Monday, September 21, 2009


I heard a song yesterday that took me back to that all too familiar stare. I heard the first few notes, I closed my eyes and there I was...I was driving that Humvee down MSR (main supply route) Bronze heading outside the wire in Al Qaim, Iraq. I was proud of my ingenious setup. I rigged my Ipod and some external computer speakers there in the Humvee so that I could hear a refrain replay in my head other than, "Please don't blow up...please don't blow up" as I drove passed IED craters in the road. The song that I heard yesterday was one of my favorites at the time; Bad Company. And as is so often the case, I began to think about one small, minute (read small) memory of that place and I was fixated for an hour.

In that hour, I found understanding. I found release. I found peace. I found peace because I accepted that it will never go away. It gets easier as time and age replaces my memories, but it will never completely go away. A song, a smell, a sight, a sound and I will be right back there. I will return to the war-induced numbness that I had over there-for the rest of my life-at the simple hearing of a song. And it was and is just that...a numbness; an apathetic acceptance of my mortality. It was a coping mechanism. I thought I was over it. Yesterday, a song showed me otherwise.

I am not unique. I am not special. I am not alone. The very few Vets that I have spoken to, simply smile as I tell them of my condition. It is in that smile that I know I am perfectly normal and I am not alone. Their smiles say, "Welcome to our world. Your story sounds like life to us." I lost a part of my life over there, and a song showed me yesterday that I will never, ever get it back.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

"He's Got a Knife! I'm Going to Shoot!"

It never gets any easier. As soon as you say "That's the closest I've ever came", on the next call you inch a bit closer. The situation becomes that much more violatle. The trigger gets squeezed a bit further to the rear. It's so much easier to accept when they are shooting at you. It's easier to rationalize. It's easier to stomach. There are so many less variables. But when you are staring down the sights of your weapon at a man who is babbling like a man possessed, who clearly has no understanding of his actions and their potentially lethal consequences, it sucks.

It sucked for me last Wednesday night. I stared down the sights of my weapon and accepted the fact that tonight, I was going to once again, be forced to shoot a man. I remember thinking that we all were so damned close...I couldn't back up any more. He was already an arm's length away. I knew that as soon as I ripped the blankets down from the doorway and was met with a waving butcher-knife. "He's Got a Knife, I'm Gonna Shoot". I saw no other logical solution. I was assigned lethal coverage and now this unfortunate task had landed squarely in my lap and I was going to defend myself and my fellow officers.

I was one of three officers who walked down the hallway of that home that night. I turned the corner, saw the blankets and tried to tear them down as fast as I could. I couldn't get them down on the first try. They eventually came down and all I could see was an arm waving a butcher knife and a heater and other items barricading the entry-way to this bedroom. I backed away as far as I could in the small room which I was in, looked down the sights of my weapon and took out the slack. It sucked. I knew this guy had no idea what was going on. "You're under arrest". "Suffolk Police", "Drop the knife" I said; placing the check marks in the boxes for the pending civil suit which was to come after I shot this man. It sucked. I remember thinking as I saw the glow of my front sight, "Please don't come out. Please don't come out."

There were only two outcomes to the situation which we now found ourselves in. Kill this man, or back out and formulate an alternate plan. Mr. Alvis "Archie" Reed is alive today because the three of us decided to back out and call in the heavy lumber. We backed out, and I stood at the front door of the house until I was ordered to go change uniforms and assume duties as a S.W.A.T. operator; eventually leading to the safe apprehension of Mr. Reed.

Would I have been justified in shooting Mr. Reed that night? That is the question that every Law Enforcement Officer grapples with when the slack is taken out. Fortunatly for me though, I won't have to answer that question quite yet. I am convinced however, that before my career is finished I will be asked that same questrion while sitting in front of twelve of my peers. And I can only hope that they shot at me and missed before I shot back and didn't.

Link to the story and video from WAVY TV 10 :