Friday, February 26, 2010

The Good 'Ol Days

by 13 Stoploss

Anyone remember those first few weeks when you got back from deployment? This is one of those moments... that happened often.

I'm the drunk guy that hasn't fallen over...

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Monday, February 22, 2010

VA Error Recoups more Trouble than Help

by 13 Stoploss

I knew this was going to happen, but I wasn’t left with much of a choice. Did I want the quick cash to buy groceries and pay bills, or would I wait for an indeterminate amount of time, unknown to everyone, for when the VA would finally kick start their BAH payment to me for the Post-9/11 GI Bill?

Of course I took the cash—I had bills to pay and mouths to feed.

And, of course the VA wants the money on their own terms—the terms that would pretty much screw me over. You see, with my $2152 per month, I’ve finally been able to get back on my feet. Bills are current, food is in the fridge, one car paid off, and most importantly, the credit card is a mere 1/5th of October’s balance. Yeah, we’ve skimped on some luxuries (though the stoploss backpay afforded me a few luxuries as recompense), but only because we had a plan.

What was the plan?

In paying off the credit card by April, we could save roughly $800 a month through the summer, which would allow us to renew our yearly car and home insurance, and other COBRA medical fees, while not depleting our very, very modest savings. This would save us hundreds of dollars a month. There’s more, but there’s also a very good reason why Mrs. 13 is the family CFO…

Anyway, the VA wants their money back. For very good reasons, I thought the VA had already taken it back. Instead of receiving money for September and October when I was in school, in November, I got one partial month’s worth of money. I thought this reflected the VA taking the money that was owed them—not the full $3000 since the VA owed me $1000 for books plus the money from partial September and full October.

According to news reports, VA is sending out a letter to those who took the money and ran. VA wants $750 a month for four months. I suppose I can shoulder that more than other places of the country where BAH is less than my $2152, but that pretty much leaves with me nothing, absolutely NOTHING after bills. Maybe I should be thankful that I can at least pay my bills, but I’m not. Instead, I want to know what happened to my $1000 for books? But I also have idea, too, since the VA is supposed to be willing to consider individual circumstances. And yes, this is a challenge, VA. You figure out what happened to my 2009-2010 $1000 for books, and then you can take the $1200 that was taken from my paycheck in the first twelve months of my enlistment for the Montgomery GI Bill. That should leave me with $800 remaining debt, a much more stomachable fee for your screwup…

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Missing It

by The Usual Suspect

You know you're probably better off on the outside, but you can't help but miss some things, random aspects of your enlistment. Entitlements you no longer have.

You walk around here in the States, scanning and sizing everyone up without a pair of sunglasses on, and people are going to feel uneasy. I miss my Oakleys.

I remember the slight kick of an M4, how it feels when the trigger mechanism clicks. I miss that. I miss shooting stuff. I miss my M4, period. That thing was like an extension of your body, it went with you EVERYWHERE. Makes me feel bad for the dog handler guys when they get done. Not sure, but I think they have to give up their guns AND their dogs. Fuck that.

I miss Strykers. Not the mortar carrier ones, the regular ones. I miss sitting on the ramp, bullshitting with the guys. Smoking and joking and pissing and moaning.

I didn't really ever feel like I enjoyed having power over anyone. It wasn't a sick thrill to point a gun at someone and be able to decide if they live or not. That privilege was a tool, just like the rifle, not a fucking toy. But I miss that sense of self reliance. No matter what, I at least had a fighting chance because I had my rifle and my guys.

Then you step off the plane onto American concrete and they take your guns. The Infantry doesn't have a job when not deployed, other than to train and be ready. But that's all blank-fire and OPFOR and make believe, and you might as well be six years old with squirt guns again.

I think that it's a loss of purpose issue. Without something as clearly important (pull security) and meaningful (fight enemies that want to kill us) as our jobs (our REAL, deployed jobs), maybe some of us get a little bewildered in the woods.

In the deployed world, consequences are severe and obvious so that almost any idiot can see the importance. For example, "Hey, dumbass. Don't step on that metal thing that looks suspiciously like a pressure plate because this could mean explodey things and explodey things that aren't ours are very very bad."

It's all really simple, pretty cut and dry. Not the mission, just the life, from a grunt's perspective. When everything other than pulling security and basic grunt work is "above your pay grade".

It's a little harder to take shit seriously over here sometimes. Makes you wonder how someone can not take things seriously but still get insanely pissed off over them. Sounds counter-intuitive.

That probably just means that you have to find a new purpose when you hand your rifle off. I wasn't thinking about that though, I wanted to go get smashed. I really liked my purpose over there, and most of the guys with me. But between Big Army's regs and customs and courtesies and the overwhelming bullshit that blinds you to the good so that you can't even enjoy it until it's long gone, the Army just wasn't for me, and I'm not going to forget that.

I just miss some things. Maybe it's time to go out and find some new shit to miss later.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Monday, February 8, 2010

New Article: PTSD and Morphine

by 13 Stoploss

A couple weeks ago, I took an assignment for the school paper--mostly because I didn't want some overly-ambitious nineteen-year old to write about something she/he knew nothing about. While I don't have a face in particular in mind, the sort abounds too frequently similar. Any rate, this was my chance to shine, to write an article from which I had experience and connections to directly contribute! And so I did... though some of it was edited. Oh well...

Message For The VA

by The Usual Suspect

Your phone lines are so busy that I can't even be put on hold. I understand, the GI Bill department of the V.A. is probably an intense place to be right now, so I'll just leave this here.

I was getting out of the Army, "breaking contact", so to speak. I was assured and assured that the GI Bill was going to cover the expenses, was gonna cover me while I assaulted my objective (college), if you take my meaning. You can imagine my surprise when I realized I was all alone, figuratively overrun.

I'm up. He sees me. I'm broke.

That doesn't matter anymore though, it's done and over with, no hard feelings. I made the mistake of not having a backup plan. That was my fault.

It gets better though. After I dropped out, the housing allowance money started coming through. I used that money to pay off my debts and live off of. I recognize that this creates an issue. I would like to find out how much I owe you, and how we can straighten this out and get back to square one. I just need to know what you need from me, and I'll make the rest happen.

OBJECTIVE: Attending classes, full time, powering toward a degree THIS FALL, 2010. I ask you, VA, if you're up to it. If so, my email is the.usual_suspect at hotmail.

The Usual Suspect

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

An X Factor

by The Usual Suspect

The problem I have seeing eye to eye with the regular people around me is that I wonder if it's me that's all screwy, or if I just had a nice long look at a side of reality that most people are sheltered from.

I understand that a lot of my sentiments, attitudes, and behaviors aren't normal. I get that. Sometimes I just wish I would've taken pictures. I'd post pictures of the mutilated bodies we'd find in Baghdad. Remember the decapitated guy with no flesh on his arm, laying in the middle of the street for days? It wasn't a goddamn monster from under your bed that did that. That's not shit out of a movie, it was fucking REAL, rotting and stinking, and no one dared move the poor bastard because they'd be killed too.

They wanted us to see that shit. Wanted us to know what they'd gladly do to us. Those burnt bodies in Fallujah? But that wouldn't scare you, not from TV. Just make you shake your head a little.

They shot at me. They tried to blow me up. Two different IEDs had my name written all over them, and in each of these cases (and God knows how many more that I'm aware of), I just lucked out. Snipers, suicide bombers, IEDs. We buried our own guys because of these things, that aren't even a reality in the United States. Not for most people anyway.


Remember that line? Makes a lot more sense to me now. I spent a lot of time looking for "bad guys", with the intent to kill. It's what I wanted, not for the sake of murder, but because that's the FUCKING INFANTRY'S JOB!!!

Now, I'm not an Infantryman. I'm not in Iraq. Not a soldier anymore. Civilian. Free, and happy about it, don't get me wrong. Someone tailgates me, and all I want to do is block the road, get out, rip them out of their car, and beat some fear into them. That's not right.

I'm still scanning, still looking for the enemy. You all might as well be Iraqis, and I'm eyeing all of you suspiciously because my midbrain (animal brain, whatever) knows what people are capable of. Sometimes I feel like the only thing seperating us from them is that we have luxury. Fucked up shit can happen here, too. We're not immune to it. We're sheltered, and that's awesome, don't get me wrong. I don't want to convince you that the world is a terrible place and any random person next to you is going to decapitate you on the bus. That's not my aim. I'm trying to unfuck this mess, sort shit out, and go about my business.

Trust. I'm fresh out. Don't know who to trust or what to believe. Not even talking about the violence alone, either. Even here in the states, you can't do anything without getting lied, cheated, or fucked over. Work from home scams, shit like that. Things you have to deal with all the time, too. It's hard enough as it is for all the normal, non-asshole people out there raising families, earning a living, and just trying to live their lives without a whole bunch of complications that seem to have little to do them. We have tons and tons and tons of shit to worry and stress about.

Beheaded, bound, mutilated, and rotting in the sun. A message. You telling me YOU wouldn't buy a gun after that? Those dudes are sick, and we had no idea who did it, no one was gonna talk to the Yanks, are you insane? Hell, we probably shook hands with atleast one of the dudes responsible, sipped some chai, bullshitted in broken Arabic. I'm not trying to drum up a war frenzy, it's a simple fucking fact: They would have gladly done it to YOU.

But I'm the crazy one. Probably, atleast a little bit. Shouldn't be looking for those guys everywhere I go, but I do. Never stopped viewing every car as a potential threat. I'm not invincible and I'm very, very aware of it. Dunno how to turn it off. Believe me, I GET IT, it's fucking retarded. This shit gets in deeper than your logic though. It gets imprinted into instinct or something, straight to the animalistic part of your brain that doesn't ponder, it's the part of your brain that helps you survive.

That's my report.

In other news, I'm getting fucking awesome at guitar. See that? Looks like a bright side to me.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Not Fucking Working

by The Usual Suspect

I worked in a video store when I was in high school. The store wasn't all that functional and had a lot of employee problems. Finally someone said, "Hold it! This has got to go!" and cleaned house. They canned the manager and brought someone else in to unfuck the store. When something doesn't work, you evaluate the situation, form a plan, and then you go make the changes you see fit, right?

I didn't set myself to be hirable over every other underachiever out there. That's why finding work is a bitch. It isn't that the resume has the Army on it, it's that there isn't anything else on it. So to Hell with pride, resumes are going to start going to fast food joints, too if that's what it takes.

"Dude...just go back to college."

Funny story. A while after I dropped out, the VA must've gotten around to my GI Bill paperwork, because I started getting money. I used the money to pay my overdue bills and get my head above water, assuming that the VA would want that discrepancy settled before we could try school again.

So, Priority One is income. A job. No ifs about it, that has to happen and soon.

Meanwhile, the anger and hostility has gotten well beyond the limits of normal. You're not supposed to feel this cut off from your own people. Spending way too much time in a dark place, and it isn't benefitting anyone. I've sent an application to a reputed in-patient PTSD rehabilitation center. Fix what isn't working and keep on trucking.

Stoploss Backpay Compensation Update 7

by 13Stoploss


Monday, February 1, 2010

Old Man on Campus, and Cool Toys

by 13 Stoploss

Go here. Read what I wrote. If you feel like it, comment as well.

So. These are my speakers. Aren't they huge and great?

Ok. I know what it looks like. I've got one of those old, heavy TV's on a busted-up horseshit-n-splinters entertainment center. It sucks. I know. You don't need to mention it. Also, it looks like crap. I know. You don't need to mention it. But yes, that is a Sega Genesis. And a Super Nintendo. And a Wii. And, no, that's not all. In the shadows are a Nintento Entertainment System, a Nintendo N64, a Sega Master System, a Sega Dreamcast, and a Sony PS2. Don't forget the Pioneer Elite VSX-37TX stereo at volume -13. 120 watts into those massive quadruple 12" monsters from 9.5 feet viewing/hearing distance is enough to kill a man. Well, his ears that is.

Anyway, what I'm getting at is that when this stoploss money comes, someday, eventually, it's going to look pretty nice in there with a Plasma mounted on the wall and a new entertainment enter not falling over. Plus, the speaker grills are being refurbished, so there's that too.

So, the video. You can't tell, but it's fucking loud as shit. If you have headphone, plug them into your computer. If you have a subwoofer for your computer, turn it up and then turn up the volume. Of course, realize that the audio is coming straight into a cheap digital camera with a lousy, tiny microphone. That's why you can't hear how high the highs are. That's why I am yet unable to murder your ears on the internet. I'll figure it out soon enough though, like when I get that stoploss money and buy that 1000 watt amp. Yeah. That's going to rock.