registered with me were now causing me to flinch and blink as they came cascading down from the heavens.  The pool got larger and the water began to flow quicker and deeper down the side of the mountain into the creek.

The hooting began shortly thereafter.  Coyotes, an entire pack of them was moving from some unseen den on the mountain to my east.  They slowly moved down the mountain, shaking off the slumber as they went.

Off to my west a few deer were walking through the valley toward what had now become a flowing creek.  They stopped, ever so gingerly, next to the water.  They looked about for any eminent danger and then when they were satisfied there was none they bent their necks and drank from the creek.

It never ceases to amaze me how bright the world is when unencumbered by pollution and man made shrouds keeping the light from the sky at bay.  A full moon, coupled with star light allows you to see for miles in any direction.

I breathed deep and drank in the smell of the air around me.  It smelled fresh and new.  As if the world had just been bathed and the clouds were the washcloths.  A newborn child doesn’t smell this good.

I listened as a thousand tiny insects went about their lives.  Running this way and that, digging down, coming up, waiting, and crying out.  Crying out like they were calling for a love they knew they would never find.

I heard the gentle sound of my breath as it slid in and out of my chest, I looked up as I heard the coyotes begin to howl at the moon.  I heard the silence that followed after the deer had heard the howls and began to sense danger.

I watched as the coyotes moved in what seemed a very disorganized pack.  But the longer I watched them the more I realized they were on the hunt.  Each animal covering the tracks of the one in front as if to make sure that the former didn’t miss anything.

They moved around to the north side of the hilltop that I was on and the first coyote stopped dead in his tracks and began to furiously sniff the ground about his feet.  The remainder, almost robotically stopped and began to do the same.

Finally, in unison they all seemed to pick up the same scent and all their heads raised up and began looking around.  Then the leader of the pack began to move, slowly at first.  Stopping every few feet to sniff the ground once again, and then raising his head to sniff the air and beginning to move again.

Each step, the coyotes drew closer to the deer.  The deer sensed there was something wrong and their heads were snapping from left to right so quickly I wondered how they didn’t break their own necks.  The fear was palpable in the night air.  

After a few more steps the coyote came to a line of brush.  From my perch above the fray I could see that as soon as the coyote passed the line, not only would they see the deer but the deer would most certainly see them.  For a moment I felt my fingers gripping tight around a rock sitting on the ground.  All it would take is for me to throw this rock at the deer and they would take off.  Safe, for a while at least.

The first coyote found his way through the line and in an instant saw the deer, let out what sounded like a war cry and the chase was on.

Before the second coyote had even made it through the line, the deer were off.  Bounding through the brush like the earth was made of springs.  But one deer had froze.

She was off a little ways from the rest of the deer and hadn’t heard what was going on.  Quickly the coyote recognized that they wouldn’t have much chance of catching the deer that had already began to run and moved around back toward the creek.  The pack broke in two, with the first group moving across the creek and the second group staying behind it and moving around behind the deer who was now running down the creek making her way toward the other mountain.

The coyotes sped toward the mountain, the deer bounded with all her might to get there.  She was pulling away.  Faster and faster she went, the coyotes were still losing ground but not as quickly as they had before.  Then it happened.

I heard the snap from the valley all the way to the top of my hill.  There was no doubting what had happened.  The deer had lost her footing somehow and broken her leg.

What I heard next is indescribable.  The coyotes converged on the deer and you heard the growl that sounds like a dog while you play tug of war.  You heard as the smaller coyotes hooted their approval of whatever the larger ones were doing to the deer.  You heard the deer cry out in pain.  Then the deer went silent.

I picked up my rifle and gently held its night vision scope up to my eye.  I looked through it, found the pack of coyotes, found the felled deer and watched.  As I watched I placed the little red dot onto each and every coyote and whispered to my thoughts, “Bang”.

But it was not my place to intervene.  This was not my fight.  The world was as it should be that night.  And as I looked out over the Afghan countryside, through the rain and into the vast desert that met the mountains that met the sky, I felt very small. .

Aug 25, 2010

Ground Zero Mosque...

I've been wondering about this one.  As we all have heard, they are trying to build a mosque/muslim community center near ground zero.

Well let's cut right to the chase because there's only two sides to this argument.  You're either for it or against it.


Do I think they should build a mosque that close to ground zero...well no.

But I've been a soldier for the last 12 years.  I joined the army on May 5, 1998.  And in that time I've learned a lot and had some of my views on the world shaken to their very foundations (a few even knocked down), and developed some new ideas.

Now at one point I would've been a very vocal opponent of any Muslims even getting near ground zero.  Over the years my opinion has changed, I believe they call it maturing.

At one point I would've told you that my enlistment in the Army was to fight for the flag of the United States of America.

These days, I would tell you that I am a defender of the principles that this country is founded upon.  I fight for the ideas on which this country has built itself.  I don't fight for a flag.

Now you can disagree with me, I don't mind.  That's pretty much the idea.

A flag to me is a symbol.  A powerful symbol, to be sure.  But nothing more than a symbol.  It's just a piece of cloth.  That's why I don't get my panties all in a bunch when someone burns one.  I mean, that's what you're supposed to do with an unserviceable one anyway.  I don't fight for anything tangible.

I fight for the ideas.  The ideas are what make us free.  (And that's hanging by a thread these days.)  The ideas are what made us great.  The ideas are what made us the envy of the world.  The ideas are what made us the leader of the world.  The ideas are what made us the standard by which all other countries have and will be judged.  The ideas are what's worth defending, what's worth fighting for, what's worth dying for...

I certainly did not fight for a country that when someone does something people don't like, they curl up and bow to pressure.  I didn't fight for a country that would throw away the principles upon which it was founded, when the road got a little rough.

Forgive the redundancy but allow me to remind you what those principles are...

Amendment ICongress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Amendment IIA well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. 
Amendment IIINo Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
Amendment IVThe right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Amendment VNo person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
Amendment VIIn all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.
Amendment VIIIn suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
Amendment VIIIExcessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
Amendment IXThe enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
Amendment XThe powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

I took the liberty of highlighting the applicable portion.  Seems pretty straight forward to me.  They signed it like 234 years ago.  They told us what we should be doing way before we needed the help.  On this one, at least.

The ideas that this country was built on are what matter.  They are what make you free.  They are what allow you to protest this.  They are what allow me to write this and you to read it.  They are what allow them to build it.

Its all been said a thousand times before but it bears repeating because it seems that no matter how many times its drilled into our head we keep is exactly the times when it is the most difficult that we, as Americans, must adhere to our founding principles even more tightly than ever before.


I love you Mom...

Aug 14, 2010

My Eulogy...

I skipped right to this one because the rest of the stuff that they wanted me to do in the 30 day thing were total bullshit.  Not to be rude, but it is what it is...

So I'm done with that.  But the one task that's left that I'm going to do is this.  Why? Because I'm a soldier who has seen death, destruction and mayhem up close.  And due to that fact I have a totally irrational and completely unnatural fascination with my own death.

Yes, its kinda twisted but, anything, when looked at properly can be fun.

A long time ago, I wrote all about...My first shot at death.

Good times back then.

I wondered all about this.  What the hell am I going to write?  Where is this coming from?  Should I even be thinking about this?  Why am I listening to Amazing Grace while I'm writing this post?  Why do I keep thinking about Buckets, my father, my mother, Afghanistan...and why can't I get Cheena out of my head?

It all kind of crystallized for me when I remembered what my father has etched on his tombstone.  "Loving him was easier than anything I'll ever do again"

Courtesy of my mother.

Then it came to me, that I'm going to have to chase the ghost again for a while.  Or forever, who knows for sure.  Because I want loving me to be easier than anything anyone will ever do again.  Pretty lofty goal.  Let's tone it down a bit, and go with "I want loving me to be easier than anything somebody (singular) will ever do again."  Yeah, that should be a bit easier to pull off.

Using that as a life goal, I came up with this...

Mud puppy was born willful.  He came into this world on 7-7-78.  Just one year late of being born under one hell of a good sign.  He was always the most willful person I've ever known.  It began shortly after he could walk when he was playing with the neighborhood kids, most of whom were older than him.  They made merciless fun of the fact that he still had to wear diapers.  In response, he marched right into his house and announced to his mother that he would no longer wear diapers.  She told him that if he didn't wear them then he was going to have to use the toilet like a big boy.  He agreed.  And that was it.  Never had to wear diapers again.  He was born in a different time when mothers still spanked their children, and he got it worse because of that willfulness.  But to this day his mother recalls spanking his butt over something that has long since been forgotten.  What hasn't been forgotten is the look of absolute resolution and determination in Mud Puppy's eyes as he looked up at her and said, "You can't hurt me"  No matter the tears welling in his eyes, or his voice cracking from the pain.  He'd be damned if he was going to let ANYONE get the best of him.  This willfulness carried over into everything in his life.

When he was 16 and he got a concussion in football, the doctor told him that he would not be able to play football anymore.  He only sat out a week.

When he was 19 he was told that he was no good and couldn't keep attending college.  He was told to go on home where he'd be safe.  He joined the army before the ink was dry on his expulsion papers.

When he was 22 they told him that the Bataan death march was too much for him.  He finished the march twice in honor of all the vet's that had died in that hellish march.

When he was 25 they told him that he wasn't smart enough for college and would need to take remedial classes before being allowed to take regular ones, but he should think about tech school or one of the trade unions.  He graduated summa cum laude 3 years later...and went on to fucking grad school!

When he was 26 he was fired from a job.  Told he was a useless employee with a bad attitude and a bad mouth.  He finished college and has been working for the Feds for 3 years now, never getting an evaluation of less than "superior"

He traveled the entire world before he hit 30.  He fell in love, he got married, he got divorced but he has never stopped loving that girl, but she's long gone now.  He had a lot of friends, but only a few good ones.  He educated himself from cradle to the grave.  Devouring books, regardless of situation.  Even carrying a beat up paperback in his cargo pocket throughout his wars.

Then he found her.  She was the one and he knew it about 10 seconds after he met her.  She knocked him dead on his ass from day one.  When he was with her he didn't want to be anywhere else, when he was away from her, he couldn't wait to be with her again.  He showed her off to everyone like she was the queen of the nile and to him, she was.  And to borrow from Jimmy Buffet here, She was a fine wife, they had a good life and she bore him a young son...

He spent every waking spare moment of his life from that day forward living completely and unconditionally for his family.  He cared for them the best he could, and gave up whatever was required without complaint.  Their happiness was all that ever mattered.

Shortly before he died, I was walking with him as his son and his wife strolled ahead of us talking about his son's new job and their new grandchild.  And he told me that he was wanting to buy a boat with some of his savings.  I thought this was a good idea, keep him busy and moving around.  Right after I told him that his son turned and asked his father if he would loan him the money he needed for a downpayment on a house because he didn't want to raise his family in an apartment.  Without batting an eye he said "Sure, whatever you need kid".   That was it.  Just like that the boat was gone.  Later, I asked him what had happened to that willful young man that I had known in our youth.  He never would have given up his boat without a fight?  He looked up at me and smirked, "he's still in there, but loving them is easier than anything I'll ever do again." And then he winked at me.

He lived a life that spanned many years, and a million miles, buckets of blood, gallons of sweat and tears like the falling rain.  He never backed down from a challenge and he took every hit life could dish out with a smirk and a wink and he kept right on going.  He loved his family more than any man I have ever known, and he died happy because for them as for me, Loving him was easier than anything I'll ever do again...

The parts of that written in plain text have already been done.  The stuff in italics I still gotta get done.


I love you Mom...

P.S.  Airman mom, sorry it took so long.