Saturday, September 30, 2006
(my dad sent this to me of all people)
I went to a bar and had a beer and today, I’m blogging from my own laptop! Why would this be?
No I’m not at home yet but that date isn’t too far off. I’m on R&R for the next couple of days! 3 beer limit per night, there’s a nice pool here, Chili’s and a lot of military people wearing civilian clothes acting like they didn’t just come from a war zone. Actually I think this place would be a better stopping off point then Kuwait. Get us used to civilian life a bit (I’m not going to have a problem except for missing the sawing log sounds of my roommates).
It’s strange not to feel the comforting weight of my 9 on my hip and wearing shorts and a tee shirt makes me feel awfully naked. What can I say about this place, there’s a huge beautiful gym that looks underused, you can plug in your laptop at the internet café unlike my regular base, they serve beer, the chow is good, there's a nice pool with girls in bikini's (not looking, just noting that for you single guys). Haven’t taken any trips out in town yet, just winding down after the stress of being in Iraq.
Not that I was under a huge amount of stress other then having to look at the same places and people, that can even catch up to the calmest guy. Here I don’t have to see anyone I don’t want to for 4 days!
My recommendations if you’re coming here? Don’t try walking anyplace using the map given, what looks like 2 streets over is actually a couple of miles (we missed breakfast were almost into lunch by the time we got there, they almost found a pile of bones, maps far from being to scale) there’s a bus running around base, use that. Heading off to war anther 2 items to add to your seabag, make sure you bring some long shirts and pants to go out into town on R&R, so you don’t get stuck buying cheesy clothes here that you’ll never wear again (not a good selection at the PX). Gamers will have a blast, there’s an internet café set up just for that. Moral phones are free and plentiful, call home a lot. You need a pass to take pictures, make sure you get one, they’ll tell you how in the brief, it’s easy. Wear sunscreen, it’s super bright and hot outside.
After 3 trips to the Box, it sure is nice to get some R&R right before I go home, so far having a good time but it doesn’t replace being in my wife’s arms. Take care everyone and thanks for reading.
Sunday, September 24, 2006
It's a new season of Battlestar Galactica! I'm not a fan of unintelligent TV. Shows that make it to primetime should have well developed plots, smart characters and a storyline that sweeps you away. Battlestar does a pretty good job at covering all of those points and at the same time the science works logically and is well thought out. The show comes with its own world view and mythology which is rich and believable. The characters are complex and multi-dimensional with many shades of gray, one days hero could be tomorrows alcoholic.
The underlying theme that goes beyond the SciFi plot is that no matter how advanced we get we're still human and the humanity in this show shines. Don't mistake shining to being moral or good, all of the bad stuff is in there too, it's dark, tough and gritty. Even the good guys aren't that good. Battlestar doesn't dull the edges, it challenges your views, logical arguments make you angry and opposing views are reasonable and well thought out, they make you believe both sides of whatever the characters are arguing. It's like they have a writer for each character, there's a morals behind the character are their morals alone, somewhat like like real life. If you are going to create your own universe, do a good job and make it as seamless as possible, they've done a great job. I'm greatly cheered that it's being aired by the SciFi network and not Fox because it probably wouldn't have made it past the first season.
If you've read my blog long enough, you'll remember what my wife and I say about Fox, "Where good television goes to die".
Saturday, September 23, 2006
Friday, September 22, 2006
Not that terrorists don't deserve to be drawn and quartered but as Americans, we can't afford to give up the higher ground. Every time we press the standards of the Geneva Conventions or stretch the rules of how we can treat prisoners, we lose more of the moral high ground to tell someone else, "Hey, what you are doing is wrong!"
The back of the card states this
________is a Marine.
1 Obey the Law
2 Lead by Example
3 Respect Themselves and Others
4 Maintain a High Standard of Integrity
5 Support and Defend the Constitution
6 Uphold Special Trust and Confidence
7 Place Faith and Honor Above all Else
8 Honor Fellow Marines, The Corps, Country and Family
Not one place on that card gives them leeway to do something that they might consider morally wrong. It takes a special type of person to become a Marine, it's no walk in the park, these are regular flawed human beings who are trying to live up to a perfect example, by choice. Most people join the Marines for a reason, they're trying to live up to some higher standard or principle that they've seen portrayed. I've noticed that people who join and can't live up to those standards don't last long or longer then one enlistment.
Thursday, September 21, 2006
Yes, even I am a myspace user, I've noticed it as more of an enlisted phenomenon then an officer one, while almost all of our junior enlisted guys use it, I only know of 2 of our officers and they are fairly infrequent about it, one is described as a single computer geek and other officers think of him an aberration. Walk around the internet café on any given day (or night) and you'll find 3 out of 4 computer screens showing a Myspace page open. Ask the average 20 year old Marine what a blog is and they will say it's that button on Myspace (that most of them don't use), I only have a one of my Marines listed as a friend, most of them don't know I have a myspace (but for some reason everybody in my unit seems to know I have a blog, my guys know what a blog is!) These kids aren't there to journal their lives or even tell a story, this is just a platform to network themselves out, meet girls and such (I already have a very lovely girl). Gives them an outlet to touch someone outside of the wasteland that they are in. I use mine a tool to keep in touch with friends from back in the day, school buddies, friends I've been stationed with and a few crossover ex regular bloggers who continue to blog but are doing it exclusively on myspace. It's strange to think regular blogging has become a place where the elder generation is hanging out, I am getting old!
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
After 3 trips out here and you start to notice trends, what works and the people who make a difference. There's always someone who goes beyond what is expected of them, doing things that aren't asked has that shining moment when they're so pissed or some subject urks them so much that they have to fix it. I had my moment when I put all of the books in order.
There's another guy in our squadron who worked construction for the decade prior to joining the Marines in his late 30's on a age waiver. He came out here and witnessed the shoddy construction that his fellow Marines hand done, primitive benches, shelves that weren't level and lean to's covering smoking areas. I've seen better tree house construction in some cases. Hidden behind his mild mannered bifocals, Sgt Elka started building a deep resentment for all of the crap that these amateurs had built and were displaying proudly.
My own little pet peeve was the crappy bookshelves that were up. People who lived in shanties would have made better bookshelves then the ones we were using. So one of our first projects to make some new book shelves and I would put everything in order. (one of our officers was also getting miffed by all of the books lying around and was requesting marshmallows in care packages for the book burning so we had to work quickly). So bookshelves were made and installed along the halls outside of medical (so I would have to go far to keep everything in order).
Sgt Elka started on making these octagon picnic tables and putting park benches all over. As usual no good deed goes unpunished and the command started putting in requests too. Soon we had a phone booth built with it's own AC unit, CO's from other units would come by and start talking about wanting such things at their units (and egad! having their books put in order!! Glad I'm going home soon, have you ever had to go through a couple thousand books that have been through a couple of years worth of dust storms? Very messy!)
It's not the people who do well on their day jobs who make the mark that everyone remembers, it's those cranky old men who get pissed off by the status quo and do something about it. I know those book shelves and picnic tables will be around for a long time after we're gone.
Monday, September 11, 2006
I was living in Paulden a very small town 30 miles north of Prescott Arizona on a 5 acre plot with 4 goats, 3 dogs, a garden and a pile of ducks and chickens. On that particular morning like others, I had woken up before the sunrise, grabbed a shower and was off to work. I turned on the radio which was tuned to NPR and had to turn down the volume because people were screaming into the mic, I immediately knew that something was wrong. The normally calm and collected voices of the show Morning Edition were in the state of panic. Reports were so fragmented so I scanned some of the AM talk radio stations to see what they were saying and there was a bunch of "oh my god's" and people crying, even worse then it was over at NPR.
I turned it back to NPR where they were talking about someone flying a plane into the side of the world trade center. I listened with a growing sense of dread, tears welling up in my eyes. I didn't have any friends that I knew of who were there but I started calling the important people in my life anyways. There was no rhyme or reason for what I was doing, I knew I was waking some of them but some part of me needed to hear their voices. I needed touch stones to ground me out.
As the day went on the news got worse and worse, I got to work and there were people jumping from buildings on live TV, huge balls of fame, pictures of taped to walls, gray dust coating everything. It was pure pandemonium. Why would someone do something like this? What kind of sick-o would kill that many people? There must be a reason.
All across the nation in that moment we all fell into a psychosis, unlike Pearl Harbor, we were watching events unfold live on TV. Hundreds of millions of people all around the globe couldn't turn their eyes away from the news, I know friends who didn't work or sleep for days, just watched the news hoping for a tidbit of new information. Some secret bit of information to answer the question of why. In some ways I was one of them, but I went to work and slept but all of my waking hours were filled with news stories from that front line. Visions of exploding and burning buildings were engraved on my retinas when I wasn't watching TV, I had NPR playing on my old tape player. For the sheer chaos they were doing a pretty good job, they had a local New York affiliate reporter rollerblading around and reporting by cell phone. I knew no good was going to come of this. At that moment, all I wanted the people who caused this to pay.
I was going through a time in my life were I was abstaining from TV. There was no TV at my house so I did the next best thing and went over to my best friend Larry's house where he was sitting there watching the news. I grabbed a beer out of the fridge and joined him where we didn't move till late at night, we didn't want to miss any thing. We were in a state of shock like everyone else. This can't be happening, it was like a scene out of Independence Day.
I had to talk Larry out of jumping into his car and driving off to give a hand. He had two kids and many responsibilities to take care off. Not to mention there were countless thousands who were thinking the same thing and we were on the other side of the nation. I wonder how many of those people lost everything by jumping off in their cars and going to help? I'm sure there are a few of them.
If I lived closer, I would have done it but the car I was driving at the time wouldn't have made it, who would have paid my child support or my rent? Every mistake in my life has been made on a spur of the moment decision and at that moment I wished I were back in the Navy, maybe I could have been someplace where I could have done something.
A week went by and most of us were still in shock, our business was suffering too. We specialized in hot rods and 4 X 4's, one week we were doing 500 or so hours and the next we were under a hundred hour a week. Prescott has a bunch of retired folk living there who survive off of the stock market and were loosing their shirts. I wouldn't have done business with us either. I could see in my boss's eyes that he was hurting financially and I could imagine what was going to happen next, tightening the belt and laying off. So I came up to him and said, don't worry about laying me off, I can go back into the Navy.
So a couple of weeks later, I was pulling into the gates at 32 nd street in San Diego. Guards everywhere and every other vehicles getting searched, they didn't even want you bringing a knife on base. I think they got tired of searching my suburban which held a mechanics set worth of tools, maybe 300 books and all of my clothes, all stuffed in there to the top. I had a lawn chair in back that I would pull out and a book to read when they did, usually took them 45 minutes to an hour but I never complained, it would take a 6 man team to search it in that amount of time but I really didn't have anything to hide.
Saturday, September 09, 2006
I've been cranky all week and there really isn't a reason for it. Two great weights are off of my shoulders, my advancement exam and the FMF Warfare board but I still feel like there's weight on me. Earthquake weather? I feel an anticipation that something is about to happen or I could be just going stir crazy from being away from my lovely bride so long which sounds reasonable too.
Case in point, I chewed out a poor Corporal this morning about breaking my coffee pot and not wanted to help with getting a new one and it ended up being me lecturing him on ethics. I've always taught the people working for me, if you break it, it's your responsibility to fix it or if it's beyond your means help get it fixed. At least make an effort unless it is an absolute accident or act of god. This strikes the same chord in my brain that stealing does, stealing is bad and disrespectful. What separates the humans from the savages is the respect for each other. Everything starts off with respect and respect for each others property, you treat people how you expect to be treated and work your way up from there. Respect starts out at a relationship between two people and it expands out to your family, friends, school mates, coworkers, groups and when you get far enough up the pole, nations.
Wars start when one group of people lose their respect for another. 9/11? It was a small bunch of savages who had no respect for the property of US citizens. With the actions of that day and not taking responsibility for their actions, a relative handful of people have caused a chain reaction which has caused countless deaths all around the globe and used their fellow Muslim brothers take the weight of the actions of a few. Some people are saying that we have over reacted, I think we should have waited and hunted till we had the names of all of the people involved and found out where they lived back where ever they came from and grew up had their training and dropped a daisy cutter (a really cheap big bomb) on each of those places at the same time. Sure a couple of thousand people would have died but it's better then the tens of thousands since and would have made them responsibility for their actions and the next group who thought about doing it would have had second thoughts.
Back to the coffee pot, these relationships start between two people showing respect for each other and each others property. Values need to be installed in individuals, we can't expect the nations to act with respect if the individuals do not have any values. While I know I'm fairly laid back about most things, you could even call me a slacker and it wouldn't be a lie but moral integrity is something I'm no slouch on. I don't lie, cheat nor steal and I don't let my son nor the people around me do it either.
Sunday, September 03, 2006
Last year Matt from the milblog Blackfive sent out a mass email to all of his fellow Milbloggers asking who would be willing take part in an effort to a gathering of our best blog posts in a single book called The Blog of War (it just went on sale at Amazon where you can search the inside of the book, type my name in to find what I wrote). After gathering these posts up and spending some time weeding and editing with our approval he found a publisher in Simon & Schuster so now I and a who's who list of military bloggers can now be called published authors (yes we got paid!) Thanks Matt!
This is the first conflict that there are American troops on the ground putting their thoughts out to the world in real time. Which even I admit isn't always a good thing but we do a fairly doing good job policing each other and our own posts because we have seen what happens to the people who don't and it's not pretty.
For good or bad, we have helped change public perception about the troops as individuals. Instead of a hero who you might see a single story about then drops out of the lime light. Milblogger have an ongoing online journal where anyone who has an internet connection can interact with. There are no lines drawn or holds barred. Milblogs in turn have been patriotic, angry, sad, raw, despairing and joyous, this is the story about how we feel, we're not a news agency taking a look at the big picture. We're just the eyes of that one lone individual looking at a war in a very up close and personal manner and sharing it. A few of us have been lucky enough to turn their blogs into a financial gain and have published books based on their story. (not me, you wouldn't believe how uninteresting my life is 99 percent of the time of which I'm extremely happy for). When I first started, there was less then 30 milbloggers out there, now there's literally thousands, every other person out here has a myspace account and if one out of ten uses the blogging portion, that adds up to a lot of people telling their story
I think the review from Publishers Weekly on Amazon is ironic " Every writer supports America's war aims, admires the President, despises enemy fighters (generally referred to as terrorists) and holds a low opinion of Americans who oppose the war (generally referred to as liberals). " I do despise terrorists but some of my best friends are liberals but I also have lot's of conservative friends too. Just because you don't believe in killing someone doesn't make you my enemy, there is nothing at all wrong with wanting peace nor disliking our elected officials.
Considering my portion of the book took place a few weeks after 9/11 and was mostly me writing about going to an open mic poetry reading where my best friend Won said her goodbye to me in poetry in front of a large crowd of peaceful hippie types. She wrote about how I am no longer her "sensitive ponytail man" and have been "shorn into a beautiful Monk". The shorning part actually happened at my going away party (very wild night, I'm sure there's pictures floating around somewhere). The pony tail resides in a plastic bag to show people yes there was a version Sean 1.0 a couple of years ago and I was a long haired hippie.
We were as far from a pro-war crowd as you could get that night but her message still reached an audience so receptive that some burst into tears after she was done reading (which I've never seen happen before). Contrary to what you imagine as a stereotypical Milblogger, not all of us are conservatives nor Republican as the Publishers Weekly review implies. We're from all walks of life and individuals who dance to different tunes.
The book is a great cross section of what Milbloggers have to offer and I couldn't recommend it any more. I've already purchased a copy for our book shelf out here and for my parents, check it out!