Thursday, November 15, 2007

In Search of Normal

I was thinking the other day about how long it has been since I've posted - and it has been a while. I began to reminisce about how much this little white square on my screen with its blinking black line used to draw me in and consume my thoughts for hours on end. I began to remember how many times I poured myself out here, hoping for release; praying for a glimpse of understanding as the music resounded in my ears. I remembered how for me, this was a form of therapy - the best form of therapy. And then I began to realize why the passion that I once had for the written word has seemed to fade.

I believe that at one time, possibly beginning during my deployment or recently thereafter, I believe that I was on the verge. As I have previously written, at one time over there I lost my fear of death. I accepted and although I've never said this before, was not distraught at the thought of my body coming home draped in the colors-at times even taking pride at the thought. Depending on the circumstances and missions, you almost had to assume a fearless mindset in order to successfully complete the mission. I liken it to mindset that must have been adopted by the tunnel-rats during the Vietnam conflict. Although I've never read anything from nor have I spoken to a tunnel-rat, I think it's safe to say that before they went headfirst into a tunnel that could possibly be a VC enclave (and they did this often), they had to lose their fear of death. How else could they do it? Every door that those Marines and I busted down over there, could have been our last. I remember early on in my deployment thinking as we rode down MSR Bronze, "Please don't blow up...Please don't blow up." Eventually, I stopped fearing that possibility, and I began to accept it as an eventuality. I had to and others had to as well. We fought to live, and we tried to kill them before they killed us. And each skirmish that we won, took me further and further down the slippery slope of apathy.

After I got out of the Corps and returned home to work at a local police department, I asked my Field Training Officer what he would do if someone came from around that corner and began to shoot at us as we sat in our patrol vehicle. "Well," he said, "if you don't throw this thing in reverse and get us the heck out of here, I'll throw you out and do it myself!" His answer caused me a great deal of concern. It was the right answer, and I knew it was the right answer. It was however, the right answer to someone who was still afraid of dying. It took me well over a year to retrain myself to think this way and fight the mental compulsion to envision myself assaulting through the enemy instead of immediately taking cover and waiting for back up - which most times, is the correct course of action. And when I did, (rehabilitated my mind in a sense), my search for understanding began to wane. I became "normal" again. I no longer felt abnormal. I no longer battled with the conflicting thoughts of life and death, and wondering why, quite honestly, I wasn't afraid to die.

So, while I have never been one to make excuses, I think in this instance at least, my excuse for being noticeably absent in the blogsphere will be that I have realized that I am once again a normal person; very much in love with my life. If this all seems strange, weird and you think that I should be institutionalized, please read some posts from the early days of "America's Son" and maybe this will help you understand and see from where it is that I have progressed.

My oldest daughter just started kindergarten this year, so don't fret. I'm sure that I will soon be thrust once again into a search for understanding...Stay Tuned.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Jerrod and I lived together for six months in Iraq. So you can imagine when I read the article, "Marine Charged With 225 Counts of Abuse", I felt like someone punched me square in the stomach. I have not spoken to Jerrod since he and I hugged and shook hands at the airport in San Diego when I got back from Iraq in March of last year. Come on the bus with me as we head off to Marine Boot Camp. Please, read the above article first.

We have been driving around in circles for the past three hours. The sun set hours ago the chatter on the bus is lively and spirited. A few of us have high-and-tight's, but as we look around the bus, the majority of guys look like they just left their high-school campus. The bus slows noticeably and turns sharply right. "You all may want to sit down now", the bus driver yells with an ominous smirk on his face. A long stretch of straightaway....the chatter and laughing quiets...silence. We are all looking out the windows into the darkness, into the blackness of the swamp. Dim street lights now line the narrow two lane road. A small shack approaches in the distance. The bus slows as it approaches. Two Marines stand at the edge of the curb. They share a short empty glance with one another before they robotically wave the bus through the gate...

We are strangers in a foreign land. We have all been given a glimpse into a different world...a world where no matter where we came from, there is something greater than us. None of us know it yet, but in thirteen short weeks most of us will have accomplished more than we ever dreamed we could. Many of us will find what we came in search of. For a few, it was a choice made to be "the best". For others, it was the only service which would take them. We are a bus full of selfish individuals who would gladly trample the desires of the fellow sitting next to us in order to further ours. We have no concept Honor, Courage or Commitment. Many of us think we do, but in our lives, pure selflessness, an unwavering sense of duty and an unquestioning devotion to a cause are nonexistent. Soon enough however, we will meet the men who will take this busload of individuals and instill in each one of us these qualities...the qualities which have been trained into thousands of Marines who have stepped on the same yellow footprints where our feet are soon to tread. The means necessary to achieve this end, as every Marine will will attest to, are not pretty and at times, they hurt. The necessity of these means are also difficult to explain.

As I reflected on the purpose of this post, I realized that I will never be able to explain this transformation. It is an anomaly. It is something that is only going to be understood by those of us who have experienced the ultimate test of desire, will and determination. Let me share with you though, something that is going to cause you to shake your head in disbelief, but something that is also going to resonate with every Marine who reads this....I was hit by my Drill Instructors in boot camp. I was cursed at, at times spat upon, ridiculed, berated and at times threatened with bodily harm by these same men. Five short years later, I was being shot at and buildings were being blown up all around me. I was watching men blow themselves up yards away from me. I was hearing that unforgettable zing of rounds flying by my head. I was watching Marines being dragged out of the street after they were struck by the enemies bullets. I was being called upon to immediately and without question place myself in a position where I may give my life for the sake of the cause and my fellow Marines. Jump in a dang trash can? Have someone shove me in it? Hear me here...I prayed that the corner that I was crouching in in that shack in Husaybah would protect me from the car screeching toward us because I was not in a position to take it out and I feared it was going to take me out. I thanked GySgt Bodie for throwing that mattress on me and Bingo right before they blew that weapons cache. Marines follow orders because by following orders, we stay alive. How are we trained to follow orders? By being given strange orders to follow, and being made to follow than immediately without question. "GySgt Bodie, why should I keep this mattress over my head, and why should I jump down into this dugout?" You see what questioning orders can lead to?

Jerrod...thank you. SSgt Lorance, Sgt Casarez, Sgt Simms, thank you. You all did what was necessary to effect a transformation that only we can understand and appreciate. Hold your heads high....I am and will continue to do so because I know those lessons taught to me by the pain you inflicted, kept me and my brothers alive.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Small Stuff

I consider Jessie to be a close friend of mine and someone with whom I share a kindred spirit. Jessie and I went through the Police Academy together, we endured Field Training together and we now have the fortune of patrolling neighboring zones within our city. Between the shooting, rape and numerous fights-in-progress calls that we backed each other up on last night, we had the opportunity to discuss some really important issues in our society. Jessie, while he is still very much a young man, has an unusual amount of maturity and an uncanny sense of level-headedness that far surpasses those within his age group. Last night, while he and I were parked "window-to-window" we pondered our society's undoing. I shared with him what I believe to be a major contributing factor. I told Jessie that a fundamental truth that my eight years as a husband, and six years as a father have taught me is that as a husband, don't even think about sweating the small stuff (actual incidents...(A) "Yea, I hit her. She wore my shoes the wrong way, so I punched her." (B) "I said no lettuce. What did I get? Lettuce. She doesn't want to listen to me, so I helped her listen.). As a father however, there is no such thing as small stuff. Every word and every action of my children are crucial to their development. He and I see it almost everyday and it sickens me.

He and I have both been on calls for service where parents are completely and totally at wits end as a result of the actions of their children. It's truly sad because I know, and what I have tried to show Jessie, is that there is a certain point where these kids are gone; the opportunity and privilege of forming and training their precious personalities and lives is lost. Their parents have travelled so far down the slope of parental remission, laziness and selfishness that the only person who can change these children now is the children themselves. In the beginning it was a tantrum at bedtime in defiance that was catered to. "No" was heard by the child as "keep on asking". Later as their poor souls regressed and as the battle continued, these young children stood their ground as seasoned generals while their Dads and Moms retreated; their patience, wits and bodies wracked by the wounds of the workday. Lessons of respect for authority and for adults have been abandoned. "Ma'am" and "Sir" have become archaic jargon lost somewhere-post baby boom.

Let me tell ya' folks, when I was coming up, my sisters and I feared my Dad. Granted, Mom was bad, but only because when you wronged her, you wronged Dad too. My school teacher's pen was the devil's instrument...not because she wielded it, but rather because my Father would eventually read it's damning words. Get in trouble in school or at a friend's house meant you were guaranteed double jeopardy when you got home. I remember whispering in my buddies' ear as they answered my Father's questions; "Say yes sir", because I had been taught from toddlerhood that was the only proper way to answered my Dad. At the time, did I understand the bigger picture that he was teaching me concerning respect for authority? Not hardly. Do my daughter's understand it now? Not hardly. But you know what, just as I understand it now, one day they will too. There is no such thing as small stuff when it comes to my girls. I love them unconditionally, and I make it a point to ensure that they know this. But I also love them enough to teach them right and wrong. As Gov. Mitt Romney stated, ”...there's no work more important than what goes on within the four walls of the American home." My home is no exception.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Living With Our Scars

There are times when I am reminded of the emotional scars that I bear from Adam's death in Iraq. A post from my dear friend who helped me more than I think she realizes while I was "over there", and who is also helping me cope now with these scars since I returned, reminded me of the hurt that I will forever feel. I wept as I read this letter written by Maj. Doug Zembiec (pictured left) to the children of Maj. Ray J. Mendoza who was killed while fighting in Iraq.

I cried because this letter, while not written to Adam, reminded me of him and his character. It is what any of us would have written about him if we had been asked to. I cried because I would have said the same thing to his children. I cried because I was ashamed that I couldn't weep for Maj. Mendoza without Adam's memory stealing my tears. I cried because that year in Iraq changed me. It changed us matter how strong we were, it changed all of us who where over there. I cried because I knew that if my phone rang right now, I'd willingly leave my family and all that I have and be back over there...Adam would too. And so would our scars.

Let me explain to you a little about Marines. Marines are a group of people who understand the sense of duty unlike any other group of people that I have ever been a part of. There is a very defined and clear pecking order among my brothers let there be no doubt. But when there is a mission to be accomplished, I can offer no words to describe the cohesion and sense of teamwork that you will see amongst a group of Marines...regardless of rank. People have asked me if I miss the Marine Corps. My answer is, "I miss the Marines". I can't say that I miss the Body Corps, but I miss the Marines, the individual Marine, more that you can imagine. Give me ten Marines, and I would amaze you with what we could accomplish. But I digress from my original theme...Forgive me, I just love and miss my Brothers.

Please read this letter slowly and attempt to understand the character of the man about whom it was written. Maj. Mendoza, I salute you Sir. You are a true leader of Marines and one whom Adam and I would have been proud to serve with. When I think about all that is good in our society...when I think about who it is that I would want paddling next to me against the tide of evil, Maj. Mendoza Sir, I would have you. Semper Fidelis.

"Dear Kiana and Alek,

Ray and I had a conversation late May in 2004 while we were deployed to Iraq. He spoke of why he fought. He fought to give the people of Iraq a chance. He fought to crush those who would terrorize and enslave others. He fought to protect his fellow Marines. The last thing he told me that day was, "I don't want any of these people (terrorists) telling my kids how to act, or how to dress. I don't want to worry about the safety of my children." Kiana and Alek, your father fought for many things, but always remember, he fought for you. As you fight this battle we call life, you will find your challenges greater, your adversity larger, your enemies more numerous. The beautiful thing is, you will grow stronger, smarter, faster, and you will overcome the obstacles in your way. No one could've better prepared you than your father. In the month and a half your family stayed with me in Laguna Niguel, Calif., while waiting for base housing to open up, I saw how, with the help of your incredible mother, he instilled in you the essentials to life:

Live with integrity, for without integrity we deceive ourselves, we live in a house of cards.
Fight for what you believe, for without valor, we lose our freedom. Be willing to sacrifice, for anything worthy in life requires sacrifice. Be disciplined, for it is discipline that builds the foundation of your success. You will encounter misguided people in your life who may question America's attempt to help the people of Iraq and the Middle East. These pathetic windbags, who have nothing so sacred in their lives that they would be willing to fight for it, will argue and debate endlessly on what we should've done. While they criticize, they forget the truth, or conveniently overlook the fact that it takes men and women of action, willing to make a sacrifice, to free the enslaved, to advance the cause of freedom.

Our great nation was built on the shoulders of men like your father. While the nay-sayers and cowards hid in the shadows sniveling that nothing was worth dying for, men like your dad carved our liberty away from the English, freed the slaves and kept the Union together, saved Europe from the Germans twice; rescued the Pacific away from the Japanese, defeated communism, and right now, fight terrorism and plant the seeds of democracy in the Middle East. Your father was a warrior, but being a warrior is not always about fighting. He was patient with those he led, and he understood people make mistakes. He cared about the men he led as if they were his own family. To him, they were. His work ethic was tremendous. But he made time for his family, to enjoy life. He was balanced, at equilibrium. He was an inspiration. He was my friend.

In your future, when you are pushed against a wall, in a tight spot, outnumbered and seemingly overwhelmed, it may be tempting to give up, or even use the absence of your father as a crutch, as an excuse for failure. Don't. Your father's passing, while tragic, serves as an endless source of your empowerment. Your father would not want you to wallow in self-pity. I know you will honor him by living your life in the positive example he set. Respect and remember him. Drive on with your lives. Serve something greater than yourself. Enjoy all the good things that life has to offer. That is what he would want.

Kiana! I have never met a more capable young lady in my life. You are the most well-read, articulate, disciplined young person I know. Often I tell people of the arm-bar you demonstrated on me in your parents' garage. When you become a worldwide Judo champion, I will say with great pride, "that woman nearly torqued my shoulder out when she was 11 years old!" If my daughter grows up with a quarter of the strength of your principles, determination and intelligence, she will be an incredible human being. Like your mother, you are a beautiful woman, a fact of which you should be proud.

Alek! You are blessed with your father's strength of character and his unbreakable will and his broad shoulders. Your mother gave you her determination and unwavering mental toughness. Your mother told me the story of you hanging up the sign, "Be a leader, not a follower." My eyes well up every time that I think of you doing that. My eyes fill not with tears of sadness, but of pride, to know you grasped the mindset your father passed on to you. This mindset will allow you to be a leader and protector like your father, and one day, to raise an upright, solid-as-a-rock family of your own. When I look in your eyes, I see your father. Courageous, determined and resolute, your father embodied all that is virtuous in a warrior. Even now, you strive to embody his same character. Remember, there will never be any pressure for you to be exactly like your father. Be your own man, but build your character in his image. Many people may be concerned about your future because of the early passing of your father. I don't worry at all. Your dad gave you all you ever need to become a great woman and a great man. I know your father would have told you to be your own hero/heroine. Don't wait for someone to rise up and lead you to victory, to your goals. If you do, you might wait for a very long time. Ray died as a warrior, sword in hand, in service of his country, his comrades and you, his loved ones. His spirit and example give us all hope, reaffirms our faith. Your father reminds us there are men willing to fight for people that they don't even know so that all may live in peace. I joined the Corps to serve beside men like your father. There is no other Marine I'd rather have protecting my flank in combat than your dad. Even now, as I write this letter in Iraq, I will honor him on the field of battle by slaying as many of our enemies as possible, and fight until our mission is accomplished.

You will always be in our lives. Please stay in touch. We will always be in your corner for assistance, advice or just conversation. Pam and I plan to retire in Idaho and would love for you to visit us so we can take you white-water rafting and mountain climbing.

Very Respectfully,

Friday, June 01, 2007

Stemming the Tide

"We're going down folks. I'm afraid that all we can do at this point, barring a moral awakening the likes of which has never before been seen, is slow our descent." A pretty depressing statement; I know, I made it. This is a quote from my previous post and one which has caused me some restless evenings of late, and here's why. If what I have stated is correct...if our society is slipping further and further down this slope slouching ever closer toward Gomorrah, then am I not, are we who wear badges and carry guns, not fighting an ultimately winless battle? Flood the streets of any city in this nation with cops and you know what you will have? A crime-riddled city with a lot of cops is what you will have. So why in the world should we try? Why should we try and win this fight against evil? Why should I take an interest in a community which seems to be destined to be plagued with crime regardless of what I do? Why should I concern myself with taking a crack-pipe-toting addict to jail when there are 30 more waiting to take his place? Why waste my time with the street-level narcotics dealer, when he will probably be let out on bond and keep dealing his death of choice? Why should I let that five minutes that I have just spent explaining to the drunkard how I don't want to see him get ran over as he falls flat on his face in the middle of the street...why should this bother me when in a matter of time, some of them will continue their destructive lifestyles? All very good questions and quite honestly, tough questions. I honestly hope that I am not biting off more than I can chew here (I probably am), but I must get this out of my mind and those of you who know why I write will appreciate this fact. Please listen very closely to what I am about to say.

It is my belief that human nature is evil. It is also my belief that mankind is by our very nature, self-serving, hedonistic, vengeful creatures and that if left to our own heeding, we would have long since destroyed ourselves and this ball that we call home. I don't believe that there is a single person, who if left to his/her vices, would be deserving of their next breath. Now, before the masses call for my lynching, allow me to expound. Are there some people who are less evil than others? Think of it this way...If you could see into my heart and my mind since the day I was born, you would agree that I have not always been a "good" person. But am I, or have I ever been as evil as Saddam Hussein? Never. But why? Why are some of us "less-evil" than others? Why are there some who would not choose to give in to this nature that we all have?

I believe with all my heart that it is because I was nurtured. I was taught by loving parents what is right and what is wrong. Every day this is what I see...I see a generation of kids who are growing up lacking the nurturing necessary to fight their nature and do what is right. I see parents who are not fit to be members of a free society - much less mothers and fathers. I see these parent's children detesting law, discipline, self-respect and any semblance of order. And this, this is what is nurtured. This is what is nurtured by their parents, this is what is nurtured by our media and this is what is nurtured by you and I when we do nothing to stem the tide. And that my friends, that is what I believe will be our society's undoing. When we as a society stop caring for these kids who cannot care for themselves.

The drunkard, the crack dealer, the career criminal...most of them are lost causes. But I will take as many of them to jail as I possibly can because parents are allowing them to raise their children. And as I see it, every miscreant that I tote off to jail, at least for a time, will be one less to spread their evil on to the next generation. And it is just that...a generational battle.

We have three different groups of people in our society, to piggyback off Chuck Holton's theory whom I give total credit for this idea...There are those who have already given up. They have asked themselves those same questions that I asked earlier, and after scratching their head, they came to the conclusion that all is already lost and they choose to prey off as many as they can before they reach their demise. There are those who will lock their doors at night and do nothing, and then there are those will fight tooth-and-nail to not only fight for themselves and their families, but also for those who are being preyed upon.

In the end, this is what we have to ask ourselves...Do we wave the white flag and blow the whistle in the hopes of being picked up by the rescue party while our own families and the whole of our society go down, do we stick our heads in the sand and pretend that all is well, or do we fight to keep us afloat for as long as we can? I know what my parents did, and I plan to do the same...not only for my families sake, but for yours as well.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Our Society's Undoing

I've experienced quite a bit in my short life; much more than most men my age. I've lifted the veil of the most amazing lady that I've ever known. I've held her hand as we heard the first breaths taken by our daughters. I've taken a life in battle and I've seen the eyes of those who would try and take mine. I've been shot at, cursed at, spat upon and called the most vile filth that you could imagine...most of this from those whom I serve and who I have placed my life in jeopardy to protect. Why in the world do I subject myself to this sort of lifestyle? I'm college-educated, highly-experienced and I could be successful in so many other professional careers. So why in the world, every day that I go to work, do I follow my badge into the some of the most dangerous and vile environments that I've seen since Iraq?

DISCLAIMER: It is at this moment that I will lose some of you. If you're not a parent, a husband or a wife 100% devoted to your spouse or your family, this concept will be incomprehensible to you. And if you're not a parent, a husband or a wife, do me a favor...print this page out and put it in the box to be opened on your tenth wedding anniversary, or on your child's fifth birthday. For I assure you, it will be then that you will understand what I am going to attempt to explain.

I take pride in the scourges that my profession offers. I do, because by exposing myself to the morally devoid among us, I place myself in a position to make a difference in the world to be inherited by my daughters and their daughters. I see it this way...I and my kind are at the rear of the canoe feverishly rowing toward civility, an ethical lifestyle and moral responsibility. In the front of the canoe, paddling in the opposite direction just as feverishly as we are, are the morally bankrupt, the selfish and the vermin. I look behind me and I see my family standing on an island between us, and the end. This filth that I am battling with are winning. They are taking us and their self-destructive lifestyles closer and closer to the island where my babies stand. And although I may not be winning, as we come closer and closer to the shore, my family sees me fighting for them.

This I know:
I know the more I fight, the less they will have to.
I know the longer that I can prolong our society's immanent moral implosion, the longer my family will be able to enjoy the peace and comfort that a honest lifestyle and a loving household has to offer.
I know the more they hurl their filth at me, the less will be spoken to my family. I know the more they spit on me, the less will land on my family.
I know the longer that I can keep this canoe in the middle, the longer my family will have to grow and live a peaceful life.

I lay my head on my pillow knowing that while there may not be a solution, I do know that I am not a part of the problem. This is why I do what I do. I am the cork in the hull of the Titanic.

We're going down folks. I'm afraid that all we can do at this point, barring a moral awakening the likes of which has never before been seen, is slow our descent. Our society has set itself on a path of self-destruction. I don't know when, but I know it's going to happen. We would be kidding ourselves to say that we are a better society than that of generations past. We are killing ourselves and I fear that all I and my kind are doing is pushing the morphine to numb the pain and make our last moments less painful.

I wish it were not true. For my families sake...I wish it were not. But alas, I fear it is.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Guarding the Flock

I've always liked Dennis Miller. He has a no-nonsense, no-holds barred quick-wittedness about him which has always impressed me. His latest interview with Bill O'reilly, aptly named "Miller Time", once again reminded me why Dennis has me among his fan base. Mr. Miller was asked to comment on the recent tragedy at Virginia Tech. Interestingly enough, Mr. Miller, quite possibly unbeknowst to him, described an unlikely sheepdog amongst some of those kids there in Blacksburg. I've included a brief excerpt from his commentary:

Miller: "I'm intrigued by this character, Lebvew Lebresku, the seventy-six year old aerodynamics instructor at the college. Now listen, I think in our society we have somehow in current-day America, been denuded out of the gene that makes us want to survive at all costs. I think that Lebresku, a 76 year old holocaust survivor, who if you do the math was probably 12 when he first saw the face of evil, I'm sure looked up at that narrow window in that door and saw the same sick glint, that dead-shark thing in that eye that he had seen as a young man and he went towards it to stop it. I think that right now kids in this culture, between video games which kind of dumb them down vis-a-vis violence, and the non-judgemental aspect of this society don't know evil if it springs up at a door in their college."

In other words, what I think Mr. Miller is saying is that our society has become a breeding ground for sheep. We seem to have lost our ability to bring up a generation of sheepdogs and are reaping the fruits of what my parent's generation has sown and what my generation continues to prune. Our society's sense of normalcy, as it relates to violence, has taken a dramatic shift. I remember when I was growing up, shrieking when Frogger didn't quite make it across the road. Now, some of the video games that I have seen and played rival the carnage on the streets of Iraq. What do we expect? Folks, I believe that we are sleeping in the bed that we have made for ourselves. Could that demon-possessed rampage have been caused by something earlier in his childhood or teenage years? Possibly. Are there those who are being steered in that same direction by our culture's paradigm shift? You better believe it. I see it everyday.
Rest assured though...I, and many of my brothers-in-blue have not been "denuded" out of our instinct for survival. We have seen death and we have looked into the eyes of men who have wished death upon us. And now, like then, we yearn for the opportunity to stare into the face of that brand of evil visited on the campus of Virginia Tech and defend our lives and the lives of those sheep around us. We truly yearn for the day.

Mr. Miller continued, "I think the only thing we share at this point, is sorta looking around and saying, 'What in the hell is happening to this world?', and everybody seeks out whatever belief that they have. One of the things that falls away from me in the wake of a tragedy like this, is all the sterm and drang, all the usual suspects, all that crap that I pretend that I am interested in on a day to day basis goes away and I shoot hoops with my kids and I don't hear it as much."

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

In the Sheepdog's Absence

Here we are again. The unthinkable becoming reality. Seared in our minds this time are not horrific scenes of towers falling, but rather of bloodied bodies being dragged and carried from their dormitories. It frustrates me to know that my enemies have won again. I fight evil, and evil has once again prevailed. I came home on the day of the massacre and listened to my wife tell me of newly released details that she had seen on the television. 21 dead, 30 dead. 32 dead. When were the numbers going to stop? I began to feel the anger welling inside my soul. I didn't want to hear anymore. I am still angry and I feel that at least for the time, ignorance will be my greatest ally.

I will grieve for the men and women who were slaughtered. I will grieve for their families and the loss of what they have loved for a lifetime. I will grieve when the anger recedes. Right now, I am just avoiding the television, the newspapers...any accounts of it. It sickens me to hear about the school, the procedure(s) that were or were not followed, of how no one acted to defend against this lone assailant {a' la flight 93}, of the beauty of hindsight. I avoid the frothing mouths craving ratings and dollars. Newspapers, radio, television stations can you please offer me an explanation? Why didn't we see or hear your pious clamoring deriding the administration of this school before this incident? Why weren't you critical of the college's policy of securing the campus during crisis before there was a crisis? You know why? Because the media as we know it today are a reactive group of people who at every chance, seek to prey on the basest ingredient of the human nature. I avoid these empty words printed to criticize and berate. I avoid the mouth in the suit telling me that more should have been done. And do you know why I avoid it? BECAUSE IT DOES NOTHING TO HELP! It waits for disaster and then dumps criticism on those involved. It waits for tragedy and then points its fat, overfed finger. I don't care that the masses think that the school could have done more to stop the murders. Where was this criticism before this happened? You know where it was? It was nonexistent because it was not necessary. Do we honestly think that these institutions of higher learning are not doing everything in their power to protect our children? Think of it this way, oh you naysayers...give me your answer as to what you feel the school could have done to avoid this tragedy. Oh you gazer of the crystal proffer your all-knowing answer. Give it to me, and I will give you a single unforeseen ingredient that will totally shatter your equation of perfection. And do you know why this is? Because there are, and always be, things that happen outside of our control and this possessed man was the variable this time.

However, this, this friends is what I do care about. I care about the fathers and mothers who will never see their children again. I care about the lovers who will never have the opportunity to vow their devotion to one another. I care about the mothers who had their flowers ripped from their hands; the fathers who's legacies died with their sons. This is what matters. Why can't we realize this? Things happen that we cannot control. People have killed and will continue to kill and there is absolutely nothing that we can do to totally eliminate some people's lust for death.

I was asked by a gentleman the other day how I felt about the events, and I answered, "I wish I would have been in that dorm five minutes before that demon walked in." "And what is it that you think you could have done young man?", he replied. "I could have made a difference." Maybe my absence was the variable.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

In Defense of the Defenseless

As I was driving through the ghetto the other day, I realized an interesting parallel to my job and our nation's involvement in Iraq. First, let me see if I can put you next to me in the police car as I was driving through this neighborhood. It is by no means a South-Central, LA or a Brooklyn, NY...but here in Suffolk, it is as bad as it gets and can prove just as lethal. So first here we are rounding the curve leading into the neighborhood. There are many people standing on the side of the street who immediately pull out their cell phones and talk; presumably look-outs for the dope least you hope they're just look-outs and not a foreboding of something more sinister. As we continue our slow roll, small groups of people seemingly come from nowhere. You quickly scan to determine any immediate suspicious activity (read "threatening activity") and we make our first turn which leads us in front of a row of people which reminds you of a receiving line at a wedding reception; but no handshakes or wishes of happiness and health will be offered here. We see nothing but blank stares on every face, but the hatred and detestment are palpable. The faces which you see say nothing, but the eyes speak volumes. We have just become a parasite; a virus which threatens to harm this semblance of a body.

My training is screaming in my head..."HANDS!", but I can see none. They are all buried down the front of pants or tucked under shirts. Yet much to your amazement, I drive on...slowly. Why? Because it is my duty and the duty of those like me. Because regardless of my personal fears, it is what I have sworn to do. Do the bulk of these people want me in their neighborhood? Absolutely not! Do the bulk of them respect the rule of law or the laws of human decency? Don't fool yourself. But regardless of what this facade appears to show, this is where we are needed the most. The civility of these communities demand it. Because without our presence and what we represent, eventually they would not have the luxury of standing on this street corner detesting our very existence.

And here is the parallel that I alluded to earlier-and please hear me out here...I willingly go where I am not wanted and to some extent hated because it is the RIGHT thing to do. We are in Iraq because it is the right thing to do. Argue oil and politics till the cows come home, but when the smoke clears and at the end of the day when we are staring at pictures of mass murder perpetuated at the hands of one man, tell me that as civil human beings and as a nation who has the means to do so, that we should not have defended the defenseless. Forget for a moment if you will national or ethnic differences...we are defending our fellow man because it is the right thing to do. Whether or not we should still be in Iraq is a separate issue which I will reserve for later chapters, but our presence in Iraq to defend human lives, in my opinion, cannot be argued. The right for human beings to breath can anyone argue that this should NOT be defended? "Well, their culture is such that a heavy-handed style of justice is all that they understand." Don't buy into this canned, cop-out of an excuse perpetuated by the main-stream media. It is not is murder. It is the treating of human life as if were as meaningful as a farm animal, and it is wrong. It is also wrong and un-American not to defend the lives of the defenseless regardless of what Continent they live on.

The current nuclear arms debacle screams of our worlds desire to revert to a "survival of the fittest" mentality; a "He with the most bombs wins" attitude. Our neighborhoods are but a microcosm of this. So should America become an island unto itself and hold up a sign which reads "Bring it on!" as we post out entire military might on our borders because we fear what "meddling" in the affairs of another country's government might lead to? Listen, we are not defending a nation...we are not defending a government. What our country is fighting for globally, and what I have fought for for over a year of my life in the desert of Iraq, is for human beings to be able to simply live and be secure in their lives.

The bottom line is this...I, my profession and my country stand for the rule of civility and the right of every human being to live secure in their birthright of life. These rights know no culture, no style of government and no geographic boundary. I will not only defend the lives of the helpless because it is my oath of office, but more importantly I will defend them because it is my duty as an American and as a fellow human being. This fact cannot be argued.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

It's Still Raining

There comes a point when you stop trying to recover and you learn to manage. I've come to understand and accept that some things, no matter how much I internalize, no matter how much I ruminate, some things will never be the same; and I will never be able to make them as they once were. The irony is that amidst all the confusion, muddled somewhere in my never-ending questions and attempts to recover, I've seen glimpses of truth. And the truth that I've seen is this...what we know as our "lives", what we know as "family", these can all change with the next breath of air that enters our bodies. You've undoubtedly heard this before, you've may have even said it before. But let me tell you something, until you've looked inside of yourself and greeted this day as your last because you were certain it would be; until you've said goodbye to your family in your mind because your mind is the only way you can communicate with them, and until you've done this more times than you can remember, you truly don't understand the frailty of a life.

The double tragedy in all of this for me, is that not only have I been forced to swallow this bitter pill of death, I have emerged alive and now see those around me whose lives have yet to teach them this lesson. They do not fully understand that death is a breath away. Sure, they've said it and heard it hundreds of times....but they have never LIVED it. And unfortunately until they do, death will be foreign to them. It will always be something that happens to others. To them, there will always be a tomorrow because they have never been forced to live with a yesterday. And while there is a beauty and innocence to never having been forced to live with a yesterday, there is also a hindrance to it. The problem with never having to live with a yesterday, is that you've never learned the lessons that yesterday has to offer. You never truly understand how to appreciate today. For you see, there is no greater teacher about today, than yesterday. There is no greater teacher about life, than death. And for me, death has taught me that I will always say I'm sorry to a face before I am forced to say it to a tombstone. Death has taught me that while life's concerns and issues seem insurmountable at times, I still have my life; I still have the life of my family and this truth is what really matters.

It's still is indeed and the thunder continues to roll in my mind. But amidst the thunder and the rain, I find solace in the knowledge that whatever storm I find myself in, at least I have been given a today. I have a here and now. And it is in this here and now that I will thank God for just that. Thank You for another chance to tell my wife how much she means to me. Thank you for another kiss from my daughters. Thank you for the opportunity to be able to say I'm sorry for a wrong that I've committed or accept an apology for one committed against me. Because who knows, I may never have the opportunity to accept another I'm sorry and the next one I say may very well be to a tombstone.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

I'm At a Loss

If you would have asked me two months ago what I thought the most important personality trait was to be an effective police officer, I probably would have told you the ability to understand; to understand people, problems and understand how to resolve conflict. But recently since I've been on the street, I've been beating my head against the wall because I don't UNDERSTAND! I don't understand how a large part of our society will glamorize the basest elements of our culture, and then expect anything other than anarchy and unrest. Since when has it become a bragging point that you have been signed by "Ex-Con" records? (Unfortunatly, I am not making this up). Video games promote a lifestyle that if you were to emulate their characters in real life (which many do), you would be pushing up dasies faster than you can say "Snoop-Dog". But it's the lifestyle that I cannot comprehend. You put nothing but garbage in, and expect a rose garden to blossom. Your house gets shot up and you can't seem to understand why. I don't know...could it possibly be because your angel of a son is dealing crack from your house and owes his boy down the block some money? No? Well, maybe it's because he's gotten himself in the middle of a turf war with the dudes from across town? Of course you have no idea how it came to this. I mean, look at the wonderful example that you've set for him. Father? What is that? Work ethic? Sure you you can buy your liquor and crack. Discipline? He gets a time-out...some time out of the house where he furthers his criminal enterprise which leads to your house getting blasted by gunfire. I'm not the crispiest fry in the happy meal, but I see a pattern forming here.
I've been told by many seasoned police officers that this is a mental battle that I would be best to not fight. But I cannot help it. I have to understand. I feel useless to help if I cannot understand. They tell me, "Tim, you'll run yourself stone-cold crazy trying to understand why it is that we have jobs." But shouldn't it be easy to understand how the sounds of gunfire in your backyard should be considered abnormal? If you can't walk down the street without expecting to get "capped" (I had a guy tell me this just the other day), is it such a hard thing to realize that a lifestyle change is in order? I suppose my lifestyle seems just as abnormal to them as theirs does to me but at least I know with a fair degree of certainty that my house is not going to be riddled with bullet holes and I am not going to get "capped" walking down the street.
It's not hard to pinpoint the's really just a lack of leadership in the home. But what I can't fathom is why a parent would not have the courage to fight and not subject their children to this lifestyle, and also why a young adult would not become a transitional person and turn their back on a lifestyle that perpetuates violence, ignorance, and their ultimate demise.
I'm sorry Fred, I just can't let it go. I may never understand it, but I have to try.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

"I Just Came Back From War"

I saw this video and heard this song the other day and I broke down. If you want to know what our heroes are eperiencing not only in the theater of operations, but upon their homecoming as well, watch this video. I don't think that I've heard the feelings of a warrior upon his homecoming better expressed. For those of you who have been follwing my blog, first let me apologize for your agony, and second I want you to watch this video and then read an excerpt of one of my entries that I wrote after I returned. After you do, I think you will understand how close to home this song hit. It is called "I Just Came Back From War", and it can be viewed here.

"We are warriors and have a warrior’s bond which no nine-to-five could ever begin to offer. I will miss the life of a warrior. To be able to place my life in the hands of another, and have his place his in mine. To fight side by side; our only fear being that we may see one of our own fall. We all have seen one of us fall, and none of will ever feel the same.We, in our own ways, are all scared. Husbands and fathers are afraid of being strangers to their wives and children. The single Marines are afraid of returning to an atmosphere of normalcy and relative serenity. We are all different men than we were six months ago. The thought of adaptation has become a collective, unspoken sore spot. The return will undoubtedly be easier for some than it will be for others but one thing is certain; we all long to return despite our fears. We all long for the lives that we left. Personally, I am apprehensive of the changes that my family has underwent since I left. My daughters know “Daddy” as a name and a voice that lives in the cell phone. My wife remembers me the way I used to be before war took a hold of so much of my mind. Yes, it’s ominous, but I long for it so much; we all do. I am still very much compressed. Crowds make me extremely uncomfortable. Eccentric colors give me a headache. Driving down the street is a completely different experience that it has been for the past thirteen years. I am sure that this will all wear off in the near future, but until it does, it will be an interesting time. I have found that I prefer to either be alone, or with the other Marines. People just seem to annoy me since I returned. Of course California being the most rude and intrusive state that I have ever visited (sorry Californians) doesn’t help matters any. I have had to literally ignore a few people simply because I wanted to yank them up.I've left one dream and entered another. It's hard to concieve how the life that I've lived for twenty-nine years could now seem abnormal. It's so different; I almost feel out of place, yet it feels so good to be that much closer to home. It feels akward writing in a barracks room as opposed to a bombed out building. It will defintely take some time. I've begun to notice how much my time in Iraq has affected me. I find myself still scanning roadsides, finding a corner in a crowded area and staring at people a bit more than I should. And as I expected, I can't bring myself to watch the news and see the Marines, my brothers, still fighting over there. I am just taking it all in right now and hoping that the sense of normalcy returns soon."