Archive for the ‘General’ Category

I figured out a long time ago that no matter what facet of the job force you belong to, there are certain times throughout the year in which those careers demand more of you than at others.  Occasionally, you do not get to enjoy certain days that other folks do, because the field you are working in supplies something worthwhile to the majority.  Holidays or not, somethings need to be done, they are vital to maintaining our infrastructure, and other things the market demands that they be open and provide specials and sales in honor of said special days.

For many years, I sat eating a holiday meal off of one of those paper trays that looks like a weaker version of a T.V. dinner tray.  Horrible pressed versions of turkey, powdered mash potatoes, lab created gravy, powdered cider made in a canteen cup, dry lemon pound cake, or, if luck would have it poppy seed pound cake.  Yep, many a holiday spent away from home eating some version of a pre- packaged meal with my brothers and sisters.  Maybe it is too many years of brainwashing and camaraderie while scarfing down those meals, but I cannot figure out what the uproar is over retailers being open this evening and requiring their people to work (I did just join the retail world), after all, they would not do it if there were not lines of people stacked up ready to wreak havoc upon the carefully laid out establishments in order to get a once per year deal.

Six P.M. this evening I will get my introduction to the mind of the consumer as the Loss Prevention Manager for a major retailer’s store.  As I try to maintain safe shopping and working conditions, while trying to catch the sticky fingered acts of someone who just cannot keep their hands off of costume jewelry and the other impulse items laid out throughout the store.  You know what I mean, all those little items you would never think of buying 364 days per year, but just cannot resist getting three of because of their uber-low pricing and “buy 2 get 1 free” stickers.

Don’t get mad at these retail corporations for providing what the consumers demand.  Quit talking shit about stores that you are going to visit the Saturday after Black-Friday anyway.  If you want to get mad about these stores being open, get mad at the masses of people, in long lines surrounding stores and malls everywhere, waiting for the gates to lift and the locks to click open so they can storm the gates of retail like they are the beaches of Normandy and then it turns into a Call of Duty “free for all” session with one against the other in competition for a Keurig 2.0, the Door-Buster savings on a T.V. model that will be the same price in three months as it is today when it is no longer the latest and greatest.  No, do not get mad at my bosses and CEOs of the multitude of retail establishments that will be opening this evening, get mad at the everyday people who will demonstrate their demons that lurk inside of them in pursuit of the ultimate deal.

Despite the Supreme Court’s decision that essentially, corporations are people too, they really are not.  Unlike living, breathing people, you cannot shame them, they know no embarrassment for the activities they do.  The consumer however, that is where you can lay down the shame.  You see, if the consumers do not show up, the doors will not open, and there will be no reason for employees to come to work.

Do not cry out in support of us poor employees being forced to work by the man, I personally could care less.  Let’s break down what this is really about, because it is not about people working on Thanksgiving: it is not a religious holiday; we spent most of the subsequent years after the supposed combined dinner of Pilgrims and Indians trying to eradicate the savage anyway; only in the last 100 years or so have turkeys become a commercially viable poultry product; and no-one besides my mother likes cranberry sauce.  What this is really about is people not wanting to give up on their excuse to stuff their already bloated carcasses to the point of immobility while they sit around burping and farting during the Thanksgiving Day football game.  The only effort being put forth from their corpulent meat sacks is the amount of thought it takes to figure out how they can choke down one more piece of pumpkin pie and if they have finally moved their personal health and well being to the point that they now qualify for a free Rascal scooter, all while waxing in white trash eloquence about the poor state of affairs of the world and how the country has truly gone to shit, meanwhile they have just sucked down enough calories to embarrass Gilbert Grape’s mother.

I hope that I end up with some interesting stories from this evening and the store has a great night, after all the majority of yearly retail receipts are taken in over the course of the next six weeks.  Just like my last career, there are certain days of the year that I am going to have to consider not my own, this is just one of them, after all, the market and the consumers that drive it, demand it.

Hail And Farewell

Posted: October 13, 2014 in General
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This is a pretty heavy week for me.  21 years after enlisting in the Army I will be retiring.  My ceremony is this Wednesday and I will have a small circle of family with me and as many of my co-workers who are available to share the moment with.  My wife, kids and parents have never been to a ceremony that I have been a part of and I am super excited that they will get to be a part of my very last one.  I will still technically be on active duty until December 31st, but for all intents and purposes October 18th will begin my new life.

The military is steeped in tradition and the retirement ceremony is the last send-off of someone who is culminating one career and ready to move on to the next one.  I am fortunate that the organization I currently work for allows us to be recognized individually for our retirements.  This is not so for most of the rest of the Army.  Generally, they do a few retirees at one time so as to maximize the amount of troops that can show up for them.  I remember standing in several formations for retirement ceremonies during my lower enlisted careers for people I did not know, we just happened to be the ceremony company at the time.  While each retiree got our brightest spit-shines, stiffly starched uniforms, and perfectly clean and serviceable kit, it always felt a bit impersonal to me that someone who has put in that much time was not able to share it in the same way I will get to this week.

I have had plenty of time to reflect during my trips between my old home and new one.  Four and a half hours in a car allows for plenty of time for the mind to wander.  As sad as this is for me to bring this chapter to a close, I have to say it has been one awesome ride and I could not ask for a better place to close out my career than where I am right now.  When I started this journey two decades ago I never thought that I would stay in this long, nor did I ever believe I would be able to work where I do and do the things I have done.  I began with the idea of simply making something of myself and getting off the rocky path that I was heading down.  I never dreamed that rocky path would lead me where I was and that I would get to walk it with the best the Army has to offer.

I have made many friends over the years.  Some have drifted away naturally as they left the Army or went on to new duty locations.  Some I have had the privilege of working with for a very long time.  We have served together, worked together, lost comrades together and helped patch each other up in more ways than one over the years.  I have been fortunate to become awesome at my trade because I have been able to work with peers that made me better because they were better than everyone else.  The last 10 years have been spent working alongside true masters of their trade and this has very little to do with our ability to apply martial skills in combat.  That, is just a small part of the job.  I have been able to work with team mates that excel  so well at their own little slice of the pie.  They are innovators, creators and I have been blessed with extremely good fortune to be a part of that and add my own contributions to our successes  This is as close as I will ever come to a “tell-all” and it has nothing to do with the dirty details and secrets of the community.  It is simply about the men and women who have gotten the hard things done and will continue to well in to the future.  They deserve all the respect our country has to offer them and they certainly will have my eternal gratitude.

I have grown over the years, and not just at my waistline.  I have learned the difference between being a hot head and physically acting out, and, evaluating what is around me and responding appropriately.  I became a leader while being surrounded by leaders.  I learned to make decisions and live with the results, and I have learned that sometimes living with those results will be a daily struggle.  I have not grown my shallow pool of empathy but I have learned to simply accept; it may not be for me to understand what someone is going through, that does not mean that they are not going through something.

I have learned to care.  Often people have a media driven image of people in the Special Operations community as uncaring, wanton killers; this could not be further from the truth.  You train to be perfect and to adapt when the plan goes awry, as it always does, but each action has consequences and an infinite number of good or bad outcomes as it plays out.  Those things add up and if you do not care, you will not recognize when someone’s bucket is full and you surely will not recognize it when your own is overflowing and raining down on those around you.

The greatest thing I have learned is to appreciate what I have.  I have great parents who gave me a work ethic and appreciation for life that I was to grown in the Army.  I have a beautiful wife with whom I have shared the extreme ups and downs associated with a man in my chosen profession.  I have some awesome children who have turned out pretty well considering their dad has been part-time for most of their lives.  I have a wonderful new home that I will retire to, people I will stay friends with through the course of my life, men and women who have my undying respect and admiration for what they do on a daily basis and deeds will go relatively unknown.  I also have an open road in front of me to start out on my next adventure, most of which I will travel with those closest to me.

As I close out one volume I begin another.  This blog has served me well to navigate the last several years and I hope it continues as I start anew.  Until the next book begins.

MBW AR

Pain and Loss

Posted: September 27, 2014 in General
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I am a firm believer that just like most things in life, the way we deal with loss and death is firmly rooted in our childhood.  We can later in life emulate the examples we see, whether that be with hysteria, isolation, coldness, or any other color in the spectrum that grief shows itself.  Exposure to death at a young age is one of the foundational stones as we construct our lives.  Generally, we learn about death by just a few common ways, there are some notable exceptions, particularly given the last decade plus, but discounting war we generally are exposed by the passing of an older relative or family friend of such standing they are considered a relative, or, the passing of a beloved family pet.

DISCLAIMER:  Before I go further I just want to make clear that I am not trying to put the same weight of a loss of a pet as that of a loved on.  That is not the topic I am trying to address, and hopefully the narrative that follows will make that clear.

My first exposure to death that I can remember is that of my grandfather way back in the 70’s.  He was relatively young, only in his 50’s and passed away as a result of some complications from a workplace accident and with the addition of some health choices that were probably in this day and age would not be the best ones to make.  I was 6 or 7 years old and I remember the viewings and the funeral, and the stops at the cemetery to pay respects on subsequent trips as I grew up.  I do not remember much about the viewing other than I was dressed up, spent time playing with my cousins, seeing how my parents handled it and my nana’s grief.

This morning my daughter learned about passing on through the loss of her beloved cat, Smudge.  She has been sick for a few weeks now and nothing was helping.  As things got worse through this week my wife took her back to the vet again where they determined it could be any manner of potentially terminal things which was followed by my wife making a middle of the night trip to the pet hospital emergency center.  Things were not going well and this morning, with my daughter present my wife made the decision to end her suffering and let her go.  On top of all of this I am almost 300 miles away closing out this current chapter of my life completing my retirement, so I was unable to be there for my wife and children while this was going on.

Both my son and daughter possess levels of empathy that they could never have possibly inherited from me.  I would go so far as to say my little girl in particular is an outright empath.  While she may occasionally treat our pets in the irresponsible manner that all children do, each and every one of them is beloved by her.  When she is not running them ragged she lays open her loving and caring heart to them and never holds against them their own nature when they do not always respond in kind.  She is an animal person through and through.

Neither my wife nor I are people who believe anyone or anything should suffer.  It does not matter if it is from illness, disease or personal choice ( this is not necessarily our outlook for consequence of illegal activity or acts of evil).  We have tried to pass this on to our children as they grow up as well.  My son is a little older and has been through it with pets.  Being in high school he has had classmates pass and he has seen me deal with the loss of comrades.  He has enough callous built up that he can continue what needs to be done as he deals with his own grief.

Today, my little princess has gotten the first scuffs on the fabric of her life.  She  has reached an age where she does not forget what happens.  Swiftly approaching double-digit years her memories are being written and cataloged.  The foundation we have been trying to lay in solid bedrock is being built upon and it is my firm belief that in events such as these we can either provide her the tools to build upon that foundation properly or we can completely screw it up and she will end up with a shack where a palace should stand.

We each deal with our grief in different ways.  My wife loved that cat no less, possibly even more, than my daughter.  I know her and she is probably second guessing every decision up to the one to end Smudge’s suffering.  She wants to figure out what she could have done to prevent it and will eventually come to her own conclusions.  I have not yet spoken to my little girl but I imagine she is in her own way trying to make sense of the lessons we have taught her.  Up to now, like most things parents try to pass on, there has been no actual context for it.  A lesson is only words until you have the experience in front of you.  What she knows right now is that she will never get to hold and love the little white ball of fur with the smudge of dark on her forehead.

My regret is that I cannot be there for them in person.  I cannot be the thing they take their anger out on, their shoulder to cry on, or the person to simply hold them and tell them things will be alright.  These are the moments I have missed too many of over the years and why I have no regrets about retiring.  To my wife, my daughter and son, who will deal in his own way, I have nothing to give right now but my ear and my sympathy.  I have never been a cat person but my wife has had quite a knack for picking out ones that I can get along with and have shown no fear with the dogs.  Smudge was a beloved part of my family and she will be missed.

My wife and I over the years have met our fair share of lost souls.  Addiction, depression, disease and the whole gamut of what life has to throw at you, we have known people affected by them.  Some have been able to overcome or come to peace with their conditions while others have not been so fortunate.  We have striven to teach our children that because they suffer a loss they do not have to become lost in it.  If they do so it is ultimately up to them to seek out the resources they need to find themselves.  No amount of intervention will help if it is not received with the intent to use it properly.  Grief is no less a significant condition than any other yet it is no more easy for many to reach out for help to deal with it than the others as well.  Hopefully, how we have taught our children on the subject will help them as they go through life and experience the joys and sadness of it.

Smudge 9/27/2014

Smudge
9/27/2014

This is my last Patriots Day in uniform.  13 years ago I was a 31 year old Buck Sergeant preparing to go to his first foreign country to help train them in peace keeping operations when the fabric of the world I had known was ripped apart.  As we were packing our kit to depart in two days terrorists took it upon themselves to bring us to war.  Ten days later we eventually left on our mission while my brothers and sisters in arms were packing for the unknown.  I did not deploy to either invasion, but I did eventually make it to both Iraq and Afghanistan for close to five years total time deployed.

I have been blessed over the years to know some very special people.  Some of them have given the last full measure, some are continuing to serve and all too many of them are stuck in a ground in between.  They gave what they had and have been unable to adjust and are lost, looking for a way to come back or to just find some measure of peace for themselves.  9/11 remembrances often consist of memorial and dedications to the 2993 souls who lost their lives that day and that is rightful thing to do.  2993 innocent and unsuspecting people paid the ultimate price for simply being a citizen of the United States or having the misfortune of being at the location when the attacks happened.

9/11 for me is not simply about those people and their families.  Casualties from that day have continued to pile up in lives lost and scars visible and hidden.  Environmental effects from the Towers continue to plague emergency responders and volunteers all these years later.  Iraq saw 4486 of my comrades in arms give their lives in service by the time we pulled out in 2011, as well as countless thousands who still suffer physical and emotional traumas as a result of their service there.  Afghanistan has seen an additional 2344 killed in action to date and thousands more with physical and emotional trauma to date, and we have been there longer with still more to go.  Those attacks that day have continued and will continue to take and radically affect the lives of Americans in and out of uniform.  In this regard, Usama bin Laden and Al Qaeda have exceed well beyond their expectations.

We as Americans have drawn a distinction between the casualties of that fateful day and our subsequent losses in the years since.  I think this is a mistake on our part.  The events that day and those in the years to follow and the years to come are indelibly tied together and each loss we continue to suffer is directly attributable to 9/11 2001.  Opinions on how much or little justification we had for invading Iraq on top of our assembled coalition hostilities in Afghanistan mean very little when the truths are not truths for the sake of being truthful but political machinations intended to sway a quorum.

Thirteen years of war has changed us as a country.  Thirteen years of remembrance reminds of of what our country is supposed to be.  We now have one tower where two used to stand and we have a country with multiple divisions where we once came together for the common good, saw beyond the horror of the scenes before us to look into our own hearts and extend our hands to those who desperately needed.

This last year is bittersweet.  Almost half my life has been in uniform, it has been my identity and provided me the optic that I have been able to view the events of these last years through.  Sometimes that vision has been with sparkling clarity and magnified view and all too many other times I have had to dry the moisture off it to see beyond my own sorrow.  I do not look upon Patriots Day as a holiday but one of remembrance and reverence.  I give one final salute and take my moments of reflection for those who have given their lives, those who have moved on as best they can and those who will never be able to.

Rest in Peace whose souls have flown

9/11/2001

Never Forget

Some recent events in my personal life have led me to a bit of clarity with a topic I do not understand very well, fear.  I am not going to make the manly boast that I am never afraid or that I have never felt fear, that would be an outright lie.  Everyone at some point gets afraid, even doing something they are an expert in, it happens.  I have my share of irrational fears too: snakes, deep water, and I have had a run in or two with claustrophobia that I needed to overcome.  I personally see nothing irrational about my fear of snakes, sneaky little deadly creatures all need to die.  I have never had a life-threatening deep water experience to substantiate my fear so  that one is a bit irrational, but I do prefer to not be at the lower end of the food chain.  Tight, DARK, spaces and I have a love-hate relationship, but a little mental preparedness and a few deep breathing exercises have allowed me to move beyond a fear I did not know I had until just a few years ago.  I have been a Paratrooper for 20 years now and have had my fair share of “oh shit” moments.  I have also traipsed across some of the most dangerous places to be an American during that time frame, so I am quite accustom to fear and what it takes to move beyond and continue to operate with it.

The type of fear I am speaking of is the fear of another human being.  I do not mean this from my perspective, there are few if any people I am either afraid of even though I have a very healthy understanding of the potential for someone to destroy me in a physical confrontation.  Despite my regard for my own well-being, I cannot say that I am afraid of anyone.  Having said that what I just came to understand about myself is that I do not understand or know what it is to be abused and/or bullied.  Particularly to the point that someone will not take the steps to break that cycle or possess the wherewithal to stand up for themselves in the case of someone being bullied.

My natural tendency is to stand up for the bullied or the abused.  While my personal psyche tends towards ‘White Knight’ syndrome, I recently had an epiphany that I hope will allow me to look at and think of the victim or victims of this type of abusive situations a little differently than I have and maybe make my helping hand to them a little more successful in the future than I have in the past.  While I have no problem with the application of personal justice upon someone who would abuse someone they allege to love or directs their disdain for their own personal shortcomings and fears on those who cannot protect themselves just to make themselves feel better, I have probably not actually helped those victimized take that step that they need to in order to move themselves to a different place in their own lives.

I have never been victimized, never mind repeatedly, to the point that I am somewhat subjugated to the abuser.  I am wired differently and have never had the experiences they have.  As such my “suck it up and drive on” mentality is probably as unfathomable of a concept to them as their inability to simply move on is to me.  It may just be me, but now that it is readily apparent to me, it makes me think that maybe my desire to stick up for someone who needs it has not been as noble of an effort as I thought it was.  I still think it is right to stick up for and bring justice to those who need it, but I will approach how I view and offer advise to the victim quite a bit differently.

Empathy is not my strong suit, but I need realize that the best I can do is be there for them each time and lend that helping hand when they are ready to grasp it.  Pushing someone who is not ready will probably add to their hesitancy not make them more eager.  I would do anything for my family up to and including putting my life on the line for them.  I would probably, if faced with the situation do the same for a stranger.  I do know that I cannot force someone to do anything that they are not ready for, something they have not prepared themselves to do.  What I can do is not add to their burden with forcefulness, no matter how well intentioned, since that could possibly be seen as a reminder of what they are living on a daily basis anyway.

I am a believer that you can be victimized but not let that victimization determine how your life turns out.  There are countless examples of this every day.  I do understand that not everyone can move on and each thing that happens to someone has a different effect on them.  What one can handle someone else may not be able to, and we are all just one incident away from facing something that we are not able to handle or cope with.  I hope that should I ever become a victim that someone with way more wisdom and compassion than I possess is able to move me to the next phase and that I am strong enough to accept their generosity.

My initial thought process in reference to events in my personal life was to give a graphical demonstration as to the benefits of facing your fears by shoring up your backbone and the proper way to apply dimensional lumber to the head, thorax and lower extremities to a tyrant with a Napoleon complex and an uncanny ability to combine mental and physical distress to the point of normalcy into the life of someone who deserves much, much more.  While I welcome the opportunity to apply a judicious use of martial force, I recognize in what I can only call, a moment of maturity, that as gratifying as it may be to scratch this itch, it will only add badness to a less than stellar situation.  I do however feel better putting it into words.

I hope should I ever accept the opportunity to help someone who desperately needs it in the future that my moment of clarity stays true and that anyone I have ever tried to help before has not been hurt by my good intentions.  I have recognized something about my own character that I hope can allow me to be a better person and be better able to assist someone who needs it.