Author Archives: breed3231

Hello, Anger, my old friend

“Weird Al” Yankovic probably makes a ton of money singing parodies of other peoples songs.   Sometimes something about a song’s lyrics catches me.  Sometimes I realize that I heard something that wasn’t there, and sometimes it sparks the creative creature inside of me.

I don’t think this would classify as a parody though, since my intent wasn’t to make fun of the musician.  It probably wouldn’t classify as any literary device that I know of.  Maybe I can make my own device, Dramatic Imitation?

This is my version of Simon and Garfunkel’s – The Sound of Silence

Hello, Anger, my old friend
I’ve come to walk with you again
Because a vision staunchly creeping
Left its poison while I was sleeping
And the vision
That is eating at my brain
Still remains
It is the sound of violence

In restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets with  broken stones
Beneath the shell of a street lamp
I turned against the wind and sand
When my eyes were stabbed
By the flash of a sudden light
That split the night
And began the sound of violence

And in the fiery light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People running without stopping
People dying without crying
People seeing things they can never share…
And no one dare
Disturb the sound of violence.

“Fools,” said I, “you do not know
Violence like a cancer grows.”
“Hear my pain that it might reach you,
Take my words that they might teach you.”
But my words like shiny blood drops fall,
And echo in the sound of violence.



Every once in awhile I find myself in a funk.  Dragging my ass around.  Pissing and moaning.  Stuck to the couch.  Feeling sorry for myself.
Most of the time I don’t even know what has caused it or what I’m feeling sorry about.
I can’t stand to be like that.
I have to make a conscious physical and mental effort to climb back out of it.  One of the methods that I find that works for me is to try positive thinking.  Sound lame?  Generally I would agree, but there is a certain way that seems to work for me.
I’m not a little train engine that thinks to myself, “I think I can.”
I’m not some comedic Rob Schneider character thinking, “I can DO IT!”
I prefer a kick ass Governator attitude.  I say to myself, “I’m Back!”  I was good before and I am good again.
That’s Right!  Lookout Bastards!  I’m here and I’m back!
Start the ’80’s theme music.
I’m gonna get up early, I’m gonna knock this shit out!

You have to take it a step further than thinking “Im going to try.”

Some people find an activity that they enjoy.  For some of us it would seem that enjoyment is either lost or so far diluted it is dangerous.  For me, all I really need to do is focus on accomplishing things.  I need an objective, even if it is only a series of small objectives.  Wake up, go for a run, shower, start laundry, clean the house, grocery shopping, etc…  These tasks seem menial but there is a huge difference in viewing failing to complete them at all or viewing them as a successful accomplishment.  When overlooked and unaccomplished, failing to achieve these daily tasks can actually cause me to sink further into a hole.

This shit isn’t quick sand.  Stand up, put one foot in front of the other and move out.  If you fall off of the proverbial horse, you are no worse off than you were before but at least you were doing something.  Just start from scratch and move out again.

Find a picture or a quote that will keep you optimistic and motivated.  Place it on your bathroom mirror, refrigerator, front door, or someplace where you will see it everyday.  I took a picture of the MMA Tapout logo and scratched the word “Don’t” over the top left corner and placed it where I could see it from my desk at work.

Another important piece of this positive thinking TTP is to surround yourself with positive people.  Most humans are wired to feed off of and reflect the attitudes of those around them.  When you are surrounded by negativity you will only find yourself thinking negatively in turn.  Do you remember going to a bar or club and being surrounded by people who just relaxed and had a good time?  What about a time that you went out and were with that one guy who was just a buzz kill?  I avoid these people.  I actually get irritated and almost irate when I start listening to people start whining about shit and saying things like FML.  Look across some of the blogs and articles to see how many people talk about how much a supportive loved one, friend, or doctor has meant to them in their struggle.

In addition to self motivating, you may also start to work towards becoming self aware of your attitudes and indicators.

* Warning:  Skip the next paragraph if you aren’t interested in scientific mumbo jumbo.

The Mayo Clinic identifies different types of negative self-talk:
You magnify the negative aspects of a situation and filter out all of the positive ones. For example, say you had a great day at work. You completed your tasks ahead of time and were complimented for doing a speedy and thorough job. But you forgot one minor step. That evening, you focus only on your oversight and forget about the compliments you received.
When something bad occurs, you automatically blame yourself. For example, you hear that an evening out with friends is canceled, and you assume that the change in plans is because no one wanted to be around you.
You automatically anticipate the worst. You refuse to go out with friends for fear that you’ll make a fool of yourself. Or one change in your daily routine leads you to think the entire day will be a disaster.
You see things only as either good or bad, black or white. There is no middle ground. You feel that you have to be perfect or that you’re a total failure.

Try to have a sense of humor for Christ’s sake.
I suppose I could do some more research, but have heard that laughter releases endorphins and decreases dopamine levels.  I have read that endorphins are chemicals that are 10 times more powerful than the pain killing drug morphine, and dopamine is involved in the “fight or flight response” and is associated with elevated blood pressure.

What works for me might not work for you, but I am putting it out there.  It really takes some effort and self awareness sometimes.  I wish it I had an easy answer, and if you have anything that works for you…I am open to some suggestions.

Not a Disorder

I recently started to notice people dropping the D from PTSD.   Now, it is just Post Traumatic Stress.  Im actually impressed.   This is a step at least.   Removing the word Disorder also removes some negative connotations from the stigma.

Here is an example:

Not a disorder

Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, General Peter Chiarelli believes post-traumatic stress is a chemical injury, not a disorder.

He does not like the stigma often associated with calling it a disorder. Some people can view PTSD as a weakness or a sign of weakness in a person, he said.

“PTS is real; it is an injury,” Chiarelli said. “It should be treated as an injury.”

The first step, Chiarelli said, is in helping to eliminate the stigmas about behavioral health and treatment.

Soldiers suffering from traumatic brain injury and PTS require treatment focused toward their injury, he said, the same way Soldiers with physical injuries receive care.

“No one is complaining about the way we are treating Soldiers who lose arms or legs,” Chiarelli said.

Brain injuries are different from physical ones, he said, and brain science is more complicated than mending a wounded limb.

Soldiers with brain injuries can be more prone to high-risk behaviors and activities, he said, either because of the injury or out of frustration from symptoms.

Chiarelli wants TBI and PTS to be treated as medical conditions caused by injuries. He wants Soldiers to get the help and treatment they deserve.

“We have put many of these Soldiers in this position,” Chiarelli said. “We owe it to them to make them well.”

Read the full Article:


Where have all of those “patriotic” Americans gone?

They were so quick to stand up and wave their flags after September 11th.   Every car you passed on the highway had an American flag waving from its window, and then they had the yellow ribbon magnets on the trunk.  Where were they the month before?  Where are they now?   I almost titled this post. Patriotism: Flavor of the month.

Everyone remembers where they were on 9/11.   This is going to be one of those big topics we still discuss as old people.  Do you remember where you were?  I do.  I had already been on active duty for 5 years.  My unit was conducting a FTX outside of Grafenwoehr, Germany.   I didn’t get to see any of the pictures or news videos until at least two days later.    I actually remember thinking that it was part of the scenario for the FTX at first, it just didn’t seem possible or real.

A month and a half later I PCS’d to a stateside assignment.   I took a few weeks of leave in between assignments to visit my family.   I remember getting so pissed off at all of these patriotic pretenders when I was home.  Since I was already in the service, I knew the indifference most people have for the military.   Unless they have a family member serving, they probably don’t give the military a seconds thought.  Consider serving?  NO WAY, NOT ME, NOT MY CHILD!  Like military service is undignified or is something that someone else is obligated to do for them, so that they can drive to their yoga class, in a $40,000 car, talking on their blue tooth, sipping on a venti mocha latte, while someone else is watching their children.

Do you know how  many people ever shook my hand, said thank you for serving, or maybe offered to buy my meal before September 11th?   Only WWII and Vietnam Vets!   When was the last time someone shook your hand recently?  Do they even realize what Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day stand for?

We just observed the 9th anniversary of the events that happened on September 11th.    I checked the internet and television on September 15th, and the news had returned back to normal.  Football Season.  Video Music Awards.  Reggie Bush loses his Heisman.  The petty Bullshit games that the Democratic and Republican Parties are playing with each other.   Which celebrity is in rehab.   Michelle Obama’s 20th vacation this year.  Oh, How soon we forget!

Does anyone know that there were two more Medal of Honor recipients this month?   One of them is the first living service member to receive the award since Vietnam.

There are some people out there who truly show appreciation for the Soldiers and keep this continued war in their minds.   I truly appreciate the efforts that some of these actors, singers, and professional athletes show the military.

Those who volunteer to tour the base camps in Iraq and Afghanistan visiting the Soldiers:
The Athletes and Cheerleaders of various Professional Sports teams.
People like Robin Williams, Leanne Tweeden, Gary Sinese, and Kid Rock have all been on multiple USO tours.
Nobody beats Toby Keith…Man what a guy!!!
World Wrestling Entertainment has not only visited the Soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, but puts on a televised wrestling broadcast EVERY year.

The Anheuser Busch company has offered FREE admission to Busch Gardens and Seaworld theme parks for Soldiers and family members since 2002.   Walt Disney World only started offering a DISCOUNTED rate after the economy dipped in 2009.

How about those two “kissin’ grandmas” at the DFW airport?   These two ladies are out there practically everyday greeting Soldiers returning on EML.   Those ladies are the real Americans.

So besides releasing a little frustration you may wonder if I have a point?   If these people aren’t able to look past their own self-absorbed lives, are we ever going to get the attention we need for veterans?   Think about it.  These are the voters.   These are the ones pushing for free health care and gay marriage.   We are the 1%.   That is the percentage of the American population to serve in the military.  We need to be active in making our voices heard.

Did that just happen?

Have you ever experienced a singular moment?   A moment that seems to suddenly stop time, where you achieve some awareness you didn’t have before?

My moment came amidst one of my worst experiences.   This specific moment is one that I will never forget.

As a leader, I was very fortunate.   I had an awesome group of Soldiers under me.   We had every battle drill rehearsed.   Every situation we encountered had an immediate reaction.  When someone went down, someone else immediately stepped up.

This type of training and rehearsal is automatic.   It reduces stress.   It removes the thought process and chances for error, you become a single collective machine accomplishing a programmed function.   This is a pretty honest description of how I felt sometimes.   Truck 1 gets hit, equals truck 2 and 3 move up….establish security, evaluate casualties, report to higher, and so on….

On this night we got hit pretty bad.   All of my reactions were so automatic that I do not remember some of them even now.    Alot of things happened that night and I am still working on trying to put them into words, but I remember this one moment sooooo clearly that as I think of it now my body will physically react to my thoughts.

I was outside of my vehicle with the injured Soldier.   My driver was in charge of my vehicle and had assumed my responsibility of sending reports to higher.   The gunner had been on mission with us before, but was not our usual gunner.   My driver was preparing a SITREP and MEDEVAC request, he looked back out of the open door to ask me about the injuries.   I automatically replied with the Soldier’s name and extent of injury (lower leg amputation, priority medevac.)

<BOOM, slow motion> Every one of my immediate reactions and pre-rehearsed drills stop.   It is only an instant, but it seems much longer.   I had no problem telling the driver, but I think… “Did that just happen?  Did the gunner hear me?  What will their reaction be?  What did I do?”

I knew that I was one of only a few Soldiers on the ground.   Everyone else in the squad was still pulling security for us, requesting support, or some other activity.   Up until the moment I made that statement, only those Soldiers on the ground knew how bad his injuries were.   The gunner was pretty close to the Soldier who lost his leg.   To be honest, he was a great guy all around.   No matter how serious I was, or how shitty of a day I was having…he ALWAYS made me laugh or smile.    He never said “No” or “I cant.”   He was great, but the gunner and injured Soldier were pretty close.

At that moment everything stopped becoming programmed for me.   “Did they hear me?  Do they know?  How are they going to take it? What are they thinking?”   Holy shit!!!   Now, there were suddenly not only actions and reactions, but now there was a third or fourth dimensional effect to an event.   I could understand how I felt(push aside, worry later) but how did the other Soldiers feel?   Could they function?   Did I have secondary emotional casualties?   It would all be my fault.  What the hell will I do now?

<BOOM, time rushes back to normal>   continue mission…WTF?



Religion: PART I “Higher Purpose”

We have discussed it a few times in the JollyRoger, and you have heard comments on Mike’s radio show as well.  Talking about religion, and about when we stopped believing in God.  Talking about when we began thinking; “How could he let this happen?” or “Why wasn’t it me, instead of my buddy?”

The war didn’t change things that much for me.  The really religious stuff has always been a little too deep for me.

Whenever I have lost a friend in combat, I have somewhat been able to connect a purpose to it.  As a Soldier, you recognize and accept the chance that you may die.   When someone dies in combat, I want to honor their loss.  I want to try to give their death some type of meaning or purpose.   I always start thinking about how careless it would seem to deploy a unit, have Soldiers lose their lives, and then return without accomplishing anything.  The meaning or purpose really seems to be a sticking point at least for my own sanity.

In another respect, I always find unexpected non-combat deaths of my friends more difficult to accept.   I have difficulty connecting a purpose to an 18-30 year old committing suicide, being killed by a drunk driver or some other type of car accident, or having heart failure in their sleep.   It is too random and unexpected, and there is no larger purpose to associate this with.

Losing friends in combat is still not something that I feel comfortable reasoning and overlooking though.   Out of the thousands of deployed Soldiers, Why does one Soldier get killed over another?   Out of two Soldiers standing next to each other, Why does one Soldier get killed over another?   Is the insurgent’s cause more important than the Soldier’s that day?   You will always be stuck thinking and wondering things like:  “How could God let this happen?”  “Why wasn’t it me, instead of my buddy?” “Could I have done something differently?”

If there are no atheists in a foxhole, I was not too much different.  I did not become reborn, but I felt that he looked out for me.  We had some bad luck, but I think he played a roll in keeping it from being worse.  I think God should have been a little more irritated with me personally.   I had a bobble-head Jesus doll that I kept in my truck on missions.   Is this Blasphemy?  The Bobble head was a half joke, half lucky charm.   The joke was a jab at the fanatics who were trying to kill us every day.   It is really sad how easy someone can twist people’s minds into believing that they are fighting for religion, or into thinking that they were waging jihad against infidels, and fighting American religious crusaders.

What about all of the other random, shitty things that happen to us in life?  Is there a purpose?  Is this part of his plan?  After my first marriage, I took a small bit of relief and comfort from the bible passage from John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son.   At the time I was thinking that if he could bear to lose his son, then I could bear to lose my spouse.

Religion: PART II “A young Bobble Head”

When I was young, my parents weren’t church going people.  Sometime towards the end of grade school I asked my parents if I could go to church.  My sister and I began going to a Baptist church in our town with a friend’s family.  My sister and I were different ages, so we were in different Sunday school groups.  The first day we were went to this church; my sister was “saved.”  It was kind of odd to me at the time.  How could my younger sister get saved and not me?  The next three Sundays, my sister was saved again and again and again…We went to this church for a few months, but I soon became even more lost.  I knew many of the common bibles stories, but I still had a lot of questions.  After learning about Noah and the ark, I asked why there were different races of people.  As I remember it, the Sunday school teacher gave a pretty poor answer.   My mother was upset at the church and the pastor came in the next week to give a retraction to the class.

We soon began to attend a Christian fellowship church.  It was fine for awhile as well.  Finally one day they told me that I was too old for Sunday school; so off I went to big people church, all by myself.   The next thing I know, I am watching people line up in the aisle to have the pastor touch their heads with oil.   Many of these people started dancing, speaking in tongues, and even passing out.  The pastor said that the hand of god was on the church and I sunk deeper into the pew staring at the ceiling and the people passing out…So, that was the end of that one too.

Since then God and I have a very casual relationship.  More or less; he looks after me and I don’t know why.  I try to be good for the most part and live a good life.  I don’t go to church and I don’t ask him for anything in return.  I have never exactly been a non-believer as much as an unidentified.   I believe in God, but don’t believe in everything they say about him.   I guess I spent more time in history class than I did in church.   There must be some type of a higher power.  Reason only demands that it would just be too random to think that we all ended up here by accident.   On the other hand I think that history is full of men, who rewrote the bible for their own interests.

Then there is my biggest dilemma, why are there so many different denominations?  What is the difference?  Who believes what?  Where did it come from?  What about these supposed lost books of the bible?  I wish I knew what the original words Jesus spoke to the apostles were.   Until then, I will still be…in search of.

Religion: PART III “Rolling the Dice”

How many times have you measured your life in inches or seconds?   Is this God’s will or just luck?

An insurgent’s poorly timed IED.  A bullet striking just inches from your head.  An RPG punching through a fuel tanker but not detonating.  Seeing the unit ahead of you, or behind you get hit instead of you.  Choosing to take a different route one day, or choosing not to eat in the chow hall.  Random choices making the difference between living or dying.

My first mission…The land owner turned us back as soon as we rolled out the gate.   The other half of our platoon caught someone digging an IED emplacement.  We asked to roll out the back gate, and another convoy got out ahead of us.  That convoy got hit and took casualties.  We got lucky and someone else got hit.  We turned back again and waited another night.

As we to return to the FOB our wrecker broke down, and I was able to replace the vehicle rather than have it go down on mission.  When we rolled out the next night, my HMMWV broke down.  We hooked my truck up to be towed and reconsolidated into other trucks.  We left a team at the maintenance point, to pick up on the return leg. At this point I was riding in a vehicle that was more armored than my original vehicle.  As we continued our mission, my first two trucks took small arms fire.   I was scanning for their contact, when my vehicle was struck by an IED.   I can not say that I would have been screwed in my original HMMWV, but the ASV was better protected. We made it out of that engagement ok.  That whole series of incidents, I can’t help but to start questioning it and wondering how things could have happened differently.

Twice we were struck by EFP’s that did not function properly.  The insurgents had either used an explosive compound that was not military grade, packed too much explosive into the device, or a combination of both.   This caused the EFP to explode rather than properly form the lethal projectile.  The explosion sent small pieces of molten copper or lead into the trucks.  The second time, a piece the size of a nickel penetrated one of our turrets, striking our gunner in his side sapi-plate.  An even smaller piece of the lead projectile then broke off and entered his side.  I would have expected punctured lungs and several other damaged organs, but somehow this small piece went through his lat muscle and travelled along under the skin of his back, before stopping near his spine.   He is still recovering from these injuries, but I am just amazed at how much luck and inches can mean between life and death.

When my Commander’s truck got hit, there were two charges that penetrated the armor.   On almost every other day the medic would ride in the backseat of the Commander’s truck.   On this day the driver of another vehicle was on R&R leave and the medic had taken his place.   That random chance meant his life.    The Commander himself being of small stature received a glancing blow, breaking his collarbone instead of something more fatal.

There was another day that our second squad experienced another close call.   Many times the explosive devices are armed by a remote control as they see the American convoy approaching.  The device is then detonated by a sensor.   The only other vehicle on that road was a taxi that had stopped to unload passengers.   The insurgent armed the device to strike second squad, but the taxi pulled out again detonating the explosion.    The passengers in the taxi were killed, but that random chance saved second squad.

Many times I felt that the enemy would choose to hit another unit rather than us, because our gunners always maintained an aggressive security posture.   Early in the deployment, we had a betting pool as we passed other convoys while travelling through southern Iraq.   We were betting on the total number or tactical errors we would identify the other unit committing; gunners standing too high in the turret, gunners without their hands on their weapons, gunners even sitting in the back seat instead of in the turret, gunners who would not rotate their turrets and flag us with their weapons, placing vehicles in the front or rear positions that had tactical limitations or liabilities in those positions, I once saw a gunner in his physical training uniform.   Even in Baghdad I saw many units driving down the center of the road (ducks in a row), or riding around with turrets locked in place and weapons pointing straight up in the air.   This sends a message that you are an easy target.

Religion: PART IV “A Father’s Grief”

I already mentioned God’s purpose behind some of those random shitty things that happen in your life.  I recently had something happen to me that further shifted my position on the fence.

Last fall my wife and I went to a doctor’s appointment where we were told that our unborn daughter had a genetic condition.  We were told that the best case scenario would be that if she held on long enough to be born, she would likely not make live more than a few hours.  The car ride home was pretty silent.   Inside I felt lost and confused.   Something started brewing inside like a Hurricane, fierce swirling emotions:  Confusion, Anger, Grief, Fury, Sadness, Disbelief, Loss, and Helplessness.  Too many things for you to even grasp or get hold of.   After awhile it was difficult to keep driving.  I told my wife that I needed to pull over, get some air and a soda.   I could not have pulled into the 7-eleven at a worse time.  As I unbuckle my seat belt and open my door, I see another pregnant woman.   This lady is smoking a cigarette and yanking a screaming 3 yr old by the arm.  How is this fair?  How could this be God’s will?   Did that woman deserve her baby more than my wife?

There are a number of things that I can bear to happen to me; I am just that kind of person.   I can not bear to see things like this happen to my wife.  She is too sweet and genuine of a person to deserve something like this to happen to her.  There are things that other people will do or say, that just stab you deeper.   The appropriate thing to say to someone is; “I am sorry for your loss.” or “I am here if you need anything.”  Do not ever say something like; “You can have another one.”  “At least the baby won’t be born handicapped.” or “IT WAS GOD’S WILL.”  My answer to those types of comments is “Fuck that and Fuck you!”

During this very difficult time I was again able to find one (very small) bit of “spiritual” comfort.   I did not find it in a bible passage though.  Sometime between our doctor’s appointment and the loss of our daughter, my wife was a bridesmaid in a friend’s wedding.   It was an outdoor ceremony on an overcast day, with a professional photographer.   In a picture of my wife walking to the chapel, the sun is shining through the clouds.   The shape of the clouds and sun strikingly resemble an angel looking down at my wife.   It is still not enough to make up for not having anything to hold on to or remember.


So for now I feel like putting Bobble Head up on a shelf.

“I’m pissed off now, Jobu. Look, I go to you. I stick up for you. You don’t help me now. I say Fuck you, Jobu, I do it myself.”

The Rumor Mill

What is it like?  …to be the one at home while your loved one is away?

Some of you may be able to share your own experiences. Some of you may gain perspective or insight.

There are probably a dozen things that bear discussion:
The farewell
Waiting for the phone calls and emails
Picking up the slack
Watching the news
The anticipation and the reunion
Listening to the gossip and rumors

It is that last one that I want to talk about; “The Rumor Mill”

From the deployed Soldier’s perspective I hated the rumors and the gossip.

The rumors and gossip spread faster than a Texas grass fire on a windy summer day.   One Soldier calls home and talks to his wife.  She holds it together long enough to be supportive on the phone with him.   When they hang up she breaks down and calls another spouse to let it out.   Pretty soon everyone back home knows whatever it was they talked about.   We almost have to submit an immediate press release to the Rear Detachment and Family Readiness Group(FRG.)

We organize the FRG as an “official information” and a support channel.  Sometimes they will coordinate for a speaker to come give a class to the spouses; anything from finances, to reintegration, to Military Programs and benefits.   You are supposed to be able to call the FRG if you need help, say you get really sick and do not have family that live close.  Sometimes they just organize gatherings to get everyone together; Christmas parties, Halloween Parties, Easter Egg hunts, Going out to dinner, Making crafts, cards, and care packages to send to the Soldiers.

Some spouses are become active in the FRG.   Usually participation increases during deployments.   But there are some spouses that avoid the FRG.  Some spouses have very little spare time, Some spouses don’t like having the Army involved in their personal life, Some are just shy, and Some are too far away to get involved.  Some had a bad experience in a former unit.   Maybe it was some case of snobbery, but often these spouses got sick of the rumor mill too.

Sometimes, a sub-group of spouses develops back at home.  This group is usually made up of only a small percentage of the spouses.  They go to the FRG meetings and sit in the back of the room spewing out gossip, rumors, and garbage.   This is the group that I call the Rumor Mill.

I heard “so and so” is cheating on their wife.  I heard “so and so” is only in trouble, because “so and so else” has it out for them.   I think “so and so” should get fired.  I heard “so and so” is coming home early.

At one point we had some drama going on downrange, a lot of rumors spinning around in the rear, and many spouses getting upset.   To dispel the rumors and ease minds, the Commander and 1SG set up a conference-call to speak to the spouses and answer questions.   Because of the time difference, we stayed up until around 0100 hrs to set this up.   Here is the kicker, only the senior leaders spouses came to the conference call.   One of the Soldier’s wives had organized a sex toy party that evening.   Guess it is something like a Tupperware party, but different.   WOW!!! That is pretty supportive of the Soldiers and other spouses if you ask me.

After the buses left the gym, some of the spouses gathered at one house.  They didn’t want to go home and be alone right away.  They wanted to have some company for a little bit and maybe have a glass of wine or something.   Pretty soon some spouses were very intoxicated, and a few started talking about wanting to cheat on their husbands.  WE WEREN’T EVEN IN THE AIR YET!!!

Some of these people are just clueless and insensitive to the impact their words are having on other spouses I am sure, but I really suspect that some of them must have low self-esteem and actually get off on the reactions that they cause and in seeing other people’s pain.    Why do some people pretend that they are in a competition to see how many times their husband calls home?   Or, feel the need to gloat that their spouse will be the one to come home for Christmas?  Some feel the need to “one up” everything you say, and others minimize your feelings as insignificant.

Then there are some of the normal rumors that are not caused through malice or by drama.  Things related to what is actually going on down range.  What about when the unit starts having enemy contact?   Or once Soldiers start getting hurt?   When that first Soldier gets hurt, It suddenly hits home.  It gets very real for ALL the wives.  Will my Soldier be next?  What are they doing over there?  Whose fault is it?

Now who do you talk to?   Your civilian friends can not relate or understand?   Your family probably doesn’t either.  It should be this group of people who are going through the same experience, but you no longer trust them.

You may wonder, “What do you know about the rumors and gossip?”  Not only was I connected to the rear through my own spouse, but through the spouses of the 42 Soldiers under me.  If you think that what goes on in the rear doesn’t affect the unit down range, then you need to wake up.   As a leader you need to have a constant finger on the pulse of everything in your unit.  That one Soldier who is thinking about problems at home, instead of pulling security could cause something very bad to happen.  That first break up can start causing worry and doubt in every other Soldiers relationship.   Relationship problems caused me to send just as many Soldiers to mental health as combat did.

Not only do I care about our Soldiers, spouses, and families, but I feel that problems at home can be directly related to increased risk of PTSD.   That 3rd letter stands for Stress.   Relationship problems back home cause depression.   Being depressed in combat can lead to increased fear, anxiety, stress, hopelessness, loneliness, isolation, desperation, and suicidal tendencies.

How do we fix this?  How do we make people comfortable with the FRG again?   Maybe it just needs strong leadership just like a military unit.   Someone leading the FRG who is strong enough to stop the flow of garbage as soon as it starts.

What measures can the unit and Soldiers take to support the spouses back home?   We tried to write a company newsletter to the FRG every month.  Another attempt to keep the families informed.  As the deployment went on, it became harder and harder to write about anything interesting.   It was a running joke that the deployment was like the movie “Groundhog Day” with Bill Murray.   Every day became a repetition of the day before.

Does it just come with experience?   Does it become easier during subsequent deployments?   Learning tips and tricks.  Knowing what to expect.   Things like knowing not to judge what you think you heard, but what your spouse was actually trying to say.   That was hard at first, with all the emotions involved, without body language to accompany the words, and trying to pack days or weeks of conversations into a few minutes.   Who can teach you to understand these things?  Who can you go to for support?   How do we clean the FRGs of The Rumor Mills?

What experiences have you had?   What do you think a unit can do to fix this?  Anyone else just want to vent?