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war is real

unconcerned, uncompromised and unconvoluted letters from a soldier getting ready to face war for the second time. 

Saturday, May 28, 2005

9:44 PM - Books and Stuff

I really wanted to do a post on chow halls, but I got sidetracked in writing a query letter for my book so I never got around to it. I don't even know that anyone will buy this book and I'm not sure if it's worth the advances that are being tossed around and I really need an agent to handle this stuff for me, but I'm going to at least give it the old college try and see what happens. Hence the sudden inclusion of punctuation on this website and the nicer layout. I'm also thinking that I need to try and stick to a semi-regular schedule when posting, but it's a little tough to do that when your entire life is controlled by the Department of Defense.

I didn't take Ambien last night. I got a little scared because there's entire portions of the past few days that are fuzzy, and I didn't really take any medicine so there's no real reason for the memory loss. I'm thinking that the Ambien might be built up in my system and so I've got a built-in predication for memory loss, which really sucks ass. I didn't take it last night and I didn't sleep as well as normal, but today I feel somewhat clear-headed and sane. I might not be sane, but at least I can give off a passing resemblance for a few months until we go back to Iraq. At that point, my insanity will probably return full bore and I'll need more months of psychotherapy to forget about the things I see.

I'm just preparing myself.

I just finished The Tommyknockers. Probably the best King book I've read, and I've gone through quite a few of them. I guess it's sci-fi on a general level, but the story is so much more engrossing than just about anything else out there. I'm thinking of dipping back in to the Tim O'Brien catalog now, but I'm not sure I can handle more Vietnam fiction or even reality at this point. I understand that Vietnam was tragic and about ten million times more intense than anything I've experienced, and I am grateful for all the Nam vets that have written to express interest in the things I'm writing about. I've gotten letters from Dustoff pilots, grunts, medics, and even former company commanders, and every single one of them seems to understand where I'm coming from with PTSD. And so in a sense I appreciate O'Brien's books, because they hit the reality of how we all feel without being too pandering, which is also what I try to avoid here.

God, I'm rambling, and I swore I'd never do that. Boredom has a funny way of making you do that. I'll check back tomorrow with my chow hall post. Hopefully.

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6:55 AM - I Had A Dream Last Night

I had a dream last night.

Normally, I don't have any dreams at all. The doctors prescribed me a blood pressure medicine called Minipress last year when I went to the Mental Health facility for the first time. I asked why they were prescribing me a high blood pressure medicine when I don't have high blood pressure, I simply have recurring dreams of friends getting their guts blown out by mortar rounds and faceless Iraqis with rocket-propelled grenade launchers. The Major (who I believe I've mentioned before) told me that Minipress is also prescribed for nightmares because it supposedly curbs them. I find this interesting because I always read the paperwork that comes with drugs, and nowhere in the paperwork does it say anything about relieving nightmares. In fact, the words "nightmare" or "dreams" or anything of the sort isn't mentioned at all.

So I've always been a little leery of the Minipress. It worked, though. I stopped having nightmares almost immediately, but I also stopped having any kind of dream at all. Not having dreams is just another way of losing your soul, which I'd already done in healthy spades thanks to the Zoloft. But in a way, I guess I've always figured that not having dreams at all is better than having dreams in which your friends are having their guts blown out by mortar rounds.

I've been taking Minipress for almost a year. Ten months, to be exact. Ten months without a dream is a long time, bud. Combine that with Zoloft and Ambien, and you've got one hell of a recipe for success. Especially when success is defined as becoming a nameless, faceless zombie.

In my effort to become not-a-zombie, I stopped taking Minipress. This was only a few days ago, after I posted about quitting the drugs and telling the Army Mental Health people to go fuck themselves. Sure enough, I was able to quit without going into tremors or DT's or whatever you want to call them. Apparently Minipress isn't an addictive substance, which is a shock to me because I used to crave the relief it brought me from my dreams about friends getting guts blown out by mortar rounds. But I quit. I did it. I didn't have any dreams for the first few nights, but last night, I did. To quote Dr. King, I had a dream.

I don't really remember what it was about. I'm pretty sure there were no guts and no mortars, but there may have been a naked woman or two. After all, once you've gone a year without dreaming, there's lot of pent-up fantasies and deviance and whatnot just trying to escape. The important thing, however, is that I had a dream.

I'm hoping this is a trend that continues. And even if the nightmares return, I'm staying off the drugs. After all, dreams and even nightmares are natural, and even if I have to see my friend Burner dying a thousand deaths every night, I'm not giving back the right to have those dreams anymore. They are my experiences, and good or bad, I'm done letting some fucking medication coat those experiences with a narcotic tinge. I may end up being a basket case for the rest of my life, but at least I won't be a coward.

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Friday, May 27, 2005

2:23 PM -

trying out a new newspaper-style format here. let me know what you think. back later with my dispatch on the state of the mess hall.

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11:21 AM - time management (or none)

time management never seems to be important in the army. we're getting ready to ship out to iraq, back to the war zone for a second time, so one would assume that we'd get cut loose early most days in order to spend time with our family.

one, however, would be wrong.

today is my first day off in nineteen days. i had three days off then. before that, i worked 24 days straight. do the math, and you see that i've had four days off in 1.5 months. and it's not even like we have a ton to do or important work that has to be done in order for us to deploy without getting killed. no, i spend an average of four hours a day sitting around AFTER we are supposed to have closing formation simply because our first sergeant is poor at time management and prefers to wait until 1700 to actually do the work that we could have been doing all day long.

i shudder to think that this kind of organizational skill is what is supposed to get us through an entire year in iraq, when admin stuff is nearly just as important as putting a bullet between the eyes of the nearest arab.

i don't want to come off as a disgruntled employee (even though i am and will be until the day i ets). the army just makes it so difficult to take pride in your job, and it could be so much easier. we're the best fighting force in the world, and we can't even handle simple communication between folks who should know better.

on a lighter night, i'm going to spend the afternoon eating crawfish, corn, sausage and other cajun delicacies. no, i'm not cajun, but i do love spicy food and really, anything that's not served from a chow hall is worth devoting time to. i have a post on our chow hall coming down the pipe, and it's not going to make a lot of people very happy, but i'm sick of being served week-old leftovers on a constant basis.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2005

7:40 PM - CLEAN UP ON AISLE WARISREAL

i need to address something here before it gets out of control. (i should also stop posting while taking ambien, or else the comments sections are going to be absolutely filled to the brim with people who are wondering just what in blue fuck i'm talking about in some of these posts.

the comments sections are open on this blog because i value feedback and it's a great place for like-minded posters to get together and have relevant, intelligent discussion on the matters of the day. matters including, but not limited to bo bice getting shafted out of american idol tonight. granted, i saw most of it through ambien-tinted sunshades, but that finale was outta sight. i also hate american idol with a passion. it's nothing more than another chance for corporate america to get one more swoop through the spotlight while marketing teenage kids who will no doubt go on to produce some of the worst music this side of nashville.

oh yes 00 ===i;m a music junky, severee---==== i have been known to go off on rants about Coldplay that last days at a time, so bear with me if you;re here just for the military bukaki.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2005

7:07 PM - pay it forward, sir!

There's very few times in the army when I feel years of traditions breezing down the line, all culminating on a parade field stocked with units and unit pride. to see a change of command ceremony is something beautiful, and most people will never take a mere glance at this most-honored of traditions, The pleasantrys, the guide-ons flowing in the wind.we don't get to do too many ceremonies in garrison, and the big {parade field] ceremonies are reserved for the upper chain of command. Tomorrow we lose our batallion commander, and he's been a great commander through our last tour of iraq. it'll be sad to see him go, because we always felt safe when he commanded the squadron because he knew what his mission was and always looked out for the troopers on the ground out in the firefight, he gave us everything we ever needed and the support to do our missions with success.

you can't really ask for anything more than that. if we as the low guys in the batallion know that we can trust the main man upstairs, then everything else flows much easier as the orders make their way down to the lowest level. Us at the lowest level appreciate that, and so its an honor when we can see a great Lt Colonel off to his next mission in life,

that being said, we're also waiting to see how the new guy is going to react to us, Will he make drastic changes or keep things as they are? Lots of qeustions will be asked in the coming weeks, and they have to be asnswered.


ADMIN NOTE>> if you send me an email and i feel that it could be god information regaarding PTSD, I'm going to start including those emails on a post. I want to open it up to a community of intelligent discussions. I have a few in the pipeline that I'll share in a later post. So if you've got something to say, drop me an email and I'll get it posted.

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Monday, May 23, 2005

8:18 PM - to answer some questions

it seems as though my site has attracted a lot of publicity in the past few days, likely because of a link from metafilter. that's all well and good with me, and i appreciate the supportive comments that i've been getting today, but i also wanted to address a few concerns that are being brought up underneath my posts before things get out of hand too badly.

1.) i'm not anti-unit. i love my unit. well, mostly. i love the history, the decorum, and the attitude that goes with kicking ass and taking pride in our jobs....when there's a good reason to be prideful. 99 percent of the things we did in iraq last year were awesome. this unit is a fearsome fighting machine and it's amazing to watch it work, especially if you believe in what you're doing. unfortunately, there's some concerns that need to be addressed that never will be, and that's because of the political game that goes hand in hand with any military unit of action. i could never sit here and tell you that i believe in our mission in iraq at this point., though that doesn't mean that i didn't believe it at one point. i'm simply here to do a job and get out. i'm simply a cog in the machine, but i'm a cog with some very real concerns that need to be addressed before the next generation of soldiers suffers in the same way we do.

2.) that being said, i'm sick to fucking death of people telling me that i need to "man up" and "get back out there". ptsd is a sickness, not a weakness, and it's sad that most people in the military are too concerned with appearances to actually take a stand and do something about it. instead of medicating us (which they are altogether happy to do, and i'm almost-living proof of that), why not get to the root of the problem? yeah, i've been in counseling, but all the counseling sessions in the world of the army are simply dedicated to getting you back to work so you can be enslaved. yes, i take zoloft, ambien and minipres, and the only thing it's served to do is make me a zombie. yes, i work hard and i work long hours and i don't really complain, but that's not natural because i have a million complaints in me and none of them are being fixed, only coated with a nice layer of narcotics. at some point in the next month, i'm going to mental health and telling them to stick the medicine up their collective asses, because it's not helping me and i want my fucking soul back. and if they have a problem with that, if they'd rather just have a zombie working for them instead of someone who has valid complaints about the bullshit they pull, then they can kiss my ass, because i'm done being medicated.

3.) as far as this being a "scam," i would have to say that's extremely shortsighted. and also stupid. i've already said that npr is one of the few media outlets i'm going to utilize over the next year, and i'm being extremely picky about even that, as well. i have no desire for publicity, and even if this site were still being read by an audience of one, i wouldn't care, because i'm writing it for myself. the fact that my audience has just increased exponentially doesn't change anything, nor will it changed what i write about. this isn't a soapbox though it may seem that way (usually when i'm doped up on ambien), and i'm simply wanting to write what i feel so that i don't have to spend an entire day thinking about it anymore.

that being said, i do appreciate that all of you are sharing this with me and have been so supportive in sending emails today. i even had a gentleman ask where he could donate money for ptsd research, and while i can't help with that one, i'm guessing at least one of you readers probably can.

i'll check back in tomorrow with a regular post. things have been pretty low key the past few days, but that'll all change once our line troops come back from the field at the end of the week. thank christ for four-day government holidays, one of the few very real perks about working for the department of defense.

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Friday, May 20, 2005

5:42 PM -

Never, EVER take Ambien. If the doc prescribes it to you for sleep, tell him to suck a nut and walk away, It's supposed to help you sleep at night, but it doesn't, and before you go to bed you encounter all kinds of acidwash movements that you don't want any part of, It's quite similiar to refined peyote, and I know a few things about that. how about instead of telling our soldiers to take medicines and more medicines to clear them of the horrible stress we endure over there, we get them teamed up in focus level groups where they can talk about the things we SAW over there. Don't listen to the majors, don't go to mental health. The only "treatement" they're going to give you is a one way ticket down zoloft and ambien avenue

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4:00 PM -

i just realized that there's a lot that the army has in common with "the shawshank redemption."

typically, i'd be excited right now. or drunk. or excited, and well on my way to being drunk. it's friday night, after all, and i should be planning an entire weekend of doing nothing and sitting on my ass. instead, we have to report in to work tomorrow because the rest of our unit is in the field and so thus we have to work. nevermind the fact that the rest of the entire division doesn't train on the weekends. we're different because we're hardcore, i guess.

those of you emailing ptsd links to me...thanks, but i've already gotten a ton of information on it, and i'm in a support group, and nothing really helps. even zoloft. to all you soldiers coming home from iraq...don't let them put you on zoloft. it steals your soul.

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Thursday, May 19, 2005

6:42 PM - PINK EYE

i have something called viral conjuctivitis. i don't know what it means, but i think it's called pink eye, and they've confined me to the house for 72 hours so that no one else will be exposed to it. it doesn't hurt, but it does itch and burn and i wake up every morning with my eyes crusted over. yeah, gross, but it could be worse.

i'm using the time wisely by watching movies and reading books. i also promised a few readers that i'd expound a bit on my ptsd post from a few days back, since it was obviously a bit confusing and erratic. i did it on purpose, which most of you seemed to understand, but i wanted to clarify to those that emailed that no, i was not high on crack. or pot. or anything else. i was trying to write in a stream of consciousness manner and i guess it came off a bit disjointed, but most of my stuff tends to do that anyway since i write off the top of my head instead of thinking about it first. that might get me in trouble someday, which is why i'm writing under a fake name in the first place.

i'm getting wrapped up in the books of tim o'brien. i'd never even heard of the guy until i was browsing half price books a few weeks back and saw "the things they carried" on display. since it was only $5 and was a pulitzer nominee, i picked it up and read it in two days. absolutely amazing stuff, i thought, so i picked up "july, july" and "in the lake of the woods" yesterday. i already finished july and it was breathtakingly good, the story of ten college friends at a 30th graduation reunion and the stories they lived and the heartache they suffer from seeing all the old folks they used to hang out with. great, great stuff, but i think i'm going to take a break from o'brien and read "the tommyknockers," since that's one of very few king books i haven't gotten around to reading. oh, and there's also that book about the o.j. simpson defense that i want to tackle. i had bill clinton's book, but it's now being used to prop up my couch after a fat ass private broke it the other day.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2005

7:43 PM - part two: how i stopped learning to kill and take the pill

she says to take one of the blue pills in the morning and another in mid afternoon and oh whenever i feel severe depression coming on take on then too. i'm wondering what all these chemicals will do for me and i'm feeling very much like a lab rat. the army has one treatment for PTSD, and that drug of choice is Zoloft. despite the fact that i can barely even exist on zoloft, i started taking it and oh also the other stuff that's supposed to help with nightmares i've been having. body parts flying apart and landing all over my shoes, my face, the blood mixing with the rain and soaking my hair red, eventhough my stitches are holding up pretty well so they can't be from me.

she says, go ahead and take these little white pills. they supposedly stop nightmares before they happen, which is complete and utter bullshit just like every other time something is supposed to prevent something from happening before it begins. they don't work, Major, and so what am i left with?

she says to me, you could always go back out there, man up and be a true soldier. bitch, i was there once and i need some FUCKING HELP before i can go back and see those things again. are you not comprehending this? do i need to spell it out for you? i fucking hate the fact that i'm required to kill evil people who are only evil because our president wills them to be.

yeah, i'm going back to iraq. if i get shot at or placed in danger, i'm going to kill everything that moves on the other site. i won't enjoy doing it, but it's my job, and my battle buddies are more important to me than life itself, and THEY are the reason i'm going. screw iraq, screw bush, screw the army -- just remember that it's me and my battle buddies out there, and we are the ones fighting a sham war just so we can come home and get a nice welcome reception for being heroes, and then six months later nothing changes and we're back to being grunts.

change the cycle.

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Thursday, May 12, 2005

3:22 PM - life can be hell sometimes

i've always considered myself pretty lucky in that ever since i came in the army, i've had a pretty good set of leaders and nco's. they've always been tough but fair, and we as a platoon work extremely hard when they need us to do something. i have no problem working, because that's what i signed up to do and when something has to get done, it just makes it easier on everyone involved if we get it done right and fast the first time instead of lounging around and half-assing stuff. our leaders have also been able to foster a real aura of friendship around the platoon; depite rank, we're all friends and can shoot the shit with each other without fear of disrespect charges or things of that nature. other platoons have nco's that try to act like we're still in basic training, and i've always been glad that i haven't had to deal with that.

now, though, it's a different story. in the span of the past four days, we've gotten a new platoon sergeant and two new staff sergeants, and my life has never been more miserable. the platoon sergeant is cool, calm, and collected, and it seems like he's going to fit in quite well. one of the staff sergeants came from a support battalion and is winding down his final year in the army by spending it with us. he's 50 years old and harmless.

the other staff sergeant, however, is going to be a real pain in the ass. from the first day he got here, he's tried to make his mark by being as much of a hard ass as possible. he immediately instituted a "no cursing" rule (which i talked about earlier) and is going as far as making us ask permission to use the latrine. he's changing everything that we've done for the past two years, and implying that our standards weren't high enough and we haven't been doing a good job. which is fine and all, except he came from a tradoc (training) unit and doesn't know jack shit about what goes on in a line troop.

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Tuesday, May 10, 2005

7:57 PM -

we're going through the process of getting a new platoon sergeant. i've had the same PS since the day i arrived here over two years ago, and he's been awesome and i can honestly say that i wouldn't have learned how to play the army game as well as i have if it weren't for him. he's taught me a lot, but now he's retiring and heading back home to san antonio to smoke marijuana and sit at home by a pool that takes up his entire backyard. more power to him, i say.

but anyway: the process of getting new leaders is always painful, because you've got a myriad of inspections, more inspections, and a general feeling-out period where no one quite knows what to expect and no one knows how the new guy will react. granted, he seems nice and all (which may not be a good thing with this group), but he laid out his one single rule for us today and told his his biggest pet peeve. turns out he's one of those types who despise cursing, and he would appreciate* it if we wouldn't use foul language around him. so yeah, that's not going to go over too well with a bunch of guys who kill for a living and hate their jobs.

regardless, things are still progressing nicely for the iraq deployment. we're going to get block leave after all, and i plan on using my time wisely by doing a little traveling to california.

** by that i mean, of course, that if we do it, we'll get counseling statements written up.

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Saturday, May 07, 2005

9:54 AM - media, this blog, and emails

i've enjoyed the varied correspondence from folks around the world concerning this blog and my upcoming 2nd tour of iraq. i've had letters from mothers, wives, husbands and kids who are maintaining a high level of interest in what we do and the personal touch they're able to get from this thing. truthfully, i don't write this thing for anyone but myself because i've found that it's extremely cathartic to have a place where i can vent frustrations, feelings and fears and just because someone else is able to read them, it doesn't take the release away. i did it the first time around because i wnated to keep family aware of what was happening, but it spiraled out of my control and i ended up getting in trouble and even censored because of it. that's not going to happen this time, and so that's why you'll never see my use my real name or refer to my real unit. i can't take the chance of putting myself or my buddies in danger, and i won't take the chance of getting pulled into some bullshit meeting where they try to spin my writing to make themselves look good. if you look good and you care about your soldiers, it's going to reflect in what i write, and if you're a shitbag who's only trying to get promoted to full-bird, then it'll reflect that too.

i had an offer to appear on NPR's On The Media, but my field training got in the way of creating a timely response. NPR is one of the few media outlets I will use this time around, because they tell the truth and don't have a slanted agenda that forces you in line with the rest of the rah rah troops. I did some press last time around, and it ended up getting me in more trouble than anything else so fuck it, i'm sticking solely with NPR and perhaps the guardian.

we've got ntc (national training center) coming up in a few months, followed by some block leave and then our deployment to iraq. i have exactly one year and seven months left in the army, and i'm telling you, it can't come soon enough.

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Sunday, May 01, 2005

8:24 AM -

sorry i've been out of touch. it's pretty much been a complete loss of touch with reality as a whole, so don't feel bad. we just returned from a two week field problem (which means, basically, that i've been living in the woods for two weeks and had no access to any kind of communication devices save for the regular troop net radio, and trying to stir up conversations on there is like trying to fix a hangnail. which is to say that it is impossible) and i'm only now catching up on correspondence and letters from readers. i reply to everyone who sends me something, so if you were one of the folks that have written me in the past three weeks, i'll get to you sometime in the next few days. i've also recently scored a pretty nice PDA/phone with unlimited net access anywhere, so i can start posting via that or via email.

i've got some field stories coming soon, too. it was a pretty shitty experience at times and a pretty good one at times. we're slipping back into kill em' all mode, and i'm not sure i like the feeling.

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