Sunday, December 15, 2013


We are the expendable and the forgotten. I want to be your voice, but I wish I was able to be someone elses voice. I loved him like a brother. Deployed with him. Slept five feet from him. Taught him to surf. Laughed my ass off when he came down to the beach from the parking lot with Scottish, both with their wetsuits on backwards, looking like they lovingly got each other dressed without their grranimals for the first time. What could have been saved with the ringing of a phone and a hello instead ended with a gunshot in Warner-Robbins without the chance to say goodbye. 

When we leave the life we know and try and build something new for ourselves, we miss the brotherhood, the way that your life depends on the man or woman to your left or right. We miss the hugs that the family we were thrown into and grew to love are now replaced by empty memories of better times and the jokes that only made sense to the people who were closer than family could only get away with telling. We miss shenanigans. I miss the look on your face when Bobby told SFC Vernon that he was going to take a piss right in the middle of a class in the field, and how he then told him that he didn’t know how to low crawl, because they never taught him that in basic training. I miss running to your truck when we were deployed and pissing on your tire because you called me fat. Its what brothers in arms do, and when that time is up those who put the weapons in our hands,trained us and sent us off to the God awful situations in Baqubah,Fallujah,Baghdad,Mosul,Kandahar,Baghram,Khowst or Mas I Sharif and then turned their backs on us just as quickly as they shook our hands when we finally made it home. We are all that we have.
One veteran dies by their own hands every 65 minutes. That is  22 a day. One active duty Soldier kills themselves every 25 hours.  I do this for them. I do this for you.

 I met my friend in 2001. I had just gotten to Ft. Lewis and he had just arrived from Korea. Blue eyes, thinning blonde hair that he thankfully ended up shaving and an ability to quote the Big Lebowski on command that instantly made us friends. We went to Ft  Meade, Maryland right after 9/11 to provide installation security and our friendship grew. Fortunate enough to be in the same platoon we would spend more time than I can recall telling jokes, wasting time and waiting to go home. We went to Iraq, our Gypsy caravan of an MP Company together, joined by our new brothers, Scottish, Brian, Bobby, Eli, Jesse, Ryan, Fish,Travis and Steve.We ended up living together in what we dubbed the “Hotel California”. You were the honorary Californian, because Warner-Robbins and California don’t have a damn thing in common. We would always get excited when you got a package from “your special lady friend” and that excitement turned to gruff profanities when we found out that she sent you all that bullshit organic nuts and dried fruits. We wanted beef jerky, porn and candy,damnit. I remember Eli jumping on you on when you were in your cot and your voice, suddenly octaves higher screaming “Stop the gayness,man!!” and we will never forget throwing bottlecaps in the fan and seeing who would get hit. These were some of the best times in our lives.
I failed you, brother. I talked to you right before you got out. You just returned from a brutal deployment. I had moved over to another Company leaving my brothers for new ones. Travis and Steve made the ultimate sacrifice and some others I never got the chance to meet. You were going home, done with the Army, tired of the bullshit,we could see it in your eyes. I remember getting your message right before Christmas. Our communication had been fleeting as you tried to build a life away from your friends and working for the railroad. Tell Kelly and the girls Merry Christmas. That was it. I wrote you back and told you Merry Christmas too, but I don’t know if you ever saw it. I remember Scottish telling me what happened. Brother, we were all still in Washington, a phone call away. There isn’t one of us that wouldn’t have come running for you if it would keep you on this earth. I know that and  we live with it everyday. We are all still in touch. These are bonds that can never be broken,regardless of the moves or the strains of time. You are still with us. In those quiet moments when I can’t sleep. Every time we have a baby and I want to name them after you. Every time I throw a bottlecap into the fan and piss my wife off, but will throw out your name, saying that you would want me to. 

The Army failed you. They fail us all. We are the expendable and once we decide to leave or the decision is made for us, we are the garbage that our parents always bitched at us to take out. Why are we dying by our own hands in larger numbers than by the hands of the enemy? Multiple deployments, seeing the worst that humanity has to offer, black spots that used to be people before explosions and the constant waiting for something to happen, that turns into “fuck it, were gonna die today”, but live to see tomorrow,only to repeat it next time we go out. This is what we do, it is who we are and when it ends we are alone and unimportant to the big Army. They care now because the numbers are so large. They gave us half a day to talk about it. Half a fucking day. Half a day to come up with something that could help prevent this, but I still had a Company Commander who told me not to look at him with my “crazy eyes” and compared me to the guy at Ft Bragg who shot his Battalion Commander and he didn’t want me to do the same to him. This is what the Army has become. The Army I love, bled for,cried for and gave my mind and body for does not care about me.You.Anyone.They throw Xanax at us, but don’t teach coping mechanisms. They don’t care what we have done in the name of freedom and won’t even shake our hand when we leave. This is why we are looking at a dead Veteran every 65 minutes. Toxic leadership is a great combination of buzzwords within the Pentagon walls, but they are just words if you don’t do a damn thing about it. We are failing those who did  the hard,unforgiving work that you may not have agreed with, but we don’t have that luxury and the first time you shoot at my brother, I want to fucking kill you. I wish you had called. Cried out. Done anything so you could be a physical presence in our lives. You were the glue that kept us strong, the jokes that kept us laughing and the person we all wished we could be. Your day is getting close. Painfully close. We think about you all the time, more so as the day gets closer. Let these words strike someone with the power to actually get something done. War will be over soon and we are not feeling any better. I do this for them. I do this for me. I do this for Ashley Kennedy.You are my brother and the boys and I will not fail in your name.

If you are in need, you are not alone: 

Veterans and their loved ones can call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online, or send a text message to 838255 to receive confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year    

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