Thursday, April 30, 2009

In Dreams

by 13 Stoploss

So, I’m one of those good students. I don’t bury my face under the desk to text during lecture. I actually show up to class a few minutes early, and very rarely skip a class. I do my work, and I turn it in on time. I don’t make excuses, and if my work is less than stellar, I accept my less than stellar grade. But there are other things that affect me as a student that some or most will not understand.

On my other blog, I have, in a few instances, glorified the use and habit of drinking rum. I love rum, and I have done quite a bit of my writing, for blogging and class work, under the influence. The truth is that it was also something I have used to wind down at night in battling insomnia. I have never considered myself an abuser because, although I drank nightly, I didn’t drink to get wasted, and I seldom ever had more than two 6 oz. glasses a night.

But one thing I have mostly kept to myself lately, is that I quit drinking a month ago. The first week was incredibly difficult, and I turned my habit toward Hansen’s Diet Ginger Ale, or Crystal Geyser Juice Squeeze instead. I still crave an aged glass of Mount Gay, but most of all, I miss sleeping. For the last ten days, my sleep pattern has been all sorts of disturbed, and I’m tempted to return to the rum.

On Tuesday night, I was still awake at three AM. I usually get up at six-thirty on school days, so that I have time to get Tristan dressed, his teeth brushed, and out the door in time for school, and myself to class just minutes before my eight AM History class. At just after four that morning, Tristan sleep-walked into our bedroom, standing in the doorway talking about cars and me needing to do the dishes. Mrs. 13 nudged me, knowing that she had work in a couple hours that took precedent. I took him back to his room, and laid him down to bed, then returned to my own, feeling like a jackhammer had done business to my weary eyes.

At six-thirty, my alarm went off. I reached up and fumbled to make sense of the scribbled lines my eyes failed to interpret. Mrs. 13 had just got out of the shower, and laid down next to me before dressing for work. She looked at me, I think, then said some words I don’t remember—the flickering charges in my brain weren’t igniting right. I think she convinced me to stay home and get some rest. At this, I felt the connection—me?? Missing school? I did that once last semester, and felt guilty about it, ‘cuz, the truth is, I like school.

The next thing I remembered is waking up with the bed sheets ruffled and falling to the floor. I strained to lift my head to see the time—almost ten. I had already missed my favorite class, and could still make it to my noon Ancient Lit class if I hurried. Instead, I lay around, stretching out, shaking the slumber from the corner of my eyes. The connections were firing again, and although my brain and eyes were functioning, I could immediately feel a sense of jitteriness, and an uncomfortable tremble in the fingertips as I held myself, eyes closed and teetering over the toilet bowl. I took a hot shower, and meandered downstairs to make some coffee and have a bite to eat.

That was yesterday, and last night was only marginally better. I may have gotten four hours of sleep, but I received an interesting phone call at lunch today. Mrs. 13 usually gives me a ring on her lunch break, but she didn’t seem her normal, chipper self. She asked me if I remember what happened in bed last night, specifically waking up screaming. She said it was a “low, weird scream,” and that she shrieked so loud she feared Tristan would wake up. At this, she said I appeared so frightened, I yelled even louder, and fell asleep shaking in her arms.

I told her the only thing I remembered was Tristan coming into the room at 7:45 telling me it was time to wake up.

I don't like to miss school. Home life is fantastic, but I enjoy getting out and seeing new things. I figure after all that I have been through, in Iraq, and dreaming of school while stop lossed, I owe it to myself to be that good student I wasn't while in High School. Alcohol was comforting then, and it got me through the night in ways I can't do on my own now.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

This just in!!

by 13 Stoploss


by 13 Stoploss

As a PV2 in 2002, I enrolled in the Army’s groundbreaking new distance education program eArmyU. It was a kickass idea that gave me a free laptop (!), printer, tuition, and books to a handful of online schools. Even then, I had made no plan whatsoever to actually make the Army a career, and was genuinely excited about the opportunity to get as much schooling done as possible before exiting.

At the time, the requirements were to complete four classes, or twelve semester units in twenty-four months. Piece of cake, right?

Not a fucking chance.

Apparently, Mr. Good Bush wanted to invade Iraq, and we had therefore spent the entire Summer and Winter in the field every other week. Like most, I was forced into withdrawing from the courses. Before I knew it, almost a year had passed and I was stuck at just three units, and a short, but busy year remaining to finish nine more.

By late summer 2003, when I was working at the Falcon Regional Information Center in Mosul, I had been in contact with some administrators from Thomas Edison State College in New Jersey—the online school I had been working at. Due to the circumstances, they agreed to mail my Midterm and Final exams to Iraq, as long as I could have a Captain to proctor.

I was fortunate to take these exams, as CPT S. turned a blind eye. I mailed them back, and eagerly awaited the results. Before deploying, I was up to date and had received A’s in every assignment (Writing 1, and US History 1), but because I had deployed mid-semester, I found myself unable to complete or even email the remaining assignments. When my final transcripts came back, my grades for the classes were B+ in Writing 1, and C- in US History 1.

Fucking dicks…

With the threat of having to fork over the cash to pay for the laptop and printer if I didn’t finish one more class, I enrolled in Psychology 1 from Iraq. Unfortunately, the midterm never came, and I was forced to withdraw yet again. By the time I came home, I again enrolled for more, this time a Mathematics class. Due to the rigors of training for war, even though we had just got back from war, my field schedule again prevented me from completing the class. On multiple occasions, I needed a signature from the first O-3 in my CoC to sign off on the waiver to withdraw, which was then signed off on by the first O-5 in the CoC.

Officially, Company and Battalion Commanders wholeheartedly support the soldiers’ desire to continue his education. But practically, there exists, in a Combat Brigade, no chance whatsoever to be a diligent or committed student.

What’s the fucking use, then, right?

After my stop loss tour of Baghdad International Airport, I got back to Fort Campbell to clear the installation; on my education report was a pretty hefty sum I had no money for, for a dicked up situation I had no control over. Fortunately, I played the sob act pretty well, and the education counselor agreed to waive the fees, obviously aware that I was among a myriad of soldiers who had been raped by the same college, and deployment cycle.

My recommendation: fuck eArmyU. Fuck trying; the war-mongering assholes will stifle your desire to grow and educate. After all, the better educated you are, the more you realize you can do better than the military. The more American History you learn, the more you realize your having been a tool.

Is the Army compatible with in-service higher education?

You figure it out.


Have a similar experience? Sound off. Have a differing view? Enlighten.