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Saturday, December 19, 2015

The America The World Is Missing

So much drama playing out on a daily basis in the news media.  From Iraq and Syria and the rise (or fall depending on the day) of the Islamic State (better known as ISIS, ISIL, DAESH - which is actually defined as hate and evil in the purest of forms) to the republican quasi-reality show to formally nail down a contender with conservative principals to face off against Hillary in 2016.  It's all overwhelming at times.  Not the speed or mass of insult that is thrown at us incessantly over minutes, hours, days, and weeks.  But the pure ignorance for which our freedom loving society inhales the information as if it is the air we breathe to sustain life.  Our media sources, are no longer reporting news.  They are supporting sides, agendas, political ideologies, and pushing those ideas to the viewers who can't form a thought for themselves to create an opinion on any topic which faces us as a nation in this volatile 21st century.  I for one, am not a believer that the "end of times" is knocking on our doorstep, but the way humanity has literally turned on itself has me second guessing myself.

This isn't about religion, nor is it about the color of your skin, the culture for which you were raised, or the nation for which you were born or raised.  It boils down to one simple factor that we all share, regardless of how anyone feels about it.  We are all human.  Doesn't matter your skin color or your opinion on those of color (Jesus, we are all some sort of color, dump out a damn box of crayons at some point, all different shades of red, white, brown, and black).  Or, what "society" and those within our society who are pushing agendas based off of color, religion, or sexual preference say or do.  Nor does it matter these individual movements they inspire to push and create a divide in a country that so many have labored endlessly towards, so the pillars of a free nation can sustain the weight of the masses that are trying to crumble them with self centered agendas and propaganda.  Unless we let them mean something.

There has been a lot of talk over Donald Trump (this is not an endorsement for Donald Trump) who is polling favorably...

He lacks political correctness, he is 90% entertainer, 9.8% business man, and 0.2% politician.  He says whatever the hell is on his mind, whenever he feels like it (and a large portion of it makes little sense in the big picture because it lacks substance).  He has made personal attacks on individuals, some feel unfairly.  Uh, it's a campaign to represent the republican party for president, when the hell did political campaigns place rules on insulting competition? Or seek some verbal retaliation in this battle for votes?  They say he is a bigot, hates Muslims, and Mexicans, and anyone who is not white, wealthy, or supporting him.  I swear to God, what the hell is wrong with people?  He is just a guy laying his thoughts out (most of the time in a non-eloquent fashion) and doing it without any concern for what is "politically" correct.  Since when has that become wrong?  Because someone is offended?  Ok, you are offended, don't vote for him, do what you can to make sure he is not the republican nominee for president, otherwise, who gives a rat's ass?  I'm just glad someone is saying something other than how we need to be more sensitive to anyone who has a heartbeat and might get upset because we weren't creating special legislature to cater to their individual needs.

It's such a joke any more, so he isn't politically correct, you should be more concerned with pushing him to actually define the actions in detail he is going to use to manage the multiple fronts of crises the world faces today.  Until he does, all he has is a lead in the polls, and those people need to turn out to vote to give him a victory.

I'm saddened by the America I see today, the pure stupidity, the incompetence of some of our leaders and the games that are played to manipulate a government that is supposed to be of the people, for the people.  Not just one class of people, or color of people, or religious affiliation of people, but all the people.  There are those trying to divide this nation, the media plays into it, the political parties play into it, and those that control both these entities with money, and the power money wields, pull the strings that make this American puppet dance around the needs and wants of the majority of this nation.  Regardless of color, religion, sexual preference, or socioeconomic status, we all want what the constitution was written to uphold.  And every day, there are those trying to bend these simple rights, and create chaos, in a world that can be so simple.

What we need now is strength, what we need to maintain is our liberty, and what the world needs to see is that the last thing we will ever do, is lay down and wallow in the ignorance that is trying to consume us.  We must always, and forever, remain, SECOND TO NONE!

A leader needs to do more than talk.  Look at each politicians record, that is what should define them, not just the promises they make on the campaign trail.  We all know once they reach the oval office, most of what they have said is forgotten. Don't listen to the nonsense the media outlets throw at you on a daily basis, many of the talking heads on the major networks are pushing their own agendas (right or left, it is wrong), not those that are best for the nation.

The 2016 presidential race will come down to Hillary Clinton, or one of the dozen plus individuals trying to secure the republican nomination, don't be a damn lemming.  Make up your own mind, define your own values, decide based off your personal emotions and feelings on the status of this nation and what is best to bring America back to the status we had in the mid to late 20th century.

As far as ISIS, ISIL, DAESH, or as I like to refer to them, thugs, murderers, and religious zealots.  We can't let them win, and we must eradicate the disease by any means necessary, any means...

No one individual running for president, or any office nomination can fix the problems we have in the United States in present day 2015.  The only way change will come, is not through one man or woman's decision who sits in the oval office.  It will come through the voices of the American people who represent the majority, and want to preserve the basic liberties that were founded, fought, and won over many generations of great Americans.  Americans of all ethnicity, color and creed.

Stand up America, if you want to point fingers, look in the damn mirror.  When will the resolve of this sleeping giant manifest inside you?

Saturday, March 7, 2015

A Very Short Essay, On War and PEACE in the face of fundamentalism

Many differing opinions are floating around social media on how we should appropriately address a population of thugs that want sharia law to rule the day.  There may be arguments on both sides of the aisle, violence versus an attempt at a peaceful resolution (call in the unicorn division please). One thing that is guaranteed, is regardless of how we address it, there will always remain a group militant hooligans that wants to consistently try and put out the flame that burns in the soul of every freedom loving individual on earth (and where does it burn brighter than in the USA???).

Arguments on both sides, have valid points. But it's hard to try and come to a political resolution over such vast differences when the person (and I use the term person loosely, for that would indicate they are human) with a differing opinion is trying to saw your head off.  Or, try and understand why they want to persecute Jews, Christians, homosexuals, and yes, women (I have three daughters.  Women, should never be degraded or treated with anything but respect).  In the Islamic state, there is no latitude for anyone to have beliefs that fall outside what the caliphate dictates.  There is no question to the barbaric nature of this enemy, they have spoken loudly through well manufactured propaganda death videos.  And they use social media as their vehicle to recruit and distribute the garbage they produce. 

Waiting for them, if the call comes, is a well trained, experienced military with first hand knowledge of many of the tactical targets, cities, and a good portion of what is ancient Mesopotamia.  Yeah, I'm talking about the US military, if there was any doubt (but you know we have good company with our Canadian, Brit and Aussie counterparts, and I would be more than happy to serve alongside any Jordanian, or other Arab allied military member).  

Why? After so many years of conflict, over 6000 killed (a website to reflect on the fallen:, over 50,000 wounded, and many many thousands more suffering with adjustment disorder, depression, PTSD, and various other behavioral disorders, would we want to send Americans back to Babylon?  The answer is simple, clear, and speaks to that flame that burns in OUR souls resonating with freedom.

Freedom of choice, and flexibility of how to live your life, along with the pursuit of anything that this world has to offer.  The ability to worship in any temple you so choose, whether you are Muslim, Christian, Jewish, atheist, or agnostic. The security of walking into any grocery store, mall, or diverse ethnic shop or store and not fear for your personal safety or your family's lives.  The right to walk into a booth and cast your vote to put into political power through democratic processes any individual, from any walk of life, with the dream of making their country better.

These are things worth fighting for, sometimes the fight is more than exchanging punches and kicks in an octagonal cage.  It's about detailed, precise, exquisite techniques and tactics to decimate your enemy through the use of engineered violence.  Violence carried out by a volunteer force willing to sweat, bleed, and give their lives at home or abroad so the aforementioned freedoms remain intact.  Many will argue, it's across the ocean, it's far from home, it will never happen here (but it already happened here...  9/11).  

It's been here, hiding at your doorstep, waiting for the right moment patiently.  The enemies battle cry calls for death and wishes to destroy a way of life.  That way of life will only be secure through normal men and women engaging in horrible, unexplainable, and mind numbing violence.  But these men and women will stand, side by side, hand in hand, until the last one falls, to preserve and maintain that flame that is burning in your soul.

It's not religion, it's not land, it's not oil, and it sure isn't for any politically motivated aspiration that the average American fights.  It's simply about a way of life, and when we are there, it's about surviving with each other, for each other, for the mission that we were called upon to accomplish.

But let's hope it doesn't come to that.

En Avant...

Sunday, February 8, 2015

To ashes, we all will burn

It happened, like a bad scene from a Hollywood script.  The darkest and most evil possible way for any one human to have their life taken from them.  And the legions of demons paraded the somewhat delusioned pilot to his cage and eventual tomb.  It was a spectacle for the ages, a visual production that needed no elaboration, and the complete defined product of Satan in this life.  If at any time, in my forty years on this earth, Satan ever worked his pure evil, it was the day that Jordanian pilot was doused with a flammable liquid and burned in front of terrorists and the camera lens for all the world to see. 

As despicable as this act was, the pilot was an enemy of the cowardly terror network ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria)/ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), so his execution is a little less of a shock than that of the innocent, for which they have been chopping heads off of on a regular basis.  Any military that faces off against terror groups and is unfortunately in a position to be captured should hope to have the means to fight to the death.  I personally would die throwing fists as to not be captured and made a freak show on this ISIS/ISIL world tour they seem to have created en route to garnering so much media coverage.  All of which plays into their deceitful plan, free airtime, free media coverage, helps enlist the weak and warp the minds of the borderline insane into similar beliefs. 

So what does all this mean?  What do we need to do as freedom loving nations?  How do we go about doing it?  When will we actually flex the international muscle, of which we should be the spearhead of? 

What it means is we put as much intelligence gathering capability on the ground and within the network known as ISIS/ISIL.  Spread a slow and deliberate parasitic seed amongst their ranks, and what is this secret parasitic seed?  The truth, that their beliefs and deeds follow no organized religion or the teachings within the book of any organized religion.  Sure, there is plenty of death in any religious teachings, but we need to remember these books were written centuries ago, the world changes, and our beliefs should be progressive, not regressive as we see within the radical Muslim world.

What do we do as freedom loving nations is band together, we continue to practice the freedoms we have always cherished.  We do not let individuals in this country or other freedom loving countries take away the God given right we have, that is to live free.  We prepare and plan to fight to the last man to protect this way of life, we stand ready to destroy those, or incarcerate those who try and rape this freedom from us, and we prepare the men and women who will fight for this freedom, to see the worst atrocities that man can bestow upon man.  We also prepare them to bestow death upon all that would try and take our freedoms from us, and ultimately die fighting for this very basic way of life we cherish.

We go about doing it by further investing in our military.  We don't need to place the money in reinventing the humvee or building more MRAPs, M1 Abrhams or F18's, we simply invest it on small unit training, platoon level and below.  We integrate out platoon sized elements within the allied units on the ground fighting the terrorists now.  We allow the smaller team sized elements to do what they do best.  Collect intelligence, provide reconnaissance, attack high value targets, and collect those they can take alive.  We continue to own the sky, the night, and push the evil inch by inch back to hell if needed.  We allow those we fight with to understand what we fight for is worth every drop of blood, every drop of sweat, and every tear that is shed.  And we fight relentlessly and ferociously as only Americans truly know how to fight.  But we pay great men in our military to make plans to win wars, let's use the Generals, and those who have the training, experience, and fortitude to get the job done, and remove the politics, and political correctness from the battlefield.

But we only invest what we can afford, we don't do it at the expense of the American taxpayer any longer.  Our government must make true cuts, look hard and long at the money it spends, we all know the government has a long history of fraud, waste and abuse that no one will ever be held accountable for, we need to be more fiscally responsible, and we are not.

We plan on finishing the fight, not just bloodying the nose of our enemies, but truly and fully annihilating them from existence, and their way of life.  Just as they would us, each and every one of us, one freedom loving individual at a time, or bunches and bunches of us if they had the capability.

This is evil like we have never seen, evil that we can not let fester any longer.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

American Sniper - A Review (a Veteran's perspective)

Finally, after patiently waiting for two weeks after the national release in theaters, I went to a cozy theater last night and watched Bradley Cooper portray Navy SEAL, the late Chris Kyle, in the long, personally anticipated movie, American Sniper.  While watching the movie I knew I had to, at some point, add my two cents on the Academy Award nominated film.  I mean, if Michael Moore, Seth Rogen, and some NBC reporter named Ayman Mohyeldin can share their opinion, well, I'm a Veteran, still a National Guard soldier, I should be able to share my feelings on it too...


Uh, you are damn straight.  I woke up at precisely 0444 hours this morning, I figured it was for one of two reasons.  My desire to put my thoughts on this film down electronically (been a year since my last post) or the fact I was a multi-million dollar winner of the powerball jackpot.  After checking my numbers, I realized it was not the latter, so I sluggishly made my way to my computer.  I'll comment on the aforementioned trio of douchebags later, but considering I have been to Iraq, ok, ok, I wasn't a Navy SEAL, or a special operator, I was simply the Noncommissioned Officer in Charge (NCOIC) of a quaint little Troop Medical Clinic (TMC) along MSR Tampa between Talil Air Base (in southern Iraq) and Baghdad.  And to boot, I was a Utah Army National Guardsmen, my active component Army days ended in 2001, before the September 11th attacks, but that is what propelled me back into service, albeit part time.  I'm still here, after 18 long years, serving, albeit, still on a part time basis.  As I was saying, I was in Iraq, although Chris Kyle's mission was drastically different than mine, I served in the role my country, state, and unit requested of me, no different than Chris Kyle.  I also wrote and published a book, yes, again, no where near the notoriety or sales of Kyle's book, but that wasn't the goal.  The goal was trying to reach closure and paint a picture of sacrifice on the grand scheme, as the movie, and book Kyle wrote describes, that sacrifice extends out beyond the scope of the individual, team, or unit of service members.  The whole military community feels the long lasting effects of service experienced over these long lasting conflicts.  The brunt of the weight affecting the families at home during deployments. 

First thing I will admit, I scrutinize war movies, especially from this generation of conflict, with a heavy hand.  I can't help it, every detail down to the uniform worn, I'm anal about, but with this movie, luckily, the majority of players were Navy and Marines, so they could have had pink unicorns sewn on their collar for rank and I would have been completely ignorant, well, not completely, but I wasn't as in tune as  I would have been with an Army focused movie.  However, that is an internal flaw, no need to elaborate, this movie wasn't necessarily made to be completely appealing to the service member, although it has been.  The general public generates the revenue, and the general public has made the movie a box office success, beyond what I think many expected. 

As for the movie's overall message, exploring the transition from a peace keeping force, to a war hardened force, on the individual level, I thought it was extremely well done.  Bradley Cooper, did his work, he brought Chris Kyle to life on the big screen, but only told a small portion of the overall story.  However, it was sufficient, and made me reflect of my deployment in 2005-2006, and how it changed me, although I denied it for a long time afterward, when my wife (we are now separated and she is back in Utah) kept telling me I was different.  I'm under the firm belief that all service members returning from deployment to a combat zone, return changed, I don't think anyone can be excluded.  Now, there will be many that deny change, but I think those individuals are lying to themselves, as many of us do after retuning home.  Many lie for years and years afterwards, unfortunately at times it leads to their demise, as the mission still plays out in their fragile minds, and eventually drives them to the darkest corners of life, feeling alone, helpless, and unable to cope within the free society for which they fought, bled, and sacrificed.  I still see some of these guys on a monthly basis, as a medical officer in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard, teetering on the fence, between this life they reside in and struggle to live for, and the reflection of a deployment past, and the pathway into the abyss.  It breaks my heart, because not everyone can be helped, or wants help, nor can everyone be saved.  If anyone tells you that, again, a liar.  I speak from personal experience, I won't elaborate further, but my family understands.  These individuals answer the questions appropriately, denying ideations of suicide or homicide, but this is where we need to focus more attention, whether they want help or not, we need to give them the opportunity to escape falling into the abyss.  If only we could save them all, after what they have been through, so this American way of life can continue to thrive, without the fear of your family being blown to pieces at the mall. 

That was another point expressed in the movie, fighting these wars on the enemy's turf, keeping the evil from slowly creeping through the cracks in our domestic security blanket.  I completely agree, keep the bloodshed away from American soil, there are plenty willing to fight anywhere in this world to preserve the freedom that so many take for granted, the problem is, when they do fight, and die, there is little more than a number tally on the news at the end of the day.  That is why Chris Kyle did what he tried to do, keep the American death tally as low as he could, but he is only one man.  Well, one Legend, the "true" Legend.  Many will argue that his tally of kills was as reprehensible as the American casualty count, but then they fail to completely understand what is at stake in this war on terror.  And for any American to be that misunderstood on the role this nation plays on a global scale, and the direction this world needs to head in order to achieve peace, well, that is completely baffling. 

The LEGEND portrayed
I can't listen the arguments about Americans being in this country, and that country, and how we are therefore creating the hatred that tries to unleash evil on us at every turn.  How we are creating generations of radical Islamists by our foreign policy, and trying to police the world of it's problems. Because obviously, if we stop what we are doing, the sun will rise in the east tomorrow and peace will have enveloped the world, radical Muslims will not want to exterminate the Jews, or destroy the western world.   And then I wouldn't have to scrutinize the military uniforms in movies and the pink unicorn patches sewn on collars for rank, because those unicorns will be galloping up and down through Babylon province and a teleportation rainbow will extend from the Persian Gulf to the Gulf of Mexico.  Yeah, exactly.  Not!  Gonna!  Happen!  Ever!

So, take it to the enemy, the enemy in this era is Islamic extremism, not the Islamic faith, and no longer communist rule, or the freaking Nazi party.  Why?  Why in the past, have we purposefully, relentlessly, without mercy completely annihilated our enemy, but now, we inflict a non-lethal wound and say we are victorious?  Well, you see, the mentality of Chris Kyle, was simply to do anything and everything to help his military family, he died doing just that, trying to help one of those same individuals, slipping into the abyss, I spoke briefly about earlier.  Tragic, yet from his story, his book, this movie, the American public can gain a better understanding of the type of individual it takes to truly serve this country.  If I had a dime for every time I heard an individual without military experience say they could have served, or been a special operator, or talk nonsense, I'd be a rich man.  Fact of the matter is, the only way to prove you can do something, is to do it, so stop talking smack, and do it if you think you can.  Millions of Americans didn't make excuses why they couldn't serve, they volunteered, persevered, and now wear the distinct label of American Veteran. 

The LEGEND actual
That being said, I don't want to seem like a prude, I fully feel my service has been compensated for, greatly, even now as I continue to serve.  I don't think I am entitled, or special, or deserve any more thanks than the next guy.  Maybe when I'm seventy years old I'll feel different, but now, while I still can, I'll serve, and while I do that, preserve the memories of those like Chris Kyle, and my grandfather, Donald G. Traugh, who was a prisoner of war (POW) during world war II.  Individuals who deserve to be held in the highest regard as patriots, and heroes. 

Who knows, I was in Iraq for nearly all of 2006, actions taken by Chris Kyle, and those like him, may have reverberated as far south as Convoy Support Center Scania where I was.  Maybe indirectly saving my life, or that of my soldiers.  Thankfully, he did what he did, and there is no need to put much thought into that possibility.

A hero's wake

So as far as the movie goes, if I was a teacher grading the movie like a paper, I would give it an "A-."  Well, you see, I'm not a teacher, but I have graded many performances of subordinates in the Army, and I never give anyone all perfect marks.  Might have gotten an "A" if not for the fake baby.  But Cooper and Miller's performances were what mattered most in this movie and I would give them bot an "A."  They did a great job portraying the struggle we as humans go through emotionally when directly or indirectly serving this great nation.

Okay, finally, back to the aforementioned douchebags...

Those three guys, uh, what were their names?  Oh yeah, not wasting any more cerebral capacity bringing up their tasteless remarks.  You see, unless you have walked a mile in combat boots (and by walking a mile, I mean at least a 10 mile forced road march in full battle rattle with at least 50 pounds in your ruck sack, carrying your M16 A2 rifle - or I guess, M4 rifle), your opinion matters none to me, nor should it matter to anyone else.

God Bless America!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Harsh Reality of Life

It has been many months since I took the time to blog.  Initially, at the time of my last post, I had just returned form my annual training with the Pennsylvania Army National Guard and my civilian job, as a neurosurgical physician assistant, created demands, and I created projects, that took time away from expending energy in any other venue other than work related and family related ventures.  I lost focus on this release, this avenue to allow for thought and to explore the depths of my conscious, and to release the tension bottled up inside me.  This is not the only avenue for which I release, I spend four to five days a week pushing my body with what the average human would consider intense physical activity (yes, it is intense and painful, but feels good regardless).  This is a way to release the physical stress, but not always the best avenue to release the mental and emotional stress, hence, writing.  Whether what I write is poor, or poetic, that matters little to me, until I go back and read what I wrote and realize that it either looks like it was written by a 3rd grader, or that even I, the writer, cannot follow the thought.  However, it will matter to the reader, but this isn't always about the reader.  Sad to say, but why do writers write?  To create worlds, to spur imagination, to define life, for the reader, right?  Yes, in most cases, but often the writer writes to fulfill his needs to release the consistent bombardment of words, phrases, and voices consistently babbling inside his or her mind, to release the schizophrenia before it manifests in that exact diagnosis.  I guess as long as you only respond to the voices and thoughts with internal voice and thought, well, you are not crazy.

3rd of the 103rd Armor Medical Platoon Leadership
Pennsylvania Army National Guard
Over the last few months I have internalized much, and externalized little.  Especially over the last two months, I do not necessarily like to share my personal struggle with those around me, I feel that personal battles are just that, personal.  I am a resilient person, for God's sake, I have spent over seventeen years in service to my country, progressed through the enlisted ranks, private (PV1), private (PV2), private first class (PFC), specialist (SPC), Sergeant (SGT), Staff Sergeant (SSG), and was the third phase of the basic non-commissioned officer course from promotion to Sergeant First Class (SFC) and could have had it back in 2006 when I was deployed to Iraq if it wasn't for red tape.  Instead of attending that last phase, I commissioned as an officer, yes, a direct commission.  I was commissioned as a 1st Lieutenant, only to have that rank stripped over a month later due to administrative failure on the part of the Army Medical Department (AMEDD) recruiters and maybe my own ignorance, in trusting people to do their job.  None-the-less, I went to the Basic Officer Leadership Course (BOLC) at Fort Sam Houston in Texas, was placed in the senior leadership role as the executive officer for the reserve component rotation, and was evaluated as "superior" in leadership skills, and eventually advanced back to 1st Lieutenant in May of 2011.  I've complied with all the Army has asked of me over the years, praised my experience at almost every level.  Of course, when my promotion to Captain was imminent, I left the process, and the packet, in the hands of what I expected to be capable fellow soldiers.  However, after the needed 2 years of time in grade, and another seven plus months on top of that I am still waiting for that promotion.  The reasons, again, administrative and out of my control.  Yes, someone other than myself, failed, but I reap the backlash for those failures.  First, my security clearance, expired in June 2013, unbeknownst to me, and now I must resubmit the painful packet of info and await an investigation.  FYI Army, I wrote a book, want to know anything about me, read it, there are no secrets within those pages, literally my life until the date of publishing is, well, a freaking open book.  Now, there are changes, which I will get into shortly in my personal life, but let me mention the second issue with getting this promotion. 

In July, in anticipation of a promotion, I took a PT test, and updated my DA photo.  At this time I would suspect my packet would go forward, and within 3 months or so, I would be promoted, right?  Well, not really.  It wasn't submitted until November.  By November 2013, due to receiving my fourth Army Achievement Medal in September, my DA photo was not "up to date."  Yes, I said "November," not August, or September, in which at least my DA photo would have been up to date, but now the board reviewed my packet, and rejected it due to one, tiny, oak leaf cluster missing from my army service uniform.  Not because I had a ribbon I wasn't supposed to have, not because I looked like a total turd bag, but because I was missing one tiny oak leaf cluster.  So, you are telling me, after all these years, I'm being judged for missing an oak leaf cluster?  Well, someone up top, looking at these things, is literally misguided and not making decisions in the best interest of soldiers.  Do me a favor, look at all my Non-Commissioned Officer Evaluation Reports, and my Officer Evaluation Reports, and make a decision based on the whole picture, not one, tiny, ribbon device that is missing because my packet was not submitted in a timely manner.  Yes, I am just a little disturbed by this, I have worked my ass off to get to this point in my military career, and now I am subjected to the need for a new updated DA photo, with the addition of that tiny device.  Well, that is great (as in every case, I will comply), but my civilian job does not allow for the leverage to just bebop down to the nearest DA photo lab (Fort Indiantown Gap - 1.25 hour trip) at any given moment.  It takes significant coordination to get down on one of the two days they do DA photos, Tuesday or Thursday, due to my clinic days (which are always booked solid) being those same exact two days.  So the Army National Guard continues to ask more of me, electrically signing over 600 physical health assessments, monthly reviews of profiled soldiers, all of which I need to do during my own time, but they certainly do not feel like going the extra mile for me.  That's okay, I'll continue to do what is medically necessary for the soldiers of my battalion, but someone needs an integrity check, look at your Army Values.  I'll skip complaining about the lag in receiving my provider bonus that is months overdue also.  Frustrating, but not nearly the most frustrating part of my life at this point.

Youngest girls
So, moving on to the personal life.  A series of cascading events has led to the pending implosion of my marriage.  Now, I could simply point fingers at someone, and blame it all on them, but hey, I'm and honest guy, I have faults, read the book, it is all in there.  That being said, not one person in any relationship that dissolves is totally at fault.  But there is always a cascading series of events that leads to the termination and eventual demise of any relationship and the inability of anyone involved from stopping those events.  These events did not start nearly three months ago when all went south, but they started years ago, with an initial climax as mentioned in the book, but we salvaged things and drove on, but those events lingered, and were always there, not on the surface, but underneath, waiting for a time to surface and rape me of dignity and leading to the final climax.  That is mainly my fault, I put myself in the situation to allow this to happen, but continually living like that is not possible (yes, I am being vague).  Now, in the book, there is plenty of praise for all that we as a couple triumphed through, little mention of struggles, the book was closure for me and meant to be a constant reminder for those in my life that I made a mistake and was genuinely sorry about that mistake.  However, not all stories have happy endings, and the end of this story was not written when the book went to print, it was simply waiting to be written.  So where does this leave me at the present time?

Oldest and her little man
Currently, I am coming home to an empty house (most of the time), and trying to put the pieces back together to move forward.  My family is now split between Pennsylvania and Utah, my oldest daughter, with my grandson, left for an extended vacation with her mother and sisters in Utah yesterday.  Her mother and my two youngest have plans to make that move permanent.  The separation from the children is the hardest part, not being there for them when they might need me, luckily, technology has it so we can communicate instantly, via text, facetime, or other means of electronic communication.  But that does not compare to the ability to hold them, and tell them to their faces how much you love them.  There is no winner, only losers in this situation, but, the only direction one can move, is forward.  Onward, adapt, overcome, and persist through life.  Life is not overly difficult, but it's harsh reality at times stings and brings even the strongest of humans to their knees.  For me not to be grateful of the life I have, would be inconsiderate considering what I see daily in my civilian job, families destroyed by cancer, trauma, and other intracranial disease.  Hey, I'm alive and well, as are my kids, and for that I am thankful.  So it would be ignorant for me to complain, too much, about my issues, but it is simply human nature and biology rules the day.

So now, the new book begins.  But just like the last one, the end is a mystery, and I am not sure what will be waiting when I get there.

Chapter One....

Personal satisfaction is a simple matter, it is a matter of happiness, to redefine happiness in my life, I took a hard look at my weaknesses and my strengths, and reflected on all the good and poor choices I have made through the years.  That reflection led me to.....

To be continued......

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Nostalgia - Fort Pickett, VA - and other posts similar

On Friday, July 26th 2013, I wrapped up another annual training with the Army National Guard.  Going on seventeen years of service has brought perspective on not only service in the present, but a respect for the past.  When I say past, I mean those that have worn the uniform in the past, and also a deep seeded nostalgia for the Army Posts that we as National Guardsmen frequent.  The most recent annual training was completed at Fort Pickett, Virginia.  Most might consider this place a nightmare, but for me it holds a history that speaks louder the more time you spend within the boundaries that define it.  Some despise it, because it is one of the many National Guard posts that time has forgotten, funds for the military do not flood into Fort Pickett, or at least it wouldn't seem that way by taking a journey around the post.  Poorly maintained roads, old and not well maintained living quarters, a gym that if not for the workout being free I would never step inside of, there is little that looks as if it has been refurbished or recently built on Fort Pickett, but that may be just what makes it special to some, including me. 

Now, I will admit, I haven't seen every square inch of the compound, I haven't stepped inside every building (The officer's quarters were acceptable), but it seems that the government funds are not being funneled anywhere near the part of the post where we were operating.  Now, they do have a relatively new training institution (183rd Regiment Regional Training Institute) that looks like a very nice facility, plus there are newer buildings towards the main entrance of the post where it seems the majority of the employed population most likely functions, but for the most part it is somewhat a "throwback" feeling in the infrastructure. 

As I started to say, this may be annoying to some, or give it a feeling of inconvenience (really, who cares if the toilet stalls have doors on them?), but at one time these buildings most likely were a luxury for service members of the past.  Just goes to show how our society has changed, and along with it the standards expected in the military, even when it comes to creature comforts.  Kind of sad, but we still have to be prepared to just sleep under the stars, because that is all that may be available, and that is the reality of the Army.  Sometimes it just sucks, but it is our suck, and we try to embrace it, even when it is difficult to want to hold on to. 

Other than Fort Pickett, I have spent an overwhelming part of my time at another old and nostalgic military post, Fort Indiantown Gap, over the last five plus years.  Again, this facility has lodging and infrastructure that makes one consider the significant levity of our military's history and exactly whose "boots" we are trying to fill as we proceed through the twenty first century.  The history that these old building hold is immense, and we must always be aware and acknowledge the great Americans that have come before us that have utilized these training posts, slept in the barracks, and trained on the same ranges and roads that we use on a yearly basis.  If only the walls of many of these facilities could talk, the stories would be interesting to experience.  Fort Indiantown Gap has begun and extensive renovation project, many of the old areas have been renovated and the old dilapidated look of years gone by has been refurbished, new interiors and exteriors to include roofs have been reworked for the better.  Central air and heat add to the new renovated buildings, but there are plenty of buildings in a couple of areas of the post that are still one swift kick away from falling down, such was the last building we operated our Aid Station out of during a drill weekend in June.  There was a modest amount of vandalism in the building, walls falling apart, some drywall in places replaced with cardboard from MRE boxes.  And a stench of mold enough to give concern about how many spores we were breathing in and what type of mold it may be.  Luckily, we only spent one full day in the building.  It needs to be torn down, this is one building not worth renovating. 

For more information on these two instrumental Army National Guard military posts click the links below.

Fort Indiantown Gap:

Fort Pickett:

Not much available on the VAARNG online?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

144th ASMC and Iraq... Part Six (The second 6 months)

The atmosphere during the latter half of our deployment at Scania was in stark contrast to the first half.  During the first 6 months I mentioned that the deployment felt nothing unlike the year I had spent in Korea several years before, the most significant difference being we could not leave the post to go downrange and get some drinks.  That, and the fact that I never wore anything but Army uniforms as per regulation while deployed to Iraq.  Otherwise those first 6 months were relatively peaceful, not a whole lot of concerns about the conflict from our standpoint, most the violence and action was north of us and only on occasion did we see combat related injuries.  That peacefulness changed, and once it changed, the change wasn't for the better, nor would it return to what it was those first 6 months.

Once we started receiving mortar or rocket attacks, well, they kept coming.  Luckily for us, it only averaged one a week through the last 6 months of the deployment, but that is enough to rattle everyone from time to time.  Especially when it occurs while in a dead sleep.  It was always interesting waking up to the sounds of mortars or rockets detonating and for the first few seconds of discernible consciousness wondering if it was real or not.  I would lay there and it wouldn't be until the subsequent rounds hit that I would realize it was real, unless the post-wide alert system had been activated prior to the trailing rounds shaking the ground.  They never shot a single round, I think the most that was aimed at our post during a single attack was 12.  But, as I mention in my book, they weren't very good at hitting anything that was of great importance.  Only a few of the attacks even landed near habitable areas on post, and when they did we did not see any injuries for the length of time we were deployed form attacks on our post.

The insurgency outside the wire started to creep south towards our location also, the frequency of attacks, IEDs, etc started showing up closer and closer to Scania over those second 6 months.  To the point that we started to see more injuries related to blast injuries.  Luckily for us, the severely wounded were evacuated from the point of impact/injury and only the non urgent casualties would be routed to our location.  Also, those poor souls killed in action (KIA) never passed through the door of our clinic, there was a mortuary affairs team that handled all the KIAs that came to our location.  We only had to deal with the effects of those deaths on the living that came through our doors after such events, although some would argue that is just as painful.

I hypothesized in my book the possibility that the increase in violence was somehow directly or indirectly related to the cease and desist order form our brigade on treatment of local nationals.  The first 6 months of the deployment were extremely gratifying, but that humanitarian mission ended quickly and quietly and there were minimal confrontations with locals who we had been treating for months for severe burns that eventually understood that the medical rules of engagement had changed and thus so did our mission midway through the deployment.  My hypothesis that there was any correlation between the end of our local humanitarian mission and the sudden consistent mortar and rocket attacks was most likely just simply coincidence.  This was the time in the very early stages of the "surge" and the movement of violence south to or location was most likely the easiest way for the insurgents still willing to make some noise to continue to do so.  However, this is all my opinion, I have no verifiable data to conclude why the violence increased, I only know that is did.

So the second six months ended, through pure luck, my entire unit, including the team I led to Scania returned home, without physical injury.  Although we were leaving Iraq, for many of us the conflict was too strong to let go, many of us carried the mission home, held on tight, and it would take many months and years for us to return to somewhat of a normal life as we had known prior to deployment.  It was silly to think that we would ever return home the same persons we were when leaving, but I know that is how I thought, that nothing would change, that it would all be the same once I got home, but that was far from the truth although I wouldn't realize it for a few years after stepping back on American soil. 

So one chapter of deployment ended, and a new one would begin.

Excerpt from Combat Support; The True Burden Of Sacrifice
Chapter 13 "The Homecoming"

Our plane took off with the sun cresting to the east, spreading light and doing its best to heat up the cold November air. I kept to myself for most of the flight, speaking only when spoken to, trying to savor the knowledge of what was truth. That truth was just miles away, in a valley in which I’d lived for nearly eight years, minus the last fifteen months. It was still as if I were in a dream. I couldn’t comprehend it all, the finality of this deployment. Soon enough, though, there would be no time for disbelief and plenty of proof to make me a believer.

It was a pleasant ride. The mood inside the plane was, to say the least, upbeat. As we were told we’d begin our descent into the Salt Lake Valley, we all looked out the windows into the valley below. I hadn’t seen the valley pinched between the Wasatch Mountains in the east and the Oquirrh Range in the west in many months. The beauty of the valley is stunning no matter how many times you see it; it’s always awe inspiring. The Great Salt Lake spread out to the north and west of the Salt Lake International Airport like a great protector drowning all who would invade the valley from a direction not surrounded by mountain peaks. Although the smell of the lake does not impress, it’s as much an awesome sight from the air as the rest of the valley. I can’t recall which way we came into the valley; I’d made this trip many times, and this was the most memorable, but I can’t remember which path we took. It’s all a blur. Then the landing gear was down, and we slowly drifted down until rubber met the pavement of the Salt Lake International Airport runway. It was a sweet, smooth landing.

The Utah Air National Guard base is adjacent to the Salt Lake International airport. All that remained was for our plane to taxi out to the hanger that housed our welcome home committee, consisting of several top brass of the Utah National Guard and Governor Jon Huntsman, Jr. But the most important welcome committee was those who had sacrificed the last fifteen months of their lives so we could go thousands of miles away to a strange land, to fulfill what we felt was an inherent responsibility for our nation. I joined the Army during peacetime, and never thought that I’d have the opportunity to serve my country in this capacity. I’ve never felt more proud of completing a goal or mission in my life than I did on this day. I may never again have the opportunity to serve this way, but no one can take away the fact that we’d done it, and now all that separated us from our families and completed mission were a few hundred meters of asphalt and a fuselage door.