Monthly Archives: March 2012

A conversation with the enemy

I have often wondered what a conversation with an enemy would play out like. Would it be a silent staring match in which each man attempted to make his visual onslaught of the other more intimidating, a verbal battle of ideals, or a more jovial but sinister conversation.  For me I feel it would be the last option, I would say latter but I never know how that damn expression works, but that’s besides the point. I think that a conversation with my once sworn but invisible enemy would be closer to a conversation with guys I served in combat with.

You know the convo’s I am talking about, the half adulation half insult stories that we throw up for others to marvel. You grab the stupid bastard that did the incredible deed and say, “this f@#$@^%^ guy decided it would be okay to dismount under fire and run into the building where these guys were and kill every last freaking one of them… even threw one out the window for good measure. I never would have expected it because he couldn’t get laid even if he was an egg much less kill a building full of hadgis.” I think that’s how a conversation with my long dead enemy would go.

“You dick, you almost killed me with that freaking 107mm man. I really almost crapped myself when it hit.” I’d say.

Then he’d say, ” Well hell I was minding my own business when you shot me in the freaking throat.”

I’d laugh and say, ” yeah but you made a really funny noise when you fell down.”

Then he would reply, ” You are the dick my friend, I mean seriously who takes a dead guy’s fingerprints, here I am waiting on my 72 virgins and here you come cussing at me because you can’t get a solid print on the freaking biometrics.”

“Yeah Yeah Yeah, those things suck. Did you at least get to say goodbye…. to your goat!”

” You are an ass you know, that goat was a very kind and loving animal. And for your information I always said bye to the family before I left, we never doubted how good you guys were.”

” The same goes for you brother, we were the baddest military on the planet and you had us wondering if we were gonna make it home that night.”

“War is old men talking and young men dying… seems I did the dying.”

” I regret that it was you…. but I am damn glad it wasn’t me… I mean look at me… I am way to good looking to be a corpse… you on the other hand looked like a zombie from the start.”

“f@#$ off, you know I could have gotten you just as easy.”

“Of course, we both left the house that day with our guns, we both were prepared to do the hard things that soldiers like us do, I just got the drop on you. The problem I find myself asking though, would the gentlemen that decided that we should kill each have lasted a freaking millisecond if we were hunting them? I mean seriously why did I have to kill you and not just drop them, you have a phd in philosophy or some shit right… make this make sense to me.”

“The soldier above all others prays for peace, for it is the soldier who must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war. I believe that was your General Macarthur. We were simply men of war, doing that which men of war do.”

“Bulls@#, you had a pretty daughter and a smart looking son… you were more than the mark I dropped in the street.”

“And If I had killed you, what accolades would I have added to your name, none or many. I could have made you out as a dog, in which case I devalued my honorable killing of you, or I could have exalted your position and respected the fact that on that day I was fortunate to catch you sleeping… you silly f@#$.”

“Ass.. lol, Still is stupid that we were killing each other in the first place, but I will always be better at it than you.”

” Do you feel that’s a good thing?”

“Ehhh for me no, for everybody else on my side yes. Still sorry about f@#%ing your day up like that.”

“Don’t be I would have slit your throat given the chance.”

“Yea I would have preferred one on one, seems more fair.”

” That’s because you are sadistic my American friend.”

“Guilty, but still my apologies… should have found the big fish to kill not the puppet just like me.”

” Ehh, what are we if not good at what we did.”

I was taught early on to forever respect my enemy… more out of a fear that you would miss something  and they would kill you for it. Later though, I truly did begin to respect them. I mean you need to have some nuts to mess with us. Us being the largest and most technologically advanced military on the planet. The one where guys get shot in the chest and get back up with a broken rib and a strong desire to visit the shooter’s mother. We were wholly intimidating and yet these crazy bastards did the best they could to kill us. War never makes sense and this loss seems pointless and so we blame it on the enemy for the losses we suffered over nothing. But if you stopped in the middle and it made sense  then it would be okay, this just simply ain’t that kind of war. It leaves all who were or are in it with a “what the f@#$?” kind of taste in their mouth. Beyond all that though, I never worried about taking life. That was the easy part of the job, years later though I find myself wondering what kind of guy did I remove from this planet. Would  a logical person like Spok say that was the logical choice or was the guy I put down more beneficial than me? These are questions I can’t answer and I hope my tongue in cheek play of words falls on the right ears to hear it and that it hits the right chord in those I was looking to reach. The one of peace about what happened there not just with the killing but also with watching those close to us fall. Just one weird veteran’s perspective, take from it what you will.

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LGOMV

After the demise of the best Airborne plan, a most terrifying effect occurs on the battlefield. This effect is known as the rule of the LGOPPs (Little Groups of Pissed-off Paratroopers). This is, in its purest form, small groups of pissed-off 19 year old American paratroopers. They are well trained. They are armed to the teeth and lack serious adult supervision. They collectively remember the Commander’s intent as “March to the sound of the guns and kill anyone who is not dressed like you” – or something like that. Happily they go about the day’s work…

Why do veteran’s organizations succeed? There sometimes isn’t a considerable cash flow, there may not even be a dedicated space for the veterans to start their work.They sometimes simply exist as an idea, a name, and a 501.3.c. Ahh, but this where the veteran is at home, in chaos we make order.  With each new veteran there is a new set of ideas, goals, and plans of how the organization should be run. There is also the question of what makes your veterans’ organization different from the plethora of others that have been jumping up in the past few years. Having formed a rather dysfunctional veterans organization and belonged to another that is for all accounts the largest of its kind in Texas, I feel that I may speak to what makes a group such as this succeed and what makes it fail.

Leadership. If the guy given the responsibility to do something fails to come to that goal, he needs to be replaced. Common sense, but hard to do when everybody is friends. I fell into that category, I am too busy in my student life to maintain any semblance of dedication to the Lone Star Veteran Association as much as I wish I could. Thankfully, there is good leadership there and they were able to politely lighten my burden for me and allow me to continue to focus on school and work, while the important work that I was supposed to be coordinating was continued on by another veteran with the time and motivation to take care of it. Another aspect of Leadership is that they can never be satisfied with where they are. With these types of organizations when you stop striving to grow you are dead on arrival. That’s another thing I got wrong in the veteran’s organization I helped put together at UH. Once I had an established set of officers and a couple of people coming to meetings, I stopped pushing to grow and just assumed they would come as we worked. Wrong assumption. Veterans are distinctly and uniquely talented to assess a working group in just a couple of seconds. It comes from years of showing up to new units, teams, squads, and platoons. They have a better understanding of game theory than they can possibly understand due to their real life experience. So a veteran looks at an organization and quickly assesses it. What’s the point? Do I benefit? Can I help someone else benefit? Are they a threat? Is there solid leadership? Does it seem like everyone is equally respected? Where do I fit in? Can I at some point be in control of something?    These thoughts are taught to us from how the rank and file system works and because it is a group of veterans they apply that logic to the group. If your organization can answer these questions on the surface clearly with the right answers you are in good shape.

Doing something tangible. Mistake number two for me with the Veteran Collegiate Society. We were more of a bunch of guys hanging out drinking, not really achieving anything of substance. Of course we had the best of intentions of taking care of the veterans and getting things squared away for the incoming freshman veterans but the beer just got in the way, lol. That however is where the LSVA excels, on any given day you will find veterans with their nose to the grind stone, knocking out some really incredible projects and programs for their fellow vets. These ladies and gentlemen (use that term loosely) are some of the most squared away human beings I have ever met. They make other squared away and motivated individuals looks like ate up slackers. I suppose that brings me to another point of success. Are the people in the group someone you can learn from? There is a flow of information that spouts from every veteran in the organization, you ask a question you will get 3 possible avenues of a approach to a solution and a business card of someone who can get you there faster. Sometimes that knowledge and advice is just as tangible as playing softball or doing a resume class, both of which the LSVA does. Its amazing the breadth and depth of programs that have come to fruition within the LSVA. Programs such as, veteran career assistance with veteran friendly employers, education support, veterans court, peer mentoring, veteran fitness, 4 softball teams, and a ton of camaraderie events. These things provide such incredible services for our local veterans and they also are something tangible that a veteran can say LSVA does this for me, thus it is worthwhile and I want to contribute to it by doing  X,Y,Z. That tangible project or knowledge is such a critical part to being successful.

The hidden purpose. Many are aware of it. Some don’t feel they need it. But I feel that this singular point is critical to the success of the organization because it leaves the veterans truly invested in the programs. The idea of therapeutic moments. Half of the veterans reading this, brains just shut off, lol. But keep reading. Veterans are not in the business of hugging and crying on each others shoulders, just not what we do. However, given the time to learn to trust the individuals around you and the right time, stuff comes up. They usually start as a funny war story and wind up talking about how you can’t get over the survivors guilt. The key factor is that the group of guys that you are playing softball with or shooting clays, or drinking a beer with, they won’t say a damn word of judgement. You may get some echos of agreement and a bit of advice on how to change your perspective. The common understanding, experience, and background, allows for no preface, no back story to be necessary; you simply can open and close with so, “I can’t get over the fact that he’s dead and I’m not.” They get it, you get it off your chest, and its cathartic… then you are up to bat. This hidden currency under the veil of some other activity really becomes a glue that binds everyone together. Eventually, the war stories aren’t as important or vivid and its talking about wanting to rip the guy’s head off that sits in front of you in class. Or how some kid called you a baby killer. Again, echos of assent and some advice, maybe an offer to help you bury the guy if you ever take him out….. your turn to buy the pitcher. This leads to true investment in the association and moreover a sense of belonging that is difficult for veterans to find anywhere else.

Ownership. This is a big one to me. When a veteran walks into the LSVA’s meetings if he shows promise or just has ideas and the time, he is given the reigns and told to run with it. This veteran empowerment is very important. It gives immediate ownership of the program and some serious confidence to the veteran. Just like the LGOPP’s the LSVA is very talented in creating LGOMV, little groups of motivated veterans. These LGOMV’s are unleashed on any number of projects and they are tackled and overcome with a speed and efficiency that most corporations would beg for. There is no stiff leadership system in place…. because the moment that happens, its again DOA. This really allows veterans to get involved. They create their own services rather than having someone hand it to them. This appeals to the veterans pride, which is a very important aspect of helping up a veteran. More importantly LGOMV’s get shit done.

So to recap what makes a group successful. The right leadership who are doing something tangible by empowering the LGOMV’s which allows for the hidden purpose to take place. This in my opinion is what makes a group successful. What kills it is just the opposite, inept leadership doing the same old stuff, with an inflexible leadership command that hordes its influence, leaving no place for what a veterans’ organization is all about to happen.

See for yourself how its done right. http://lonestarveterans.ning.com/    because honestly there aren’t any examples of how its done wrong….. because they don’t exist anymore.