Saturday, November 28, 2009

Pretty Sweet Updates

by 13 Stoploss




More awesome MRE photo's here.

------------

Chasing War, Draft #3 updated.

------------

Oh yeah, by the way, Stoploss Compensation Backpay has no timeline, and not a single claim has been paid. If anyone knows how to reach him, Major Roy Whitley commented in the article. That sounds like a real name, hopefully he isn't the Wizard of Oz standing behind the curtain of some fake process to stifle and temporarily quiet the growing number of stop lossed veterans making noise.

In unrelated news, Mrs. 13 plucked four whites from my head yesterday and another one today.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanks

by 13 Stoploss



Eight years and six days ago, I enlisted. That means that my eight years are fucking done.

The story starts at the happiest place on earth. That's where I met Dan, and that is where I met Mrs. 13 Stoploss. We worked in the same restaurants in New Orleans. Times were great. When my apartment suddenly emptied one morning, and I was in need of roommates, my girlfriend and my friend moved in to split the rent. It was probably the best six months of my life. We drank PBR, cheap wine, and played video games all the time.

On the morning of all mournings, I received a call from work. They said Disneyland would be closed for the day. I was shocked and I didn't understand why. The lady on the phone told me to turn on the TV.

Dan disappeared.

He wouldn't answer his cell phone. He didn't come home for two days. When he did, I told him I would kick his ass if he did something irrational like enlisting. I asked him if he did. I had no reason to think he would, and he had never mentioned a desire or previous interest, but I felt after the events, it was something crazy that he would do. He hadn't done it yet, but he'd been talking.

We were all doomed from the start. The fucking recruiter lived across the street. He brought over beer and Mexican food, and we stayed up all night playing video games. SSG Rod was cool as shit, and he never lied to us. He answered our questions, and only minorly glossed over a few details.

Maybe I'm too nice...

Dan was the first to go. He went off to Relaxin' Jackson a week before us. Wanted to learn how to cook, and had a thing for Asians, so he got himself a three year deal with time in Korea. Robyn and I got married and enlisted on the same day--like it was shopping list, we checked off chores for the day. She was eighteen; I was nineteen.

We finished up the lease on our apartment. Dan left for Basic, and Robyn and I left a week later. She went to Jackson, and I went to Benning--Home of the Infantry.

We didn't see Dan much during those years, but we talked occasionally on the phone. After two years in Korea, he went to Carson to finish up his last year. I had just got back from Iraq, and was preparing for a stop lossed second tour. Eventually, I made it home. He had established some sort of midnight-shift living for himself. Seemed to be doing well. We hung out every other month. He's our oldest, and perhaps closest friend.

There's no moral here. There's no definitive message--just a background check. We hadn't seen Dan in maybe six months or more. So he came over tonight, with a gallon of rum, and for a few hours, it was like old times. The kids were in bed. The drinks were served, and we laughed and talked and watched a movie.

There's a lot I'm thankful for. I am blessed in many ways with which I hope to never take for granted. But for tonight, I'm thankful for old friend: the non-plural. The only one who has always been around, and who has never drifted too far away for too long a period of time. Sadly, I can't really say the same for anyone else.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Stoploss Backpay Compensation Update 4

by 13 Stoploss

Got this email tonight. Clicked on the link, entered some info, and it brought me to some page with my information on it. There, I was able to type a message to my case manager. I said hi.

Well, I said more than that, but basically, I told 'em to give me money based on what the DD214 says, that I didn't dispute the months.

Yeah, we'll see what happens next.

-----------

Dear Jason Davis,

Retroactive Stop Loss Payment Case Number RSL00000XXX for Army Service Member Jason Davis.

To inquire about your claim status or to submit additional information or documents, you can return to the Retroactive Stop Loss Payment website at this specific page address:

https://www.stoplosspay.army.mil/Notes.aspx

For the Login you will need to enter your Case number: RSL00000XXX , your Service Member SSN and this Password: XXXXXXXXXX . This password can be used for multiple return visits, please save it for future use. If you forget this password, you will need to contact the Help Desk for a new one.

Please do not reply to this unmonitored mailbox, to contact the Help Desk send e-mail to RetroStopLossPay@conus.army.mil

Reference Case: RSL00000XXX Action: COMM_EMAIL_RETURN_VISIT 11/25/2009 05:06 PM

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Counting

by 13 Stoploss

Three years ago today, I got home.

Two days previous, just after midnight, I walked into the 2/502 Infantry Battalion headquarters. The Staff Duty NCO was a man I'd never seen before, a Staff Sergeant who was thin and athletic. His uniform was crisp and his hair was faded high and neatly; he wasn't Air Assault qualified and he didn't have a combat patch. I don't even remember his name. He looked at me, at my tattered jeans, my beanie, unshaven face, earrings, and asked, "Signing out on terminal?"

I smiled.

He got out his clipboard and received my terminal leave papers. He signed them, motioned for me to sign OUT of the Battalion on the staff duty log. I looked at the envious Specialists sitting behind the desk. The Staff Sergeant turned away, and without another word, I was free.

I stood there for a moment. I was the first of more than 120 stop lossed soldiers to sign out. There was nothing else. The Staff Sergeant disappeared, and I had no further instructions or responsibility.

Confusion was the first thought, but that curiously disappeared. Like one who realized he was standing in the wrong place at seconds before the wrong time, I regrouped, shoved open the doors, and briskly walked out. I did not take a long look back. I didn't even look back. I simply left.

Today, I walked into school with the same blue jeans and beanie. It was cool outside and the sky was blue and the sun was bright. I wore my BDU jacket through the park on the way to class. I walked past groups of ladies on their morning walks with averted eyes and suddenly hushed discussions. I haven't thought about the last three years and how quickly time has passed. After the first year of my enlistment, I downloaded a "countdown timer" onto my desktop. Everyday, I would watch the minutes and hours disappear, lamenting the number of days remaining. I watched the days shrink into fractions of what it was when I started. I even remember the day the countdown reached zero and the days and months that continued counting into the negatives. Three years had elapsed into a fourth when I completed my sentence.

I don't count anymore. I wish for time to slow like the bitch trick it used against me then, but it does not. Ravishing time speeds its rate when you find and enjoy your goal and I wish to stab it in the face with a brick to shatter its sands across the floor.

Turn and burn.

Friday, November 20, 2009

I will not die for you

by 13 Stoploss

Cuz, you know... we Neocons hide our other "inadequacies" with oversized flags.

An instructor friend of mine, among several others, is suing the Board of Trustees and the Chancellor of the school district in which he works. It seems that this BOT has repeatedly made, for many years, Christian prayers to open their board meetings, ceremonies, and other such functions. Many faculty and committees are required to attend these functions. Recently, the extremely right-wing and Christian board majority has taken to expanding their Christian agenda upon the ears of those who want nothing to do with it.

I'm not writing this for a tirade against Christianity. I'm not really bothered by it (though I AM in favor of the church/state separation). What I am bothered by is something else that was said at one of the latest board meetings. The chancellor presented some slide show to faculty at the beginning of the semester. From "Dissent the Blog":

I’ve been trying to locate the sappy patriotic video shown by Chancellor Raghu Mathur two weeks ago at his fall opening extravaganza. It presents a series of more-or-less patriotic images—including bald eagles and Americans experiencing hard times—and is accompanied by Lee Greenwood’s execrable “God Bless the USA,” a clumsy, bombastic anthem that seems to be “de Bomb” in Redneckville and environs.

I haven’t located the exact video.

I tried to remember the troublesome sentiment with which the video ends, and it appears that it is the following:

Only two defining forces have ever offered to die for you—Jesus Christ and the American Soldier. One died for your soul, the other for your freedom.

That’s right. Jesus Christ. This inarticulate blather ("defining forces" that make "offers"?) is making the rounds among the usual suspects.

That's right folks. Forces have offered. Two, defining forces that is.

Read that again. Jesus and Soldiers have offered to DIE FOR YOU. You know, because, we just can't wait to raise our right hands and off ourselves in combat. We're just dying to roll out on patrol to find a bomb to throw ourselves onto.

I take great offense to any "patriotic" boob who has never served and suggests that myself or my battle buddies are willing (OFFERING?!) to die for "insert cause." We are NOT willing to die and I am not your disposable hero or one-use condom.

None of these soldiers have offered themselves for you, or for your causes. So, FUCK YOU, Chancellor Raghu Mathur.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Stoploss Backpay Compensation Update 3

by 13 Stoploss

Dear Jason Davis,

Regarding Retroactive Stop Loss Payment Case Number RSLXXXXXXXX-XX for Army Service Member Jason Davis.


Your claim has been checked against the Official Military Personnel File (OMPF), after initial review, the months claimed are not in agreement. A Case Manager will review your submission. This will require additional time to process your claim.

Please do not reply to this unmonitored mailbox, to contact the Help Desk send e-mail to RetroStopLossPay@conus.army.mil

---------------------------

On a side note, someone had googled this and found this blog:

"your claim has been checked against the official military personnel file (ompf), your ssn does not appear on the master list of service members that were "stop lossed"."

Holy fuck. Dude just emailed me, too. That's why it's important to keep documentation. Stoploss Ryan, make sure your DD214 has that "kept ____ days at the expense of the government" clause. If so, you should be good to go, in time, after some haggling.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Withdrawals

Sometimes I think
about going back. I don't.
I think about it.

Humerus Break from Study

by 13 Stoploss

Before the accident (Baghdad, 2006)


I spend ten hours at this laptop everyday. Sometimes more. I’m averaging two four-page papers a week, and one of the reasons my head doesn’t shut off at night is because I am constantly reworking my thoughts and ideas. This week, I took on a new habit to cope with the sleep issues: pushups. It’s strange to admit this. There must be something wrong with me—after all, I remember what being a Private was like.

My study breaks are usually time away from the computer for family things like dinner, or a family walk, or an errand to the store. After the kids go to bed, a glass of rum or scotch soothes me into a relaxed and contemplative mood. Instead of papers, we have incorporated family movie night into the schedule once a week, and they are great fun. But I still find myself thinking about my papers.


The break, June 2007.

When I came home from the stop lossed tour in Iraq, I wanted to play baseball as a form of exercise. I wanted to do something for me, to enjoy living life again. I joined a competitive, 18+ wood bat league and found that I hadn’t missed a beat. I hadn’t played in nine years, but I could still keep up with the kids fresh out of high school. But, after a dozen games, my arm fell off. I was pitching and my humerus snapped. I still remember the ball flying into the backstop behind the batter. I remember the sound of the break and my barely attached arm floating toward the dugout while my body spun a half circle and collapsed to the ground beneath the pitchers mound. I laid silently on the ground with my arm twisted and contorted in unnatural ways next to me. The umpire walked up to me as my team crowded around me. “That’s a ball.”

Fortunately, the nerves were not severed, but they were damaged. My elbow used to extend greater than 180 degrees, and I now settle for about 170 degrees. It took seven months for the nerves to regenerate to where my fingers could extend. It took the thumb another three months. My arm had shriveled to a skeletal stick, but the break healed naturally on its own after being set in place. It isn’t perfect, but it is strong.


The Day After, June 2007.

After the break, I lost flexibility in my range of motion, as well as general strength. My shoulder is still tight. I can throw the tennis ball for the dog, but the days of throwing 85mph fastballs and knee buckling curves are over. There is no velocity, and no easy loft in my form. That is why I started doing pushups: to regain something that I have lost. I can only do ten, but hose ten are the hardest ten I’ve ever done and it feels so great when done. I hope for the muscle memory to kick in. I hope to work the strength back up—not to pitch again, but because it’s gratifying as an accomplishment.

Last night, as a study break, I did twelve pushups before my abs collapsed and my back caved in. Each night, I’m only going to do one set. I want to get the blood flowing. I want to break up the monotony of living online. I want to do just one more pushup a night than I did the previous night. That would be an accomplishment I can toast to before returning to Yeats and Wordsworth and Eliot and Mcphee and Volmann and Mitchell and Didion.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Playing the Game

by 13 Stoploss



More whining. Don't mind me. I just learned that I won't be getting the classes I had wanted for next semester. I'm not whining that I didn't get them, just of something else. But perhaps, this is what college is like? I suppose I had expected more.

My degree pattern requires 14 classes. The first quarter requires two intros. The second quarter requires one intro, and it is only offered once a year. One class. One class, as in one period, on one day, in one quarter a year. It is a prerequisite for the real classes, and they cannot be taken concurrently. I'm whining because that basically means I don't even get to practice my major until the third quarter. Of the 14 classes I have to take for my journalism major, one is reporting, one is intro to the writers of the genre, and the next one that is only offered once a year is the history and theory of the genre (literary journalism, creative nonfiction, immersion journalism, new journalism). That means I have to take three English classes, two upper division History classes, and three more English or Writing courses before graduation. In between next quarter and all that additional'ness is the real gist of my genre--three workshops on such awesome topics as "immersion journalism," "conflict of war," and a hundred other such titles with amazing descriptions that don't get recycled.

I don't doubt that I'll receive a proper education from talented instructors. I suppose I am disappointed because I expected more. Mrs. 13 was talking to me of her own similar university experiences, and she said, "Just play the game. It's like the Army, but with intelligent people."

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Recruitment Made Easy

by The Usual Suspect

I've been playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. I'm just going to say that it's fucking amazing and leave it at that. The amount of Ranger contracts young pups request is going to go through the roof. Everyone's gonna want to be an Army Ranger. Guess we'll be ready for our next eight year bloodbath.

I'm not complaining or condemning the game, its impeccable. I'm just a little concerned with how cool they made war look. So its always been though. I still say that it's in our blood. I'm not justifying it, I'm just saying take a look around, look at the history books.

War isn't going anywhere.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Veterans Day

by 13 Stoploss




This Veterans Day/Week message is brought to you by Wilfred Owen.


Anthem for Doomed Youth

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells;
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs, –
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.
What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.
The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.

September - October, 1917



Dulce Et Decorum Est (It is sweet and meet to die for one's country!)

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime . . .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.

8 October 1917 - March, 1918

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The VA visited my bank account today.

by 13 Stoploss



The VA visited my bank account today. They treated me very well (thank you LA/OC BAH).

I had originally planned to do a post today about how I've calmed down since last week. It would be my "grieving process" post, and I say grieving because I was scared shitless about how to pay bills when the money ran out. Yeah, well, when I got home from school today, Mrs. 13 ran up to me and hugged me and kissed me and told me I got laid. Paid. Paid. Money's in the bank. Got paid.

Sure enough, there it was.

So, back to the 5 steps of grieving.

1. Denial and Isolation: "Oh no the VA dih-unttt!"
3. Bargaining: ...
4. Depression: "Well, there goes Christmas..."
5. Acceptance

I came to acceptance last night. I realized and understood just how seriously fucked the whole situation had become. Seriously, the VA had to hire to an outside private company to unfuck their shit. I realized there was nothing else I could do. It was out of my hands, and I could only simply wait and wait and wait. The government was good for it, right?

So, with my newfound acceptance, I had planned to start doing some research. I wanted to find out how this whole fiasco had started. I wanted to know who was responsible. Everyone knows who Shinseki and Duckworth are, but I don't think they're the ones responsible for the inherited mess. But again, I don't know. In my journalism class, we've been learning how to tap into certain internet tools for research. I decided I was going to use some of these to see what I could dig up.

So, even though I got paid, I still plan to do this. Just because I got paid does not mean that the overall situation itself is still not royally fucked. As a Sergeant in the Army, if I had been responsible for a fire mission that resulted in the death of American soldiers instead of the baddies, I'd be in deep shit. I'd probably lose my rank, or my position, or who knows what. In baseball, when a team underperforms, the manager is given some leeway to make adjustments. After a while, if nothing changes, then the manager is canned. In extreme cases, the general manager gets the boot. But you don't hear or read about this in the Army or VA. Well, except for the Walter Reed fiasco not too long ago. But even still, with the Post-9/11 GI Bill issue, the VA is barely treading water. I'm not saying that any single one person is responsible because I don't know.

But I want to know. That's pretty important right? Who is responsible for screwing over 200,000 student veterans who have honorably served their country?

When an issue arises, you find out what that issue is. If it is correctable, you make the necessary changes. The VA is working overtime. They made an immediate $3000 available to veterans. They just hired an outside company to oversee their affairs. These are the changes, and results need to happen. Progress needs to be made.

If progress is not made, then...?

Unanswered questions that need answering:

1) Who oversaw the implementation of education benefits starting on 1 May 2009?
2) If an emergency check can be sent to me within 7 days with a few simple details from an online application, why couldn't Ch.33 be the same?
3) What's up with the redundant mailings? (one, two)
4) Will next semester/quarter--after XMAS--be better than it was this semester/quarter? (THEY BETTER BE)

Monday, November 2, 2009

The VA just called me on the telephone.

by 13 Stoploss

The guy's name was Bob. He dictated some lengthy typed message. Wanted to confirm that his records indicated I had taken part in the VA's effort to, "simply put," get the money to me as quickly as possible. Then, between hiccups and brain farts in his monologue, he described the possible ramifications of owing the government if my advance was larger than what I am owed (it is not). Otherwise, his dictation promised that the remainder of my benefits would be fully paid by the end of the school year.

Then he said to "have a good night," and hung up.

Holy fuck shit, seriously VA?

It's 20:30, PST, and this dude is working 'round the clock to read me a fucking message? Wasn't that supposed to happen two weekends ago? Now, not only are benefits and claims processors behind schedule, the phone calling message reader guys are too!

And he accomplished nothing. When I cut him off in the beginning, I told him my advance was gone. Spent. Bills paid and nothing left, and still waiting. He laughed. I'm sure it made him feel uncomfortable. I've been on the other end of the phone in a shitty job cold-calling people who don't want to talk, and it sucks, so I didn't take it out on him. Why isn't that guy being trained to process claims?

Reminds me of Christmas as a kid. No kid wants a bunch of sweaters for Christmas, regardless of how well-intentioned they were by the grandparents.

I believe the VA has good intentions, but I don't yet believe in the VA.