Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Take a Knee

I made a choice when I was much younger wherein I made a decision to place an actual value on my life. Have you done that? You must consider precisely for what reason might you hand over your life to someone else and what exactly does that mean. This isn’t about being brave or acting reckless, it is however about knowing that change needs to happen in our world, even within our country. Every generation must make these decisions, each generation gets to a point where people have forgotten the sacrifices of their grandparents’ and the kids think they know what needs to be done based on the failures of those in the past. This then of course precedes arguments over what has been done and what must be done. Around and around this goes, the media uses it to increase ratings by hyping the arguments and the politicians use it to field support and disdain for their opponent.

Then you have those whom volunteer as soldiers, these people have decided that something need be done, they realize that peace is unobtainable without action and often times that action may turn out violent. Peace is earned, it is not given free from sacrifice so who makes that sacrifice? So they place a value on their life, they know that there is a huge chance they will be called upon to deliver their life in lieu of another who remained back home in the safety of their neighborhood, who has the opportunity to protest the actions soldiers have taken, and let me communicate here that those soldiers aren’t just the men and women in the military, these soldiers are also those men and women who’ve signed on as police officers all around our country, they too are soldiers fighting the domestic criminal element, often times the very last line of defense against those hell bent on hurting and destroying the freedoms we enjoy in the United States of America.

So those whom have decided not to sacrifice their own safety for the good of the general population many times decided to protest the very actions the soldiers have taken to provide them the freedom…to protest. And so many times these protests become an action not taken by many to actually voice their need for justice as they may suggest but an action they take in order to f feel as though they are part of something great, but let me tell you here and now, there is nothing great about taking part in a protest you do not understand for the sake of belonging to something. Taking a knee to protest something you have done nothing to help change, especially when you have enjoyed making millions off of those that have, taking a knee when you have yet to pay taxes, to contribute to society by making choices that actually affect society and by making sacrifices you don’t even understand, and yes I am now speaking to the children who think it’s cool to kneel at their sporting event like their misguided hero in order to get time in the spotlight, rather than doing something to help and affect the element you protest. You should be ashamed.

When you take a knee during the National Anthem, you are pissing all over the ideals that those who’ve valued their lives against yours have attempted to preserve, you have waved off the sacrifices so many have made, the lives so many men and women have given in the name of freedom and the preservation of peace and opportunity in America and around the world. You are hurting those that have spent their lives dealing with the pains and haunts they brought home with them when they fought terrorism and domestic and international. You are spitting on the graves of those who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice, soldiers and law enforcement officers who have lost their lives protecting yours, and the families left behind as well.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Rollin' Down Hill

‘Ol Merle once crooned his desire for our country to quit rollin’ down hill and I’m not certain I agree. Don’t get me wrong I love this country, I have been all over this world and in my humble opinion you’d be damned to find another place as beautiful, strong and free as America. This country has a will made up from the sweat of every immigrant and patriot that has ever worked her land or sewed crops in her fields, spanned our mighty rivers and climbed our majestic mountains, and that will can never be broken by any two bit, self proclaimed soldier of some hierarchical spirit whose charged them with clearing this world of anyone whom opposes their beliefs.  

When The Okie from Muskogee bellowed out the words to this song, exclaiming our country rollin downhill like a snowball headed for hell I cant help but think of the state of politics in our country right now, no matter whom you might be vying for to be the next face of the highest office in this land, you’ve got to be ashamed of the choices we have right now. We live in a democracy and if the people vote to elect a certain candidate then that’s the way it is, that’s the leader the people want, and for other candidates to acknowledge that by proclaiming their banding together to fight that opportunity is a shambles. Rather than sharing their intent to protect our country or what they might do to make our country stronger, more successful, more right, they act like 7 year old boys in the school yard ganging up on another kid because he speaks the loudest.

What does that say about each of those candidates, their answer is to gang up and persecute the other guy instead of addressing the people of this great nation and convey to them their intentions if elected; a shameful, incredible and disgusting waste of time and money and insult to the intelligence of the people of our nation. Our country is rolling down hill all right, like a boulder that’s finally shook free from its precipice and is now tumbling wildly threatening to protect her sandy shores and golden prairies in the face of ever increasing terrorism and we need someone to step in and gain control of her, not to cry because they can’t handle the fight. Like Roosevelt liked to say, "Bully on" America, stand up and take control away from the politicians, remember what former President Reagan said about politics…that the job of a politician and a world leader is to be a servant of the people and not the other way round.

Thursday, March 24, 2016


I tore open the envelope addressed to me from my ex wife and pulled a note from it, it read; “Tracy, when you went to war in South West Asia you sent this and asked me to keep it safe until you get back, I kept it safe on my key chain for the last twenty six years, I thought you might want it back.” In the envelope there was a small, round, brass tag with the number “71” stamped on it. It was the tag from my gas mask.

In 1991 I sat huddled in a corner of a dilapidated underground parking garage in the dark, I was dressed in my chemical gear and mask, I hated breathing through it, I hated being in it, I hated the sweat that poured down my back as we waited for the all clear sign. We didn’t know that most of the Scud missiles that Saddam had sent to us were empty of or had very little chemicals in them, but we knew he had used chemicals in the past so we weren’t taking any chances. And the missiles were large enough to cause a lot of damage on their own. As I sat there having just gotten in country, peering out through the sand covered lenses of my mask, I thought about faith and I thought about my girlfriend.

Old dust and sand hovered in the air thickly, my lungs struggled to fill and I sat, waiting, tapping the small, round brass tag on the case on my hip for my gas mask, as if to signal to myself that I was still in control. This would be a regular occurrence while we remained in the staging area near Khobar Village, it happened while we were sleeping, and while we stood in line for breakfast. This was in 1991, long before there was a permanent U.S. base of any kind in Saudi Arabia, no Burger King, no imbedded media and no cellphones, hell they hadn’t even been invented yet. But there was the good ‘ol U.S. mail, we would send out letters to home, but getting mail from home was a disaster, I got letters that had been sent to me in the first few days of my tour from my family as I was leaving the country nine months later.

That night, as I lay staring out at the sky over the desert, I thought about times I sat on the front steps of my girlfriend’s parents house, in the cool Minnesota nights, the smell of fresh cut grass, staring up at the stars and holding hands and the smell of her hair as she lay her head on my shoulder. That was the safest I’d ever felt, back then I always felt safe in her arms, in the stare from her cool blue eyes. But things change, I changed. And when I returned home part of me didn’t, it remained there, buried in the hot, flea ridden, oil saturated, blood stained sand. Any innocence that survived my childhood was laid to rest there and despite that I wasn’t about to let go of the only thing I knew to be safe in my world.

It would be a quarter of a century later, almost twenty five years of struggling to make things work, to build a family and trying to be a husband and father my wife and children might be proud of. How many times I’d wished I was back in that filthy desert, not because I liked it, not because I felt safe there, not because I didn’t want to be with my kids or my wife but because I understood it there, I knew how to operate there, there was a sense of control amongst utter chaos that gets burned to a part of a soldier somewhere deep inside him. It’s sort of like sitting on the bottom of a swimming pool, looking up at the surface of the water knowing that you can only hold your breath for so long, that if you opened your mouth you might drown, that maybe when the hurt and the burning in your lungs grows too intense you might be too far from the surface to survive, but it’s that burning in your lungs, that sharp pain in the back of your head as the oxygen de-pleats that you senselessly crave, it’s like a long lost brother, a part of you that makes some sort of wickedly perverted sense. So you close your eyes and feel it, absorb it, caress it.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Its Four in the Morning...

It was four in the morning when she rolled over and couldn’t seem to fall back to sleep. The window was open slightly and it was cold out but she liked the feel and smell of the fresh late fall air. She laid there on her back and watched the ceiling fan slowly spin around and around listened to her husband sleeping soundly next to her, she watched him for a while then decided to forfeit and get out of bed.

She stopped to peek in at her kids before making her way to the kitchen for a drink of water, and then she crossed the dining room to find a spot and curl up on the couch under a cozy throw and watch the clouds slowly pass in front of the moon out the front window.

This happens every now and again, she’ll watch the sky until it begins to turn from black to cobalt blue to shades of orange and yellow as it rises above the park across the street. She won’t turn on the TV, and she won’t read a book. She’ll just sit there and stare out the window at the sky, her throat will turn dry, her palms will begin to sweat and her heart begins to race. She isn’t sick, and she isn’t necessarily a morning person. She is one of the 1.4% of all American women who’ve served in the United States military. She is one of the 5.2% of the United States population who’ve served our country in times of war and conflict.

Those are small numbers; hell, it’s not easy for someone to make the sacrifice that she has made, not even she knew full well what she was in for when she signed up. The morning of the day she made that decision she did what all veterans find themselves doing before they swear in, they look at themselves and take full inventory, for her it was in the bathroom mirror, it was partially fogged over but she looked in her eyes through the reflection nonetheless. She looked at her cheekbones she got from her father, and her nose and chin she got from her mother. She looked at the color in her eyes and the deep seeded need to protect those less fortunate from her grandfather.

She stood there and thought about all that she loved in the world, she thought about her brothers and sisters and the little neighbor boys across the street and how sweet they were to her every time she walked past them to her car to go to work. Their dirty little faces as they played in the puddles in the street. She didn’t have a boyfriend then, nor did she have kids of her own.

She looked in that mirror and thought about all those around the world being oppressed and tortured and killed and brought up hiding in their homes from the fighting in the streets and she made a decision. She decided then and there to do something about it, she looked into her eyes and prayed to her God and with resolution determined the full value of her own life. She decided that her life and blood was worth sacrificing for the good of the young boys across the street, for the freedom of those whose faces she looked at in the news each night. She knows the statistics, she knows that the freedoms granted to the majority are fought for and maintained by the absolute minority. She knows Freedom isn’t free, that there is a price on it and someone has to pay that forward.

What she didn’t realize is that the sacrifices our veterans make doesn’t end when they leave the military, when they are done with their tours of duty. That sacrifice is echoed in their daily lives when they go to the grocery store and find it difficult to determine which box of cereal to choose from knowing there are many whom don’t have that liberty. It is echoed, when they fall awake in the early morning hours just before dawn, and they spend hours looking out at the moon waiting for the safety of the noise of the day to begin, when quiet and stillness is frightening and constantly threatens to spill over your brow in sweat as you relive moments of bloody conflict and turmoil in your sleep.

7.3% of all living Americans have served in the military at some point in their lives. Please say thank you, whether or not you agree with their ideals, they made a conscious decision to sacrifice themselves for the rest of us, and that deserves recognition.

Veterans Day 2015

“Thank you for your service”.  As veterans we will hear that phrase now and again. A lesser used one seems to be “thanks for your sacrifice”. The thing about sacrifice is that it’s not a onetime forfeiture. The sacrifice a veteran makes stays with them for the rest of their lives. You can see it in the eyes of your grandfather, your aunt, your father, mother, brother and little sister as well as your neighbor. The sort of sacrifice a veteran makes in the service of their country, their loved ones and the generations yet to come can take a momentous toll on that veteran.

I appreciate Veteran’s Day, and I think it is appropriate, that said however I wish thanking a veteran, that percentage of society whose taken an oath to serve the rest of society by maintaining and securing the freedoms we all enjoy in America and around the world, whom had to look at themselves and decide the true value of their very own lives, were on the minds of more people on a daily basis.

Today, only 5.2% of the population of the United States are wartime veterans and only 1.7% are peacetime veterans[i]. That is a very small group of men and woman who’ve made such a sacrifice for the good of the whole of America and those in need around the globe.

Whether or not one agrees with another’s ideals, the fact that that person made a decision to fight for the lives and freedoms of the rest of society ought to be thought of in high regard and recognized by those whom enjoy the freedoms we all take advantage of.

If you see a veteran today or at any other time, please say thank you, it would only take a moment, and it mean the world to them…literally.

Thank you to all who’ve served and sacrificed and to the families of our men and woman serving today. The sacrifices you have made and continue to make do not go unanswered.


Thursday, July 30, 2015

Like a Brick Upside the Head

I have been in dire straits; I have been trapped between the enemy and hell itself. I have looked into the eyes of men that wanted nothing more than my very own life. I know physical pain and mental anguish and having to make choices for the sole purpose of survival of the greater majority despite risking my own.  Now you might think I have cached quite a bit of knowledge, skill and bravery that would serve me appropriately in just about any situation going forward, well I am here to tell you that no matter the experiences a man may live through and the skills he has learned by them, there are still things in this world that will bring him to tears and fear at the drop of a hat.

I was married for 23 years and thought I knew what love was, what it entailed and what my future held, but in a matter of just a few of those years it all came to a fumbling, crashing and immensely sad end. People change throughout life and partners need to be in tune with each other in order to change with one another, otherwise their paths begin to lead away and separate. That’s not to say that their individual lives need always be connected at the hip, we are all different people but keeping connected even when we change though difficult at times is essential. When that doesn’t happen, and you lose sight of each other through the distance between your paths, it may be too late in the day and too hard to find your way back to close that expanse.

When that happened and I found myself waking up one day looking at someone I don’t recognize in the mirror, even though it felt like there was something ugly rotting away inside of me, logically I realized at some point that the pain would eventually subside and I’d be able to move on. But when it involves children things get really convoluted and messy. At that point it’s no longer about you but how you can move forward without destroying the lives and innocence of them. In my case my ex and I decided to base all of our decisions and relationship going forward on the needs of the kids despite sacrificing the marriage.

That is far easier said than done. Severing all emotional communication and sticking to the business aspect of the separation and divorce especially when neither of you is in a financial state that serves either of you appropriately is seemingly impossible. With the taste of bitterness and anger on my tongue and regret and shame in my pocket I tried to push on into the unknown and muddled future. But nearly every day I have to correspond with my ex, these days we text and email which is probably a good thing since for some God forsaken reason hearing a partner’s voice over the phone after 23 years is still hard to swallow. And even though there are valid reasons why we are divorced, reasons I held true to myself and my emotional survival, reasons I would still not change I can’t help but feel all fucked up inside at times when I see her, why is that the case, it hits me now and again like a brick upside the head. Just when I think I have it clear in my mind and I can deal with the interaction for the benefit of the kids, it’s always there to remind me of a love that I cherished for many years and I guess maybe you just can’t rid that from your heart no matter the reasons for its end.

So why can I rely on the training I received as a young soldier even today and my ability to determine danger ahead but when dealing with the fragments of a two decade old relationship I can’t see the impending menace as it circles me? It literally sucks the strength from my middle aged frame right through my pores. It washes through my mind like a creeping fog in a dark forest and I end up pulling shame over me like a thick robe. I get my kids every other weekend, but because I had to take a second job to pay for my own way since my ex gets the majority of my check I still have to work when I have them and on the day they leave they go before I come home from work. I find myself standing at the room in my apartment they have to share crying and feeling like someone just ripped a hole right through me. I enjoy them while they are there and feel devastated when they are away. And it just doesn’t seem to get any better.

It is all reminiscent of when I came back from overseas and I couldn’t complete simple tasks because I didn’t have to do them under fire. Today I make excuses to chat with them over the phone or through text and email, but I always feel like I’m trying to get back to them through a raging storm and I just can’t gain any ground.

I don’t know how much this admition to my blog will make sense to any of you, but I am gambling that there are many men and women soldiers and divorcees that can relate, sometimes I think tossing out a flag to see if we really are the only ones in the boat or not is part of our need to survive and connect. I am still early on in my journey through this, still trying to find my way through the pouring fear and wading through all the thick puddles of embarrassment and humiliation. But like any good soldier I will keep moving forward regardless of the weight of my pack.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Today is a day to reflect

It’s a difficult thing to consider; the loss of a family after a divorce. The familial structure a man has been a part of for 22 years before it broke apart. You miss living with your children, not seeing them at breakfast before school, nor after work, and missing out on carrying their limp little bodies to bed after they’d fallen asleep in your lap. Knowing you won’t be there when they fall playing outside in the snow, and when they come home from school or cross country after besting their record time with a huge smile on their faces. And you aren’t there at dinner, when everyone prays aloud, then asking each other what the best part of their day was. You think of those things as you sit at a table with a bunch of empty chairs, it’s quiet and lonely.

When I got up this morning I looked out across the fresh snow in my yard and I didn’t see my nation’s Colors furling in the wind. I tried to picture standing in my old house while my children slept in their beds, looking out the front window at the garden wherein lies the flag pole I erected in the memory of my father and all those who’ve paid the definitive sacrifice. When I reflect on my own service, I remember thinking of my niece, my family, my wife, asleep in their beds back home as I cleared bunkers and shelled out buildings in South West Asia, I’d picture them dreaming good dreams as I clutched my rifle, praying that I would return home and could join them, hold my niece, and lie with my sleeping wife.  It’s a difficult thing to consider today, how many times I prayed I would return home, not to leave again, to be safe.

My heart aches for those whom didn’t get to come home to the arms of their loved ones. I feel for those left at home alone when their loved ones did not return. Today I stand here looking at an empty yard, my children someplace different, my wife no longer mine to hold. My world has changed and I will change with it, I will adapt and overcome. I will move on as I should, there will be more days spent with my children. But today is a day to reflect, and reflect I will. I will be sad. I will be hurt. I will remember and I will be proud.