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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Return to the Army green... Part one

So, I had heard stories about the Army National Guard (ARNG), none good, while I was in the regular Army.  Many stories based around how weekend drills were essentially parties, time for the ARNG soldiers to get away from nagging wives, or escape from the realities of their civilian lives.  Kegs of beer, hangovers, no true training at all, no readiness to defend the state, nation, or deploy in support of foreign wars.  Well, those stories, especially in the post 9-11 world, were just that, stories.  As fictional as Harry Potter, and although some of the stories may have had a component of truth, they were significantly stretched beyond the grips of reality as we know it.  Now, the ARNG is not the regular Army, never has been never will be, but there are both positives and negatives to both. Here are my thoughts:

Contrasting and Comparing the ARNG and Army:
1. Location, no ETS, I can stay in the same damn unit for eternity, as long as there are slots for the specialty I hold as I progress through the ranks.  However, this is very difficult to accomplish, but I know people who have been in the same ARNG unit their entire careers.
2. Along the line as #1, if I want to move to Hawaii, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, or any other state in this country there is an opportunity for me to transition into the ARNG in those states.  This allows for the individual to determine where they move, not the military as in the regular Army.  However, in recent times the big Army is doing a good job of shifting their people around the same large posts to allow for continuity in a career.  This is more evident as the defense department continues to eliminate the smaller CONUS posts and consolidates into the larger posts throughout the country.
3. Overall experience - In the ARNG, a soldier has a civilian job, or they attend college to advance their personal career choice all while maintaining their ARNG career on the side.  This allows for a greater experience in life in general.  Most ARNG soldiers are proficient in more than just their military specialty.  That is because being an infantry soldier is not the only job they have.  This would mainly pertain to the career soldiers who do not pursue higher education, then they get out after 20 years without anything but their military background to rely upon.  In many cases this should be enough to get a god job while collecting the pension from the military, but there is great benefit that comes from experience, not just military, but civilian also.  A combination of the two give most an edge on their civilian only or military only counterparts.
4. Combat readiness - Without a doubt the big Army is superior in combat readiness, it is their daily job.  They can deploy to combat in less than 24 hours, for the ARNG, well we need a 3 month circus known as pre-deployment training.  Now, I personally do not think it takes this long to become combat ready, but some genius who is obviously much smarter, and has much more rank than me makes these decisions.
5. Combat effectiveness - Just because the big Army is more combat ready that does not always transition into a higher level of combat effectiveness.  The combat units from the ARNG have proven themselves worthy counterparts to their big Army brethren. 
6. Fiscal responsibility - The government as a whole is horrible at managing the financial responsibility it has to the nation.  In my opinion there needs to be a very detailed audit of government spending in the military and throughout all agencies.  Just because you feel something would benefit your specific government agency that does not mean that it should be purchased. There is probably equal waste in both the big Army and ARNG, however, the big Army is full time.  If we need cuts, take a few brigades from the big Army and transition them into ARNG brigades over the next ten years.  Boost the level of readiness for the ARNG and we will not lose any true defense readiness with this move.  Part-time is cheaper to afford than full-time, just my thoughts.

My journey in the ARNG began in the 211th Aviation Group out of West Jordan, Utah.  I was still at the Specialist rank, the same rank I left the big Army with.  But I was determined to advance to the Non-commissioned officer ranks as quickly as possible.  Being in the ARNG meant that the Primary Leadership Development Course I need to obtain Sergeant was held at Camp Williams, about an hour drive from my home.  This would mean I could attend the class without having to go far from home, I was liking the ARNG as soon as I became familiar with this aspect of the overall make-up and composition of state service and the need to be self sufficient.  Not all states have this luxury, but Utah did. 

There were no kegger parties, or excessive craziness apparent to me as I started drilling on weekends at the 211th.  It wasn't "Three Kings" stateside.   It became a very interesting animal as I continued to learn how the ARNG worked.  I was happy that I made the decision and as I have explained in my book, after a few months I became more and more comfortable in my role.  Usually takes me a while, but my first experience being activated with the ARNG would be as a member of the security forces supporting the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.  More to follow on this experience, it would be the driving force of my foundation in the ARNG. 

Saw Phil McConkey (US Navy Veteran and former New York Giant receiver) on Fox News this AM (9/30/12), check out this website - Academy Securities - for info on his ongoing support of military Vets.  He is a huge reason, along with Joe Morris, and Mark Bavaro, as to why I am now a Giants fan.  Go Big Blue!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Break in service

In January 2001 I ETS'd (End, Term of Service or Expiration, Term of Service) from the active Army.  I had no regrets and did not question my decision.  I had a family and a good job, a new house we built in August 2000, and could let my hair grow, and to an extent my facial hair.  At my new job I was still required to wear a M-40 series protective mask, or I should say, the possibility existed so I couldn't let the facial hair grow wildly out of control.  I was one of two EMT/Occupational Health Technicians at the U.S. Army Health Clinic located at Tooele Army Depot.  My command was located at Fort Carson, Colorado at Evans Army Community Hospital, the same command I had while in Dugway as an active Soldier.  The majority of my duties revolved around completing the several diagnostic procedures for physicals.  We completed eye exams, hearing tests, pulmonary function tests, blood work, and made sure all employees at Tooele Army Depot and Deseret Chemical Depot were within regulation to perform their jobs.  It wasn't difficult work, but it was necessary work.  It was a very good job and I had freedom and supervisors that trusted me and allowed me to work and complete projects I felt would benefit our operations.

I ended up building a database in Microsoft Access to help track employee physical requirements, I also built or created several forms/documents in Word and Excel for yearly screening purposes that would be linked to the database.  It wasn't a database on par with a computer programmer's skill, but it was effective none-the-less and I spent several extra days on the weekend in my office fine tuning the database until it was worth utilizing.  I have no idea what has happened to all that work I did during the five years I was there, or if any of my forms exist any longer.  Eventually we hired a nurse who had a degree in computer programming also, he tweaked the database and improved it's functionality and design.  The idea was to be able to generate monthly reports that the database would query from data entered into the database.  It could be queried by job description, expiration date, or several other values in the database.  I was happy with how it turned out, hopefully all that work was worthwhile and they continue to use the database, or a hybrid of it.

At that time I was very interested in how electronic record keeping could be the medical documentation avenue for the future, now, in 2012, it is.  Some institutions still use written records, but many have transitioned to the EMR (electronic medical record).  I feel these systems, the EMR, is how all record keeping will be completed and stored in the future.  It is easy to access, easy to find info (all EMRs should have a search option to find keywords in the record), and take up little space.  Unlike paper charts that we keep stuffing paper into. 

After September 11th 2001 I was looking for a reason to get back into the Army.  I couldn't go back active Army, I didn't think that would be fair to my wife and kids.  I also never considered the Guard or Reserves because during that time that I was completely against those organizations because I thought the active Army was superior in every way to the inactive components.  Eventually my fellow EMT/Occupational Health Tech, Walt Szarek, who retired form the active Army National Guard helped me enlist into the Army National Guard.  Walt was a Vietnam Veteran, had a break in service, and eventually ended up finishing out his enlisted service as an active Army National Guard soldier.  He was a recruiter for a time and one of his old recruiting partners swore me in in November 2001.  Just in time for the Utah Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City.  It would be my first experience, but certainly not my last with the National Guard for which I have grown to know and love.  It would also be the beginning of a long journey, one that would lead me to Iraq, one that would lead me well into the future.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Idea For a Book - part 8

When I deployed to Iraq in 2005 I knew I wanted to write a book.  I wasn't sure at the time what it would look like, or how it would start or how it would end.  As I have mentioned in the past, I was interested in writing a novel, of course all those ideas are fiction and even though I got a few off the ground and placed some words on paper, they never took off.  While deployed I kept a journal, it was the first time I ever kept a journal on a regular basis.  I couldn't write every day, but I tried to write at the least every other day.  My initial idea through three months of stateside pre-deployment training was to create a book that detailed the deployment, but focused more on the intriguing characters that made up my company.  Unfortunately, once we arrived in country my company was split into four different teams and sent to different locations throughout the country.  So that idea died, but I continued to write in my journal, logging the interesting life we lived, and also chronicling the boring times which were a-plenty. 

I always thought when I returned home to my wife and kids that I would be the same person.  I thought I was too old and experienced to let anything I experienced affect me in any way.  I maintained this attitude well into the post-deployment era of my life.  I was oblivious to what was truly happening inside my mind, even though it was obvious to my loved ones.  I will spare details, but again, as I have said before, those details are in my book. 

So, with the struggles of returning and reflecting on how that time affected my family, it was clear what I should write about.  I should simply chronicle my life, pre-Army, through my enlistment, through my deployment, through the post-deployment chaos and explain what I feel is the true burden of a service members sacrifice.  That is what I hope I accomplished, and while doing that, give the reader an experience of the lives other than combat arms in a combat zone.  We have all read the various books written by Navy Seals.  For good reason, they are true heroes and patriots and deserve credit beyond what I feel I could ever warrant for my service.  They are true studs, their job is beyond "sexy," the term we tend to attach to the dangerous and dirty combat forces job during war, they define warrior to the T.  So buy and read their books, they are worth the price of admission and give a glimpse into what a true warrior's life is like.

I did not post this video on youtube, however, I did make it, but shared it only with those on my team following deployment.  It was never meant for public viewing or scrutiny.  I can say many years later, the 30th Medical Brigade made decisions in the best interest of all parties.  There still remains only speculation as to why the mortars started to drop on CSC Scania after 6 months of peace.  It could have been coincidence, but we will never truly know.

Visit my book's facebook page and give me a "like."
You can also follow me on twitter @combatsupport.

God bless the USA!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A soldierly career continues stateside... Part II

In Dugway, Utah, I wasn't short on friends, we lived in a remote area and, well, for the most part, all we had was each other.  Three of my fellow soldiers and friends at Dugway had volunteered for the tour, they were natives of the Salt Lake Valley, they were essentially home.  Although it was an hour and a half drive from the Salt Lake Valley to Dugway, the drive is a quiet and pleasant one, or at least it was in 1998. The community of Dugway, even though an Army installation, is comprised of mainly civilians.  From security, to the operations of the post, the chunk of the responsibility falls on a civilian workforce.  I can only speak how it was then, in 1998 through 2001, it could be different now.  I heard prior to my deployment talk about moving a brigade sized element out there.  Not sure that ever came to fruition.  Just last month, early August 2012, I was attending a advanced practitioner conference up at the Snowbird Resort up in Little Cottonwood Canyon with my buddy Bret Stemrich (a fellow PA, and Pennsylvania Army National Guardsmen).  We decided to take his rental car for a journey out into the skull valley reservation and close to the Dugway main entrance.  It brought back memories, all good, from my time there.  I loved that drive, the openness of the valleys, and the dry climate, that meant sunshine a majority of the time. 

I lived on Dugway for almost a year of my two and half years stationed there.  I moved into my wife's house in Magna, west of Salt Lake City, after we married in May 1999.  I had to stay on Dugway every other week to cover emergency medical response for the post and surrounding rural areas.  It wasn't difficult back then, my wife Shannon and I didn't like being apart early in our marriage, but the time away made the week we spent together that much more special.  The emergencies were rare, but there was a car versus cow every now and then that needed response medically.  Open ranges in Utah was something you had to get used to while driving out Skull Valley Road.  If going too fast you could be on top of a herd of cattle without warning, bowling them over like dominoes and mutilating your vehicle.  I was even told a story of a car travelling so fast that when it hit a cow, the cow flew over the hood, tore the roof off like retracting a convertible, and the driver was uninjured and car otherwise functional, so they drove to the gate at Dugway for assistance.  Not sure it was true, but I still tell the story from time to time, I will keep the story alive, regardless of the validity, it is a good story. 

Over time I have list touch with my friends from Utah, most the guys I served with went their separate ways between 2000 and 2001, some got out of the Army and stayed in the Salt Lake Valley, others remained in the Army, deployed several times, still serving and notching up more deployments, that is the way of the active Army soldier, a never ending rotation of frustration and separation. 

In 2001, I decided my family, which came instantly with marriage, both wife and kids, were more important than the Army.  I left the uniform for what I thought was good.  I didn't realize what the future had in store, but when do we ever know or realize this?  I took a civilian Army job at Tooele Army Depot in Tooele, Utah at the US Army Health Clinic as a Occupational Health Technician and EMT.  It could possibly be the best job I ever had.  My own office, four 10 hour shifts a week, meaning a three day weekend, and an hour at the gym on government time daily.  I loved it.  It was good, but my longing for the uniform always remained, I would always be a soldier at heart, and eventually I would return to that mistress, I would return to Army green.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Innocence Of Muslims - Green on Blue - Intolerance

Below is a Facebook post I wrote earlier today.  I wrote it after viewing new reports on this ridiculousness happening in many Muslim nations (at the price of American lives) and the latest of many reports detailing green on blue casualties in Afghanistan.  Green on blue essentially means that forces allied (in this case Afghan security, military, or police) to us (US forces) have attacked each other in some manner.  Now, this type of stuff happens on the battlefield sometimes, we have blue on blue where US forces have accidentally attacked each other.  On the battlefield, it is chaos, and shit happens from time to time, sucks, but that is the reality of war.  So, green on blue is not unexpected, but there is a significant difference in how these attacks are happening, they are happening in locations where we have our guard down and are supposed to be safe.  Within the wire of our military bases/FOBs we should be able to feel secure.  Sure, the random rocket or mortar is expected, anyone who has been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan can tell you that.  But killed in cold blood within the confines of our own bases, this is absolutely and utterly unacceptable.  So, we need to make a decision, we need to be either "ALL IN" or "ALL OUT," and we should make this decision quickly.

This latest report of green on blue has me utterly without words, let's not waste anymore American lives unless we are certain we are going to place all the resources into the barrel to carry out a mission that results in victory.  Hunt down the ones who are responsible for all this INTOLERANCE and bring them to justice, a justice worthy of those who spill American blood.  If they want a fight, let us give them a fight, otherwise, cut ties and get the hell out and let these countries implode.  In other words "F--k them!"

I want to help anyone who cannot help themselves, I mention this in my book.  One of the most rewarding parts of my deployment was helping local nationals who could not get the medical attention they need.  It was the highlight of my deployment, I chronicled it well in my journal throughout the year.  I would go anywhere in this world to help any citizen in any country, but we need to know that the work we are doing, the money we are spending, and the lives we are losing, is not in vein.

Below is my post from Facebook:

"Word of the day: Intolerance
Recently there has been an increase in violence in many Islamic nations. Now, there are claims this violence stems from a cheap, poorly made, and worthless film called "Innocence of Muslims." It is not clear if this film truly is the cause of the violence, or if maybe the film is simply the scapegoat for Islamic extremists to increase the chaos already plaguing many of their nations. However, in my opinion, it is time for us as a country to either be "ALL IN" or completely withdrawal from these nations. This would include any and all financial, humanitarian, or other activities that we endure for the benefit of these nations. There is a significant rise in "green on blue" casualties in Afghanistan, and we continue to pound our head against the wall trying to help these nations only to have them commit acts of violence and kill our fellow citizens.

So, for you ignorant idiots pursuing violence in the name of religion, radical ideals will never achieve you your goals. However, I pray that it brings a hasty and swift demise to your existence, along with the understanding that being a God fearing individual, who claims to be religious or have faith, simply means you fully comprehend how to be tolerant of others.

Isn't history the best teacher, remember the crusades, how about the holocaust? Stop letting your fears (whether that be of western society, religious difference, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or life in general) create intolerance!

C'mon man!!!!!!"

Even if there is a song, movie, or book that may be inflammatory in some way against your beliefs, religious or otherwise, nobody, and I mean nobody, has the right to commit acts of violence for such ridiculous propaganda.  Can we wake up and realize this is the 21st century (with many wars, acts of genocide, and downfalls of dictators behind us), maybe if we do, then we can move on to a more peaceful future.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

A soldierly career continues stateside

I returned to the continental United States with little fanfare after a 12 month tour in Korea.  Returned to my hometown of Danville, hooked back up with my old friends, it was like I never left.  However, I was different, my view of the world was different, I was less tolerant of what seemed to be ignorance.  I wasn't perfect myself, I had flaws, but I was viewing the world through camo tinted glasses.  My life was a routine, I was a soldier, and I lived it.  I spent 30 days back home, saw my friends, family, and lived a little reckless for those four weeks.  I recall it very well, it was a good time, my best friend, Aaron Beyer, we picked up where we left off, although we were over 5 years removed from high school (5th year reunion was that summer I was home, but never attended), it was still as though there wasn't time or space separating us.  However, our lives were moving in different directions, mine away from Danville, his, and many of my old friends entering the workforce after four years of college or learning a trade.  I was a soldier, I was continuing that journey, and my journey was taking me to the state of Utah.

In July 1998, I packed my newly purchased Dodge Avenger (thanks to my father who I sent money to while in Korea, and who worked the deal at the car dealership he worked at) and jumped on Interstate 80 for the long ride west.  This trip is one I still love to take.  Through the Midwest, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, then into Iowa, and Nebraska, finally into Wyoming and to the final destination of Utah.  it is a trip everyone should make at some point in their life.  This country is amazing and beautiful, and at times I think we take it for granted.  The natural beauty of this world we live in should be cherished, cherished more than the sight of the beautiful man made creations that dot the landscape.  God placed all the resources to thrive on this planet for us, we should be grateful and acknowledge that from time to time.  Beautiful trip, beautiful country, and on to my fate, my destiny, my new life in Utah.

My military life in Utah, at Dugway Proving Ground, in the west desert, was one of the most profound experiences of my life.  The people, the soldiers, the job I did there compromised one of my most memorable military experiences, but they have all been memorable.  What has made them all memorable was not only the mission, but the individuals I served with.  Each I owe a debt of gratitude for helping guide me to becoming the soldier I eventually became.  What I eventually found in Utah was priceless, it is currently my reason for existing, and the love I would find for this new find would far outweigh the love I had for the US Army.  It was waiting, but my first year in Dugway would be my final year as a bachelor, and, last year not being a father.  The journey is in my book. 

More about Dugway later, for now another poem.  I know, choke, gag, maybe avoid the coming text, but I am pasting the poem anyway.  This one was written in Dugway, as I reflected on Korea.

Korean Landing

Slowly this year burns by,
Every minute I think back in time,
When I was on my final decent,
Not knowing, many questions run through my head.

Fear is never a weakness for me,
New environment might set me free,
Out of shell, out of mind,
Hoping the real me I will find.

Lost as a child,
I thought forever,
But found I was,
Through strangers eyes.

Strength built from lying mind,
Truth reveals bonds that bind,
Power from soul no longer littered,
Untruth through blind eyes has been filtered.

This experience has set me free,
In this environment of reality,
Life shall never be the same,
I don’t want it to be.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Quick Post on 9-11 - And excerpt from my book

Sitting tonight watching the History Channel; Remembering 9-11.  It is crazy how these images can bring the same feeling of absolute numbness into my gut as if it was happening at this very moment. I was 27 years old, less than nine months removed from an honorable discharge from the United States Army after four years, and a lifetime of great times.  The Army had led me to my wife and family, It had taken me from Pennsylvania, to training in Missouri, then Texas, to a year long tour in Korea, and eventually to Utah, where I found the only reason that I could ever separate from the Army.  My wife and kids. 

But, on that day, 9-11-01, a day that for those of us that lived through it could not possibly ever forget, I stood in disbelief in the lobby of the U.S Army Health Clinic on Tooele Army Depot - Tooele, UT.  It was the site of my civilian Army job (I had taken it after leaving the active Army) and wondered how that very moment would change my life.  It was the event that propelled me back to the uniform, back to where I knew with all my heart I truly belonged.  As badly as I wanted to put my family first, as badly as I wanted to avoid having to leave them for weeks and months at a time, I could not turn my back on the duty I felt obligated to continue, wearing the uniform of a United States Army Soldier. 

There are things in life that are difficult to explain, there are things in life that do not need to be explained.  Although all the rest of my military career would be served out in the Army National Guard, it would still lead me to Iraq, the greatest accomplishment in my professional life, and continued honorable service that when it is all said and done, can ever be taken away from me, or my family.  What is often overlooked when honoring service members is the obvious fact that their accomplishments are not theirs alone, but a direct result of the support that surrounds them.  My year in Iraq was not a burden to me, yes, the separation was difficult, leaving my family at home, but the mission was essential and fulfilling, it was what I felt I was meant to do, it was what I dreamed of doing since joining the military in 1997.  However, even great success in life sometimes can lead to consequences that were not foreseen, my service is a simple example of this.

From my book: Combat Support "The True Burden Of Sacrifice"

After being honorably discharged, I left the uniform for what I thought would be forever. Little did I know that within a year all Americans would experience something that they could’ve never contemplated. My official ETS (End of Time in Service) was January 14, 2001. Service in the US Military has so many perks it’s hard to believe that everyone isn’t knocking down the doors to get in. I guess you have to be willing to leave the life you hold so dear and sacrifice some of your time. I suppose that might make some people hesitant, selflessly volunteering to become… well, simply put, a "disposable hero." Joining the military is not an easy decision to make; if it were, we would see a majority of our population making the commitment, not such a minority.

September 11, 2001, happened to all Americans, but truly affected thousands in the city that is the pulse of our nation. I remember the morning as if it were yesterday, and the days following as if they were also a recent memory. It is hard to minimize the immensity of the World Trade Center lying in the heart of New York City, with the North Tower billowing smoke, having been hit by a commercial airliner. We all know exactly where we were and what we were doing that day, the world stopped, and we gazed upon what would keep us mesmerized and unite us as a country for what should have been the foreseeable future. We were focused after that day; we waged war on the Taliban and chased them out of Afghanistan for aiding, giving safe haven and support to the mastermind, Osama bin Laden, and al-Qaeda. But we lost focus fast, our lives within the borders of the United States returning to normal, and we, over time, have slowly let go of the memories of that horrific day. I’ve had a hard time letting them go. They still ignite a fire that burns inside me today. It’s the reason I would pick up a weapon and kill willingly and without regret for this country. Violently and with a clear conscience—yes, I would. I can even imagine doing it with my bare hands, squeezing the life out of our enemies, slowly watching them pass into the next life, to meet the only judge and jury which waits after this life. I understand these feelings most likely won’t get me bonus points when it’s my turn to be judged, but I have no regrets for this thought process. One day it may be what saves my life, my family’s lives, my fellow soldiers’ lives, or the lives of other freedom-loving individuals around the world. I get fired up thinking about what was done to this country on that day, but realize that it was not my personal hell to live through. It happened to the citizens of New York City and the surrounding communities, the families of all those aboard American Airlines Flight 11, United Airlines Flight 175, American Airlines Flight 77, and United Airlines Flight 93, along with those at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. Although the Pentagon is a strategic military target and I can understand our enemies attacking it, I will not stand for our enemies targeting the civilian population of this nation, who do nothing but get up and go to work every day to try to provide the support and nourishment they need for themselves and their families. There is no need to bring them into this. I would never think about targeting civilians in the countries where our military operates regardless of the need to kill an enemy hiding within that population. I serve to help those people, the civilian population, the ones not strong enough to help themselves—and especially the ones who want to live with the knowledge that they can do what they want under the banner of freedom.

So here the memories are, etched into our minds the way our enemies want them to be so we have a constant reminder of what they are capable of doing to us. I guess that’s what we deserve for leaving our borders open and inviting the world in, to make this country an example of what society will be thousands of years from now, an eclectic mixture of races, religions, and sexualities. It amazes me that anyone would want to take advantage of us that badly. We are open to the world, but now we’re finding it more and more difficult to trust, so it is time to enact laws and erect walls to seclude us from the earthly society that will one day be present on this planet. It won’t happen in my lifetime, but at some point the borders of countries will be more of a transition point than a line separating different people. Eventually we could be living in United Countries of Earth, or at least I imagine it could be, giving some sign of hope and optimism to this cruel, unforgiving world.
I had been out of the Army for almost eight full months when that defining day for our generation occurred. It made me think how life might have been if I stayed in the Army, what could’ve happened, where I would’ve gone, and the need for my family to adapt to the ever-changing and unstable world that our active service members now live in. Early on, when we started sending troops to Afghanistan, I was heartbroken. I wanted to be a part of it, I wanted to do my time, and serve during my generation’s military conflict. Little did I know during those moments that all the pain I felt for not giving would turn on me, would overwhelm me, and make me an extremely vulnerable person. We always need to be careful what we wish for, it might come true. In November 2001, I decided to put the uniform back on, albeit as a member of the Army National Guard—a part time soldier, one weekend a month, two weeks during the summer. Something I never thought I would do, but I needed that lifeline back to the Army green I’d grown to love during my active duty time. When I enlisted in the National Guard I was ignorant to what it was—I thought that true soldiers were only those who served full time, what I once knew. The National Guard was a new and foreign adventure, it seemed, before I started serving

God rest the souls from that day, 9-11-01.  You will never be forgotten.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Idea For a Book - part 7

There are no restrictions when writing, in general, we try to adhere to the basic guidelines of our specific language, but in the end, well, sometimes grammar doesn't rule the text.  There cannot be a total lack of respect for proper grammar, but we also can not let our creativity be crippled or shackled bu proper grammar.  Language today, especially English, has undergone a very liberal transformation, one that has allowed slang and wacky acronyms (due to texting) into the mainstream of the English language.  I cannot tell you how many times I have heard someone say "LOL," or "LMAO," or "GTFO," or various other forms of written communication typically restricted to the the wide world of electronic communication that has literally taken over our lives.

Just the other day, I forgot my phone when I went to work.  At first I was like "OMG!" "WTF am I gonna do???"  Then I realized that I have spent the majority of my life without having the ability to instantly connect to someone else not within vocal range.  It is almost ridiculous how we have become addicted to technology, I can guarantee that the youth of today have significant deficits in interpersonal communication due to their lack of actually calling someone, or talking to them face to face.  However, they can figure shit out quickly when it comes to operating a new iphone or computer, but who can't?  It sure isn't brain surgery, and it definitely isn't like learning the science behind building rockets.  I get frustrated at the ignorance of youth in today's society, but I am a parent, and I can't say my kids are any different than any other kid out there today.  I still love them, and will always, regardless of how stupid they are at times, it is the process of learning in life.  I wasn't a whole lot different, but I respected my elders and that wasn't something that I was told to do, that was a given, elders deserved respect just because the experience they had, some kids now a days feel they are entitled and that elders should respect them, for youth, your respect needs to be earned.

Got way off track there.  Writing, it can be fun, just because there is so much flexibility in language and what you can create by simply putting words on paper or typed into the hard rive of your computer as a word document.  Creation has no limitations, (I am going to admit something that may be a bit embarrassing) as a kid I was interested in the world of Dungeons and Dragons (go ahead and laugh, I don;t mind) and one of the reasons was because we could create characters and and take them on adventures.  Granted, the adventures were pretty much scripted, someone had written them, it was a matter of having someone navigate us through the imaginary world.  That enterprise of gaming led to some novels that I sent years reading, both the Dragonlance and Forgotten Realm series of novels were extremely interesting.  I read essentially everything written with those labels prior to 1993.  I understand there has been many more since then, but my priorities changed at some point and I moved on to the military and my taste for literature expanded and I moved onto other types of novels when choosing reading material.  They are still well written and interesting stories, I might have to look at getting back into reading them.  Or, just write my own.

What I have noticed, over the years, it is easy to write if you do it often.  Write often, and read often.  Keep the neurons working on taking what you see visually on paper and transforming it into what you see visually in your mind.  That constant process keeps the creativity flowing within the cerebral cortex, keeps the mind functioning at a high level.  When you think you have writer block, just sit down and type, or write, and don't force what you want to write onto paper, just let the thoughts flow freely on whatever it is that comes to mind.  Eventually, you will get back on track and get to writing what is important to you. 

More on my book and what my thought process was in the way I put the content of the story together.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The beginning of a soldierly career continued.....

Not sure how many people that might actually happen along this blog have been to Korea, but the seasons are nearly identical to that of my home state of Pennsylvania.  Winters, cold and snowy, Summers hot and humid.  Considering the country is a peninsula the monsoon season can hit the country hard, leaving it underwater.  There is a systematic gutter system in the country, or at least the towns and cities I had been to.  The gutters were called turtle ditches, interestingly, this name was given to them not because of the fondness turtles (reptile with cartilaginous shell) had for them, but for the simple fact that many new GIs in Korea (affectionately called turtles) ended up drunk and in the ditch at some point during their stay in Korea.  I have an interesting turtle ditch story, but won't elaborate too much, but I will say it includes a broken ankle and running from a local vendor in Tongduchon outside Camp Casey, nothing illegal took place, but we certainly were not on our best behavior that night. 

So, I spent a good portion of the year enamored with the culture shock I was thrust into, both being in a foreign country and within my new military lifestyle.  We trained hard and when we had time we played hard, it was truly a great experience and one that I contemplated repeating for a second year.  Major Rutter, whom I mentioned in the previous blog about this subject, actually discussed the possibility of me staying a second year, he was moving up to the Brigade level to be the S3 officer (responsible for training and operations), I declined.  I missed American women and I had not taken a mid-tour leave, I had decided to do my 12 months in Korea without a break, no two to four week break from the grind of Army life.  I certainly grew to love my Army, mainly because of the great people I became friends with while I was there, but also due to the regimented lifestyle that kept me on a strict schedule, maintaining my fitness, and spending just enough time in the field to make me miss the luxuries of home.

I look back to those days with fondness, I can still see the Korean countryside, both in the summer and winter as I drove Major Rutter all over the damn place.  I can still recall the song I wrote with fellow soldier Shawn Taylor, who played the guitar, titled "Hellfire's Gate," which was about cooking and injecting heroin.  Something I have never done, nor plan to do in my life.  Not sure why we decided to write about that.  I can only remember about two lines of the song.

My time there I consider the best year of my non-married life.  The people, the times, it was without a doubt an experience I could not live without.  I also wrote several poems during my time there, one I will post below.  This poem was written one day when I was out during a field exercise and observed a dragonfly and was enamored with its movements.

My Korean tour came to an end, I left what friends I had left there, most had returned to the states themselves, it was a sad time, but I hadn't seem my parents or sister in a year, it was time to come home.

I apologize if this poem is kinda cheesy, it was written in 1997, I was young, and green, and most likely a turtle still.


What is it with you Dragonfly?
I watch you hovering by and by.
It never seems you want to annoy me
I respect that, for which you may be
Keeping thoughts, feelings in your head,
Not caring what we have said,
To yourself you shall stay,

Waiting for your final day.
Beauty shed from beating wings,
Don’t make any noise, but you heart does sing,
Music loud, words so strong,
Man should never do you wrong.

Remember that day you came my way,
It was on my shoulder you came to stay.
I thought to myself
“Dragon Fly, my shoulder is your shelf,
Put your thoughts down one by one,
Don’t stop until you are done.”

Fly Dragon-Fly
From now on I’ll look and sigh.
When I see you fly, you reach the sky
For now we have unending tie.

Everyone should really check my book out, Combat Support "The True Burden Of Sacrifice" Available at Barnes and Noble and Amazon in both print and ebook formats.  It is also available at various other online retail outlets.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Idea For a Book - Part 6

Miss me?  I am back!

Patience, if you lack this, well, you will never publish a book.  First thing to know when publishing a book is it takes more than a great idea and five hundred pages of material.  The process of completing a novel, in itself, is a painstaking journey.  You have to fight writing fatigue, most likely a busy schedule, unless you are currently unemployed, and various other aspects of everyday living that comes with the stresses of life.  So having some dedication to completing the journey is the first and most likely the biggest roadblock when writing a book.  Second, is what all good books must have to be successful, an audience.  No book could ever be successful if not written with a certain audience in mind that will be hooked by the plot of the book and spent their time and money on the story.  Third would be broad shoulders (not literally, but figuratively) because you will get rejected frequently, but it only takes one publisher or literary agent to say yes and then your dream of publishing can be lived in the here and now. 

Now, my ideas composed int he first paragraph above are, just that, my ideas.  My book, albeit, in it's infancy currently, will, for all intensive purposes be successful.  There are several books on the recent wars, and good books at that, but my story is simply not a book about war, it is not a war story, it is a story about life and it just happens to cover my service both overseas and stateside in the Army and Army National Guard.  However, the main focus and goal of the book was not to tell another story of service in a foreign country.  It was to recognize what these deployments can do to service members, and the families of service members.  It is about service, sacrifice, struggle, and eventually the road to redemption and recovery.  It is story that is certainly worth writing, and in the long run, worth reading. 

The biggest tip I can give to anyone writing would be to proofread, then proofread some more, then proofread some more, and then do a little more, and maybe a little more.  It is amazing how many little typos and grammatical errors can be missed when just sitting and typing aggressively (may be some in my blog).  When I went back to edit my book and remove about 75,000 words, I was amazed at all the mistakes in the text that I was oblivious to.  I edited the book numerous times on a rotating basis with my publisher, but the concept and meaning of the text remained the same, the story never changed.  It is a journey of unimaginable proportions, there is no limitations when it comes to literature, you can create worlds and characters, or ideas that could never possibly exist, or that may exist someday, but we have not evolved enough in technology or science to arrive at the idea yet.  There is no restrictions.  Writing and mastering language is a journey worth taking.  Are you ready for your journey?  Have at it....