Saturday, July 30, 2011

S-Day + 731

So, it has been 731 days since ex-Mrs. SFC B and I separated. No, I'm not counting, this is the year 2011, the internet can find more than just boobies. Although, to be fair, the "Date Calculator" I used was the 6th item Google returned, behind 5 porn sites devoted to women doing... things... with calculators.

Yes, this is a wonderful time to be living, and yes, I bookmarked all 5.

Looking back on this past 2+ years it has been an... interesting... time. Relearning to be single has been challenging.

I lie, learning to be single has been challenging. I've never been an "out-going" kind of person. I've always been stand-offish and content to just go off to the side and let the more out-going types enjoy themselves. Hence why recruiting was such a wonderful, happy, awesome time for me. Because it made me go outside my comfort zone.

Another lie; hated recruiting regardless, and never did go out of my comfort zone. Any success I had was due to luck and referrals (and somewhere SSG Rage nods sagely, and yet angrily). So, the move to Wisconsin basically represented my first step in making a conscious effort to change some of the stuff I don't like about myself. Only some, I like some of the stuff I don't like. Don't look at me like that, it makes sense in my mind!

Of course, first, I had to go through a wonderful period of depression. That is always a good time; I highly recommend it if you haven't tried it before. Honestly, if I could have combined the self-loathing and depression, grew some musical talent, and develop a crippling drug addiction I'd probably be a somewhat successful songwriter right now. Damn for missed opportunities.

My favorite part of being depressed is that moment right before you go to sleep and you look back on your day and think "fuck, that sucked". Followed by dreams you don't remember, but know they sucked, and the realization in the morning that you can only hope that today is going be just as bad as the previous day.

Right now, if my mom is reading this, she is going to be calling me with a worried tone.

Being the otherwise normal person I am I tried to work through those feelings the way any emotionally healthy man does: alcohol and sex.

You know what sucks more than being depressed? Being set on fire by angry badgers. That sucks a lot more than your serotonin levels being out of whack.

But, you know what else sucks more is being depressed? Wanting to self-medicate, and knowing that you can't/won't because, damnit, you have to go to work in the morning and if you are too drunk/hungover then your professional life will suck just as much as your personal life does.

Between some quality time with a counselor and focusing on not sucking at my new job stuff got turned around.

Taking a cue from many (most?) of the women I've dated I spent a good deal of time faking it. Going into the office and making myself be excited and motivated, whether I actually felt that way or not (usually I didn't). I have a dull job. I don't blow shit up. I don't climb things. I sit behind a monitor, watch statistics, validate paperwork, and occasionally conduct a class. It's dull. I've always taken it seriously, but I'm aware that 42A had the least interesting MOS video the guidance counselors at MEPS could show.

But a funny thing happened, the fake became real. Making a point to go out, every day, and be friendly, to anyone stopped being a mask I put on to get through the day and started being something I did because I liked to. Going into the office and trying to improve operations and readiness because something I was excited and passionate about doing. I'd spent over 5 years on auto-pilot. I'd gotten promoted due to the career I had before recruiting, and stagnated during my time in USAREC, and didn't recover during my follow-on assignment.

And I didn't just stagnate professionally. I'd gotten complacent in my personal life, stopped caring for myself and, I realize it now, for my now ex-wife. It wasn't fair to her and I was a truly awful person to have been married to.

Wow... kicked myself in the nuts to put that out there. Oh well, no one else reads this anymore so... who cares!?!?

So, yeah, depression, self-loathing, false-motivation, eventual real-motivation, and a better self-image pretty much sums up my first year.

Looking back on this year the best thing I've done was decide to get away from the computer. God, looking back I was way, way, way too engaged in playing a fucking game. I probably missed a ton of stuff due to that. I can't be sure because I wasn't paying attention; ignorance is bliss.

With the arrival of spring here I've been spending more time riding and just going out into the sun. I still have a sickly pasty chest, but at least you can tell it is because the rest of me has something vaguely resembling a tan. Going out just for the sake of going out can be a wonderful attitude adjustment.

I find myself committed to doing something totally stupid and self-destructive. I'd mentioned being interested in participating, and then I found myself sending an email to the Soldiers in my building looking for others who'd like to join. Now that everyone knows I'm looking to do this, and several have agreed to participate as well, I find I cannot back out. Even if I want to I'll be letting down others and showing myself to be someone who won't/can't follow through. I'd like to think that isn't who I am now.

My leisure time isn't spent playing an MMO. I've returned to the simple joys of reading, and when wanting to be more active, learning the guitar. I still suck but I can at least play a couple of tunes I, at least, can recognize.

However, it has revealed to me that I do hate my voice. Why didn't anyone tell me I sound like that?!?! I need to know these things people!

Life isn't perfect, it's never going to be. But it is a whole metric fuckton (which is 30% larger than your standard fuckton) better than it was two years ago.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Dad's Letters from Vietnam 2

29 Dec. 68

Hi Toad (SFC B: No idea who this is, but the envelop was addressed to, I think, one of my uncles)

How is it going back home now? I got my R+R to Australia for the 16-21 JAN and then I'll be home by the end of the first week in Feb.


I'll be leaving this God-damned hill either tomorrow for a dental medevac or else in the next ten days for my R+R. I don't know exactly what I'm going to do but I know my mom won't go like Don's on his R+R. I have so many things that I want to do that I may just go crazy.

29 Dec 68

We have the afternoon off today and also a promotion formation. All the PVTs and PFCs are getting promoted and most of them are going home next month.

The weather has started getting cold so I guess winter has finally hit, and so did the gooks (SFC B: I'm copying verbatim and this is from a Marine in Vietnam in 1968; deal with it) last night. A few more tried to get in but got their asses zapped. The only place that isn't mined is the trash dumps but they make so much noise that a claymore made short work of them. It is a gruesome sight, especially when they were almost on top of the mine. Well that is all from my end. See you in Feb.


P.S. do you still have the negatives of the gun I sent you a while ago?
So, I'm planning to give a couple of uncles a call to see if I can get some of the back story that is, clearly, missing in the letter. One of these days I'll need to actually sort them out and try to get them into chronological order. Will make it a lot easier to see what was going on.

Sunday, July 03, 2011


Was reading the comments on a post over at Althouse and one of the comments jumped out at me. The topic of the post was a book review of a graphic novel about a guy who gave up "romantic sex" for "sex with a lot of prostitutes". Anyway, the comment that caught my eye concerned that, while the commenter used to have a fairly liberal view of drugs and sex, living in an urban area where drug use and prostitution were common changed his mind. What caught my attention in this comment was that the commenter didn't make the connection between the illegality of (some) drugs and prostitution and the negative behaviors that these activities caused.

I'm a fairly law-and-order type. I'm a senior NCO in the Army; I live a life controlled by all sorts of minor rules that exist to bring about conformity and obedience, and I am now charged with enforcing those rules, regardless of my personal opinions of their validity and efficacy. But it is a life I chose voluntarily and fully-aware of the sacrifices it would entail.

Drugs are bad. I got it. I'd prefer to live in a world where everyone was happy and fulfilled all the time and had no need or desire to seek pleasure, relief, release from various natural and man-made chemicals. We don't live in that world. I have my drug of choice to enjoy while cooking, watching TV, chilling on the beach, crying myself to sleep while dwelling on all of the mistakes I've made in life, whatever. The difference between what I enjoy and what puts almost 800,000 in the prison system annually is a matter of historical timing.

State-required racism couldn't do as much damage to minority (particularly black) families as the War on Drugs has. The late Robert Byrd's fellow-travelers couldn't have imagined a policy that would 1) get 40% of black men under 30 to have a prison record and 2) not only be viewed as race-neutral but get almost the entire country to support it at the outset. The added bonus that many drug arrests result in felony charges and convictions results in these people being disenfranchised. If you resurrected Roger Taney and asked him about this even he'd go "How the fuck is this Constitutional?" He'd then try to eat your brains.

Thanks to a quixotic crusade to protect people from themselves our society has destroyed "the black family", created a permanent under class of felons, eroded our civil liberties (the Founding Fathers started a fucking war over searches and seizures that are now routine in the War on Drugs), has turned Mexican border towns into war zones, and is even financing the people killing our troops in Afghanistan. Selling heroin through vending machines in middle school cafeterias probably wouldn't result in outcomes are skull-rapingly horrifying as the status quo. Hell, the school nurse could hand out clean needles while she's giving out condoms.

Speaking of condoms, I have a very difficult time making a transaction mutually agreed upon by competent adults illegal. I fail to see how, in a post-Roe and post-Lawrence world prostitution can be illegal in so many places. Of course that might be why I'm not a lawyer. "Because it's icky" isn't a really compelling reason.

Anyways, it is a gorgeous day outside and a beach is calling me.

Dad's Letters from Boot Camp

This was a letter my Dad wrote over the course of a week as his initial training was winding down. It was written on those little memo-book sheets of spiral paper (the ones that fit in a breast pocket.
Dear Mom + Dad,
Our week of Mess + Police is over and I've been all over the island. My job was to ride a trash truck that collected cardboard boxes from the warehouses and other places. The work was easy cause it packed all the boxes for us (there were 2) and we got lots of breaks and our driver gave us all sorts of little goodies like soda and jelly dounuts and candy bars which we aren't supposed to have.

This was the easiest week yet on Parris Island. We rode around on the truck and that was about it.

Now that it's over and we are leaving these new barracks and going back to our old ones and it's all one big, confused mess. My letter writing gear is on the bottom of my seabag so that my starched utilities won't get bent and the same with the rest of my uniforms. I'll only be able to mail this on Saturday night cause that's when I'll be unpacked. I'll also get to completely read your letter and Liz's (which was a real surprise) (SFC B: Liz was my dad's oldest sibling, and only sister) which I only glanced at.

Monday 10 Sept.

Today we got our first period of Drown Proofing and it really works. I can't float but I was able to stay afloat for about 2 hrs. On the day we take our test we have to float on our own stomach for 1 hr and that is so easy even for a sinker like me.

I also got a subscription to Leatherneck Magazine (our platoon is 100% on that) (SFC B: so, even in the mid 60's the services were pushing junior Soldiers to drop a percentage of their paycheck into magazines; who the hell gets that kickback?) and it will be mailed to you at home. It's supposed to be a good magazine. Anyway it will be coming in the mail.

The weather here isn't bad considering it is overcast and there is a cool wind blowing and winter is almost here. I keep hoping.

Thurs. 13 Sept 67

I passed the Elliots Beach test (SFC B: apparently the Elliot's Beach test was an end-of-course event similar to the modern Cruicible) with a 100 and so did our platoon and series. We may have a blue streamer for our guide. We are going to go for our Drown Proofing second class test today.

Fri. 14

Today I passed my Drown Proofing test and it was weird. We had to float for 50 minutes and swim the travel stroke 80 yds with an M1 rifle around our necks. Anyway I'm past all the hard stuff and am waiting for your to come down for graduation. It is pretty cool down now and I think Don (SFC B: Dad refers to "Don" several times in different letters, no clue who it is but apparently is a friend of his from home who joined the USMC at the same time he did) told his parents to bring sweaters.

I have been replaced about 2 weeks ago but I still march in the front.

This is our last week so you won't have to send any mail for about a week cause I probably won't have time to read any mail, let alone write it, unless it is like this stuff I write.

Sat. 16, 67

We got up out usually early time, 04.30. Then we went out to PT with our packs + rifles and after this we went to an information class on our finances and all sorts of other stuff. Then we drilled for a while and went to a cheap lunch and I'm still hungry. I met a PVT Vergarao who was at Ossining when we played soccer and he recognized me. He said that they did really well this year.

From what has been going on lately and the way our D.I's are acting we are going to get one more streamer if it kills us as a going away gift for our senior Drill Instructor because he's going to Viet Nam. So far we only have 2.

Speaking of Viet Nam, most of us have the feeling that we're going to end up in Viet Nam before Easter no matter what training we get. The aviators guarantee go after their training and so do all the rest. The only good thing about that are the extra pay (all our pay over there is tax free) and the quick advancements. I'll probably know more at graduation. When you come down there are lots of places on this Island that are nice. There are two picnic areas and lots of beaches and since the weather is still warm, it isn't too bad for winter (60 degrees).

Could you also bring my little iron when you come down? This is all I can write now but I'll try to send more. Next week is going to be busy.


Sunday, June 26, 2011

Dad's Letters from Vietnam

My complete lack of interest in recruiting news (really, I've been paying attention to it for three years AFTER I left USAREC; there is nothing new in the news). So I've decided to go to the well of letters my mom sent me from my dad. I'd transposed one before, but this is from his initial tour.
29 August 1968

Dear Mom & Dad,

I just got my picture taken about 3 min ago and here it is. What it is is the view from the bottom looking at the ammo bunker. I weight 190 approx. and have a caterpillar on my lip (I started it yesterday). The white line above my jungle trousers is my natural color + dirt. Even after I shower my skin is a nice brown (when I use soap its lighter). The skies are a clear blue after a few weeks of rain.

I got a card from Mom today and am glad to hear that all is well at home, with the exception of the heat. It is very windy up here and on some days I go to the top of the hill and stick my head in the clouds (where else am I) or on a clear day I can see the Cua Viet river and Dong Ha.

Before I forget, I have lost my wallet and wonder if there is anything I have to do about my drivers license (the USMC is taking care of the rest). Well that is all that I have to say.


P.S. What are you going to do with Snoopy's pups, and could you send me some rolls of Polaroid Swinger film.
I had to Google Polaroid Swinger. Needless to say it was something I did with some trepidation. Turns out it was a camera.

Friday, April 08, 2011


So, here I am at lovely Ft. McCoy for Battle Staff. The government is a couple hours from "shutting down" leaving me being unpaid for work for the first time in almost 15 years.

Understandably this has a lot of my friends and colleagues worried. I'm included in this. I have some savings, but no where near enough to go through an extended period without pay. In the history of humanity, and even compared to about 6,000,000,000 other people on Earth I am very lucky and blessed. Even without a paycheck I'm not worried about where my next meal will come from, other if I will have a roof over my head, or that I could be eaten by a tiger. Yes, my concerns are small in the big scheme of things, but I still don't like the thought of going without a check for a while.

However, I'm running headlong into my personal philosophy now inconveniencing me. Our nation is on an unsustainable course. We cannot afford to spend money the way we do. And it is only going to get worse. Social Security, Medicare/ Health care, and Defense are third rails no one will piss on, and the budget cannot be fixed without touching them. And that is only at the Federal level. State pensions are engaged in underfunding to a scale that, if done by a private company, would put every executive in jail for the rest of their life. We are out of money.

So, here I am. I'm glad to see that some of the political class is actually trying to fight against fiscal tidal wave approaching. However they're squabbling over pennies. A $30 billion difference in a $3.8 trillion dollar budget is nothing. Heck, I hate using the words.


And all this does is reduce this year's deficit to $1,370,000,000,000.00 from $1,400,000,000,000.00. The current "showdown" between House Republicans and the White House and Senate Democrats is over a rounding error in the budget.

The eventual solutions to America's problems are going to hurt. And they're going to hurt people I care about. Most of my family in my parent's generation is retired. I don't know their finances, but some of them are collecting Social Security and I have no doubt they would be adversely affected by serious reductions to Social Security, or even its loss. They all paid in to it during their working life, sacrificing a portion of their paycheck each time with the expectation that it would be there for them.

This budget impasse puts us servicemembers in the same boat as millions of other Americans. There are tens of millions unemployed and underemployed. This is a hard time for millions of families, and now we're in the same boat. And at the added disadvantage of still being required to report for work. However we're lucky in that we know it can't go on forever. Eventually the budget will be settled, one way or another. When that happens our pay will resume. But until then we have to adapt and persevere.

"The Military" is the most respected institution in America, and has been for 21 of the past 22 years. This is a position we have achieved, in part, by always being there and being separate from the fray. The American people allow us to enjoy the comfort we do in peace time because we stand ready and sacrifice in war. It is a boon we enjoy at their pleasure, and we should not forget it. We can not make the same mistake the teachers did in Wisconsin and forget who we work for. Posting "For Sale" signs on HMMWVs is funny, but there are a lot of our fellow citizens who have had to sell their assets to keep food on their table. There is a fine line between making light of our temporary troubles and just how royally screwed many civilian families are.

We also should take this moment and realize that it is only the beginning. This is a warning shot. Tough times are coming. Pay and benefits are going to be looked at. It is going to hurt.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Not adding up

A young prospect (applicant?) in Ohio died from an electrolyte imbalance brought on by a binge diet. The man's mother is, understandably, distraught by this. She is now fighting for changes to how the Army recruits. No specifics, just changes.

Tragic. I have little doubt that in the thousands of recruiters in hundreds of recruiting stations across the country there are some who have given some very dangerous advice. In my own experience I suggested a processor look into one of those body wraps offered at spas. It didn't work out. The cost was higher than they were able to pay. And after a bit more research I figured that it wasn't going to be worth it. The gains were too fleeting to be worth the effort.

But our station would put in some serious effort with those interested. It was a very good indicator who was going to be willing to join and who wasn't. If they were willing to come in early, or stay late, and work out, they were going to be willing to commit to the Army.

A weight loss of 85 pounds in 3 months is extreme though. If this young man was coming in to the station routinely and was making such significant weight losses in such a short period at the direction and encouragement of the local recruiters, I really hope someone was suggesting he take it easy.

Monday, February 28, 2011


Not much going on. Working. Graduated SLC.

Yay me.

Always checking the recruiting news, but, really, it is the same-same. Success, success, success, no mention.

Keep fighting the good fight. I'd rather have nothing to write about than be able to write 30 posts in a month about how much I hate being in recruiting.