The crud….

Today is day 3 of the crud.

Fever is causing my eyes to ache; my runny nose is leaking like a busted PVC pipe after a hard freeze. To say I am aching is an understatement. The cold medication provides temporary relief, but it has not killed the virus yet. Ah well, it is only a matter of time before I feel better. This experience has caused me to walk down memory lane.

After my second tour to Iraq, I decided to have a vasectomy. It did not go well.

I do not want to be crude, so I will simply state I went to the hospital in Bad Windsheim. My temperature is taken, all the preliminary work is completed, and the wait begins.  A doctor comes in and without checking me tells me to go home.

“Go home, lie on the couch and your body will heal itself.”

It was not what I wanted to hear. When you are in pain, you want relief. This piece of medical advice I was given did not provide me any comfort, but I did learn a valuable lesson. The human body can overcome most ailments. Time heals most everything. Judging from the price of a doctor’s visit and the high cost of medication, I will take the advice and sleep until I feel like my old self.

Y’all have a good day.

19 November 2019

Memories of Rhodie and my beginnings as a soldier..AWID….

I have been up half the night struggling with the loss of my friends, in a war which now seems to be some pointless endeavor.

Chunk wants in my lap, and I want this part of my story to be over. I suppose I will start at the beginning.

November 2001:

Fort Jackson in the wintertime is a wet, cold area in which trainees struggle to survive in. I personally believe it to be a training area where trainees who don’t know any better test out cold weather gear. My arrival to basic training is preceded by two weeks of rain, and plummeting temperatures. Our trip from the airport is in the back of cattle trucks with no canopies. Upon arrival, we are escorted into a dark room where we are handed a pile of paperwork and told how to fill it out. Hours later, we are escorted to the barbershop and we receive our haircuts. Integration goes fine, until the fattest guy in the platoon decides to show us how to do clap pushups. Bravely, he struggles to get in the ready position. Hands placed shoulder width apart he descends toward the ground,  he forcefully flings his body back up and puts his hands to his side. Momentarily confused about what comes next, his face crashes back into the floor with a sickening thud.

“Oh my God! I’m bleeding!”

I glance over and look at his face. Blood covers the lower half of his face, and there appears to be a crack in his chin.

“Yep, you’re bleeding.”

“Freeman, go grab the drill sergeants with a battle buddy.”

“Wait, please don’t tell the drill sergeants how this happened. I don’t want an Article 15 before I get to basic!”

For those not sure what an Article 15 is, it is punishment in the military. The Army takes half of a month’s pay for two months, 45 days of extra duty, and you are restricted to the barracks.

“Okay.”

My buddy and I make our way to the office where the drill sergeants hunker down to avoid the cold. I knock on the door. A six-foot, muscle bound behemoth answers the door in a huff.

“What private?”

“Um, drill sergeant we need you to come upstairs, something has happened.”

The drill sergeant eyes me suspiciously. “What happened?”

“This private slipped and didn’t have time to catch himself, his chin is busted open.”

“Dear God….”

We haven’t even made it to basic yet, and people are already finding ways to injure themselves. Somehow, I manage to make it through the rest of training with no cracks in my face, or any other bodily injury which would keep me from fighting in the War on Terror.

Lucky me.

2002:

Advanced Training goes smoothly, no injuries to report, just class upon class teaching us how to perform our job. Basic Training is where you are taught to kill in the name of your government. AIT is where you learn to do your job until called upon to kill.

After 24.5 weeks of training, I finally move to my first duty station. I leave the frigid cold of Virginia and move to the hot sands of Texas. A massive room is crammed full of soldiers waiting for their unit assignment. Finally, I hear my last name called, followed by my birthdate.

“Here, Sergeant!”

“You’re going to the Seventh Cavalry.”

The room erupts into laughter. I feel a hand on my shoulder, so I glance back. A First Sergeant looks at me and smiles. I hope you like the field troop! You’re going to get plenty of time in it.”

I force a smile and make my way to the door. My sponsor informs me our next stop is CIF. After I get my assigned gear, I am taken to the Squadron Headquarters to be in-processed. My First Sergeant is a crusty old soldier, he smiles broadly and gestures for me to enter his office.

“Alright private, do you know the Army Song?”

“Yes, First Sergeant.”

“Wait one, private.”

Two other privates are brought into the room.

“Alright privates! I have to use the bathroom, but you will serenade me with the Army Song. Ready?”

The three of us look at each other.

“Come on privates…”

“First to fight for the right, and to build the nation’s might, and the Army goes rolling along…”

Our First Sergeant throws his head back and belts out the lyrics. Finishing, he comes into the room and looks at all of us.

“You guys suck. Get out of my office.”

After completing all the pre-requisites, I am taken to my unit which is housed on Turkey Run Road. Row upon row of equipment fill the parking spaces in our motorpool. “Private, we are HHT troop, our equipment is over here, away from the tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles. All the other soldiers are doing maintenance, go on over there and help out.”

“Roger, Sergeant.”

I walk through the motorpool until I find a group of soldiers cracking jokes and looking over vehicles.

“Hey new guy, come here.’

I nod and walk over to them.

“What is your MOS? You a fox?”

“Yeah, I’m a fox.”

“Cool, I am a mike. Walk with me to the maintenance office.”

“Okay.”

We walk around the building to the motorpool office. The quad holds 8 bays; each bay holds a vehicle. “Go over there to that truck, and help the mechanic change the hydraulic fluid. “

“Yeah, I got it.”

Sticking out from the vehicle are a pair of black boots, I kick one and wait for a response. A young man with a tousled mop of yellow hair rolls out from under the vehicle. “You like that foot?”

I nod. “Yeah.  I’m Freeman. Mac sent me over to help change the fluid.”

“Rhodie.”

“Nice to meet you Rhodie. Tell me what I need to do.”

Rhodie and I spend the day changing fluid in one truck after another, by day’s end, we are the best of friends.

March 04-05:

“Freeman, Rhodie, this is your room. Put your gear in here and report to the formation outside.”

We grab our bags and throw them on the bed. I walk out and grab my trunk and wheel it into the room next to the bed. “Can’t do anything without a formation eh Freeman.”

“I guess not. Let’s get out there.”

“Yeah, I need a smoke.”

 We pull the door shut and walk out into the hot air of Iraq. “This place sucks Freeman.”

“Yes, it does, but in their defense so does your home country of Canada.”

Rhodie laughs and punches me in the shoulder. “Screw you, Freeman.”

“Rhodie, you are my favorite Canadian.”

“And you’re my favorite redneck, Freeman.”

The year passes quickly, laughs are had, and sorrow fills our chalices. Before we know it, we are getting on a plane to head back to our beloved country. Sixty days later, I am living in Germany.

June 07:

“The more things change, the more they stay the same. Chow here in the sand still smells like body odor.”

I am standing at the salad bar looking it over when I hear a familiar voice call out to me. Turning, I recognize my old motorpool sergeant standing behind me.

“How ya doing, Freeman?”

“I’m making it Sergeant, how are things?”

“I’m okay. Thought I should tell you about Rhodie.”

“Oh no….not Rhodie.”

“Yeah, son I’m sorry. I know ya’ll were close.”

“Thanks for letting me know.’

The darkness feels so close. Standing in a filled DFAC, crammed full of soldiers and cooks, I feel so alone.

I want to die.

12 November 2019

Good willing…

I am sitting here at Goodwill, shopping with the most beautiful lady I know. Unfortunately, the quality of the selection is scarce today. Although, I have found a book I haven’t read yet. Of course, it’s a Dean Koontz novel, Odd Interlude. I can’t wait to read it.

Well, it’s time to pay. Catch up with y’all later.

10 November 2019

Veteran suicides….

I belong to a group on Facebook which deals with veteran suicide. There is a question posted today which has engaged my gears. “Who benefits if a soldier chooses to not commit suicide?” Existential questions have no real answers, not easy ones anyway. As a veteran, I worry about my brothers and sisters, the suicide rates are astronomical in the veteran community. 22 a day is a catch phrase, when you start digging, it is upwards toward fifty a day. To get down to the meat of the issue you first must ask the question, “Why do our veterans commit suicide?”

As with existential questions, there are no easy answers. The easy answer is depression. We come home to our families, and we are out of touch with the reality of home. For me, the calmness of home felt like a trap. In the roar of combat, you don’t have time to think, only time to react. We lash out in anger, and because it is war, anger is accepted as an answer. Because of the horror we see, and the losses we experience, our humor becomes dark. We take pride in saying outrageous things and getting away with it.

Then we come home and everything changes.

The biggest issue in my life is silence. I am sure it is the same for most veterans. In the quiet, memories resurface. We have been trained to kill the enemies of our country, but we have no idea how to deal with the mental side of war. Our coping mechanisms include alcohol and pills, illegal drugs, and other vices. We are constantly seeking some way to replicate the feeling of combat. To somehow find a way to silence the memories which haunt us. Tearfully, we search for some way to bind the demons which rage in our minds, but we are powerless to chain them.

People who we think will never leave, abandon us. Friends who once laughed at our jokes, now look at us like we are some alien species from beyond the stars. We feel alone, and loneliness leads to silence. The quietness leads to a question, “Why not do them all a favor and end it here?”

Then without warning, the silence is broken.

9 November 2019

P.S. If you are suicidal, it is to your benefit to keep moving forward. It is dark right now, but you can make it. While it may seem like suicide is the answer, it isn’t. The world needs survivors, people who have walked through the darkness and found their way home. Find someone who will listen and unburden your heart. We are here for you.

Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

Can you “choose” to be happy?

Good morning.

It’s on the nippy side this morning. It appears the weather here has decided to skip autumn and throw us head long into winter. All is well that ends well, or so I have been told. I am emotionally as frigid as the weather outside of my cabin. I have often been told being happy is optional. As in, “you can choose to be happy!” Does this mean I am making a choice to be unhappy? Or sad? If it all goes off the whim of the individual, why isn’t everyone happy?

This type of conversation has often led me to wonder about other aspects of life. If the will of the individual is so strong it can alter entire emotions by “wishing” away the emotions we don’t want to deal with, why can’t it impact PTSD? Wait one while I put on my shoes. Now according to some people’s logic, if I click my heels together three times and utter the phrase, “I choose not to have PTSD” I should be cured right? Perhaps, I can use this to combat the nightmares of Fallujah, or epilepsy or some other incurable disease. Maybe it will affect poverty or the homeless population.

I kinda doubt it.

The will of the individual is tied directly to the whim of the individual. In stating the individual has the power to alter their emotional health, we are saying God Almighty made a mistake when He created mankind. When the Almighty God created mankind, He also created the emotions we experience. We aren’t meant to always be happy. Sometimes, we experience anger, frustrations, sadness or any other emotion. It helps us maintain a balance in our lives. If an individual is always happy, or content, they are not normal. Something is off kilter if we only experience one type of emotion.

Life is about balance. We need hard times as much as we need good times. The trials we experience strengthen us, whereas the good times make us appreciate the sunshine. You can’t have one without the other.

I would simply say to take a moment and breathe. Understand that life is meant to be lived, so take no prisoners. Grab life by the horns and hold on to your hat.

Have a good day.

9 November 2019

Sleep deprived musings…

My dreams have kept me awake all night.

YAY!

Is it my past? Maybe, or is it concerns about the future? Nah, I don’t care about no future! Perhaps, it is my present state of being. Enh, what do I have to be concerned about? Sleep is a necessary part of living. It isn’t optional, you must sleep. The body is like a battery, you must recharge if you are going to operate at peak efficiency.

Welp, I am done before I ever get started.

It has been a couple of trying weeks. Lessons have been learned and seizures have been had. I was finally able to crack my neck and get some relief. As good as it felt, it can’t replace sleep. Decisions I feel would be justified need to be reviewed. It would be a shame to cut people off because I misunderstood their intentions. Then again, I may be postponing the inevitable.

My eyes are burning from a lack of sleep, but the day is not going to wait. I must get up and get started.

We will see how it goes.

6 November 2019

Lessons learned from a dog…

I got up this morning at 0030. It was nippy outside, so I went to check on my buddy Chunk. Why can’t I be like my dog? He is overjoyed every time he sees me. He leaps into the air, as if he must press his cold nose onto mine. Whipping about the yard, he races full steam ahead and turns at the last possible moment avoiding the impending crash into my flower beds.

“Look dad, no brakes!”

I don’t know if it is true or not, but I read a dog experiences the feeling of falling in love every time they see their owner. It seems this might be true, after all, a dog is as close to a faithful companion as you will find on Earth. My best guess is that God made a dog so we would have an example of what we should be looking for in a relationship. In my mind, I see it playing out like this:

“Whatcha doing Jesus?”

Peering over his glasses, the Lord wipes his hands on his coveralls and smiles at his friend. His friend looks around the workshop, tools lay scattered on wooden benches, Mopar signs hang on the wall, and pictures of all the Lord has created fill in the remaining spaces.

“I’m making a dog.”

“A dog? What’s that?”

“They are the epitome of true love. I’m going to place them on Earth so Adam and Eve can have an example of how to treat one another.”

Quizzically, His friend leans over the lifeless dog.

“This critter is going to show humanity how to be in personal relationships? I don’t see how.”

“Gimme a sec.”

With a flourish, the Lord bends at the waist and breathes life into His creation. Immediately, the dog springs to life and races around the workshop. Tail wagging, the animal leaps into the air and the Lord throws back His head and laughs.

“Look at that Gabriel!”

Smiling, Gabriel looks at the small animal. “He is cute, but how does he epitomize true love?”

Sitting on a Craftsman stool, the Lord smiles. “Well, he is a faithful companion. Roscoe here, falls in love every day. Unlike humans, Roscoe has no choice in the matter. Humanity must make the choice to fall in love daily, my little friend here has this emotion hardwired into his being. As soon as he sees his owner, he falls in love. If mankind is going to last, they must find a way to see past their differences and realize they are stronger together than they are apart.”

“Couldn’t you have made love easy to attain? Or perhaps, you could have written an instruction manual.”

“Gabriel, the only easy day was yesterday. It should not be easy to attain true love. If it is easy, they will not appreciate it.”

“So, you created a dog to teach humanity a lesson in love.”

“When humanity has a bad day, they can come home and have a friend who loves them regardless of their flaws. A pal who thinks the world revolves around them and who can lift them up out of the blues. This little critter will show forth my love for humanity. It will serve as a reminder that when they are seeking love, they should give it their all. They should be faithful, love without measure and see the joy in life.”

Smiling broadly, Gabriel nods his head.

“I see it now.”

6 November 2019