Friday, September 16, 2011

The Shit Continues

For more sweet morsels of blood, guts, sex, drugs, booze, noncompliance, and general douchebaggery, please consult

http://1000th-yard.blogspot.com/

If I'm gonna think about this shit everyday, goddammit, I'm gonna write about it. See you soon.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Monday, May 16, 2011

Something must be wrong...

by 13 Stoploss

I reached my hand inside the box, pulling out the junk fliers and advertisements and coupons. But on top, above it all, I saw the thin envelope with the familiar two letters in the corner.

It's been five months since I began and I've been expecting the correspondence--I am within the 125 actual and beyond the 90 goal. So everyday, I walk out there, expecting to be let down, that today, and tomorrow today and the next day future today, are not the days.

Today is not that day, either, but still my hands shake and tremble. Might be the caffeine and an empty stomach, the fear and nervousness like when I knocked three times on the boardroom door, listening for the Command Sergeant Major to beckon me in.

That day, then, I passed. I became more than I was. Now, I'm waiting on someone to label me, some far away and unseen person, maybe in an office with a stack of paper people like me on a desk, mixed with stats and statements and charts, or in some cold, brushed steel examining room.

It's the second "we haven't forgot about you" letter I've received since March, the second time my hands have trembled nervous with fear or excitement when reaching into the box. And I wonder whether my nightmares aren't real enough or whether the classroom explosions aren't loud enough. Do I need to spend more time collecting my thoughts, drifting off in mid sentence, while speaking to others? Should I not be polite when some airhead asks me how many Iraqi's I've killed? Should I not go out, so that I can save myself the embarrassment of just finding a corner anyway? Maybe I shouldn't fear the pills, the bottles of pills, that knock me out so strong that not only do I fall asleep, but I can't wake up. And instead of drinking a couple every night, maybe I should multiply the couple by three, so that I am more withdrawn from my marriage and my family and my studies.

I'm wrong, but I'm not a liar.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Dream is Reality?

by 13 Stoploss

3 weeks and a wakeup...

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

I'm searching

by 13Stoploss

THIS.

Yeah, I'm a little late, I get that. But it's the kind of literary writing I'm looking for--the smart and beautiful prose, Herr and Swofford style, that really motivates me. In this, I see construction and purpose and skill. And I'm going to steal it, along with the others and O'Brien.

Anyway, buy more of that here, which is what I'm doing right now...

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Where was I?

by 13 Stoploss



I was 20 years old when it happened. I worked at Disneyland and woke up to a phone from scheduling, something about work being closed today because of the terrorist thing. Something about Disneyland being a potential target.

I answered the phone from bed, groggy and half-asleep.

"The terrorist thing?"

"You haven't heard? Turn on the TV!"

I've never told this to anyone, but I was a student at Santa Ana Community College, enrolled in 10 units. My first schooling since dropping out of HS a year previous. I was taking classes at my own pace and classes that I wanted to take. But at the same time, work was cutting back hours. I was living with my girlfriend and another good friend from work, named Dan.

Dan had already left for work--he had the early shift. When I called, it went to his voicemail. He didn't come home that night and I was scared. Dan was the type to do something drunk and irrational and I had a sinking feeling that he'd join the Army or something...

The next day, Dan called me up and said that he's bringing the recruiter with him. Said he wanted to talk to us all.

Maybe I'll get into another time, but the short story is that I dropped out of college like I did in HS. I put in my notice at work, signed the dotted line, married my girlfriend, who also signed the dotted line, and then after some time and some training, I found myself in Kuwait, waiting for the invasion to begin.

That's how that happened and that's where I was when I found out...

This is me in Karbala, Iraq - March 2003
Karbala, Iraq - March 2003

With SGT Brian Colby in Najaf, Iraq - March 2003
With SGT Brian Colby in Najaf, Iraq - 2003

THIS--this is blood on the streets. Is this avenged now? No.
THIS--this is blood on the streets. Is this avenged for?
No. No, the lives of those lost can never be forgotten.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Glory Days

by The Usual Suspect

At one point, I had filmmaking aspirations.



Now I play death metal. And it will groove.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Reading as research for a purpose

by 13Stoploss

Just finished reading Jarhead. CB and BFriedman, you're next.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

What Do You Live For?

by The Usual Suspect

What are the three most important things to you? (Family is only one category, and is kinda a GIMME anyway)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

From the Memoirs of Ward B. Davis, WWI

By 13Stoploss
Romain Hill, France, September 1918

"In this position on Romain Hill, the German shells went over our heads. We could hear the guns explode, the whine of the shell coming and the explosion back of us. We felt as if we could reach up and touch the shells as they screamed over us. Their slow cycling groan indicated they were heavily laden and we shivered in our fox holes.

We became very thirsty. A detail went to get water; we never saw our canteens again. Our thirst became intolerable, worse than our hunger. We drank the juice from cans of salmon and threw the rest away.

I was detailed to help bury the dead. It was raining as four of us were called out of our foxholes, each holding the corner of a blanket, slipping along in clay mud, seeing only by flashes of lightning.

About the time we would get a body on a blanket and start to lift, we would discover that the soldiers holding two of the corners had vanished. Finally, the sergeant gave up in despair. That afternoon, I tried to crawl out in no-mans land to get the canteen of a dead German soldier, but I was called back--we were moving! However, we didn't move until night and we were told later we had advanced under mistaken orders."

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Zot Offensive


by 13 Stoploss

Thursday, 17 February, 2011
The cadet’s are supposed to have an open path to the court.
In their way, peppy cheerleaders in ruffled-white skirts sit next to the school band resting their instruments atop Cadet Jesus Leon’s pre-marked pivot points.
Leon, a quiet third year cadet and Color Guard Commander, marches the formation between the cheerleaders and the band on the side of the court, but the cadets are out of step; their movements are limp and passive.
He gives the command for a series of “column lefts” and “column rights” around the obstacles, but on the last command, a column left, Leon turns right. Flustered from altering the practice plan, he walks into the American flag.
From the front row, an older veteran grunts, struggling to hold his salute.
The Thursday night basketball game has yet to start; but on the court at the Bren Events Center, UCI’s ROTC Color Guard Team continues with their task.
When the ceremony ends, Leon marches the cadet’s in a more direct route off the court. Cadet Andrew Ravn, a lanky third year cadet and the color guard’s Cadet in Charge, fails to lower the American flag and walks straight into the basketball hoop.
Hundreds of UC Irvine basketball fans erupt in laughter.
The cadets, too ashamed to be seen, disappear.
For Christian Peralta, a fourth-year Criminology major and UCI ROTC Battalion Commander, the opportunity to perform in front of a large crowd is the kind of outside recognition he hopes will bring positive attention to UCI’s ROTC Company, a USC Trojan Battalion detachment, because UCI, like many Ivy League schools, does not officially recognize ROTC.
Thursday night’s pregame ceremony was supposed to be a last-minute tune-up for Sunday’s big event—a Color Guard ceremony for 9,000 people at the Anaheim Convention Center. Instead, it exposed how unprepared the cadet’s were.
In January, when Peralta was contacted for the Color Guard event, he reminded the cadet’s to practice early and often. But by mid February, between midterms and girlfriends and weekend training exercises, the Color Guard team pushed off practice until the week before the big event.
“They told me they were ‘ready,’” Peralta says, “but I should have intervened earlier.”
After Thursday’s embarrassment, the cadet’s knew they could do better and vowed to perfect the routine. Late Thursday evening, and for several hours each on Friday and Saturday, Peralta assembled the cadet’s atop an empty parking structure in the blowing rain and wind for “training scenario’s” he hoped would build confidence.
To simulate crowd noise, he blasted the radio from his van so the cadet’s would have to listen for Leon’s commands. For visual distraction, he shined flashlights in their faces and threw obstacles on the ground while they performed marching and facing movements. Then, to stimulate confusion, he ordered the cadet’s to dizzy themselves by spinning in circles with scuba masks over their faces.
“I know Thursday was really stressful for them,” he says, “but they’ll get it.”

Sunday, 20 February 2011
At 0530, the streets are wet and it is cold. Misty white globes hang from the streetlamps above the parking lot, illuminating Peralta and the cadet’s as they finish packing the van.
“Tham,” Peralta yells, “Do we have everything?”
After checking the equipment, Shawn Tham and another cadet jump inside the Honda minivan and pass out in the back row, resting their heads on the fogged windows. A Eurotrance beat blasts from an iPod as Peralta lectures Ravn about dissension within the platoon. In the weeks leading up to this morning’s event, says Peralta, there’ve been errors in communication, insubordination, and a lack of focus. Jan Ignacio, a soft-spoken fourth-year cadet sitting behind Peralta, says that morale is low and the MS3’s (third year cadet’s) need to step it up.
Ravn stares out the passenger window, listening but neither affirming nor denying the charge.
“This is what I’m talking about,” Peralta says. “What if this was a tactical movement? Ravn, call Leon and tell him to stay with me—behind me!”
For Peralta, this morning is one of the last big events before graduation and one he hopes will be a valuable experience for the MS3’s, especially after what happened at the Bren Events Center on Thursday. Cadet Life is much different than real-world Army, he says, but the MS3’s still need to take it more seriously.
“You guys are lucky,” he tells Ravn, “MS3’s don’t have to deal with all the politics.”

0557 and it’s still dark when the van arrives. The Anaheim Convention Center looks like an airport. Street signs and flashing lights and arrows point in different directions and there are driveways to a dozen different parking structures.
            After lapping the city block, Peralta finds Loading Dock D. Inside, thousands of thin, silver-legged chairs with small green padding line the center of the room, each with a flier announcing the Keller Williams Family Reunion 2011. On the back wall, strobes project moving clouds and cheesy, inspirational messages. Seven 30-foot wide flat screens fill the front stage beneath a black industrial ceiling with catwalks and lighting platforms shining red and blue and yellow lights onstage. There, three sisterly looking middle-aged women in sweat pants and heavy makeup sing in front of a dozen jazzy-lounge musicians jamming for the sound technicians backstage.
            Peralta and Ignacio lead the cadets through an aisle toward the main stage where monitors, pointing toward the musicians, count down to show time: the cadet’s have 174 minutes to forget about Thursday.



10 January 2011
The Zot Offensive, Peralta’s campaign to bring ROTC to UCI before graduation in June 2011, began after President Obama’s repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in December 2010.
“Now is our time,” Peralta said. “With DADT gone, the university can’t hide anymore.”
In a mass email directed to ROTC cadre and supporters, Peralta’s plan called for ROTC coverage in the student newspaper, arranging a meeting with student government and finally, resending the ROTC proposal to the Dean’s of the schools of Social Science and Social Ecology—the two schools who had previously shown interest in sponsoring a Military Science program.
The meeting with student government paid off immediately—Peralta, Veteran’s Liaison, Alex Louie, and UCI student veteran and California State Director of Student Veterans of America, Dave Curry, received an invitation to the Chancellor’s luncheon on 10 January to reintroduce the ROTC proposal.
But the optimism Peralta and the others shared going into the Chancellor’s luncheon ended prematurely, as Chancellor Michael Drake, who arrived to the meeting late and left early, nixed the plan before it started, citing budget constraints from new Governor Jerry Brown’s proposed cuts to education.
“Based on our financial budget crisis assessment,” said Chancellor Drake, “we cannot further add new services to the existing services and programs we have today.”
According to Peralta, the military provides everything the university would need, including military science instructors, office furniture and equipment, technology and computers, student textbooks, uniforms, transportation to training sites, scholarships, room and board, and stipends while complying with all applicable university and school policies.
“He didn’t even listen to us,” Peralta said of the Chancellor. “He denied us for budget reasons, but it’s practically free to the university.”
The setback was just the latest in a string of curiosities that date back to April 2009.
After receiving a letter of recommendation from then Vice Chancellor Manuel Gomez, Peralta’s proposal was redirected to the Academic Senate. There, six different Vice Chancellors, Directors, and Dean’s who had previously engaged with Peralta concerning sponsorship, ceased communication.
“I’m not saying there was an official policy or anything,” Peralta said, “but it was definitely strange. They wouldn’t return emails or answer phone calls and they were never available when I went to their office hours.”
In June 2009, Peralta received a letter of recommendation from Sharon Salinger, Dean of Undergraduate Education, regarding course credit approval for Military Science classes. It was an important step for the proposal, but which mattered little until the cadet’s had actual campus space. By October 2009, ASUCI External Affairs denied the cadets’ request for university space during the Student Center renovation, despite the availability of several empty and unused offices.
The cadets were shocked.
“If we just had a small room for instruction, or a place to store our gear,” said Peralta, “that would be a great first step.”
In April 2010, two years after Peralta first began working on the ROTC proposal, ASUCI Legislation voted 14-0-1 in support of an ROTC Military Science program.
Peralta, among other supporters, rallied the School of Social Ecology for host support. After several meetings, the school of Social Ecology, toeing the bureaucratic line with the likes of Harvard and Columbia, rejected the proposal based on DADT’s discrimination to “students that identify with being lesbian, gay, transgender, or queer.”
Because UCI’s ROTC is not officially sanctioned, growth of the campus club is determined by limited funds from private donations. Peralta fears that if he and others cannot win over the obstinate administration, including Chancellor Drake, ROTC will not increase in size while demand for the scholarships and stipends, as a result of heightened fees, will only increase.
“When I left West Point for UCI, there were around 5 Cadet’s, but we’ve double our numbers every year I’ve been here,” Peralta said.
UCLA, Berkeley, UC Davis, and UC Santa Barbara all have ROTC programs, but the 25 UCI ROTC cadets have to enroll in Military Science courses at Cal State Long Beach. ROTC cannot function as a club without support and recognition by the school, and until it gets that, it won’t be recognized by the military. Without an officially recognized program, the club will not get scholarship money from the military, and the club will continue to turn down qualified applicants.
“We’ve had over 70 email inquiries for 2010-2011, and that doesn’t include the interest from students coming up to the booths during Welcome Week. We could grow,” he mentioned, “but we need a home.”



0642, 20 February 2011
            At the bottom of the stage, Ravn and Leon meet the stage director, a retired Army commissioned officer working in Los Angeles. He gives the cadet’s a quick tour of their route to the stage and then leads them behind the curtain to Green Room 3, a staging area filled with coffee, tea, pastries, and fresh fruit around a large, circular wood table to lay their bags.
            Wide-eyed and nervous, the cadet’s look like boys in their fathers’ old war uniforms. Their jackets are large and loose fitting and the pants hang from their hips, bunched at the feet.
            Sizing them up, the director asks, “Who is the cadet I spoke with via email?”
            “That would be me, sir,” Peralta responds.
            Peralta’s uniform is tailored to his athletic frame and he stands like a professional soldier. Over his left breast, he wears a Sharpshooter marksmanship badge, the coveted Air Assault badge for completion of the Army’s Air Assault School, and the National Defense Service Medal, the ribbon awarded to military personnel for honorable service in a time of “national emergency.” Although Ravn and Leon are in charge of the Color Guard Team, it is clear that Peralta, who is not participating, is the cadet in charge. 
            As MS4’s, Peralta and Ignacio are responsible for planning and coordinating events for the MS3’s under the guidance of their military science instructors. But as the cadet with the most experience, including having spent the previous summer with an Active Army infantry unit in Korea, it is Peralta who inspects and corrects the young cadet’s.
At rehearsal, the cadet’s are sloppy. They have no rhythm, and the director, working with several dancers offstage, pauses to watch them in action.
Peralta runs from cadet to cadet, grabbing the butt-stock of an M1 Garand rifle here, and positioning it there. He snatches one cadet’s arm and tells him to be more forceful, more deliberate, and demonstrates with authority.
When they can’t stay in step, he gets in their faces.
“Guys, what are we doing here?
“Tham, step on that X! That’s your spot!
“Turn around, try it again!”
In the corner, Ignacio says that it has been a frustrating month. “We’re used to being in control,” he says, “but we’re kind of passing this on now.”
0658. The walkthrough with the band isn’t going well. With the drummer laying down a marchable beat, the cadet’s can’t keep step or proper spacing while ascending the stairs.
“Gentlemen,” Peralta yells, “you need to get in step!”
When the cadet’s finish three dry runs, the stage empties and the cadet’s return to the staging room for a light breakfast.
“That,” Peralta whispers to Ignacio, “was ugly.”

It’s hard to imagine that Christian Peralta has any free time. The calendar on his laptop shows the prime colors for large blocks of each day—one color for classes, another for ROTC, and another for meetings and appointments—beginning at 0600 hours and ending well into the night. There is a remarkable absence of white—his “free time,” which does not include dinner with his girlfriend or the weekly get-togethers with the folks.
Outside of studying Criminology at UCI and Military Science at Cal State Long Beach, Peralta teaches a University Studies class to incoming UCI freshman, takes scuba classes on the weekends he isn’t training for ROTC, and is a Level I certified CrossFit trainer.
His iPhone beeps and vibrates without end. On his laptop, he’s constantly changing and updating his schedule between phone calls, emails, text messages and unscheduled meetings with potential recruits.
Everything about him shows passion, but also reservation and attention to detail. When confronted with a task, the ever-mindful Peralta attacks with fiery resolve. In those moments, his dark eyes converge for complete concentration, a skill he attributes to a childhood spent playing video games like Final Fantasy and Counter Strike. But when the intensity of the moment recedes, his eyes relax above a sheepish, white smile.
From a young age, Peralta remembers the grade school uniform policy at a large private school and strict teachers who instilled in him a desire to excel. There, he gained a sense of structure and order that made sense to him, an understanding he carried through high school, where he played Tennis and maintained excellent marks.
            One day after school, he was browsing the Internet and found the military’s flashy West Point Academy website. “Best of the best,” he remembers seeing, and later found inspiration reading David Lipsky’s book on the United States Military Academy at West Point, Absolutely American.
He was hooked.
But After two rejections from the academy and a brief stint with Psychological Operations in the Army Reserve’s, Peralta’s Commanding Officer nominated him for entrance to West Point. Peralta’s parents were ecstatic when he accepted.
The dream quickly faded, though, as the Pico Rivera native grew frustrated with the hazing and the stodgy traditionalism of “Beast Barracks” memorizations. Then his long-distance relationship failed and he became depressed. Despite being in the top quarter of his class, he was miserable and yearned for a more traditional college experience. Toward the end of the school year, he began to look for a good university with ROTC closer to home.
“It took my parents a while to get over it,” he says, “but they’re really supportive now.”
Peralta was stunned when he got to UCI, however. After visiting the campus, gaining acceptance and arranging all the costs for tuition and transportation of his goods from West Point, he hadn’t met with any of the cadet’s at UCI. He was frustrated and embarrassed to discover that UCI didn’t actually have an ROTC program and that it was a campus club made up of five students who enrolled in Military Science courses at Cal State Long Beach.
“I was so happy to come home,” he remembers, “that I didn’t really do my homework concerning ROTC. I’m still happy I came here, but it’s been a difficult journey.”
Now, as a fourth-year student at UCI, Peralta’s main focus has been to bring ROTC to UCI. He recently stepped down from running the Cadet Battalion to focus on the ROTC proposal, which has been met, so far, with both consternation in some parts and acceptance in others.
“It doesn’t benefit me after I leave,” he says, “but I’m doing it for the other cadet’s. My girlfriend says that I live vicariously through the younger cadet’s, but if we can get space on campus, they’ll be that much better.”
In June, Peralta will graduate with Military Science honors, among the top 10% of ROTC cadet’s in the country. It is an achievement he downplays as interesting, but less exciting than the end goal—receiving a commission as a Second Lieutenant into the United States Army, where he will continue on to the Army’s Airborne and Ranger Schools before serving in Hawaii. 
            “I’ve always felt a pulling to service,” he says, “like there’s something in store for my future—something more than myself. Graduation and commission is sort of like a self-actualization—I’ve just always wanted to serve.”

0748, 20 February 2011
Backstage, behind each of the seven flat screens, a projector rests on a raised platform, playing a horizontally reversed video on repeat. Several of the cadet’s sit staring at the mammoth projections of reversed female dancers in tight clothes jumping and twirling and smiling and bouncing across the stage. It is the most excitement they have had all morning.
At 0801, some of the cadet’s disappear to the bathroom. Others try to nibble on pastries and sip cold water. Leon, alone in shadow fifty paces from the group, practices his movements and commands with a commissioned officer’s gold-heeled saber. His face is taut and pale, his eyes dark but determined.
“He didn’t take the Thursday performance too well,” Ignacio says.
“He’s a solid guy,” Peralta adds, “but he beat himself up pretty good.”
Noticing Leon, the two gunners stand to practice their presentation and ordering of arms. Their movements are sharper, but one is still quicker than the other. Ravn joins them to call out the commands while Peralta counts.
One one-thousand, two one-thousand, three one-thousand. Good, that was really good!”
At 51 minutes to show time, the director walks up to the group with a big smile. The cadet’s gather around quietly, but their eyes soon hollow.
            “How you guys doing? Comfortable? Confident?
            “Don’t worry—you’ll be fine!”
            His fake speech impresses upon the cadet’s the severity of the performance. He could have as well said, “DON’T FUCK UP.” Instead, each pair of blank eyes stares at the ground. Today, the cadet’s learn, their recorded performance will open the Keller Williams Realty Family Reunion, where 9,000 realtors will attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the largest “Cha-Cha” dance.

            At 0830, the stadium-like noise of 9,000 North American realtors seep into the room, but backstage, thirty minutes before show time, it is cold, dark and quiet.
Peralta sits in a semi-circle with the others, tagging the cadet’s in snapshot photos and with status updates to his Facebook profile while the MS3’s crack jokes about each other’s girlfriends. The MS2’s sit with their heads between their legs as a Beach Boys mix tape plays on loop in the background.
            All of the cadet’s tap their feet, anxiously waiting for show time.

18 January 2011
A week after the Chancellor’s Luncheon, an article published in UCI’s student newspaper called to attention several prominent Dean’s for their suspicious behavior concerning the ROTC proposal. Specifically, the article called into question whether a political bias existed within the university administration. Such a policy would run counter to 2002’s Solomon Amendment, a “federal law that allows the Secretary of Defense to deny federal grants (including research grants) to institutions of higher education if they prohibit or prevent ROTC or military recruitment on campus.”
The administrators called out in the article were pissed. ASUCI President Sitara Nayudu, under administrative pressure, demanded the newspaper pull the story because the student journalist was not present for the Chancellor’s luncheon.
As a result of the attempted censure, Dave Curry approached his connections with the Orange County Register and lobbied the California Student Veterans of America. Peralta, more determined from the rejection at the Chancellor’s luncheon, stepped up with an email campaign to Chancellor Drake and other influential administrators for support.
The plan worked.
Alex Louie, the ASUCI Veterans Liaison under Student President Nayudu, was given a message to send to Peralta: “Stop emailing the Chancellor. Things will be moving forward.”
In early February, Peralta and Curry met with Dean Salinger of Undergraduate Education. On the top floor of Aldrich Hall, overlooking Ring Road, Dean Salinger approached Peralta and Curry with the idea that, if Peralta could find a sponsor for physical office space, it might be possible to start a Military Science Minor, or in the very least, Military Science classes taught by UCI faculty would count as “work load credit,” under the Division of Undergraduate Education.
The next day, Peralta emailed every Dean on campus with a request for sponsorship—essentially, an inquiry for office space. Although he expected the Schools of Medicine and Engineering and Arts to decline, among others, an unlikely hero, Dean Albert Bennett of the School of Biological Sciences, replied with curious interest. Ironically, due to budget cuts, Dean Bennett’s new Biological Sciences tower had several empty offices and a large basement storage room—more space than the Cadet’s could have realistically imagined.
           
0855, 20 February 2011
            At the five-minute warning, Peralta escapes to the soundboard next to the stage to video record the performance. At the rendezvous point with the Color Guard team, Ignacio delivers a brief, pregame pep talk.
            “You’ve trained for this moment—YOU GUYS CAN DO IT! Make D Co. proud, HOOAH!”

            At 0900, the ball drops.
The clock hits zero and the middle-aged crowd of mostly women swoon and scream. It feels like a cheesy rock concert with all the plastic balloon tits and facelifts and leopard print miniskirts in the crowd.
Throngs of screaming realtors stand in the aisles and in the back and sides of the room. Neon lights dance across the hall as if an epileptic was put in charge of a lighthouse during a storm.
The noise is deafening and regional banners and streamers wave above the audience for Pasadena and Mesa and Buffalo and Alberta, Canada.
            Then the bass drum kicks and Leon’s cadence caresses the audience to silence.
            “Left… Left… Left-Right.”
Then louder—“LEFT… LEFT… LEFT-RIGHT.”
            The cadet’s split the audience with military precision. Their movements are crisp and deliberate with equal spacing and pomp. At the stairs, Leon calls for a half-step to keep the front and back elements of the team in time. When all have ascended, he resumes the forward march until Ravn is centered on the stage, facing the crowd.
            The middle-aged sisters in Navy-esque uniforms sing the Star Spangled Banner and O’Canada.
            In perfect harmony, the MS2’s present arms. Ravn and the other flag-bearers display the colors. Leon, at front of the formation, locks his saber arm forward for the duration of the tunes, then yells the command for all 9,000 to hear.
            “Order, ARMS!”
            The rifles and the flags and the saber all return to position in a single, synchronized moment.
            Peralta quietly smiles and the 9,000 realtors roar with deafening applause.
Two-minutes later, he’s backstage congratulating his men for a job well done. Then he unbuttons from his own jacket the Cadet Ranger Challenge Fourragere and presents it to Cadet Leon.
            “For a job well-done, you deserve it,” he says.

            On 01FEB2011, Dean Albert Bennett, of UCI’s School of Biological Sciences, emailed Peralta to confirm that he had identified office space for the cadet’s. A week letter, the cadet’s and their advisor, Major Victor Stephenson, met with Dean Bennett and his associate for a walkthrough and inspection of the proposed office space.
In an email to Dean Salinger at Division of Undergraduate Education the next day, Peralta writes, “We are very happy and content with the proposal and wish to go forward with the initiative…”
            Pending a final “Memorandum of Understanding” between the School of Biological Sciences and the Commander of the USC Trojan Battalion, LTC Robert Kirkland, the UCI cadet’s will launch a multi-phase occupation of the new office space as soon as they receive the keys.
            “Our fingers are crossed,” Peralta says. “This is what we’ve been waiting for.”

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Suspect's Quiet War

By the usual suspect

I didn't get out of the army completely normally. I was supposed to be stop lossed but contacting a senator prevented that. Instead, myself and a handful of other soldiers got to go home, roughly on time and enjoy civilian life on our own terms.

"Suspect, you need to go see First Sergeant NOW!"

It is my last moment in the motor pool, being regarded as a normal soldier. My phone rings as soon as I crawl out of the stryker and get service.

"--o see First Sergeant like NOW!!!"

What had I done this time? I knocked on his door and boomed, "First Sergeant, Specialist--"

"Shut up, get in here."

I stand at parade rest.

"When the fuck did you drop a congressional?"

I stammered through the backstory for half a second and was dismissed. Oh fuck. I had just shit on the man I respected most.

Then I went back to my room, which I shared with my buddy that went to tokyo with me. We went to basic training together. Had the same contract. Same day in, same day out. Now the unit is hanging on to everyone they can, and my buddy had a couple months AWOL time. With the Senator's intervention, myself and I believe 140 some soldiers were released from active duty on time. My buddy would not be one of them. They nailed him and added the bad time to his contract at the last minute.  I went home and they went back to Iraq.

Buddy. Fucker.

As for college, you know that disaster. Two failed attempts and $5000+ debt. Whatever, too easy, got a payment plan.

School would be a great way to try to get normal again. But that has to wait, I have to earn that.

Now for the latest: the VA has offered me as a free worker to Best Buy for my vocational rehabilitation work assessment. I would work thirty hours a week and get a five hundred dollar a month stipend from VA. Best Buy Corporate said no, citing insurance worries. The VA pays all of that. Uh huh....

But I have my apartment! Thanks to HUDVASH! So the republicans that want to slash the funds because they go unclaimed should take some of those funds to advertise the fucking program! I know, that's simply ludicrous!

I am rated 50% disabled for ptsd and have a pending tbi claim. Might not even be able to get back into the army if I need.

If they wont, WHATEVER, cuz I'm the Dude. I'm the guy with the badass skull painted on his guitar, and I'm the guy that can play it faster than fuck.

And then when im done, I come up with a new fuckin' battle plan! I go all out! Pencils and erasers, protractors, glitter. I can't remember why im supposed to wait for the Va to get me a job for a fraction of the money, but they're pretty awesome to me, so I'm gonna trust them.

Also, fuck Best Buy, their customer service is horrible. My mission was to go in their, grossly underpaid, and work harder, sell more than the other employees. I was to be the annoying bastard that devotes his existence to being Employee of the Month. And I wouldn't even being making commissions. Wow, Best Buy Corporate, someone in your division is not thinking strategically. A FREE, HIGHLY MOTIVATED employee.



Or, karma is real. In which case I'm still paying.

In other news, I have my war tapes on mini dv but no power cord for the camcorder, so I can't get the footage off the tapes. Fun in Baghdad. Lots of breaking and entering. House to house, room clearing. Jawjacking. Good stuff. So if anyone knows how they can help, I can promise some gnar visuals.

Anyway, I'm gonna keep clawing my way into this american dream. If not, see you in Afghanistan, baby! Cuz if I go back in, its not as a sniveling short timer, but as a fucking professional.

Monday, March 14, 2011

AB649

by 13 Stoploss

Even if you don't live in California, your support/digital signature is needed. This bill will mandate veterans priority registration on all CA campuses. What is PriReg? It means the veteran has first crack at signing up for courses before everyone else. That way, you'll be able to stay full time in classes and keep that BAH money. If this is successful, it could be a model for other states...

Secondly, the bill aims to standardize the certifying officials duties on campus. Believe it or not, some schools don't have veteran supporters working for them...

Please sign and pass along to your veterans and veteran supporters!

http://www.petitiononline.com/AB649/petition.html

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Winter Photo Portfolio: Kallitype

by 13 Stoploss

That's not me in the photo, but those ARE my photos.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

My Niche?


by 13Stoploss
Mattingly! Cut those sideburns!

When I stare at this blank digital page, I imagine an unwritten story—a story told as great or greater than Herr and O’Brien and Krakauer and Talese and Chivers, but with a little bit of Gonzo and Palahniuk thrown in—that changes the way Americans look at military writing. More so, I want to change the way the enlisted military looks at military writing.
For the most part, great military nonfiction does not come from the enlisted ranks. Most of the good military works are written by retired or separated commissioned officers, men and women who are college educated, who learned how to write, and who are, for the most part, much older and more skilled than their enlisted counterparts.
Under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, a new generation of dropouts, criminals, and underachievers can finally level the playing field. But who do the unskilled enlisted have for inspiration? Who among the ranks have truly made it?
Sure, O’Brien enlisted, but he was educated before being drafted. After two years in Vietnam, he went on to grad school at Harvard and then a stint at The Washington Post. That’s an amazing story, but it isn’t something that Private Podunk Phillips can relate to.
There are many uneducated and non-literary hacks parading as patriotic milblog populists, but it doesn’t take much to discredit the FOX News redneck revolution as ignorant folly. The nature of their work is neither transformative nor literate.
CB seems to have done alright and has certainly achieved a level of success I can only dream of. He wasn’t the first, but he was the first of my generation to get attention. And while his stuff is interesting, is he more a product of time and place than talent or drive?
Lastly, I value and am envious of a couple others who have recently achieved attention and careers in government. Their work is not unimportant and I applaud their efforts at recreating an outdated and bureaucratic institution into a more modern and dedicated response team committed to informing and helping the veteran transition.
My brief list of enlisted writers is not all-inclusive and I welcome relevant submissions for consideration. But still, I cannot get over the notion that there are no modern influential works of enlisted literary nonfiction.
As great as they were, are the CB’s and Dude’s our only enlisted voice? Who will carry on and advance the Joe cause, in a professional and literate manner? Can RK step it up? What about Joe Fobbit? Or BT? Where the hell is BT?
Can I?
What am I to make of this blank, digital page?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Stop Loss Backpay Compensation, VA Post-9/11 GI Bill Benefits, Taxes, and TurboTax

by 13Stoploss

I would like to formally apologize and thank the United States Government for taxing my Stop Loss Backpay Compensation. Despite being deployed to a combat zone in 2005-2006 for twelve months of my fourteen month involuntary extension, I was wrong to criticize that $800, essentially 80% of the pay received for the two extra non-deployed months ($500 per month x 2 months = $1000; $800 = 80%), had been taken from my Stop Loss Backpay Compensation received in February 2010.

Government, you were right and now I am thankful that this earned income allows me, an unemployed full-time student with three dependents, including an unemployed single-subject-credentialed science teacher for wife, to receive the Earned-Income Tax Credit bringing my tax return to -$241.

Oh, wait.

But on my University 1098-T, my non-taxable, not-supposed-to-be-reported Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits are included in the sum in Box 2. But if I subtract my education benefits, like it says on IRS Publication 970, page 8:

“Payments you receive for education, training, or subsistence under any law administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are tax free. Do not include these payments as income on your federal tax return.”

I get a completely different and generous positive result.

So does that mean I assume my 1098-T is wrong and that I can make the manual calculation myself And, if I am audited, am I in the wrong for not entering into Box 2 what my 1098-T erroneously says?

Help?

Anyone?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

How?

by 13 Stoploss

I’ve been meeting with a VA Psychologist since late September, just after Brian died, for PTSD related help. I can’t say whether or not this helps or works, but I can say that it is comforting and that I have been challenged with different thoughts and emotions that ask me to think. One of the things that Dr. M has said, repeatedly, is that we often hide behind avoidance.

Am I avoiding anything?

I’ve posted a lot of my thoughts on the internet for the world to see. Type my alias, or my name into a Google search and there I am. I’ve made it available, at the expense of privacy, for the world to see and read.

(I’m just one guy, right? Is my story any different than any other stop-lossed veteran?)

In early January, I was interviewed/filmed for ½ of one episode of a four-part Canadian mini-series documentary on “The Science of Behavior” with Dr. Ray Novaco and graduate student and veteran Oscar Gonzalez of UC Irvine. I don’t know if what I filmed will be in the final version, after edits, but there was a moment after my part was finished, where outside, before walking away, the director opened up to me.

He said something like, “Man, I don’t know how you guys did it, or what you went through…I just, I can’t imagine war.”

And then I blabbed on about… about what? What the hell do you say to something like that? Was he opening up to me? Was he trying to connect with me? Was it some sort of off-camera moment that he liked to use to get a more intimate portrait of his subjects?

Something Dr. M. said today reminded me about this. I thought about what I said to the director and how embarrassed I felt because I had no summation, no closing argument, nothing to make sense of it all in the moment.

I felt like a fool.

And so when I talked to Dr. M, I wondered, how do I make sense of this? There are plenty of students at school that I meet who ask me, “What’s it like over there?” “Is it hot?” “Have you killed anyone?”
I typically shrug these questions off.

But how do I tell someone who is really interested in how I feel, how we prepared for death? How do I tell someone what it was like in 2003/2004, when we had no armor on our Humvees, what it was like to roll out knowing we had no protection? How do you tell someone that your life depended strictly on luck, and that we had no official way to prepare for death?

In’sha’Allah?

We were young, nearly all of us overgrown children with guns and bombs. We fucking did what we had to because we had no other choice.

I remember leaving on patrol at night, jumping onto the back our Humvee in a convoy of four. The open road, west of Mosul in late 2003/early 2004, was desolate. I wore black leggings and fleece and a baklava under my KPOT. We couldn’t see anything, even with NVG’s on. If someone wanted to, they could have blown us up with a string of IED’s and we wouldn’t have known who or where it came from.

I had to face this thought every night: how the Missus would take it, knowing that every night, I rolled out knowing that I could die instantly? Even painlessly? That if I was lucky, I would make it to Germany, or to Walter Reed, a vegetable, and never again be what she remembered I was on the morning I left?

How do you relate this thought, this emotion, this flippant feeling to someone who honestly, heartfeltedly says they can’t imagine? How do you say that we were dumb enough to do this everyday? That we had no choice? That we were young and dumb? Or that we didn’t want to, that we were scared, but did it because we had to?

For no other reason than we had to?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Listeners

by 13 Stoploss


The Veterans Services office glimmers like a mirage. It is renovated and comfortable, but sometimes broken and confused. Here, local veterans, frustrated and sick, begin the arduous process to claim disability compensation and medical treatment for service-related injuries and illnesses.
Several veterans from different wars sit in brown leather chairs and benches. Spread about the room, beneath heroically themed paintings framed and donated by local art students, the veterans wait for the chance to share their stories to a staff of friendly caseworkers.
Some of the veterans in the office have appointments, but most are walk-ins looking for help or to secure a monthly stipend. If their stories are good enough, and if they have records and witnesses and patience, lots of patience, then they may get the help or the cash they need in as little as ninety-days.
Without the caseworkers, though, many veterans, unable to navigate the complex web of the VA’s claim process, would be left without care and treatment. To help them, a collection of organizations like the American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, Military Order of the Purple Heart, AMVETS, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, have teamed up with the VA to assist the veterans with their claims paperwork.
“This is not the VA,” says Marilynn, a volunteer who works with the caseworkers. “But our caseworkers help veterans with their paperwork to get what they need from the VA.”

Like many war-weary veterans, the VA is under construction—a constant work in progress requiring aesthetic renovation and efficient structural enhancement. Nowhere is this as evident as the Long Beach VA Medical Center, the primary care facility for the veterans of Los Angeles and Orange Counties.
The fa├žade is stuck in time, but nearby, the iron and glass skeleton of a modern, open concept looms on the horizon. There are signs of renovation, of rebirth in every open corner and hallway and in the skyline. There, an Army CH-47 “Chinook” hovers in the distance. Its twin rotors clash with the monotonous beeps and exhaust rumbles of construction traffic beneath the monolithic hospital tower. Up there, a large nest hangs above the “C” in Center, untouched beneath clouds that strafe as in a time-elapse video.
At the curb, in front of chain link fences, men from white service vans unload disabled veterans at the hospital’s main entrance. On cement benches, like fortified bunkers from the winter’s onshore breeze, bearded men dressed in flannel and olive drab fatigues smoke and laugh and cough. Through the entrance doors, past smiling photos of President Barack Obama and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, former Army Chief of Staff, General Eric Shinseki, dozens of veterans and dependents sit in airport terminal-like benches.
            The waiting room is stale with faded eyes and gaping mouths. One man snores into the shoulder of his spouse while those who are awake stare blankly at flickering news images on a flat screen hanging on the wall.
            In an open window across the room, healthcare workers exchange manila folders and files and a man with a clear cup and yellow cap stands above a turquoise line that leads down the corridor. But through a series of whitewashed hallways and a climb to the second floor, a slower and quieter world emerges.

On Marilynn’s waiting room desk, there are names scribbled on a yellow, legal tab. Some of the names are crossed out, some are highlighted, and others are asterisked. To many of the walk-ins, there exists no discernible method to track who has arrived and in what priority. Their names get put on several “next available” lists: one for Mike, one for Joel, and one for Denise.
Denise, a retired Army Mental Health officer, volunteers for the VFW and works full-time at the Veterans Service office. It is her birthday and she and Marilynn will not return after lunch. Mike and Joel work through lunch, like they do most days, to clear a backlog of waiting veterans and those trickling in.
“Marilynn and I are full-time volunteers. I’m here everyday and am proud to give back,” says Denise. “When I left service, the Army put me through school—I got a Master’s from Princeton. I’m grateful for that, so I want to give back, especially for those who need it.”

The waiting room is quiet and many of the veterans avoid eye contact with each other, but whenever a caseworker enters, many of them jump. It’s a strange dog-beat-dog ritual involving canes, oxygen tanks, and elderly men and their more agile spouses hoping to find out whether they are next.
But when addressed, their confidence expires.
Many of them, like an elderly man named Simms, speak as if they are recording their last thoughts into a black box. Their voices are awkward and frail, paced with shallow, enunciated breaths and fearful timidity.
“Yes, hi. My name is Simms. S-i-m-m-s. I need to find out if— no, no, I’m sorry,” he says, “I don’t have my paperwork with me today.”
Simms’ voice trails off, as if the caseworker turned into an answering machine.
Even the macho biker, who stumbles into the office wearing dark sunglasses and a black leather vest, speaks like he’s afraid of being heard. When a caseworker in a black Vietnam Veteran hat walks into the waiting room, the biker turns into a bumbling Private before his First Sergeant.
“Who are you here to see?” asks the caseworker.
“I came to see you,” says the biker, “about the Agent Orange. I saw you last time I was here and I wanted to find out about the paperwork.”
“Well, I’ve got to tell you,” says the caseworker, “I’ve got a case of C.R.S.”
CAN’T. REMEMBER. SHIT.

Joel is the new AMVETS guy.
He’s tall and looks and talks just like actor Jeffrey Tambor, but without the sarcasm. He’s been on the job for three weeks, but the veterans don’t know it. They appreciate him when he smiles or takes interest in their issue—the way that other caseworkers smile for lunchtime.
When the others leave for lunch, Joel walks to the clipboard and calls another name, Mr. Tucker, a thin sharp-dressed man in loafers. A few minutes later, Robert Ingram steps into the waiting room with his wife.
He’s fed up and his back hurts—“right here, right now.”
“I GOT SKIPPED,” the man yells.
Then he hobbles down the hall and into an open doorway where another caseworker talks to a veteran. From the opposite end of the hall, Joel walks over to Ingram and resolves the situation. A few minutes later, Mr. Ingram, slow to get up from the macaroni shaped couch in the center of the waiting room, but quick with his step once moving, follows Joel to his office to tell his story.
And Joel listens.
Everyday, the caseworkers hear the same stories of the same wars, but from different faces. They hear the same complaints, and everyday, they have to sort through the walk-ins—the impatient, the timid and those who can’t hear, who can barely speak without coughing, or those who can’t walk. Some of the caseworkers handle it better than others, and some veterans are more appreciative than others. The process isn’t easy to follow, but it’s better than it was three weeks ago, which was better than it was three years ago. 

Living Peace Series: Richard Branson at UC Irvine 25-Jan-11

by 13 Stoploss




Nikon D700, Nikkor 2.8 105mm AF-D, ISO 2500, 2.8 and 1/80

I took this assignment for the school newspaper because not only do I want to photograph all the big names on campus, I wasn't really sure that other photographers, with the exception of the two sports guys who do great work, could handle the responsibility of such a big event, or that they had the gear to accomplish the shot.

Of course, the joke was on me when I couldn't land the paper's 200 2.8 or 300 2.8 and had to make do with my dinky 105mm!

It was a penis joke gone sour as I walked between a dozen different "professional" photojournalists from the local papers and all of them had multiple bodies (D3's and whatever the comparable Canon's are) with 200mm and 500mm lenses and monopods and tripods. And it didn't help that we were all corralled into an area at the rear of the room.

Yeah, I was that dinky student/kid with the subpar equipment...how cute, right?

Anyone have a 2.8 80-200 AF-S VRII for a couple hundred bucks?

Anyway, for most of the talk, I stood paralyzed at the back. I'm used to walking around like the gig is mine, that I can do whatever I want. Here, with ushers and snobby elites and photogs with phallic lenses, I doubted that I would get the shot.

To make up for my, uhm, *shortcoming,* I dropped down to 3/4 sensor, effectively *lengthening* my focal *length* to 152mm. This helped, but I still did not have the height advantage to get a shot without heads in the foreground.

Well, during the Q/A, it was announced by the dude on the right (above) that time was running out and that Branson had time for only two more questions. So, I grew a pair and did what no other photographer did.

I walked right up the fucking aisle, took a knee at the front, snapped three shots, stood up, and walked away.

As I walked away, some old snobby fucker in the aisle a few seats behind me was trying to get my attention, as if to tell me to move or get away. So, I didn't look at him, I stuck my nose up and walked away proudly.

This isn't the world's greatest shot. It's okay, but at least I did something that no one else did. And while the pro's had giant $5000 zoom lenses, I fucking made do with what I had.

Bitches.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

UC Irvine: The "Zot" Offensive

by 13 Stoploss

UCI ROTC Cadets during PT, Spring 2010



With President Obama’s December repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, a clause banning homosexuality in the nation’s armed forces, UCI ROTC Battalion Commander Christian Peralta, veteran David Curry, California State Director of Student Veterans of America, and ASUCI Veterans Liaison Alex Louie, met last Monday with Chancellor Drake and other administrative leaders to propose the university’s first ROTC program under the school of Social Ecology.
In April 2010, ASUCI Legislation voted 14-0-1 in support of advancing a proposal for an ROTC Military Science program. Cadet Peralta, among other supporters, rallied the School of Social Ecology for support. After several meetings, the school of Social Ecology, toeing the bureaucratic line with the Ivy’s like Harvard and Columbia, rejected the proposal based on DADT’s discrimination to “students that identify with being lesbian, gay, transgender, or queer.”
But with the repeal of DADT signed into law, ROTC advocates enthusiastically approached ASUCI to meet with the Chancellor.
That optimism ended prematurely, however, as Chancellor Drake, who arrived to the meeting late and left early, effectively nixed the plan, citing budget constraints from new Governor Jerry Brown’s proposed cuts to education.
“Based on our financial budget crisis assessment,” said Chancellor Drake, “we cannot further add new services to the existing services and programs we have today.”
Had the Chancellor listened to the proposal, he would have learned that the new program would cost nothing to the university.
According to Cadet Peralta, the military provides everything the university would need, including military science instructors, office furniture and equipment, including technology and computers, student textbooks, uniforms, transportation to training sites, scholarships, room and board, and stipends while complying with all applicable university and school policies.
The setback came as a surprise to the cadets, but it is just the latest in a string of administrative curiosities that date back to April 2009.
After receiving a letter of recommendation from then Vice Chancellor Gomez, ROTC advocates were redirected to the Academic Senate. There, Associate Executive Vice Chancellor Arias, Vice Chancellor Brase (May 2009), Executive Vice Chancellor Gottfredson (May 2009), Associate Executive Vice Chancellor Tomcheck (May 2009), Director Umali of Dean of Students (September 2009), and Associate Dean Tyagi (March 2010) ignored requests for contact.
In June 2009, ROTC received a letter of recommendation from Dean Salinger of Undergraduate Education, regarding course credit approval for Military Science classes. By October, though, ASUCI External Affairs denied the cadets’ request for university space during the Student Center renovation.
The cadets were devastated.
“If we just had a small room for instruction, or a place to store our gear,” said Peralta, “that would be a great first step.”
UCLA, Berkeley, UC Davis, and UC Santa Barbara all have ROTC programs, but the 25 UCI ROTC cadets have to enroll in Military Science courses at Cal State Long Beach. And while the cadets could choose to go to school elsewhere, each has specifically chosen UCI.
“When I left West Point for UCI, there were around 5 cadets,” said Peralta. “We’ve doubled our numbers every year that I’ve been here.”
Because UCI’s ROTC is not officially sanctioned, growth of the campus club is determined by limited funds from private donations. Cadet Peralta fears if he and others cannot win over the obstinate administration, including Chancellor Drake, that ROTC will decrease in size while demand, as a result of heightened fees, will only increase.
“We’ve had over 70 email inquiries for 2010-2011,” said Peralta, “and that doesn’t include the interest from students coming up to the booths during Welcome Week.”
Now, in a time when even the Ivy League schools are making progress after the repeal of DADT, UCI has the opportunity to correct a grievous wrong. ROTC cannot function as a club without support and recognition by the school, and until it gets that, it won’t be recognized by the military. Without an officially recognized program, the club will not get scholarship money from the military, and the club will continue to turn down qualified applicants.
“The question that has yet to be answered by our administration or Academic Senate is if the objection to a Department of Defense funded ROTC program has a moral basis in regards to the recently repealed ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy. If so, then why has the campus willingly accepted millions of dollars in DOD research funding annually the entire time the policy was in effect?
“You have to keep in mind that Orange County is a conservative county largely due to the high number of Veterans that settled when the county was first being developed (El Toro MCAS in Irvine and Tustin MCAS in Tustin). Many of those same people are likely donors to the institution. What does it say to them if UC Irvine comes off as elitist compared to Berkeley and UCLA who already have ROTC programs?”
“We just need a home,” said cadet Peralta, “but I think they’re just waiting for Dave (Curry) and I to graduate. We’ve been the most vocal students and what will happen when we leave?” 



Sunday, January 9, 2011

Versus The World

by The Usual Suspect

I watched 2010 sink like a ship laden with the corpses of my failures and turned my back on it completely. The debt and the baggage comes with into this year of course, but not my patience. I waited for my turn like a good little tool until I realized that the meek don't inherit the earth. They are trampled into it.

The second attempt at college was a complete failure, resulting in more debt that I will be paying back. And then that's it. I don't think I'll try to use the GI Bill ever again. Too many open palms need that money, and I'd rather go it alone at this point. Six months of busting my ass will get me back to square one, June 2009 again. From where I sit, that sounds great.

Now, I enjoy bitching about the V.A. as much as the next vet, but I'd be excrementally fucked if it weren't for them. PTSD + TBI = one lost motherfucker. I'm seeing a therapist, a speech therapist (it's all brain related, homie), starting Voc Rehab next month, and I have some income thanks to disability. Just enough to hold it together, never enough to make it work.

And that's why I applied at Taco Bell. I didn't get a response of course, despite the sign in the window saying they were hiring. Starting to think I've got some dark cloud over my head that everyone else can see but I can't. My next resume will not list the Army, just as an experiment. This is a hippie liberal town. It would probably help.

So whatever, in short, I've got a shit sandwich to chew through and no more time to waste. You're fucking nuts if you think I'm going to come back to my own country and live in squalor. PFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA HAAAA HAAAA!!!

No, I just want a middle class existence. Get out of this cabin in the woods outside of town and get my own apartment. Be a real person again. Basic cable. Discovery Channel and cooking shows. Buying my own groceries with my own money, cooking my own food, not having to leech off of others. Paycheck to paycheck. Independent. Whole again. Iraq sucked sometimes, but there, you had your buddies. Here in the world, all that is gone. You can tell yourself that you can maintain friendships with Facebook but come on, let's be honest. It's a fucking rolodex.

Hell, most of your old civilian friends will bail on you after you've "changed", but the V.A. is still there. And they've got employees that do care. Why give the halfass ones all the publicity? Just ask their names and complain about them. Maybe they'll get shitcanned and some new hires will come in and work harder. After all, this is America. Dog eat dog. Bring steak sauce.