Jason's BLOG pages

 
 

 


Jason Grose's BLOG

November 1997

 

 

 


What's a blog, you ask? It stands for "weblog" and it's basically an online journal of daily thought. We'll see how long I can keep this up (as though I don't have enough to do!)

If you must have a title, I'll go with: The daily thoughts/rants of a Marine Officer, father, scholar, husband, marathon runner, Flash cartoonist, computer nerd.


Thanksgiving Supplement

Quote of the Day:
“NOTHING IS EVER AS SIMPLE AS IT SEEMS." 
- Unknown

I thought I would give an overall view of my trip highlighting what my impressions were of the people I spent the holiday with. While it is not the best thing to judge people, pointing out their good and bad aspects, I feel that I should share my opinions of the family I spent so much time with. Please pardon the honesty.

Dad

My father was a mess this trip. He was sick from start to finish and I tired of his constant complaints. I saw all the worst in myself in his personality and could not wait to get away from him. I looked forward to being in the group just so I would not have to deal with him one on one.

He is looking old, dresses shabbily, and dyes his remnants of white hair which comes out looking orange. It is too long in the back. When I asked him for an iron, he said he does not iron clothes and therefore does not own an iron. His clothes mainly consists of sweatshirts given to him as gifts and old, worn out corduroys. His shoes were always worn-out tennis shoes.

Enough of the physical. What I got from everyone was the feeling that they humor his presence because he is family. They kind of laugh at little things in his absence and use phrases like “set in his ways” and “opinionated.” He is “quite a character” according to them.

My role there was that he could hold me up as a trophy; as some proof that he can do something right. But he had little to do with my success, in fact, provided plenty of obstacles along the way. I was the one he had some kind of control over in an environment where he rarely holds any cards. Little things like deciding when we were going to leave, after he had had enough of the kids or other irrational moods, degraded me because I was under his control. He seemed to relish the power over me since he had no other power. I felt like I was his showpiece and it angered me that he would take credit for anything I have accomplished.

When we did talk, I tried to explain to him what I do but even after 10 years, he does not understand. Even when I was trying to explain to him, I would watch his eyes wander around, indicating he was not listening. Then he would come back with a question totally unrelated to what we were talking about. One time it had to do with if there was anyone I got to boss around because I was an officer. It was maddening.

He made me nervous. Everything was a potential explosion with him. We pulled into a gas station and I knew that even if everything went smooth, there would be something to set him off. He went inside and I saw him in line, knowing that he was getting madder by the second as he had to wait. He came out with a disgusted look on his face and when he went to pump the gas, the lady on the other side had the pump. I knew what was coming. He made some comment on why they took his money if the pump was being used and went back in. It was unfolding just as I expected. With a more disgusted look, he came out again and pumped the gas. He had given her $7 for the gas and did not pay attention to the pump, thinking it would stop on its own. He finally stopped it when he noticed it was at $8.50 and got in the car, complaining that people were so stupid around here and it was not his fault they did not stop the pump. He drove off without settling the bill.

Another time, we were at Aunt Shirley’s and the kids were being a little wild and it was working on Dad’s nerves. We were sitting on the couch and Mark was there. Mitch comes running in and Michael Joe was behind him and pushed him a little to make him fall. Mitch yelled out to Mike in the kitchen that MJ had pushed him and instantly, MJ said he didn’t. Dad makes the comment, “Michael Joe is nothing but a little shit!” He said it pretty loud and I am sure MJ heard him but made no comment.

The doctor told him not to smoke cigarettes and when the subject came up, he said he did not smoke them and did not miss it. He said that he smokes cigars every once in awhile. Over the time I was there, he smoked many, many cigars. Almost as many as a cigarette smoker. I realized that his rationale was that they told him not to smoke cigarettes but a cigar was fine. He is killing himself and when the time comes, he will claim he did everything the doctor told him and then blame the doctor.

As far as going to church, there was no indication that he has kept it up. He mentioned a few churches he has attended but his actions did not indicate he has changed at all. He has no hope for the future, he thinks the world is after him, and he does not know why bad things always happen to him. He is impatient, abusive, irritable, and annoying. Many times I was embarrassed to be around him. He would go in another room and sulk like a child if things got too loud or the kids started being kids. He lives in a self-imposed prison of misery. This is one of the things I am scared of because I see how empty his life is and I know I tend to visit that same prison. He lives for watching TV and “the show,” which is his term for the movies.

Of his good points, all I can say is that he did take pride in my accomplishments. I do not question his pride in me but I know it is uninformed. I do not think he could ever understand the achievements I have made and the hardships I have endured. I think I rate his respect but I just wish he knew what I have been through. But to know this, he would have to know me and he will never take the time to listen and understand. I always said that he has been my anti-hero. Basically I try to do everything the opposite that he has done when it comes to life. In a way I feel I have missed out on having a father but I think it is too late. All I can do is BE a good father now.

The irony is that he reads a lot and seems to have knowledge but does not apply it. He reads a lot of books and knows many facts and I respect his ability to absorb knowledge but cannot understand why he never uses it to further himself.

Aunt Shirley

Aunt Shirley is one of the sweetest persons I have ever met. She lives for family and would do anything for them. She tends to spread herself a little thin sometimes and it is hard to get past her practiced sweet exterior sometimes but that is just because she has so many people to get to. When Brandon is around, nothing else matters but I can hardly blame her for that. She turns into a blubbering fool, making faces and noises that I would never make in private, much less public. But she sure can make that baby smile.

The other kids love her of course but I also sensed a little conflict. When it was time to party, they spoke in hushed tones and planned it away from her. I caught comments about taking it easy or “Mom will freak.” Mark also mentioned something about her complaining that he and “Frankie” always takes Mike away when he comes and they party too much. Mark says it is Mike’s choice but the conflict exists.

Aunt Shirley can also be blunt. She sat Mike’s kids down and talked to them about hitting Mindy. I guess that punch at Judy a little and she made them promise that they would stop. She said it forcefully but in terms they could understand. She has a lot of the same mannerisms as Dad but seems to be more “there” than Dad.

I love Aunt Shirley. Her hospitality and love for me unconditionally was what I needed. I enjoyed talking to her and we started talking about life and family before Brandon came in and stole the show. We discussed the differences between book smarts and common sense and I think she felt the need to explain why she never went to college, choosing her family over formal higher education. She talked about choices in life and we briefly talked about Chris and how his choices affected his natural common sense. She told me I had both and made good decisions. Sometimes I feel I have neither and question my decisions. She had no such opinions.

Overall, I felt more comfortable chatting with the women than the men. I tried to be a part of both circles over the visit and enjoyed both.

Uncle Kenny

Amazing man. He is the CEO and president of U.S. Air Express and is a leader by nature. He is getting along in years and together with his large stature, comes across as a bear sometimes. But he has a wonderful sense of humor coupled with a ever-increasing opinionated personality. The kids still hold a certain fear of his wrath which was evident when the sink went haywire.

The sink had stopped up and Uncle Kenny was down at the dock. Mike was there and I gathered that this had happened before and they nervously looked out the window to see if he was coming. Mike had tried to use the plunger but could not get it unclogged. He tried to use his brute strength, which he obviously has a lot of, and gave it one big strong pull. The back-pressure offset the O-ring on the plumbing and they had to fix it by unscrewing the assembly. They did this quickly and I realized everyone was nervous and watching the window as they desperately tried to fix it before Uncle Kenny came up. They did not make it and when Uncle Kenny saw what was going on, I understood why they were nervous. He got down there and started taking over and complained that all they had to do was use the plunger. Mike tried to explain but it was useless. Uncle Kenny has a temper but it comes and goes. It was funny to see Mike, a grown man with kids, NFL star, cower like a child. The grandkids also got a taste of his ire every once in awhile and like us as kids, did not challenge his authority at all. His teasing persists with kids to this day but he treats me with adult respect.

But my respect for my uncle did not diminish at all. We would all talk about things and his mind was sharp as a pin. He could remember every college and pro game Mike was in and could name who was playing. It was incredible.

He went out of his way to set up and even buy my plane ticket. To have a successful man like that show respect to me and my accomplishments made me swell with pride. I was on my best behavior to show him that his respect was well founded and I made an effort to thank him every chance I got for everything he was doing for me. He is what I would look for in a father if I would have had my choice.

Mark

Mark is the eternal optimist. He is always looking for a business opportunity but has never hit the big one. I think that he has the chance and abilities to be successful but it just hasn’t happened yet. He just got a job in Dallas as a manager to a company and is living there alone until he sees that it will pan out.

Mark listens well and is truly interested in what you have to say. When I talked to him, I was afraid that I was going on and on but then when I stopped or cut it short, he would want more. I found this to be a powerful trait that I think will take him far. Basically, I like him and I still have the respect for him as an older cousin that I have had since we were kids. He was always the older one and I saw him as an adult all of my life.

Nancy

Nancy is a bubbly, emotional person. She obviously enjoys being around the family. She works for Uncle Kenny in the company and was working a lot when I was there. Someone said that her father-in-law was the boss and that she should use that to get the time off. She obviously did not like that comment and would never use that. I think she might be over-compensating for the fact of her relationship with the boss which probably wears on her at work.

Nancy is really smart and during the games, she usually came in first or second. She has a sharp mind and uses it well. She is tiny, attractive, and has a good personality. But she is very emotional, a trait she passed onto her youngest daughter.

I like Nancy, she is a fun person.

Makenna

As the oldest daughter, she seemed to have inherited her Mom’s personality just like her sister. I did not have much one on one time with any of the kids so there is not much to write.

Taylor

She was the emotional firebug of the group. She was also the third wheel when Mindy was around and was left out of a lot of things which would send her coming in crying a lot of the time. Her missing front teeth made her look a little funny but she will be a beautiful woman like her mother some day. More than her sister, she is her mother’s clone.

Mike

It is no secret that I enjoyed being with Mike more than anyone. As far as personalities go, Mark and Mike map to Chris and me. Mike is a family man and a gentle giant.

I have always respected Mike but I will admit that his celebrity status as a football player affected my view of him. Every time I looked at him, I was reminded that he was a professional football player in the NFL. His large size was a constant reminder and his soft-spoken, unassuming personality reminded me of Jeff Schramm, another person I highly respect.

I talked to him a lot and tried not to expose my hero-worship attitude toward him. I asked him a lot of questions about football and how it was. He answered them all and I appreciated that. I asked him about his injuries and I even talked to Judy about what it was like to be a player’s wife. I was so interested in them because so few people ever get the chance to become a professional athlete.

Mike’s love for his kids was evident. He played with them, hugged them, and showed them plenty of affection. It almost brought tears to my eyes when I saw it. I thought about how proud the kids must be to see daddy on TV and to be what millions of other kids consider a hero role model.

Mike now owns three GNC stores in Atlanta and loves to fish, which he did a lot of while we were there. During the games, he showed that he was very intelligent and never got upset or complained about anything. He was truly a person you wanted to be around and even going to the movies with him was a treat. It is not hard to see why he has been successful all of his life and it is good to see that absolutely none of it has gone to his head.

Judy

I must start by saying that Judy has stunning beauty. You notice it the first time you see her. Mike, a big, handsome man and Judy, a gorgeous woman, make a great couple. She passed on her good looks to her daughter but that is for later.

Judy was warm and engaging. We talked and I enjoyed what she had to say and that she, too, was interested in what I had to say.

Yes, she was very competitive and vocal during the games. She has a strong personality and took no crap. Maybe she pushed things a little far during the games but not to the point that she should be faulted. I was surprised at her intensity during play but because it was family, no one challenged her. It just was not that important but she made sure her opinion was known and that her way was the only way. I thought it a little funny because she got so into the games.

I had several talks with her and she, too, was smart. She had gone to Notre Dame and met Mike there. We talked about the internet and I told her about what I did in college. We got into an entire discussion about it at breakfast one morning with everyone except Dad joining in. I thought it was great because I was the most knowledgeable one and tried to explain confusing points and the opinions of concern in terms everyone could grasp. Afterwards, Judy sat down with a copy of my webpage, which I had originally sent Dad but ended up at Aunt Shirley’s, and read it. She liked my work.

I was sad to see Mike and Judy go on Sunday.

Michael Joe

MJ was quiet and I think he was going through a rebel stage. He seemed indifferent to everything that went on and acted bored most of the time. I never really got a chance to get to know him but I was surprised to see that his hair had darkened. He looked nothing like the pictures I had seen and was getting big. He will have Mike’s size and is already into football. Mike coaches his team and I thought it was great for those kids to have an ex-pro helping coach.

Mindy

I hate to start with this but I must point out that Mindy is so cute that it takes your breath away. She looks so much like her mom and will undoubtedly grow up to be a knockout. She also inherited her mother’s intensity. She is actually sweet and has a great relationship with her parents.

Mitch

Mitch is a happy child. He is the youngest, six, and was kind of goofy. He always had a smile on his face and did not seem to mind to be left out of a lot of things. He hung out with the girls, when they let him, because they were close to his age. MJ was too old for all of them so Mitch was left at the bottom of the pile.

One time I found him in the driveway, all alone, skipping rope. I asked him why he was out there and if he knew if was starting to rain. He just smiled and kept doing it and I was impressed that he could humor himself. I liked the little goofball.

Angie

Angie has been the same for as long as I have known her. She is a bit scattered but has the sweet personality of her mother. As a new mother, she gave 100% of her attention and energy to Brandon. She talked about little else but I understood. She was so worried about everything and was a stereotypical first-time mother.

Tall and beautiful, Angie has a sweet personality. She complained that ever since she had the baby and was losing sleep, she cannot concentrate on anything. This was kind of funny because she has always been a little distracted. She was jokingly worried of what I thought about her and thought I saw her as a dunce. I assured her I did not and that I understood her situation. What little time we chatted, it was fun to talk to her. She was my playmate as a kid and it was sentimental to go over all the fun times we had in Lakewood. Chris would play with Mark and Mike and since Angie and I were so close in age, we always played games and ran around together. You could say she was a blast from my past and now as adults, it was fun to remember all the similar memories we had.

Scott

In some ways I got along with Scott and in some ways, we created a kind of friction, even though neither of us could say why. I guess it was our personalities. Scott is a very outspoken, vocal person. We playfully butted heads during some of the games.

Scott seemed interested in what I had to say and asked intelligent questions. He was fun to be around and I have to say that I enjoyed my time with him.

Two things stick out about my time with him. I was surprised to discover that Angie sensed the micro-tension between us. We were playing Oodles the last night and, as in most games with a lot of people involved, side conversations abounded. Scott had mentioned that he knew a lot about ankle injuries because he had trouble with them himself. I had had a lot to drink and knew this was not the time to discuss it was said to him, “We have to talk.” Angie only caught that last sentence and thought we were fighting about something. When we cleared it up she kind of laughed and said, “Oh, I thought you guys were mad at each other.” This struck me funny because there should have been no way she should take it this way and I realized that she had been a little nervous that we would argue because we had a little tension between us. I respect and like Scott and cannot explain why the tension exists but it is not enough to worry about. Just the difference in personalities.

Later, after we had had a few more drinks, I inadvertently backed up an answer that Scott had said. I had meant to say that he had said the wrong answer but the alcohol made it come out as the right answer. When he heard that, he got everyone’s attention and pointed to me and said, “I have an honorable man that backs me up. An honorable man!” I was shocked because he was joking but his true feeling came out that he considered me honorable. In his joke, he had shown what his feelings were and I was flattered. I had to then decide if I would recount myself or back him up. I decided not to ruin the progress the statement made between us and I backed him up. He made the same comment a little later and I felt guilty that I ever had a feeling of conflict with him.

Brandon

Not much to say about the little munchkin. Cute kid and had plenty of attention. He did not cry much and I enjoyed carrying him around a couple of times. It reminded him of my own kids and I was thankful for the chance to hold him in a house where everyone wanted a piece of him.

He promises to be huge. With his father’s and his uncle’s size, he has no choice.

Me

I do not know if that was the real me or the one at TBS is. Either way, I was a completely different person on this trip. I liked the vacation one a lot better and felt good about myself.

I felt confident, honorable, and noble. I was soft spoken, humble, and very polite. I listened to everything people said and asked them questions that I was truly interested in. I did not hog the conversation and complimented everyone every chance I got.

I made it a point not to complain, Dad was doing plenty of that.

I saw myself from their eyes and I liked what I saw. I think I came off as the ideal father, son, Marine, and nephew. I did not feel as though I was acting but enjoyed being like that. The sad, depressed, complaining, cranky, blunt Jason was nowhere to be found. It made me really think about who I was.

Last Note

A funny thing happened while I was there. I became the object of a group crush by all the little girls. They wrote me little heart-shaped notes expressing their love for me and wanted me to dance with them and play games. It was actually embarrassing and put me in an awkward position. I could not exactly ignore it but I really wanted to.

I joked to the family that it felt good to still be attractive to the opposite sex and since this was the south, the fact that they were second-cousins and under the age of 13, if I was not already married, I would have to go ahead and pick among them.

I decided to attack this head on. I played games with them but refused to dance. I returned their notes in the space provided and told them I loved them too. I teased Nancy that her daughters were making passes at me and that I wish she would control them. I was a married man, after all.

Free Advice for Today:
Give people more than they expect and do it cheerfully.”
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Sunday, November 30, 1997

Quote of the Day:
“WHEN NOTHING CAN GO WRONG IT WILL." 
- Unknown

I woke up the exact way I expected to. I heard the kids get up and people try to be quiet. I was in the big living room and did not want to be in the spot where everyone could see me sleeping while they tip-toed around so I got up. I was a little hung-over, a result from last night’s fun. I was also started to feel sick much like Dad and Uncle Kenny was going through.

Mike, Judy, and the kids were getting ready to take off. They had a four hour trip ahead and was going the through the stressful evolution of gathering their things, controlling the kids, and getting out of there. All I could do was watch and I felt a bit amused that such a successful family full of great people go through the same things I do when I am in the same situation. Family life has a lot of common things no matter who you are. Yelling at the kids, looking for stuff, etc.

They were finally ready and I wanted some pictures. Aunt Shirley started it off by telling everyone to get together and I was glad because I did not know how to ask. I got pictures with the kids but when she told Mike to get over there, he refused because he said he was not dressed for it. Judy had told me that he did not like to take pictures and I was a little disappointed but I understood. I did not want a scene so I did not push the subject.

Saying good-bye was little tough. I had really enjoyed my visit with Mike and wondered if it would be another decade before I saw him again. Of everyone, I enjoyed seeing him the most. His kids were great and I hated to see them go. It was awkward saying good-bye, like always but we did and they left. It was a quite and empty house when they left and I talked to Aunt Shirley for awhile. I told here how much I enjoyed this trip and then we talked about Dad. She knows how he is and we danced around the negative aspects. We were interrupted when Angie and Scott came over and the baby stole the show.

Football was on and I ended up sitting on the couch watching it with Uncle Kenny. Dad came over and did not feel good again. We sat and watched TV. The weather outside had turned bad and it was raining so watching football on a cold, rainy, Sunday was just fine with me. I was just burning time until we had to leave.

We had to leave at about 1330 and I made sure I was ready. Of course, Dad had to push it and I knew that without my forceful prodding, we would be late. As it was, we left 15 minutes late. My good-byes were legitimately heartfelt and I tried to express how much I appreciated the ticket and the good time I had. I hope they understand how much this meant to me.

I could tell that Dad did not know what to say on the way to the airport. I think he might have sensed my lack of enthusiasm with him and he was a bit more quiet than usual. I just wanted to get on that plane because I felt like the day was kind of a washout and that I should have planned to get out in the morning so I would have a little time to prepare for the week. But I reminded myself how much fun I had and how much Uncle Kenny had done for me. At the moment, I was content just to get on the plane before I had to tell Dad how much he bothered me on this trip.

We got to the airport and had a lot of time to spare. Dad wanted to watch the football game so we went into the Cheers bar they had there. We had coffee, a drink that we drank gallons of this weekend, and some French fries. I was starting to feel worse and I had to eat the cough drops that Aunt Shirley had given me when she heard my hacking cough. She is such a sweet woman.

Dad and I made small talk but mostly watched the football game. When it was time to leave, we got to the gate and had another awkward moment when we said good-bye. He got that look on his face like it was hurting him to see me go. He gets so sentimental at moments like this but when I am here, it does not effect him. I have so many mixed feeling about him that I did not know what to feel. I just wanted to get away and be on my own again. He irritates me sometimes but then I remember how much I desired to be with him when I was little. Saying good-bye to him when I was a kid was an emotional sledgehammer right to my heart. Now, I could not get away fast enough. Then I think of my own son and it hurts me to think that he might ever feel this way towards me.

I got on the plane and slept most of the way. When we got in, I waited for my bags but they did not come. We were told that some of the bags did not get onto the flight due to weight restrictions and that they were coming in on the next flight. Most of the people were pissed off but I just sat down and entered some journal notes. Our flight came in at 1620 and the next one was at 1750. It was a little irritating but I kept busy. I wanted to get on the road but could not really do anything about it. When they came, I grabbed it and left. I paid the $19 dollars it cost to park the truck and was glad that I had enough. I had paid for absolutely nothing on the trip.

The drive home was uneventful and the traffic was light. I wanted to get home and get some good sleep. I was feeling worse by the hour and knew that I needed the rest. I made it into Garrisonville thinking that I would swing by Taco Bell for my only meal of the day. As I got off the highway, I cut off an unmarked cop car trying to get to a open lane at a stoplight. He pulled me over and gave me two tickets. One for improper lane change and one for the tinting on my windows which did not meet Virginia state regulations. He said he would let me off the excessive speed charge. I did not argue much but it really made me mad that I had made it all that way and then got pulled over less than a mile from the barracks. It took forever and I was coughing madly. I knew I could fight the tickets but wondered when the court days would be. They were on the 16th but I will be in the field for D week. I would have to call to postpone.

I got my Taco Bell and went home. I was feeling miserable and wanted to talk to Carrie. I got things settled in the room and ate. I then called Carrie and told her about my trip. It was good to talk to her and I knew she would be worried about me. She was glad I had fun and I felt a lot better after talking to her. I needed some good rest so went to bed, my successful vacation over and another TBS week waiting for me when I woke up.

Free Advice for Today:
Never say anything uncomplimentary about another person's dog.”
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Saturday, November 29, 1997

Quote of the Day:
“NO GOOD DECISION WAS EVER MADE IN A SWIVEL CHAIR." 
- Unknown

Today, much like the other days, I woke up and could not wait to get ready and get over to Aunt Shirley’s. We did not have much planned today but just to get over there with everyone was motivation enough to shower and get going. This was the last night I would have to spend here and was glad to get my bags packed and out of the stranger’s room. He was coming back today and I was not.

Dad was in rare form. He complained about everything under the sun as we went over there. It is sad because he is my dad, but I could not wait to get away from him. I can now understand how others feel when I get in a “mood” and do the same thing. In that aspect, I learned from him.

We visited for awhile and Uncle Kenny watched football. He was now starting to be sick and we all kind of did our own thing. We wanted to go to a movie but could not decide between the latest Aliens flick and The Jackal. Either one would have been fine with me but no one could quite agree. We finally settled upon The Jackal with Bruce Willis. Dad complained, he does not like Bruce Willis.

We took Aunt Shirley’s minivan. It was Mike, me, and Dad. Mark and Scott were meeting us at a car wash. We picked them up and we all fit in Mark’s truck. We went to the theater and had a little time before the movie. Mark decided he did not want to go and cashed in his ticket. We did not know why but he wanted to meet us at a tavern so after some discussion, that is what happened. Scott decided to join him so it was down to me, Dad, and Mike. It was just one of those last minute decisions and no one minded. I was not effected but was glad Mike wanted to stay. I enjoyed being around him. The movie was good and they were waiting for us when we got out.

We all piled into Mike’s truck which Mark had gone back and traded. It is a huge machine that is made by Ford and the interior was done by Eddie Bower. It was a really, really nice truck and held all of us. We all went to a huge liquor store. It was as big as a Costco and I had never seen so much alcohol in my life. Dad bought some stuff for margaritas and the others got some other goods. We were going over to Mark’s house to play games tonight. It is funny but to get “rowdy,” they planned to be away from Aunt Shirly and Uncle Kenny’s. Seems the parent-children relationship still holds no matter the age when it comes to drinking.

It was funny being in the presence of all of them in public. Mike is 6’5” and 1/2, Mark is 6’4” and Scott is 6’3” and they are all beefy. We looked like a gang of wrestlers walking in. We got plenty of stares.

After we got back, Aunt Shirly had cooked another turkey, for a total of three, because there was not enough left overs for sandwiches. We all ate to our heart’s content and it was good. I was having such a good time.

Later we went over to Mark’s house. All the kids went in one room and watched videos. There were so many things going on that I just kind of watched and talked a little bit while Dad sat in the other room, sulking again. We finally got everyone together and started playing Oodles again. Along with the drinks and the game, we all had a great time. We played for four hours non-stop and I was feeling so good by the end. It felt so good to be a part of this group and the alcohol did not hurt either. Finally, when Dad had enough, he left. Mike and Judy wanted to go about midnight because they were taking off in the morning. They were my ride back to Aunt Shirley’s so I left with them. I was feeling pretty good but I knew that it was time to go. We got back to the house and the fold-out bed was set up and waiting for me. I was extremely tired and it touched me that they had taken the time to set it up for me. To be around family again was such a treat for me.

I really enjoyed the day and had mixed feeling about going home the next day. I was itching to get back to get ready for the week but at the same time, I did not want this trip to end. It was the first time I had felt joy in my life for a long time.

Free Advice for Today:
Don't go looking for trouble.”
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Friday, November 28, 1997

Quote of the Day:
“IF YOU ARE SHORT OF EVERYTHING BUT FLIES; YOU ARE IN SOMALIA." 
- Unknown

This morning I woke again from another crappy night’s sleep. I just do not feel comfortable in that room and I could not wait to get up and get ready to go. It was so cold and I discovered later that the window was open causing the temperature in the room to drop low. I will probably be a little sick because of it.

Dad wanted to go and eat breakfast so we went to, what else, a tavern. The place smelled like smoke and again, I was out of control of the situation. I found myself looking forward to getting over to the Ganns where it was cleaner, more comfortable, and I was less dependent.

We ate the breakfast, which was not too bad considering the atmosphere, and got on our way. In a classic Dad move, he could not think of the hill in Renton that a tavern was on. It “drove him crazy” and even when we got past it and I was explaining a little about what it is like at TBS, I could tell that he was thinking about that hill. His only response to a story I told him was how crazy it was bugging him to remember that hill and then he went on and on about a plethora of other complaints.

I was really sick of it by the time we got on our way. I was silent and let dad drone on, complaining up a storm. At one point he asked me if I was a part of this conversation and I responded with a flat “Yes.” He said that I was supposed to say something and then he would respond and it would go on like that. That was the way to have a conversation. I did not have a response to his statement. I decided to just try to steer the conversation in different directions but every time I tried, he had a complaint about whatever the new subject was. I was glad when we pulled into the driveway and the Ganns.

We ended up going out on the boat, just me, Mike, Dad, and Uncle Kenny. I had no license to fish so I just went along for the ride. I told a few jokes but we got onto the subject of riddles and spent the next hour or so telling them. Mike really liked them and I had more than I thought. They irritated Dad because he could not figure them out.

No one caught anything and we called it finished after about an hour. When we went back, we just visited and relaxed until dinner time. They had decided to have Italian food and it was good. There was lasagna and another casserole dish. I ate to my fill and it was another good meal. Again, the men sat in the dining room and the woman and children ate in the kitchen. There were a few jokes made of this but it was all in good fun.

After dinner, we all played games. We played Oodles but were so loud that we kept having to be reminded to be quite. Angie was trying to get the baby to sleep and every time we would get real loud, Uncle Kenny would turn up the TV to hear it. The combination was not good and we finally had to stop and play something less rambunctious. We played Balderdash and that was fun. We never got done and I did fairly well. Regardless of the situation, we had fun and Dad got flustered and retired. He fell asleep and after the game was over, wanted to go home. I was ready to get some sleep but was not too excited about going back to Dad’s. I did anyway and again, spent some alone time watching TV before going to bed. Tomorrow would be yet another day I was looking forward to.

Free Advice for Today:
Never miss an opportunity to ride on a rollercoaster.”
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Thursday, November 27, 1997

Quote of the Day:
“YEAH, GUNNY, I KNOW IF THE FOX HADN'T STOPPED TO TAKE A CRAP, HE'D HAVE CAUGHT THE RABBIT." 
- Unknown

I woke up excited to get over to see everyone. Dad was not feeling too well and I had a bad night’s sleep due to the margaritas last night. I was not comfortable in the room I was in because it was not mine and I do not think the sheets were clean. I had a fitful sleep but was happy to get up, get ready, and get going. We stopped at the store so that I could get Aunt Shirley some flowers. I did not want to go to the house empty-handed and I wanted to show even a small token of my appreciation.

When we got over there, Mike and Judy were there. I hugged everyone and Aunt Shirley was happy to see me, of course. I shook Uncle Kenny’s hand and told him how much I appreciated him getting me the ticket. He was glad everything went OK.

I went around and met Mike’s family. Mike, of course, was huge. He is 6’5” and a half and weighs about 245. Judy is a beautiful woman who was warm and receptive from the first time that I met her. I introduced myself to Michael Joe, who was bigger than I had expected and was real reserved. Mindy was shy and is one of the cutest little girls that I have ever met. Mitch was the baby and he is 6 years old. He was also a good-looking boy and I could tell that he had the excitement level just like Alex.

A little while later, Mark and the girls showed up. Nancy had to work so she was not there. I gave the girls, Makena and Taylor, a hug and then they disappeared to play with there cousins.

We had a late dinner and were not going to eat until 1700. It was fine and we all had a good time visiting and just hanging out. It was a beautiful day with sunshine and no wind on the lake. I went down to the dock and enjoyed being with all of the men while they fished. Scott and Angie had shown up with the baby so there were a lot of people around.

We had the whole turkey spread and ate to our hearts’ content. It ended up that all the men were at the dining table and the women and kids were in the other room. We all had a good time and the prayer was nice as a group before the meal. Mike surprised me by adding in his own thanks for me being able to join them. That made me feel real good.

Like I had said, Dad was not feeling well. He spent most of the day in the Sunshine room sleeping. After dinner, he called it an early night and went home. I was going to get a ride home with Mark so I stayed behind. We all ended up playing Oodles until late and had a great time. Most of the people there were fierce competitors and their personalities shown through. I was on my best behavior and did not come on too strong. I was content just being there and relaxing with family.

Mark and I had a good talk on the way home. He had just gotten a new job in Dallas and was commuting. Nancy and the kids were living in SC until he got set up and was sure that the job would work out. He commutes back on a free buddy pass every other weekend. He was going through some of the same stuff I was by being away from home but he was not as bothered by it as I was. Like I have said before, he is a lot like Chris.

I went home and watched a little TV. It was nice to have some time to myself and watch some TV. Tomorrow is another day with the family and once again, I was looking forward to being around family yet another day.

Free Advice for Today:
Be there when people need you.”
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Wednesday, November 26, 1997

Quote of the Day:
“ALWAYS TRY AND LOOK UNIMPORTANT. THE BAD GUYS ARE ALWAYS WATCHING AND MAY BE LOW ON AMMO." 
- Unknown

I went to bed later than I wanted to last night but I knew it was going to be a long yet enjoyable day. I was tired and the first thing on the schedule were a couple of classes. The first one was a sand table exercise of a platoon in the attack against an enemy force of unknown size and location. Left and me had been given the task to build the sand table last night but it only took about 40 minutes. The captain complimented us on our work.

I had not read the background brief until Acu brought it in. Luckily, it was less than a page and because I had build the model, I was familiar with the ground. We, Lefty and I, had to brief the section and I turned it over to Lefty. As he started, I realized that he thought the brief was for the sand table and he started describing what was apparent. I knew I had to jump in so after he got done explaining the physical layout, I jumped in without missing a beat and explained the tactical situation from the background brief we had received the night before. This made me look good and it would appear to the casual observer that we had rehearsed because it went so smoothly. I thought it a bit amusing that we were shooting from the hip, making it look good, and all the while putting in our ration of interaction so the hard stuff could be left to the rest of the section.

The captain then gave the brief and we were obligated to copy it done. If it looks like you are not paying attention, he will call on you and then you are screwed. So we have to copy down pages and pages of information as he is reading it. I really hate this part of the process because my shorthand leaves something to be desired.

After this, he said we had a half hour to come up with a plan of how we were going to execute. At this level, the factors that you have to deal with is overwhelming. I was never good at the simple stuff and now it is impossible. I could outline my basic plan but they want what they refer to as “detail down to the gnat’s ass.” I stayed back with a couple of other lieutenants and the captain went over some more details for our benefit but I realized that we had been there for 20 minutes. There was no way I was even going to get close to writing the order. I went to the other room where the rest of the section was working on the problem. They were still arguing about tactics and then we all just went our own way. I was trying desperately to latch onto any idea as I had none.

When we got back in to the table, the captain picked Lefty. Usually he picks anyone who he thinks is weak in the area so I have tried hard to appear to know what I am doing and praying that I am not called upon. Once again, it worked. I got through the brief and after the ice was broken, everyone jumped in. We did not stick to format but started to argue about how we would employ our weapons. The captain really enjoyed seeing all of us get into the decision game and commented that all off our interaction was a good way to learn the tactics.

After the sandtable exercise, we had a class on mechanized operations, or employment of tanks. The best part of this class was the introduction. They showed a video of a lieutenant in our class who appeared on the Jenny Jones show a few years ago and was awarded America’s Sexiest Twin. They showed the entire clip and everyone was hootin and hollerin every time he showed up on screen. It was so funny and everyone had a good laugh over it.

The class was one that very few people paid attention to because everyone was already mentally in Thanksgiving mode. They showed some videos about tanks and AAVs but the instructor just droned on and on. It was pretty miserable and everyone knew it. At the end, even the instructor gave up and seemed to abruptly end the class in disgust. No one cared.

The XO gave us the normal pre-holiday speech and then the major followed up with his own words. He told us about a lieutenant from fox company who was diagnosed just a month ago with cancer and had just died. It was a silent room that contemplated the situation but very few probably went to the memorial service because everyone had plans already set. In a way, this felt selfish but in another way, some people had planes to catch. I made peace with it by saying that I would not expect other lieutenants from other companies to ruin their Thanksgiving plans if the roles were switched.

After we were let go, I went back to the barracks and got things ready until we were let go by the company. After we were let go, I went to the chowhall for a good meal. I knew that I would be on the road all day and would not want to spend the money on fast food on the go. When I came back, I loaded the truck and got on the road. After dropping off my cammies at the cleaners and grabbing a bottle of Mountain Dew, I headed for Richmond.

I was in a good mood and it was good to be on the road. I had plenty of time to et to the airport and I was looking at a 4-day weekend. The traffic was light and I enjoyed the trip. After getting through Richmond, I followed my plan. At a certain point, I went off my route and followed the signs to Lynchberg. I got held up in little towns but I got through and found my way towards Lynchberg.

As I was driving, I started seeing signs to Appomattox. I was wondering if it was the same place as where the Civil War ended and then thought, “How many could there be?” As I got closer, signs confirmed it and since I had time, I thought I would stop and get some pictures.

When I got to the place, I found out that “Appomatax Court House” was the name of the entire village. I turned into the little road that led to the sight and came up to a gate with a sign that said that it cost $2 to get in. I did not know if I wanted to pay but when I got up there, there was no one there and a sign in the window said that the buildings were closed for the holiday. But there was no gate or anything so I just went through and parked in the empty parking lot. It was off the road so I was literally the only one around. It was kind of eerie.

They had reconstructed the entire village to look exactly what it looked like back in the 1800s. I walked up the path and the feeling of being the absolutely only one in the area was strange. I took a picture of the courthouse and tried all of the doors. They were all locked, of course. I walked around and read all of the little signs in silence. It was like a ghost town and it felt strange to be alone in one of the most famous places in American history. I found a pamphlet and found out that the actual agreement signed between Grant and Lee was signed in a home and not in the court house at all. I took a walk to that house and looked around. It was real neat. The thought occurred to me that I could break a window and look around and no one would ever know. Of course, I didn’t but there was no one around to stop me. I left as silently as I arrived and chalked the experience to a strange trip into serendipity.

I got back on the road and finished my trip to Lynchberg. It was dark by then and I had about 45 minutes to spare. This surprised me because I thought that I would have hours to spare. I was worried how much it would cost to park my truck but it only ended up to be $4.25 per day so that was not too bad. Uncle Kenny bought me a ticket that cost over $100 so I was ahead of the game.

I checked in, got my ticket, and then relaxed while reading my book until we were called to board the plane. The plane was bigger than I expected and I got a seat with no one beside me. I was surprised that the ride was only 45 minutes and the trip was uneventful. I passed the time reading.

When we landed, I got off the plane and of course, Dad was nowhere to be found. I thought that he might be at baggage claim so I went there. It was a lot farther than I thought it would be and I looked for Dad the whole way. I got to baggage claim and got my bag but Dad was no where in sight. I waited for about ten minutes and then went to the information booth to have him paged. They announced his name on the intercom and I waited again, looking through the crowd for Dad. I spotted him talking to an airport worker and he turned away from me and started walking. I grabbed my bags and ran over to him. I did not want him to go up the escalator or go somewhere I would have to chase him down.

I caught up to him while he was looking at the screens, looking for my flight I just stood behind him and waited for him to look so I could surprise him.

Dad is looking old. He had on tennis shoes, blue jeans, and a hooded sweatshirt. His hair is a faded brown that almost looks orange and there is not much of it. He looks tired and wrinkled in the face. I felt bad to see him like that but was glad to see him. He turned and saw me and smiled while looking surprised. Instantly, he started telling me about how he could not find the arrivals. I told him that it was OK. Mark was circling around the loading zone and we went out to meet him.

We got into Mark’s jeep and went to Dad’s house. He lives in a house with three other men but one was out of town for the weekend so I got his room. It was cluttered but it had a queen-sized bed and a TV. I unloaded my stuff and we sat around and talked. I was under the control of what they wanted to do and what they wanted to do was drink. They said we would go over the Aunt Shirly’s in the morning. I had a few margarita’s which loosened my tongue and I told them how things were in Quantico.

Dad was sick and went to bed early. We had ordered Chinese food and Mark took me to get it. I was hungry and it was food to have food. Mark and I stayed up talking and Dad hit the rack. Mark reminds me a lot of Chris. He listened to my stories and seemed interested. I think the alcohol got to me and I went on but I think he liked the stories. I tried not to hog the conversation but every time he stopped, he would prompt me to continue. I told him all about my 20 mile hump and he said he was tired afterward just because of the way I explained it. I thought that was an excuse until he started talking about it the next day to everyone.

Mark went home and I got ready for bed. I was really looking forward to seeing everyone the next day.

Free Advice for Today:
Own a good thesaurus.”
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Tuesday, November 25, 1997

Quote of the Day:
“MARINES ASK NOT HOW MANY ENEMY THERE ARE BUT WHERE THEY ARE." 
- Unknown

Movement to Contact
Chow
Combat Orders II
Weapons turn-in

Free Advice for Today:
Own a good dictionary.”
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Monday, November 24, 1997

Quote of the Day:
“ONE FINDS MANY COMPANIONS FOR FOOD AND DRINK. BUT IN A
SERIOUS BUSINESS A MAN'S COMPANIONS ARE FEW.
"
 
- Unknown

I did it. It is over. I am fine and, I’ll say it again, it is over. Initial day and night patrols is now a memory.

I woke up rested and ready for the day. I was in my “mode” again and felt lucky that I was not picked to draw a special weapon for neither day nor night patrols. That meant a lot of things. First, I could get an extra half hour of rest. Second, I would not have to stand in the cold armory and lose my body heat the first thing in the morning. Third, I would not have to carry a heavier weapon than my M16 all day and night. Fourth, I would not have to be responsible for cleaning the damn thing. Only three of us out of the twenty somehow escaped all this torture.

They asked me to take over my ALICE pack so I could carry the night vision goggles but when I did, Aliniz just took the back and agreed to carry all of the goggles. I did not argue with him because I remembered carrying the radio on the last patrol and how tiring it was. I was intent to keep my load light today.

When I got over to the LZ, it was cold. It was only supposed to get up to 40 degrees and 23 degrees in the morning and night. No rain was expected and I was glad to see the stars which meant no clouds. Cold was bad but wet and cold would be Hell. We spent the morning rehearsing our patrol and trying to keep warm. We were not slated to leave until 1130 so we had many hours to stand around and suffer. I had many layers of clothing on and was doing fine. I had a pair of polypro sock liners, a pair of insulated socks, a pair of wool socks, and then braces on each ankle. My feet were still a bit cold but I had all my boot would hold. My hands were cold too but I had my hand warmer that went out about mid morning.

We did not go out with our captain but had Captain Buddahas. He was not as bad as we expected but we were all on our best behavior. About mid morning, about the time my heater went out, I learned that we would be inserted by helicopter. We would be the first to go and when we landed, would go right into the patrol.

About 1045, the helos came in and landed. At first, I thought that we were getting CH46 troop transports. These are Vietnam (more like Korean) era helos that have a tendency to fall out of the sky lately. I was not looking forward to the ride but then I found out that we were getting CH-53 heavy lift helos. They are fairly new and have a good reputation.

When the helos came in, it was almost a religious experience. You could hear them coming from miles out and I could not help but think how good that would sound to an infantryman and how bad to the enemy. As they came in, they were flying monsters. They looked like big powerful beasts and what medieval people must have imagined dragons to be like. They came in and carried with them a deafening roar as they sat down. We all had to turn away because of the dirt that was kicked up and I felt sand hit me. It was like being in a tornado except louder. When we turned around, there they were, on the ground with their rotors still spinning furiously. It had the effect of looking angry with their blades, 50 feet long apiece, spinning violently. It definitely exuded a sense of raw, brute, uncontrolled power.

Finally, they powered down and the crew came out. The mortal men who controlled such massive power. They gave a safety speech which I noted only consisted of what to do if the helo crashed. Not a great thing to limit your speech on. But it gave us a chance to see the outside of the bird and it was more impressive closer up. The thing was utterly huge. The blades were thick and the center spindle assembly was a complicated, intricate collection of bolts, wires, and metal. To think of the speed and torque produced, it is a wonder it doesn’t just fly apart. The rotor system looks deceptively delicate. On the side, the paint was a shiny green with the words “United States Marine Corps” proudly emblazed on it. It seems they want everyone to know who owns this magnificent specimen of power.

So after we stood back, they started them back up and they called our “stick” out to load. We ran single-file to the rear of the chopper which has a ramp. Running out there, I got a sudden sense of motivation. I was in cammies, loaded with combat supplies, carrying a rifle, and all cammied up. I was running into a helo and the world was an explosion of thumping sounds and blowing sand. All my senses were being bombarded at once and it was not hard to see what motivates the average Marine. I kept thinking of the Marines that went to save Captain O’Grady and how they must have felt. One of “Their’s” was out there and they were going to get them. He was an American trapped in a hostile land and it was up to them to get him out. I pretended I was on that team and actually felt a rush getting onto the bird.

We were told to point the muzzles of our rifles down, just in case a round cooks off it does not hit the rotors. I was carrying in with the muzzle up and was going to invert it before I got in. When I got close to the bird, one of the crewmen reached for me and I had no idea what he wanted. He grabbed my barrel and I realized that he wanted me to invert my weapon. This made me mad because I knew to do it and he was jumping the gun, as it were.

I got on and we sat in the jump seats. I got strapped in and before I knew it, we lifted off. I looked out and we were already 100 feet in the air. This is when I started disliking the ride. I do not enjoy flying any more and could only think about crashing. In a helo, your survival probability is extremely small. I could feel the dips but the most nerve-racking sensation was the side-slide where the whole helo would do an aerial “skid” and it felt like the back end of a car sliding on ice when the front still had traction. I hated that feeling.

The ride took about 15 minutes and the forest looked like a carpet. It was beautiful but I was never comfortable in the helo. I was so happy when we landed and it was time to go. when we got off, we ran, like an attack, and were supposed to get into the woods so that if the enemy was around, we would get away from the helo. We did this and as I ran, I almost fell. There were gopher holes full of water and I practically twisted my ankle getting past them. That would have been great, hurting myself on the insert.

We got in the woods and shortly after, we find out that we were put into the wrong LZ. All the plans we had made were shot but this did not surprise me. The pilots know this area like the back of their hand and do not even need a map. So if they put us in the wrong place, it was planned. This is the way they do things around here. I was just glad that I was neither in charge nor responsible for navigation. I was simply a body.

The day patrol went pretty good. Our entire section was involved and Buddahas stayed pretty hands-off. It went a lot smoother than our last patrol and while we were moving, we were not cold. We could not talk at all, in order to stay tactical, and you hardly saw anyone other than the few people close to you. So it was boring and a little lonely but I am used to that. We made contact twice, one right after the other. It was the standard attack and then rush past. Who knows how it would turn out if we had real ammo but at least we caught them unaware of us so we got the jump. As we rushed through each other, Mac passed me and we laughed at each other. I thought about “shooting” him but the SPCs were nearby so I didn’t.

After all of that, we just kept rummaging through the forest until we got to our extract LZ. We simulated boarding a chopper and then Buddahas debriefed us. I think we did good but of course he could not just come out and say it. He had to critique our conduct but he did say it “wasn’t bad. It wasn’t great, but not too bad.” Translated, we kicked ass!

The day was half done. I was tired and it was starting to get cold as the sun went down and we stopped moving. We had to build another terrain model, re-issue a new order, and get our new assignments. We then had to rehearse and wait until dark. As we waited, it got bone-chilling cold. We had gone through some water on the day patrol but my multi-layered sock system kept my foot dry. Others were not so lucky.

At this time, I got almost as cold as I had ever been. Everyone was miserable and then three things happened to make life better.

First, Sloan jokingly asked Linderdakis if she had an extra headsock scarf. What you have to understand is that Linderdakis is the kind of person who, no matter what the circumstances, would share anything she had with anyone and be cheery about it. She is also known for having extra stuff, “just in case.” Sloan’s question was funny because everyone was so cold that even if anyone had the forethought and willingness to carry extra gear, which meant extra weight to carry, they would surely be wearing it during this bitter cold evening. Well, Linderdakis said she had a ski mask that belonged to Arratia but he could use it. Sloan was so surprised that she had this, not expecting a positive reply when he jokingly asked the question, that he hesitated. He wanted that mask, as I did, but was polite by nature and hesitantly said no. She persisted that he could have it until he finally, gratefully accepted it. I was thinking how lucky he was to have it because I was in the depth of my suffering.

He put the mask on and we all laughed at him. It had a hole in the front for the eyes but then he remembered that he had to put his glasses on. He fumbled with it, laughing, and then I went over to hold the hole open for him. We all laughed again and then his glasses fogged up. I think he felt stupid with it on and because he could not see, took it off. I said I would take it and he threw it to me. I could not believe my luck. I put it on, felt stupid, but most importantly, felt warm. The mask traps the air you exhale and the warmth distributes around your head. I was not sure that Buddahas would let me wear it but he is from Florida and had a towel around his ears and neck. I had found a solution to my cold head!

The second stroke of luck was that I remembered that I had brought one of my heat packs. I took it out and discovered that there was a set of two in each pack, one for each hand, I opened them up and let the air activated the chemicals which produced the heat. I dropped them into my gloves and my hands were toasty. They last for over 7 hours and later, I threw away the still-warm packs back at the barracks. Now my head, body, and hands were warm.

The last stroke of luck was the rehearsals. Once we started moving, my feet warmed up and my warmth was complete. After rehearsals, we left and was on the move for the rest of the night. My warmth stayed for the rest of the night and I was not suffering as much as those who did not plan for the bitter cold. I felt lucky and as though I was getting over on being cold. I could not believe that it was 23 degrees and I had somehow planned correctly to keep warm yet mobile.

Night patrol was like night land nav but without a compass. You had to rely on the sounds of the other 19 lieutenants going through the woods. Again, I am glad that I had no responsibilities because night movements are a logistical nightmare. You cannot see a thing and you have to go from check point to check point, looking for anyone to fight, ready to walk into an ambush at any moment. Going through the woods at night is confusing, painful, and dangerous. I was worried about my ankles and had more than a few bushes poke me in the face. Luckily, only my eyes were exposed but they found their way in there anyway.

I realized that I was being helped. I thought about it and I discovered that I was walking though woods in pitch black, not knowing what is ahead or where I am placing each step, and on ankle so weak that it hurts to walk on smooth pavement during the day. Yet I was making it and did not twist an ankle at all. How I did it is unknown. I should have not been able to go 10 minutes like that but I did it for over four hours! There can be little doubt that the Lord was helping me. It was another one of those obvious miracles that I realized while they were happening.

Another thing I noticed is that I was being guided. I was the right flank along with another Marine. He had night vision goggles on so he could see better than I could. It was dark but not pitch black as stated above. You could see basic outlines but the smaller branches were invisible to me. I stayed on track by following Lt Thomas, the other flank. Most of the time, he led and I would key off of his troubles. Sometimes, he would get caught up in heavy vegetation, hit a log with his shin, or just have a hard crossing. A lot of times I would try to find another way around to avoid these troubles. The funny thing was is that I gave it to the Lord and let him guide me. There were times where one way was just as unknown as the next and I would sense to go a certain way. Every time, this way was clear and I would avoid an obstacle that Thomas was fighting and would be on the other side waiting for him. This happen so often that it had to be more than chance. Sometimes, I would lift my foot high for no reason and as I put it down, I would feel a large log that I could not see brush the back of my calf so that I was straddling it. There was no way of seeing it yet my leg went over it on its own. I thanked the Lord out loud when this would happen. I was smiling by the end. Even Thomas, with NVGs (Night Vision Goggles) and all, had a harder time that me without any technological aid.

One time we had to cross a stream, called a linear danger area, and we were the last to cross. As we waited on the near bank, guarding the other’s crossing, we could hear them fall in the water. One after the other, we heard their fall and the resulting splash and I knew they were going to be wet and cold for the rest of the patrol. By this time, I knew the Lord was helping me and I KNEW I was not going to get wet. I absolutely, without a doubt, knew it for a fact. I could not see the water but just knew it in my heart. We were about 50 yards down from the others and when it was our turn, we got up and went to the bank. It dropped off a bit but there was only about 5 inches of water and it was only about 3 feet wide. I almost laughed out loud and we crossed without a drop getting on us. Like I said, I knew it before I could have.

One time, I got lost and it scared the bejeebies out of me. I had gotten separated from Thomas and was paralleling the group. We came up to a very large tree that had fallen and I went on one side, the others on the other side. I followed the tree and they got out of sight as the woods obstructed my view. I thought I would get around the tree and hook back up with them. But the tree jutted out in a weird direction and the overgrowth prevented my from hooking right back up. I kept trying to get past it but I could not get to the other side. By now, I could not hear anyone anymore and was getting worried. Meanwhile, the group, unaware of my dilemma, changed direction away from me. I finally got to the other side and no one was around. I stopped to listen and did not hear a thing. Suddenly, I was all alone in the woods without a map and compass. I could not have found my way out in a month of Sundays. Panic set in and I bolted in the direction I guessed they were at.

It is hard to describe what it felt like. I was scared that I had gotten myself lost and had no idea what to do if I was. We had been briefed but I must admit that I did not pay attention too well because I was so cold. There I was, alone, and confused. As I rushed back, I somehow found the patrol and fell into place. They never knew what happened and I was going to make sure it did not happen again. It really taught me a lesson about how tenuous a situation we were in and how dependent I was on these people.

The last example was right near the last LZ by the end of our patrol. We were to the side and saw that the main body was going into a thicket of briar bushes. We watched them go in and could hear that they were struggling to get through really thick, thorny bushes. Thomas took a look around and saw a clear path to the side. We went over there and it went exactly parallel to the patrol that was being cut up in the bush. We just stood there and waited. I pulled out my sunflower seeds and ate them while we waited. It was almost funny because we could see the whole thing and could do nothing but wait until they got through. I had the thought that Thomas was lucky to be with me because the Lord was guiding me through and had kept me away from injury and too much discomfort. They finally made it through and we advanced to the LZ, happy that the patrol was over. We had not made any enemy contact during the entire evolution.

The debrief went about the same as the first one. I was glad to see that Buddahas was as cold as the rest of us. It did not help our attention span when the truck showed up half way through. All we wanted to do was load that truck and go home. We finally got onto the truck but had to go back to a point at Combat Village, where we do urban patrolling training, to get rid of our ammo. We got there and I was surprised how many people were already there. I thought we had gotten done early but it seemed that most of the company was already there.

It was cold getting out of that truck because even though it had no heat, we were packed in tight and the body warmth was bliss. We got out and had to wait. We thought we would be going back to base soon but ended up waiting over an hour while the others got precedence. Buddahas had politely volunteered us to stay. We wanted to choke him. passed the time by walking up and down the road. Most of the others got in a huddle and talked. I set myself apart and kept pacing. Once again, I was not part of the crowd but they were too immature for me. I was in no mood for childish conversation. I paced and paced and paced.....

I was getting downright cold. Everyone else was starting to react to the cold and I realized they were in worse shape than I was. I knew that if I could get back, I would be OK but my ability to cope with the cold was deteriorating. Theirs was more quickly deteriorating and I hoped I could outlast them. People were downright miserable and I held steady.

Finally, we got a truck but another section was already on it. We crammed in and had to sit literally on top of each other. I was sitting, backed into the open legs of Lt C. Lt. Linderdakis was in front of me but I had my legs to the side. Open-legged would be a little personal with a female in front of me. Half-way home, C starts farting and the smell literally gagged me. After the third one, I lost my temper and gave him a good tongue-lashing. His farts really, really smelled.

The ride home was COLD. It took about a half hour and the wind whipped through the back where we were at. It was bitter cold and we were crammed in. My legs fell asleep and foot started cramping. The cold was unbearable. By the time we got to base, we were all numb.

We got off the truck and I was so glad that I did not have a SAW nor an M203 grenade launcher. I was so cold that I did not care about anything but getting warm. They had told us that those without issued weapons could go back to the barracks while the others turned in their weapons.

But they had a surprise for us. When we were waiting to get into the LZ, I knew that I should not come back with any blanks. I took all of the ones I had not shot and threw them into the woods. Sure enough, we had to turn in all unused ammo and they wanted us to put them on stripper clips, ten to a clip. We could not believe that it was 2300, we were tired and frozen and they were asking us to do something in the cold that took manual dexterity. It was so ridiculous that it was funny. Luckily after 5 minutes, we ran out of clips and that was all we could do. The second that Arnone told us we could go, I was gone like a bolt of lightning.

I raced back to the barracks and started the hot water to the shower. I took all of my layers off and was so happy to be warm. I had a message on the machine from Uncle Kenny telling me that he got me a ticket out of Lynchburg for the weekend holiday. I could not believe it but he gave me all the info. I was delighted but I would have been delighted at anything in a warm barracks room.

I got the cammie paint off and took a long hot shower. I cleaned up and made some noodles. I cleaned up and started to clean my rifle. The others were still at the armory and I was surprised that it was taking so long. I knew they would be pissed but I really did not care. Souliere was the first to come in and as I expected, he was not bothered. He is pretty laid back in these regards. He had twisted his ankle during the day and his ankle looked like a softball. He got some ice on it and I kept cleaning my rifle.

Pretty soon, Acu came in and told us that one of the captains was pissed and wanted the entire company at the armory. I was in my sweats and my rifle was totally torn apart. I said OK, and did not argue. I was just thankful that I gotten a chance to get warm and clean. I was willing to go out but then Acu came back in and said that they had canceled it and we did not have to go. I went back to cleaning my rifle. I was happy that it was over and I was warm. Nothing could change that.

We finally had a meeting and a little word was passed. I once again lucked out because all of those with the armory weapons had to show up early in the morning to clean them. I was starting to feel self-conscious because everyone was getting shafted except me. I volunteered to clean Sloan’s weapon in the morning since he was assisting in the armory weapons. But I would still get the better part of the deal because I would be in the warm barracks room cleaning instead of the breezy outdoor armory cleaning area in the cold morning hours. God had been good to me.

I hopped into the rack even before everyone was gone. I felt lucky that they had long rides home and had to wake up early to come in and even earlier to make the trip while I slept here close by. After all the years of commuting, I finally got a break and was asleep before they even left... warm, comfortable, and content. The day was finally over.

Free Advice for Today:
Get your next pet from the animal shelter.”
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Sunday, November 23, 1997

Quote of the Day:
“IF WE LAUGH AT HONOR AND INTEGRITY WE SHOULDN'T BE SURPRISED TO FIND BUMS IN OUR MIDST." 
- Unknown

I slept a lot last night. I woke up at 0730 and took one of the longest pisses ever. I only write this because it was so surprising. Normally, I do not do this and it did not seem all that urgent at the time. But once I started, Wow! I guess it was the water with dinner last night. But there are few feeling as good as taking such a piss and then being able to go back to bed. I think that is why I slept so long.

I woke up just after 0900 but did not feel the urge to get up. I rolled over and before I knew it, it was after 1000. I felt guilty and thought I should get up even though there was nothing pressing to do. Before I could pull myself out of bed, it was almost 1030.

I was groggy but though I had better do something. I had played with the idea of seeing another movie and it seemed like a good idea. I called up and found out that there was a Sunday matinee at 1340 of The Man Who Knew Too Little, the Bill Murray film I thought about seeing yesterday. I decided to go.

I got ready and went to chow. I have discovered that if I do not eat brunch on Sunday morning, I usually forget to eat all day and become weak at the end of the day. I bought a paper because I could not get through to the theater at the big mall and wanted to know what else was on. I also thought it was time I started keeping up with the news and have missed reading the paper. So I ate breakfast and read about the UN inspectors in Iraq. Suddam blinked and I love it.

After I ate, I went to the exchange to get a haircut. There was a long line so I did what I had done a lot of lately...window-shopped. I just love looking at all of the Christmas stuff and do not even mind that it isn’t even Thanksgiving time yet. The Christmas stuff is neat and reminds me that I am going home soon.

After my haircut, I went back to the barracks and read some of the paper before I had to leave for the movie. I had bought some treats to sneak in and had to grab my coat. I was in a good mood and was having a good weekend even though I was having very little contact with anyone. It was one of those weekends I needed to myself.

The movie was pretty good and I laughed. It was not an Oscar winner but it was fun. I did not want it to end, not just because it was a good show but because I had nothing else to do. I went home, did laundry, and did a few things around the room waiting to hear from Carrie. She had left a message on the machine and I wanted to get a few things done before I talked to her. I finally called her and we talked.

Our conversation seemed a little stiff and once again, I found it amazing that so much of my time is spent looking forward to these conversations and then they fall flat. I liked talking to her and the kids were great. But it comes to a point where we have nothing to say because we do not have much in common being apart. Not to mention Carrie gets these entries and knows everything there is to say about what is going on. The funny thing is that I begin to miss her again when we hang up and there is an empty feeling to the rest of the night.

I spent the rest of the evening getting ready for the patrol tomorrow. I washed my clothes and put them away. Everything is ready and I will try to get some good sleep. Tomorrow is going to be a rough one and I need all of the rest that I can get.

Sloan came in at one point and I am afraid that I was not very friendly. He wanted to get some of his stuff ready for tomorrow. He tried to make conversation but I was mostly silent. I just wanted to be alone and did not want any more invasions into my privacy this weekend. He got what he had to do done and left. Things were back to “normal” after that.

My dad called like he said but he was late. I was not surprised. He gave me some directions and said they were looking forward to seeing me. He told me that I had to get to I77 and to get off 95. After the conversation, I got my atlas and discovered that 95 did not come anywhere near 77. This told me he did not do much research on it which again, did not surprise me. So I sat down and mapped out my route. It will take 7 hours if I can average 60 miles per hour. Hopefully I can get out of here by noon to get there in a decent hour. It will be good to get to see family during Thanksgiving.

This week is short and easy, all except for tomorrow. If I can get past that, I am home free for the week.

Free Advice for Today:
Patronize drug stores with soda fountains.”
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Saturday, November 22, 1997

Quote of the Day:
“NEVER LOOK BACK, UNLESS YOU INTEND TO GO THAT WAY." 
- Unknown

This mornings was one of those mornings that started off bad. I was awoken at 0830 by the sound of someone coming into my room. At first, I thought it was the duty checking the rifles but then whoever it was came inside and let the door shut. I figured it was not A since we had had it out about him coming into the room when he was not supposed to be here. It turned out to be S and I was a little more than a little peeved that he was here.

I thought that he might just be swimming or PTing and was just here to grab his clothes. It was enough to piss me off but I could let it slide until Monday. I heard him go into the bathroom and it was not long before I realized he was taking a dump. This made me even more mad because not only was he in MY room early on a Saturday, but he was smelling up my bathroom and then would just leave. This made me more irate but I was still willing to let him get the Hell out and I could get over it.

He then comes into the room and hops in the rack above me and that tore it. “What are you doing here?” I asked. He said that he was going to crash for a couple of hours and asked if that was OK. “Hell no, it is not OK. On the weekends, this room ceases to be a common area and becomes my room. It is no different than if I walked right into your apartment uninvited!” I could not believe he thought he could just come in and lay his stupid ass out in my room as though it was a flop house. He got ready and left and I told him that I did not want to be an ass about it but this is my only sanctuary and common courtesy would dictate that he respect my privacy on the week end. He said he was agreed to give Shiazawa a ride to Annapolis and that she would be calling. So now he was giving out my number as his message service. He left and I got up. What a piece of work.

My goal for the day was to get the truck tires fixed and I called around to find the nearest Sears. I found one but it was about 25 miles away. I got ready, took a shower, made some coffee, and after getting some donuts, headed out to Manassas.

I got there and everything went smooth with getting the truck in. We had a six-month warranty on the alignment so they did that along with rotating and balancing the tires. I also had them fix the slow leak in one of the tires. They said it would be about three hours so I had time to look around the mall.

This was an enjoyable day and I wandered around the mall, content in just being out and looking at all of the Christmas stuff. It felt good to be anonymous and did not see any other military types and did not have to worry about running into anyone I did not want to talk to. I had had enough with Marines and needed to get away. This mall was just what I needed.

I looked around for about an hour and a half and then decided to kill the last half of my wait by going and seeing a movie. I had promised my dad that I would watch The Jackal with him at Thanksgiving and that is what I wanted to see. I thought about seeing a Bill Murry movie but decided to go see Mortal Combat II which ended up being a big mistake. If I would have seen the first one, I would have never seen the second one. It was one of the dumbest movies I have ever seen and if I had anything else to do, I would have walked out on it before the first half. It was simply awful. The acting was bad, the story was weak, and it was just the lamest show I had ever sat through. I was so glad when it was over.

I did a little more window shopping before I went back to Sears and went into Walden books. I always get motivated to start new things when I go into the bookstore but I know that I am over my head just by being at TBS. I was looking at computer magazines and software books. I would like to have the time to learn a programming language but have to be realistic about the time constraints here.

I then looked at a book called Butterfly Kisses which was a book about the song and the author. It said something about the conversations between a father and a daughter. Just thumbing through it made my eyes water up and I had to put it down. As I walked to Sears, I had to fight to keep my eyes dry. It was not a place I wanted to show emotion and I had to really strive to keep control.

I got the truck and everything went fine, without costing a penny. It was a good thing because I did not have much with me, forgot the checkbook, and did not have my Sears card with me. I drove home and enjoyed the drive through the beautiful countryside.

Utz had called last night and invited me to dinner. I called him back this morning and we made plans for me to come over at 1900. When I got back to my room, I had a couple of hours and I thought that I would treat myself by reading a bit from Tim Allen’s Don’t Stand Too Close To a Naked Man. It is okay and it was nice to do some light reading for once.

I stopped by the store and bought Tonya some flowers. I was a little late but I was glad to see friends and looked forward to spending a relaxing Saturday night with good friends. Tonya made Caesar’s salad, lasagna, and garlic bread. It was a wonderful dinner and there was a lot of it so I gorged myself, of course. I could nit even eat the brownies she had made for desert but managed to eat a bowl of ice cream.

We had a good talk after dinner and talked about life in Quantico and how TBS and OIC was going. It was a great evening and I made my exit at about 2230, as I could tell that Utz was tired. I showed my appreciation for the evening and made them promise that we would do it again before they left. He graduates next month and I will miss him even though I have not been able to see much of him while I have been here.

I came home and will try to get to sleep so I can get some good work done tomorrow. I assume that Leon is out in Georgetown tonight and I can not think of any place I would more less like to be at right now. That scene is best left to the desperate and I have better things to do with my time that pissing the night away. Spending it with good friends is much better.

Free Advice for Today:
Don't mistake kindness for weakness.”
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Friday, November 21, 1997

Quote of the Day:
“EVEN A BROKEN CLOCK IS RIGHT TWICE A DAY." 
- Unknown

I got up early and printed my 3-page homework assignment. I still did not feel confident with it but it was the best I could do and figured it was going to better than most.

As I suspected, S came in and busily scribbled on a piece of paper, the start of his assignment. It was not surprising that he had not even attempted to do it and a fresh wave of hate and contempt fell over me for him. He is just utterly unsat.

We went to the class and went to the sandtables. It was an order about setting up a defensive position and the sandtable was set up to reflect the scenario. The captain picked Lt C at random and it was obvious he had not done a thing. He stumbled around and bullshitted his way through the best he could. The captain then turned to me and asked what I had. I asked him if he wanted me to read the entire thing because what I had was long. He looked at me and it occurred to me that not even he had put any work into it to prepare for the class. I read the first few paragraphs of what I had and did not know if it was what he wanted. He then started talking about the fundamentals and in effect, let everyone off the hook. He is not one to punk someone out and I think he was trying to get a feel for how much work the section put into it.

It made me mad because I could look around and see that no one had bothered to do much work. I knew last night that I was one of a very few who took it seriously and now, once again, they all got away with it. This enforces their slack attitude and now know they can get away with it. Therefore, it will continue. I listened to the brief and added my comments but most people just keyed off the captain and threw in some buzzwords to make it look like they actually knew what was going on. The entire thing made me sick.

After the class, we had chow. We did not have much time so I went to my room and had some soup. Luckily, everyone else went straight to the chowhall and so I was able to enjoy a meal alone in my disillusioned state.

After chow, we had a strange class called Commander’s Intent. The concept is what the commander wants the overall endstate to be with a mission. He gives the guidelines and the result and lets the small unit leaders decide how they will get it done. But the major that taught it was one of those instructors that yelled and appeared to illicit conflict. I did not enjoy being talked down to once again and looked forward to the end of the class.

This class had a twist because they had this new computer program that played battles and you could manipulate the players. They were testing it out and the major seemed to want to combine the class with showing this technology. All he accomplished was running out of time. He had the computers set up and there were about five civilians that ran it in the classroom with us. It made me see the way things are around here from a civilian perspective. I realized that it looks real crazy here if you are not used to it.

First, there is a lot of noise before the class starts and people are everywhere. Everyone has shaven heads and are wearing the exact same outfit. Then one of them stands up and yells “Take your seats, Echo,” which results in 238 people sitting down. Then the leader stands up and reports the company. Everyone stands up and you are in a room with 238 people yet you can hear a pin drop. The leader turns around and says, “Seats, Echo!” and everyone sits down. Then the condescending officer starts teaching the class as though he hates us. We are all sitting there listening, no one talking, no one goofing off.

It must be a weird thing for a civilian to see. A college professor would be dumbfounded.

After the class, we went back to our rooms. We were supposed to have patrol prep for Monday’s patrol but all that consisted of is all of us going out into the quad for a half hour and briefly going over it. We have Captain B so it should be a scream-fest on Monday. We inadequately went over how things were going to go and then we all went back to our rooms. I helped get MREs offloaded from a truck and then S and I grabbed two cases for our room and the one next to us.

We dumped them out and separated them. We invited the two female lieutenants over to the room and we did a round robin pick. We each took one in turn so that it would be fair. There are some that suck so you try to get as many of the ones that you like. We took turns and the ones that were left towards the end was the frankfurters. When A’s turn came around, who had been bitching the entire time, he grabbed one. But when they had separated them, someone had accidentally put the 6s and the 9s together. So what he thought was frankfurters ended up being chow mein, a real good one. We grabbed more and at the end, A thought he got another bad one and it ends up he got another chow mein. I asked what he wanted to trade for it and I did not have anything that he liked. He had no “bad” ones and he knew that I really liked the chow meins. He would not trade them and there was not a damn thing I could do about it. It was one of the most selfish things I had ever seen and I will not soon forget it. There is a saying around here that goes “There is no ‘i’ in ‘TEAM.’” Well, A was pretty busy dotting his “I.”

After awhile we were secured and I went for a three mile run. The endurance course is coming up and my PT has been pitiful lately. I did not want to but knew I had to. When I was returning, I saw that there was some section out in LZ-7 practicing patrol. I was so glad that I was not in that section and was happy to be free. We were one of the first sections the be set free.

It was about 1600 and I decided a nap was in order. I crashed for awhile and it felt good. I woke up at 1730 and got up to eat chow. I felt like going out and Leon planned to go out with Shep and they invited me out. I ate dinner at the chowhall and then came back to the barracks. Of course, Shepard was being Shepard. He was waiting to be counseled by his SPC and asked me to wait. I did not want to but he did not know how to get to Leon’s house. I told him to hurry and then I realized that I could throw back a few beers because he was driving. I went to the store and picked up a six-pack. When I got back to the room, it was about 1845 and Shep said that he would be ready at 1900. I knew this not to be true and I drank a couple of beers while answering email. At about 1920, Shep came by, still in his uniform, making a handful of excuses of why he was not ready. I told him to hurry and get changed over and we would go.

We got on the road and he needed gas. He always needs gas and is one of those people who put just enough in their cars to get by rather than filling it up. The little things were already starting to bother me about him.

We got to Leon’s house and he was already feeling no pain. Acu was sulking on the couch and we did not say much to each other. I downed a couple more beers and we were off. I was a little disappointed to learn that we were going to Georgetown and as I predicted, we got lost trying to get there. We had to stop to get directions but finally made it.

When we got in, there were a few people that we knew who were throwing a bachelor party for another lieutenant. He had a bowling ball connected to his leg and a really ugly hat on. It was kind of funny. They had got to a strip club before hand. They were all pretty drunk and I got to get into conversations with lieutenants I did not even know who acted like we were good buddies.

I had a couple of beers but soon, the alcohol wore off and the hour got late. I was tired of the 5 to 1 men to women ratio resulting in all my buddies getting shot down in flames. It infuriated me that even with all of their faults, they were heads and shoulders above the civilian losers that the girls opted for. I got tired of all this, along with the smoke, the music, the dark, and the attitudes. I wanted to go home but alas, I was not in control. Leon was once again unsuccessfully looking for girls and Shep was out on the dance floor acting like a fool. I wallflowered for awhile and then went to see if they wanted to go home. Of course, I got the old “10 minutes” answer and about 40 minutes later, we finally left. I had gotten into one of my moods and just wanted to get home.

Leon crashed right away. Shep was tired and his driving even when awake bothered me. As we got closer to Leon’s, he asked if I wanted to spend the night there. I said I did not. He wanted to crash at a friend’s house nearby and said he was too tired to drive home. I said I wanted to go home. We dropped off Leon and headed toward base, with similar moods...pissed.

Shep drives like a moron. And because of his incredible lack of discipline, being tired equaled a dangerous situation. He was weaving all over the road and I had to keep reminding him to wake his stupid ass up. I had had too much to drink to think about driving so I had to endure. His speed fluctuated between 50 and 70 and he almost hit a semi. I was getting madder and madder by the moment. When we got off the highway, he almost ran off the road at the offramp. I told him he had better watch it because he was going to get pulled over. His shitty driving continued and when he would have to take a turn, he would almost stop. When we got on base, I had to tell him to slow down or the MPs would surely pull him over. I could not get out of his car fast enough and was so mad that I really did not care if he made it home ok. He sped off the second I shut the door and I cussed him as I walked in my room.

I had pissed another night away and that was the last one I would let happen like that.

Free Advice for Today:
Never ask a barber if you need a haircut.”
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Thursday, November 20, 1997

Quote of the Day:
“THE BEST CURE FOR INSOMNIA IS A MONDAY STAFF MEETING." 
- Unknown

Today we took a test and I awoke early to study for it. I had a little run-in with A because he showed up two hours before on-deck time. I was pissed when I opened the door (he still does not have a key) and explained to him that this was bullshit and I needed my morning time to myself. That is the reason I wake up so early and now he was invading this time. He explained that his power got turned off because he did not know he had to pay for electricity. I thought this was ridiculous but after I cooled off, I told him that he could stay. He was pissed and said he did not need my sympathy. He got his stuff and went to someone else’s room, Lt Craig, I think.

I felt pretty good about the test and decided that I knew the material as well as I was ever going to know it. The test went fine and after we graded it, I had missed only two which gave me a 94%. I was glad to once again score well on a graded event and to have another one behind me.

It was an easy morning because after the test, we had chow. I have not been too physical lately and realized that I had to start training on my own again. I am still hovering under 180 but my gut is coming back. That means that I am losing muscle mass and the endurance course is coming up.

After chow, we had once class, tactical planning III. It was an easy class and afterwards we had SPC time. I tried to talk to Acu but he would not talk so I told him it was fine if he wanted to be pissed at him and returned his silence.

During SPC time, there was no real direction on what to do. Because it was Thursday, I knew we had to field day the room. Souliere wanted to run and Acu was still pouting. As I started to clean, Lt Arratia came in and said we had clean-up duty today. We had to clean the company area and I started looking for brooms and swabs. Acu and Souliere grabbed the easy job of sweeping and then disappeared, of course. Linderdakis and I were stuck with swabbing and it took us a good 45 minutes to compete. At one point Acu stepped out of the room with a bag of chips in his hands and asked Linderdakis something. This pissed me off because he was doing nothing, Souliere was running, and we were stuck with the brunt of the work.

By the time we were done, I was pissed. When I went into the room, no one was there so I started cleaning. When Acu and Souliere got back, I was pissed into silence. I thought they would take the hint and start cleaning but I was wrong. They could not put together the obvious and I had to tell them to start cleaning. Acu swept the floor and then left. Sloan was talking to the captain and Souliere was icing his ankle. I kept cleaning and Souliere said he would take care of the floor. When he went out to get the bucket, I reswept and got more dirt off the deck than Acu had gotten up. When Acu got back, I asked him if he was going to bother to help clean the room. His response was that he had swept. I told him that I had cleaned the entire head, dusted, and reswept the room. He said that Sloan had told him to sweep and I gave up. He did not live here and did not give a shit. He did his minimum, and rather poorly at that, and did not stop to consider that the work he did not do, we had to do it.

By this time I was seeing red and had to go outside before I exploded. As I was outside, Barney found me and told me that the captain wanted me to get into my alphas for inspection for fit and then I would get my command evaluation. This was the worst time but I had no choice.

When I got into the room, everyone was there and I did not say anything to anybody. Souliere was swabbing so I had to get dressed on a wet floor. I was pissed, hot, sweaty, and trying to get into my alphas. I did and went to see the captain.

He inspected me and told me to go down to the tailors and have the waist taken in and the trousers lowered. After this, I was to come back for my command eval. I went to the tailor and then gave the uniform to them after changing back over into cammies. I waited outside the captain’s door for a half-hour and then ran to my room to get a pen and organizer. I guess that when I was done, the person that had been in there had left and I did not know it. I stood out there for another 20 minutes before he called to me and he did not know I was waiting. It was kind of funny.

The purpose of the command eval is to go over the peer evals and give you your overall command eval grade. He made a little small talk and then got down to business. It was as bad as I expected. My “peers” really stuck it to me. I knew it would be this way after being section leader. My popularity was not at an all time high but the captain understood this. Regardless, it was a little disheartening to give something everything you got and then having it crammed up your ass by the people you were really trying to help. They rated me 18 out of 20. The captain rated me 9th so combined, I came out with 12 out of 20. He showed me all the formulas and math that go into figuring out a command score. It starts with 92% because it is based on a Bell curve. My score came out to be an 84.4% which was not too bad.

The captain and the CO both had good things to say about me in their comments and the only thing that the captain said was that I might want to work on my people skills. Some of the one-word descriptions that I got was blunt, rude, caustic, selfish, condescending, springbutt (which I could not believe since I hardly speak up in class, but it was only one), stubborn, and arrogant. I told him that I lean toward the extreme in keeping good order and that they did not like that. He said it was a leadership challenge to work with people like that and it was up to me to find a way to work with them despite their attitudes or personalities. I told him this was one of the most difficult things I have done here and I have not been all that successful, as evident in my rating.

After all this was done, I went to my room and we were secured. Acu said nothing, just left. They had finished cleaning and the carpet was back in the room. I had made them take it out to beat because it was so nasty. It also helped when we cleaned the floor. So everything was set and everyone left. I was happy to have my room back and had time to think.

We had a sandtable exercise in the morning and we had some homework to get ready for it. It was the only thing that I had to do so I sat down and looked through the pubs to get it done. Two things came to mind as I was doing this. First, it was going to take a lot more time and effort that it first seemed. Second, that almost no one would put the work into it and that made it hard to do it right. I also knew they would get away with it and it felt like I wasted two hours of work but we would see.

I got things ready for the next day and got into the rack early. I had a hard time falling asleep and I thought about the day’s events. It made me mad that I had done what I thought was right and after getting slammed for it, considered changing my actions. But then it occurred to me that reversing myself was the wrong thing to do. They did not WANT to be led and I was strong enough to hold their feet to the fire. Of course they would not like that and the only way the childish idiots could get back at me was to spear me during the evals, yet more proof of their immaturity. So I took it but if anyone expects me to “lighten up,” they do not know me very well. Yes, I will be unpopular with the “in” crowd, but it has always be that way. I will chose the harder road and become the enforcer of what is right. After all, I have to look in the mirror every morning and what they think of me is not as important as what I think of myself. I will do the right thing and if they do not like me for it, so be it.

Free Advice for Today:
Answer the easy questions first.”
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Wednesday, November 19, 1997

Quote of the Day:
“NOTHING MAKES A PERSON MORE PRODUCTIVE THAN A LAST MINUTE TASKING." 
- Unknown

I talked to my dad last night. The same old song and dance from him about how he was going to call and that he did not have my number. We started talking and I dropped a few hints about how my birthday went and he finally caught on and asked when my birthday was. I told him November 5th and he said it totally slipped by him. He said that we would celebrate it when I come down for Thanksgiving. Seems a lot “slips” by him including seeing his only granddaughter for the first time, his only grandson since he was one year old, and watching his youngest son graduate college, become a Marine Corps officer, and renew his wedding vows.

On a better note, this morning was the big straw pull. I was 48th in the company and 25th in the pick since air contracts and lawyers do not compete. I was a little nervous about it but I realized there was nothing I could do about it so I just stood in line and read some handouts about defensive fundamentals. They lined us all up in the hall in our lineal order. With 238 people in the hallway there was no way for it to be quiet except to forbid any talking. But the student company staff did not have the guts to forbid talking and kept having to say, in their weak words, “Keep it down to a dull roar.” When this obviously did not work, the CO, Major Gumpert came out and for the first time ever yelled at us with a fury that was up to now unseen. It was a really sad scene and of course, you could hear a pin drop afterwards.

When my turn came up to go into the room, I entered and looked at the board. All of the available MOSs were labeled and there were nails under each on that corresponded to the number of slots for the third you were a part of. When I found 0602, I saw that there was one nail left and I was so relieved. As I left, I heard the XO announce that 0602 was now closed. I said a little thank you prayer and life was good again.

I went back to my room and studied some more. I felt good and the day was an easy one. I went to supply to get another e-tool since I had broken my other one. I asked for some tent poles as I had lost mine but they said I would have to go to a surplus store and get them replaced or I could fill out a mountain of paperwork for the missing gear statement.

I went to chow with Acu and had a good meal. I have to stop skipping breakfast because then I gorge myself during lunch and am miserable afterwards. I went back to my rack and finished a little reading and then got a ten minute nap before the class.

The class was rather boring, an hour and a half on defensive fundamentals. Afterwards we had an hour review of the test on engineering, aviation, and NBC tomorrow. After this, we were secured and the easy day was coming to a close. But we had a lecture to go to tonight and had a few hours before we loaded the bus. I tried to do a little studying, talked to A, and basically relaxed. We were going to go and get some coffee but noticed that the chow hall had just opened and decided to go and eat. I was in my dress-up clothes and we sat down for a good meal. It was fun to have a nice, relaxing afternoon when everything was going well.

After we ate, Acu had to get gas for his car and I wanted to go to the store. We went to the gas station and then to the store where I got more coffee and some sugar. Got to keep those vices up to date!

We bussed to the lecture which took place at the FBI academy. We were herded into a large auditorium and listened to a long, boring speech by a congressman from Missouri. Afterwards when it was question and answer, a few ballsy colonels and majors ask some pretty pointed questions and it was a little embarrassing. Let a lieutenant ask some of the same questions. It was the only interesting part of the whole night. Last year, it was George Bush who was speaking. THAT would have been a great lecture I would never forget.

When I got home, I called Carrie and we had a good talk. Scott and Kristine were over there eating spaghetti. Stephanie told me about her getting her ears pierced and she was so proud. Carrie said she wanted them done even after Carrie told her it would hurt a little. When they did the first one, she jumped but did not cry. After the second one, her eyes welled up and Carrie told her it was ok to cry if it hurt. Big tears rolled down her cheeks but she did not sob. She just buried her little face in grandma’s shoulder and afterwards was so very proud of her ears. I would have loved to have been there but there probably be big tears rolling down my cheeks as well.

It was good to talk to them and I got a chance to talk to Scott and Kristine also. When I asked Alex who I was talking to, he answered matter-of-factly, “Alex Grose.” I ask Scott if Alex ever explains stuff or has anything to say. I could hear Alex the Chatterbox in the background.

I will go to bed and get up early to study. I will get a lot of good sleep again tonight and I am thankful for that and all of the other gifts in my life that the Lord is constantly reminded me of.

Free Advice for Today:
Keep your promises.”
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Tuesday, November 18, 1997

Quote of the Day:
“WHAT IS LEFT WHEN HONOR IS LOST?" 
- Unknown

Land navigation at the Basic School is OVER!!! What a day! It started after a bad night’s sleep and an early wake up call.

Chris called a half hour after I went to sleep and I was so out of it that I thought it was the alarm. Somehow I knew it was him and I wanted to talk to him even though I had rushed to get into the rack. It seemed to take forever because I had some much to do but I got into bed at 2230. I talked to Chris for a half hour and it was fun to talk to him. I missed being around family and a familiar voice was good to hear.

When I woke up this morning, I was scared. The day was going to be a rough one and I did not how I would handle disappointment if things went drastically wrong. I pushed the snooze a few times but realized I could not put it off much longer. Suddenly, like often happens on big days like these, I was wide awake and ready to work. Nervous energy kicked in and I was a machine. I jumped out of bed and was a whirlwind of motion. I went through my morning routine fluidly, flowing from one thing to the next and I made an effort to do everything efficiently. I flew from one thing to another and everything was going fine. I got into that mode and I am not tired but nervous. I felt a calm rush over me as I naturally transitioned from one task to the next. It was a good sign.

When the others got in here, they said it was cold. The forecast was for clear skies and a high of 50 degrees. I brought a warming layer and wore my wooly pully. I had a little coffee for a boost but mostly drank water that I knew I would need over the day.

When I left my room, I told myself that I was as ready as I was going to be. I got a motivating email from Carrie that carried my spirits. I knew she would be praying for me and I said a few of my own. I tried to think of all the things that the Lord has carried me through since I have been here and reminded myself that He had not let me down once when I had asked for help. I tried not to be nervous and tried to have faith that He would bring me through this, too.

We got to the classroom and the XO had some words to say about how the company was running. I was so nervous that I paid little attention and just wanted to get this thing started. I noticed that the protractor I was using was a real piece of crap. I had lost mine a while back and Fought had given me an extra one. I had never used it before and did not know it was messed up. The measurements for the grid coordinates were not cut straight so my plots would be off. There was nothing I could do about it and I worried about it.

When we got our cards, I was a little taken aback because we had to find ten boxes in 7 hours. That was the most boxes we had ever had and it was in an area we had never been to. I took a deep breath and plotted each one carefully. I tried to compensate for the bad protractor but it introduced a certain amount of doubt in my mind which was not good when you are land navigating. They changed one of my points and it put it way out in the middle of no where, away from all of my other points. I doubt if I would even get a chance to look for it but I knew I only had to get 7 to pass.

After we plotted the points, we loaded the busses. It was 12 miles from base and you had a certain place, depending on your card, where you were to be dropped off. I had a pretty good set of points close together so I was pretty happy with the card. The drop off point was a little far from my first point and I considered staying on the bus and going to the next drop-off point but deciding against it because I did not know if there would be someone there to enforce it. I got off the bus and no one was there. Oh well.

I walked to my first step off point because I did not want to wear myself out and I was a little unsure how my ankle would hold up. My first point was supposed to be easy because it was near a road. I planned to get it quick which would be a big confidence boost. I went to where I thought it was and I looked for a long time without success. I scoured the area and took more time than I should have and still came up empty handed. I was upset and could not believe it was starting like this. I looked and looked and there was a point where you know you should get on to the next one but you had invested so much time that to walk away would seem like defeat. I finally gave up and said that I would try to get the others and come back to this one. This was not the greatest start.

I ran to my next point because I knew I had to make up some time. I went looking for the box and my pace count led me right to the box. This boosted my confidence because it was right on and at the distance I expected. It was an easy box because it was at the top of a hill and once I saw the hill, I knew it would not be hard to find. I wasted no time and went to my third box.

This was a hard box because there was nothing near it to identify its location. It was kind of in the middle of no where and way too far away from the second box to try to shoot an azimuth from. I had to do a fair amount of running to get near it and when I paced off an attack point from a road, I was unsure if I was right. Sometimes you have to depend on a pacecount on a linear feature and hope you and where you think you are. When I got near the box, I knew I was not going to find it. The brush was thick and I knew I had gotten off track a couple of times. The lay of the land was hilly so it was hard to tell exactly where you were at. I knew I could be way off and had to throw in the towel on this one.

Up to this point, I was not feeling good about my performance. It was 2 1/2 hours into the session and I had only found 1 out of the first 3 that I needed. I could only drop three and I had wasted two already. These were supposed to be the easy ones, too. I was legitimately scared. At this point, I thought I had had it and contemplated what I was going to do when I did not pass. It was a bad situation.

The next box was quite a ways off and it took me awhile to get to it. I was increasingly nervous but felt a lot better when I found the box. I actually came across it as I was following a river and my pace was off. I hit it 100 meters short of what I expected and it made me nervous that it might be the wrong one. I took the time to finish out my count and sure enough, there was no box around there So I went back and recorded the info from the box. This brought my total to 2 and I was still skittish. But the good thing was that my next few boxes were close enough to shoot “box to box” which means that once you find one, you shoot an azimuth to the next one because you know the exact location of the box you are on. You are not supposed to do this but everyone does. It makes it so much easier and I had not been able to do it up until this time.

But it also has a big risk involved. If you have the wrong box to begin with, you are screwed because you will never find the other one. And if you do not find the other one, you do not know where you are at to find the one after that. The good thing is that if you find the second one, that pretty much verifies that both boxes were correct. I was willing to take that chance at this point.

The next box I found by pure luck. I followed what I though was a good azimuth and pace count but it was off. What I have learned is that no matter how off you think you are, you finish out your pace count and then go from there. I did that and then headed off in a direction where I thought I had drifted from and I went really far, further than I though possible to drift. Suddenly, the box was there and I was so happy. Box #3 and it did not take long at all. I was starting to feel better but time was still against me.

I shot to my next box and had little trouble finding it. I remembered that I had a white trash bag in my butt pack and it hit me what to do. When my pace count gave out, I took out the bag and tied it around a tree. Then I went searching around the area and knew where I had started. I searched and searched and searched. I looked everywhere and the familiar feeling of helplessness set in. I was starting to stress and could not find the box. I started thinking about what Carrie had said and tried to relax. I knew she had faith in me and to her, it was a foregone conclusion that I was going to do this. I started praying and thinking again about all the trials and tribulations the Lord had carried me through. I tried real hard to let go of my worries and let the Lord take over. I thought about the things I thought I would never get through and how the Lord had stepped in and taken over. I told myself that I had to have faith because He had never let me down before. It was so hard to let go and I did the best I could. If I ran into the box right when I made these thoughts, I probably would have screamed. But somehow I knew He would led me there. I remembered back to Saudi when I gave to worry of the lost laundry to Him and when I got back from the store, the laundry was sitting on my rack as I stood there in utter disbelief.

I would have given up but I saw another lieutenant looking around. We knew we were both looking for the same box and so without a word said, looked round some more. Then I ran into yet another lieutenant and we all three looked. It kept me there because I knew the box had to be around if all three of us were in the general area. We looked and looked and looked...

Here is where it got weird. I gave up the search when I found my trash bag and decided to go on to the next box. I could not figure out why the Lord had not shown me the box after I had made such an effort to give him the problem. I was a little confused but I thought that He would have his own way of getting me through this, although I had no idea what that would be because that was the third missed box.

I untied the bag from the tree, put it into my pocket, got a new azimuth and pace count to my next box, lined up, and raised my foot for the first step. Suddenly I heard a cough to my right and heard some movement. I looked but saw nothing. For a moment, I was in a dilemma. Should I check it out or should I go. I was packed and ready to go and did not want to waste any more time on this box because I had already spent double the time I was supposed to. Common sense would dictate that I just leave.

Suddenly, I decided what the heck. I tied the bag back on the tree and decided to take one quick look. I walked over to where I heard the cough and low and behold there were two lieutenants standing by A RED BOX!!!! I could not believe my eyes. We had combed this whole area for almost an hour and it was less than 50 meters from where I had originally stopped.

There was no other explanation to this other than God helping. I gave Him the problem and He came through at the last minute. It was one of those spooky moments and I smiled at the vivid proof that, for some reason, God loves me. To see that love in action is something that simply amazed me. I knew at that point, without doubt, that I was being watched over and I would pass this test. I still had three boxes to find in order to pass but after this, I knew I was as good as done.

I shot an azimuth to my next point and when my pace count gave out, I tied the bag to a tree and for some reason, headed forward and right. Again, there was no particular reason why I should pick this direction. I went about 50 meters and I saw a lieutenant in the distance and he looked right at me. Right then, he turned his head to his left and seemed to see something. He headed that way and when something like that happens, you tend to follow because you are both looking for the same box. When I got to where I had originally seen him, I looked over and there he was standing next to a box. Again, I was flabbergasted because it was like the Lord had placed him right at that original point to catch my eye and then guided to the box where I would follow. Another vivid sign. When I walked up to him, he said, “You must be good luck because right when I saw you, I looked over and saw the box.” I smiled because I knew the reason. It was like a special day for me and I was the center of attention. The Lord was even using other people for my benefit. It was simply amazing. This made box number 6 and one closer to the magic #7.

The next box was too far away to go box to box. I had a long trip ahead of my but I was well ahead of the game. I decided not to go for the long outlying box and just get the #7 and then go and try to get the other two I had missed in the morning.

The 7th box was easy because it was only 200 meters off a main junction. It took me two tries but I found it and I had to smile ear to ear when I saw what represented a passing score. I wanted one more for cushion but I was on top of the world at this point. At first, when I was trying to do it by myself, I was failing miserably. Then when God took over, suddenly the boxes were jumping out at me. It was like I knew where they were before I got to them.

After #7, I had a very, very long run to get back to the other two. My ankle was hurting, my legs were tired, and all I had eaten was a few snacks over the day and had neglected to drink enough water. In short, I felt like crap but I passed.

I was full of confidence when I started looking for the second box I had given up on. I found it in record time and was amazed at my ability to find a box that I could not find earlier in the morning. I knew why and an 8th box practically assured me of a passing score. I still had a little under an hour to go look for the first box I could not find and it was right near the pick up point. The great thing bout it was that I did not absolutely need it, which took off the pressure. I went to look for it and found it even though my plot was way off. I found it in an area I had wandered into as a result of looking everywhere I thought it should be. The only place left were the places I did not think it was. That is where I found it and I would have never had found it if I stuck by using my map. I conferred later with another lieutenant who had the point plotted the same as mine. He never found it.

So there I was, 9 out of the 10 boxes found and at the start I thought I did not even have a chance to even get the minimum of seven. I was in shock and happy at the same time. I know that the Lord is the only one who can take credit for this and I do not doubt that statement even for a second. It is kind of obvious and I wondered how I could NOT see that. I found it strange that the Lord would be so obvious with His help. Usually you don’t even realize He is helping you but today, it was as though He had His hand on my shoulder. It seemed that obvious today.

When we got back, it ends up that one of my boxes was wrong which I did not expect because the boxes are so spread out that if you find one in the area, it is usually the one you are looking for. So I ended up with an 80% and I was just fine with that. Obviously, my mood was good for the rest of the night.

We got back to the Q and the lineal list was up. It was based solely on academics and I was 48 out of 238. I was happy with that and a bit surprised. I am at the top 20% mark. That made a good day better. The command eval, the highest contributor to your standing, was not included in that score so it might even get higher. Captain Whiteside likes me and I think he will give me a high leadership grade so maybe I can edge up to the upper part of the upper 1/3 instead of being in the middle of it. Still, middle of the upper 1/3 is a good place to start, and to end for that matter!!

After we were secured, Acu hung out in the room to work on the cruisebook. I took a long shower and then decided to go and eat my Tuesday night Happy Meals. I wanted to be alone so I ate them in the truck. I wanted to go to WalMart so did not want to make two trips. I ate the food and then had fun just walking around Walmart looking at the Christmas stuff. I bought a candle and a cheap Christmas CD for $3.00. When I returned, Acu was gone and I prepped for tomorrow.

I have a lot to think about and to be thankful for today. I kept thinking that all the prayers that my family says for me really had an effect today. Talk about getting some answers to prayers, they were all addressed today and I must be thankful to the Lord and to all of those that take time to ask the Lord to help me. As down on myself I get most days, I must realize that I am loved by the Lord and am so very lucky to have a family like the one I got.

Free Advice for Today:
Don't trust your memory; write it down.”
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Monday, November 17, 1997

Quote of the Day:
“A BAD PEACE IS WORSE THAN WAR." 
- Unknown

Wow. What a day. You accomplish one thing and right away, you have to start preparing, and for me, stressing, about the next event. But I did get a small breather tonight before the land nav final tomorrow.

I awoke to the familiar sounds of the barracks coming alive. The deck above me obviously had an event at 0600 because starting at about 0530, the banging, slamming, thumping, and assorted other sounds filled the air. I was slightly annoyed but as I had hoped, it all quieted down at about 0605. I was amazingly awake and was anticipating my alarm. I was going to get up at 0630 but as habit would dictate, I got up at 0645 even though I could have gotten up at 0615. Oh well, it was a decent night’s sleep.

I got up and got ready and then studied for the law test we had first thing. I was not too confident but never am around test time. The good thing about this one was that it was open book and open note. Too bad I had no notes. I tabbed my book and was comfortable with the organization. I looked it over until it was time to go.

The test was 50 questions, multiple-choice, and we had two hours to complete it. I spazed out a little on the first ten questions, leaving a few of them blank and feeling iffy about the rest. But once I got into the routine, it became easier. I was feeling pretty good about it but was not taking anything for granted. I researched every question and went slowly, skipping over all questions that were not completely obvious. I then went back and with a fresh view, were easier to answer. I checked and rechecked until time was called and handed in the test.

We went over the test afterwards and I was happy that I had only missed two which gave me a 96%. That made me feel great an then it was chow time. But we only had 45 minutes so I went back to my room, content to eat a left-over 7-layer burrito and some chips. Mac came by and we chatted about nothing at all.

After chow, we had two classes about helicopters and were then secured early. As part of the class, the instructor showed us a 15-minute clip from Apocalypse Now and I was probably one of the few lieutenants that was not motivated by it and was disturbed at the destruction caused in the clip. It was an helo assault on a village in Vietnam. Everyone was hooping it up but it made me sick. The more waves of disgust I get from these incidents, the less I feel I am in the right business. It is really started to bother me to face up to what we are in the business to do and I did not know if I have the stomach for it.

After class, we were secured to our room waiting for the company to secure. We got word that we had to make cards of our MOS choices for the straw pull on Weds. We got secured and I went to get a map for tomorrow’s land nav. I stopped in the coffee shop to kill some time and think. Shep showed up but I did not stay long. I wanted to get a good meal at the chow hall for energy tomorrow. I went back to base and did just that.

I sat alone in the chowhall and had a turkey dinner. It was good and I realized that I am quite the loner and wonder what others think of that. The thought occurred to me that if someone were to ask me why I do not like to be around people, my answer would be that I do but those people are my wife and my kids. Since they are not here, I would rather be alone most of the time. I was content but a little lonely as I ate my dinner.

As I was finishing, another Marine from my company, Lt Bodison, joined me. I do not think we had even ever said hello but we started talking. We talked about MOSs and he, too, did not want infantry. It was refreshing to talk to him and I realized that there are people worth meeting here and I have been shutting everyone out.

After I ate, I went to my room and started working on my MOS list. I ended up going into the training office where Lt Boucher was standing post. We ended up talking about MOSs and then the conversation spread to our desires as far as the Marine Corps goes. He is a prior and is older than I am. He was an MSG guard and is interested in the intel field. I found out that I am not. We had a good conversation and I told him what I wanted, minimal deployments, technical field, etc. He understood and it was a good time.

I went back to my room and completed my list. Here were my choices:

1. Communication/Information Systems
2. Aviation Supply
3. Logistics
4. Public Affairs
5. Adjutant
6. Aviation Maintenance
7. Ground Supply
8. Air Intelligence
9. Air Support Control
10. Military Police
11. Air Defense Control
12. Signals Intelligence
13. Air Traffic Control
14. Motor Transport
15. Financial Management
16. Artillery
17. Engineering
18. Armor (Tanks)
19. Human Intelligence
20. Surface-to-Air Weapons
21. AAV Officer
22. Student Naval Flight Officer

We had to pick 22 and it was hard to even put down the lower half since I do not want them. I completely left off infantry and ground intelligence.

After I finished, I got things ready for tomorrow and tried to relax. Tomorrow is going to be a rough one and I will try to get 7 hours of sleep. I have done all I can do to prepare so now it is up to the Lord to see me through. My ankle was feeling a lot better with the brace on today and the weather is supposed to be better than today...and today’s was wonderful. It is supposed to be 50 degrees and clear all day which is perfect when you are doing physical work all day outside. Hopefully, these are signs that help from above will pull me through.

Free Advice for Today:
Put love notes in your child's lunch box.
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Saturday, November 15, 1997

Quote of the Day:
“YOU ONLY GET ONE CHANCE TO MAKE A FIRST IMPRESSION." 
- Unknown

Not a great night’s sleep. My body was sore and the futon did not help matters. I remember Leon leaving and then Acu after him. Acu left me a key in case I wanted to leave and I finally awoke at 0900 in a puddle of sweat. The temperature fluctuations in their house are pretty wide but I have no complaints. To me, it is depressing to wake up alone in the Q but waking up alone in a house is.... a little less depressing. At least I could turn over and turn on a TV and I was alone with cable. What bliss!!

I intended to only stay awhile and watch TV and then go back to the Q to try for once to get an early start on homework. What I really needed to do was go land naving but my ankle made that impossible. When I got on it, it was evident that I was in no way able to do anything physical. But the thought of going back to a lonely room on base had no appeal. I watched some videos and then decided to go get something to eat.

It was good to get out and it was a strange feeling to have access to an apartment that was not mine and know it WAS mine for most of the day. I went searching around for a grocery store and pushing the clutch as I shifted was an experience in pain management. I found a store, got some donuts, and then stopped at a 7-11 for some coffee. I got back to the apartment and settled in for a decadent breakfast and a few hours of video bliss with the tapes Carrie sent. First up was ER and I had a good time sitting alone without any interruptions watching one of my favorite shows. I went on to finish the tape.

Over the next few hours, I watched videos and VH-1 to my hearts content. I expected them to be home around noon but Leon did not show up until after 1430. I was wondering where they were at and was getting lonely and guilty for sitting on my duff all day long. My body needed the rest but I was starting to get sore by just sitting around. My ankle was not doing all that great and I stayed off it as much as I could.

Leon came back but he was not in a great mood. We went to 7-11 to get some coffee and I went just to get out. He was expecting some friends from NYC and they showed up. I was not that impressed with them, one looking like a punk and having no shave and tattoos all over his arms. They were going to Georgetown and Leon tried to get me to go but I declined. I ended up going home, getting some Taco Bell, and caught up on some writing before going to bed. After being alone all day, it was strange that I wanted to go back to my room instead of going out. But the thought of being on my feet in a smoke-filled bar while spending too much money was not appealing.

Free Advice for Today:
Listen to your children.
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Friday, November 14, 1997

Quote of the Day:
“A CLEAN DISK IS A HAPPY DISK." 
- Unknown

The big day. The good thing is that I made it. God bless America, I made it through the final hump today: 20 miles of misery. The bad thing is that it cost me another couple of weeks of ankle pain. Yes, I went a-rollin’ on my bad ankle. But....I finished.

I got a full eight hours of sleep last night and my body woke up at 0515. It is a good thing because I had the time on my clock set for AM when it should have been set for PM. So my alarm did not go off. I awoke an hour after I went to bed having to go to the bathroom, a result of water-loading. I felt like I had been sleeping for hours and it was only 2230. After I fell back asleep, the very next sensation was my head jerking up to see the clock at 0515. I wondered why my alarm had not gone off at 0503. Yes, I still figure in a couple of pushes of the snooze bar. People think it is funny when I set me watch alarm as well as my clock but I believe in redundancy and it would have paid off this morning if my body did not do the job.

I got up and wanted to take a hot shower to loosen up the joints for the hump. Of course, there was no hot water this morning so I skipped the shower and did an extra long set of stretches. I had coffee and pop tarts, the breakfast of champions, and got ready for the hump.

We got the nickname of “Fair-Weather Echo” because every time we do a field evolution, the weather is more than generous. Today was no exception. It rained like Armageddon last night but stopped by morning. It was between 40 and 45 degrees throughout the entire hump and the only precipitation we had was a light mist, literally a mist, to cool us off. It was awesome.

We went about 3.5 miles per hour for 50 minutes and then would stop for a ten-minute break. The first two legs were so easy it was scary. I knew I would be dying by the end but the first six did not even phase me. I had been worried because we have been so busy lately that I had slacked back on my PT and was not as confident with my endurance as I was a month ago. So it was looking good.

About 40 minutes into the third leg, I was humping along, feeling good. The two lieutenants behind me were trading riddles and I knew the answer, waiting for the other one to figure it out. I remember feeling smug that I knew the answer. We were on a smooth, level path and had gone over some rough terrain. I was glad to be past it because it made me nervous. I had both ankles taped and had taken the precaution of taking an 800 mg tablet of motrin before the hump.

Suddenly, I felt the familiar (As I am writing this, remembering the moment, I had to stop and cringe. My stomach hurts now.) giving of my ankle as it rolled, touching the ground. It happened so quick and all my weight was on it. I as much heard as FELT the same sound as knuckles being cracked. I started falling left, trying to absorb the sudden loss of support. I reached out and grabbed Lt Sloan’s pack who was in front of me. Instantly, I was white hot with anger. It hurt, and it hurt bad. But my first thought was “I AM GOING TO FINISH THIS HUMP. I WILL WALK ON BLOODY STUMPS AND BROKEN FRAGMENTS IF I HAVE TO!!!” I was angry at my ankles for being weak and for betraying me. The first couple of steps sent waves of dizziness up to my head. Sweat beaded on my forehead and started running down my face. I cussed loudly at my ankle and had the irrational attitude that I would go on if only to make the ankle hurt more as punishment for rolling. I knew that if I could keep going, it would be OK until I stopped. I looked up and saw Sloan was about 15 feet ahead of me. I limped forward and caught up. After the anger subsided, the fear hit and I wondered how bad it was. I knew I had over 12 miles to go and I was now struggling. I remember vividly saying out loud, almost accusingly, “Ok, God, it is on you now. It’s all yours and it’s up to You.” Then, I started dreading the break. Sitting down for 10 minutes could mean I could not get back on it. It was the only break on the entire hump, in any of the humps we had here, that I dreaded.

We stopped and I sat down heavily. The leather on my boot was pushed out comically. It looked ridiculous. I took off the boot and loosened the velcro straps of the brace. I did not have the guts to take off the sock and look at the ankle. With the boot off, the ankle swelled like a balloon. I could literally see it growing and knew I had better get the boot on while I still could. I cranked down on the straps as tight as I could. This had the effect of more bolts of pain shooting up my spine and into my brain. My vision momentarily wavered and the black edges crept in like a camera shudder slowly closing to the beat of my heart. I knew this was less than good and took a deep breath. I drank some water and finished the job. I slipped on the boot and pulled as hard as I could on the laces. I knew I had to get it tight because it was the only support that I would have for the rest of the hump.

When they called out the two minute mark, I very ungracefully got to my feet, or should I say my foot. I got up and then put pressure on my bad left foot and I was dismayed to feel a new level of pain explode where my ankle once was. I shouldn’t go on about the pain but I wondered if will alone was going to be enough. At least the support was there but the pain kept taking my breath away. I threw on my pack in a cloud of sheer agony and we began our 10th mile.

After about 10 minutes, the pain started to subside. I knew from experience that the endorphins in my body combined with the loosening of the ankle would help my cause. now I had an entire set of new worries. Of course there was the fact that if I rolled it again, I was done and would probably break it. I also worried about the other ankle which was just as weak. Too much attention to one ankle could cause me to roll the other one. Then there was the worry about the muscles in the opposite leg. You hump differently when you are hurt and you compensate the hurt leg with the strength of the one not hurt. After awhile this unequal distribution wears and tears the good leg and you end up damaging your “good” leg worse than the “bad” one. Again, this knowledge comes from unfortunate experience, experience I wish I did not have.

On a hump this length, little annoyances become horrible sources of pain. If you have a small lump in your pack that pokes at your back, it will be like a spear by mile 10. Things you do not even feel at first become obviously apparent as the march goes on. By the end, you feel as though you are wearing a suit of stick pins and all your muscles are screaming.

At about mile 15, things started to go from bad to worse. Up to then, I was doing as well as can be expected, alternating from stiff pain at the start of every leg, turning to numbness, and finally during the last 15 minutes, back pain that would make a donkey cry. Then at mile 15, the muscles in my right leg started to rebel. The way I had to hump was almost laughable. I could not straighten my knees because I could not put my ankle down first, like a normal stride, and roll to my toes. I had to land flat-footed every step. I also had a groove so if the line stopped for some reason, I could not just stop and wait. If I stopped, I literally stopped. To get going again was a feat in of itself. It was funny to me that I was going 20 miles but could not have made a turn to save my life.

My hamstring was starting to cramp and we were at about mile 18. For just a moment, I got scared and I mean really scared. My hamstring was twisting just a little on every stride and I thought, “Fuck no! Not two miles out.” The thing I was most scared of was that I would physically shut down and no amount of intestinal fortitude would matter.

So at this time, the start of each leg was marked by unthinkable ankle pain. The middle was fear for further injury and leg cramps. The end was intense back and foot pain. I wondered if I was the only one going through these tests and I can guess that I was not. But I was scared. The last leg was 4 miles instead of three because we were in woods were the water trucks could not get to us. That had really messed me up because the path was full of rocks, roots, and sucking mud all covered in a bed of fallen leaves. The mental pressure was palpable. It felt like a mine field to me.

Now we had just over 4 miles to go and I wondered if we would break again on schedule or just go on and finish since we were so close. I really did not know if I could have made the rest of the way without another break, just coming off a 4 mile leg. I was almost moved to tears and we crested a hill and I saw the water trucks and the jugs dispersed along the road. I said to myself, “I am going to make it now.”

After the break, I popped a piece of candy in my mouth for a sugar boost. My body was in such trauma that it felt awkward to walk. I was throwing painful slabs of flesh that used to be my feet in front of me. My arms layed listlessly at my side because any movement would cause an instantaneous reprisal from the muscles of my back. My hands were swollen and looked like surgical gloves blown up like a balloon. All the blood was forced down by the shoulder straps of the pack. I was quite a sight but after 5 minutes, we turned the final corner and could see the last mile and a half straight away that happened to be the PFT course.

A couple of minutes later, we saw a van on the side of the road and there was a woman with a video camera. I knew what was coming and wondered if anyone else did. In the distance I heard the faint notes of something I had been anticipating for months. I thought I might be hearing things and then I saw it. Right in the middle of the road there was a man. He was wearing a green woolly pully, a kilt, and a beret. In his arms he held the source of the most incredible sound I had ever heard. He was marching toward us playing the a tune on the bag pipes he was carrying and the emotion rippled down the columns like a wave. Suddenly, we were engulfed in the gut-wrenching sounds of a bag-pipe player giving everything he had for every last Marine in the company. It was about 45 degrees with a light mist and this wonderful man in uniform was blowing his heart out, ignoring the fact that it was cold and wet. Our section was the first in the company. As he played for us, I could not help but become misty-eyed. It was the end of one of the most mentally and physically demanding things I had ever done and I had overcome a personal battle that I gave myself the credit of guessing few people could endure. The lonely, noble sounds of the bagpipes in the a cold, wet, cloudy day after 20 miles of pain was too much to bear. I only hoped no one would see me but I think that no one dared looking around for the same fear I had.

For as long as I could hear those pipes, as he was fading back between the columns, my ankle ceased to hurt. I walked tall and proud and for a moment, I felt superior. I had endured and succeeded. The feeling was short-lived because as soon as the notes left, the pain returned. We still had 1/2 mile to go and one might say that it was ONLY 1/2 mile to go but to me, it might as well been 100 miles. Every part of my body started shutting down at once. I fell back a few feet and had to grit my teeth and surge forward to stay up. I was suddenly aware of my foot pain, my legs suddenly cramped, and my back started spasming. For the second time on the hump, I yelled in my head “I WILL FINISH THIS HUMP!” There is no other way to explain it but to say that I got pissed. I flexed every muscle in my body and forced my body to work. We finally got to the finish line and, of course, were held back for congratulations from the CO. I had made it.

No one was the slightest bit interested it what the CO had to say. As I mentioned before, the groove allowed me to stumble in a straight line but standing there in a school circle was a test in equilibrium that I almost failed. The CO called us to attention and I thought the old man had lost his marbles. Then, the bagpiper stepped forward and for the love of God played the most stunning version of the Marine’s Hymn that I ever heard. This time, I was staring into the face of half the company who were in the school circle. Never in my career had I ever heard such an emotional version of the hymn and from the looks on the faces I saw, it was taking its toll. I was hoping that my feelings were not as crystal clear as those on the faces that I was looking at. Needless to say, it motivated the company and once again, I felt no pain while standing ram-rod stiff.

We were secured and the captain took us aside and told us that land nav practice was not mandatory tomorrow and that was good news. I would have had to ask his permission to not go because of my ankle but I dreaded it. Weakness is not something you want to broadcast here.

After cleaning my boots, I went to my room and I was glad mine was on the ground floor. I peeled of my layers in a disgusting, pitiful display of uncoordinated lunges until I was naked. I hobbled over to the shower and turned it on, praying for hot water. He compromised by giving me warm water which was good enough. The shower felt good and I could feel the layer of filth wash off my body. It was really over.

I got out and got into a fresh set of cammies. We have learned that liberty usually takes about an hour after the last evolution and I had mail to deliver. It was funny because all I thought about in the last 7 hours was getting off my feet but if I did at this point, I would be out for the count. Plus, I wanted to be seen, cleaned up and on the move with fresh cammies. The only people running around, or should I say hobbling, was student staff and they still had their scummy cammies on. I got more than a few raised eyebrows as I ran around trying to get the other mail reps to get their mail out to their sections. I was getting mad because I ended up both delivering a large amount of the mail and rounding up reps. It took about an hour and when I went into my room, all my roommates were dressed in civilian cloths and told me we were secured. I was glad and after they left, I settled into my rack for a two-hour nap. I layed there and every muscle in my body hurt. I was so tired but the pain was keeping me awake despite the motrin I took. Finally I more fainted that fell asleep.

An hour later, I was awoken by a knock at the door. I had expected Leon so I yelled to come in. It ended up being a gunny’s little boy selling candy. I told him I did not need any and after he left, I could not get back to sleep. I got up and cleaned up the room, which my roommates had so thoughtfully left a dustpan-full of dirt all over. Finally, Leon called and told me to come over. I told him I would be over after I ran some errands.

I took over my sleeping bag, my pillow, and some clothes. There were four beers I had left over there and I knew that after the hump and four beers, I would not be in any shape to drive home. They live 1/2 hour away and I usually spend one if not both weekend nights on their futon.

When I got there, I discovered two surprising things. First, both Acu and Leon were in worse shape than I was, except for the ankle, of course. Leon could not even get up to give me the phone to call for pizza. The second thing was that I had a weird energy. Acu asked me why I was so energetic and I told him I had no clue. I must have looked like some weird Superman to them but I felt like when I stopped, I would shut down for the count, so I kept moving.

We ordered pizza and I had all four beers. Both of them stumbled to their respective rooms and were crashed by 2130. I watched TV until almost midnight. Again, I have no idea why a 20 mile death march, a busted ankle, half a pizza, and four beers did not take me to the mat before then. In a word, I was content.

Free Advice for Today:
Don't ever watch hot dogs or sausage being made.
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Thursday, November 13, 1997

Quote of the Day:
“DON'T CONFUSE ME WITH THE FACTS. MY MIND IS MADE UP." 
- Unknown

Today was an easy day. I got about 7 hours of sleep but was sleepy all day. Acu came in right when I woke up, not a good time to catch me. He did not know what the on-deck time was so he got here early. I decided not to take a shower, opting for a little more sleep which never came.

We had peer evals the first thing in the morning. Before we went, I plugged away at the fitreps that I owed the captain. They were a real pain in the ass.

We had already filled out the sheet last night for the peer eval so it was just a matter of entering the data on the computer. I felt kind of bad what I had to give but I had to be honest. The problem was separating how I felt professionally about them and what I thought of them personally. There were people that I liked but had to rank low because of their professional behavior. Then there were those who I detested personally but had to rate high because they had displayed professional aptitude. Some people I had only minimal contact with and if it was bad, I had no other way to rate them. I knew they were not messed up and did not want the captain to think they do bad things all of the time but we could only choose from a list of words, one word that described them. I tried to be honest with my evaluation and I know I probably got slammed after my less-than-popular stint as section leader.

After the peer evals, we went to the armory to draw our rifles. It is good to be in section 1A because we are first in line for everything. We got our rifles and was secured until 1000 which gave us an hour and a half. I worked on the fit reps and was glad for the time.

At 1000, we had an anti-mechanized warfare class which means the weapons that destroy things like tanks and bunkers. We learned about the LAW, the SMAW, the DRAGON, the JAVELIN, and a few others. They were pretty awesome weapons but like most things these days, I was sickened by the destruction and death they cause. I do not enjoy the weaponry classes very much.

I was so sleepy during this class which surprised me due to the amount of sleep I had gotten and the lack of anything strenuous lately. I barely made it through class and we had chow afterwards. We only had an hour and I went to the chowhall with Acu and Leon. We had a good lunch with good conversation. We had the mixer after lunch but first had to go to the MOS briefs.

We went to the briefs and it consisted of sitting in a warm room after chow and listen to a parade of officers come up and talk about their MOS’s. It was very important and was looking forward to this but it was so long and boring. I had to fight to stay awake and so did the rest of the company.

The big event was afterwards when we got to talk to them one on one. I talked to the DP/COMM officer and we had a good conversation. He talked a long time and I told him my situation. He explained that I could probably get out of deploying depending on the unit I went to but his explanation of what is involved in the MOS strengthened my desire to pick it.

The other MOS’s that interested me was Public Affairs Officer, Aviation Supply Officer, Logistics, and Adjutant. I found out later that we have to put at least one combat arms MOS on our top 5 but I will get around that by putting down something that is highly sought after and has few slots, such as tanks.

After the mixer, I went back to the room and Acu was there stressing about having to see the captain. Leon called after Acu went in and we talked for awhile on the phone. Acu came back looking none too happy and we all three held a conversation with Leon on the other end of the phone. It ends up that the captain had canceled their meeting but it did not get passed and the captain pulled the old, “As long as you are here, what did you think of the mixer?” The captain proceeded to babble on and all Acu wanted to do was get home. It was funny on our end of it.

Leon wanted to go out for dinner but I told him I did not have money. I wanted to get out of the room and I had the time so I went over to his house and we went out to Red Robin. I had some fries and he ate. Afterwards, we went back to his place, talked awhile, and then I came home. I want to get plenty of sleep because the 20 mile hump is first thing in the morning. Thank God it will be the last and it is the only thing on the schedule.

Free Advice for Today:
When faced with a serious medical problem, seek at least three medical opinions.
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Wednesday, November 12, 1997

Quote of the Day:
“GET THE FACTS FIRST; YOU CAN DISTORT THEM LATER." 
- Unknown

Today was stressful because I had a test and to make things worse, it was at the end of the day so I had to think about it all day. I had procrastinated studying for it all day yesterday and only gave a minimal amount today and that was panic studying. No matter how many times I went over the material, I knew I would not do well on the test.

We had a peer eval class today and to add to the stress of the day, I had not completed a worksheet on machine guns. I wanted so bad to copy the answers from one of my roommates but I knew this was wrong. I knew it would be pretty hypocritical to even ask so I did the best I could before class but was getting frustrated when the answers were not forthcoming. I searched and searched but it was taking too long so I decided to take the hit. I just hoped they would not ask for it like they sometimes don’t. So first thing in the morning, I had to deal with a test I was not ready for at the end of the day and a worksheet I could not finish in time. My mood reflected these situations.

After the peer eval overview, we were supposed to have a machine gun class but before it started, the instructor introduced a Korean War veteran who was a sergeant major and who had seen a lot of action. We gave his a standing ovation after he was introduced with a short explanation of who he was and what he had done. I had seen him in the hall but was unaware who he was. Now I wish I would have said hello.

He was an older man with a big gut, grey crewcut, and a big, vein-pocked nose. But when he spoke of his experiences, he remembered them like they happened yesterday and he was immensely interesting to listen two. He kept us all in awe with quite a few humorous anecdotes intertwined in some serious stories. He told of holding a Japanese soldier at bayonet-point while his buddy tried to cut off the satchels of explosives he had on him. The soldier thought the American was going to stab him and grabbed the blade. He slit the Jap’s face right down the center and the sergeant major gave him a butt-stroke. They carried him back to the CP.

Another time, two Japanese just boldly walked up to their lines and the sergeant major was so shocked that he did not exactly know if they were enemy. He hid until they got 4 feet away and then popped up commanding them to halt. Just then, someone from behind him opened fire and as a reaction, the sergeant major opened up and killed them both at point blank range. It ended up they were Chinese colonels and if they could have taken them alive, they would have had tons of intel from the enemy.

Another time, a Chinese soldier came up to their lines much like the last story. The sergeant major was so surprised that by the time he realized what had happened, he had a gun in his stomach. He hit it away and dived away and the men behind him killed the soldier. They presented him with the enemy rifle that should have killed him and a few days later, he went berserk and took it outside and beat it on the ground until it was in pieces. Who would blame him?

One last memorable story he told was that he was in a heavy firefight when he heard what sounded like a grenade. After yelling incoming, his buddy behind him told him he had just dropped his clip from his rifle and it was the exact sound a grenade makes when it lands near you. They went on fighting and minutes later, he reached down and found a grenade that had landed 11 inches from him and the tip was frozen therefore stopping it from exploding. It was not the clip but an actual grenade that landed the same time his buddy had dropped his clip. Talk about having God on your side!

It was an incredible speech and we gave him a heart-felt ovation as he left. The last thing he said to us will stay with me forever. He got serious and said, “The Marine Corps is my life.” His eyes watered up instantly and he did his best to continue with this challenge with all the emotion you could imagine, “Take care of your men and they will follow you to Hell and back.” It was the most incredible thing I had ever heard and you could tell that he was pleading with us to learn well and to lead the future Marines. You could also tell he was thinking of those men who fought and died with him in Korea. In one photo he showed, he pointed out himself and also his brother. He never said but I do not think his brother ever made it back.

After all of this, the machine gun class was kind of anti-climatic. The captains had a lot of energy and was entertaining. They used water rifles to show what they were talking about and I was glad I got but only a little water on me. Others were not as lucky.

After this we had lunch and I had a good meal. We had a sandtable exercise afterwards and again, I stayed somewhat reserved, contributing just enough to be counted. It was about machine gun placement and Captain Whiteside led it. It was one of the easier exercises.

After the class, we had an hour of prep time before the test. I went back to the room and studied with Souliere. I had gotten my package but left it as a reward for finishing the test so I waited to open it. I did not feel good about the test and even studying it did not relieve my apprehension.

The test was as bad as I thought. Afterwards, I was just praying for a passing score. I skipped over 10 of the 25 questions on the first time through. I could only miss 7 and pass and I was sweating it. It did not help that I had long underwear top and bottoms on and it was almost 100 degrees inside the classroom. Luckily I missed 6 and passed and a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. They had not asked for the machine gun worksheet I had not finished and the test was over. Life was better at this point.

I went back to the room and opened the package. It had a shirt from Carrie, a card from her and Scott and Kristine, Halloween candy from the kids, cartoon strips, pictures of the kids, my plane tickets for Christmas, more blank checks, schoolwork from Alex, and some letters from an engineering honor society. It was a great package and I went through it slowly and many times over.

After we got secured, I waited until everyone left but they were taking their time. It was irritating because I wanted my room. I thought about going over to Leon’s house to watch videos because Acu had duty and I did not have a lot to do. But then I thought about it and it was a chance to catch up. I needed to work on some fit reps and catch up on some stuff. I also had to call Carrie which was far from a chore. So I decided to hang around and I was glad I did because the fit reps took longer than I expected. Anyway, I could not get ahold of Leon.

I talked to Carrie and it was a good talk. We laughed and I got to talk to the kids. I was in a better mood and it was nice to have a non-depressing conversation with her. I talked to Alex about waffles, Chuck E. Cheese’s, forts, and milkshakes. It was funny.

After I talked to Carrie, I felt good and got ready for bed. I am tired but content. I will sleep well tonight and wanted to pump this entry out to send to Carrie. I will be thinking of her until I drift away toward another day.

Free Advice for Today:
When you need something done, ask a busy person.
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Tuesday, November 11, 1997

Quote of the Day:
“OBSERVE EVERYTHING, ADMIRE NOTHING." 
- Unknown

Today I awoke in my own rack. The concept was a little sad and waking up to a day of catching up was not pleasant. But I got a full night’s sleep and was thankful for that. I got up at 0915 ready to start the day.

I made a list of things I had to do and hoped I would have enough time. I was ancy to get to my email to see how much mail I had. I had hoped for one for Carrie and I was not disappointed. But first, I took a shower, made some coffee, and cleaned up the room a little. It was nice to be back but still lonely.

I spent a couple of hours reading and writing email. I then wrote some journal entries and sent them to Carrie. It is the only way I can feel close to her and writing cheers me up but it is very time-consuming. After I was done, it was midday and I was hungry. I decided to go to the store and get out of the room.

I went to fill up the tires in the truck as one keeps losing air. I must get to Sears and get that fixed but until then, I’ll just keep air in it. Acu caught me out in town and wanted to use my key to get into the room because there was no duty to get the master from. I told him I would put his cammies in there if that is all he needed. I also got a vacuum cleaner he was going to return to Lt Craig. I was glad to get a chance to use it.

I then went to the store and took my time going up and down the aisles. I bought some food, including frozen dinners, and some supplies. I bought a candle and a little bowl. Now that Christmas is coming up, there is more of a selection. The total came to about $26 and I paid cash. I was starting to get weak because it was almost 1400 and all I had up until then was coffee. I went to Subway to get a foot-long for lunch and dinner. They were on sale and when I asked why they said they are on sale every Tuesday. That reminded me that it was Happy Meal day but it was so late that I knew I would not be hungry for McD’s tonight. I also had enough food for lunch and dinner. Oh well.

I went back to the room and got all of the stuff in. I sat down and started eating when Acu came in. It irritated me because I had just started eating. He asked me if I had heard him knock the first time and I said I had. He asked why I did not answer and I told him because I wanted to eat alone. He kind of stared at me and I told him that he had asked and then I fell silent. He took the hint and left for awhile. I finished eating and kept poking around in the room.

He came back later and I busied myself writing a card to Carrie I had bought at the store. He made more noise than I could handle and almost left. But he left and once again, I was alone, hopefully for the rest of the night.

I spent the rest of the day doing work in the room ranging from uniforms to studying. Of course I did not get everything done I wanted to do but I did a fair amount. The day’s overall mood was gloomy and depressed. I missed my family so much and tried to cheer myself up by writing thank-you’s to everyone who sent me birthday presents. I counted the days I had been away (107) and how many days until I see them again (38). I also counted out and discovered that the amount of time I have before I go home is the same amount of time that has passed since Kristine was here. That brought home how close it is and that made me happy.

My letter to the Booher’s brought tears to my eyes because I mentioned how hard it was being away. I wrote, “Well, I will be going to South Carolina to see my dad for Thanksgiving and then on December 18th, I’ll be going home for Christmas. That concept takes up a lot of my waking moments and it will not come too soon. Yes, as you mentioned in your letter, being away from Carrie and the kids is rather tough and some days are unbearable but I get through them because I have no other choice. I am a family man at heart so without my family, I do not even feel like a man. God will see me through because there is no way I can handle this alone. There is only one set of Footprints on the beach at this time.”

It kind of summed up my feelings and struck at my heart as I wrote it.

Tomorrow is another day but the rest of the week looks pretty easy. Four days and it seemed like a regular weekend. Today felt so much like a Sunday that I felt like I should call Carrie. I feel like I skipped it even though we talked last night. The only thing that stopped me was the fact that I will be calling her tomorrow.

Free Advice for Today:
Make it a habit to do nice things for people who'll never find it out.
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Monday, November 10, 1997

Quote of the Day:
“THE ABSOLUTE BEST TACTICAL AND LOGISTICALLY SOUND PLANS AREN'T WORTH SQUAT IF YOU LOSE THE BATTLE." 
- Unknown

Today was great because I once again got a lot of sleep. I awoke again with the pain in my side but it goes away. Leon’s mother had left early so it was just me and Leon. I went into the living room and woke him up. We got ready to go and left to have breakfast at a cafe. We finished and got on the road by 1030.

The trip back was long and uneventful. It seemed to take a long time to get back and Leon was incessantly changing the channels the entire time. It was quite irritating. When we finally pulled in, I was more than ready for this adventure to end.

I was planning to go home right away but like I thought would happen, I stayed to watch TV and then it got late. I told Acu all about the trip even though I was not in a talking mood. They decided to get a movie so I stayed at their invitation. They got The Fifth Element and it was pretty good. It had Bruce Willis and was a futuristic action flick. After the movie, I came home and called Carrie. It was good to talk to her and I told her all about the trip even though I was falling asleep as I spoke. I thought that it was ironic that I had waited so long to talk to her and then I almost fell asleep. After we talked, I went to bed and settled in for another full night’s sleep. Tomorrow will be a day of catch up and I have nothing else planned.

Free Advice for Today:
Lend only those books you never care to see again.
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Sunday, November 9, 1997

Quote of the Day:
“IN BATTLE BOLDNESS AND DARING CAN JUSTIFY A LOT OF MISTAKES." 
- Unknown

I slept well last night in Leon’s room. He pulled out a mattress in the living room, leaving the bed for me. I slept like a rock but when I woke up, my rib still hurt where I had injured it in the football game. It has been aching and I have been waiting for it to heal.

I got up and had coffee with Leon and his mom. She cooked us eggs and bacon as we all talked. I forgot to tell her that I liked them scrambled and she cooked them over-easy. I ate them with toast and did not have the heart to tell her. They were not too bad and the coffee was awesome. She had some special blend and it was more like latte.

We just bummed around and talked all morning. It was raining so we were not in any hurry to go out. I got out my computer and entered some of my journal entries. It was hard because Leon’s mom and me kept getting into conversations but it was fun. Pretty soon Leon wanted to go so I got ready. But Leon’s mom wanted us to eat lunch and she had gone out and got some chicken. She had some of that rice left and wanted me to try out a fried squash dish. She cut up these banana-looking chips and deep fried them. She said her sons love them and I tried it but did not like it. I was honest with her and she was fine with it. She asked me about Mexican dishes and specifically about guacamole. She called it mashed avacadoes and wanted to know how to make it but I did not know how. I told her I would get her the recipe from Carrie. She also mentioned “smashed beans” which are refried beans. I told her it was a popular Mexican side dish and she thought it was strange to smash them. I thought it was strange that a Puerto Rican woman knew so little about Mexican food.

While we were talking Leon went downstairs and was talking to his Dad. Leon’s mom and I talked a lot about family, the military, and her reservations about the Marine Corps. We had good talks and I explained to her the concept behind being a leader and how it’s only purpose is to take care of the enlisted Marines. She was impressed with the way I believe in raising my children and I had fun talking to her about it. I explained why I do not like them to play with guns or watch violent cartoons. We also touched on respect, school involvement, and letting go when they get old. It was one of the funnest times of the entire trip.

We finally decided to leave and caught the train. It is the subway but above ground. We went to downtown but it was pouring. I did not have a hat or an umbrella so I was soaked. Leon had a leather jacket so it rolled off of him. On the other hand, I had my coat that ended up weighing a hundred pounds. I was also not too happy and very cold. We went to a small mall but it was more of a specialty mall called Fulton. I was not too impressed but it was one of the “sights.”

We decided to go back to the apartment and come back another weekend to finish up the tour. I was tired anyway from last night’s drinking. We got back and Leon’s mom was sleeping. We got back just in time to watch football. I made some popcorn and got a coke just as the opening kickoff started the Giants game. I layed on the couch and was warm, watching football, and eating popcorn. I was content and after the popcorn was gone, so was I. I slept through most of the game. Leon stayed quiet which was a feat since he is one of those violent, screaming football watchers. When I awoke in the fourth quarter, he started getting pissed. It made me uncomfortable as he continued to bitch about every play. It was not a fun time then.

After the game, we decided to go see a movie. We wanted to see Starship Troopers and Leon called his dad. When he came over, I was glad to finally meet him. He looked just like Leon and we took some pictures. I introduced myself and was glad to get to spend some time with him.

We took Leon’s car and went downtown. We had an hour before the movie so we got some coffee and looked around in a Barnes & Noble. It was a relaxing time. We saw the movie and the special effects were amazing. The story was campy and the acting sucked so overall, it was not a great movie. Not as good as I expected but the effects were neat. After the movie, we went home I said my goodbyes to Leon’s dad. He expressed to me that he liked me from the first time he met me and that he is proud that his son has friends such as me. It was quite a compliment. I wrote a little in my journal before going to bed. We were all tired.

I realized something tonight that bothered me. I have enjoyed being around Leon from the day I met him. He has made me laugh and we have had some good conversations. He has seen me at my worst and has volunteered to bring me to New York. He has consistently involved me in good times when I would have stayed in my room and sulked. For all of this I am grateful.

But there are fundamental differences between us and they came out during this trip. I think that he is obsessed with the glory and romance of military service. He is into the gore, violence, destruction, etc. He loves the weaponry, the tactics, and the danger involved. I hate all of this. He has studied everything about the military since he was little with dreams of battle. I pray I will never even get close. He wants to look back on glorious conquests with death and destruction in his wake. I want to have a family and live the American dream.

I also noticed that everyone I met this weekend had an undercurrent in their stories of violence and danger. His mother spoke of muggings and attacks. She showed us the new pepper spray and personal alarm she just bought. As my family speaks of acquaintances’ latest news such as new jobs, new homes, etc., they speak of who got hurt or is having trouble in the neighborhood. It was not blatant but became more and more evident that their reality is centered about the harshness of the New York lifestyle. They seem to take pride in talking about how bad this place or that place is and how they have had run ins with the worst of society. It is a very negative outlook compared to living in Seattle. Everything is sort of gloomy and run-down with no greenery. It is the concrete jungle you read about and there is still a lot of spray paint. The whole sense was of depression and fear. Nice place to visit...

I can understand Acu and Leon a little better after seeing how they grew up. I am amazed that Leon is as upbeat as he is but he was less so when he was there. I saw him as a New Yorker and understood his obsession with the violent side of the Marine Corps. I just hope it does not cost him his life someday. It is a pretty big concept to stay away from because he knows how I feel. We still have a good time and I still consider his a great person. I just abhor much of what he thinks is the fun part of service.

Free Advice for Today:
Know how to type.
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Saturday, November 8, 1997

Quote of the Day:
“THIS AIN'T BURGER KING. YOU CAN'T HAVE IT YOUR WAY." 
- Unknown

Today I woke up on Leon’s futon and was ready to go to New York. I heard Leon rummaging around in his filthy room and knew he was up. He seemed in a good mood and we got ready and left, stopping for donuts and coffee along he way. I thought that we would be on the road for 5 hours but it only ended up being 3 1/2 hours. We passed through Philadelphia but only saw the skyline. Leon was not too impressed with the city. We talked a lot about the stereotypes of New York and he explained to me what it was like to grow up there.

When we got there, it was just what I thought it would be like. The first big thing that I saw was the back of the Statue of Liberty as we passed it on the highway. Then we saw the city and it was that famous skyline. It was cloudy and the top of the twin towers was obscured. The immense size of the city is incredible and being there is the only way to appreciate the scale of the metropolis.

We saw Staton Island coming in and I quizzed Leon on all the stereotypes of the areas. I told him I was the stupid tourist who only knew New York from the movies. It was nice to get the scoop and see the actual areas that you always hear about.

We went through Manhattan and then through Queens to get to Brooklyn. Everything looked so old but it was a lot cleaner that I had imagined. I did not see the stereotypical bums, trash, crime, etc. that is usually associated with NYC. It was actually quite nice and it was neat to see.

We came to the place that Noel grew up and it was much like what you would think was the projects. We passed a lot of projects that Noel said you would not enter for any reason whatsoever. When we came to Noel’s place, it looked much the same but they call it a co-op. He told me that where he grew up, this building, was not a project and no welfare people were allowed. It was simply a large apartment building but I found it a little strange that he grew up in the fortress that hundreds of people live in.

We went through the guard and got on the elevator. They live on the 17th floor and on the way up, he told me that he has lived here all of his life. I found it amazing that he grew up here and that he was at “home.” We got to the top and it was like a large apartment complex but all closed in. I found that it was very neat and respectable.

We went inside and met his mom, a wonderful lady. She has the energy of a hummingbird and talks extremely fast. You can tell that their family is tight and they have great relationships. She is so nice and loves to talk, cook, and listen to stories. She is almost comical with the energy she has and sometimes mixes Spanish with English. We stayed and talked and it was not long before she knew all about my background and about my family. It was fun.

She had food waiting for us and we had fried rice and fried pork chops. Noel said his mother would not cook for guests but I think that I impressed her and instantly became one of her children. She cooked and it was wonderful. We were so hungry that we ate like wolves.

After talking some more, we decided to go out and see the sights. I was so excited because this is what I have been waiting for many years. Our first event was getting on the subway and there it was: the NYC subway system and it looked just like you see it in the movies except cleaner. Noel said I had nothing to worry about because I look like a cop with my “look.” We were in Brooklyn, went through Queens and Manhattan, and finally to Times Square. It was all that I thought it would be.

The first thing we saw was a peep show place but it was only one place in a large area. Noel said that they had really cleaned up the area and the place was a lot safer than I thought it would be. The proportions were HUGE!! The billboards were about 100 feet high and the lights were brilliant. I wondered around and probably looked like a babe in the woods. It was wall to wall people and I loved it. We looked at all the shops, except the porn places, and stopped in bars to have beer. We were going to see Starship Troopers but the line was too long. We walked around, looking at the sights and I was soaking it all up.

We took a cab to Greenwich Village and I got my NY cab ride. The guy was named Mohammed and he drove like a nut. It was great.

We got there and walked around. There ere so many roads and establishments that it was dizzying. We walked and walked and saw thousands of different sights. We ended up in a Mexican-type bar and stayed there most of night. They had a mix of American dance music and salsa. It was a lot of fun and we sat there, getting drunk, and had a great time. When we left, it was raining and we took the subway back. When we got home, we crashed and I was content on my first exposure to the New York experience.

All in all, I was happy with all of the NY buzzwords we had hit. It was a little scary but with Noel as my guide, it was fun. Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, Times Square, Greenwich Village, etc. Too bad I only took two pictures. Tomorrow we will be going to see more sights and I look forward to that as well.

Free Advice for Today:
Demand excellence and be willing to pay for it.
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Friday, November 7, 1997

Quote of the Day:
“THE JTF DOESN'T PAY YOU TO BE STUPID. DO THAT ON YOUR OWN TIME. THINK BEFORE YOU ACT." 
- Unknown

Today was one of those days that you know are going to be easy so the motivation to do the things that you ARE required to do....hard. All we had on the schedule was to have a sandtable exercise and then a review before securing. It also marked the last day for me as section leader and I could not be happier. I handed in my report on Lt. T after asking him if he wanted to make a statement, which he chose not to do. What a waste.

The sandtable exercise was basically an attack and was much like a TDG (Tactical Decision Game). I did not know what was going on most of the time and was glad to just sit back and let the others work on it. I added little obvious things here and there to try to fake my way through it but most of the time, I just watched. I was called on a few more times than I would have liked but rose to the occasion and answered the question. After it was done, I was glad that it was over. I was never very good at these things and I will be glad when they are over.

After this, we had a review which was in the form of a Jeopardy game again and it was not as fun as it should have been. Sometimes, they will randomly pick the section leaders and ask them questions. I was real weak on the information, supporting arms, and wanted to once again fade into the woodwork. I never had to answer any of the questions but was dismayed that I was lost on most of the review questions. I took notes and knew I would have to re-learn all of the information before the test next week.

After the review was done, I knew it was a race to get secured. The saddest thing about what I learned as section leader is that everyone’s number one priority is not learning, furthering knowledge, or even taking care of each other. The number one, overriding important event no matter the costs for them or anyone else is getting secured. I have always held it in high importance but never to this level. It is like babysitting a bunch of babies and it sickened me on a daily basis. Even though most of them sit in their room and relax, they bitch while I am running around like crazy trying to bug the upper staff until we have everything done. The second we get secured, I pass the word but all that is never good enough. By the end, my attitude was simply and boldly: Go fuck yourself.

We had gone from the review straight to the armory to turn in our rifles and it was great that we were the first ones to get in line. It was raining hard all day and we had to turn in dry rifles. I took mine over in a poncho but when I got over there, we were informed that we needed our ID, which I keep in my wallet in my briefcase. I was pissed that I had to go over in the rain to get it and I saw that Acu was going over and ask him to grab my wallet. While he was gone, I lubed my rifle and was starting on his when he walked back in and told me that my briefcase was locked. I got so pissed at that point because instead of bring the entire briefcase, he simply came back with his ID. This is the “Fuck you, I got mine” attitude that is really starting to bug me around here. I slammed my rifle down, told him to watch it, and proceeded to run back to the barracks in the rain to get my ID. The lock wheel had turned just enough to lock it and I got in, returning soaking wet. I bitched at him and he did not have a defense.

The captain wanted to talk to everyone before we secured. I was running around trying to get the word to secure but there were still some of us at the armory. We got the word to secure and so the only thing that was holding us up was those guys at the armory. We sent people to get them and I was just hoping to make it to the chowhall by 1300 for chow before it closed. It was about 1240.

They finally found the three that we were missing: they were at the chowhall eating. I almost lost it and had to calm myself down. These selfish assholes were holding everyone up. We got them back and they claimed that they had been secured by the company staff and as the last event of my two-week duty, it was indicative of the collection of assholes that I was in charge of. I was glad to get off the reins of these so-called professional Marine officers but was a little sad that I could not improve their behavior and only succeeded in alienating myself.

The captain gave a short speech and I was happy to let them go and I just made it to the chowhall to eat a meal alone in an empty chowhall. I had a sense of relief that the week and my command was over but the rain the setting of a lonely chowhall combined to set me in a really sad mood. I decided to go to the mailroom and see if my package was in. When I got there, I was soaked to the bone but in the mood I was in, it did not matter. There was a package there from Carrie’s family. I was a little miffed that Carrie’s package was not there but at least I had the one I did. I thought it was clothing because that is what kind of box it was. I waited until I got back to the barracks to open it and was happy to not only get a package from loved ones, but was doubly happy that they had sent me a Leatherman. I opened it and smiled ear to ear. It was my first birthday present and I had forgotten that I wanted one for my birthday. Leave it to them to know me better than I know myself.

After answering some email, I got ready to go over to Acu and Leon’s to get ready for the ball. It was still raining hard and I loaded everything the fastest I could. I went to their house and we sat around and watch TV. I had grabbed some beer and was coming down from the week while watching some music videos. Leon wanted to leave real early to get there on time and we convinced him to wait awhile. Finally, we got ready and for once, getting ready was a breeze. I had plenty of room and I had prepped my uniform so all I had to do was put it on. I could not help but thinking of Carrie and how we used to get ready together for these types of occasions with me getting pissy. It seemed so much simpler but I think that it was because there was no kids or cats and my uniform fit to a tee. It was strange.

We got ready and went and my uniform looked pretty intricate compared to Leon’s and Acu’s because they had no medals. Mine clinked and Leon kept giving me crap about it. We got into DC and it was a mess. Because it was raining and a Friday night, the traffic was horrible. We got caught in traffic and we all got a little grumpy. I thought they had said that we were supposed to be there at 1800 and be seated by 1840. We were stuck in heavy traffic at both these times and it was not fun. We finally got close at about 1850 and parked, getting out in the rain and caught a cab. We went about five blocks and he charged us $7.00. We rushed into the hotel and found that we were not actually late at all. There were people everywhere and a lot of the Marines were at the bar. It was amazing to rush in with a wet uniform thinking we were late and seeing everyone at ease and enjoying the pre-ceremony social time. It took a moment to calm down and we started mingling but my heart was not in it.

The only ones I wanted to hang around with was Acu and Leon. Acu was in a bad mood and Leon kept finding many people to talk to and leaving us alone. I was getting more and more depressed as the night went on. I was afraid this would happen.

We found our table and had a seat. The table was fully set and had all of the formal plates and silverware. The salad was already there and was starting to wilt. There was also a large beer glass with etched with the 222nd Marine Corps birthday logo. I figured it was the gift we usually get and was happy to see such a nice souvenir.

We went around and talked to people that we knew but I was not in the mood to talk. I missed Carrie and was not too happy with the Marines I had dealt with lately. I looked over and saw the Commandant and was only mildly impressed.

After the introductions, the usual ceremony started. It was weird because I had heard the Commandant’s message every year, as is the tradition, but this time, it came right from the Commandant’s mouth. It was a long speech about Belleau Wood but again, my mood denied me the pride of the moment. There was a bunch of generals there and even the author of We Were Soldiers Once and Young in the audience. After the speeches, we ate.

They had a chicken breast and a small steak for dinner. The vegetable was sautéed carrots and were good. But like most of the dinners like this, there was not enough food. We had rolls, wine, and cake for dessert. All and all, it should have been a great time but for me, it was not.

After dinner, we all went around and talked. I went searching for the Commandant but could not find him. I ran into Utsler and we talked for a long time. I never did find the Commandant and by now, the dancing had started. I was feeling more and more sour and I went back to the table. There was a table of SPCs near us and they were well on their way to being real drunk. Suddenly, all I wanted to do was to leave. I found that I had no interest in celebrating or even talking to any fellow Marines.

When I found Acu, he was pretty much in the same boat and I was glad to know that 2/3 of our gang was ready to leave. It was past eleven and I was ready to shed the blues. We found Leon but being the social butterfly, he was not quite ready to leave. I stood by quietly but Acu was not as discreet. He kept bugging Leon and both were getting pissed. Leon was trying to set up an after-ball get-together and was really trying to pin down a female lieutenant who he has a thing for. For her part, she leads him on like a puppy but Acu and I can see that she has little serious interest in Leon. We both knew she would lead him on to no avail tonight like every other time.

Finally, Leon comes over and says that after searching for her drunk ass for 45 minutes, finally found her and gave her directions to the apartment where they would meet and link up with everyone else. Me and Acu exchanged looks but were glad to get going.

When we got home, I was content to watch a little TV, watch a little video Carrie had sent, and go to sleep. Acu got ready and was out of there, going his own way which is normal and expected. Leon got ready and fell asleep in front of the TV waiting for his promised rendezvous who never showed...of course. I never had any intention to go back out and just wanted to sleep.

This night I discovered something that bothered me. I was always told that when it stops being fun, it is time to get out. I realized that if I am not motivated by the 222nd Marine Corps Birthday with the future of the officer corps present, not to mention the Commandant of the Marine Corps speaking and praising us, then this is a problem. I know this is no place to contemplate my future in the corps just as boot camp was not the place. But as the days go by, I feel less and less happy with what I am doing. I do not get along with the majority of the people, do not enjoy the training that we do, and do not feel the pride I once had. It may just be this place but it tells me that if I cannot be happy away from my family doing what I am training to do, I might be in the wrong business because it will only get worse. It caused me to do some hard thinking.

Regardless of this evening, I was happy to be on the forefront of a 4-day weekend and a trip to NYC. Tomorrow would be a day I would always remember.

Free Advice for Today:
Whistle.
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Thursday, November 6, 1997

Quote of the Day:
“BOLDNESS MAY WIN BATTLES BUT CAUTION SEEMS TO WIN PROMOTIONS. DOESN'T SEEM FAIR." 
- Unknown

SPC Time
Medium Machine Gun I
Introduction to Military Law
SPC Time
USMC Birthday Meal
Evideniary Issue
Criminal Law
Medium Machine Gun II

Free Advice for Today:
Ride a bike.
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Wednesday, November 5, 1997

Quote of the Day:
“WHEN YOU TRULY NEED AN ITEM OF SUPPLY WHICH IS ON THE SHELF BUT THE SUPPLY PEOPLE WON'T LET YOU HAVE IT, THEN 'BORROW' IT FROM THE AIR FORCE, THEY HAVE PLENTY." 
- Unknown

Well, my 29th birthday was not great but I have had worse. We had patrolling today and it started early. It was quite cold and I bundled up in a vain attempt to fight off the chilly weather.

We had to go out to LZ 7 which is but a few hundred meters from the barracks. When we got out there, there was frost all over the landing zone. The sun was not up over the trees yet so the cold was in effect. We had a few hours before our patrol and had to do some practices. We made a terrain model of what we were going to do and spent the first part of the morning just prepping on our own.

I was assigned as the radio man and had to check out the PRC-77. This was a chance to deal with the enlisted guys but they are so jaded against officers that I would rather not. I got my radio but did not get a harness for it. The lance corporal had forgotten them and had to go back to his shop to get them. Meanwhile, my section had already started the round robin, going station to station to practice the patrolling techniques. I waited for the harness and it was not long before an SPC, Captain M, came over and rudely asked what we were doing. (There was one other lieutenant with me). He told us to join our sections so I had to lug thing big radio around without a harness which made it difficult to participate in the practices. When I finally saw the lance corporal show up, I went over and asked for a harness. He said that he had been told by a captain that we would not be getting them which made me mad. That meant I would have to go back to the barracks and get my own pack but had to wait until after all of the practices. It was a pain to run and get down carrying a radio by hand and having my rifle slung over my back.

After we were done, I went to the barracks and got my pack. I took advantage of the warmth and reapplied some cammie paint to my face. I grabbed some crackers and delayed my exit as long as possible. Any warmth was golden and I took my time. By the time I got back out, I was warm and keeping up my spirits because it was my birthday.

When I got back, we continued to prep and had a lot of sit-around time. The sun was poking out so it was warming up a little and my warming layers were doing their job. When we moved out, we went in column to our attack point a few miles away. The radio was heavier than I would have liked but the worst thing about it was that I had little to no clue of the radio procedures that was expected of me so I was a little nervous. I just clung to the thought that it was my birthday and I would get secured somewhat early and go eat Mexican food. I was thankful that I was not put in charge of this patrol because I was not too confident in how to do it. Lt A had that duty and I figured he knew what he was doing. As for me, all I had to do was keep near him because I was his communication.

We got to the assembly area and hunkered down waiting for an escort. They were playing this like the real thing but it seemed cheesy. No training can really adequately simulate what it is like to be in enemy territory and I hope never to find out the real feelings...again.

Overall, the patrol was a mess. Communication went out so I pretty much had a heavy piece of useless metal on my back and we walked all day. We went up and down hills, crossed rivers, and the whole time we were on alert, waiting to be attacked. It was passively stressful and the physical part was wearing. By the end of the patrol, we were all bushed. We were supposed to be done by 1600 but did not even get back to the reentry point until 1630. We waited and waited, shivering in the cold. We had crossed a stream and I had gotten wet up to both knees. My knees and ankles were hurting but my attitude was still pretty good...amazingly.

After we finally got back after a speed hump back to the armory, we started to clean weapons. We were glad that the captain decided to give his debrief during out weapons cleaning but he called us over to the side and we were not able to clean. He went on and on and I do not think anyone cared about what was being said. He seemed unaware that we were starting to freeze as the sun went down and we sat through the debrief in misery. But it was almost over and the time for a warm shower was near.

But first, we had to clean the weapons. I really did not want to and we did a cursory job of cleaning them. I dipped my rifle because it needed to be clean by Friday for turn-in before the long weekend. It worked out that Sloan was the armor and was just as tired as we were. He finally told us to turn in the weapons and they would not be turned back. This was good because they usually turn you back a couple of times until they are satisfied with the cleanliness of the weapon. Another armor announced that the last four lieutenants would help clean and that cleared the place. I got out of there quick and went back to my room, soaking up the sweet warmth.

I took a hot shower and it was bliss. My feet were numb and the hot water brought them back to life. I was in a wonderful mood even though it was 2000, four hours past the time I thought I would be secured. I still wanted to go out and I got ready to go over to Acu and Leon’s place. First I called Carrie and talked to her. It was great to talk to her and the sound of my kids singing happy birthday to me was so special. I talked to them and was humored with the conversation. I asked Alex if he knew how old I was and he did not. I told him and then made a big deal of me going 29 and he was only five. I told him he would be 29 some day and he said I would be really old then. He then said that when he is really old, I would be dead. I agreed but told him that my spirit would be in heaven waiting for him and when his spirit came to heaven, I would give him hugs, loves, and kisses. He then said that his spirit would come to heaven and see me and say, “Hi!” And that my body would be buried in the ground. I reiterated that my spirit would be in heaven. He then said that his body would be buried in the ground next to me and when they put his body down there, my body could give his body hugs, loves, and kisses. I laughed and thought that this conversation had gone far enough. It was a funny conversation.

After I talked to Carrie, I was in an even better mood and went over to Leon’s house. When I got there, Acu was in shorts sipping a beer. I knew what he was going to say before he said it. He said he was too tired to go and that was fine with me. Leon and I went to a Mexican restaurant and had poor service. But the company was great and we had a great conversation. After humping all day and now with a large meal in my belly, I became very tired and went home afterwards a happy person, looking forward to a long night’s sleep.

I got back, did a little prep for tomorrow, and settled down for my first night’s sleep as a 29 year old.

Free Advice for Today:
Hug children after you discipline them.
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Tuesday, November 4, 1997

Quote of the Day:
“ACCURACY WILL GAIN FIRE SUPERIORITY FASTER THAN UNAIMED VOLUME." 
- Unknown

Today was a hard day that should have been easy. I woke up just after nine and felt pretty good about the sleep. I was a little apprehensive about what I had to do and I got ready. I was as ready as I could have been and was on time.

I went to the training office and waited for Lt. T. I did not even know if he was going to show up and I would not have been too surprised if he didn’t. He was on time and we went down to a conference room, a long, uncomfortable walk. He was mad but started out by asking me if I could find out about his duty on Thursday, a weird request since it was a formal request at a time I thought he would make an attempt to question my authority. It basically said that he recognized my authority.

I started out by trying to lighten up the situation and told him why I was doing what I was doing and saying what it was NOT. I told him it was not personal and I did not plan to demean nor have a combative screaming match. I explained how the session would go and what had happened so far. I also told him that the entire thing had got out of hand and that I heard him talking to the section behind my back.

To my surprise, he looked as though he actually was paying attention and felt bad about the entire thing. This set me at ease and tried to make some type of contact with him so he would understand where I was coming from and what I expected. I spoke for awhile and while he did not agree with my methods or decisions, we agreed to disagree and both knew that his behavior was out of line.

The session ended and I think we understood each other better. It was one of the last things to go right today.

I went back to my room and since the session went so well, I decided to tone down my statement that I am going to hand into the captain as a show to Lt. T that I can meet him halfway. After this, it was about time for muster. We had a late muster and I was glad the section got a break and a chance to get some good sleep.

I was waiting for everyone and almost everyone was late. Sloan and B showed up at the last second in their vehicles, parking them illegally in front of the formation in SPC slots. B did not even have his sleeves down. A did not shave and looked like hell and L showed up in civilian clothes saying that he thought the formation was ten minutes later than what it was. The whole group was a shambles and I was pissed.

But I wanted to kill some rumors so I decided to deal with it later. I told them that most of them are probably aware of the situation that happened Friday and had gotten one side of the story. I said I was not going to lose my professionalism by playing he said she said and this for that. I said that I made some decisions that I am sticking by and that before they make any judgments, remember that they had only heard one side. If they wanted to discuss it individually, come talk to me but have the professionalism to not buy into rumors. With that said, I felt more at ease.

I was hungry and had not had a good meal in days. I went to the chowhall and ate, feeling the food revitalize my tired body. I had to rush to get to class but it felt good to be full and rested.

We had a Law of Warfare class and it was quite interesting. We talked about the philosophical aspects of waging war and some of the rules we fight by. It was more like a discussion and I participated quite a bit.

After class, we had SPC time but Captain Whiteside was in the field with the other sections. I knew we had to PT so I decided to have them play football which was a popular decision.

I felt that the section had a bit of hostility to me and those things come out in sports. In other words, I did not get the ball thrown to me very often even when I was wide open. About the only time I did, I was deep, caught it, and ran in for a touchdown.

It was two hand touch and many were complaining. I did not want it to be tackle and we played for about a half hour with our team scoring many touchdowns. The funny thing is that we looked out classed and thought we would be killed but it was the opposite. After awhile, I agreed to have it be tackle on the condition that things did not get out of hand. I said one incident and we were done.

It went OK for awhile. I was running for a tackle and someone had Lt. T in a tackle. I saw that Lt. T was going to lateral it and switched gears at the last second so I would be in position to get the new runner. As T went down, he threw out his elbow, knowing that he was going down and was throwing himself in my way but I was just out of his reach. He threw the only body part he could in an exaggerated fall. His elbow caught me in the ribs and it hurt, knocking the wind out of me. He said it was not on purpose but I knew perfectly well it was. I had to sit out a couple of plays.

A couple of plays later, Barney and Arratia, who were on the same team, collided and Barney broke her nose. This ended the game and she went to medical. I passed some word and said that everyone had to do a little studying and rifle cleaning before we secured.

I went to medical to see Barney and she was ok, save a broken nose. I felt bad and a little responsible but she did not feel that was. I made sure she was being taken care of and I came back to the barracks.

This is where things got ugly. When I got back, Captain Whiteside was just getting there too and I updated him on the day’s activities. He was not mad about Barney, settling my fears, and I updated him on all the other members of the section. He told me that he wanted to see a few people and pass some word. I then told my assistant, Lt A, to hold up the section until the captain was done. This was not popular but after their shenanigans today, I was not to concerned.

The captain talked to Lt B and Lt A for a long time. It was over an hour and everyone was mad because they were having to wait around in their rooms. I was getting pressure from all side and was getting very angry. They had not come in until after eleven and even then, most of them screwed that up. Then only had one class and played football. Now they were crying about having to sit on their butts in their rooms. Unbelievable.

I did not want to secure them because A, who was leading the patrol tomorrow, might need to talk to them. B might want to talk to his people for Thursday. I was waiting outside the captain’s office the whole time while everyone from Ashenbrenner, my assistant, to Barney, tried to give me free advice about securing. This made me really angry and I knew they were all upstairs talking about how stupid I was. But I stuck to my guns while the captain rambled on and on...

At this point, Sloan came to me as the last in a long line of complainers. This upset me more because he does not usually do this. I told him I was working on it and he complained more. Then he came back a little later and tried to take me outside but I had no cover so we stood in the hall. I was in no mood and he started in again. I tried to control myself and told him this was not the time and I knew the issues going on. I explained to him more than I should have but he kept pushing. Finally, I walked off and told him that is as far as I was going to discuss it and if he had any more suggestions, take it up the chain. I had come to the end of my patience. His response was, “We will talk” and went into the room, slamming the door.

I went back to wait some more. Next came Barney and I told her now was a really BAD time. I argued with her for awhile and then put my foot down saying I was not going to entertain any more suggestions. Still, I waited.

I finally went in while they were still in there and asked the captain if I could ask them if they needed the rest of the section. A said yes and B said no. So then I secured B's people and told everyone else to stand by. I was right but it did not feel like much of a victory. Again, I waited...

Finally, A came out and we had the meeting, which was extremely necessary because the next day was going to be complicated. Of course I got dirty looks and gave up on worrying about what everyone thought of me. Sloan had come to me while I was waiting and re-iterated that we would talk and that I had better never talk to him like that. I let it go because I would have hit him if I would have let myself react to such a statement. I would deal with it later. This is the barrage that I dealt with the whole time.

After the meeting, I went downstairs and Sloan and I had a few words. He was upset because I yelled at him in the hall in public. I did not think I yelled and said that it was unsat that he kept bugging me about being secured when I had so much going on. He got pissed all over again and left.

I was finally alone after one of the worst days at TBS. Everyone pretty much hated me, even Sloan, Barney had a broken nose because I gave into pressure, T got his shot in, and even Acu was pissed at being held late.

After thinking about it for awhile, I decided that I would swing by Sloan’s place as I went out for McDonalds. Mom had sent me a card with $20 in it (along with a card from her cats!!) so I decided to get the happy Meal special. I stopped by Sloan’s and apologized to Sloan for disrespecting him. I told him that we could agree to disagree on the leadership decisions I make but one thing that we could not argue was showing respect and I apologized for that. He thought it was incredible that I had taken the time to come over and accepted my apology. There is a lot of pressure lately and we both knew, with cooler heads, that emotions run high. I left and everything was fine between us.

I also told him about the email I received from Carrie concerning the parking lot accident. I explained how helpless I feel and how that played on me all day.

I ate at McDonalds and again felt the pain of seeing little ones. It is almost not worth going in and I was almost dreading the trip. I consider it the one meal that I “eat with the kids,” pretending they are there. It is not a fun meal but I like to think of them while I eat the food.

I am finishing up the day by doing some laundry I did not get to last weekend and trying to get into the rack. I pray that tomorrow, my 29th birthday, is a better day that today.

Free Advice for Today:
Take out the garbage without being told.
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Monday, November 3, 1997

Quote of the Day:
“ACCEPT WITH RESERVATIONS THE REPORTS OF SCARED MEN." 
- Unknown

Weapon Draw
Movement/Transition
Fireteam/Squad Movement FFEX
Movement/Transition
SPC Time
Night Field Firing Techniques
Weapons Cleaning

Free Advice for Today:
Avoid overexposure to the sun.
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Email -- jason@grose.us
Web -- http://www.grose.us/