I, Veteran

by adam on November 11, 2010

I am a veteran.

Today is the designated day for people to remember the men and women who have given much to all for this nation.

On this day I will tell you some things about myself.

I spent 31% of my life in service. It changed and defined nearly every aspect of me as a person. Some things were changes for the better, others maybe not so much.  I spent 1 year in Korea, 4 years in Okinawa, OIF (Operation Iraqi Freedom) II at Camp Anaconda with the 29 BCT, OIF IV with the 705 MPB Camp Bucca.  The rest of the time was spent doing nuclear security or attending training schools.

My hands have been soaked in the blood of my enemy and the blood of my friends. No amount of washing has ever taken the stain out. I shook hands with Donald Rumsfeld on the tarmac of Osan Airbase in South Korea.  I have had to put my hands on service members to get them to stop beating the shit out their wives when they were drunk in Okinawa.  I installed a multi-million dollar security system piece by piece which was upgraded only two years later.  I had coffee with the US Army Chief of Staff GEN Peter Schoomaker Christmas day in 2005 and was told “there is no better life than the soldier’s life.” 8 days later I was in the theater hospital holding a bandage on a 19 year old kid’s leg who had his tibia blown off from a road-side bomb.

My eyes have witnessed the most incredible things you can imagine, the things kids play video games to see.  500 lbs bombs being dropped on groups of men.  The absolute fear and terror of 5 year old kids with pieces of steel sticking out of their chest, begging us to save them.  The most beautiful sunrises in the world.  The darkest nights in the most desolate places. The smile on men’s faces when they meet their new born child in an airport because they were deployed when the baby was born.

My ears have heard things which I will not forget.  The sound of a 1,000 lb bomb exploding. Screaming, crying, laughing, yelling.  Motivational speeches, prayers, dirty jokes, and last words. The sirens warning of incoming rounds. The whomp of blades of another chopper approaching with wounded.  The incredible noise of F-16′s taking off with afterburners to run interdiction.

My feet have set on the soil of many countries, many of which I would like to see again in perhaps different circumstances.

I have asked people to do the strangest things.  7 bag drags in a row because one man out of 26 forgot a AA battery.  ”Shoot that motherfucker.”  Calming down frantic men who had normal reactions to incredibly abnormal events.  Losing my mind when people failed to strap their Kevlar chin strap during field maneuver.

My mind is stuck on what could have been different, and how it all turned out. All kinds of memories.  The most delicious breakfast ever after having a 120 mm mortar round explode 40 feet away from me.  I do believe I still had wet pants from pissing myself and laughing.  I was so god damn happy to be alive and in one piece I didn’t care.  Wondering I could have done something differently for a hundred different situations, ranging from how I routed EPRs to how I responded to superiors to how I handled situations that got a little crazy.

The spectacle of horror after a badly aimed rocket hit the inside of the TIF compound instead of our LSA.  Dead crooks all over the fucking place being trampled by live crooks who had pieces of steel and shrapnel pulverizing their flesh.  Having a master bomb maker walk up to me holding his intestines and saying “Sergeant I need help.”  Then looking back at him and laughing while calling for more people to assist.  How funny, you assholes sent us a morning present that missed and instead landed on all your freedom fighting pals. I do believe it occurred to me that morning something is wrong with me by the way.

My behavior is locked on funny little rituals and routines.  I find I do somethings automatically.  I do some things unintentionally.  Things that are no longer required, things that used to be important.

My heart has been torn in pieces.  Turned cold and hard, and filled with sorrow and remorse.  Armored with pride and pressure treated with hatred.

My soul blacked and tarnished; from a year of comforting the same men we were sent to kill the year before in the shit hole prison of Bucca Iraq.  Nothing will ever replace the shame of having to provide care and protection to the same men who wiped young children off this planet with their god damn IEDs.  The same men who fractured my skull and left me with the promise of a life time of pain and brain damage.  The same men who killed my friends.  I got to serve them their dinner and mediate arguments over soccer games.  Babysitting Iraq’s unwanted citizens, what a fucking honor.

My back has been fatigued from carrying 70 pounds of gear in 140 degree heat for days at a time. My spine is distorted from falling out of that stupid fucking helicopter in 2002. I have spent two years regaining normal hip and ankle movement from years and years of combat boots.

Everyday I feel pain for my friends who died on the sand of a shit hole country. A war for liberty and justice, or greed and oil?  Our enemies, did they do anything that we wouldn’t have?  Placed in their shoes I would have done the exact same acts, no, I would have done worse. If someone invaded my home and dropped bombs on my city my violence would have surpassed anything they tried to do to us.

My friends, every few months one of you kill yourself. I know it’s hard.  Men must become monsters and there is no going back.  We pretend.  We smile.  We say everything is fine.  There is no comfort left. No excitement to be found.  Dull, boring, painful day-to-day life is all that remains afterwards.  I can’t ask you not to do it, but I do request you call me before you check out.  I am not going to talk to you down, I just want to say thanks while I still have a chance to.

Thank you Scott Smith for covering my ass when I needed it.  Thank you Lamont Hughes for saving my ass when I need it.  Thank you Mark Hyden, you taught me more than any other SNCO.  Thank you Michael Miller, you were my absolute favorite person I ever worked with.  Thank you Matt Smith, you are one of the sharpest NCOs in this Military and I trust you will be recognized in due time as such.  Thank you Chris James Smith, rest in peace my brother.  I miss you.  There are a lot of people I would offer a thank you too, but I don’t know if I can recall all the names right now.

To all my troops, I hope I have been the meanest mother fucker you ever had to work for.  Better you get hard now then later. The god damn world is not sugar cookies and candy canes and if you fuck around someone will put holes in your body. Remember to stay sharp and get sharper.

I am glad I ended it when I did for many reasons.  I have become too difficult to work with.  Free thinking is not a very good thing for an NCO, it becomes a problem.  The raw incompetence of Minot AFB was grinding me down. I had been let down too many times and the last few times had too high of a cost for me to want to throw dice again.  Recently, hearing how Jake was shot in the leg nearly pushed me to a fucking meltdown a few weeks ago.  I specifically identified that as a risk over a year ago, yet, I was told to shut up.

I miss the commitment of duty some days.  I miss my uniform some days.  I miss the stink of 50 people after having them train field maneuvers for 12 hours in full kit.  Sometimes I miss having to wonder what will happen next.  Every now and again I find that I miss the mission.  Most of all I miss my friends.  I miss having people who would do anything to protect me if required.  I miss having people who understood what IT is like. I miss being around people who know what a tough day looks like it.  These days I guess all the problems really just relate to money, how to make more and how to spend less.  I certainly don’t find myself missing this shit.

I didn’t join to see the world.  I didn’t join for a pay check, or benefits, or college.  I didn’t join to find myself.  I joined because airplanes were crashing in to buildings and assholes were cheering about it. I joined because I had a belief system that someone had to do this shit and not all people are qualified for the task.

I do not know if I am proud of the all of the things which have happened. I don’t view it all with the expected indoctrinated view of righteousness and valor for the American way.  We are not so much better then the rest of the world to scorn all things different.  I don’t know if any of my actions ever made the USA any safer. I don’t know if anything is any better now then it used to be.  I guess that is one of the hardest parts.  I know what we paid, I just don’t know what the fuck we paid for.

I miss my purpose, but I am glad that I had one at one point in my life.  Some people never have one.

I find myself feeling hard pressed in my transition to so-called normal life.  I was exceptionally good at a few things and it has not been easy to learn skills that are useful to this side of life.  I have a strong disdain for the average American citizen, which is probably dumb because that is supposedly the very thing we all were fighting to protect.  I find most 26-30 year olds don’t even know the difference between Iraq and Afghanistan, and they definitely do not have any thought process for those who are out right now standing on the wall.  I guess that is all good too.  Part of the deal of freedom is you can do what you want to some extent.  Most people don’t want to think about the cost.  Except of course on these special calender days. Maybe they will spend two minutes remembering today.   Better than nothing I guess.

There are some things I am going to share here which i doubt you will read anywhere else today, being that it is a “special day”:

I met some of the smartest men and women in my life in the service, but most of my time was spent surrounded by absolute fucking morons.  There is this public image that everyone in the military (or specific branches of the military) are squared away and have their shit together.  This is absolutely false.  This countries’ freedom is secured by a massive arsenal operated by people who couldn’t pass an 8th grade education test and stocked full of  drug addicts, thieves, rapists, abusers of privilege and authority, cowards, criminals, and overall shit heads.  I can speak from my career field (3P071) that out of every 10 new people who enter the service, only 5 will make it to the end of their first 4 years.  Try to imagine my raw disgust when several of my own troops went to prison from a deployed location.  One for having child porn, one (a female) for having sexual relations with a god damn detainee, and 2 for illegal substance use   I suppose all of those fuck faces are veterans too.

To all veterans, I remember you. I don’t need a god damn special day on a calender, I remember you every day.

My friends who couldn’t come back, I remember you. The day you died the media didn’t even mention your name “service member died in Iraq” was all they had on the screen while they debated how much of a mess some dumb fuck musician was that week   Too bad the sexual activities and drug habits of celebrities trump news of 18-24 year old Americans giving their life for this country. I don’t need a special day to remember you because I remember everyday.

All of those who came before, who did incredible things, I remember you.

To all of you out doing it right now, I remember you. While you freeze your ass off at night, and sweat your balls off during the day. I have you on my mind.

That is what I have to say about this topic on this day.

Happy Veterans Day.

{ 50 comments }

david November 11, 2010 at 12:10 am

There isn’t much I can say other than thank you buddy. Hopefully I can help you out as much as you helped me by doing what you did.

Gary Berenbroick November 11, 2010 at 7:33 am

Thank you Adam

mike sheehan November 11, 2010 at 7:38 am

adam

thankyou for everything you have done , there are few people that i respect more then you
i am fortunate to now you thanks adam for all you do

Julie November 11, 2010 at 8:16 am

Speechless.

God bless you Adam. And thank you – not just today either.

Josh Hanagarne November 11, 2010 at 9:05 am

Adam, thank you for everything. Words are inadequate, but I mean them.

Janette Hanagarne November 11, 2010 at 9:07 am

Adam, thank you for serving, and thank you for all the help you have given Josh. Our lives are both better for having you in them. I hope I’ll get to meet you soon.

Jay Ashman November 11, 2010 at 9:58 am

Amazing…. heartwrenching, and thank you.

Dave Sandel November 11, 2010 at 10:02 am

I’m with Julie and Josh. Totally speechless because words wouldn’t do it justice.

Thanks for everything.

Kareem Ahmed November 11, 2010 at 10:28 am

Great post Adam. You offer a great perspective and I hope that someday all the pain (physical and emotional) goes away. Thanks for everything you have done for this country.

Stephanie November 11, 2010 at 10:43 am

SPEECHLESS! Wonderfully said, Adam!

Annette Eyadeidra Horne November 11, 2010 at 11:14 am

My heart to all the soldiers who have Died for this country, I’m so Humbled with their Ultamate Sacrifice, their Life. I’m an Army Veteran, and Soldiers from all Branches of the Armed Forces we are but a few % of the population that actually serve,and we r by no means Ordinary, we r Excentric and Amazing!

Amy Jurrens November 11, 2010 at 11:23 am

I know you probably don’t want them, but all I have are tears. I’m sitting in my office crying hard tears.

Adam – you are better for writing this post. You’ve given all of us a great gift today – a glimpse inside you. Thank you for ripping yourself open to all of us. Now let us support you, if even a small amount.

Today I see a little better what the military life is like. I can’t say I understand it, but your truth has opened my eyes. I am better for knowing you.

Tim Stovall November 11, 2010 at 11:27 am

You and everyone that has ever served in the military has my utmost respect and undying gratitude! Adam, you are truly an outstanding human being and if some fools don’t see that, SCREW them! Not everyone will understand you or even try to, but those of us that do, love you! We love you not just for what you’ve done in the past, but also for what you’re doing right now! Don’t ever change, and once again thanks for everything you’ve done and are doing!

Mike T Nelson November 11, 2010 at 11:31 am

Agreed with what has been said above. I have a link on my site to it coming soon.

There is no way I can say thank you for all that you have done–99.99% of it that I will never know about.

This is the most heart felt and honest account I have ever read.

Anything that I can do to help you in return, in any small way, let me know

rock on
Mike T Nelson PhD(c)

James Neidlinger November 11, 2010 at 12:29 pm

Hu’ah
well put mate,
and then some

frank November 11, 2010 at 12:30 pm

Thank you adam.

Chris B November 11, 2010 at 1:39 pm

Adam,
My nephew is into his last 90 days of his second tour in Iraq. I am forwarding this to him as soon as I get home tonight.
Thank you so much,

Demond Thompson November 11, 2010 at 2:33 pm

That was a really hard read. Very heartfelt and drove some points home. The only thing that kept me from sobbing outloud is the fact that I’m in the library.

Thank you so much.

I need to remember that my worst day here is better than many’s best days.

James J. Stadtfeld November 11, 2010 at 3:32 pm

Thank you, Adam. I’ve never met you, but that matters little. I’ve had many of my family members serve. My Mom’s father was a Marine in Iwo Jima, another on the USS Bunker Hill (CV-17), which I recommend Googling, as you’ll see precisely what he saw from a lookout tower one morning off the coast of Japan, and lastly my cousin/best friend Brandon served in Iraq. I doubt I’ll experience the things you or those like you have, so all I have are stories like the above as I sit in my place of comfort. Once more, I thank you and yours. God bless.

Kevin Greto November 11, 2010 at 3:49 pm

Thank you, Adam.

Joe Zubiena November 11, 2010 at 3:51 pm

Thanks ATG for your service. You are one of my brothers in arms and I will always hold you in the highest regards. I know the shit you put up with for little pay, little appreciation and a lot of sacrifice. I spent my 23 years laughing, crying, bleeding and cursing and would never give up one second of it…and that is because of people like you! My brothers and sisters that I have served will always be closer to me than anyone. I watched young troops that I knew had potential sprout into the phenomenal people that they are today and it brings a tear to my eyes. Again thanks Adam

Kristi November 11, 2010 at 4:03 pm

Thank you for telling it like it is. God Bless You!

neghar November 11, 2010 at 7:51 pm

Adam-I commend you for writing this with such brutal honesty and transparency. You literally brought me to tears. I am honored to have served in the same military as someone like you-although my exploits pale in comparison (and that’s an understatement). I miss it sometimes too. The camaraderie, the uniform, even the chow. I miss hearing TAPS at night. I gained a family much stronger and deeper than the family I was born with, and I will be eternally grateful for that.

Keep your head up, brother. You are something special.

Lori November 11, 2010 at 8:19 pm

I am veteran, too, with service in the Middle East. Thank you for giving us your voice.
11/11 is always very tough day for me — when I hear “Happy Veteran’s Day” I think, WTF? Happy? For whom? While I do appreciate the warm wishes, I can only relate to, “Thank you for your service,” with a nod and a brief pause.
Over and Out.
~xo

Piers McCarney November 11, 2010 at 8:51 pm

Thank you, Adam.
As a non-American, we often find it easy to criticise and demonise the U.S. and particularly its military action. All too often the quality men and women who serve with noble and true intent are forgotten against the political background.
Thank you to you and all like you, who shoulder a burden that few can imagine.

Gabriele November 11, 2010 at 9:48 pm

Thi line will make me thinking a lot. “I miss my purpose, but I am glad that I had one at one point in my life.  Some people never have one.”
Thank you Adam. I feel your pains.

Bianca November 11, 2010 at 9:53 pm

In 2004, I walked past the WTC site in Manhattan. The only thing that came to mind while I looked at the site & the blacked-out windows on the surrounding buildings was, This is what my cousin is getting shot at for in Iraq (Army)…..Days later I cried happy tears when we found out he was coming home from Iraq. (He went on to serve another long tour, which almost killed him.)

At this point in life, I speak less about how to express my appreciation to veterans such as yourself. I vow to express the appreciation in thought and deed.

A couple months ago, I saw someone’s casual snapshot of a male relative before he was going to ship out to Vietnam. I was quietly shaken. The sunny smile and carefree youth contrasted with what was written on the back about where he was headed. What became of him?…, I wonder. I *will* say I am proud of average Americans who do remember the maltreatment/disrespect of Vietnam veterans and vow to not let that happen again to veterans.

Adam, I can imagine what you live with. I know it from the pain of men close to me. I meant to wish a quick well-wish to you today for Veteran’s Day…Since I’ve already said a bunch, I want you to know I consider you a friend and worthy man. Not because of the bendy tricks or the weightlifting. You have been burdened with scary intelligence and gravitas. You may not feel it, but the world is a better place to be in because of you, and others like you.

Mark Wilson November 11, 2010 at 9:54 pm

I’m speechless Adam. Thank you for writing such an honest post about your experience for all of us to read and experience.

Susan Wenger November 11, 2010 at 10:48 pm

Thanks. Veteran’s Day serves as a reminder that a lot of people have signed up to do what I have never done. Your post makes me even more certain that I’m not qualified, but that doesn’t make me feel less guilty.

Tomas November 11, 2010 at 11:06 pm

Most influential. We’ve never met in person, but I hope you can find peace after all your hardships, Adam.

Rachael November 11, 2010 at 11:41 pm

“Welcome Home.” My dad is a Vietnam Vet, and I am really glad we, as a country, no longer treat Our Troops like we did in the early ’70s when my dad came home.

Thank you for putting yourself in harms way, so the unwashed masses can live their lives of ignorance and entitlement. I am one of them, but I know it’s the men and women that serve that allows me to have this life.

Thom von Muehldorfer November 12, 2010 at 12:00 am

Adam, I just found out more about,”The Pursuit of Strength in all its Forms,” Thank-you.

maxwell thompson November 12, 2010 at 12:02 am

thank you for sharing your Story Adam,you are a most Exceptional man!

Claire November 12, 2010 at 12:43 am

Adam, thank you.

Roehamster November 12, 2010 at 3:46 am

My thanks to you, for writing this piece. An outstanding record of service, seen through the eyes of an intelligently critical soldier. And to David, for recommending I follow the link to it on his Twitter site.

Jeroen November 12, 2010 at 5:05 am

Impressive. Apart from everything else, you can really write.

Tyler S. November 12, 2010 at 6:21 am

Adam, Thank you for your service and for sharing what we the people will never truly understand.

Thank you to all the men and women who have served our country. The world is a better place because you gave what most would not.

Matt Bell November 12, 2010 at 6:31 am

Wow Adam I wish we could have served together !!
Thanks again fir all you did !!

Julie November 12, 2010 at 6:56 am

Adam

So honest, so heart felt, most of all? So true.

Extremely saddened that our world continually thinks solely about money and material gain, or put more crudely…GREED. Thank you for the insight into the life of a veteran.

You would make a wonderful motivational speaker if you are not already pursuing this.

I give great thanks to people like you in the world :o )

Todd@PhitZone November 12, 2010 at 7:44 am

Thank you. Thank you for your service. Thank you for writing this.

Jean Sampson November 12, 2010 at 10:26 am

I think of my Dad who was in the Battle of the Bulge and used to have screaming nightmares many nights, told stories of his socks freezing on his feet at night—buddies in front of him being blown up or having arms ripped off right next to him . I really do not know how he remained sane with all that inside him.
He got the Bronze Star for saving a bunch of guys who lost radio communication—he built a tube out there in the trenches somehow. He said, as far as he knew, he never killed anyone and that seemed to be so important to him. His name was Linwood Carlton Robinson and I loved him more than anything.
Thanks for helping me think of him again today.
God help everyone who has to do this job. Thanks Adam

Petra van Baar November 12, 2010 at 11:05 am

Adam…THANK YOU, for your service, but more so for the service of giving such amazing insight. This should be required reading for all the F-tards who get the day off from school or work without so much as a second thought for why AND WHAT AMAZING COST they are getting to do so.

Justin Matthews November 12, 2010 at 12:27 pm

Good Grief that was one of the most moving pieces I have ever read. Thank you for sharing your unique perspective, it was enlightening and very powerful. Thank you for your service and this glimpse into the real world of combat.

Mathieu November 13, 2010 at 11:27 am

I know I’m reading this “late”, but whatever.

It’s awesome to get that piece of real-life insight of the Military from your part, Adam. And I’m conscious we’re even barely touching the surface, here.

Still, if only for that tiny bit I now know about, thank you. And thanks to all who are giving their life for their country. Talk about sacrifice.

As for your recently-started civil life, don’t give up. There are an immense number of opportunities to fetch and variety of achievements to make. You are more than awesome enough to create your own path through it all, as you’ve already started in great fashion. It can only get better.

Congrats, thanks, cheers, and rock on!
Mat

gene pires November 14, 2010 at 9:10 am

quite possibly the best piece written about being a veteran that I have read. I am too much a man to cry but I came damn close when you wrote about the suicides. Alright, I did cry a little.

Your honesty is appreciated by all. Keep up the truth.

thanks for you and all for the service to our country.

gene pires November 14, 2010 at 9:12 am

oh yeah, this is a “keeper” for the articles section

Joseph Reynolds November 14, 2010 at 9:37 am

Great article! You’ll find a way to achieve peace and happiness as a civilian, I’m sure of it.

Dustin S. November 15, 2010 at 8:53 am

Thank you Adam

David November 15, 2010 at 1:39 pm

Adam, I admire you for your honesty, dedication, and sacrifice! Sadly, there aren’t enough people like you. Thank you for serving. Thank you for giving so much when you’re not even sure if it did any good. Thank you for stepping up and sticking it through, trying to make a difference.

P.S. The more I find out about you through what you write, the less I see you as an @#!*&%.

Kathy Kitterman November 16, 2010 at 6:29 pm

Thank you Adam……

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