Tuesday, September 8, 2015


I really haven't had the heart to write for a long while.  There's been a number of reasons for that.  One is that I had been spending most of my time (at the time) looking for jobs.  The desperate search for work really puts a strain on you and doesn't leave you feeling motivated to write about. . . well anything.  And then there was the whole living situation.  Again, admitting you were living in your fiancé's parent's basement is not something any adult male really wants to admit to.

Now. . . I have to admit that it's over.  Whatever future I had hoped for, whatever plans I'd had, half formed or otherwise are gone.  My fiancé told me in a very mater of fact way that the way things were she couldn't marry me.  The worst part for me is that it seemed from my end to be very suddenly.  Just a week previous we'd had a long talk and we were (I thought) somewhat hopeful about the future.  I was working a temporary job true, but there were more offers on the way and I was going to get my EMT license. . . hopefully that would lead to Paramedic or something along those lines.

I thought things were getting better.  From her end she thought things were getting worse.  The perception of me taking advantage was one that I'd started to try to counter act, but she didn't want to be playing nurse maid to me reminding me of things, essentially being my mother.  I suppose I can see what she meant.  I've been on my own for most of my adult life and have had few mentors, and even fewer people to point out my habits that need to change.

I would have tried to keep going, tried a councilor, really anything to keep the relationship going.  If I had known that it was close to the end, well, if wishes were fishes we'd all be fat.  I could extol all the virtues of our relationship, and all the reasons I had, and still have, to want to keep it going.  What would the point be?

The thing that took me by surprise was just how strongly this all hit me.  Within a few days I had panic attacks.  I couldn't stay still.  I began to cry at random times.  By cry, I mean completely break down into a blubbering mess.  The only thing that would keep me from being a complete wreck was walking all over Otsego county, and working out almost to a dangerous degree.  It did not endear me to her family.  I think her mother most of all had begun to despise me though she'd never admit it.

It all came to a head, I finished what I needed to finish and her father put me up in a motel near the Detroit airport for two days before I flew home.  Now I'm back at my old home.  Now I have to find a reason to keep going on.  I have to find a reason to keep pushing.

For so long I sucked it up and drove on.  This latest blow, was just a blow too many.   I'm not sure how I'll continue towards any semblance of a goal when the only reason I had to strive for that goal is gone.  I love her.  I doubt that matters.  She's made it clear she's moved on.  I really wish I knew what about me is so unloveable.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015


As a followup to my previous post about #GamerGate, I really feel the need to talk about Doxing.  For those not aware, Doxing is the practice of finding a person's personal information and blasting it on message boards.  Pure and simple this is not ok.  I don't care what justification you feel you have, there is absolutely no good that can come of this.

I've seen people justify it by saying that they were guilty of hate speech.  One gentleman said "don't even give me that First Amendment nonsense.  You have every right to say it, and I have every right to find your address and put it out there!"  What's scary is he said it to a fairly large audience that cheered him as he said that.  No!  That's an invasion of privacy.  That's absolutely wrong.

Let us say that an individual is opposed to transgenderism, and says he believes our current method of treatment is feeding the delusion.  Its understandable that maybe there might be some hard feelings there.  It's also understandable that people's reaction to a transgender saying "do you want to go home in an ambulance" might be a bit passionate.  Ok but that might be the end of it.

But then some random guy has the audacity to say that people calling said transgender "classy" don't understand the meaning of the word.  That same transgender releases the information for said random critic on twitter [note: I have a link for the tweets in question but as it shows this man's address I won't post that on an open forum].  It went from light scorn to nuclear option in .02 seconds.

Now let's depart from reality for a second and acknowledge that there are some crazy people out there.  Let's also acknowledge that whenever theres an issue that strains passions, it'll illicit strong reactions.  Maybe the light scorn that the critic had gets blown way out of proportion (like it already has), and someone whose emotions are high decides to act on those high emotions.  We've seen examples of assault, that people think is completely justified because it was "provoked."  We've seen people who thought assassination was perfectly justified (see Lincoln).  How hard is it to imagine someone taking a random tweet WAY out of context and acting on it?

In recent years there's been protests at houses of people of prominence.  Privacy rights seem to have gone right out the window.  I don't know if it began with the NSA, or what, but suddenly people think that this form of harassment is perfectly justified.  That anyone who disagrees with the politically "correct" position must be punished.  When did we in the West begin to think this was ok?  You fear harassment so you'll preempt the harassment by harassing someone?  Why?

Take it from someone whose lived in situations of 0 privacy, privacy is one of those freedoms they don't talk about until it's taken away.  Life can go from hunky dory to insufferable hell in the blink of an eye all because you lose privacy.  There is absolutely NO justification for doxing.  While I'm generally against saying there should be laws about somethings I find doxing so insidious that in this case I'll make an exception.  If its not already, Doxing should absolutely be against the law.  

Monday, July 20, 2015

Thoughts on #GamerGate

I've played games ever since I got an NES and Super Mario/Duck Hunt for christmas as a child.  I've played games for years without ever thinking it was an identity or lifestyle.  Guess I would be called a "gamer" but I'm not as hard core as some folks, and I've always stayed out of the politics of the gaming industry.  I don't really play indie games mostly because I don't have the time in my life to be trying out new games all the time.  I typically find one game I like, immerse myself into it, then move onto another game (with occasional wistful trips back to old favorites).  I like FPS, RTS, and RPGs typically.

So with all that said, I'm passionate about getting good games.  That's why when I heard about #GamerGate, I dived into it with gusto.  I'm both sorry and glad I did.  I'll explain my mixed feelings later, let's start with one simple question; What is #GamerGate aside from a widely used hashtag?  Well it's certainly a scandal (worthy of the "gate" title).  It started with a manifesto of sorts, from a jilted lover.  The manifesto wasn't kind either.  His ex lover was a game developer that had cheated on him with a game journalist to get a good review for her game.

Almost immediately, the responses decided people strongly into two camps in the gaming community.  I'm really not going to get into the back and forth, because it would require you figuring out who is who and even attempting to explain all the back and forth would take hours.  What I found most interesting about the entire debate around #GamerGate, is that the two sides seem to be saying something completely different.  The Pro side is demanding ethics reform in games journalism.  The Anti side is accusing the Pro side of being incredibly sexist and harassing women (in development and gaming).

The disconnect between the two messages is absolutely jarring.  It'd be like talking about China and one person discussing the pollution while the other side discusses the structure of the government.  The back and forth has pretty quickly turned into internet shouting matches.  There were also some incredibly loathsome individuals that emerged.

Perhaps the most ironic part of the whole affair is the Anti side which often complains of harassment, is extremely guilty of the very same.  People have been forced from the internet, and very real world consequences have befallen them.  I've become familiar with terms like SWATing, Doxing, and hell dumping, and it has turned my stomach.  I know death threats aren't typically acted on, but when someone calls your home phone and threatens your children by name over a post you thought was relatively anonymous you can see how far this thing has gone.

I'm not going to get involved in the whole damn thing, other than to say I've come to tacitly support the Pro side.  The more I learn about the Anti side of #GamerGate the less I want to do with them.  Whatever point they might've had has been lost in the morass of various message boards, and it's devolved int accusation and counter accusation.  The Pro side is still pretty consistent with the message that Games Journalism needs to have ethical standards.  Maybe the catalyst wasn't the best in the world, but why would anyone be against ethics reforms in any form of journalism?

There's a lot of money to be made in games.  Its an incredibly lucrative industry.  Some sources suggest the Gaming industry as a whole may make more money in a year than the porn industry.  There's crazy amount of graft that could exist.  The big developing houses could stand to lose huge investments, and indie developers stand to gain unbelievably large amount of money if they land a big hit.  The idea that journalists can be bought with favors, gifts, or sex should stop everyone in their tracks.  What if this were political journalism, or sports?  Would there really be a controversy?  Probably not to the extent that #GamerGate has seen.

I'll finally sum up why I was glad, and sad to delve into the whole controversy.  I was glad for the reason that I was completely unaware of all this going on.  I had my eyes opened to larger issues inside the games industry.  Maybe I may not just look through GameStop in the future, I may look for other places and sources for good games.  I'm sad because I got to see a side of the internet that really there are no words for.  People wishing a person suffering through chemo would have that cancer advance faster.  Organized harassment, calling a SWAT team on someone you disagree with (having police break down your door is in the very least a traumatizing event, at worst it could lead to deaths), releasing personal information and harassing employers and supporters.  Diving into even the surface details of #GamerGate has left me very wary.  I got to see the darker side of the internet, and I'm sorry to report that some of the denizens can be truly twisted.

But as I said, I've come to #GamerGate late in the game.  Whatever it was when it started it isn't that now.  Is it over?  that remains to be seen.  There's no real leader to either side.  There are figureheads that people gravitate towards, but in general this could go on as long as people want.  There have been effects in the mainstream and in the games journalism so it appears that at least on some level the Pro side won, but the Anti side is still going strong too, so where it ends is anyone's guess.  I think I'll just go back to playing Dragon Age.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015


In the Middle East, summer months were always fighting months.  No one but the United states really wanted to fight in winter (and to be completely honest we didn't want to fight either).  Summer though?  It seemed like IEDs, snipers and all sorts of other fun parts of fighting would appear out of nowhere and make your life a real fun time.

Even a brief glance at casualty figures will show you that the summer months were not pleasant for US troops.  Fighting picks up in tempo, routes that had been green only a week earlier are suddenly black, people start dying.  It really starts at the end of May and picks up during June, July and Ramadan.  Those are usually the three hottest times in the ME.

Perhaps it is because of this that myself and so many other veterans report lack of sleep, restlessness, and nightmares during this time of year.  Last night for me was particularly bad.  It was the old one I've never been able to shake.  Harrelson in the truck burning, screaming for help and I'm just feet away unable to do anything.  I know he was dead before the truck started to burn, but still. . . its a thought that haunts my dreams.

I know I'm not alone.  I know I'm not the only one with nightmares, but when you face the long cold night alone, when you experience your worst nightmares over and over again. . . well you tend not to want to sleep even when you're exhausted.

I've been sleeping in short spurts over the last week or so.  a few hours here a few hours there.  It leaves you constantly feeling drained and devoid of energy.  Unfortunately there's nothing to do but suffer through it.  There isn't a sleeping pill I've yet tried that actually works and will knock me out for a full 8 hours.  I doubt that there ever will be, and if there was I wouldn't want to get addicted to it.

I'll deal.  It is what it is and I can't really fix it.  I'll wake up with a start.  Remember some horrible dream that leaves me shaken and go on about my life until I can get back asleep again.  That's just the way of things for the summer months.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Let Us Talk of Graves, of Worms, of Epitaphs

The 12th of July.  For many it is an insignificant date.  For me, well it's a reminder that war is a confusing condition.  That innocent and guilty are hard to tell in a shooting war.  As the events of 12 July 2007 fade into the grey fog of history.  The heat of the day has faded, as has some of the furor surrounding the events that occurred in a small district of New Baghdad.

I've talked at length as to what happened that day.  I've written essays, and accounts.  I've compiled eyewitness testimony and documentary evidence.  Despite that people who were never involved in anything to do with what happened that day have lectured me, someone who was actually there, on what happened.  They've told me what soldiers on the ground or soldiers pulling overwatch felt.  People who never put on an IBA have told me all about my motivations, not realizing the person they're talking to was actually there.  

At one point I had the distinctly odd experience of someone pointing to two pictures that actually had me in it to emphasize a point.  It kind of took me out of the argument for a moment, and I looked at the person, and asked them if that was a joke.  Needless to say I had him zoom in on the picture that actually showed my face and told him clearly he didn't know what he was talking about.  That particular individual was somewhat shaken, but still stuck to his guns.  So let us sit upon the ground and tell the sad tale of the death of soldiers.

In war, information is always chaotic.  Those making decisions, or reacting to the situations presented rarely have the best view.  A rifleman on the ground may see something suspicious, but be unable to make the company commander aware of it because he is busy trying to coordinate his company.  But, say people, there's video.  Yes.  There's a video, but what the video doesn't show is at least as important as what it does.  You won't see the soldiers on a rooftop firing a grenade launcher at the reporter.  You won't see how utterly impossible it is to tell who is inside a van from a 5 inch screen while flying in a helicopter.  You won't see the contacts that happened around the event, or the reason the TIC call was made prior to the gunships arrival.

What's most important, is that you con't tell what individuals did that day.  You can't tell what was said or felt.  You can't tell who is a medic, or an infantryman.  You can't tell who is a FiSTer and who is an intel attachment.  If you know what to look for you may be able to tell officers and NCOs, and even tell them apart, but rarely does anybody that hasn't lived that life be that perceptive.  There is a video that offers a quick snapshot of a much larger fight.  It's ugly.  It's to look at.  But ultimately the real tragic part of the video is that rather than people trying to understand what happened they they to use this video as justification for their world view.

Were the soldiers heartless?  Is killing like a video game?  Not in the slightest.  This video didn't prove that soldiers are thugs anymore that it proved that we're saints.  It proves that in war, sometimes "getting it right" is next to impossible.  The Apache gunner keeps shooting even as one person flees, but what you miss are the hundreds of suicide vests, and the harsh reality that with insurgency, mercy is rarely a boon.  You also see a judgement call.  Was it a mistake to shoot the van?  Not entirely.  But again I've spoken on that to death.

I'd like to think that in the end everyone was able to move on.  Truth is I think people are still dying because of this day.  I know at least one has committed suicide, and I'm afraid to ask how many more have.  I think for my part I'd like to put this day to bed.  I don't want to talk about it anymore.  I don't want to defend my actions that day to people who wouldn't understand the first thing about warfare.  I don't need to justify myself or my beliefs to anyone.  I was there.  I saw what I saw.  You can read exactly what I saw in the 2nd Bde 2 ID official 15-6 investigation.  You can read it if you want.

Most of you that had your passions stirred will go on.  Most of you have already forgotten it.  I won't.  I'll live with the memories of that day forever.  Its just what happens, but I think it is time and past time to put this episode to rest.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

I Fear For My Republic

For me, patriotism isn't about frenzied flag waving.  It's not about frantic attempts to prove that being a disrespectful jerk is covered under "Free Speech."  Patriotism is not about going to war for your nation or defending it against critics.  For me patriotism is a deep and abiding love.  You have to love your country, hold true to its ideals even when those ideals aren't currently popular.

America is seen by some a racist bigoted nation that is a giant bully on the world stage.  They see the "post-American" world as a good thing.  Some people would do anything to tare at the very seems of the fabric of our society determined to prove in our nakedness that we are the vile filthy sight they claim.  The very people who deny the beauty of America are the same people who claim beauty in the violent orgies of mobs.  

We were never intended to be a truly Democratic country.  Votes matter.  That's important.  But if we voted every week our political landscape would change like seasons in an Ohio spring day.  Republic was there to give us stability.  There was method to the "madness" behind the structure of our Republic.  

Even the Electoral College, much bemoaned and greatly derided, has a purpose.  There is a method to the madness.  Imagine we just went by the popular vote.  Then a president could focus his or her sole attention on the cities and completely ignore the rest of the country.  Most of the usable land area is used for farming.  America produces a noticeable percentage of the world's food.  If you focused only on what the cities want, the farms, and the way of life that supports them would be left to rot.  You also have to imagine what would happen if a presidential candidate only focused on a geographic region.  What if the South had enough votes to outvote the rest of the country?  

The problem is it's more than just the structure of the government.  Our very history is under attack.  I could point out the recent flap about the Confederate Battle Flag, but there is too much ignorance on both sides.  For me the greatest example of this is the future removal of Alexander Hamilton from the $10 bill in favor of a woman.  What woman?  We don't know right now, some woman, you can vote on that if you want.  The point is YAY WOMEN!  The problem is they're removing one of the ultimate symbols of what it is to be an American in favor of some vague amorphous desire to promote "women."  Why?  Because her sexual organs are more in vogue than Hamilton's?  If you really want a woman on US currency why not ditch Andrew Jackson?  Jackson may have started an "era" but it was not a good era, and his actions with Native American resettlement alone should be reason enough to remove him from the currency.   

Alexander Hamilton is a great exemplar of American ideals.  He was born into poverty, a bastard child whose mother died when he was 13.  He taught himself most of the skills he would need, then on his own left his home in the West Indies for America.  When war came to his new home in America he volunteered for a New York militia company, and taught himself military tactics.  His unit called "the Hearts of Oak" stole artillery pieces while under effective fire from a British ship, and became an artillery battery afterwards.  Later when he became Washington's aid, he was treated like one of Washington's (many) surrogate sons.   

Hamilton might have ended his career there, a bright spot in the Revolution, yet, Alexander Hamilton became one of the most fundamental reasons America exists at all.  Without Hamilton, at the right place at the right time, the Constitution might not exist.  Hamilton and Madison were the chief architects for the compromises between the Virginia and New Jersey plans.  As if that weren't enough, he set up the national bank, and oversaw the assumption of the state's debt.  Yes, his personality was arrogant and often abrasive, even to people who were on his side, and he had a rather bad habit of sleeping with other people's wives.  All of the Founders had character flaws.  Their humanity makes them more compelling not less.  So why would we want to remove him from our currency?  

What of our society?  We spend so much time focusing on the surface details of a person.  Social Justice Warriors seem determined to put everyone in a box.  To prove that narrower and narrower classifications of people.  Your value is less and less about what you do, or what adversity you can overcome, and more about how you are "oppressed."  Notional chains seem to bind, and imaginary barbs lash out at people who seem to be in a constant state of hysteria.  The slightest wrong word will set them screaming crying wailing.  I'm all for reasonable accommodation but what happens when the accommodations become unreasonable?  

I can't possibly know what a person's desired pronoun is.  Hell I can't even tell when a person is anything other than the simple "male" and "female."  I also have to tell you as a medical professional even if you've had all the surgeries, and take all the hormones, it doesn't matter if you identify as the opposite sex, you are still at your core, whatever gender you started out as.  This is a truth.  It might be harsh, and I might seem uncaring.  The truth is quite the opposite.  I have the greatest sympathy for a person that feels like they are a woman trapped in a man's body or vice versa, but no amount of surgery or hormone therapy can change what you are. 

Race too seems to be a box that people want to be pigeon holed into.  How does your ancestry change you?  Do you experience discrimination because of your skin color, or because of how you project yourself?  I keep getting told to "check my privilege."  What privilege?  In what way do I have more privilege than another person?  I can't see it, or understand it.  I'll grant that there are racists out there, and I've run into them, I won't deny that there are people out there that will judge you based solely on your race.  But the important question is are these people isolated or part of a larger trend?  If they're isolated individuals, which I suspect, than you deal with the situations as it arises.  If not, if you truly believe that the problem is institutional, then you need to point towards more than outcome.  Correlation is not causation.  

I fear for my Republic.  Low information voters don't even know the basics of US history.  Our culture is under attack from all angles.  Our institutions are becoming bloated masses that seek more power than they need.  Whats worse is that the people who are losing their liberty are cheering them on.  Benjamin Franklin was asked what kind of government they'd created in Philadelphia.  He responded "A Republic.  If you can keep it."  Like so many of the Founders he knew that every generation must maintain liberty.  That the successes of one generation do not automatically guarantee the success of the next.  This Republic will quickly fall to ruin if we do not take ownership and possession.  If we do nor remember why saying "I am an American" is a source of pride for so many, than we will soon fall into all our scattered boxes and bicker incessantly.  As Abraham Lincoln said "If distraction be our lot, than we ourselves must be its author."

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

After M*A*S*H

I have to admit that one of my favorite shows was M*A*S*H.  Even before I joined the army, I laughed, and at times, cried at the antics victories and defeats of the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital.  When Radar announced the death of Henry Blake, I cried.  When Major Frank "Ferret Face"Burns was mistaken for a dead body I laughed uproariously.  Captain Benjamin Franklin "Hawkeye" Pierce had a way to reach into me and catalyze complex emotions that I couldn't explain.  

I wanted to be an Army doctor because of M*A*S*H.  Failing that, I became a medic, and let me tell you, they captured the essence of the US Army Medical Corps.  The antics, the drama, and the personalities of the 4077th, might as well have been ripped right from my experiences in the Army.  I've seen every single episode of M*A*S*H. 

What I was not expecting was to run across After M*A*S*H.  Someone posted the pilot episode to a debate board I occasionally haunt.  It was surprising.  I laughed, but there were a lot of issues that somehow seem ripped right from today.  Post Traumatic Stress, terrible VA managers, stickler administrators, even a Korean War Veteran that wanted to commit suicide.  Tell me what you think about it.  Personally I wish I could find a higher quality video, and I wish that the show had been given more than one season, but. . . if wishes were fishes. 

Tell me what you think.  Be on the lookout for Arliss Howard, the actor that played Private "Cowboy" Parker in Full Metal Jacket. 

Saturday, July 4, 2015


I wrote a little poem for the 4th of July, and I hope you all like it.


The craziest fireworks I ever did see,
were the ones that were aimed at me.

I was a young man in I-roc,
and let me tell you it was quite a shock,

There were all sorts of colors and sounds,
and I thought "holy shit those are live rounds!"

They came with a terrific fury,
and so bright left my sight blurry.

Orange tracers lept out to meet green,
hoping to silence the enemy unseen.

Rockets whistled and banged,
as we responded with mortars hanged.

Back and forth ranged the fireflies,
as I silently prayed nobody dies.

I worried for the safety of my nice butt,
as the explosions rang in my gut.

It was a long night that was for sure,
and afterwards I felt a little less pure.

see here's the thing I want you to know,
as you celebrate the rocket's red glow.

I don't want you to huff and sigh,
I want you to enjoy the 4th of July.

I might jump at the odd whistle or blast,
but I want you to enjoy those fireworks to the last.

I guess what I'm trying to say,
is happy Independence Day.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Auroran Musings

I have been incredibly flustered lately.  The lack of job continues to weigh on me and looking at the debts I have or soon will have, it is enough to drive me batty.  Indeed today, my significant other had to grab me when I was about ready to pound the computer I was working on.  The source of my ire?  A website associated with a national chain wanted me to reenter all the information that was on the resume they asked me to upload, and wanted answers to questions I couldn't answer or was trapped by.  In the process of the move a lot of things were left in the air.  It was not an orderly transition at all.

Perhaps worst of all I've gone from having at least some control over my life, if only to say "you know what? I think I'm going to get Subway, not [insert fast food chain]."  I am literally at the mercy of those around me.  Should I at any point out stay my welcome I am hosed.  More than that I really don't like being this way.  I hate that I have no control.  I loathe feeling like a bum every day, and perhaps worst of all facing the ever growing list of things I need to do is filling me with a sense of vaguely defined panic.  I suppose it is akin to a blind man sensing a tsunami about to hit.

My significant other is great though.  She realized the problem, having gone through the exact same thing herself.  She was calm, compassionate and understanding, and perhaps just by being there she helped.  A lot.  So at midnight even though she desperately needed to get to sleep she took me to the hot tub, because she sensed I needed it, and as I sat outside I happened to look up and see clouds that weren't quite right.  Clouds that moved too fast and I realized what I was seeing.  An Aurora Borealis.  In my opinion it is one of the most beautiful natural phenomena known to man, and like a camp fire it can be truly mesmerizing.

While sitting in the hot tub, my fiancé said all the things a guy ever wants to here.  She had faith in me.  Confidence that our struggles would make us stronger in the end.  She told me that her sisters have had the same struggles.  One sister, if they make it to March will be the first full year that she and her husband have been employed since they knew each other.  Her other married sister hasn't had stable finances in the six years that they've been married, and her husband's current job has him gone three days a week.  Still...  I'm starting off as low as I can get.  Its scary, and the thought of being married with the kind of financial troubles we have now. . .

We didn't stay in that long, though I would have liked to.  It was the first peaceful moment I've felt since I don't know when, but she really did have to get to sleep, and I needed to at least try.  As I looked up one last time before going inside I was struck with a thought.  After the first full day of fighting at Fredericksburg, which saw a terrific slaughter, the Union troops were hunkered down behind fortifications of their fallen brethren, and happened to look up and see an Aurora.  It's rare to see one so far south as Fredericksburg Virginia, and on this particular night after a day of sheer hell, it was a sight that robbed most men of their powers of speech.  That something so beautiful could follow something so ugly touched those men to their very souls.  One Union soldier even said that it was as if the souls of their comrades were watching over them.

With that thought, I realized, I've survived a lot.  My problems, for all the angst they have caused me are not nearly as bad as those of a Union soldier on the night of December 14th 1862.  For me I can enjoy this beauty without fear of someone shooting me.  And, if the souls of those I've lost are looking down on me in this Aurora, than hopefully they'll be saving me a cold one when my times comes to join them.

Monday, June 22, 2015

About the "Confederate Flag"

The "Confederate flag" means a lot of things to a lot of people.  So some it is a symbol of nobility, a struggle against an oppressive regime.  To others it is a sign of absolutely despicable acts of racism.  I won't get into the merits of either side except to note the people on both sides are incredibly passionate about it.  I will also say that I have seen black men sporting stars and bars paraphernalia, which at the time I found odd, and many will find odd to this day.  The original flag, dubbed the "Stars and Bars" looks nothing like the "Confederate flag" we know today

So let's start off with a simple what IS the Stars and Bars?  Well first you really need to understand the early days of the Confederate States of America it was all largely done out of a hat (sometimes quite literally).  No one had actually panned for the cessation, or setting up a formal government after they had left the Union.  In their haste to exit most of the Confederacy hadn't even agreed on what the new government should look like let alone what their flag should look like.  As the war began almost immediately after cessation the armies in the field were hopelessly confusing.  In Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson's brigade there were many troops that showed up in blue uniforms of their state militias, there were cadets from VMI in their grey cadet uniforms, and even a unit that showed up in Revolutionary War apparel.  This is to say nothing of the flags.  There were dozens, and no sense to it at all.

Indeed, during the first battle of Bull Run (or Manassas depending on which side you were on) there was so much confusion between the Confederate troops carrying the Stars and Bars, and the Union troops carrying the Stars and Stripes that at one point Jackson tried to rally troops that weren't his.  It seems extraordinary, but the confusion was so great that it was nearly a disaster for both sides.  After the battle General Beauregard demanded that something be done.  Even though the Confederate congress rejected a "battle flag" specifically for the troops Beauregard went around them and used the war department to designate a "peace" or "parade" flag, and a flag for battle.  What came out was a square flag (not rectangular as is commonly depicted) of a blue X with thirteen stars in a red background.  It was distinct enough that it helped cut down the confusion, and for the remainder of the war the Army of Northern Virginia (the main Confederate army in the eastern theater) used it.

The "official" confederate flag remained however.  At least until 1863.  At that point a new flag was adopted owing to the sentiment that the flag was too like the Union flag.  What followed were a series of two flags, both rather goofy looking and neither really popular.  The first was simply the confederate battle flag on a white background.  The second was a vertical red stripe at the end of the flag.  As the political history of the Confederacy is not often studied (or is massively dwarfed by the military history) the history of the Confederate flag is lost, and many assume that the battle flag was the Confederate flag.

I believe that it is an important part of our past, and should not be consigned to the dust bin.  I thing the confederate battle flag should fly.  With a caveat.  It should fly over reenactments.  I think there is a middle ground, where we can honor the courage and sacrifice of Americans, regardless of side, and also at the same time recognize the wrong done.  Unfortunately, at the time, passions are too high for this to happen.  One can only hope that the blood pressure subside enough that we can take a more realistic look at our history.  Accept both the good and the bad, and learn from both.  Like it or not the Confederate States of America is a large part of American history, and without the CSA, the USA would not be the country it is today.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Dear Navy, Air Force, and Marines

WE CAME FIRST!!!  Seriously, the US Army was here first, and you can argue all you want that the Navy, and Marine Corps did there parts in later wars, there would not be an America if the US Army hadn't done so well, despite being nothing more than a bunch of country bumpkins, when facing the most powerful military in the world (at the time).

Really, let's take a moment on this, the 240th birthday of the United States Army to give props where props are due.  Who fought in all major theaters of WWII, and conducted a majority of amphibious assaults?  That's right the Army.  I get it, the Marines have a right to be proud of what you've done.  No one will deny you have that right, but guys, seriously?  You act like you were the only ones in WWI, the Pacific, Chosin, Hue, and the drive into Baghdad.  That's getting a little annoying.  Actually we'd love hit you upside with an arty tube once you get going.  It's not personal, but you guys had got to knock off the "we're the only ones fighting" crap.  Even in your most notable battles the Army was near by or supporting you.

And yes, the Navy.  Love you guys.  But lately you've lacked that luster.  The sheer brilliance that you once claimed, has lost its shine.  I understand.  Budget cuts suck.  Lately you've been trying to replace your old ships, and get shiny new toys.  I truly understand the desire.  I also understand that you've been setting unrealistic standards.  You've got people getting fired for minor things.  Corrective training is a good thing.  Accidents are going to happen.  stop treating accidents as if someone peed on the admiral's dog, and start treating them as teachable moments.  Like I said, I love you guys.  Even if you can be insufferable at times.

Air Force. . . oh where do I even begin.  First off. . . GUYS.  MILITARY BARING.  I hate to say it this way but damn.  Hearing junior enlisted personnel refer to light colonels on a first name basis… really?  Your job is to blast the enemy out of the sky, shut down their electronics, and blow the ever loving hell out of their stuff with a wide assortment of bombs.  Can you at least act like your job in the military is part of that end?  While we're on the subject of blowing shit up, what gives with the A-10?  I get that you, like the Navy want new toys, but have you ever serious stopped and asked why so many people are rallying to keep the A-10?  Want to retire the B-1?  You'll probably not hear a peep.  Maybe you ought to ask why this airframe has so much popularity.

To my fellow Soldiers, sit back, drink some beer, and raise a toast.  Past Present and Future, we can be proud of our Army.  We've put our blood sweat and tears into making our organization top shelf.  You can deploy the Army to disasters, wars, construction sites, hell I'm sure there's a few missions the brass hasn't even thought up and I'm sure you'll be good at it.  Take a moment of pride and enjoy that.


Friday, May 29, 2015

Strange Priorities

Sometimes the way things should run, or the way things should be don't match the way things are.  Every once in a while I run across one of those incidents and I find myself unable to really get past that.  It seems little wonder that there is so much dysfunction in our society when the programs to help people get a leg up seem designed to fail.  

What am I talking about?  Well recently, after losing my job, my fiancé made a strong case for moving in with her at her parent's house.  This would of course be temporary, because I'd immediately start job hunting, and house hunting.  Jobs, well they're apparently not as easy to find as I thought.  I have yet to get a single call back despite an ungodly number of applications put in.  Housing. . . well I don't exactly have a security deposit and first and last month's rent just laying around do I?

Enter some of the Veteran specific programs.  At first I was blown away that some of these even existed, and I was also having a bit of an issue accepting all the various forms of help offered.  After all I wasn't really Audie Murphy, I topped out at E-4, and aside from a CMB don't really have any awards to speak of.  I'm not that special, but here were programs to help me get a degree, get a certification, get a house, get a job, hell one of the programs it almost sounded like the government would bribe the company to hire me.

One of the things that particularly pinged my spider sense was the Housing support.  Now for the record I think that we should do everything to help homeless people.  Period.  Unless a person really does want to live in the woods under a tent, every effort should be made to secure them a clean habitation that they can call their own.  However, the process of qualifying me for these programs struck me as. . . not right.  For one, I'm technically homeless.  I understand living in my fiancé's parents' basement is by no stretch of the imagination ideal, I do have a place to call home for the time being, but, according to the government I'm homeless. That. . . really doesn't sit well with me.  

Adding to the not rightness, if I were to add my fiancé's income to my own we would actually make too much to qualify for assistance.  This kind of bothers me, because my income alone would be nowhere near adequate to sustain a home.  Even if I got a semi decent paying job tomorrow, I probably wouldn't be able to sustain the home by myself.  The real screwy part is that her income isn't enough to move out either.  Based solely on her income she could not move out today.  This makes no sense.  I'll get help getting a place I may not be able to pay rent on?  In order to "work the system" I have to get the job after I get housing, and there's something about this that seems in a macrocosm to be a recipe for disaster.  

Yes I have no doubt once I get a place, and a job my fiancé and I could support it together no problem, but in order to get that place I need to be so bad off that I probably couldn't have supported the move.  At one point I was even given a story of a Veteran who needed help getting a place but didn't qualify because he wasn't screwed up enough.  As an added bonus I need to eventually get a letter from my fiancé's parents acting as an eviction notice.  I know that they'd let me stay till I was on my feet.  I know there's no animosity, but thats what the program requires.  It makes me uneasy.  My integrity is one of the few things I can claim, and this requirement makes me feel compromised.  Everyone else is shrugging and saying "that's the system" but to me there's more to it than that.  

It really makes you wonder, how many people need this program more than me, but can't use it because they make too much, or aren't hurt enough?  How many people served honorably but just never deployed, now can't get the help they need?  It made me feel positively like a crook.  I had an image of Hamburgler in my mind, sneaking away with a bag of money and keys to a place while some other poor sap was working a dead end job living in a crack house because that's all he could afford.  Now maybe that's a touch dramatic but the feeling stuck with me.  As if to add insult to injury it was strongly suggested that I get food stamps. 

I'd almost rather the State give me a loan.  Say "you don't have enough for your security deposit, ok, here is $XXX.XX, we'll give this to you now and repayment can be deferred for 1 year."  That makes tons of sense to me.  That way it's not a hand out it's a hand up.  I don't feel like I'm lying, and the income requirement could be way more flexible.  That way the Veterans that don't qualify for the emergency programs get some form of assistance, and don't feel like beggars in the process.  The State would have a vested interest in positive outcomes, and the individual would have a vested interest in earning more money.  Win, win.  Right?

In the end, perhaps the hardest part of this whole ordeal is asking for help.  Yes my job was a dead end job.  Yes, after losing it, I had zero plans.  But in my entire life, I've never been on food stamps.  I've never been on welfare, or unemployment.  I took that as a point of pride.  If I'd received a government benefit it was something that I'd earned, and because I had earned it I had no guilt or qualms.  Admitting that I failed, that I'd gone so long without a support system, and just could not go any further, that really stings.  Still does.  I'm glad these programs are here to help, but, as a person, that I need them at all feels like admitting defeat.  Still.  I may be down, but I'm not out yet.  

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

What a Strange World We Live In

In the past few months I've had time to think about a lot of things.  One of the things I've thought most about is our society, and how it hardly resembles the one I grew up in.  Things I used to take for granted, or things that I never even bothered to worry about are now big issues.  I thought I'd share some of these observations.  

Fire Marshals wearing bullet proof vests: It happened during one of the various festivals that happen around WVU, but I ran into a Fire Marshal that I have known off and on for a number of years.  Talking to him about his job at one of these festivals I was shocked to notice that he was wearing a tactical vest underneath the outer garments of his office.  

I was rather shocked because this is the FIRE MARSHAL.  This is the guy that walks into a building and buzz kill though it might be prevents a major disaster from happening.  Too many people at the party could lead to a panic in the case of a fire.  I was absolutely shocked to learn that in the course of his duties people had actually tried to attack him.   Apparently in the state and around the country several people in his position have been killed in the course of doing their duty to prevent death by fire. 

What happened to the days when we recognized that indeed, getting into a fight with someone that was trying to save your life was a bad idea.  What happened to the respect we used to hold for the people whose job it is to save us from our own stupidity?  This isn't a police officer trying to bust up a drug ring.  The reality of this, that now even EMS are wearing stab proof vests leave me feeling that we've crossed some invisible line, and our edifices really are crumbling.  As a child I'd never even heard of a person attacking fire or EMS, now it seems like this is a common occurrence. 

Local courthouse is now a prison: I got the full on TSA treatment the other day when I went to pay my taxes on my car.  They stopped just short of feeling me up, but I went through the whole nine yards.  I couldn't understand this.  It's not like this court would heard weighty cases this is a minor (though growing) municipality, the majority of cases they see are DUI, and underage intoxication.  What was even more alarming was outside of the actual entrance checkpoint which had several officers and a camera system that would make big brother jealous, there were actually checkpoints in every hallway of desks with armed officers.  

After asking one why the increased security, wondering aloud if a specific threat had been made, he related to me that in fact this was a statewide program, because people were entering the building with guns, and apparently there had been. . . incidents.  I was flabbergasted at first but as he explained it, the situation made more sense.  Courthouses are places people are typically not happy.  The court is a target of ire, and anyone running around in high emotions with a loaded gun could be a recipe for a really bad day for all involved.  What I didn't understand is why people could have possibly thought that there would be any different outcome.  

Contracts about social media: recently, I was talking to a friend who had graduated from the law school here at WVU last year.  I was asking him about what it was like practicing law in the state of West Virginia, and he related to me something that I thought was absurd at first.  Apparently every new client that his firm takes has to sign a contract with the law firm basically saying they won't go on social media and talk about the case.  At first I thought this was absolutely laughable.  Do you seriously as a lawyer have to tell you're client to stay off Facebook?  

Unfortunately my friend related to me in the same details I would give about patient care that in fact it is very much a requirement.  Apparently at some point a case my friend was working on went belly up when his client got on social media and rather foolishly bragged that they were going to get a big paycheck from their employer.  Choice words were said to describe their boss, and in a rather spectacularly bad idea actually named names, and said very unpleasant things.  The case was going to settle out of court, but, well the short version is the case died a very spectacular death.  I thought this was a hilarious incident of indiscretion.  

This couldn't possibly be a common occurrence I said, but then he showed me posts from Reddit, and Facebook groups that went from hilarious to positively sad.  Apparently its a real thing.  Lawyers, have had to deal with both civil and criminal cases where their clients have let loose an epically stupid tirades on social media.  In one case a lawyer related that their client was bragging about how good they (the lawyer) was, then proceeded to admit to the very crime she was accused of.  I have to say that I have a new found level of respect for those that practice law.  Much like the medical profession, they seem to spend an inordinate amount of time dealing with the stupidity of the people their working for.  

I wish I could say that this is more than just random musings but it seems like our society really is stuck on stupid.  As we seem to drift ever closer to a precipice, I wonder what new insanity will emerge to show us how much we as a society are decaying.  What new mundane thing will suddenly need to be spelled out?  What new safety measure will become mandatory when even five years ago it would have been laughable.  I don't know, and I really don't want to find out.  

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The End of an Era

On May 1st, my last unit, 2nd Battalion 16th Infantry Regiment will case it's colors for the last time, and the Dragon Brigade (4th IBCT 1st Infantry Brigade) will be that much closer to inactivation.  It was perhaps inevitable once sequestration began that 4/1 would be one of the brigades targeted, after all the only reason 4/1 exists at all is that at the height of Operation Iraqi Freedom the Army was desperate for maneuver brigades, now that the war is over (for now) the brigade which was assembled and trained at break neck speed is quietly going away.

There's something bittersweet about my old unit casing it's colors and inactivating.  I know that units change all the time.  Units go from outstanding to piss poor in a heartbeat then right back to stellar all based on the movement of NCOs and officers in and out of a unit.  The 2-16 I knew probably doesn't resemble the 2-16 that exists now.  The names will be different, perhaps the traditions will as well, but there's a part of me that always felt that some small piece of me was with 2-16.  No matter what adventures the Army sent the "Rangers" on, I always followed closely, and felt trepidation and concern for "my" unit.

I feel rather like Im taking a favorite dog to the vet one final time.  Yeah, we had some great times didn't we?  But now your time has come and it's time to say goodbye.  There are no tears, at least not yet.  I'm sure that if I actually make it to the ceremony, there will be.  Perhaps the hardest thing for me to face is that, in my mind at least, as long as 2-16 was still around guys like PFC Craig, PFC Harrelson, SFC Doster, or even Holmes weren't truly dead.  The battalion carried a piece of them with it.  Now that the Battalion is soon to be a ghost itself, it makes me feel like maybe those guys truly are gone.