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

Jan 4, 2012

Pay What You Owe...

So I was putzing around the house on Christmas Eve and I was listening to the radio. US 99.5 to be exact. Chicago's version of a country station. Now for all you hillbillys and rednecks out there who think that there can't be a "real" country music station in Chicago can kiss my ass. And we'll just leave it at that.

So as I was listening and they were playing your standard fare, "Red Solo Cup, Camoflage by Brad Paisley and what not" they threw a commercial in the middle. A commercial for Make The Connection a website for vets to go and share their experiences with those who do understand. I've spoken before about just what a pain in the ass it can be to hear 'I understand' from anyone other than Vets. Anyways, the commercial has a couple of different guys talking about this, that or the other, but one guy jumped up and kicked me square in the nuts. And like any red blooded American male, I'm not real appreciative of anyone either literally or figuratively kicking me in the nuts. However, if forced to choose I'd much prefer figuratively to literally.

And we're back on topic. So one of these guys was talking about his experience and he got around to saying the words that brought tears to my eyes. Real fucking tears. Out of nowhere. Like a damn little girl who's brother ripped the head off her Barbie doll. And I'm standing there, in the kitchen halfway through making my peanut butter and fried banana sandwich and now I'm crying over the pan. Bananas do not need extra juice!

What did this dude say that turned me in to an emotional wreck?

"You owe it to the guys that didn't come back, you owe it to them to live well."

I haven't always been a big fan of paying what I owe. Just ask anybody who loaned me money between the ages of 16 and 23. Especially, have fun asking those guys who were dumb enough to give me credit cards that exceeded what I made in any 3 month period. I always wondered how an industry could survive when it was willing to give $5,000 worth of open credit to an 20 year old soldier who lives exactly 20 minutes from Mexico. But I guess we've answered that question a few times in the past couple of years.

Now around 23 is when I started to remove my head from my 4th point of contact (aka, my ass!) and low and behold I started paying my bills. Which I've been doing dutifully since. Which has led to a good credit rating, which has led to a recent house purchase, which has led to moving in with the princess, which has gotten me a new dog. So all in all, its a pretty good deal.

I tell you that for no other reason than I know what it feels like to be on both sides of debt, er...all sides of debt. I know what its like to pay what I owe, I know what its like to not pay what I owe and I know what its like to be paid what I'm owed, and I know what its like to not be paid what I'm owed.

Now I don't know about you but its pretty easy for me to pick out which sides of the debt equation I want to be on. I want to be "current" with all my obligations. "Paid in full" would be better, but I don't think that this case has a paid in full.

So now I've been pondering, thinking about, meditating, contemplating, analyzing, and agonizing over that statement. "You owe it to them to live well." Fuck me running. This guy just heaped a giant debt right on my head.

According to an old NYT article (get over it) the average age of combat deaths in Afghanistan is about 25 (Average Age of combat death) then you figure that the life expectancy here in the United States is about 78.1 years. (Source) then you do some quick math. 78.1 minus 25 is 53.1. So that's, on average, 53.1 years stolen from each soldier, sailor, airman, and marine who has died in service to their country. And then you find out how many have died in the War on Terror (Honor the Fallen) shows that 6316 have died in the fight. Then you've got some more math to do. 6316 multiplied by 53.1 years equals 335,379.6 years total. Oh boy, that's a pretty steep bill to pay.

Now maybe I'm being a bit overdramatic with the calculation of the bill, who knows, probably. But it has still been weighing on my shoulders since I heard it.

I owe it to them to live well.

Am I living well?

What the hell is living well?

Two questions that have had me wrapped around the axle for a week. Plus they don't seem to have much in the way of easy resolution. Once, I wish that I could get presented with an easy question. Oh and the above listed questions aren't rhetorical. I want an answer. I'm kind of in the conundrum of not minding so much that I owe, but not quite knowing how to pay the damn thing back.

However, there is a silver lining to my little episode of douchiness. (Crying like a little girl) I'm actually kind of stoked about it because you can't cry unless you have emotions. First and foremost that rules out psychopath, unless of course I can fake emotions even to myself. (I'm not that good an actor) Sociopath is still in the running, but I may have my definitions mixed up here. In any event, the fact that I cried meant that I at the very least have some emotions. So congratulations to me, I might actually be beginning to reconnect with the world. A little sympathy, empathy and good old fashioned concern for my fellow man would be nice once in a while. They warned us when we were coming home about emotional disconnectedness. They of course forgot to tell us exactly how to fix it. I mean, not even a clue. Pricks could've at least pointed us in the right direction.  

And finally, I want to say something that's most likely been said before but it bears repeating. Did anyone even notice that the Iraq War is over? Operation Iraqi Freedom has come to a close? Is it just me or was that the least dynamic end of a war ever? You know that the country might have a problem when the end of a motherfucking WAR!!!! doesn't even get anyone's pulse up a little...but I could be wrong. Just seemed to me that around here, nobody noticed. I'm pretty sure that this should've been a big deal.

So I shall bore you no more today.

Answer my questions and we'll see what we can come up with.


I love you Mom...


  1. I thought about all those men/women I wrote and all those men/women I did not and then I heard from one I wrote and he was in A'stan - for the next year and in need of letters. Then I thought damn, damn, damn and letter writing continues.
    take care of you and yours,

  2. I really enjoyed your post. Makes me understand what my son in Afghanistan might feel when he comes home. He's 22.

  3. O.F.S. Outfucking Standing. I like this. I've had the thought to outlive the dipshits we had to work for on my deployments...that candyass chairwarming, REMF, fobbit, dipshits who had no idea what we were doing, but none the less managed to get some killed.
    keep writing and stay out of debt.... live long.