Friday, December 5, 2008
Oh man this is ridiculous. Why would they even BOTHER having us do any of this? Makes no sense at all, none of the new guys are even here right now to learn from it, and all of us are getting out in a few months, it's so undeniably moronic. Seriously, why? If there's nothing for us to do, they should just let us chill. How awesome would that be? My job would basically be to just hang out and wait to get out of the Army. I would get PAID for that.
I get paid for this.
I have to do this because they pay me.
No! NO! FUCK! TAKEITBACK!!! FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU--
You know how there are some things that you can't unsee? Doors that you can't close again once you open them, revelations that you can't forget? Well this was mine. God DAMN it.
Sunday, November 30, 2008
By miles run. Vehicles PMCSed. Hallways mopped.
By loads of laundry. By haircuts. By weekends.
Counting down by movies, details, 24 hour shifts at a desk. By oil changes. Holidays. Phone calls.
By morning report and close of business. By beads of sweat. Speeches and safety briefs.
Counting down by New Arrivals, Old Timers riding off into the sunset. By insults between friends.
By stops at the gate to show the ID. By traffic jams on I-5. Gallons of gas. Episode after episode, channel after channel. By infomercial.
By winks and nods.
By clenched jaws and rolled eyes. Moments of clarity and hours of mundane confusion or blind indifference.
Counting down from each time the boots are tied. By pairs of socks peeled off of sweaty feet.
Friday, November 21, 2008
I was reading a book full of miscellaneous writings by Henry Rollins when I turned the page and read a new entry that blew my mind. Described my feelings better than I could.
All my war stories are old
They hang like old clothes in the closet
No one wants to hear old war stories
It's all I have right now
My mouth flaps dry in the air
I am in this room pacing the floors
Sun up sun down grinding my teeth
Jumping at shadows waiting
I don't want to think about that old war anymore
It's driving me up the wall with bad insanity
I need new war
High on war
Thursday, November 20, 2008
I look at them, then I look at myself. We're all wearing those weird uniforms that the All American Boys wear in the magazine ads, GoArmy this and that. I got my hair cut just right and my boots bloused, I have my pen and paper on me at all times, my beret tucked away in my cargo pocket and I am fully programmed to routine.
Except I don't give a shit. Iraq is over.
We aren't hitting the training all hard again or anything. Busy work. For whatever reason. Counting down days or weeks or months. But you don't want to make that known. You don't stop being a soldier once you come back from deployment. I got it.
So why don't I FEEL like a soldier? I got this uniform, but I don't really know what it means. I live in this building, but it isn't mine. I don't care to remember it these days. Ready to wash all that dirt off my face and change clothes. Flush my brain out too, full-service, the works.
Just ready to put it all behind me. Disappear like Kaiser Soze. The Great Escape complete with Men In Black memory wipe. "Put that stuff away in a shoe box." Never even mention any of it, never explaining the four year lapse of existence to anyone but potential employers.
And one day when you see me on the street and you won't even realize it. It won't even dawn on you that I was one of those one percenters. Or the one percent of one percent, whatever it is they call us. That was a different lifetime buddy!
Saturday, November 1, 2008
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Well, I walked on past those new guys and down the stairs. It was almost six in the morning, 0600 is what they call it I do believe. I was wearing shorts. I stepped outside, and I could see my breath. My balls rescinded so far up into my body that I think I maybe could have tasted them in my throat. You know it, the kind of cold where your fingers and lips don't operate with normal dexterity.
We stood in formation, and I had a moment of clarity.
"You know," I said to no one in particular, "...this isn't normal. Normal people don't do this. Normal jobs? Yeah, they don't include shit like this. Even IF your job requires you to be outside at this hour, in this temperature, you still atleast get to choose what you wear. If it's fucking cold, you get to dress like it's fucking cold."
Couple of chuckles a la 'here goes Suspect again, one of his rants'.
Every time we'd been out in the cold, sucking, or in the rain, or whatever shitty circumstance or condition, it never flashed across my screen that it wasn't normal. In the Army, you get used to some weird shit. You don't bother to question it, you just accept it, and joke and bitch about how stupid it is, but you don't really ponder it.
Standing there, shivering me timbers off, I pondered it. Then I added some sprinkles to my rant.
"You see this? This right here. This is exactly why they can't get me to re-enlist. It baffles me that it isn't already painfully obvious. It's fucking freezing but I can't wear pants? Yeah, pretty sure it's time to write a resume or something."
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
In my American dream, I have more options, choices that I make for myself.
Someday, I will have my own washer and dryer; I will not share them with fifty people. I will have more than one small room to keep all of my personal effects. I will have a kitchen. To me, a studio apartment is an incredible palace. I will have a home of my own.
I won't have all of this immediately. I will likely face a somewhat mirrored situation in college. However, I will be free. I will be normal.
I want the education and the experience that comes with it, to soak up the twentysomethings while I still have them. I want to land the kind of job that I race to, not for fear of being late, but because I don't want to spend another second not doing it. This is my pipe dream.
I want to make money like everyone else, hopefully good money. I want to get my own place, furnish it with the necessities, establish myself. I want a normal life.
For the most part, it's all pretty simple. Picket fence? I don't care about that. I want to walk down the sidewalk to the mailbox and pull out bills. I want to walk back into the house or apartment and set them down on the counter top or table, and sit down and work out a budget.
Everything else that comes with it? Sure. I'd like that too. I'd like this order TO GO, please. I don't want to stay here anymore.
I want all the trappings and trimmings. I want my dog. I want to turn on the TV and roll my eyes at the news, channel surf until I land on the Food Network. Then I'll hit up the internet as my ultimate How-To guide for life. I'll learn to cook with Martha Stewart forums.
I'll watch NBC on the evenings. I'll vacuum. I won't have to stand guard on the washing machine while I do laundry.
I'm not demanding that I have life on MY terms (though really, I should be!). I just want to have life on normal terms. Do you see? It probably doesn't even make sense, but the mundane and trivial, oh my god it sounds amaaaaazing. I'm excited about that. Eat balogna for a year and then finally have a steak. Same thing.
This is going to be good....
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
The guys before you that got out? Yeah, slowly they were around less and less, as more appointments piled up, as their duties took them elsewhere. It was like they were fading away, disappearing, becoming ghosts of Deployment Fuckin' Past. When they were gone, you didn't even know. They were Kaizer Soze. You didn't even NOTICE that they weren't around because it was so gradual, and then one day it hits you, holy shit, Johnson isn't around anymore, he is gone for GOOD, gone but fuckin' GONE, GOOOOOOOOONE, waaaaaaay past upper-deck. It was like he was never even there in the first place. Shit, maybe you just made him up. No telling now.
And that's how you have to be. You don't brag or gloat or laugh too loud about it, you just start taking advantage of every opportunity they give you, every class, every job fair, every seminar about resume building, you take it like the greedy mosquito bastard that you are and you fucking suck it DRY and you thirst for MORE.
You let the entire IDEA of your re-enlistment become a joke, something for people to laugh at in a wicked sense of irony. But most importantly, you remain subtle, you remain respectful, you remain tactful, you do what is expected of you, you have your appointment slips ready, and you use the system that's put in place for you, and you never never EVER bite the hand that is feeding you because by now, you have only the SLIGHTEST inkling of how hard the Army can fuck you if you get cheeky.
You play by the rules and you utilize everything you can, and every day, you become more and more translucent, like a dead Jedi, until the unit is so weened off of you that no one notices you're gone until your hair is already past your ears and you've got the first goatee of your life.
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
The range isn't the usual pop-up target range. It's all on paper targets, fro 25 meters away or something. The size of the silhouette is scaled to the distance or some shit like that. So now, one has to shoot 38 out of 40 o qualify Expert. The plan is to hit that mark as soon a possible and get the hell out.
We grab two 20 round magazines from the ammo shack after our pre-range brief. Set up sandbags. Wait for the command. Slap in a mag. Wait. Flip the switch to semi.
I dot each target twice, nonchalantly. You can't do this shit when you stress about it. Put the red dot on the center of the silhouette and squeeze, let the rifle buck, repeat. On to the next silhouette.
We bring our targets up. My friend hit 40/40 first time. Me? 37.
"Are you fucking KIDDING ME? 37 should be expert, no doubt about it. This is bullshit. Goddammit..."
Two new magazines in my hand, I wait to fire the next iteration. Waiting for the go-ahead.
I squeeze the trigger forty times and when I bring the paper up for grading, its a 38. Awesome. Expert, so I can go now, observe that my weapon is clear and I'll just be on my wa-- Where the fuck is the bus?
My friend caught the bus back to the company area to enjoy some shamming, while I repeatedly qualified expert because we had a metric fuckton of rounds to burn off. Thanks man.
It got to the point where we buddied up in teams, one guy on a knee, the other standing, shooting at one target, going for best team out of 80 rounds. My buddy ol' pal and I won each time with a simple system. The guy on a knee shoots the smaller targets, the guy standing takes the bigger ones, and after the first magazine, we switch. All three times, we win.
When you get the command to fire, all you can really do is get slightly lost in the insanity of gunsmoke and the smell of carbon and the crack and little kick, the dirt kicked up behind the targets, the knowledge that you're spitting lead and death at a fuckload of feet per second. It's ridiculous. It should defy explanation. Good GOD, what the hell are we doing out here? Shooting shadows to prove our competency! LUNACY! HIGH FIVE!!!
We're shooting and spewing profanity and talking about each other's moms. We are demon-spawn wrapped in neo-samurai armor with Oakleys.
Oh, right, the contest. What did we win?
Well, ah...jack shit. A filthy M4 to clean I guess. Fuck it though, another day off my calendar.
Food poisoned or some other strange cosmic ailment that left me out of the picture for two days, sleeping, sweating, shivering, aching, and groaning, with the constant bizarre fever dreams, the ones that aren't quite real but are more than just a dream. I wait for appointments and briefings and any and all reason to skip out, make my absence regular, ween the Army off of me.
Not today, rifle range again. They want as many of us as possible to score Expert. I get it, makes sense. Makes the company and the battalion and so on look good. That's the idea, raise a kickass unit, I fully understand. I'm under the impression that we're to stay there until we qualify expert or until the range is shut down.
Out of nowhere, I get this weird thought of adding extra rounds to my magazines, all covert-like. But no, that would be cheating, and I don't want to put my balls on the table. Never been much of a gambler. Bet low, sit at the table all day cuz All In is a motherfucker when you lose.
Jet flew overhead and I vaguely thought of the rockets pounding the FOB. But no, these were jets. The normal behavior of a jet does not include blowing us up. Then I think about how I'm getting behind on my online classes, all two of them. And I make up the excuse that I'd be doing way better if I was a full-time student. Or if I wasn't going to bed at 7 PM to make the weeks go by faster.
I started this rag with the intent of giving a grunt's-eye-view of an entire enlistment in the Army. Maybe I'll try to get back to the details again.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Fact: You can start the briefings as much as a year out.
I sat in an office, spilling my guts about Iraq, my sleep habits and everything else that was even potentially fucked up about me as a result of my epic and heroic service. In a babbling vomit, I spewed up everything I could get out while he nodded before steering the session to ensure that he got to lunch on time. We had a few laughs about everything I had to report. He certainly did, and at that point all you can do is follow along.
Answer all the questions honestly, they tell you, but really I don't think it matters, because they're just going to return you to normal duty. Most blokes aren't going to find the Morgan Freeman poetic passphrases that land you a Get Out Of Service Free Card.
Before he even finished asking what I was going to do when I got out, I was punching him with the word "school". That's when he mentioned ACAP and clarified exactly when one can begin.
Hit the Next Chapter button on your remote a couple times, and there I am, ordering food from a drive-thru puke vendor with a friend, body ravaged and sore from extended PT sessions, usually two per day, when I decided that we needed a morale booster.
I found my first line supervisor and told him that we had to go make an appointment and away we went. When we finally found the office we were looking for, civilians eyed us suspiciously, demanding to know what in the name of all things demonic was it that we wanted. When we told them that we were working on getting out, their defenses dropped and they mystically transformed into the warmest, kindest people you'll ever find on a military installation. Overly gushy daycare ladies aren't this kind.
We were led to another cushy office and given lots of printouts, gave our basic information, and were handed appointment slips. Hell, we even marveled at the lady's electric stapler. You laugh, but that thing was pretty fucking impressive. It's a Swingline.
Anyway, I thought it was time I threw myself a bone, so I did. I did my own thing, AND I LIKED IT. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got menial tasks to half-ass my way through, then I've got an appointment in the afternoon, guaranteed to eat up a healthy portion of the workday.
I can't get out until next spring, but good God, I just took the first step towards redemption. It's like blindly grabbing a low-hanging branch after you've become fully submerged in quicksand: there's still a chance!
Monday, September 15, 2008
The only serious thing I said to our new guy was, "Don't model yourself after us. We're getting out. We did our thing and now we're counting down months. They tell you to be in the right place at the right time, in the right uniform. Believe it." I couldn't think of much to elaborate on after that, and we had enough busywork to do that it didn't matter anyway.
I don't want to be responsible for someone else coming to hate the Army. Already seen one new guy go from total motivation, wanted to do it all, get that Ranger tab, and slowly become a reflection of the rest of us til the day I heard him say, "Fuck the Army man, I'm getting out."
"Dude you have like four or five years left."
I really thought that I would love the Army for the most part, but every step of the way, something was there to stomp all the hope out of it for me. Crushed it to death and left it to the point where I've had to come to terms with the Army without outright hating it. And I don't.
Someone asked this new guy, "Why'd you join the Army?"
He said, "To be an Airborne Ranger."
Congrats, dude. You're in a Stryker Brigade. You won't go to a Ranger unit, not in this life cycle. All you can do is hang on to that New Private Smell for as long as you can. Stay hungry. Don't model yourself after us.
Maybe I just want to believe that there really are people that love being in the Army, that don't just get stuck and end up as lifers. Maybe that's what I need to see for myself.
"How long did you sign up for?"
"Smart man. Thinking about staying in?"
"Not sure yet. I might make it a career."
Rewind the clock a few years and that was us. And thus begins the battle for this kid's soul.
Don't be like us.
A fist shot out of the speaker closest to me and busted me right in the chops. I saw stars and I couldn't even hear the ringing in my ears because the wall of asskickery stampeding into my ears was too determined. Four instruments being thrashed and attacked so hard that my candyass was feeling the punishment. Metallica was back.
It brought me all the way back to when I bought my first CD with my own money, ...And Justice For all, and I learned first hand that music could indeed melt your face off.
Trees ripped themselves out of the ground and hurled themselves over cliffs because they just weren't worthy. I wanted to throw bottles of baby formula to everyone else on the road who wasn't feeling the storm that these dudes were unleashing. Strap a diaper to their heads and change lanes and be on my way.
In fact, I have to stand to type this, because my ass was kicked so much that there is significant bruising. That album was so manly that it has to be shaved before playing. After I heal up, I'll listen to Dragonforce's new album too, but for now I can only eat Jello.
Death Magnetic. Get.
Saturday, September 13, 2008
"So you re-enlisting?" he asks, leaning back on a swivel chair. I give him my typical response to this question: a contorted face that says Are you serious? You gotta be kidding man. You know better.
He laughs. "You might be, just wait."
Already a little offended, I told him, "I can guarantee you with absolute certainty that I won't voluntarily extend my service."
"You say that n--" he began, at which point I sat up and interrupted.
"Since day ONE it's been a four year enlistment. The plans have never changed. Not even for a second. I've always been short. Always."
He's already got the inevitable question ready and fires away. "Why did you enlist?"
"To go to Iraq," my response is as basic as possible.
"Huh...well looks like you got that out of the way."
"Yeah, and now it's just killing time. Listen, I don't hate the Army, not by any means. In a lot of ways, yeah, it's been really cool, but you know how they always half-assed say that the Army isn't for everyone? Well it's true. And I knew it from the beginning. I fucking KNEW that I'd be out of place here and I went and did it anyway. Full knowing it was only four years."
He blinks, so I continue.
"I did it, did all I signed up to do, and now it's just a matter of fulfilling the contract, a technicality, you know? And then I can get out, and start doing what I should have been doing when I was nineteen."
"That's cool man," he offers, keeping the peace. "What are you planning on doing?"
Now it's my turn to slouch in my seat. "Depends on what day of the week it is, how I'll answer that question. Y'know, when the re-enlistment NCO comes around. I'll tell them, 'I'm going to call you while you're eating dinner and try to get you to subscribe to Parade and Vibe and US Weekly.'"
He looks at me like I'm fucking crazy and laughs. Mind you, I'm easily encouraged.
"Yeah, or you know, when I was three, I thought being a garbage man would be a good gig. Or who knows, I'll just tell them something elaborate, something they don't want to hear. I'll tell them my family owns a chain of hotels and they're giving me one to own to teach me about business and all that, get my feet wet. Or.....or I'll tell them that I already have a house lined up, got some roommates who haven't seen me in a while. Then I'll just tell it straight and say that I've decided to move back in with my parents, watch cartoons and eat cereal all night. Maybe flip burgers."
We keep this game going for a good twenty minutes, making up ridiculous answers to life after the Army. Have a few laughs, and then it hits me, and all I do is verbalize it.
"I miss the freedom. Not that Toby Keith flag-waving freedom, but I mean like personal freedom. To be able to do anything you want within reason, live anywhere, be anything. Stop being anything that isn't working. Know what I mean?"
I study him for a second to gauge his reaction. Then I prattle on some more.
"Maybe we just really get used to the way the Army does things. Hell, I noticed something the other day that I've seen a million times, but it never clicked like it first did when I was a new soldier. You know how when an NCO is smoking (forcing an enlistee to do pushups and other exercises as punishment -Ed) someone, they tend to stand there with their arms crossed, watching them? Well I was watching someone get smoked the other day, and I was like, "What the hell....at none of my other jobs would I ever have to physically degrade myself because the boss was pissed." You know what I mean? I have NEVER had to crawl through dirt and mud at any other job before. I've never given a boss so much power before."
We laughed about it for a second, because good God, it made SENSE. WEIRD!
"But yeah, it's the freedoms. Be able to do anything you want. Flip burgers and wash cars or sit in a cubicle or scan groceries or manage franchises, become a suit and set fire to Wall Street, write graffiti on the moon (someone has to have done it by now). Go to college, don't go to college. Be a bum or climb the corporate ladder, anything in between. How does that NOT sound appealing? There's endless possibilities, and at any point, you can switch gears or go in a total different direction. You don't like where you live? You can pick up roots and move somewhere new that's better suited to you. You just have to have the drive and courage to do these things, that's what I think. You can't tell yourself that you can't do it."
I stopped and thought about everything I'd just said.
"Fuck, that's what the re-enlistment guys are for. Let THEM tell you you can't."
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
I changed lanes and thought and thought some more. I don't even have a battle to fight, wouldn't want to if I did. Stuck. Not sure what to do. Re-enlistment NCOs love that too. Next time he comes around though, I'll lie. Cook up a whole elaborate plan, leading all the way up to my retirement and binges on a yacht. Whatever he doesn't want to hear. Whatever sounds solid and foolproof. Whatever saves me from the "you're going nowhere, getting out without a plan and you'll be back, why not re-up and get a bonus?" lecture. A total siege on your sense of self-reliance.
Sorry chief, I can't. Not this guy. I want to have rights again. I hear stories about the barracks that other units have and I get pissed. Apparently ours are astonishingly bad. Pitiful. Prison cells. Two guys crammed into a small room and goddamn you if you can't keep that shit clean.
When you aren't at war, you're supposed to be miserable. I see dudes getting their asses chewed during PT. You aren't supposed to exercise to the point where you're in pain. It's an individual thing, but God help you if you don't keep up with flutterkicks. The Iron Fist mentality is everywhere, unnecessarily so. There's no fucking reason for it.
My friends joked the other day that I'd be the one short-timer of the group to re-enlist. Yuks and laughs. I joked right along with them, "Fuck you, die in a fire." If half of these people even knew what I've been thinking lately.
I'm in my twenties. I should be done with college already. I should be well on my way to getting my life together. I should have had atleast one apartment of my own by now. I should have credit, good or bad. I should have some sort of foundation. But I don't. I'm still in an Army that treats the single lower enlisted soldiers like fucking children.
I can't have my girlfriend in my room. I have no place to call my own. The barracks are not mine. That's just where the Army keeps me. I have no sense of identity in this fucking uniform. I have no sense of accomplishment, I still feel that I was fucked out of my war and that's probably a good thing.
I pissed away four years. Life experience be damned. It didn't make me better. It made me bitter. It made me uncomfortable around the normal world, twice over now than before we deployed. I suspect everyone of harboring violent intentions and sadistic plans. I drive with a sense of impending doom. At any moment, I'll be fucked.
I'll be late to work.
I'll say or do the wrong thing.
Murphy's Law is going to get me.
I'm going to get pulled over.
I'm going to merge the same time someone else does and get shoved under an eighteen wheeler.
Gonna get shot hanging out off post in some freak occurance at the mall.
It's all going to go downhill, and fast, and I won't even see it coming. Rock bottom is staring up at me with a shit eating grin.
So now ask again if I'm thinking about re-enlisting. Nope. My gut tells me that everything here is wrong wrong wrong and I need to get out.
But I can't. Not yet. Trapped. Serving my time. I don't even speak my mind anymore. That's how convinced I am that they're going to get me somehow.
On my own, I do fine. Better than fine. Everything is great when I'm home, feeling like a normal person again. Start the countdown. I'm going to get my life back eventually. This little relationship I have with the Army, it just isn't healthy, and I tried, I really did. It's gotta end. Got too many other things to do. It's not you, it's me. Really.
Leave the GI Bill on the dresser.
Friday, September 5, 2008
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
Monday, September 1, 2008
Anytime we were forced to assemble together, it was for a reason. Not formation just for the sake of formation. If there was information to put out, a huddle was good enough.
Not drinking was easy. Some dudes handle it just fine, I ended up cutting mine down to a bare minimum--drink or two. Some dudes just need to not drink. Ever.
Our safety briefings are continuously lengthier because we're all supposed to be harboring sinister, self-destructive thoughts or subconscious desires. Buying up sports cars and crotch rockets. Deliriously wasting money.
My friend and I took an ass beating a month or two ago in Seattle. I was logic-defyingly drunk and I'm pretty sure he was too. I came out of a blackout just in time to see him turn to face me and say, "Yep. We're about to get our asses kicked."
Then five or six dudes proceeded to do just that. All I could think was, "This shouldn't be happening. Wouldn't happen if I had a gun." That's about when it hit me.
We aren't worth dick if we aren't armed. Myself especially. No eye contact in public, don't cut anyone off in traffic, don't turn onto the wrong street, hope no one smashes your windows out when you go to see a movie, neurotic social terror. But put me in full kit and give me my rifle again, and I'm God.
One day you're detaining some asshole who rigged a house to explode on you and your guys, negotiating with the train tunnel sized shotgun barrel. The next, you're John Q Whogivesashit, capable of not much.
Oh yeah, I thought long and hard about spending my last year in Iraq. It sounded like a really good idea too. More money, actually doing my job. Sounded wonderful. But there's more people to consider than just me. So it's John Q Whatsit.
You get back, and everyone goes back to focusing on their own little things. Their upcoming marriage and/or divorce. Their suped Volkswagon. It isn't Us vs The World anymore. And it's a law of nature that everything eventually goes downhill. When that happens, you can either pout and live in the past, in the good ol' days, or you can move on and find something new and good, and enjoy it while it lasts. Then move on again when it's drained of awesome.
See, I don't know if I ever made this clear enough. I didn't enlist for "freedom", and I didn't enlist for college. Fuck, I didn't even THINK I'd go to college back then. Thought it "wasn't for me". [Vomit blood here]. I didn't give two shits who the President was, I didn't care who the enemy was. I've said this a million fucking times, but I did it for the dudes of my generation that were going. We could have been storming London and I still would have signed up. I signed up for dudes that I didn't even know. Some that I came to hate, some that I never knew all too well, some that were just too fucking weird not to love, and some that are the best friends I'll ever have.
That Band Of Brothers feeling is few and far between though. Only in rare moments that you don't talk about in the first place. But I've done some really STUPID things to help or bail a friend out.
The Army is where you go if you're afraid to grow up. If you have that Peter Pan Syndrome. But it isn't always the party you thought it would be. For some reason, I really thought it would be a life of excess and all things awesome. Sometimes, it is. But no one advertises the gray moments in between. I'm not against recruiting for the Army. It's actually a really good thing for most people. I just think there should be more honesty in the advertisements. But wait, that defeats the purpose.
The thing though, is that you almost have no choice but to try to plow forward. If not, all you can do is look back. And I can't do that. So I have to stay busy. Bring the new guys in, I promise not to ruin their attitudes and I'll do everything I can to teach them and look out for them, and not ruin their mindset. The Army really could use more high speed, low drag, motivated types.
My heart is just never going to be in this unless I'm in a warzone again. So it's time to move on.
Now observe while Kid Rock and Dale Earnhardt Jr take a nice long piss on my face.
"If you ain't gonna fight, get outta my way," he says. Practice what you preach, faggot. How stupid do they think we are? Dale drives circles around a fucking track for exhorbitant amounts of money, and no one has given a shit about Kid Rock since 1998. But he breathes red white and blue apparently. That's one hell of a way to support the troops, with endorsements. Shut the fuck up and enlist. Pull the weight. Prima Donna fuck. They go home to mansions. But they call him "warrior". That's interesting, cuz I sure don't feel like some kind of warrior. I just feel like I was in some strange place in some weird circumstances with random loud noises and things you can't quite explain, and now I'm not so sure that I was ever there, or that it was ever REALLY real, or if I just made it up. Hell, I could have been lying to all of you from the very beginning. I could have been a desk jockey, or I could have never even taken the oath, and just be some sick fiction writer, fucking with the minds of strangers.
I don't think the "war" fucked me up. Most of the time. Other times I wonder, but no. I won't accept that. I haven't seen half the shit that some of our vets have. And still I want more and I want none of it at the same time.
So yeah. I'm getting out. And no, I was never ever in the Army.
Sunday, August 24, 2008
I try to find a way to reframe the way I'm thinking, to make this stay of mine more bearable. To stop the self-pity. This low on the totem pole, a bad attitude is like termite damage and lots of it. I could let the higher elements of the totem to come down on me, but let's put pride aside for a minute. You can't fuck the Army nearly as hard as it can fuck you.
All I can think of, is "tread water". As long as you're only neck deep, you still have a chance.
Any old-timer right now would probably say, "Just do your time, quietly, and get out." Simple enough. You gotta be a yes-man almost everywhere you go.
So I guess I'll just do my time. The crime: enlistment. The sentence: 4 years, give or take a clause or two of a contract. Time remaining: less than one year, no chance of parole, may be released a month early on Good Behavior, provided the sacrifice of a Christmas.
I got four brick walls around me, painted white, housed in a federal building. Generic furnishings. Minimal personal effects that I've managed to acquire. No hollowed out Bibles, no sharpened toothbrushes. No harmonica, just a guitar (fair trade).
Gotta hang up the new calendar and start marking days. Maybe start folding paper cranes. Freedom birds. Put on the PTs, get some exercise in the yard. Put the standard issue uniform back on, be where you gotta be on time.
Wait for the warden to hand me my packet, wish me luck, and send me on my way. All the best. We got a saying though....
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
It all makes perfect sense. No reason why it shouldn't. Look good for the people you represent. Look good for your superiors so that they don't look bad in front of their superiors. Higher on up, no one worries too much about each individual Joe because there's too many of us. Bigger picture, people. But if we fuck up, it's a different story.
Not hard to grasp, right?
When you're tired or angry, fed up or sick and tired, dragged through the mud, Stop-Lossed, tour extended, recalled, or just at the end of your rope, it's not so easy. It's when you have to chew your lip. Chew it hard. Can't beat the Army by being rebellious. Can't beat the Army at all, really. This is your rock, and this is your hard place. Squeeze on in, buddy.
No one wants to hear you bitch, and if the wrong people hear you, then you're just up shit creek, and not in any way better off than had you just shut up. All for obvious and simple reasons. Fulfilling oaths and all the honorable things.
But what happens to the guys who don't get that excitement out of being a soldier anymore? The guys who aren't motivated by speeches or medals and awards, or by nothing at all? Someone asked me straight up if I was still proud to be a soldier, and I drew a blank. I'm not NOT proud. But no, I don't feel any sense of pride. I don't feel special. I don't feel heroic or important.
Just a 19 year old kid that's been in a time warp for nearly three and a half years.
Here's a biiiiig long sigh, and away we go, let me just put it out there: I don't feel emotionally scarred or somehow wronged in the greater scheme of things. I don't feel impressed by "our" accomplishments and I never once felt heroic. Every thank you, whether from someone who speaks Arabic, or someone stateside, felt closer to an odd compliment that an elderly person would give you. Not a bad thing, just weird. Weird like everything is. Weird like life is, my life, YOUR life, it's all just weird, for most of us. The ones who don't actually have it bad.
But the Army? It just isn't like the movies or the stories you hear. It can't work that way. Some of these guys claim to hate it, but they secretly love it. Some guys are on the fence. Some guys outwardly hate it, some guys just eat it all up. I've always had my qualms and disagreements with the Army, but for the most part is isn't bad. Put up with it and drive on, cash that paycheck and pass Go. The bummer is that the Monopoly board just repeats itself. Running in circles. I just don't want to do it anymore.
But until they let me go, it's Pass Go or Go To Jail. When you really narrow it down, that's all it is. I chose this game but I didn't get to choose the rules. Can't fold my hand, as much as I want to. Instead, I'm mumbling to you like I'm a quiet lunatic in a bar and you're the beer in front of me. Mumbling the same story every night.
On the plus side, I went swimming today.
Monday, August 18, 2008
Inventory and account for. And clean. Spotless. Everything. Things I haven't touched in two years. Not to use, mind you, not to turn them in. Not to do anything with except to stuff em into a dark crevice and forget about em again. Let them collect dust.
My list is three pages long. Fuck my life.
Humidity, like being inside the mouth of a whale. Got a fan going at all hours of the day, to keep the stagnant air and barracks stink moving. Can't let it seep into your bones. Can't sit still for too long, can't afford to ruminate, grow angry and mouthy. Must stay preoccupied. Preoccupied and invisible. Maybe giving up vice isn't the best means of doing this.
I think about going to the gym after work. But I won't go. Can't be bothered to join the new culture of GNC supplement-gobbling weightlifting Mixed Martial Arts enthusiasts. Too many of them.
Waiting for a couple weeks before the attempt at online courses begins. Vocabulary class, and another to remain untold for now. Anything to stay busy, stay distracted, to keep my sorry ass out of trouble.
On occasion, I can feel the hounds closing in, sniffing, patrolling. Gnarled teeth dripping with acidic saliva. Fire of hell burning in their eyes. Pretty sure they're sniffing out the short-timers. Some days you can smell the stink on us from the other side of the parking lot. The shitty attitudes, I mean. God help you if the wrong higher-up catches you running your mouth. Guess that's why I'm hiding in my barracks room, scribbling incoHeresy into a diary, like that little Jewish girl, Helen Keller. If any of you know the secret to invisibility, let me know.
Just caught a glimpse of something vomit-inducing on FauxNews. The soap opera "All My Dipshit Children" is having an open casting call for Iraq vets, to play the role of a wounded soldier. Fucking leeches.
Friday, August 8, 2008
For me though, it's a state of mind. A method of prioritizing. It's knowing that I'm not staying in. Knowing that I made good on the little oath I made on the inside, and now I'm required to make good on the oath that was put on paper.
Let me tell ya, it isn't easy being Short. On some days, it's downright painful.
The formations. Ceremonies. Details. Everything seems asinine and redundant. None of it seems like it should apply to you, because dammit, you're short. Don't these people get it?
Then you see one of your buddies walking down the sidewalk with a neat package of papers, gleefully jumping through the hoops of seperation. Turns out you aren't as short as you thought. Atleast not on the outside.
I'd never really been one to get homesick, ever. But this time around, I know I'd much rather be there than here. Home, with all the simplicity. Familiarity, predictability. Relaxed. I sure as hell belong there a lot more than I belong here, doing jack shit.
And the funny thing about this "home" thing, is that some things come full circle, some things change completely, some things you didn't understand became much more clear, and you realize that some of the people you knew are completely full of shit, and others aren't ever going to make anything of themselves.
Those awkward encounters you have with people you never cared to see again, but for some ungodly reason you both talk to each other, briefly, out of some skewed sense of obligation, even though both of you want nothing more than to get the hell out of there. And half the people you run into didn't even know you were gone, let alone staking a claim in Baghdad.
But hey, the good news? Who gives a shit in the first place? HAH!
After seeing how things changed around town, how other things remained exactly the same, and soaking it all in, knowing you have to leave, it's almost a kick in the sack to return to something that there isn't much else to gain from, when you KNOW that there are better and brighter things you could be doing. Thanks to contractual obligation, everything has to wait, still on hold.
Every day I ask myself why the hell I didn't just do a three year contract. I'd be rabbitting to and fro getting paperwork taken care of and equipment turned in, clawing my way out of this bitch.
I raise my hand in formation, like a schoolkid. "What's the earliest that one can begin the clearing process?"
Pushups. Some things don't change.
Doesn't matter though. Like I said, I've taken inventory of what matters to me and what doesn't. Garrison life in the Army is just a puppet show. Still going along to get along, but I tell ya what, I'd much rather be home, scratching my dog's ass and catching up with everyone, cuz, now, between you and me....
A MONTH ISN'T ENOUGH TIME.
But hey, no big deal, I got ten of em to go, give or take terminal leave. Fuck it.
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
My generic-looking Nikes are pounding pavement. Forehead covered in a sheen of sweat. Out of breath, plodding forward, muscles still sore from the previous day.
I have a bit of a gut from all the beer I've been drinking since being back. This is the most I've ever weighed, but at least its not the fattest I've been.
I keep running, around the airfield, feeling the need to get back in shape. Running. Swimming. Lots of cardio. Take my lazy ass to the gym, put on a little more weight.
I picture cases upon cases of Budweiser, laid to waste at my hands. Irish Car Bombs and tequila shots happily downed without a second thought. Gallons of Gatorade chasing hangovers like lethargic and disinterested guard dogs.
Vacation's over. Getting everything back in order now, making it all Army Strong-like. Trimming the fat off the vets. You know us, you can see us in movies like Stop-Loss. Digging foxholes in our underwear. Because we dug lots of foxholes in Iraq...
Funny you bring up Iraq though. It's almost as if...
I was never even there.
Monday, August 4, 2008
Except its different now. We got that Iraq thing out of the way. Guess we were stupid enough to think that when that was over, it would all be over, even though we knew better, we probably just didn't want to accept it. So now all there is to do is go about it the same way you always did: not putting too much thought into it, going along to get along.
Choke on your complaints, choke em down and swallow hard. Smile through teeth gritted so hard that they crack.
Me? I just keep telling myself that I did what I signed up to do. Went to Iraq. Supported the troops in the fullest way. Became one of 'em. And now that that's over with, something's gotta tie me over, keep me in line, keep me from growing irritated and sick of another job, keep me from walking away, whistling and throwing the uniform on the ground.
Didja hear about the new GI Bill? Cuz I sure did.
Thursday, July 3, 2008
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Sure, everything is bizarre and weird and we're (some of us) trying to find the math in it all, but the truth is that too damn many people know who I am and what's going on, and I'm not comfortable sharing anything anymore. Rather than build a wall around myself, I'll find a new outlet, and as guaranteed, I'll be good as gold, but you can bet sure as shit that I'm pouring garbage out SOMEWHERE. All I ask is that there are no worries from the faithful ones, and that you have enough faith to trust that I'll be fine, although angry and confused for a bit, but I'll find my own way and all will be fine.
The blog's been greater than Awesome, but I'm camwhoring without the cam at this point, and I can't appreciate that. I'm not anonymous and I'm not no one anymore. Now that I'm home, it doesn't matter at all. This post itself has been narcissistic enough.
Thanks a billion, going under the radar til I have ALL my shit together, a-thankya-vary-much!
Alarm goes off at six in the morning but you've been in and out of consciousness for the past half hour. Like your body just knows that it has to be up soon. It's ingrained into you, that fear of being late or not being in the right place at the right time.
Morning PT. Completely unmotivated and indifferent, just going along to get along. You don't even bother to count days or even months. Its starting to look like The Purgatorium just shifted gears. Monotorium. Nauseum. Minimum security prison. You can't even act like the whiny bitch that you want to, cuz "they" will crush your balls. Go along. Get along. Pray you don't get hit with the Stop-Loss. Crawl towards your ETS date. Shrug shit off. Groan and sigh and look at your watch.
Don't fuck up.
Just wait it out and be that upstanding soldier that you're supposed to be. The game plan for now? Eh, I'll just keep the ol' mouth shut and do a whole lot more of the going along and see how well it gets me along. As mush as I'd love to completely let go and let the bird fly and sound off with a fuck-off, it just isn't worth it. The Army can fuck your world up and it/they will if you cross them/it.
Hey, you're just serving the last year of your sentence. Your crime? Enlistment.
So be it, may the paychecks flow. Gimme that money, then gimme that GI Bill, you know, the new and improved super beefy one. Yeah, I want that. I need it. Earned it. Fork it the fuck over, Unc Sam. Gimme what you promised and don't you dare fucking start spouting off with some tiny print bullshit.
Gimme what's mine and I'll go quietly.
Monday, June 23, 2008
One in particular was unapologetic and honest, sympathetic without kissing any ass or pulling any punches. It was a bitch-slap that I was happy to receive. I was relieved that someone would actually have this sort of insight that I needed. For those who hadn't found it yet:
"So, tell me, what did you expect? By now, you must realize you were sent out on a shit load of lies and fabrications. Do you expect assholes like that to possess even a shred of decency? Sorry, kid, they don't. So, no, don't expect a thank you note from Dick Cheney.
Previously, you said, "Deny it all you want, but its the truth. The second day we were back, we went right back to not meaning shit to anyone except our mothers." Which, of course, implies that you actually have mothers that give a shit. But, correctly, accepts that nobody else does. Hey, they're shopping, they're doing their duty. Leave them alone.
Welcome to it, bitch. No, they don't care. Accept it. Deal. Move on. It'll save time and heartache if you do. Oh, you'll always be pissed that a bunch of totally ungrateful fuckers put your ass, not theirs, on the line. That they profited while you suffered. And then threatened you when you objected to being treated like shit.
I mean, sure, "Thank you for your service." hugs and kisses, warm fuzzies and that shit. But you can feel it's not really there. You're dangerous now. For the rest of your life, you're potentially lethal. And, of all the stupid shit these assholes can come up with, a bunch of pogue MPs are going to threaten you with . . . what? Haji's tougher than any pogue. You got through that, didn't you?
Didja ever wonder why the 'Nam vets kept an autoloader around? Why every now and then they just go bust loose on bottles and cans? Same shit.
OK, it sucks. Man up. Deal. Get that education. Wring every cent of benefits out of the government you can. Nobody's coming around handing this shit out. You have to go get it.
Oh, yeah, good luck."
Kudos to this cat, that's all I gotta say about that. Any flavor of wakeup call, I'm glad to taste it. I'm not the type to want to feel sorry for myself. That inhibits PROGRESS. I woke up in the middle of the other night, with the first IraqMare I'd had in months.
The heaviest volume of small arms fire that I could ever fathom was coming down on me and the rest of my squad. This squad was a mix of guys from our company, strangely enough. I heard the zip/zooom/unexplainable noise of passing bullets, and the crack of the rifles firing them, and the smack of the rounds hitting the shitty poorly constructed walls around me.
I saw the tracers streak through the air, and rounds punched holes through the bagginess of my sleeves and pant legs, caught the outter-most edges of my helmet, completely OUTLINED MY BODY with bullets, and all we could do was shout to each other and blindly blast rounds back in the general direction and scramble for cover, dirt kicking up all around us, getting in our eyes, ammo pouches on my body army getting hit and fucking up my extra ammo, everything narrowly missing me, and rather than considering it all a miracle, I just realized that my luck couldn't last much longer and I had to do something to get away from it, and just as I sprinted from the half-cover of one building and tried to make it to a dirt-and-grass birm--
I woke up.
It wasn't a startle and a jump, I didn't throw punches. My eyes just opened.
I looked at my girlfriend, then I looked around the room. Tried to get my bearings. Realized where I was, for the most part. Rationalized it all for a few seconds while I rolled over and faced the window. Looked at traffic through a narrow slit though the curtains.
I closed my eyes again and crashed.
Things are getting a lot easier, making plenty more sense now. Sure, the occasional weirdness pops up, and yeah, I won't really touch hard liquor anymore, for fear of God Knows What, but now I've got my feet on the ground.
That, and I just bought a SICK Schecter Diamond Series Damien-FR with inactive EMG pickups, and lemme tell ya, even on a tiny Fender practice amp, the sounds are astounding. That and GTA4, microbrews, and good company are seeing me through just fine.
Unarmed and Unharmed, signing out.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Lots of shrugging of the shoulders and grunts of indifference, playing along, going with the grind because the alternative just isn't worth the heartache and punishment. Cog in the system kinda thing. I got a whole lotta nothing to say. Same story over and over again: we're back, it's strange, it's pretty easy, it's odd and weird, some things are annoying as hell, but all in all, it can all fuck right off, because we're home and we aren't armed and clad in ridiculous equipment. The neighborhoods are civilized and now we are too. Honest.
Started the process of signing up for college classes, for this last year. Keep me busy. Gives me goals that I actually give a shit about. Gonna learn sum'n.
I'm gonna be just like you.
We're back now. Back in the states.
Back to the booze. Back to the insanity of normal living. Fresh introduction to ridiculous gas prices. Great guys coming home to disastrous situations. The most unexpected, failed marriaged, and thankya very much Uncle Sam. Seeing as ol' Unc gives such a shit about fixing these quiet problems. Cheating wives. And who can blame who? Gone for over a year, what is a human being to do?
Just don't discredit the army, and everything is ok. Fuck you, Joe. Figure it out.
The Army cares about families. Really, it does. And that's why the happiest couples are in such an interesting state. That's why a married guy is crashing in the extra space in my room. Because we're all such heroes, we're all supported oh so much. But I guess refusing the dick is a bit much to ask from married women. I guess this is just our new culture. More money for the lawyers.
Here is your shiny happy future! Repetitive briefings filled with scare tactics, to the point where you don't even want to leave your room because it is a FACT that you will fuck up and the Army will destroy you. You're back, and "thank you" and all that, but really, hardly anyone truly cares. You're not in Iraq anymore, you're just another "vet" and yawn an' fuckoff kindly. Deny it all you want, but its the truth. The second day we were back, we went right back to not meaning shit to anyone except our mothers.
When I left, phones flipped open, but made sense. Now my phone has a keyboard and a touch screen. I should need a degree from MIT to run the bastard. You can't find a normal TV, they're all flat pannel HD spreadyercheeksandcoughupthecash crazy contraptions. Now I can see all the starlets blemishes in SUPER HIGH DEFINITION.
Sure, I catch myself scanning the freeway in high def, and the strangely shaped roofs. The shops and malls and hotels and godknowswhat. All to find even less.
"Oh, you're [Father]'s son, the one that just came back from Iraq?! How was it? Was it fun???"
I couldn't make this up if I tried. I've just been holding my tongue, being on my best behavior. That is, til I ended up at a friend's house, this friend being dead, and talking to his widowed wife, drinking wine and feeling awkward. Before I know it, I'm on the porch, hiding from everyone else, and the faucet is turned on, and I'm completely losing it, trying to find logic behind everything when I know that there is none. Trying to come to grips that one of the greatest people that I'll ever meet wasn't able to come home, and now I'm a guest in his wife's house. Oh you can bet I hung my head.
And then I went back to the Consumer Binge, namely in the mall. Sure, the Arabic fellow selling lotion didn't deserve the instinctive freak-out that I gave him, or the threats of bodily harm. He didn't deserve my desire to stomp the life out of him, but what business did he have being in my homeland, freedom aside?
Half the time, it's like I'm still There. The other half of the time, it's ALMOST like I had never actually left. Maybe just slept in. But now people are "proud" of me for doing whatever it is that I did.
I asked a Vietnam Vet a few questions. He said that it took him no time at all to readjust. Once again, we were the weird ones. Step outside and hear some other unit at the range unloading rounds, and for a second, it could be another firefight in Dourah, Baghdad. But no, it's not.
You're home now. You're no one again. All thanks aside, you're just a Joe. And no one here gives a shit. Most of 'em have done it, and the ones who haven't, well those newbie bastards are heading there sooner than soon. No ticker tape parade. Just a slideshow. Powerpoint.
Just liquor. Pouring as much of it into your face as you can, just as long as you don't have to work the next morning (even then, it's debatable). Everything is explainable, but nothing makes SENSE. We got no action, we got no motion. Don't think the boy can play much anymore.
We're kinda just like the rest of you now. Trying our damndest anyway. Got another year left. Then four years inactive.
Far as anyone else is concerned, I was never there. Never once.