Archive for the ‘Military’ Category

I have been struggling this last year to write anything of worth.  I just do not seem to have it in me since I went out on retirement leave last October to put thoughts to words.  Writing my annual 9/11 piece seems to be just as difficult a process as anything else I have to to put down over the last few months.  Do not get me wrong, the thoughts are there in my head, the act of getting them down has been failing though.

In my first year of civilian life I had hoped to write this one with just a little bit different perspective to influence my words.  After all I started this whole thing three, almost four, years ago to help clear the anger out of my head and do something a little more constructive with my limited creative side than simply allowing dark thoughts to take up space and fester in my head.  At the end of the day, if it were not for 9/11 and all that has changed because of that day I do not think I would have entered this medium as a form of therapy.  Chances are good I would have never realized that I needed some sort of outlet and like many other Americans would have lived a much different life.

Something I have come to realize in the 14 years since the attacks is that we not only need to remember what happened that day and those we lost, we need to also remember the person we were prior to that day as well.  We all changed, for some it was a significant change, while for others it was hardly noticeable. Some of us in the ensuing years have come to realize the type of person we really were, while others, too many others, have become lost in themselves and barely resemble the who that they were before the attacks.

Many, too many, of my Brothers and Sisters have chosen to end their story long before the last chapter is written.  It is commonly accepted that 22 Veterans per day end their lives.  22 souls who could no longer wander, trying to get back to who they were or come to grips with their experiences but were unable to.  It may be that for some, they either could not remember the events that led to their experiences nor the thoughts and reasons why they took those steps in the days and years after.  It is possible for many it is the polar opposite, they remember all too well how they were changed that day and forever are tied to their actions in the ensuing years, unable to make a break away from their personal changes or simply unable to accept them.

9/11 changed many things for many people.  Some of us stayed at war until we left the service; for many they remain at war even though they are a long way away from their days in combat.  The country latched on to a short-term, intense patriotism, supporting revenge, justice, vengeance or any other adjective to describe what has continued as a conflict without end.  I do not blame anyone for this, we all lost someone or something of ourselves that day and America is known as a nation you do want to have to defend your backyard from.  We need to remember that day because it is the day we all moved as a nation, from who we were to who we are now.

The lives of our current and future generations was radically altered in the days since 9/11.  After the initial closeness and drawing together, we have exploded outward and become polarizing and extreme.  The thing that initially brought us together in our grief, morning and collective desire for vengeance has also shattered our old way of life, turning it into something almost unrecognizable at times.  We always disagreed, but eventually there was some form of compromise for the country.  Now there is a hostile polarity from which compromise is only reached from a position of dominance and for the good of the party.  The ignorant have a greater voice than the wise, who are often labeled in the antithesis of what is considered an American.  People who believe everyone should have a fair shake at accessing anything as anyone are called socialist while people who would have you believe the belief system is the only way and it is how we should be governed are totally ignorant of the fact that is the same philosophy as those who decided to attack us that day.

We do need to remember.  The many lives lost.  The friends and families of those lost.  Those who witnessed the acts live or on television.  The heroes who lost their lives moving to the destruction to help others to live.  The passengers who chose a farmers field rather than to be used as a fourth weapon of destruction.

Most of all we all need to remember who we were before that day, individually and collectively.  We may not have been any better people than we are today, but we are all radically altered in the years that have followed.  Just a couple of months after the 15th Anniversary of 9/11 next year we will be choosing the next leader of the country.  We need to decide whether we want to continue the cycles and dynasties that we have allowed or if we want to try something new and see where it goes.

Remember the events of 9/11 and the people we lost that day and in years since.  History will judge our actions since then as a nation and whether that pivotal event portended our downfall or our ascension.  Patriots Day is a day of reflection brought about by noble actions in response to a most ignoble event.  Take a moment in your busy day today and think about that day, the memory is yours, reflection is good.  Time may close some wounds but it does not mean they are healed.

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A very good read courtesy of Military Outreach USA.

Is 22 a Real Number?.

I don’t blame the President, like so many others do, for pulling us out of Iraq completely in 2011.  We had no legal protections like we do in many of the other countries we have bases, and quite frankly the Iraqis were trained about as good as they were going to get at the time.  The President was not the architect of the pull-out, merely the catalyst.  I spent just under half of the eight years we were in that country on the ground there, and by my last trip there were some clearly definitive improvements over my first trip.  There was still a long way to go for the country to lift itself up and become self-sufficient in its own sovereignty, but without a good, clear Status of Forces Agreement to protect our service people it would not have been good to stay there any longer.

Now, after things in neighboring countries are spilling over, and the Iraqi army turned tail and ran, we are sending a small number of advisers back over there to see if we can help the country pull its head out of its ass and reclaim the land that roughly 1000 members of an Al Qaeda offshoot known as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, not ISIS like many of the sensationalist, mis-informed media would have you believe) a violent, vagabond organization, bent on creating a Sunni Islamic caliphate from Iraq westward to Syria and south through the rest of the Levant (look that one up yourself), whose methods are considered so out there, so violent, that AQ, the parent company has disavowed them as members of their cause.  Spilling forth from northern Syria, this violent band of misfits cut a swath through the heart of Sunni Muslim countryside, slaying en masse, Iraqi troops who either surrendered or were captured during their disorganized retreat from some of the largest cities and most important economic industries in the country.

Hard fought battles were waged through the eight years of war for highly contested areas such as Mosul, Kirkuk, Bayji, Baqouba, Tal Afar, Ramadi, Fallujah and countless other places where I lost friends, not all of which died, many of them are alive and kicking but are regularly haunted by the experiences they had in these places.  Now, we are going back and try to help a country which has only marginally demonstrated the ability to govern itself without an atrocity generating dictator at the helm.  Despite this, unlike many of my peers and fellow countrymen I am not angry about it.

I am not angry that the work of 4500 souls has gone unfinished.  I am not angry that my teenage son who comes of age in the next year could be caught up in the same conflict I spent so many years of my life fighting in.  I am not angry that there does not seem to be an end to the 1500 years of conflict that has waged in the region.  I am not angry about any of that, saddened and disheartened maybe, but not angry.

What does make me angry is my own country.  It is not that we are sending folks back there, that is the job we signed up to do, but don’t be deceived by the wording of no combat troops are going to the region, who do you think we will send PAC clerks, cooks or maybe even finance folks?  The type of advisers we will be sending are combat troops, they are the ones who know how to lead, train and inspire the uninspired to defend what is theirs from those who would take it from them.  I am angry at my fellow country, citizens, fellow veterans and politicians who have somehow turned this into a Democrat v. Republican, liberal v. conservative, media fueled agenda.  Some of the hate fueled vitriol that has been dispensed on a daily basis in the press and in social media has moved me beyond anger at times to mere disgust.  On top of everything gas prices have begun to rise, yet again, as speculators have done what they have done for the last decade, falsely inflate prices now for gas that has already been paid for at a lower rate when oil required for the future has not gone up yet in price in order to be refined for gas I have no need to buy yet.

One of the reasons I am retiring is because I am tired of war.  I spent the first decade of my career training for an enemy that did not exist anymore, just to go fight one we were only marginally prepared for.  If not for those 19 assholes on 9/11 I probably would never have gone to war.  I probably would never have learned of loss or hope, pushed myself to the limits I have at times, trained and gotten selected for the most professional organization I could ever have gotten in to, or, felt fear turn to something completely different as I went in to situations that had potentially life threatening consequences.  There is nothing like the feeling as you wait for the ramp to drop on a CH-47 as you land on a LZ in Al Anbar province during the year 2005.  There is nothing like walking down the streets of northwest Fallujah in the middle of the night 7 or 8 months after it being retaken.  There is also nothing in the world like watching a child’s eyes as their father or relative lay dead near them; no matter how old they are or how cruel that person may have been, you will witness the birth of an enemy right before your very eyes.

War is hell and man is good at war.  It does not matter how high the moral ground we walk on, we can rarely hold it without violence.  We can limit the damage as much as possible for those who do not have a dog in the fight, but sooner or later, inadvertent or intentional, you will feed the cycle of creating an enemy.  Our current battleground has existed for thousands of years before we came into being as a nation and the nations there have been fighting the majority of that time, either with each other, internally or with nations with the intent of expanding their empires.  Today’s current crises are not born from the last decades actions, that is merely the current fertilizer used to grow out the seeds of discontent.  The crises today are the results of hundreds of years of tribalism and infighting coupled with short-sighted boundary defining by the Imperial masters who knew they could not hold on any longer.  Any action we take should be an example for the right people to rise up and take the reins.  The circle will be broken at some point, I just hope that my friends who will carry on the warrior traditions after I am gone do not suffer for it and return to their families whole.

Over 20 years ago I raised my hand to volunteer for service to my country.  Sometime in the next 12 months I will come to the end of that service, again voluntarily.  For most of my natural life we have had an all volunteer service.  While there have been drafts and conscription during our short history as a nation, we have never had compulsory service obligations for young adults like many nations throughout the world do.  When I raised my right hand and swore my oath, I did not do so out of some misguided, selfless act of patriotism, I did so to finally grow up and make something out of myself.  When I raised my hand that time and all the subsequent times required to re-enlist, I did do so with the full intent of fulfilling my obligations that I signed up for.

Over the last 2 decades I have done so over and over again, often at the sacrifice of the things most precious to me.  I have volunteered for and accomplished the hard jobs, the shitty ones, the ones that an even smaller percentage of military populace, which is just a fraction of our national populace, agree to do.  I and a small community of like minded people have served at the whims of our leadership, sacrificing our lives, our health, our sanity and our families.  We have willingly gone into harms way to preserve the right of stupid people to continue sending us and even more stupid people can continue to vote them into office.

We do these things for a variety of reasons.  Whatever our individual reasons may be, we did so in that we would receive certain things at the end of our service.  It does not matter how long we serve to receive these promises, provided we have done so honorably and fulfilled our oaths to the best of our abilities.

Most people do not realize the amount of contributions made by the military during peace time, nor do they realize the exponential increase in contributions forged in blood.  The medical and emergency services alone have witnessed a boom in lifesaving techniques, equipment and training changes.  Law enforcement has benefited from changes in our techniques and procedures proven through our mistakes while executing operations where the enemy masquerades as civilians and the civilians end up bearing the brunt of violent outcome.  Business has benefited from the leadership and innovation from talented members of our force who have now joined their ranks.

The communications industry has been the recipient of millions, if not billions of dollars.  We have literally moved from simple phone and text to 4G LTE over the course of a decade and the ability to use that capability globally.  I can live tweet a firefight from anywhere on the globe should I choose to put aside regulation and risk my security clearance.  Do you really think these changes are made without the investment of military dollars?

No country in the history of the world has ever maintained its ability to protect its strategic interests, nor not fallen into civil unrest when it has become accepted policy to forsake promises it made to its veterans.  Rome was on a downward slide already, but it was hastened when it stopped honoring its veterans and it promises to them.  They were a world might until they over-extended themselves and began to remove pension and benefits from those who had made her so.  It has been so for every “state” throughout history.  We truly are a Romanesque nation, however we have no where near the time on the clock which Rome did from rise to fall.

We have been forsaken.  Our elected officials have expanded their power, power guaranteed by the blood of warriors, in order to turn a position of service into a career of power and hubris.  It is not just the politicians who have forsaken us, it is those whose rights we have also guaranteed in blood and sacrifice to continue to feed the ineptness of leadership based on false promises and the hope they will get something without actually having to do anything for it.  There is not simply a partisan divide at the hands of political parties and ideology, there is a nation of apathy, ignorance and entitlement to provide a foundation for the parties to continue to build upon.

I have performed my duties faithfully with no expectation than of that which I was promised.  I have spent almost as much time missing my family as I have actually spent with them.  I miss the brothers I have lost.  I will miss the excitement and fear of the unknown.  I have my demons that I keep locked up tight.  All this because I have served the nation, just as my brothers and sisters are currently doing.  All we ask is for what we were promised when we are promised to receive it.  We are not unfamiliar with sacrifice for the greater good, in fact we are intimately familiar with it.  If we must sacrifice after we have served, we have earned the right to be heard in how we are to make that sacrifice.  It should not be done so as part of political solidarity without sacrifice to all, ALL members of the nation, and should be done so as to be readily measurable and tangibly effective to the benefit of all, not simply the reputation of those who author it.

 

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Today we remember those who came before us, who laid down their lives, suffered at the hands of our enemies, became permanently scarred, physically and psychologically, and lived the history of our nation.  Brave men and women have given their all in pursuit of the freedoms we hold dear, or, choose to take for granted; for that is our right as Americans, to choose.  For that we have our veterans to thank.

It is your choice, your freedom, you inalienable right to be an American as you see fit.  That choice is granted by the sacrifice in blood, pain, tears, and loss of those who run to the sounds of battle while others choose to stay away.  We serve at your leisure but that leisure is only available through the actions of others.  Freedom does not live in a vacuum; each and every day someone pays the cost for it and it is with their dying breath that millions more get to live the life they choose.

Veterans do so with a clarity of vision for vaguely defined strategic objectives.  Decisions are made and acted upon that have impacts far beyond the battlefield in which they are enacted.  Heroes come at unexpected times, immortalized at the moment of their action.  Most often they are eulogized and memorialized.

Today we remember.  Those of us who have known the loss first hand remember our comrades at arms who have paid the ultimate price.  Today is the most somber of veterans remembrance days during the year.  When it was Armistice Day, it was intended to be.  It is not a day of celebrating, it is a day of remembrance and reflection.  It is a day to wear the buddy poppy in remembrance of someone you knew who served or in recognition of a nameless individual who sacrificed their all so that you can have what you do.

I am rapidly closing in on 20 years of service.  It has not always been easy, fun, or even at times, something I wanted to do.  My family has paid as much of a price if not more so than I.  As I close out my time I hope that I have enough for them.  I admire the respect they show during the National Anthem, memorial services, and to other veterans and their families and I know, deep in my heart that this is what I have served for all these years.  The personal challenges and sacrifices are great obstacles to overcome and achievements to acknowledge for my own self-interests, but it is seeing the pride my my children’s eyes when they speak of what I do and it is in having the most loving, supporting Army wife possible.

The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month has passed.  Gone is the Day.  If not the person, remember the sacrifice.