Saturday, December 31, 2011

Per chance to dream...

"You spend all of your days just waiting for the nights..."

So goes the lyric in a song, funny how it reminds me, better yet, provides parallel to thoughts in my head. Despite what the posting time says, it's now edging closer to 3:15AM and I am yet to sleep. Sleep, in all of it's multitudes of benefits both physically and mentally, brings dreams. Or nightmares. Or bitter realities and memories. What a strange, uncharted area, the landscape of the mind where dreams gestate and live. To some they find their Fiddler's Green, to others it's a Dante inspired circle. To soldiers who've seen real war it becomes another place we tend not to go.

Last night beget another wonderful night of repressed thoughts/memories bubbling to the surface. Being sick, I foolishly took medicines which while providing cold relief, also rendered me from the usual defenses against the visiting ghosts and all the baggage they provide. What's worse is my inability to recall the slightest details from these "episodes". Is it because my mind is attempting desperately to keep me from reliving it in a constant loop? Or is it because I already know what everything is about and I am merely in acceptance of it? I wish I had a God damn clue to what is going on during these moments. Other than apparently my Iraqi Arabic is perfect, I haven't an idea as to the depth and scope at all.

I wish I could offer some clarity to this. Like my other posts before, I would love to deliver my usual soliloquy in a humorously clever, smug fashion. But I can't. Instead of lying in bed sleeping, I'm typing away to a non-verbal laptop hoping to have answers like a gift from above delivered to me. Does it make any God damn sense? If I were to live forever, would it make any God damn sense? I feel like Roy Batty, clutching a dove on a rooftop in the rain saying "I've seen things you wouldn't believe...". Humans for centuries have fought wars. Killed in the name of Gods, kings, countries and beliefs. Why does it seem as though we still haven't found another way forward? Centuries and we still can't figure it out. I know how naive that is to think that. I know the necessity of wars and the actions therein. I just wonder at what cost humanity? Sanity? Personal sanctity?

As a soldier, I stand firm in my beliefs and what I do with and for my brotherhood. I am resolute. It's all the God damn repercussions I have trouble with. I don't want to look at my children and think of children there who were caught in cross fire during a fire fight or lay dead on the ground from bullets and/or blasts, children caught under vehicles while pushing through areas of hostility. I don't want to always sit with my back to the wall in a restaurant. I don't want to scan crowds and have my alert not falter. I want to not smell a smell or hear a sound that brings me back somewhere I don't want to be. I want to see the the world in a way other than as something you have to grab by the throat and force to make sense. I want to believe in God and his wonders. I want to not defensively react to sudden movements by those I love. I want to sleep, like I did before I was a veteran soldier.

Monday, December 26, 2011


As a kid I always loved almanacs. Maybe it was the collection of facts and records as they correlated to nature and the forces thereof. Lunar cycles coupled with the best times of harvest, the precise time the sun rose on a particular day for decades before...amazing. When I was a kid, it held a great swath of power over me and the way I saw things. It seemed to hold a chart for me that offered some consistency in a linear fashion of probability. It was, in essence, like a book of magic. As I grew, I for some reason lost interest in almanacs. Or maybe not lost interest in them but in the wonderment they held for me.

I tend to ruminate on things more these days. My past, my future, my current. I look at my mistakes and the successes and failures they've delivered to me. I look my acomplishments, great and small, and I see that which was lost and gained from them. I look at the things I have done for survival and how my need to continue breathing meant another would draw his last breath. In doing this, I find that in order to cope and process these various moments I list them in order of occurrence and the several reactions and results by each specific event. It will never, if I live to be 100, falter my amazement at how humans try to always rationalize and make sense of things. How some things can be so epically grand in their scope of  impact on the human mind and psyche that there lies a defiance of understanding yet we attempt it anyhow. So we build categories and containers to put it in and/or away.

Life is a collection of facts and incidents, moments and occurrences, split seconds in a small window of a day that tend to hold meaning forever. You will always remember that exact moment forever, reminding yourself each year at that very point of the moment, good or bad, that meant so much to you. We tend to clutch like a cornerstone, building our future upon it. It plays into our decisions and directs our paths. In it we take comfort in the notion that this is where our history and futures intersects, the common ground in which the tangible and intangible meet for the briefest of forevers and shape the next future history for us.

In all of this, I believe our lives are basically an almanac. A collection of moments and incidents, instances and chance happenings that serve as a linear history of who we are and our probability of that which we are to become. We find our true North in what we are, our history making and showing us the variables of what our paths have produced thus far. Our lives are our own individual almanacs, but they are all part of a larger significance. Our moments, be it sad or happy, cast an effect on others like ripples in a pond. We look back and see our past as a whole. Our almanac is a living, breathing history of what makes us. A standard almanac tracks things like time and tide. The almanac we create tracks our  lives and the sum of what we are...our own linear history. In that, I think I can maybe find that wonder again.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


The word itself, conjures a sense of emotions and let's loose a wealth of thoughts like water from a broken dam. These past months I have given a lot of thought, more than I care to admit, actually, on brotherhood. Whether it's the loss of connection to your actual siblings or to the brothers you share blood with, it seems to have a strange currency. It's in it's own mysticism, like the relationship of a father and son. But is brotherhood defined by the actual connection of blood and heredity passed down from parents or is something deeper, esoteric and born of bonds.

As of late, I've tried to recover those bonds with my actual brothers. To be a part of their lives and have them as part of mine was something I desperately wanted. But, as with all things a person wishes for it's not exactly what you really wanted. A sad realization is the one that takes place involving reality colliding with perception. Some people will be what they want to be because it is their nature. The bonds created by blood are not exactly thicker than others I have discovered. Sad as a concession as that may be, what you find on the other side of that is better and stronger.

Growing up, I had three cousins who I loved and would've died for. The feeling was mutual amongst us all. As we grew older, our paths were beset by all the trials and tribulations boys encounter on the road to manhood. It drives you apart, keeping the memories that you hold dear and praying that time doesn't bleach away the vibrancy and color of those memories. I can't say it doesn't but sometimes...the paths cross once again. Maybe when we find our ghosts and demons to much and you need that one person who just knows, they return. To stand with you and by you. To remind you of those good times and to help you through the bad. To be that friend of objectivity who will tell you what you NEED to hear and not just what you WANT to hear. To be that guy you know gets it without any words being said. To be a brother.

Another area I've found that in is my Brotherhood of fellow soldiers. The incredible connection held not only by men who served in combat but who served with you there...amazing. War will do things to you that leave scars that those who don't understand will never know. Ever. But to have a group of guys who were there beside you on your darkest days, who know what it's like to hold your life in their hands and vice/verse sometimes proves to be another, surrogate family. It becomes a Brotherhood. And once those bonds are established they are not broken. They can be tested and strained but not broken. As I sometime find myself lost in thought or feeling like a boat broken against the rocks over war and service, I think of my brothers, my real brothers, who have been there too. I know they suffer also. In that I find my strength to rise and fix my broken soul once again, for my family, for them, for me.

So, true Brotherhood is not what is found through the genetic lottery. It's found in the love, trust, devotion, loyalty and fidelity of those who've proven themselves time and time again. Those men who stand beside you no matter what your past may be. Those men who who hold no grudge and harbour no ill will. The very men who will rise to defend you when defenseless, hold you up when weak and be your strength. It's those men I call my brothers. It is those men I proudly share a Brotherhood with.  The understanding of these fundamental truths and qualities are unspoken amongst us but we know. We know what it all means. To stand with you and by you. To remind you of those good times and to help you through the bad. To be that friend of objectivity who will tell you what you NEED to hear and not just what you WANT to hear. To be that guy you know gets it without any words being said. To be a brother.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

"If" by Rudyard Kipling

To mold sons into men...

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;
If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with wornout tools;
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on";
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run -
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man my son!


I saw a news article earlier via Politico about Michele Bachmann continuing her defense of comments on Islam made during the debate Thursday night. What she said and did was akin to old school McCarthyism. Apparently the small and narrow minded have both adapted and adopted Islam for Communism and Muslims for the new Communists. For those who need a shadow dwelling enemy, I present to you ISLAM, the Red Scare 2.0!! Only...that's really not the best representation of a people and/or their faith. Yes, FAITH. We are allowing a group of narrow minded, non-informed, patently ignorant fear mongers to contribute this to the national dialogue where it is both dangerous and negligent.

It was back in September of 2010 when Pastor Terry Jones drew ridicule and scorn for his promised threat to burn multiple copies of the Koran in Florida. Being in Baghdad at that time, it made for an even more delicate situation than it would here in the states. That being said, who in their right mind believes it is acceptable to burn another person's Holy Book? How is it that America, the bastion of progressive thought and freedom of religion, is also the one place where these kinds of thoughts and actions occur? This is a free country, where we are not only allowed but encouraged to speak freely but to live our lives by embracing those freedoms wholly and openly. But what Pastor Jones did by his actions was galvanize every single Islamo-fascist and put every single American service member in even more imminent danger. Somehow I don't think I want to thank him for that.

What this comes from is a rush by those ignorant of what they speak  hoping to define it and use it to have others mirror their own own fears. If we allow our fears to manifest into ignorant aggression we become that which we fear. Muslims don't have a blanket hatred for us. Large portions wish to come here and live under the exact same freedoms we enjoy. They seek to raise their children in a society where they are free to grow and prosper and take part in the greatest country in the world. Like most people, religion is the cornerstone of their society and daily life. Are there factions and individuals who use Islam in a bent, twisted fashion to allow their fanaticism and hatred to justify their actions? Absolutely. Has it resulted in death and oppression? Again, yes. But then again, hasn't every major religion partaken in those very actions? Look at history, read your bible. The amount of horrors committed in the name of someone's God are vast and far reaching! There are people in this country, who still kill in the name of their beliefs. Anyone ever heard of Dr. David Gunn and the man who killed him, Michael F. Griffin?

In no way shape or form am I offering up myself as some sort of apologist for the Muslim community and those who worship in an Islamic faith. Quite the contrary. I have seen up close and personal the horrors in the Muslim world, all perpetrated by a sense of twisted faith. Those actions are wrong, horrendous and for lack of a better term, evil. Children being sent into a street to put bombs on military vehicles, enemy combatants hiding in schools and hospitals using the sick and/or the young as shields. The mere treatment of females alone in the strict, hard-line Muslim communities are an atrocity of the highest caliber. These are the acts of twisted, perverted group which uses the faithful as fodder and pawns in a game of hatred. But in terms of perspective...I've seen it done here, in plain sight.

What I find so deplorable about this situation is that people like Pastor Terry Jones or even the likes of Pat Robertson commit grand acts of hypocrisy while damning Islam and Muslims. The very words and actions of anti-Islamic intolerance puts them in league with those they seek to demonize. And every time some narrow minded moron from the Tea Party(only the most blind, publicity desperate, ardent supporters) or people the likes of Michele Bachmann speak out in a voice of ignorance they stoke the flames of the very caricatures they attack. And how is it she stands on a stage and basically advocates war with Islam on trumped up facts and patently wrong statistics? As President she hopes to send military personnel into harms way to battle a faith she doesn't comprehend? For Christ's sake she has a STAFF!!! How can she be this misinformed with people to tell her what is important? I'm one person without a staff and I'm still better informed than her.

In no way am I promoting freedom of speech...just watch what you say, not by any means. What I am hoping for is a bit of knowledge and forethought. Haven't these individuals ever heard the term "Know Your Enemy"? At least read about Islam and know that which you speak of. I always advise the reading of the Koran, it's amazing at the amount of perversion done by those who seek to engage in zealous harm commit against the religion they cloak themselves in. So, march on those who seek to tread the path of ignorance in your naked quest for power. The power to promote your ideals as gospel, not to be disputed. Just don't be surprised when someone holds a mirror to you and and your pale patriotism, exposing it for hypocrisy.

Friday, December 16, 2011


I find the fact that war can do so much damage to even the most well developed and strong  psyche that we actually have allowed PTSD into our national lexicon. It's so hard to explain and actually define. I mean sure, there is a CLINICAL definition for it, but when was the last time you ever heard a veteran wax eloquent about what the inner workings of his/her mind? Putting a description together is like typing a manuscript in sand, trying to finish before the tide rolls in.

That being said, I've heard several descriptions. One person told me it's like a house you KNOW you live in but some rooms are locked and every time you get the key the lock is changed. I was told by my 1SG from this tour it's like keeping an angry little man in a cage and every now and then you poke him. These descriptions and several others range from one end of the spectrum to another. The only middle ground comes from the feeling of desperation and uncertainty, longing for what was all the while reconciling the fact that what was is no longer there. See, in losing a part of yourself somewhere, you always keep it in the back of your mind that you can return and in returning, reclaim what you've lost. But it's not that simple...and even if it were, I can now never go back there. Never try to make myself whole again. Never have a chance to balance my Karma against that which I've done.

Watching yesterday as we officially Cased the Colors and ended our Iraqi operations, I was struck by a feeling of apathy and longing, an incessant, insatiable need to have it not end. As I watched places I'd seen hundreds of times on missions or the simple day to day I realized what has been the defining factor of my life the past 4 and a half years is now resigned to the annals of history. How does one retcon history to fix their own mistakes of the past? My story, like so many others, is but a thread in a larger tapestry still unwound and unsewn. I sat transfixed and gripped by an intense feeling of both anger and detachment as this was merely a story in the ongoing news cycle. Like a lost love or death of a person close to your heart, the emptiness left now has a name.

What makes the whole matter worse is that we basically accomplished nothing there. We toppled a monster and his progeny only to create a vacuum into which others will gladly fill. We lost so many lives of dedicated military personnel and and the wounds, both physical AND mental, are legion. When looking at the lives of all the Iraqi civilians lost it makes one wonder and question what righteous path were we on? I watched one President state "Mission Accomplished" while another now waxes poignantly about his role in the wars end. But it never does end, not for us, not for the veterans. As a child I watched in wonder as the veterans of Vietnam had that quiet detachment, that look as though there was a missing piece they would never find. Now...I understand it. I not only understand it, I live it. My neighbor is a Vietnam vet. He endured the horrors of the war as an 11B. To this day, he carries the mental scars of that war. Beside the fact that we're neighbors, we're also brothers. Sharing in a kinship that only those who've seen war and combat can understand. I'm not about to deliver the whole St. Crispin's Day speech here, but there does exist a bond of brotherhood amongst all of us.

I accept the fact that my perspective is forever altered. I accept the fact my nights will always be a gamble of sleep vs. nightmares. I accept that I actually seek to not be recognized for things done in name of God and country, deftly yet uncomfortably deflecting the "thank you for your service" comments. I accept the state of my emotions as being like the sea, constantly rolling and never settling. I accept all of these things. But in accepting this, I can still never find the peace of mind that eludes me,nor can I find the PIECE of mind either. And that, I am afraid, is the truest definition of PTSD. Or at least the closest I can get to it.

Small town doctors

Why is it that they seem less than competent and nowhere near the level of Rockwellesque as we expect?

Title influence

Of all their songs, this one, is to me, their best...

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Amazing enough

Watching the Republican debate it became increasingly apparent that only one candidate standing on the dais who had enough intelligence, knowledge and political acumen was Ron Paul. Like Admiral Stockdale years ago, his inability to pander to the ignorance of the mob is both his greatest strength and crushing weakness. Sad that we as a country can not move past our slow descent into total sub-intelligence. People like the Kardashians, stunning in the profundity of ignorant, money grubbing whoredom, are listened to and given a wider audience than a learned man with love of country. Patriots exist on both sides of the aisle of the political spectrum. It's those whose jingoism, hubris and hyperbole we grant the honor of "representing" us.
And now she is advocating war with Iran? Quite sure she will not be deploying along side any of us.
Dear Republican Candidates, Please just shut up. Or please just shut up Michelle Bachman...oh my God she makes Sara Palin seem like a Rhodes Scholar. Just give Mitt Romney the nomination. Only shot you have.

Check it out from Twitter (@maps1175) via youtube
By the way, "Maps" by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs totally play into the name of this blog...

Today in history...

So, I begin my daily ritual of dutifully trafficking of news sites, trying to find news of any actual substance. As usual, thank God, Allah, Buddha, Shiva, Elvis et al...for the BBC. Today marks the day for "Going Out of Business" sale for the US in Iraq. As someone who feels as though they've left more than time there, to see it share news time on the likes of CNN and Fox(opposite sides of the same, Harvey Dent like coin) with the Golden Globe nominations gives me a special sense of accomplishment. We left a country in far worse shape than we received it. And today, as we depart, it isn't even a leading story. As a vet of this conflict, is it wrong to feel...apathetic?