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Monday, August 27, 2012

Another Interlude.. Just because it is my birthday!

Okay, so...  I have four kids, and I am married, but honestly, I have never understood the great need in celebrating the day one was either pushed through a vaginal canal, or cut out through the lower abdominal wall.  Maybe it is me, I don't know.  The simple fact of the matter is that I just as well have the day pass without mention at all.  I remember when I was deploying to Iraq.  We started pre-deployment training in August, just a couple weeks before my birthday, but I was happy when the day came and went without any acknowledgement from my comrades in arms.  However, as an individual in leadership positions in the Army, I always wanted to acknowledge others, especially when it came to their birthday.  Not sure what it is, but I never liked the attention.  I mention that in my book (Combat Support "The True Burden Of Sacrifice"), I just never like to be the center of attention, but now, now that I wrote a book and must try and market not just it, but myself.  Well, now is when I should learn to try and strive to get attention.  Frankly, my book will not sell itself.  I know this for a fact, It has been available in ebook format for 6 months, and just over a month in print.  Now, it has done, okay.  But who puts time and effort into any project and just wants it to be okay?  To be mediocre, and accept just being average.

I can't stand it, why do anything, anything in this world, and be content on the situation you are in, how well your business is producing, how good you are at your job, how well you treat other people? It should never be good enough, why?  Because being satisfied, well, being completely satisfied, that breeds contentedness, contentedness leads to what in many cases is one becoming stagnant.  And when this happens, well, it is hard to get rolling again and become credible and non-complacent.  It all comes down to what your goals are in life.  If I am happy being a middle class father living on middle class wages, then there would have been no need for me to advance my education, then no need for me to write a book that opens any reader up to all the failures of my life.  Here is where the largest motivator for leaving mediocre in the past and becoming relevant. 

But, it all comes back full circle, because relevancy for me, that is simply how my success is judged in the eyes of those who love me.  Not on the dollar amount that is deposited in the bank account at the end of each pay period.  Not in the significance of the Bronze Star form Iraq, or other various individual awards throughout my military career. Not in the number of books I sell on the one and only book I currently have published.  That is all simply icing on the cake.  And good thing about today, is that cake, well, I had it, and ate it too!

In Geisinger Medical Center's Neurosurgery Department
Balloons, confetti, and assorted decorations courtesy of my wife, Shannon
Thanks, babe!
Judge your success not on what others deem successful, but on what you know you can accomplish.  Never settle for second, and no matter what, always, always, be relevant to who and what you are.

So, happy birthday to me!  Because, there is no guarantee that I will accomplish this again next year.


Sunday, August 26, 2012

The beginning of a soldierly career

Korea, I knew nothing of the country.  Well, almost nothing, my sister, who my parents brought into out family when I was around eleven, was from South Korea.  The journey to Korea was one I remember well, I was apprehensive, but excited.  Here I was, 22 years old, fresh out of Army entry training and heading to a country that to this day is still "technically" at war with it's northern brother.  

Had to postpone this blog entry, needed to watch "The Hunger Games" with the wife and little girls last night, time spent with my family is priceless, but that movie, well, I expected much more.  Either way, let me get back to Korea.

So, as I mention, I am just a little out of my element.  I am the whitest of white guys probably to ever walk the face of God's green earth, but here I was smack dab in the middle of a foreign nation.  Luckily, the locals are friendly with their foreign military tenants, well, most of the time.  I recall many occasions, of drunk Americans, causing a raucous in the local bars and clubs, enough that I am sure the locals would want certain individuals gone.  Now, the business owners outside of the major military posts in Korea must make a killing on drunk GIs, they are easy prey, easy targets to take advantage of.  I must confess, I may have been one of those guys once or twice, but I will save myself the embarrassment of explaining how in my blog.  However, if you talk to one or two individuals who know me well, they can tell you the details, although I would hope they wouldn't. 

The soldiers I served with in Korea were a great bunch, I spent the good portion of the first 3 months performing my duties as a line medic with Bravo Company, 1st of the 9th Infantry Regiment.  Then I was approached by my Platoon Sergeant, he explained that the Battalion Executive Officer (XO) was looking for a driver.  The battalion, knowing we were slightly over-strengthed on medics (or so I was told), requested someone form the medical platoon leadership.  That guy was me, after some serious thought and contemplation, I agreed to take the position.  It was interesting to say the least.  I drove for a guy named Scott Rutter, he was a Major then, but I understand he retired as a Lieutenant Colonel.  He was very good at his job, very much fit the mold as an officer, probably as much as I do not fit the mold now, although I am making strides.  I drove his ass all over that country for a good portion of the year I spent in Korea, approximately 6 of those months were spent in the field for training, but as a driver, I had a pretty nice assignment.  Again, I explain this in some more detail in my book. 

Interesting year, more to follow on Korea.....

Check out my former Battalion XO's post-service commitment, worth looking at
Scott Rutter, LTC Ret.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The creation of the American Soldier - Completion of training

I go into a little more detail in my book about basic training and advanced individual training, so I will spare the details here.  All I can say is I was happy, at that time, for the completion of what seemed like an unending journey that would never end.  It wasn't that it was all that difficult, I have said many times, to many people, that if I could get through basic and AIT, anyone could.  Now, I was in decent shape, but not in as good as shape as when I completed this training.  This would begin a stretch of four years where I would be in probably the best cardiovascular shape of my life, only because I was made to run, which, I will tell you now, I hate with a passion.  I still force myself to run, but only 15 minutes a day, I split my cardio workouts between running and the elliptical, 15 minutes each, that is all I can tolerate. 

The next step in those early years was to be "shipped" to my first duty station.  Isn't that interesting, how we refer to service members going overseas or on deployment, or changing duty stations as being "shipped." Like we are a piece of freight, most likely low end freight, that is packaged and sent somewhere to be unpacked an utilized as needed at a different location.  I guess in the grand scheme of things this is actually how we can be categorized, same as the initials G.I. or general issue.  My general issue was the clothing and equipment I initially collected upon entering the military, but to Uncle Sam, we are his new possession, his general issue, ready for use and service. 

My first duty station was South Korea, I would go home for a week and then head overseas, to Camp Hovey, home of the 1st of the 9th Infantry Regiment (Mechanized), part of the 2nd Infantry Division.  There was a great sense of accomplishment, but in all honesty, I was still a E1 (private), and I didn't know shit. Actually, I can't even begin to explain how much I didn't know, I could march, and perform the basic soldier skills, but there was a long way to go.  I would learn during that year in Korea what it means to train, half the year would encompass training, the other half, well, that would be garrison time, and when we were off on weekends, or on pass, it was time to have some fun.

I was off to The Republic of Korea, a place where I would meet many great Americans I still have enormous respect for.  And a place where I would learn the roads like I knew the ones back home in Danville, PA.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Interlude continued.....

These days working as a Neurosurgery physician assistant (PA) really takes a toll physically, mentally, and emotionally.  Long hours and exhausting days in the OR, clinic, on the floor, or a combination of the three.  Have very little energy or resolve to post anything tonight, actually, I have very little resolve to try and think at all, trying to rest all the neurons so I might get them firing at a decent rate for work tomorrow.  Good thing about today is that it is Wednesday, and Friday is approaching with haste.  Unlike my post Monday night, where I was literally hitting all the wrong letters on the keyboard, it seems my fine motor function is somewhat better tonight.  Think I need to start a blog about being a Neurosurgery PA, think I will start it this weekend, yes, I will.

So, since writing this book, I got a twitter account, joined LinkedIn, Updated my profiles everywhere, started to build a web page (not even close to finished), and I am slowly trying increase the awareness of Combat Support "The True Burden Of Sacrifice."  It is a slow process, without being a big name author, or having a huge publishing company behind you, it is difficult to get noticed.  Hell, if my book was completed in crayon, had 10 pages, and my name was Kim Kardashian, I would have sold a million copies by now, but my name is not Kim, nor am I as appealing to look at.   I certainly am happy with my sales, but a million is a long way off, but it is possible.  So, this brings me to one simple question that I am pondering this very instant.  Why do I want this book to be successful?  I'll explain.

This book is simply a complete gut wrenching, mind dumping, detehtering of all the secrets I ever had in life.  It exposes all of my life, good, bad, and the ugly for all to see.  It has also been very therapeutic and soul cleansing for me, not only has it helped me close the door on a deployment to Iraq over 6 years ago, but it also tells a story unlike any available today.  There is no heroic deeds, no 150+ confirmed kills, or stories of being blown up by roadside bombs multiple times.  The portion of the book that pertains to the deployment is a true and unedited look inside the mission assigned to one soldier and his team for 12 months in Iraq.  It exposes the longing for family, the anticipation of a return home, but mostly the desire, determination, pride, loyalty, and selflessness to complete the mission assigned at the highest level with honor.  Then it exposes the uneasiness experienced by the whole family upon my return home, and explores what I determine to be the true burden of sacrifice....  I owed it to my wife and children to tell and share this story.  I am hoping it puts me in a position to give back, mostly to my fellow Veterans, but also to their families in the future.

It is a book worth exploring, it is a story worth sharing.

If anyone knows a good, expediant way to build a web page, please share it with me.

Monday, August 20, 2012


Need a break from discussing books and becoming a soldier.   I know, I know, I am barely into it, but bear with me and I will get back to it in the next day or so.  What I want to discuss for a few minutes, or seconds (reading this most likely will be much quicker than writing it) is the state of the nation as we head into a very important election.  As an officer in the US Army, I certainly will not express my personal choice or discuss how I feel one candidate  better than the other.  I have been around long enough to know that we are simply choosing the lesser of two evils, not that either candidate is truly evil.  That is just a play on words, like the right and left play on the citizens of this country.  Too many people are without true thoughts of their own, so they tend to migrate, right or left, and once they get there, they tend to stay and like a lemming will follow the fringe of the political parties off a cliff if led in that direction.

Yes, I am saying we are lemmings, too enthralled by what we see on the TV (there is a reason my grandfather called it the "boob" tube) to think that those spreading the word of the far left or far right could be wrong.  So we continue along, walking along, oblivious to all that is going on outside of our little far left or far right worlds, unable to think for ourselves.  Meanwhile, men, and women serving this nation, go to foreign nations placing their lives on the line for the souls of other countries, other civilizations, others that do not necessarily believe in the freedoms that we as citizens have grown to cherish and love, and expect.  So, the political talking heads continue their unending bobble heading to the special interest groups, and big donors, and so the little guys stuck under their thumbs, doing their bidding on foreign soil, sometimes pay the price.

Too many times politics has left those doing the bidding of politicians, hanging out to dry.  Unable to complete their missions effectively because we have to bring political correctness into the combat zone so we don't offend someone or hurt their feelings.  Well, in war, feelings get hurt, and people die.  Sometimes those people are innocent, but remember on our soil, nearly eleven years ago, innocent blood was shed thousands of times over.  The war in Afghanistan started with the world trade centers, it should end when we have completed the job, and we can safely say our nation is safer due to the lives, time, money, and hard work we dedicated to the mission there.

On to Syria..  God knows the UN and NATO will not have the balls to do anything.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Idea For a Book - Part 5

So, as it happens, this is not the first book I ever wanted to write.  Actually, it isn't the first book I started to write, but it just happens to be the first book I completed from front to back, cover to cover.  The first book I started to write, I started when I was 18, lets just say, that has been on the shelf for a very long time, nearly 20 years.  However, if I pursue another novel, it will surely be that one, and thankfully, all the other projects I have begun, or have wandering around my cerebral cortex in some capacity, are all fiction!  Thank the Lord.  Unfortunately that is where these stories mainly reside, inside my head, waiting for a time when I decide to clean off the shelf and put it all on paper.  But, like my yard at this very moment, that sits awaiting a long overdue mowing, these stories wait for a time and situation where I can complete them and make them whole.

If you are sitting there thinking, "I have a great story to tell." Well, I don't know what you are waiting for, there are so many options for publishing that the chances for success are relatively good for  a well put together piece of prose.  I guess I don't have much room to talk, it took me over 20 years from the beginning of my "dream of writing," until I actually completed my first full length novel.  Regardless, if your only 12, or 63, if you want to write to get published, you just need sit down, prioritize your goals in the present, and get it done.  Understandably, it is difficult in today's world, with busy schedules, family (if you have one), and all the other nuances in life that we preoccupy our minds with, it is easy to get side tracked.  But, life is short, so get a move on!

One good way to organize the thought of a story is to create an outline, something that will give you structure to follow as you progress through your novel towards it's end.  I will be doing this for my next several novels, that is if I ever complete them, but then again, I wouldn't be following my own advice, and that just would not be right.  So, as soon as I get a few more of my educational goals complete, I will take the step and begin where I left off on my first novel.  I don't even have a title for it.  Hmm, I need to think about that. 

Three European settlers teaming up to find a location to lay roots in the new world, the first, the leader, the second, the scientist, the third, the man of God.  Along the way they face not only real world danger from the surroundings for which they travel, but also the dangers from that which plagues their minds, the weaknesses that each has engraved into their DNA is exploited by something that is of this world, but only plays to them in their dreams.  Well, it is a work in progress, I will update progress, if it ever comes.

For now, this project is complete and available:
Combat Support "The True Burden Of Sacrifice"
Check out the Facebook Page and follow me on Twitter

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The creation of the American Soldier - Initiation part 5 (91B School)

My Advanced Individual Training (AIT) was located in the beautiful city of San Antonio, Texas.  Home to the Riverwalk and a night life that is vivid and energetic.  However, most of my time would not be spent strolling the streets of San Antonio, but rather engrossed in the education and training it takes to become a Combat Medic.  The Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) back in 1997 when I attended was 91B, that MOS has slowly morphed into what is now the Health Care Specialist, 68W.  Currently, in the present, 68W must pass and maintain the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (Basic) to stay qualified in their MOS.  When I went through 91B school, that was not a requirement, but the training has not changed dramatically, although there have been more advanced medical skills slowly integrated into the Health Care Specialist MOS. 

The time at Fort Sam Houston was somewhat like at Leonard Wood in Missouri.  We still had to live the regimented lifestyle of being in a training environment.  I recall many drill instructors in basic saying we would be living in two man rooms, with TV, and it would be more like a 9-5 job.  There is no such thing in the military, don't listen to anyone that tells you that.  There may be certain guidelines they try to follow for closing business at the end of a work day, but you are never off, only when you have left post and are home on leave.  And even then, they can reach out and snatch you if needed.  But still, the military is a great life for many.  And many make great careers out of it and accomplish extraordinary achievements during service.

Those few months in Texas were meaningful and the training was good, and again, they did everything in their power to make each soldier successful.  However, as much cerebral power as it took to get through basic training, it took ten times that to make it through the Combat Medic school.  Not everyone can be a medic, or in military intelligence, or go to a military linguist school.  There are certain cutoff scores within the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test that need to be exceeded in order to be accepted into certain schools, they do not fill those slots with anyone, but the intellectual standards are not extremely difficult to meet.

This would be another situation in life where I would be put into situations that were very uncomfortable, but were necessary to become competent at all the skills taught.  We learned to stick IVs on each other, how to give intramuscular, subcutaneous, and intradermal injections, how to assess medical casualties and how to assess trauma casualties, along with many, many other basic medical skills from measuring vital signs to splinting extremities after injury.

It certainly prepared me for my first duty station, but it didn't prepare me to understand medicine, that would come many years later.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Idea For A Book - Part 4 (Theme)

So, my book had been written and the publishing contract was in the process of being constructed. Going back to the idea of my book, what was my major theme, and what were the underlying themes that fed into it? I had to ask myself, deep down, in all honesty, what was the true burden from this deployment. My personal sacrifice? The separation from my family? The stress of working in a combat zone? The sacrifice of my family? The fear of failure? The fear of death? The fear of never seeing my family again? Well, in many ways it was a combination of all these and more issues. But the root of my belief was that the true burden lied within the loved ones we left behind once we left. The gap we left in their lives, the emptiness that remained while we were gone, and the endless days that rolled by until we were finally reunited.

Hell, I love the Army, I wanted to deploy, and once I got there it was my main focus and my main goal. My family was never far from my thoughts. They were the driving force behind staying safe, focusing on my mission, and eventually making my way home in one piece. I mentioned my family in every journal entry I kept during the 15 months I was away. They were my fuel, even when the tank was running dry, there was enough, with the thought of them, to keep me going. Even to this day, if I am asked to deploy, I will go without hesitation, or asking many questions (there are always questions to ask, especially with the National Guard). It will not be as much a burden on me, although I am the one leaving, going to a foreign land, and possibly risking my life and all I know in this world for whatever it is my country asks of me. Now, my chances of dying during my deployment might have been close to that of me winning the lottery, not sure if that is an accurate statement, but let's face it, this was not Saigon, it certainly wasn't Normandy, and for that matter my position did not place me in the position where I would find myself in a place like Fallujah or Ramadi where major combat action took place in Iraq. It was for all intensive purposes, a very benign mission, with very little risk. But that does not take away from the fact that I was separated from my wife and children, and they were separated for me, this fact alone impacts the complexity of any mission in Iraq, but my chances of catching a bullet were slim, my chances of catching a mortar, well, those were a bit greater. 

So the theme of Combat Support (a term to define my participation in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and a term I use to define what it is the family is to the service member) was to focus on my main idea, the fundamental thought for me personally, for the true burden of sacrifice as it pertained to my deployment.

I only spent one deployment oversees. I understand this is small in comparison to the multiple deployments many others in the military experienced. I in no way want to sensationalize my experience or deployment, I simply wanted to tell a story about life, not about war. 

An excerpt from Combat Support "The True Burden Of Sacrifice"
The first journal entry

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Tears, heartache, and sorrow are the three words that come to mind to describe today. Saying goodbye to the ones I love is, without a doubt, the hardest thing I’ve had to deal with in my life so far. Although I still feel that, in the end, this will be one of the proudest experiences of my life, I still feel that sinking feeling when reflecting on this morning. I was happy to see some friends, Al and Cindy, with their kids, Matt and Walt, and of course Rod (my co-worker from Tooele and fellow 144th soldier, because he was going, too), Nikki, and their little girl.

0420 hrs

I wake up and the full realization of today’s events begins to unfold. I couldn’t really focus and think about the upcoming goodbye without tears welling in my eyes. For most of the morning I shook them off, but I knew when the moment arrived it would be difficult. All of the kids, Dylan, Destiny, and Dakota, were up and ready to go on time. We left the house, picked up our family and my wife’s friend of many years, Doris, and drove to the Air National Guard Base without any consequence.

0600 hrs

Formation, final accountability for our journey to the unknown. OK, I’m being a little dramatic, but hell, this is a big deal. There are no guarantees when entering a hostile country and situation—but we aren’t there yet. A few words from various high rollers in the Utah Guard, and the waiting began; our flight was scheduled to leave at 0900 hrs. For the next hour-plus we sat and talked, while through our minds ran the constant thoughts of missing each other for this extended period of time. There were pictures, words of comfort and of course, that sinking feeling in my heart.

0800 hrs
We exit the building we’d been waiting in and make our way to a grassy area across the road from the fight line. The waterworks start; Dakota tells me she doesn’t want me to go. Why did she wait until now? Because she’s four years old, of course. I can’t contain the emotions that have been building in me for weeks. I cry, grab my kids, hug them and struggle to say I love them with the strain of emotion coursing from my mouth. I love them more than I probably will ever be able to explain. I tend to avoid emotional issues due to my inability to control emotions at times, and I apologize to my loved ones for that. This buildup to deployment might have been easier had I been talking to my wife and kids, working up to this point, and for that, Shannon, Dylan, Destiny, and Dakota, I apologize from the deepest part of my heart. I love you all beyond any comprehension of the word and will forever.

Final goodbyes are said to Al, Cindy, and Walt. Matt left earlier, probably good due to the condition we’re all in, but these goodbyes are hard. The few friends I have in Utah are all truly caring and sincere; I respect them for that, and hope in the future I can contact them more often than just when we’re planning a party, but I make no guarantees! The kids, Shannon, and Doris accompany me to the flight line and I get one last chance to say goodbye, hugs, kisses, and tears. Then, I step into formation for our walk to the plane and my last glimpse of my loved ones for possibly 545 days. Doris accompanied us through this whole process and I know her being there gave Shannon the support she needed to get through this day, and again for that I am very grateful. She and her husband Rick are irreplaceable and I’m confident that while I’m gone they’ll be the backbone of support for Shannon and the kids, along with the others I mentioned earlier.

The walk to the plane was a difficult one, I turned several times and waved hoping that this moment in time might pause and give me an extended moment to look back at my family, my world, and embed the vision into my mind permanently. As I walked and my family grew smaller in my vision, I thought of the mission my country has placed before me, and I know in my heart this pain I feel today, although I could never forget it, can’t affect me and the goals I need to accomplish to help bring our soldiers and myself home without harm.

As I greet our XO, 1LT Stefl, before boarding the plane, I shake his hand and say, "Let’s do this." Maybe not the greatest quote that has come from my mouth, but a sincere one.

0900 hrs

Our plane begins to move, and as we pull from the flight line it’s doused with water from two tanker fire trucks courtesy of the Utah Air National Guard. We receive a security escort down the runway for our departure. There’s no turning back now, and our plane takes off with our dreams left behind on the ground waving, and our hopes awaiting us in the future.

We arrived at Fort Bliss at 1030 hrs, exited the plane and boarded buses, and after a short wait (as if there are any short waits in the Army), we departed for our billets. On the way we made a quick stop at the dining facility, then after another short wait proceeded to the two large circus tents that will house us for the next coming weeks. I spent most of my time trying to get wireless access to a few networks I found in range, went to dinner, then spent more time trying unsuccessfully to connect to the Internet. After frustration and boredom—and I know it’s just the first day—I decided to go for a run and use the fitness center that is conveniently located next to our tents.

Unfortunately today was one of anguish, especially for the kids. Dakota cried herself to sleep. Dylan and Destiny are old enough to grasp the situation, and Shannon said goodbye to the man she knows will love her for eternity. But I’m content to make the best of this situation I put myself into, and my friends and family know that I love them dearly and not a moment will pass for the next 545 days that my thoughts won’t be of them.

Men sometimes do things for reasons others won’t understand, but the driving force behind what men do in time of need will always be for the greater good of his family, country, and way of life.

God bless you. All that I
hold dear to my heart.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The creation of the American Soldier - Initiation part 4

As basic training winds down, I think most individuals who complete it begin to have a great sense of accomplishment.  Both of mind and body.  Mind because of successfully navigating the emotional distress administered by drill instructors on a daily basis and also the knowledge that you have accomplished all the tasks and skills for which you must use your brain.  Everyone is under the impression that the Army is simply a physical roadblock, but that is much to the contrary.  It is as much, if not more mental than physical.  Memorizing your General OrdersThe Soldier's Creed, The Warrior Ethos, The Army Values, The Army Song, your chain of command (link is general info on organizational chain of command, you need to know your direct chain of command from individuals team or first line leader, all the way to the POTUS), all the steps and commands of drill and ceremony, the basic rifle marksmanship strategies, to include remedial and immediate actions on your rifle, proper Customs and Courtesies, and trying to commit to memory all the annoying acronyms they throw at you.  This list can go on and on, it seems literally endless, but it is not.  It does however, only skim the surface of knowledge a soldier needs to commit to memory or have at his fingertips once finishing training.  Again, more on that later.

The physical aspect of molding a soldier is also daunting, but certainly not as difficult as the mental aspect.  Any human body can be trained into shape, unfortunately, the mental aspect is hindered by an individuals insight and intelligence, often hindered by genetics, some things you just have no choice but to live with.  So, even though the basic combat training physical training program is intense, it is easier to obtain and maintain that level of fitness than comprehend the rest of what is asked when becoming a soldier.  The Army Physical Fitness Program and Test is in the process of being overhauled, or at least that is the word.  Not sure when all the changes will take effect.

After going through 9 weeks of Fort Leonard wood, Missouri.  I was ready to move on to my Advanced Individual Training (AIT) at Fort Sam Houston Texas.  It would be another eye opening experience, but much of the same in the mold of basic training.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Idea For A Book - Part 3

I remember clearly where I was when I got an email from an interested party for my book.  It was April 2011, I was attending my basic officer leadership course (BOLC) at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.  Yes, San Antonio is beautiful, a wonderful city, like, but bigger than, Salt Lake City it is easy to get around in.  Unlike Philly, Pittsburgh, NYC, Baltimore, I could go on and on.  Those 4 weeks were absolutely miserable, but I will cover that in another post, this post is focused on the book.  I had just finished the first week in the field at BOLC, and needless to say, I was not a happy camper, after 14 years in the military up to that point I felt humiliated that I even had to subject myself to the ignorance that surrounded me there, I wore the rank of 2LT, and everyone surely treated me/us that way.  Like a newbie trainee. 

On the bus ride from Camp Bullis back to Fort Sam Houston I got a text from my wife.  I asked her to follow my email while I would be in the field every weekday while at BOLC.  I had sent by entire manuscript to the only individual who showed interest, it happened to be from a small publishing company from Chandler, Arizona.  Brighton Publishing offers authors several options when pursuing their dreams of a published work.  Both in traditional and subsidy publishing.  Many individuals are paranoid of the word "subsidy," but I disagree.  If there is a way to get published by other than traditional means and the author has the excess financial means to help in the investment, than it is in the author's best interest.  It isn't much different than a down payment on a house, car, or better yet, buying a large amount of shares from a strong company on the stock market.  It is simply an investment in the future.  I will not discuss the details of my contract, I am legally bound not to, but either type of publishing, in the long run can pay off for both the author and publisher.

Back to the text from my wife, she stated that Brighton was interested in pursuing my book, but, I had to trim approximately 75,000 words from the 175,000 I had written.  That was a difficult task, but I jumped in with Brighton.  The road to a published work is long and drawn out. I was hoping it would be quite a bit faster, but much work needed to be done.  And much would be done in the coming months.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The creation of the American Soldier - Initiation part 3

So basic training was one of the most beneficial experiences of my life.  The decision to join the military most likely saved my life, I know that seems cliche, but it in fact took me away from a life where I was hell bent on being mediocre.  The Army gave me a chance to change my life, to get a fresh start, at the age of 22, it was needed, and most likely overdue.  I had no one but myself to blame for the position I found myself during those years, and honestly, I don't like that guy very much at all.  I had a chance for a new beginning, and even though basic training started out rough, being homesick, having to do tasks that I wasn't that good at, and taking orders from drill sergeants who, in the beginning, seemed like pure a-holes.

Now, looking back, it is all clear, the structure, the discipline, the reasoning behind it.  At the time though, I just thought it was torture.  But I managed to do well, keep my head down and stay below the radar.  I had some great drill sergeants, in both basic training and advanced individual training.  I wouldn't appreciate them until years later, when it all made sense.  After I had truly given my heart to the US Army, I believed in the values so strongly and still do.  Doesn't mean I haven't slipped from time to time, I explain that all in my book.  It came with a price, again, I explain that in the book, but that doesn't mean all is lost, that doesn't mean I need to quit and give up on those beliefs, it just means I need to work hard at returning to that mindset, bring those values back, hold them close. 

Some tips for basic training:
1. As I mentioned, stay below the radar - those who make a scene, are the ones whose name is known through the whole basic training cycle.   You want the drill instructors to be questioning who you are at graduation.
2. Army and all Uniformed Services rank structure
3. Know the phonetic alphabet: it is the key to the new language you will learn
4. Take a peek at the following regulations prior to departure
     - AR 670-1 Wear and Appearance of Army Uniforms and Insignia
     - FM 3-21.5 (22-5) Drill and Ceremonies
     - FM 6-22 (22-100) Army Leadership
5. Pay attention, there are days where fatigue tries to take over - fight that off
6. Many say don't volunteer for duties, I say volunteer for them all - sometimes there are certain liberties given during those duties (don't forget, I went through basic in 1997, things may have changed)
7. Do extra physical training, the key to a healthy mind, the kind needed to ensure the mental and emotional abuse, is a strong body - it will be your best resource

Again, more to follow

The Idea For A Book - Part 2

It wasn't until finishing physician assistant school that I had any time to consider working on a manuscript.  I started, and honestly, things went pretty smooth.  Progress wasn't as fast as I would have liked, but I kept at it and tried not to take too many days not writing for the fear I would forget about it like other writing projects I still have on the shelf.  I had different motivation for this book however.  I owed this to my wife, my kids, the struggles we went through after I returned from Iraq were still fresh, the scars slowly healing, but I still needed to finish this story for them, to place it all out there, for anyone to see.  For their support, that is the least I could do.

It was March 2010 before I started my new job as a neurosurgical physician assistant.  For anyone who knows neurosurgery, it can be a very challenging field in which to work.  But I was drawn to it, most likely due to that fact, plus my need for what would appear a constant chaos in my life.  It seems I need my plate to be overflowing at times, I found that was how it was, especially early on working in the neurosurgery department.  The basics you learn in school are a far cry from the skills and knowledge you truly learn and develop while on the job.  It is a constant uphill trudge, quitting crosses your mind often, but after time, most of it comes into focus and then you just maintain and follow new methods of treatment as studies and research is released. 

So, there I was a few months into working this new and crazy job, and I was slowly working my way to completing my manuscript.  Again, it seemed slow at times, methodical, but progress was made every time I sat and started typing.  I had been in the job less than a year when I completed the manuscript around January 2011.  Then started a search for a agent, or publisher.  I will touch on that process in the near future.

My original manuscript was over 175,000 words, by the time it was ready for publishing, it had a major overhaul and trimming of fat.  But the content did not change at all.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Idea For A Book - Part 1

In August 2005, when I was en route to Fort Bliss, Texas (not blissful at all), I began a journal that would supply the "meat" of my book.  The idea I had for my book then, was immensely different than what the finished product became.  Prior to stepping foot into Iraq my initial thought process for a story revolved around the uniqueness of the individuals I was deploying with.  After all, we were the Utah Army National Guard, a steady eclectic collection of Mormons, agnostics, and other various religious and cultural ideals and standards.  We were, in my eyes, interesting, and even somewhat special, but who doesn't feel that way about a group of unit they belong to?  Not all, but I would think most.  The story never got off the ground once we hit Iraq.  Our company was piece-mealed out to various locations in Iraq, I could never complete the more detailed interviews that I wanted to with everyone during the year, instead, my team at CSC Scania TMC began a year-long journey, and a 6 month humanitarian mission that would define us in many ways, even now well into the future. 

So, my story changed dramatically once I returned home.  I went straight to school, to acquire my degree as a Physician Assistant at Pennsylvania College of Technology.  A demanding program, that would add to the drama and change the original story I wanted to write into something more sinister considering where my morals and values were prior to deployment.  My fellow soldiers, Ben Mecham, and Dave Mabey (Both of the LDS faith) planned after coming home to combine our journals and describe the deployment from our very different viewpoints.  This also never came to fruition due to each of us attending schools.  Mecham is a doctor now, Mabey, a lawyer.  Amazing considering we were all enlisted soldiers during the deployment.  From that point the thought of a book was put on the back burner, like many of my ideas in the past.  It wasn't until I had stumbled through Physician Assistant school that I understood what I had to write.  It had to be a completely honest and open look and my life, an assessment of my mistakes and successes and an evaluation of what is right and wrong.  The finished product is just that, without false content inserted, I opened my life and placed it on those pages, with some hesitation, but without regret.

Many stories have been written about American service-members.  I have read many, and of course, I am a big fan of them all.  Each is unique, each is worthy of recognition, and each has it's place in our country's rich military history.  But those stories, and mine, are only a small fraction of the stories of heroism and service over the last decade of conflict.  Most will not be written, but will be passed down by word of mouth for generations to come.

If you want to tell a story from deployment to the combat zone click HERE to access one of my squidoo lenses and tell it all.  Go to the Guestbook comments (Place your stories below) and write freely.

A few books I have read:
Combat Support (Many times over, I had no choice)
Delta Force
Blackhawk Down
Lone Survivor
American Sniper

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The creation of the American Soldier - Initiation part 2

So there we were, all strangers, in an environment so extremely foreign that many could easily be brought to tears.  Hell, that was even before the constant physical beat down began.  Once the drill instructors started to punish our bodies, and make muscles most of us never knew we had ache, it compounded the mental and emotional weakness many recruits had ten-fold.  But, as I mentioned before, no one gets left behind.  Unless of course you got injured, and that injury required a lengthy recovery before you could again get back to the high level of physical activity that was expected during basic training.  Unfortunate souls in that situation usually got "recycled." Held back, not sent home to return later, but placed in a holding company to be re-integrated into another cycle of recruits, hopefully close to where they left off in the training cycle. 

So, as I ramble about my initiation into the military, I must digress for a moment.  I am after all talking about myself, but I must make a few facts about my service, and feelings about the service as a whole, very clear.  Prior to my introduction into the Army, I was certainly living my life for myself, selfishly for the most part, not always, but mostly.  That changed greatly once I went through basic, AIT, and made it to my first duty station, I started to realize how much more I would get out of life if I could at times, and most of the time, place others, their needs, their feelings, and their wants, before my own.  Now, that doesn't mean that I ignored my own, I just found greater satisfaction in being selfless, not selfish.  I will touch on the Army Values (wore the values with my ID tags until I commissioned) in the future for which selflessness is contained.  Along with the Warrior Ethos which are contained within the Soldier's Creed in the future as well.  Also, please don't take the words contained in this blog to mean that I am the "know it all" when it comes to military service.  I know simply what I have done, the positions, jobs, achievements, and service for which I have lived over nearly 16 years.  I am not a combat specialist, there are many marines, Army infantry men, special forces of various services that have burdened a load during the last 10+ years of war-time service that I cannot and will not be able to understand or explain, therefore, I will not try to act as if my service is in anyway valorous as many of theirs has come to be defined.  Mine has been meritorious by some standards, but to me, it has just been what I feel I have needed to do. 

I hope to eventually arrive to the present day to blog about concerns for American Veterans (this is a goal for the future, supporting all veterans, from all branches, from the young to those who have graciously grown old, from those of us welcomed with open arms and the calls of "hero" to those Vietnam Vets so wrongly disgraced after returning when their country and government called), and further define my military service.  I will eventually also arrive to the point where I can explain in more detail about how service extends into the very fibers of being of our loved ones and how when we hurt, the sting affects them just as much, and in some cases more.  I also want to bring more focus and attention on the relevance of PTSD in our military fraternity, and hopefully open the eyes of many still stuck in a bad place, to the avenues open in our society that will allow some of the hidden scars to heal.

I will also describe my journey to get my book published, and describe in detail how Combat Support "The True Burden Of Sacrifice" came to fruition and eventually helped bring me full circle and start to fill the voids I left in Iraq somewhere between 2005 and 2006.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The creation of the American Soldier - Initiation part 1

Looking back through nearly 16 years of service to my country it is easy now to determine how a guy in the mid 90's, who, as a matter of fact, wanted nothing to do with the military, became a believer in the system.  Growing up I wasn't a tolerant individual, couldn't take criticism well, and sure as hell did not want anyone telling me what to do, or how to live my life.  There wasn't structure in those late teen, early 20's years, everything was off the cuff and most everything was not planned.  After exhausting all my attempt at school, and frustrating those in my life, I eventually chose to leave my small town of Danville, PA, and start on a journey for which I am still traveling. 

As I arrived to basic training, at the ripe age of 22, I quickly learned how easy it was to be homesick, even after living away form home on multiple occasions while attempting school in the great state of Georgia.  It is much easier to be depressed and homesick when the situation you find yourself is one for which you are extremely uncomfortable.  Let's face the facts, it is never easy when placed in foreign environments, but some are just better at it than others.  Good thing is, all that was uncomfortable slowly faded away, and the natural instincts that make us human take over.  Mainly the need to survive. 

I never liked failure, but as I state consistently in my book (Combat Support "The True Burden Of Sacrifice"), I was quite good at it.  Well, the military's basic and initial entry level training was good at helping me figure out that with failure, well, sometimes we find success.  The US Army is very good at not allowing you to fail, "leave no man Behind," that is quite a cliche quote, but it is almost literal.  Fact is, some people are not cut out for the military, but we insist that they can succeed, and in most cases, through repetative training, and re-training, the military has proven that almost anyone can make it.

I never thought I could, never thought I would, but in January of 1997, I took that step - towards the unknown,  but also, unknowingly, into a fraternity like no others, and one that I still cherish to this day.

More to follow.....

Saturday, August 4, 2012