Unselfish love and the blanket of freedom…

This is my second Memorial Day post I’ve written today. I suppose all my emotions are mixed-up. It comes from having a firsthand look at places like Fallujah, Iraq. Being ‘boots on ground’ is much different than seeing it on your television screen. Then, I come home and watch these ‘elected idiots’ turn my country into the American version of some third-world dump.

It sickens me to my stomach.

I’m going to take you on a small trip through some of what I’ve seen. I’ll try to keep it clean. The first night in Iraq, a rocket was shot through our barracks. It didn’t detonate, but it passed over a friend’s head and became lodged in my door. In less than two weeks, my friend became a shell of his former self. He jumped at everything, his nerves were frayed.

In Kuwait, prior to us driving into Iraq, I watched a solid NCO melt into shambles from the intensity of his memories. The bonds forged by combat are stronger than most anything, but the chains that bind our minds seem unbreakable as well.

The best of us never come home. 

From the blood-stained beaches of France, to the jungles of Vietnam, some men and women have given all in the pursuit of freedom. When their nation called, they answered. The geographical location of horror doesn’t matter. American fighting men and women are the bulwark against the rising tide of evil.

I’ve heard many people, ‘experts’ I believe they are called, have stated innumerable times that America should have never gone to Iraq. Obviously, these ‘experts’ have never seen people beheaded for ‘shaming’ their families, or seen children sold as sex slaves. Or seen mass graves filled with bones of women and children. Clearly, these know-it-alls live in a nice bubble of freedom, which allows them to run their mouths concerning things they don’t know anything about.

That bubble is provided by the most unselfish folks I know.

My friends, you may be gone now, but I will keep your memories alive. Know that it has been my greatest honor to walk beside you, until God called you home.

Garry Owen,

1/7 Cav, The First Team.

Ashes….Part II…A short story.

Pooter aka Oku,

Home. It’s more than a point on the map. To me, it was where I felt alive, safe and relaxed. Through the lens of yesterday, I see ‘me’ before the war. I was a ‘good’ guy. I held a variety of jobs. Lawn care, roofer, construction, and retail are just a few of  potential careers I could have pursued.

For a while, I did.

Nothing satisfied me. I went to work, went to church and paid bills. I wasn’t living, I existed. Then terrorists came calling on September 11, 2001. Two weeks later, I joined the Army.

Home became wherever I laid my head at night. For four years, home was Ft. Hood, Texas. I was honored to serve in the Seventh US Cavalry. Another four was spent in Illesheim, Germany. Assigned to a reconnaissance battalion, I enjoyed my time in Europe. I spent over two years in Iraq, and even it felt like home after I adjusted to the radical change. Eventually, I returned to the States. I landed at Ft. Carson, Colorado. Between the majestic mountain ranges and nice people, I thought I had hit upon my home away from home.

I moved back to Mississippi in 2016.

You know that saying about not being able to go home? Well, I did. I liked it here, life went by slowly. People are nice and the food is great. It’s not that you can’t go home, it’s just your horizons have expanded. In my case, my perspective expanded and was tinted by the horror I’ve seen.

Some people’s memories are so intense, they melt the person they once were. The mind became this veteran’s battleground when I returned home. I tried to replicate the ‘high’ of combat, but nothing came close to it. Alcohol, drugs, unnecessary risk, nothing was off the table.

And because of that, I can’t go home.

War changed me. “Sure, everyone says that.” Yeah, but it didn’t change just the physical, it changed the way I viewed the world. Prior to war, I would look for the good in folks. Now, I don’t see the good. I am focused on the negative attributes of the person. Everyone and everything are considered a threat until proven otherwise.

That brings us to tonight.

I’m dying. I’ve known it for a while. Maybe it’s the  toll of too many years, fighting too many wars, in too many places, where we were unwanted. I tried to do the best I could by you. I found you sitting on a pile of ashes. Looks like soot will be all you have of me, when I’m gone. I set you up a fund. Your university is paid in full. It’s all detailed in the will.

I never had a kid, but you were the best thing to happen to me. Good-bye.”

Memorial Day Blues…A short story.

“You know, sometimes the burden of being a veteran becomes overwhelming. It’s a strange thing to give yourself to the pursuit of higher ideals, only to see those who swear upon the Bible tear down all your hard work.”

I look out my window and dark clouds loom on the eastern horizon. “The clouds are at their limits. Don’t look like they will be able to hold much more. Kinda like our society.” My dog, Chunk 2.0, grows agitated as the clouds draw ever closer to the house. His head is tilted back as he sniffs the air.

The Speaker of the House comes on television to host her weekly brief with the press. Per usual, she stumbles across the floor like the drunken idiot she is. “I guess Chunk can smell her crap out there on the porch.” As usual, the Speaker lays the inefficiency of the government squarely at the feet of the President of the United States.

“He is a buffoon. The man is rude, crude, and an example of all things wrong in this country. He has to go!”

It’s my opinion that if the only way you can live with yourself is to stay inebriated, you might be the issue. Of course, this is simply the nature of politics. 

“The sacrifice of my friends lost in the sands of some forgotten landscape is nothing more than a move on some political chess board. If you’re unfortunate enough to survive, the broken husk of war worn flesh is something to be tossed to the side until the next war kicks off.”

I stop writing and rub my eyes. They’re leaking. It seems like only yesterday that I was willing to defend the greatest nation on earth against all enemies foreign and domestic. Today, I am trying to function without going to jail.

Now, Chunk isn’t the only one agitated.

As I try to get back on topic, my mind runs the faces of my lost friends through my mind. They were there one moment, big as life, and the next moment they were gone like a vapor. The one lesson I learned is this: it doesn’t matter how you were killed, dead is dead. There is no filling the void left by your lack of presence. A lone tear trickles down my cheek. 

I spent many years in a bottle of Jameson looking for answers to unanswerable questions. Memorial Day and the Speaker of the House makes me want to go on a three-day bender. Instead, I reach for the Mountain Dew and place my fingers on the keys..

“While certain days I’m angered by the lack of respect shown to my friends’ sacrifice by certain politicians, my service to this country remains a highlight in my life. After all, if it was easy-everyone would do it.It’s not so much a career as it is a calling. Someone must be willing to stand their post and keep the sheep safe from the wolves.”

Otherwise, America the Beautiful will implode from it’s corruption.

Monster…

I’m a soldier.

Of all the things I could have been, I chose to be a killer of men.

I am owed nothing but nightmares, trauma and scars,

It’s the life I chose, these are my rewards.

I’m a soldier.

Defender of free will, or so we are told,

Toeing the line, believing the lie, my psyche bears the wounds of my pride.

I am a soldier.

A killer of men, wretched husk of war worn flesh,

To damaged, to be good for anything else.

The fires burn in my mind, of ravaged cities left behind,

Of people frightened, of husbands lost,

Of those caught in crossfires, tracer fire galore,

Of children who skip over playgrounds in fun,

Shot to pieces, lifeless corpse,

I see my face, the fire in my eyes,

The glee on my countenance, as I shout “die.”

I’m a monster, run and hide.

Good for nothing, but killing and living a lie.

Welcome to the dark side…

I have been a fan of MicroSoft products from since I can remember. My first computer was a Packard Bell with Windows 95. However, given my recent distrust of former MicroSoft CEO, Bill Gates, I replaced my Windows powered laptop with a refurbished MacBook Air.

Welcome to the dark side. I am having a somewhat difficult time getting used to the keyboard, other intricate details which separate the two software giants. There is no way to completely eradicated the presence of either company from our lives, but I can purchase less products from the one tech whiz that I despise the most.

Now, if you will excuse me, I am going to try to figure out this new computer.

Freeman

Thoughts about Coronavirus…random musings…

It appears I have violated the community standards of Facebook. Hmm…I posted it yesterday, but they only blocked it this morning. The whole process of which post are seen or not seen is laughable.

Anyway, they can’t censor my blog.

So…

The post I shared was a series of questions concerning the coronavirus. A virus which has a 99% survival rate has us locked in the house. I have questions concerning the lethality of this sickness. Those queries will have to wait.

I have another question which I find more pressing. The population of planet earth is roughly 8 billion folks. Yet, a certain geek wants 7 billion vaccines. Where are the other billion folks going? Are they unworthy of treatment or are they expendable?

Yeah, I know. My thoughts this morning reek of conspiracy. However, what if I’m right?

I don’t know what the plan is, but I do know that our rights as citizens are constantly under attack. Some people find comfort in the government being all-powerful. I don’t. A government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take it all away.

With this imposed lockdown, our freedom to worship has been assaulted. “It’s in your best interest to not gather together in one location.” Is it? Who decides what is good for not only America but the rest of the world? Then there is our right to free speech. Now, I would point out the fact that my post violating the standards of Facebook as an example of censorship. However, the corporation is free to set the standards they believe is fair. This is still America but claiming that asking questions may lead to physical harm is a bit much.

It would be different if they gathered information from unbiased sources, I would recommend Epoch News. They don’t. Instead, they use sources which agree with their viewpoint (Politifact, Snopes, CNN, MSNBC, etc.)

And this is why I fear an out-of-control government.

Ashes….Part I

“It’s 117 and it isn’t even 0800. I hate this place.” The sun seems to be mocking me, as I stride across the endless sands of another desert. I am conducting a search, but the heat has me ready to call it a day. In the military, lieutenants are mocked constantly for their lack of experience in reading maps. “I know where I am going,” they shout in their own defense. “And here I am out in the middle of this freaking wasteland looking for an entire squad of lost soldiers.”

I wipe at the sweat which dots my face, and, in the distance, I notice a plume of smoke. The body armor has begun to weigh on my shoulders, and I clutch my rifle tight to my body. Lowering my body to make myself a smaller target, I creep over the sand dune. Scattered below me are tents of nomads, their bodies lie between the burnt husks of their possessions. I make my way through the carnage. Stepping over the bodies, I see a child sitting on a pile of ashes. “What in the world?” I kneel and check the area; the baby doesn’t notice me. Satisfied that the area is clear of threats, I walk over to the child.

“Hello, darling. What are you doing?”

Tears mark her face. Ash smears are on her forehead and her brown eyes look at me. We stare at each other for a moment and she goes back to playing in the slag. I sit beside her and she leans against me. She grips my hand and runs it in the soot. Satisfied there is enough ash on my fingers, she takes my hand and smears ash on my face.

“Daddy?”

“No, baby. I’m not your daddy. What happened here?”

“Bad men.”

“Okay. We’ve got to get out of here. I’ll take you with me and my outfit can find someone to help you.”

I stand and extend my hand to her. She takes my hand and stands to her feet. She is a cute child. Her hair is curly and black, her dark eyes seem to smolder, and she is quick to laugh. Her small hand taps mine and I look at her.

“Oku.”

“You can call me Ghost. Come on darling, we gotta get back.”

Slowly, we trudge through the sand until we reach the landing zone where I was dropped off. The radio I had hidden in the nearby shrubbery is still there.

“Hideaway, this is Ghost, over.”

“Go for Hideaway, Ghost.”

“Roger, Ghost requesting pick-up, plus one pax.”

“Roger, Hideaway copies all.”

With the call completed, me and Oku walk behind a dune and stretch out in the shade. Oku snuggles close. An hour passes and, in the distance, I hear the churn of rotors. The radio squelches and then a voice comes over the air.

“Ghost, this is Lighthouse 16, do you copy?”

“Go for Ghost, Lighthouse 16.”

“Is the LZ marked?”

I toss a red smoke grenade over the top of the dune.

“Roger, LZ marked.”

The roar of rotors draws closer, and I take Oku by the hand. “Sweetie hold my hand. Don’t let go.”

Lighthouse 16 comes back over the radio, “Roger, Ghost. I see red smoke.”

“Roger.”

The Huey touches down 100 yards from the dune. Me and Oku run toward the chopper. Inside the whirly bird, the door gunner looks at me.

“Where did you find her?”

“Sitting on a pile of ashes in what was left of a band of nomads.”

“Jesus. I hate this place.”

“Me too, brother. Me too.”

We ride in silence, the chopper running the nap of the earth until we reach our base camp. The helicopter touches down and we disembark.

“Oku come with me. I have to go give my report.”

I walk to the tent which houses our headquarters element and operation center. As I walk in, the CO glares at me from the desk.

“Did you find any sign of the lost troops?”

“No sir. I made it about half a mile in and came upon a shot up camp of nomads. This little girl, her name is Oku, was the only survivor.”

“So, you said forget the troops, this little girl is more valuable than the lives of our men?”

My eyes narrow at the accusations which are hurled in my direction. “Don’t hit him, don’t do it. He isn’t worth the jail time.”

“No sir. Our men are highly trained killers, they can hold their own against anyone. This girl is 3, maybe 4 years old, and I wasn’t going to leave her out there by herself.”

“I see.”

Without another word, the CO pulls his sidearm and shoots Oku in the chest. I grab the gun and yank it to the right; with my free hand I pull my blade.

“You piece of filth! My son is leading those soldiers and you bring this garbage back in his place!”

 He swings the weapon toward me, and I slam my blade into his right eye. I pull it out and slam the blade into his armpit puncturing his heart.

“MEDIC!”

Oku lies in the dirt whimpering. I run to her and cradle her in my arms. The medic sprints across the camp to where I hold Oku.

“Put her down, Ghost. Here, press this bandage against her wound.”

“Look at me Oku. It’s gonna be okay.”

“Bad man.”

“Yeah, baby. He can’t hurt you anymore. Just relax, and let Doc take care of you.”

Doc gives her a shot of adrenaline and patches up her wound. Behind me, I hear the officers talking to the police.

“Ghost, you are under arrest for the murder of a superior officer. Interlace you fingers behind your head.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me.”

“Do it. You will be given an opportunity to tell your side of the story.”

I comply with the order and interlace my fingers. Handcuffs are slipped on my wrists and I am led to the SUV.

“Get in.”

While I struggle to get into the back, Doc runs up to me.

“Hey, Ghost. I just want you to know, the little ‘un is gonna make it. You did a good thing.”

“Thanks, brother.”

I am driven to the main base and escorted into the police station. A wooden bench is bolted to the crumbling wall, and I am led to it.

“Sit down.”

The officers walk over to the desk, and one picks up a phone. Talking in hushed tones, a few words are spoken and then the officer hangs up the phone. He gestures for me to come over, so I push myself to my feet and walk toward him.

“The judge will see you now.”

The officer grabs me by the cuffs and guides me toward the courtroom. Walking down the narrow hall, I notice it is dimly lit and lightly traveled. At the end of the hallway, a lone door is pushed open and I am placed in an aluminum chair.

“Wait here.”

Time drags by, but finally, the judge walks in. He sits and two other men walk into the room. One is the CEO of the military contractors I work for, the other is unknown to me. Bill Wilson is the proprietor of Wilson Solutions. He pulls a chair over to where I sit.

“How are you doing, sport?”

“Better than my CO, sir. So, pretty good.”

He nods his head and chuckles. Then he leaned back in his chair. He scratches his five o’clock shadow and leans toward me.

“You’ve put me in a predicament, Ghost. First, you rescued a kid, when you were supposed to be searching for members of your team. Second, you killed your CO. What am I going to do with you? Or her?”

“Well sir, killing me won’t bring the CO back. Killing the kid would be pointless. I guess you could cut me, and the kid lose, and I will find my own way back home. No harm, no foul.”

“Yeah, but what about the missing troops?”

“I’m not your only tracker, sir.”

“You know that band of nomads you found? Those lost troops killed them, and your CO ordered the hit. He sent you to “find” them, but you weren’t supposed to make it out of the desert. I’m not upset you killed the idiot. I want you to finish the job.”

“Can I get these cuffs off?”

Wilson nods his head, and the officer removes my cuffs. I flex my hands and lean back, taking in what I had just been told. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

“So, let me make sure I understand this. You want me to hunt down and kill this five-man team of trained killers. For what purpose would I do this? I can see what you get out of it, but what’s in it for me?”

“You get to live.”

“I’d rather die.”

“Fine, Ghost. What do you want?”

“500 thousand, and clean passports for me and Oku. This is my last job. I will kill them and then I’m done. I also need my gear and their location.”

Wilson nods his head and stands to his feet. He extends his hand, and I shake it. “Deal. Judge, it looks like you aren’t needed.  Ghost, you can pick your gear up at the airfield. Joshua here will make sure you are briefed.”

“Yes, sir.”