Sunday, October 28, 2012

How Can Men Do This?

My platoon was getting ready to move north.  We had done, something, I'm not sure what exactly, at our first COP, by the power station, and now we were going to move north of Fedelayah, into Kamalayah, where no US troops had been pretty much since the beginning of the war.  Bravo would be the furthest company out, and the trek to our COP would be treacherous at best.  Deadly at worst.  Orders were orders so we scouted a few locations that no one was really using that we might move a company of US Infantry into, I'm not sure how we settled on it, but someone decided to use "The Spaghetti Factory".  It was centrally located, near Broadway (also called Shit trench road) the "woods" and "Home plate".  All elements on an overhead black and white satellite photo. 

My first tour through the facility was actually the third of fourth time the company had been through there.  They already knew about "Bob" but no one had told me yet.  I remember the WaPo author hadcome out this time around, and so did the XO.  They wanted to take a look at the factory.  I was watching when Bob was explained.  The Major looked really uncomfortable with the idea, and I couldn't figure out what the big deal was.  So when no one was around I looked where he had been looking down.

If what was floating in the sewage hole had once been a man, it was rapidly becoming less and less so.  already the toxic stew of sewage was starting to turn him into a mush, his hands were starting to simply melt away.  This had once been a man, in the traditional Arab robe.  Who he was, what he had done to deserve such a fate, no one will ever know because his head was also missing.  Bob, whatever his real name had been, had been a poor unfortunate soul that had run afoul of the Militias.  You couldn't even really be sure which one had done it to him, though as we were in Sadr's back yard it was probably Jaysh al-Mahdi.

By the simple expedient of cutting off this man's head they had robbed him of name, of proper burial, or even the decency to let his wife or family know what had become of him.  Bob would have no finger prints, and it would be doubtful just how much DNA we could retrieve, not that in a country like Iraq that would do a damn bit of good.  Some half assed plans had been hatched to retrieve Bob before we moved in, but that never happened, JAM blew the roof of the Spaghetti factory.  As if to snub them, we moved in next door.  Poor Bob was never retrieved.  His life never unraveled.  Good man or ill, he simply dissolved away in a morass of filth. 

Bob wasn't alone.  When we founded the Ranger JSS there were headless corpses being brought in all the time.  They would smell because of decomposition.  The hands would be bound.  Sometimes in front.  Sometimes in back.  No worldly possessions.  A whole life erased in the most horrendous of ways.  What cold ruthlessness could drive men to this?  One poor soul had been tortured.  His fingernails had been ripped out, small drill holes on his knees and elbows, I don't even want to think about the way his body felt as I helped move him.  He had had a lot of broken bones before he died.

I could talk about the torture houses.  Even attempting to describe some of the horrific ways some of these poor souls were tortured fills me with nausea.  Drills to knees.  Teeth pulled.  Electric shock.  One would think that this was something straight out of a Gestapo/SS/KGB/NKVD nightmare.  Men would literally have their testicles crushed, and other unspeakable things.  If there was some sick and twisted art form to causing human beings pain the Mahdi militia were experts at it.  I read some reports and sat in for some interrogations that left me sickened to be a part of the same species as such men.  For all the things that I've heard Americans do, it pales in comparison to what has been done by the various militias. 

The one thing that truly stuck with me and fills me with sadness were the children.  Two in particular stick out.  One was paid some money to pick up some stray bit of ordinance.  Some of the villagers said it was American, some said it was Iraqi.  Whose ever ordinance it was, it was very much live.  Willie Pete, or white phosphorus burns at the slightest provocation.  I don't think it was ours because we stopped using it, but that doesn't matter, the description of what happened was enough to know it was an incendiary round of some kind.  The poor girl was wasting, unable to do much because of the pain.  2nd and 3rd degree burns all over her arms, chest, I could still smell her burnt hair, even days later.  The most heartbreaking part. . . I could do little more than dress her wounds.  Someone paid a kid, knowing this stuff was unstable, knowing the kid couldn't possibly be experienced enough to diffuse anything they found.  This little girl was expendable.

The second was a boy.  His father had angered a militia somehow.  I was busy treating him so I wasn't getting the full story from the interpreter, but what I did get is that this boy, a year or so before had been dragged out, doused by gasoline and set on fire, all with his mother watching.  This is where the story became incoherent, because she was wailing so much.  I get the impression that once her son was engulfed in flames the men simply walked away, leaving the mother to do what she could.  The boy was missing the outer digits on all his fingers.  Even though the injuries happened perhaps a year or so before I ever saw him, he was still suffering horrible scabs, blisters and injuries from that horrendous burn.  Again, all I could do was patch his wounds.  He needed a hospital, and all he got was one lowly medic's aid bag.  He, and so many children deserved better.

I know America has made many missteps.  We haven't always been right, and we haven't always been at our best.  Even the worst scandals that occurred in Iraq always struck me as mild in comparison to the the almost routine acts of barbarism that I saw the insurgents commit.  I joined the Army to save lives.  It is debatable how many lives I actually saved.  I wish I could say my desire to save lives remained intact.  I still do want to save lives, I still feel that call.  But there is also a cold anger I feel towards men who would do such horrific things.  I believe there are some people that you just can't make peace with, some have gone so far that the only solution is to simply place yourself between them and anyone they can harm.  I find after seeing innocent men and women, but most importantly children, treated like that, I have far less qualms about killing some people.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Enemy I Failed to Save

The dust still hadn't settled, but we pushed through the objective.  Almost immediately the bodies were reality evident.  Some were clearly dead.  A man just to my left had a whole side of his intestines open to the air.  The grey sausage like links open to the air.  To my left a man was face down in trash, his red shirt the only thing that really broke him out as anything more than the trash that tended to pile up in the central squares in these towns.  To my right three men were dead.  Torn apart.  One has a hole in his head that looks like someone just scooped his brains out, next to him there is a man whose shoulder is almost ripped out.  His arm sticking up at an angle he shouldn't be able to manage normally.  the third man has his ass sticking in the air.  I don't even bother to turn him over.  I can see his face is almost completely gone.  there is a fourth man.  He is not moving, and there is asphalt all over his face.  He looks looks to be dead though he doesn't have anything horrendously wrong with him. 

There is a corner gate with two men inside.  One is wounded, and one is dead, his white man-dress stained with red, though there are only small wounds in evidence.  For a moment I imagine some stray bit of detritus that had entered his body and bounced around destroying his organs, before he even realizes he's a dead man.  But no.  He probably knew he was dying, though he did not have to stay long.  It was almost merciful.  The man who was wounded was trying to make the sign of friend, rubbing his two fingers together, and pointing to me, then pointing to himself, before rubbing his two index fingers together in parallel. 

I look to my CO.  He might be an innocent.  He might have a grenade on him.  I shrug.  Do you want me to save him?  He nods.  There might be a few words said, but I go to work anyway.  I know I'll need my aid bag, but for right now I start pulling from the pouches on my vest.  I put a tourniquet on him, then realize he needs two more.  Both legs and one arm.  I also look at his abdomen, which had several holes in it.  I feel behind him but there are no exit wounds.

I treated him and he kept trying to sit up, I kept having to push him down.  He would look at me still trying to make the sign for friend.  I told him to sit down and shut up so I could save his life.  I really did want him to live, despite the fact that just a few minuets earlier, the assholes outside the gate were shooting at me.  It was at this point that someone said "hey you know the guy laying outside?"

"The dead one?" I said not bothering to look over as I rolled Kirlex around this guy's abdomen. 

"Yeah.  He's not so dead."

"Hang on."

I finish wrapping up the abdominal wound, then get up.  I take off my gloves which are covered in blood and toss them into the square.  One more bit of detritus in this place wouldn't be noticed at all.  As I pull out a fresh pair of gloves an NCO stands near me. 

"Hey Sergeant, I'm putting my weapon down, if he moves, pop him quick."

"we're in the open here." he tells me.

"I can't move him."

One look into his eyes shows me that this man isn't going to live.  His pupils are wide open.  I feel at his neck, his heart is racing, and his respirations are these rapid deep snores, though quiet, it's not a good sign.  The NCO walks off as I start to cut his clothes away to find any wounds I might be able to patch.  To my surprise there aren't really any wounds.  I do a quick blood sweep, looking for where the blood loss is coming from.  I can't find it.  Which means that he's in shock from internal bleeding. 

"You're going to die my friend" I tell him.  Its a statement of fact but I try to tell him as gently as possible.  He snores in response. 

"I'm sorry."  Its funny.  This man was with the group that less than half an hour before was trying to kill me, but here I am trying to comfort a dying man that can't even hear me.

I patch a small wound on his abdomen, and call for a stretcher.  As I check his pulse his pulse has dropped drastically, but I can see his jugular starting to stand out.  I don't have my BP cuff with me.  I can't tell his blood pressure.  I don't even have my stethoscope on me.  I put my ear to his chest as much as i can with my helmet.  I listen to a breath with my ear.  His lings sound like they're both working just fine.  No he doesn't need a chest tube, at least not for a pnumothorax.

That means he is probably getting an increase of inter-cranial pressure.  He was going to die soon if he didn't get to a hospital.

"I can't help you man."  He grunts.

He takes a few deep breaths.  Maybe he knows.  Maybe his mind is already gone.

I call for a stretcher.  I get help from the RTO to get him on the black canvas stretcher.  We lead him on an LMTV.  I went back inside the courtyard to load the guy sitting there in a soccer jersey.  He's still trying to make the sign of friend.  Still trying to sit up.

"Yeah.  I know.  We're all friends here."  I put the stretcher next to him.  I have to stand over his dead friend to load him up.  As I lift him up, and we take him out to the waiting LMTV I muttered to myself  "all evidence to the contrary." 

I take one look at the man that I had tried to help outside.  I feel at his neck.  His pulse is gone. 

"Goodbye."  I said to him.  "See you around." 

I never learned his name.  I don't think even now I could learn what his name was.  The war doesn't end with this death, nor with the deaths of my fellow soldiers.  You have to take it as it comes.

As I turned my back on the scene of enemies that had been torn apart, I tried to remind myself that I can't save them all.  Still, even though he was an enemy, I count that as another loss.  Medics hate to lose. 

Its funny though, looking back, I kept losing, but I never gave up.

Friday, October 26, 2012

A Tale of Four Heroes

On October 6th 1993, in a forgotten corner of east Africa, an RPG caught a UH-60 in just the right spot, causing the second crash of a Blackhawk that day.  (There would actually be two others that suffered enough damage that they barely made it back to base).  The Blackhawk call sign Super 64  spun into Mogadishu and landed hard after a nearly 70 foot free fall.  When the dust settled the crew was either dead or dying, and only the pilot, CWO Mike Durant was able to respond when a mob started to surround his crash site. 

At this moment two Delta snipers SFC Randy Shughart and MSG Gary Gordon requested three times to be inserted to hold off the mob until ground forces arrived to secure the crash site.  Finally they were given the go ahead, after being informed that Bravo company 3rd Battalion 75th Rangers was in heavy contact, and 2nd Battalion 14th Infantry was just then mobilizing.  It was made absolutely clear that there was no certainty when help might arrive.  They went anyway.

As soon as they were inserted their bird Super 68 was hit, and another Delta sniper was wounded.  Super 68 barely made it back to the pad.  All Balckhawks were immediately grounded, and no overhead cover could be provided because it was simply too dangerous.  The two men fought their way to the downed Durant Balckhawk.  In the confused battle MSG Gordon was wounded or killed, shortly after CWO Durant was pulled out, leaving SFC Shughart to fight off the mob alone.  It is clear that these two men fought like lions before finally succumbing to wounds.  Both were (posthumously) Awarded the Medal of Honor.

Flash forward to September 11th 2012.  Former SEAL Tyrone Woods was sitting at a CIA annex about a mile away from a US Consulate (different from an embassy) and at about 2140, it became very clear that the Consulate was under attack.  Woods, got on the radio to request permission for him and his team to assist the Consulate.  They were denied.  Twice.  At about that point Woods and at least two others said “fuck it we’re going anyway”.  They rushed to the compound to evacuate the surviving personnel and the body of Sean Smith who had already been killed.  Keep in mind the consulate is on fire at this point and these men are in contact while they’re evacing the staff.   They sadly couldn’t find the Ambassador in all the confusion.

The rescue team then beat feet back to the CIA annex.  They get back to the safe house at midnight. At this point, it gets a little confusing.  OpSec makes it hard to say who did what, but someone got on the gun that was on the roof, and actually had a laser designator aimed at a mortar team that was shelling the annex.  Over the next four hours not once, but three times Woods called for immediate back up.  At some point the Annex is backed up by a team from Global Response Staff of GRS, which was sent from Tripoli.  Among the crew was another former SEAL Glen Doherty. 

By 0400 both Doherty and Woods were dead.  At least one was killed by a mortar, and its pretty clear that both men died with their boots on, throwing lead down range.  At least one Libyan militia cam to the defense of the US annex, and the QRF inside Libya, which was still trying to secure trans at the airport might have made a difference.  But again, because of OpSec, it’s not entirely clear what happened when.

Now at some point the SecDef said that you don’t just throw troops into a situation like that.  The infamous “fog of war” argument was used.  I must call bullshit on all of this.  If the attack on the Consulate began at 2140, then there were at least three “tier 1” teams within 400 miles that could have been there inside of an hour and a half, two hours at the outside.  They had drones flying overhead.  Most of our drones are packing Hellfire missiles, and we don’t seem to have much problem dropping them on pretty much anybody that we consider a terrorist.  They even had at least one AC-130 Specter gunship within 2 hour’s flying distance. 

So I must ask: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot Over.  I am not a politician, so maybe the vagaries of foreign relations might slip my grasp, but the representative of the government of the United States of America was drug out of his consulate and killed.  Why wouldn’t you drop everything and fix that situation most ricky tick?  I can not for the life of me understand why the troops at the annex were told to stand down.  Twice.  I do not understand why there wasn’t QRF mobilized from Europe the second it looked like the Consulate was in danger. 

I don’t buy fog of war.  I don’t buy “confused situation”.  I’ve been on QRF (Quick Reaction Force) more than once for a TiC (Troops in Contact) call.  You can tell by the tone of voice used just how bad it is.  When words like “immediate” or “urgent” are used on the radio, its not because some Hollywood script writer is trying to make it sound good.  They’re about to get rolled and they need help.  If you’re on the QRF you drop literally everything and move as expeditiously as possible to support and evacuate your comrades

Both in Mogadishu, and in Benghazi there were assets available that might have prevented the tragic events that happened.  Air support, ground support, even indirect fire support, but because of the “political realities on the ground” those assets were denied, and some very fine warriors were lost. I don’t care where you stand politically.  This is simply put unacceptable.  It  truly lamentable that MSG Gordon, SFC Shughart, Woods and Doherty had to pay the price for political squeamishness. 

They knew what they were risking, and they had every confidence that they could hold out until friendly ground forces arrived.  Woods, his team, and Doherty’s team were not alone, like MSG Gordon and SFC Shughart were, but it is clear that they showed the same level of courage and moral fiber.  They risked life and limb, to help their comrades and fellow Americans.  In the end we would expect no less of our brothers in arms.  Both Woods and Doherty died in a pile of brass, with their boots on.  That is what it means to be a Warrior, and we should not soon forget such men.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

From the Whiskey Tango Foxtrot Column

So this one is a real dousie.  Apparently a Ft Drum MP, Shawn Raymo, 22 while on deployment out in Afghanistan watched via Skype while his wife had sex with a 15 year old girl.  Now I want you to stop and think about that for a second.  This wasn't a "screw off I'm with women now" this was clearly for this soldier's enjoyment.  Which begs a lot of questions to be asked. 

Before I even begin though I have one major question. 

How the HELL did this fat sack of excrement pass height and weight.  Even before his wife was doing the deed on the minor his ass should have gotten the boot for being as Gunny Hartman called it "A disgusting fat body".  A man this size would literally be incapable of doing his job, and just that alone screams shit bag.  That he's only 22 is if anything even worse. 

Now at some point his wife
21 year old Jessica Raymo, who looks like a real winner herself, got it in her head to give her soldier boy a show.  Never mind the fact that someone might i dunno look over his shoulder and see what was going on, or perhaps the fact that the girl in question was 15 might've alerted her to the fact that this might not be a good idea. 

Now there's a lot I could say about how she somehow broke the mold of the rail thin private marrying the huge woman that is the first to ever sleep with him.  Somehow its the other-way around.  I do not know enough about their marriage to judge how strong their marriage is, but if they're doing this kind of kinky stuff while he's deployed I'd be willing to bet there's a whole hell of a lot of other things going on.  I'm not going to speculate about her various other qualities, though from her picture it might be a fair assumption that she might be strung out on something, or has serious self esteem issues.

Now I won't lie, if you're in the middle of nowhere, you really want something to go off to the latrine and relieve yourself to.  There are stacks and stacks of porn available (even though you will get and Article 15 if caught with it) most wives will even send off their man with a photo or two, not to be shared with his buddies, for when he starts to miss her.  I have even heard of guys doing sex chats with their Wives and GFs.  This one takes the cake.  I don't think I've ever heard of a guy getting more than a strip tease. 

The intent behind this show doesn't really matter.  The idea that this woman used any form of persuasion to lure a minor into her home for sex is just plain sick.  Its not clear what kind of relation the couple has to the girl but she lives 2 hours south of Ft Drum, which makes it worse, because she actually had to drive to pick this girl up.  Add in the time change, and this goes into a level of forethought I don't even want to begin to think about. 

It's pretty clear that these two are real freaking winners and deserve to spend a lot of time behind bars.  A lesson for everyone out there, the more extreme your sexcapades the less well it tends to turn out.  Let us all hope that the 15 year old is learns from this experience and doesn't sell herself for some other skeezy douchebag trying to get his rocks off. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Who the Hell Do You Think You Are?

Just recently the UN announced that they would be watching the US election to ensure the minority vote is not "suppressed".  I have to admire the sheer nerve of the United Nations having the arrogant presumption to say that America might "fix" an election.  This coming from the same body that routinely puts dictatorial countries with horrendous human rights records on. . . human rights commissions.  A body so incompetent that when they rally to help bring relief to a disaster area, they introduce cholera to a population that has never had exposure to it, thus killing another 10-20 thousand people.

The United Nations is a joke.  How many resolutions has the UN passed that have done little more that provide humor to the people they are issued to.  Of course should anyone actually take said resolutions seriously and actually act upon them and remove said regimes, they bellow like a wounded elephant crying foul.  I wish I could say that anything I have said is a joke, but really it is not.  As if that weren't bad enough they have actually started planning out treaties to limit arms internal to countries, and there are even plans to ensure that a large tax is levied on richer nations for the purpose of helping out the less fortunate nations. 

I'm not saying that American elections are perfect.  Far from it.  Johnson is often accused of having delivered a lot of dead people's vote to Kennedy, and really who could forget the whole hanging chad fiasco.  But simply put the idea of the UN pawing over the election results of the first country in the modern era to become a Republic. . . if there are words for the emotion this evokes, I do not know what it is.  America has had far more contentious elections than this one.  Indeed compared to some of the elections we have had this one is positively tame.

Go look at the 1824 election.  The "first party" system had collapsed, and there were as many as five candidates.  It came down to John Quincey Adams, Andrew Jackson, Henry Clay, and William H. Crawford.  Despite wining both the popular and electoral college, Jackson did not get a majority, so it went to the House.  Because Clay was not in the top three he was left off the ballot. . . but as he was Speaker of the House at the time, and positively loathed Jackson. . . it's not really hard to see where this is going.  John Quincey Adams became our sixth president.  He wasn't a bad president either, he actually managed to reduce our debt from 16 million to 5 million (Oh boy is that laughable now!), and developed a lot of infrastructure inside the United States.  Sadly the scandal from his election lead to his being ousted by Andrew Jackson after one term. 

We could also look at the 2000 election.  There had rarely ever been a situation where a state, and a crucial on did not certify its' election.  But again we worked it out.  It did go to the Supreme Court, which acted quickly and ordered  recount that was proper for the time.  Despite what a lot of diehard liberals might call a "stolen" election, Our system's series of steps to ensure that the proper procedures were followed, worked.  I also think most people might agree that Ale Gore was simply not equipped to lead the country in a time of war, and I need to point out here that if Bush were as terrible at being president as the die hards believe, he would not have been reelected. 

Yes our Republic can be messy.  But unlike say France, we didn't go around terrorizing people we don't like, in that case the rich [see 1%] and the clergy following our revolution.  We didn't require massive world wars to become a republic.  Aside from a brief flirtation, America never truly engaged in colonialism.  Unlike say Germany, or Russia, when we invade a country, we give it back freely.  This is the only country in the history of man, that goes to war for the freedom of the very countries we end up fighting. 

The idea that one world government would even work is somewhat laughable at this time.  One needs only to look at the European Union to know that transnationalism simply does not work.  Still, the UN keeps trying to implement it.  The UN tries whenever it can to erode nationalism and national sovereignty.  This is not our first election, or even our first few.  This isn't Iraq.  This isn't say Venezuela which somehow keeps electing the same dictator despite his campaign clearly designed to silence the media.  This isn't Afghanistan, where Karzai keeps winning and is crooked as can be.  This isn't Russia, where Vladimir Putin, somehow keeps in power despite changing titles.  With all due respect, and really I'm not sure much is actually due, who the hell do you think you are? 

Do you think you have anything close to the moral authority to judge America?  You waste so much money its painful.  You have people in positions of power abusing those positions, doing things, which should land them in jail.  The UN has forgotten its place.  It is a forum for people to come and air grievances and attempt to find a resolution.  The UN is not a country, nor should it try to assume the position as such.  It has no power as has been displayed again and again.  So please, sit down, shut up and get the hell out of America's way.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Why is being a Veteran so Isolating?

I made it through two deployments without a scratch.  I had an IED blow up the vehicle in front of my and the one right behind me, I saw a rocket explode in the middle of the air less than 20 meters away from me.  I've been in a few fire fights, where I was shooting and being shot at.  I've survived indirect fire that was "walking" closer and closer to my small shelter.   I've walked streets with an aid bag on my back which made me a giant target.  I've walked sniper laden streets, and nearly have become a statistic more than once.  All these things I have done, and never once was I injured by enemy fire. 

I have sprained my ankle because a wall was too high, and had an armored door slam on my foot.  Once when doing a night assault I slipped and nearly fell off a second story building in the process I hit a ledge that hit a very sensitive area for men.  I've been running at full tilt, only to have a clothesline that I couldn't see travel under my NVGs snap my head back and deposit me on the ground, moaning in pain.  These all have great stories behind them and are always told with a bit of a smile, but never left a mark. 

Then there are moments that left a different mark.  One no one can see.  Log rolling a soldier to realize his face was just gone.  Looking at a platoon sergeant that I had respected and known, with an amputation that went into his hip.  It took only one look to know that this man, even though from another platoon, was going to die.  One of his squad leaders had later said that he actually made it to the CSH and had survived surgury. . . I didn't have the heart to tell him he was dead before he left the FOB.  I looked at a destroyed Humvee, on fire and the rounds cooking off knowing one of the men that I had really made friends with was still inside.  I remember holding onto a man as he slowly died choking on his own blood.  I can recall the face of every person I did CPR on, to include a baby and a 7 year old girl. 

I have a back that hurts terribly every morning, and after long days on my feet.  If I ever have my ear buds in I can hear the grating sand like sound of my knees every time I take a step.  I have to be careful with any shoulder workouts because I have come very close to injuries that would require surgery to fix.  My left foot still today hurts from time to time where one of the team leaders from my second deployment slammed a door on it.  My neck still hurts every day, because of the weights I put on it.  I can deal with these physical pains.  Indeed, unless they get very bad, I hardly notice them at all.  Its the other things that bother me.

When you become a combat veteran, you can spot another combat veteran from across the room.  Its how they carry themselves, and in their eyes.  You can see a depth to them that they will never reveal to men and women who simply do not "know".  Sometimes all it takes is a look.  One look in the eyes is confirmation enough, that yes, you've "been" and "seen" and share the same burdens that I have.  They may not be spoken of with civilians around, or we might break into a round of story trading, right there regardless of the circumstances.  Neither has to show his "battle scars" we know instinctively that they're there, and nothing need be said on the subject.  For a short period of time you are filled with the same elation of discovering a Brother or Sister you never knew you had, and a comfort of familiarity that you simply do not share with the outside world.  When the encounter is over we each go our separate way, secure in the knowledge that for now at least, you are not alone.

I have had great loves that I lost because I couldn't make them "understand".  When asked to explain it I have been mired in frustration, because I really don't want to keep recounting my horror stories to everyone that comes along, and at the same time really what does that knowledge get me?  The more I try to explain it the more isolated I feel.  Many girlfriends have tried to "heal" me from my time in a war zone.  Many have wondered why I can't just "let it go" and all have remarked at how strange it is that even now I long to put my boots on, grab my weapon and armor and face down long odds.  It may not be healing, and may hurt me even more, but at least I'd be with my brothers and sisters.

 There has been a lot of talk about Post Traumatic Stress.  Some have told my to quit my whining.  Trying to explain why I just can't sleep, or why certain things send me into a flying rage is a losing proposition.  I've even been called racist because hearing Arabic sends a cold chill down my spine, and hearing azaan, or call to prayer will drive me up the wall.  Bad things happened when that sounded. 

But there were also good moments, which if I explained people just wouldn't understand.  Once, on a  predawn 12 mile ruck march, the battalion in staggered column going down the road with our red light on, as got just light enough to see shadows, I remember looking behind me to see a line of shadows marching out of the fog, and ahead of me a line of shadows marching into the fog.  I felt a thrill at being a part of an unbroken chain of America's finest young men and women going on back to our begging and off into a future unknown.  Or when I marched with my company into the back of a C-17, at night to fly into BIAP.  Once more unto the breech as it were.  I can't even explain the countless times I broken open an MRE and spent the next twenty minuets trading for the stuff I wanted. 

Everyone focuses on the death and destruction.  That's all civilians want to hear about for some reason.  How can I tell them about the time the Division Sergeant Major for 1st Cav gave me a coin for helping out his daughter?  Or the humor I get at the two good conduct medals I got, which technically I shouldn't have, but due to clerical errors at the hospital, and an S-1 who lost paperwork all the time, there they are on my DD-214.  How do I explain the stupid stunts I pulled, or how I always managed to get myself in trouble, piss off my chain of command, and still come out smelling like roses.  Or the sheer humor that could follow the simple sentence "Doc. . . I've got this problem."

The bonds of brotherhood are strong.  Many will never truly know what it is to have someone they can count on come hell or high water (quite literally in some cases).  Many will not understand the willingness to give one's life, freely and without hesitation.  Despite the burdens I bare, from my time, I have been truly privileged to have known this life.  Its a life of choices and consequence, and despite the fact I will always lament the utterly insanely stupid shit I had to do to appease Big Army, I would have traded a second of that life.  It is never truly behind me.  I may never deploy again.  I may never be in a firefight, or have incoming, but those things are still with me, and I am still ready should it happen.  There are times though, I wish it were not such a lonely vigil. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

National Triage

In medicine there is a need to manage your resources, time, material, even who responds because your ability to respond and treat are finite. An ER in even a metropolitan area can get overwhelmed with 5 critical casualties. Imagine if a bus were to crash and 30-35 critical casualties were reported. That can stress a whole COUNTY. Every doctor that works in an ER must be a master of multitasking, and must be a leader of first order. When someone comes in that can quite frankly wait, they can and do because your job is not to do the best for a few patients, but to do the most good for the most number of people.

 We have a name for this. It is called Triage, which is a French word which means "to sort". We have various categories. Immediate: must be seen right now or they'll die. They go right to the front of the line, regardless of how long someone else is waiting. Delayed: they can wait. The time they can wait is dependent on the severity, but they're not in danger of just dropping dead in the next hour or so. Minimal: these ate the people that you can hold off treating for up to a day. Not only are they not in danger of dying, but they might actually be fine if you don't treat them. Expectant: they're either dead, or about to be. Either you don't have the resources to help them, or more likely they're so far gone that NOBODY can help them.  You DO NOTHING for these patients.  To waste resources on those you can not help is a losing proposition.  Even when dealing with just one patient your priorities are clear.  You can not waste resources and time stitching up a small cut on an eyebrow while the patient chokes to death.   

But this principle can, and more importantly should be applied on the national stage.  We are spending over $1T a year more than we take in.  If we were to view money as the lifeblood that the organs of the government depend on, that deficit is a hemorrhage we can not sustain.  On a patient, this kind of loss would quickly lead to shock and death.  Economically the idea is the same.  We are hemorrhaging money.  It doesn't really matter where its going, you can essentially argue that its not being used properly.  One could even argue that the economic reactions can even be argued to be the first sign of compensative shock.  We can handle it right now.  Anyone that has ever worked a trauma will tell you that when it goes to noncompensative shock, you lose control quickly, before going into unrecoverable shock and death.

The Government only has X amount of money.  We have to ask ourselves, very seriously, what do we want.  Do we want an awesome military?  Ok.  Do we want universal healthcare?  That can be done too.  Do you want free, 1st rate top of the line public schools (elementary through college)?  That can be done too.  You can also have a "safety net" that is so large no one falls through the cracks. . . Do you want to have a thriving economy with innovation and limited government controls?  Do you want "social" programs to help any number of people. You can do one of all of these things, but you can not even closely do them all.  you can't even do most.  Indeed you really can only do one, maybe two.

So what do you do?  Well I am clearly biased.  A strong military is essential.  The it is clear that the only reason that the Democratic Socialist countries can do all the wonderful things (at least according to the American Left) that they do is because they have outsourced their military spending to. . . America.  Not just NATO countries but pretty bunch all countries that were even notionally aligned with America in the Cold War.  Great.  We're the world wide force for stability.  I actually have no problem with that.  The problem is that now we want all those thing that the Democratic Socialists say is so great, and the only way to pay for it is to gut the military.

It is being shown now that even those western European countries can't afford those awesome benefits anymore.  If they can not afford it, what hope have we?  The point is simple.  Pick your battles.  What do you want?  Make sure you're clear on what you want and how you want to get it.  In doing so you also have to be honest with what you have.  The more debt we have, the less options we have. It is clear that regardless of how the election goes the next four years may become very painful.  We're going to have very finite resources.

It is clear that if we go the path we're on, forget about "gutting" medicare, it won't exist.  How many seniors will be thrown over the cliff when there simply isn't any money for the program?  What will that do to they young?  College will be impossible for everyone, because no one can get student loans.  If you think the housing market is bad now, what do you think will happen when the dollar isn't worth the paper its printed on?  Unlike a Hollywood movie simply shocking a patient won't bring them back (in reality that almost never works).  If the lifeblood is all over the ground, how is that going to do the organs any good?  If the organs of state start to shut down, how long does it take before the body as a whole dies?

The patient is bleeding.  How do you plan to staunch the flow? 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Military Vote (Or Absence Thereof)

Chances are, regardless of your political stance, you remember the 2004 election. John Kerry was blasting George W Bush about literally everything, and we saw Bush fire back with Kerry's own statements. People held up flip flops, and there was a whole host of political jokes. The war in Iraq seemed to be escalating, as the insurgency grew worse and many were certain that Bush couldn't POSSIBLY win.  We saw the rise of Super PACs, "I approve this message", swiftboating somehow became a word in common usage, and politics as we knew it became ever more polarizing and divisive.

I saw almost none of this. At the time I was in the Kirkuk area of Iraq bouncing between FOB Altun Kopri, Dibbis, Bernstein, and Gains-Mills. To give you an idea, the area that my 2,500 man brigade covered was the size of West Virginia.  We were busy.  My ability to get news was almost nil, and I had to rely on the Stars and Stripes papers which would be very infrequently delivered.  At the time I was more worried about getting hit with an IED, complex ambushes, and incoming indirect fire.  Politics for me was far removed, so I couldn’t really care less about the RNC or the DNC.  I could care less about the political adds.  People were dying around me. 

I did care about my vote.  I wasn’t sure if I would make it through the deployment, but if I wasn’t by God, I was going to vote, if it was literally the last thing I did.  I asked my parents to register me, because the mail was getting pretty unreliable as I got further and further out from FOB Warrior (Kirkuk Regional Air Base for the Air Force).  Once my family sent me a letter and it took almost a month for me to get it.  Thankfully my parents registered me right away, my dad may have fubbed my signature but. . . I was a bit out of the way. 

So there is a date that the ballots are due.  Everybody is getting theirs mailed to them.  Apparently California took its sweet time, and then the mail took even more sweet time.  That was before it got to the military mail system.  About a month before the due date I was on FOB Warrior for a small rest and refit, it was a week and a half stand down, so I figured I had time.  Then I got sent out to Gains-Mills.  Now I started to sweat because mail came once a week with the supply convoy. 

I took the extreme measure of actually getting on the battalion freq and pestering my company every day about my ballot.  I could have gotten in a lot of trouble for putting nonofficial traffic on the battalion freq.  I was told quite forcefully that I should not ever tie up the battalion net for anything short of essential traffic. 

About a five days before it is due, I get called into the Bulldog (Bravo Battery 2/11 FA) TOC (Tactical Operations Center), they told me I had a call from Warrior.  To my amazement it was my platoon sergeant telling me, that my ballot was in, that it would be coming out on the next LOGPAC (supply convoy), and he jokingly told me there would also be paperwork for my article 15 for pestering battalion about my ballot.  I didn’t get an article 15, though I probably should have. 

The next LOGPAC was due two days later, and all seemed right with the world.  Then the route that went to my FOB was declared “black” after a series of really nasty IED strikes.  Which delayed the convoy.  Essentially what happened is that the day the ballot was due to be turned in back on FOB Warrior, I got the ballot.  The LOGPAC doesn’t stay long, and mail had to officially be sorted by an officer and NCO.  Had I torn through all the mail, and pulled out my ballot, I might have had enough time to fill it out and send it back with the LOGPAC. 

That is not what happened.  I got my ballot that night.  It was effectively just another piece of paper with my name on it.  With the routes being black, there was no way I was getting back to FOB Warrior without someone needing immediate evac.  This is how I lost my chance to vote.  I got disenfranchised not by any sinister plot to ensure I didn’t get my vote, but because of a erratic morass.  I have no doubt that during this presidential election, there will indeed be more than a few military ballots that will get “lost” along the way.  It is unthinkable that the one time that the military has a voice in how their employed, they do not get that chance, because of some clerk somewhere that misses a deadline. 

The Military vote is a laughably small percentage of the ballots cast.  The military accounts for .45% of the US population.  I think that it is painfully clear that we have not only the duty, but the moral obligation to ensure that not only do these votes get to the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and, Marines. There really is no reason for any service member to be denies the right to vote. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Dear *****

Dear *****,

There is so much I wish I could say, but I'm sure that if I ever met you again face to face, there would only be memory of the hurt I caused.  How can I explain what happened?  Its too late, far too late to do anything, but give out an apology and hope you have a good life.  I wish I could let it all go, but there will always be a part of me that hopes, longs, for you to forgive me and return to me. 

Do you remember when you were coming to visit, and I told you to wait a few minuets.  I felt like such a fool, but it meant so much that I get it right the first time.  The look on your face when you saw what I had done was priceless.  Do you remember when I looked out and told you my battalion was having a ball.  I should have been with them, but I had been away for so long, that I didn't feel like a part of my own unit.  That was ok.  I was sad at the time, but I had you, and for the first time since I lost ***** I was truly happy. 

I remember taking you around Manhattan, I remember time went by too damn fast.  I loved you damned much I felt like I was walking on air.  Everything seemed in sync.  And then I just went and screwed it up.  I am so sorry.  I wish I could find the magic words to undo what I said, but in the height of my medications, and in the middle of a really bad day I blew up on you.  Then I lost you forever.  I can't even find out if my words ever reached you. 

Till the day I die, I doubt that any woman will ever capture my heart the way you have, which leads to even more shame that I screwed things up so badly.  I could blame the drugs they gave me to keep me "sane" I could blame the war for making me unhinged, hell I could even blame the flashbacks and lack of sleep.  In the end they would all be cop outs.  I pushed you away.  I was the one that reacted wrongly.  I was the one that hurt you, and I have never stopped regretting it since. 

Your pictures, scant few that I have, are on my phone.  I always pull them up on the truly bad days, to remind me that there were some good days.  My back hurts far more than when you knew me.  If you remember when we tried to run together, well, my knees and shins hurt even more now than they did then.  In short I feel like a very old man.  I doubt there were ever be a wife and children for me.  I don't think I would want to marry any woman but you, even though I know that's never going to happen. 

You're never far from my thoughts *****.  The memories of your warm smile, or the peaceful time on top of that silly bunny slope in your hometown remind me that life is not all death and despair.  There is life, hope and happiness as well.  I don't think those things are meant for me, but that they're there reminds me that there is still good in this world. 

I do not know what path my life will take.  My future is even more uncertain now than when you and I were together.  I knew then that I could take on the world willingly so long as you were by my side.  Now, I doubt highly that I'll be anything of consequence.  Whatever aspirations I might have had, all had revolved around you and the future we would forge together.  The more time I spend on my own I begin to realize why humans aren't meant to be alone.  I hope that you have found the right man.  Someone worthy of your affections.  I hope you will never be alone.  Be it with a husband who can give you all your heart desires, or the many children I hope you have. 

I do not know where the world will take me from here.  It seems pointless to even really bother asking.  My only honest heartfelt prayer, simply to see you again, will probably not be answered.  At some point I'll have to make peace with that, but for now. . . I still love you.  I will always love you.  Until I draw my last breath I will hold the memory of you dear.  So if you ever read this my love, remember me.  Remember the good man I used to be, before anger and despair twisted me up inside.  Until we meet again.

Love always,