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.


CP-5

Where have I been? Busy mostly. As time passes the signs and symptoms are either diminished or gone all together. I snore when I sleep. I don’t duck at loud thumps. I can stand in crowded bars. I can sit with my back to a crowd. All this is done with effort but the fact that its possible is a step in the right direction. Still doesn’t explain where I have been. I am focusing on the million other things that are going on and trying to make them all work. I started out writing this as some sort of advice column about my “success” in dealing with PTSD… that at this point is laughable to me and I am sure to most of you as well. It has become an episodic living journal of the ebb and flow of what is to me an epic struggle. I am wholly different than I was just a few short years ago, life has done a 180 and then to borrow from Dr. Seuss made a 3/4 right. I don’t view where I am as success or completion just another check point on the route.

So enough about what’s going on in my head. There has been some significant changes in the war while I was on my sabbatical. The Iraq war is done. How do I feel about it? I don’t. I couldn’t care less. In fact its more of a feeling of what in the hell took so long. The Iraq war was over before I was even out of high school, before I joined up, and went over there to fight. How you ask, because then we started nation building, a failed and very unintelligent idea to take a backward country and attempt to make it follow our very crooked political system. Great idea. So the best we had to offer continued dying for some altruistic idea of what Iraq should be, not what it is and what it will soon be. As we pull out and over the next couple of years they will show their true colors. Survival of the fittest will be in full blossom as the corrupt and crooked officials and tribal leaders squabble for the scraps. Civil war or religious sectarian war or both will break out. Thousands more will die and even better they are now a battle hardened country. So you ask me how I feel about Iraq ending…. who gives a S@#$. People may get wrapped around the axle about that, saying but then the troops died for nothing. That is completely wrong. Whatever the reasons or intentions that we sent our troopers to war for don’t matter. It put good men and women in a rough place to do good things. Our men and women in uniform have an incredible ability to help, serve, and protect our country, their own ranks, and even the country that they are occupying. Those that died were following orders,  removing individuals that no longer needed to consume oxygen, or protecting their own, a more noble endeavor there is none. We brought honor to a country that had and has none, and it will leave with us.

On to our urinating Marines. Where in the hell is the NCO. Find that man and kick him in the balls. How stupid are you? Peeing on a dead body… seriously and then video-taping. These guys just won the shit-storm sweepstakes for being the biggest morons in the Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children… that’s a hell of a feat… you jar-heads know I speak the truth. I have read what the LTC West has to say, I agree war is hell, but you must always respect your enemy even if you hate them. By dishonoring them you dishonor yourself.  Not to mention the socio-political fallout that is coming. I could care less about the politics what I mean is that now recruiting on their side is gonna spike. They are pissed off, they have an “Alamo” to remember now and these dumbasses may have just single-handedly killed a lot of US service-members for their little golden shower video. Stupid, deplorable, dishonorable, oh and did I mention you freaking video-taped it you freaking numb-nut morons……. sorry Staff Sergeant is rearing his very angry head. Do they still have whips on the books as punishment?

To any and all who have served. Stop Killing yourself. I have lost too many last year by their own hand. Chill out, call someone, put the hand cannon down and think for a minute.

Other than that I am solid for now. Graduate in May. I have been playing  in a busy ER, sticking my fingers in peoples gunshot wounds again. I love that stuff. 

 


Helpless…. not so much

We are not helpless. No matter what sappy news program says we are. We are never helpless. The bandwagon seems to be the enemy, the “Help the troops” gets emblazoned in the minds of the public making them think that its their job to save us. Respect, gratitude, adoration, these are things that are necessary for a veteran, not  pity or blind help. We are the toughest, nastiest bunch of people that have recently roamed this planet, and we don’t need any of your pity.

The small majority have killed, the rest have known death. The closest most civillians have been was when grandma died or that traffic accident on 610, we don’t need your sympathy… you don’t even understand what we have seen. The one’s that have lost limbs in the service are the hardest of the bunch. They have given an incredible sacrifice which all others hold in hallowed acclaim and honor, do not soil that by viewing our strongest with pity, we will snatch your soul out for that.

We are not helpless or lost or crazy, we are motivated, intelligent, and incredibly dangerous to you and your career… because we are coming for your job and your position and we already have 10 ways and a couple of AAR’s on how we can do it better. You should respect us and give thanks and offer assistance, not pity, or worry, or dare I say shame…. because we are the best this nation has to offer and combat was only act one for us.


Section 8 or 60

Section 8- refers to a category of discharge from the United States military for reason of being mentally unfit for service. It also came to mean any serviceperson given such a discharge or behaving as if deserving such a discharge (as in the sentence “He’s a Section 8”). The term comes from Section VIII of the World War II-era United States Army Regulation 615-360, which provided for the discharge of those deemed unfit for military service.- wikipedia

Section 60- Section of Arlington National Cemetery set aside for the fallen of Iraq and Afghanistan War.

When you come back you are section 8 or section 60. This a sentiment I have been coming across lately. I find it with an incredible feeling of loss mixed with that feeling you get when you taste your own blood (the one that wants to return fire).

We come home. We are phenomenally screwed up. No one will ever deny that. Part of you goes away or gets locked up or dies over there, other wise you were incredibly lucky or you have your head in the sand. When you come home its a fight, a battle, a war. But that my friends we are uniquely equipped for. We know war, we know attrition, we have survived it once and can again. I find that those of us not far removed from the truest most pure form of the fray, look at others just entering it with a sense of they won’t make it, because I barely made it through that part. Well my friends that is bullshit.

You give advice, directions when necessary, you help them avoid those potholes, you talk them through it. You show them where to go and show them how to recharge. You don’t abandon, you dig in, you show them how to build a better freaking foxhole. You talk about the issues that are bothering them, you remember how to listen. You let the kid talk it out and you never make it sound like everybody else has gone through it. Their fight is unique, their pain is theirs not yours. Who the hell are we to think so much of ourselves to turn around and look at the new ones coming through the meat grinder and shake our heads and say they will never make it. They are us and we them, we have just done it longer.

A unit came home recently here in Houston. If this may find them, here are my words of what worked for me, I dare not call it advice or directions. First and for most, look around, the wife, the husband, the girl or boyfriend, the kids, mom and dad, the family, they are here not in some email or some picture they are here. Curb your shit storm for a second and appreciate the fact of where you are and who is happy to see you. Second breathe, no bullets, no bombs, no ill-intent, no hands to watch, no CP’s to call in, chill. Sit outside, quietly and don’t move for a while and just exist. Have some fun. Avoid talking about it at first, when you come home, its about being home not about what happened over there. There will be time to process it in the weeks to come but for now, talking about it in excess will be equal to going back there. When you do decide to talk about it, choose the right audience. Lessons learned about the internal stuggle this far: You did your best, and more than anyone could have ever been capable of doing, they do not blame you. Your mission now is to live life to the fullest possible, because your life is no longer your own. Inevitably, someone paid the ultimate sacrifice, or you were unable to save them or protect them, they do not blame you and you shouldn’t yourself. Live theirs and yours as best you can. Give back, the single most therapeutic thing I have found was helping other veterans and then just trying to help all others I could. We are built stronger and meant to last longer, it is not fair that we keep our strength to ourselves. As you help them you heal yourself. When it comes time to talk about it, find the right vet to talk about it with. I say veteran because, in my humble opinion we are the only ones who will ever get it, and will know something more to say than “wow”. You have been through hell, it takes a while to set down your shield, this is nothing to be ashamed of. I was a sergeant on active duty, a supposed tough guy, and I got blown up a lot. But when the guys started taking their own lives I started talking. The only dishonor I have ever felt for speaking about my struggle was that I hadn’t done it in time to may be have helped another. If you judge me for who I am and how I have dealt with this, you are a coward and probably feel the same things. Speak up when you are ready and if you ever have a problem with someone giving you hell about it, you let me know.

We do not come home section 8 or 60. We come home tired, wounded, and victorious, I will break the man’s jaw who says otherwise. For the fresh returned, focus, you are not bullet-proof. Stay safe, ask for help, be humble. For the salty ones, stay in the fight if for nothing else but to help the new ones fresh into it. For everyone else, be easy.

For those new to the fray if you need something, hit me up at beastmonkey@gmail.com


Tidal War

I have good days and bad ones. I lose sight of the target or the horizon. I slip, I fall, I stumble, I screw up, make an ass out of myself. I forget limitations and lose sight of my ability to break this thing’s back. I lose my pride, my strength and my ambition. I end up face down in the mud, with nothing left to do but start digging. And then my favorite part comes…. I stop digging look up and start climbing out. I know that just as soon as I make it to the top I am sure to fall again, but maybe it won’t be so far next time. But who gives a shit anyways… life is always about the ascent not standing at the top enjoying the view.

Face down in the mud, this is where I am most happy. Because it has stopped for now, I can go no further down and only up is left. There is peace and solace in one hand and a wildly unstable and ambitious burning determination in the other. Dig the toes in and push. This is not the last fight, not the last battle, this war will go on and I am built to last through it. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing but expecting different results, I am not insane because I do not expect something different. I know how this will end and begin again. I am not concerned about that. I would rather play the game knowing how it would end than ride the bleachers. And during my ascent I will live my life, find my center, and kick this thing in the friggin teeth and get some damn satisfaction from it. Face it, spit in its eye, and head bud it, then start climbing. You are not a bottom dweller just a frequent visitor, cause you like the view from the bottom, because it gives a you a place to go.
Suck it up, shut up, tighten your belt, cut the eye lid, and beg for the bell or the starting gun to release you to the next round the next race. Leave as if you would never come back to the bottom, but know in your heart that you will be here again because it is as much home as the top is. Screw it, climb, punch through the wall, kick in the door, hit the friggin afterburners. Like holding onto the rocket fins ascend until your neck hurts from looking up. Then get a ladder and climb a little higher, you haven’t swan-dived from this height before, why the hell not!
Inevitably it will ebb and flow and you and I will tumble. Find yourself in the bottom face down and smile with the mudd in your teeth because my friend, it starts again. You can begin your ascent anew.

Happy Climbing


Lying to myself

I have been away from here for too long.

I have convinced myself I am too busy to worry about this and that I don’t need it anymore. In that regard I am an idiot.

I am good at functioning well even when I am in inner turmoil. I can hang in there when every demon is at the door, when taking a breath feels like  million pounds, when I feel like begging for some sort of reprieve I can stick to my guns. This comes at a difficult price though, my sanity, pride, and happiness. Strange because it is my pride that leads me to this point in the first place. The other price I pay is that I lose control of myself make stupid mistakes, drink too much, say stupid things, and do things I otherwise would never.

I know the reason I drink. Too much time over there, too many years with their souls weighing on mine. I once was a tough kid. I am now a tired man. Everyday, is a struggle between the PTSD and the mTBI and my normal messed up self. It is frustrating and debilitating. But its no excuse, I am still here.

I do not know where to put these emotions. I don’t deal with emotions well in the first place but, these seem to come burning red right off the fire, like  coal put in your hand. I have regressed and descended for some time now. So busy with school and work and being married to keep the necessary focus here, my conscience. I can get so far away from this then I stop then I slip then I get sucked back. Each time it seems worse than the last because of the time spent in the light. I become more convinced of my weakness and my inability to overcome this BS. Often times I wonder if I don’t have post traumatic stress from the PTSD itself? Strange thought but a valid one, living with this crap is traumatic in it of itself. The freak outs, the rage, the depression, the mistakes, the fear, the pain, the guilt. Could you stay on your feet if you carried guilt like me? I wouldn’t wish this on my enemy so I won’t wish it on you just to see if you could take it.

” Where are you in the dark, when the demons come for you.” Its a phrase, either from a song or a movie long forgotten to me. The phrase has stayed with me since high school or so. I used to think it was cool, something bad ass; I didn’t understand my connection to it. Never thought I would be a panicked mess or a rage-a-holic. Never thought I would be doing well on the outside but view myself as a failure in every aspect on the inside. Never thought I would be so weak or tired or stupid. Never thought that I would carry all this stuff for so long and never be able to set it down or to walk away from it. Never thought that this stuff would impact my everyday life. My normal world, not that stuff that happened years ago but where I am right here, never thought it would find me here. So where are you in the dark, when the demons come for you? I am there standing in the corner tired from fighting it all day.

There are two sides. Part of me is done with PTSD ( or so I think). School and work and married life. The soldier moves further away from who I am everyday. I don’t like alot of things and get mad at traffic. I am passionate for my work and dedicated to what I am doing. I am not the best but I am succeeding. Then there’s the dark-side. Forever lurking beneath the surface the anger, the rage, the guilt, the fear, and the inadequacy. It drags me down and keeps me there. When I get mad its a struggle to keep my violent self contained. The depression is the most frustrating part, I like to think of myself as too tough for that crap, which is anything but the truth. I drink too much, make too many mistakes and have stopped helping others with this same struggle. My war has always been with myself. Sometimes I understand why these soldiers kill themselves. The burden at times seems impossible and if you slip and lose sight of the light you’re in a bad way in a hurry.

Leaves me one question was I arrogant or just plain stupid to believe I had beaten this?

That’s enough self-loathing for now.


From a helo to metro bus

Its the day after memorial day, back to college I go. Sitting on the metro bus it got a little too crowded so I offered my seat up, not so much to be a gentlemen but because if I have to be surrounded I prefer to stand. I reach up and grab the railing above head. As we glide into the next stop the doors open before completely stopping. The memories flood in as fast as the passing blades of grass just outside the door.

Afghanistan, 2005, I watch through my legs as the bird lifted off the grass. Usually the helo’s had cloth seats, during the summer they sometimes didn’t have the doors, which was fun. But every once in a blue moon our recon team would get picked up by a bird that didn’t have doors or seats. I loved these rides because it meant I got to clip in and dangle my feet off the side and watch the world get small.

A helo doesn’t fly, it beats the air into submission. That being said, its not like riding in a plane that gets going so fast that it has no choice but to take off. A helo leaps into the air, it doesn’t need that forward speed. This ability to go from land dwelling to airborne in a second truly gives you the sense of flying. Remove yourself from the hull by hanging your legs off the side, with nothing in your view but the rotor you really get to feel it. Freedom and that sting of danger. There’s a saying with the air crew, “If it ain’t leaking its probably out of fluid.” or ” A helo is just 8000 parts flying in tight formation.”

One of the reasons that the sense of freedom was so profound, was escaping whatever had been the reason you were on the ground in the first place. Our little recon team was never in much danger, but if something had ever gone really wrong, we would have all been very dead, very quickly. This fact was not lost on us and we were on edge from the word go. You didn’t sleep, you cat napped, your weapon stayed on fire. It wasn’t because we were there for a fight, but if something did happen we would have  very short time to do a lot of business and get the hell out of there before we were compromised and or very much dead. Cortisol (stress hormone) coursed through our veins the whole damn time. It would peak when we would pop smoke and the pilot would confirm color. As soon as my ass would hit that seat, it was like I could breathe. As if I had been holding my breath for the past 24 hours or 3 days or 2 weeks. The bird would struggle at first and then lift off as if it was nothing, the air rushing past, the stress being left behind like a cloud of toxic gas that we were rising above. Afghanistan can be quite beautiful from 600 feet up. There is something weird in finding your freedom in the body of helicopter built before you were born, being flown by a guy still in his twenties that is more concerned about getting back to base in time to catch the football game. It should have been terrifying but in a land of nothing but levels of terror, this was relaxing. I loved riding on the choppers and always flirted with the idea of jumping out.

It would have killed me instantly. I knew that. I was so comfortable with the thought of myself dying that that sense of freedom that I was sure I would find on the way down, almost seemed worth it. I think the only reason I never did it was because I was certain that they would think it was an accident and they would start putting the doors back on and I would ruin the good ride for everyone else. It was there none the less, the desire to jump.

We came in one time onto a “hot LZ” . We pretty much don’t do that anymore. The helos are more important that our troopers lives and so landing in a hot LZ is an antiquated concept. But there we were one nasty evening in Iraq buzzing into the green zone. The natives were restless and had been shelling the green zone almost non-stop for three weeks. I got most of my PTSD from those couple of weeks. But nonetheless we were coming in, I had the headset on and listening in to the pilots talking about the significant action that had been happening on the helo-pad we were about to smack down on. It seemed every time  a bird came in the natives would lob a couple of well-aimed round onto the strip. They had taken out a string of blackwater birds out just as the crews got clear. The pilot looked back at me and signaled towards the head set. I cranked the volume up, “What’s up chief?” He replied back, “We are going into a hot LZ, You need to get MP 6 up and ready to move, we are going in fast and are going to essentially do a touch and go.” To which I calmy replied, ” What in the f#$% are you talking about, I am not going to off load a freaking general officer into a hot LZ.” He even more calmly replied, “I don’t give a damn if its the president of the United States, I am under orders to put you down here, do you want to spend the night on Liberty?” The boss would have been pissed so I finally gave in. I broke out a note book and wrote out what was going on and instructions upon wheels down and handed it down. The boss read and then looked up at me incredulously. We had a load of 12 personnel. I was the only enlisted man on the helo. We had 11 officers, only 2 had seen combat the rest were a think tank. The 2 combat officers were the aide and the boss. He silently nodded tapped the captain and showed him the note, he shot me the same look, I just nodded. Just then I got the 30 seconds to LZ over the comms. I unsnapped my seat belt and snapped on my kevlar. I stood up, one of the perks of being a short SOB like me is that you can almost stand in a blackhawk, I gave the hand motions for standby, 30 seconds. The other officers did monkey see monkey do following the boss and the ADC in unfastening the seat belts, and standing in a stack as if they were about to kick in a door and rush in. The wheels touched the dirt, the incoming alarms went off almost simultaneously. You have 0-8seconds from the time the C-RAM alarm goes off until the round impacts, its like a Doppler on steroids. I waited for the helo to slow down enough to where I wouldn’t have to roll upon jumping off, it was an eternity. Good enough just had to do, I turned and jumped, did a crow hop turned and caught the bosses drag strap because as a good paratrooper he had followed me out the door. I got him up and pointed for the bunker, there was no time for customs or courtesies. I had essentially just given a brigadier general a non-verbal ordered and he had followed because it was about staying alive. The rest of the bumbling officers got off. They didn’t move with the correct sense of purpose and the blackhawk was half taking off as the last one jumped off. The birds cleared the strip as the first rounds came in to the strip lighting the place up and making it orange with flames and anger. I was shoving the officers screaming at the top of my lungs a mixture of incoming and run and get to the gdamn bunker. There was the boss standing at the edge of the bunker, still too much combat veteran and not enough general officer in him, yelling at these cherries to get their asses in the bunker, using the hand signals to get us in to the bunker. I made it to him, he tried to pull me into the bunker I pushed him in, The round hit we were all deaf. I wished we had just slept in liberty that night and caught a convoy in the next day. From freedom to the confines of terror, from my little slice of heaven to hell at its finest, from the helo to combat.

We were silent coming back to our hooches, a mixture of the fear bleeding off, coming down from the adrenaline, and still being freaking deaf from the rounds. The adrenaline is the cruelest drug, like a high you didn’t want but you still got the withdraws from it and the hunger for it. There was such a tangible life there, something where every decision was critical and every moment mattered. A place where adrenaline, chaos, terror, and fear were such a part of your life that it forced you to see the beauty of those serene moments of riding on the helo, knowing that these could be your last moments of calm before chaos or the reinforcement that you had survived yet again, against most odds. Purpose and intent seemed to be the running themes.

Fast forward to the present. I surveyed the group in the bus as we jostled in sync to the pot holes. Their faces mostly blank and expressionless, still asleep, heading to work. I had once loved to stare into every troopers face right before a jump. Thats when you learn what courage looks like in a controlled environment. Everyone is scared out of their minds, but the still stand up hook up and jump. None of these people would jump with us, they are the sheep. I would see some of them later today on our way back home to our individual boxes. The guys that I had rode into combat with, I didn’t know minute by minute how long they would be with us or if I would make it back. No critical decisions would be made today, in fact the only decision would be what to eat for lunch. Decisions in combat had been so critical and palpable. They had real repercussions. Not here.

The days of the adrenaline long gone, the doors open as we glide to the stop, there was no desire to jump now. I am one of the sheep again, no longer the free warrior. I had gone from a helo to combat and from chaos to a helo, it seems I have truly made the somber transition from a helo to a metro bus and I am not sure how to cope with that.

This past memorial day, I found myself struggling with the names of the KIA, I had been with. I had to use the KIA list by date to remember their names. It struck me as strange that I could remember the dates of their deaths but not their names. I felt I had some how dishonored them by struggling with their names. I have not forgotten them, they simply have just become part of me.