This begins my final five post. I made a commitment to use the Art of Peace as an outline and have done so for the past 109 Thursdays.
The following was written between 2006 and 2009.
Everything has come full circle.
Trying not to think.
The curse of perseverance.
Maybe a song
Will calm my nervousness,
This time in my arms.
Ahh the clarity from
The blessed moment.
Code words make
Trickling back to the
My thoughts return.
I wanted to go to war. Having been back home for several months I can see the reflection of desire and envy of my memories in the eyes of even the most successful men.
For me going off to war was a way for me to hopefully clear my head. Crazy as that must sound, deep down I was hoping that I would find a better understanding of myself over all else.
That’s why I joined the military in the first place. The days leading up to basic training, I imagined a time after it was all said and done, where I was at peace inside my own skin. By that I mean happy with who I was and proud enough to walk down the streets without worry or fear. Not worry or fear from attack or death but worry or fear from doubt. Doubt that I wasn’t good enough. Doubt that the person I am wasn’t good enough to be happy.
I knew basic training was just the beginning. I knew that eventually I would end up over seas somewhere fighting in the inevitable culmination of our shared, anger, rage, and fear, brought upon by our own feelings of doubt, brought to a boil by September 11th.
To be is to be perceived. Some French philosopher said that and I new it to be true. This notion of perception is what drives us. Read anything by Alexander Dumas, a French writer who wrote The Count of Monte Cristo,among other things, and you will see that the translation from French to English incorporates the notion of perception. So and So perceived so and so doing, doing or acting. The notion of why isn’t concrete. Never has been, may never be, therefore this notion of perception is entirely personal. That being said, inside a team perception is such a powerful force which I realized early on that perception can make or break any experience.
Knowing that how I was perceived by my fellow soldiers could enhance or severely hinder our ability to communicate on a life or death stage I decided to keep some of my more personal thoughts to myself. To exsplain this further let me take you back to the Christmas of 05.
Sitting in the living room of my parents house I questioned my uncle as to the novel he was reading. The book was called American gods. My notions of the spiritual world, the divine, have been changing and expanding ever since I realized that there was more than just the faith I was brought up with.
Without going into to great of detail, American gods delves into the notion that gods become real, and stay real as soon as anyone perceives them to be so. This being what I believe is the true power each individual possesses I decided to reach out to two gods in particular. The obvious choice to me was Mars, the Roman god of war, and Aphrodite, the Greek god of love.
I believe that human beings fascination with war revolves around the notion that in war, human beings are giving the opportunity to experience the best and worse we have to offer. Only on this stage are humans confronted with the worse and the best human beings are capable of. Plus, considering the fact that there can’t be light without dark and visa versa I decided to reach out to both Mars and Aphrodite.
It was the night before one of our first company training weekends that I prayed to Mars. I was in the shower, hot water cascading off my face the first time I mentioned his name.
I prayed that I would be tactically sound in the face of the enemy.
I prayed for calm in the face of fear.
I said that for his protection I would sacrifice my own moments of pleasure starting the day my orders arrived placing me on active duty.
That cold January night there was three claps of thunder. My whole life I can not think of any time I ever heard thunder in the winter time. I believed that he heard me. I believed that the thunder was a sign that he was listening.
It was in Pittsburg at the embassy sweets that I prayed to Aphrodited for the first time. Again I was in the shower.
I got down on my knees and asked her to help me keep my compassion. Again with water running down my face I prayed that she would hear me and help me through the war. After drying off with a towel around my waist I steped out into the room.
My roommate was watching TV at the time. I do not know what show, probably one of the CSI shows. Anyway the first thing I heard from the television was "all you have to do is believe". As with Mars I believed that she heard me.
In-between these two instances and Fort Bragg, at our last stop before Iraq, I did my best not to feel lonely. This is what I wrote on the seventh of January 2006.
“Today begam my change to full military. My mind doesn’t like it and probably won’t for the next several weeks. Its lonely when you go in a different direction that everyone else. Its exciting but in the beginning its scary, plus the whole thing is up in the air and I don’t really have any control over it. My goal is to keep my attitude clean and uncorrupted by doubt. Heres the deal. When you get down on your lot in life don’t isolate yourself. Don’t try to reason your way out of fear and doubt. Accept what you feel and get back to feeling others. Connect, listen and learn. They are not your close friend for nothing. In love there aren’t answers.”
The different training we went through in preparation for deployment was for the most part fun. The food of course was terrible and the fact that we were in Pittsburg during the winter training training for a war in the desert never made sense to me, however I began to understand what we were actually doing several weeks in.
I doubt there is a soldier alive that will tell you that the training they received before deployment adequately prepared them for the situation they were about to be put into.
However by changing my perception I realized that that wasn’t the point. Training, in any form, helps a team learn about each other. Being around anyone for an extended period of time helps you learn about the guy next to you. Regardless of the utility of the training we learned about each other. In that sense we prepared ourselves to face what ever was to come next, together.
Preparing for war reminded me of my family preparing for our week long camping trips when I was a kid. Frantic parents trying to make sure they had everything and then trying to make sure us kids had everything. The only difference was that further up the ladder someone was deciding when we were supposed to leave. Day after day we trained, prepared our gear and tried to keep ourselves entertained.
I found the evenings to be the toughest. Some guys called their girlfriends or wives. Some even had their wives or girlfriends come and visit them, I had made it a point not to be attached knowing I was about to be deployed, thus had no-one in particular to talk to. Both my parent did however come down on April 1st to visit. I told them prior to their departure that I only wanted them to come for a day. It was wonderful to be around people that loved me. It hurt me to see my mother cry when we said our goodbyes.
The week leading up to our depature was such a lonely time. Each of us being left with our own thoughts and assumptions about what we were about to face. At times I wished I was around close friends, other times I wished to be alone. I didn’t know what I wanted, I just wanted to stop thinking the way I was thinking.
Then one day, exploring the old WWII barracks I found and old room with a chair and a desk made out of a door held up by two over turned trash cans. When the day was done and we had been released I went up to that room with a pinch of dip, a spit bottle, and my journal.
I created my own world on paper.
ARMOR DOWN UPDATES
This post was guided by the 109th stanza of the Art of Peace, a book written by Morihei Ueshiba
Armor Down is backing Legislation "H.R. 3516" AKA "The Veterans and Armed Forces’ Health Promotion Act of 2013".
This bill will
• Expand the scope of holistic care education and research for signature wounds such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).
• Establish complementary and alternative medicine pilot programs for mental health and pain management treatment for veterans.
• Create a grant pilot program to upgrade Veteran Service Organization facilities, expanding the reach of wellness services directly into economically strained communities.
Show your support for this legislation by signing this petition.
A new comedy on Fox, called Enlisted is really funny. Check it out.
Folk singer Big Cat Wilson created this song which was inspired by Armor Down.
Mindful Memorial Day is coming in May.
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