Vampires and POV

Late again.  but to be honest I have been writing a lot of posts at once and then just scheduling them.  T His one is late, but fresh.  So to the point.  I have been trying something different lately and so far so good.  Back in school, like a month ago, I wrote a short story for my fiction class about inter dimensional magical vampires.  It was more of a tell and not show story and was 6000 words.  My plan was to use that for a synopsis for a longer tale.

Thing is when I went to look for it I couldn’t find it…… oops.  So I lost all that.  Now I had to try and recreate the idea from scratch.  It wasn’t too long ago so no real problem, but I did lose a good chunk of a day.  The one thing I wanted to do differently though, and had been thinking about a while was doing a POV approach.  That is with the different chapters following different characters.

Up until now, most of my writing has been third person and following one character.  So a spin is to do various chapters with different characters.  It has been fun thus far.  I also have set a goal of a chapter a day, and five days in I have five chapters and a solid word count.

It’s about setting goals and going with them.  I have had a hard time writing on older projects and being productive each day has literally been a pain in my ass.  This approach has been working and I feel as though I am getting back on par again.  By setting a goal and sticking with it I’m not pushing myself.

I have a nice little outline for the first part of the story and just do it piece by piece.  Once I am done I have a day or so to mull over the next part and how it fits into the overall narrative.  This allows it to stew and integrate any changes that I have made so far.  I still input the things that pop in my head as I write, but also creates a more coherent story.  At leas that’s is what I tell myself.  But it’s working so why not?

So for a treat here is the first chapter, still a little rough, but it works as a stand alone too.

Chapter 1 – The Score

Nelson turned the engine off.  He sat a moment.  He hated this part of town.  He knew he didn’t belong and normally he would just pull up and get what he needed through a simple exchange out of the window on one of the blocks he had passed.  The sad fact was that the police had been cracking down in the last few weeks.  His normal dealer was in the county lock up.  He had managed the last few times to find one of the competitors and get what he needed.  Tonight, he wasn’t as lucky though.

He did know that they liked to hangout at the bar just across from where he was sitting.  There was an occasion or two, maybe even more, where he had to meet his former dealer in the area when he was looking to score outside the normal time.  Since everyone was keeping low because of the increased police presence he thought they would be there.  He knew he would look out of place.  A well-dressed man from the finance world coming down to the run-down area of the city was not the norm.

Nelson sat a few more minutes watching the traffic go in and out of the bar.  He finally got out and crossed the road.  On his way he pointed his keys at the brand-new white BMW and clicked the button.  The alarm engaged and made the sound that they do.  A couple of men out front of the bar smoking looked at the car and then him.  He walked cautiously towards the front door.

His plan was to go in and order a drink or two.  He hoped that someone would approach him, knowing he didn’t belong and maybe offer him what he wanted.  It was a bad plan, but all he had right now.  He didn’t want to just go around asking.  Who knew that they might do if he asked the wrong person the wrong thing?  The door rung when he walked in.  He stopped and looked; it was just a simple bell that was hooked to the top of the door.  Nothing too fancy.

He went up to the bar, “Can I get a Bud Light?”

The bartender just looked at him a minute.  Then reached down into a cooler and handed Nelson the drink.  Nelson handed him a five in return.  He really didn’t like Bud Light, but it was the lowest brand he could think of and he could tolerate it.  He slowly sipped from the bottle as he looked around.  There were a few people in here, not a lot.   The cops must have caused most of the regulars to stay home.

The last time he was out front is looked much busier through the window.  A couple of people he did recognize.  Many other he did not.  He was about to order another beer when he felt a tap on his shoulder.  He turned and saw a man just under six foot looking at him.  Nelson was then met with a smile.  “I take it you aren’t a regular here?” the man said.  Nelson nodded.

The man continued, he was only one of a couple of other white people in the bar, “I assume then that you are looking for something that you can’t find at, shall we saw a higher end outfit?”

Nelson nodded again.

The man looked him up and down for a few moments.  “Your work must be hectic based on the way you’re dressed.  I imagine it blows.”  Then the man winked at him, “I might know how to remedy that, but I for that we’ll need to take this conversation somewhere else.”

Nelson waited for the man’s next move.  He apparently had found someone who was willing to provide what he was looking for.  The man took the glass he was holding and finished whatever it was he was drinking in one gulp, then slammed the glass on the bar, tossed a ten down and walked out of the bar.  Nelson tipped his bottle up, even though it was empty.  After about two minutes, he set it down and exited as well.  As he found his way back onto the sidewalk, he saw the stranger. He walked up to him.

“I have my wares nearby, if you drive, we can be there in a couple of minutes.”

Nelson was nervous but desperate, he nodded, and the two men went to his car and he drove to where he was told.  It was right by another bar, The Shiny Badge.  “Isn’t this a cop bar?” Nelson asked.

“What better place to conduct business, no one would suspect.”  The man got out and went into an alley next to the bar.  There was a lot of noise going on in it, even for the hour.  It was almost two in the morning on a weekday, so the streets were almost empty, if not the bar.  Not a lot of traffic regular or foot was good.  Nelson was sure that no one saw him go into the dark passage after the man.  He was about halfway down the alley behind a dumpster, he was holding up a bag, Nelson moved to him.

“So, what’s your poison?” the stranger asked.

“You were right in the bar, cocaine.”

“Oh, high tastes, I see.  Tell you what, just to put you at ease, I’ll let you have a line right here to know the stuff is top notch.”  He reached into the bag and pulled out a smaller container and handed it to Nelson.

Nelson opened it and saw his beloved addiction.  He dipped his finger in and took a hit, straight up his nose.  The euphoria hit him quickly, “Man that is some good shit.”  He shook a little as it worked its way to his brain.  It had been too long since he had some.  His stash had run out after a tough day at work.  “How much for the whole lot?” he asked.

“Your life,” the stranger replied.

Nelson, still high, looked at the man.  He had a straight face.  The tension was fierce for a second.  Then the stranger smiled.  Nelson, still coming to terms with what the man just said took a moment to start laughing.  Then they both were.  The dealer put the lid back on the container and placed it on the edge of the dumpster.  Nelson was still laughing and moved his hand to wipe his nose.  That was when he accidently knocked the container onto the ground.  He panicked and followed it down.

To his relief it did not spill of open.  He closed his eyes and breathed a moment.  When he opened his eyes, he saw a pair of shoes at the edge of the dumpster, beneath it.  He started to panic again, he followed the shoes to legs and then to a body, then a face, then the eyes.  The empty eyes of a dead man.  He stood quickly forgetting the container.

“Dammit I knew I should have moved that,” the stranger said.

“What’s going on?” Nelson almost screamed.

“I was hoping just a business transaction, but you had to go and find him, so now a double feeding I guess.”


“You know I actually like that you found him.  I was planning on just selling his stash to get some money to get out of city, but you look like everything I need.”  He approached Nelson quickly.

Nelson confused and not sure whether to run or scream, then the remembered no one was around.  He quickly ran towards the stranger and elbowed him to one side and ran down the alley away from the road.  He hoped it looped around behind the building.  Then he could make his way to his car and get out of there.  “I am done with drugs if I make it out of here,” he thought to himself as he turned left.

Nelson could see that the alley did turn back towards the road.  As he ran up, he grabbed a stick from a trash can, incase the man went around front.  As the alley was coming to an end, Nelson raised the stick in a defensive manner.  He saw nothing and as he was about to emerge onto the road, he heard a noise from above.  As he glanced up, he saw the stranger coming down.  Nelson fell to the ground.

“Where do you think you are going?” the man laughed as he placed a foot on Nelson’s chest.

Nelson went to hit him with his stick that he managed to hang on too.  The man grabbed it as it was about to make contact and tossed it aside.  Nelson tried to get up.  The stranger wasn’t that much bigger than him, but no matter what or how hard he tried he couldn’t seem to budge the man.

“You are a fighter, though much of a good one.”

The stranger stepped off Nelson, then reached down and pulled him up with one hand.  That is when Nelson saw the fangs.  More than that though.  The stranger opened his mouth as he pulled Nelson towards him and it was normal.  Then fangs grew from his incisors, then they were in his neck.  The pain was quick, then the feeling of life leaving him.  He was tossed to the ground.

Nelson watched as the man went through his pockets, taking everything that he had.  “I like it when you run, the adrenaline adds a little flavor.”  Soon all of his valuables, including the keys to his BMW had been confiscated.  Once that was done the stranger stared at him for what seemed like an eternity.  All Nelson could do was watch; he was too weak to do anything else.

Finally, he was picked up and felt the fangs reenter his flesh.  Soon the last of his life was drained from him and he was tossed again to the ground.  He watched as the man casually walked out of the alley and heard the beep of his car from the alarm being disarmed, then his eyes closed for the final time to eternally stare into oblivion.

This is why people hate the VA

This is a side rant from my usual musings.  but being a vet makes me want to learn about various things, one of them is the Veteran’s Administration .  Well recently the United States Cort of Appeals for Veteran Claims started a Youtube channel and putting up cases.  I must say if you like this kind of stuff it is fascinating.   But Each time I have watched I get an urge to stab a mother fucker.  Why  you may ask?

Here is a ling for reference,, if you can’t sit through it all then jump to about min 30.  It basically states that if a government agency, in this case the National Academy of Sciences, generates a report and gives it to the VA stating something to the lines of “exposure to X causes condition Y” that it doesn’t have to use that report for a claim.

This doesn’t mean that they can ignore it, what it means is that if some says, I was exposed to X and have Y and they do not reference the report, that the VA can deny their claim even if they KNOW the vet was exposed.  This puts the burden of proof on the veteran when the VA knows damn well of the connection.  To be clear though, this only applies to something that is not considered predetermined, basically when to qualify for benefits the vet just has to prove they were at a certain place at a certain time because the cause is acknowledged.

Personally I think this puts a large responsibility on the veteran.  The current system the VA uses is intentionally convoluted and complicated for the purpose of intimidating those they are supposedly there to help.  If you miss one line, forget to dot one i or cross one t you are denied.  That is why there are lawyers that specialize in VA cases, because they know that the VA purpose is to Deny until you Die.

I myself have been on again off again with them for almost a decade and know how complex the system is.  It is cheaper to pay bureaucrats to rubber stamp and mail denials that it would be to actually take of the people that have served this country.  Look at the inadequate mental health services, even after the outcry of the fact that 20+ vets commit suicide a day.  That number is still the same after years of “attempts” to improve services. Or the secret lists at VA hospitals used to wait for vets to die.

All of these are attempts to “thin” the herd.  When a person is no longer able to act as fodder in the service of the corporate run government, then they become an expenditure with little return.  In the corporate world people like that get fired, in the VA they look for ways to deny and stall until you are dead.

As in the case of one of my step-sisters, her father passed away while they were fighting with the VA (for years).  Once he passed away they “closed” the case.  I use quotation marks because there was a way to keep the case going for his estate, but it was some obscure and rarely used form.  This information was not even mention in the letter that closed the case.

They make the process as complicated as possible for the sheer reason of saving money and stalling.  A lot of people I know just say to hell with it, because they are tired of fighting this huge uncaring monster.  So if you or someone you know is thinking of signing up to serve, think long and hard.  I would recommend a two year contract, get your GI Bill and get out, because out of all the VA departments the educational one seems to be the best, but then again they don’t measure their accomplish with a body count.

Does this count?


In the bottom corner of the picture my name appears.  What does that mean? I dunno really.  But one of my stories got picked to be used as inspiration for an art exhibit.  Cool right?

Here is a link to an article about it:

It was a story about desire that I had to write for a fiction class, then our Professor worked with another in the Visual Media Department and poof, stuff happened.  Anyway I thought it was cool

I am actively seeing if I can get the short story published in a magazine or something, but so far to no avail.  I even got an A on it, ok an A-, still.  There was apparently a lot of room for me to expand on stuff as well, so I am taking a stab at that.  Just another piece of my ever growing stack of stuff to write.

So far that 16 page short story has grown to over 70 pages.  It was pretty easy to add to it at first, but that has slowed down a lot as I have to actually think now.   Backstory was easy, since a lot of the characters didn’t have it in the original, so I added it. Now though, with new characters, and existing structure, and having to integrate it all is a bigger pain that I thought.  Not even sure if I can make it into an actual book, maybe more of a novella…..  we shall see.

One Sunny Day In the Ass Crack of the World

america arid bushes california
Photo by Pixabay on

One Sunny Day In the Ass Crack of the World

We hauled ass down the road taking pot shots at anyone in front of us that didn’t stop as we honked. Just warning ones, but it didn’t matter, they either move, we blow their tires, or worst case aim for heads. Between the time I saw the cloud and now was less than five minutes, but it felt like a couple of hours. It’s times like this that your training just kicks in and you stop thinking. Stop feeling. Reacting in a way that makes it seem like you are riding along in your own body.

As we approached the scene I could see that a Mobile Assault Platoon (MAP) is already there. Five gun trucks and a highback, like an armored pickup, making up the unit along with about twenty-five Marines. They had already secured the area and were forcing all of the regular traffic back. We pulled up and the Iraqi Army (IA) guys were on point. They knew what had to be done, I’d told them on the way over. Since they were locals they could do a better job keeping the citizens in check than a bunch of on edge Marines looking for something to shoot. It was chaos, even in hindsight there is still a lot I can’t remember clearly, if at all.

* * * * *

One thing about the desert, especially the one in the Middle East, is that it’s HOT. I mean damn hot. Hot to the point you wish you could get in the proverbial frying pan to cool off. I spent almost two years of my life there over the course of several trips. My second time was the worst. I had been assigned to our headquarters company to be used for whatever. This usually meant the crap jobs. I was assigned to work at one of the Entry Control Points to the city of Fallujah. A shining gem of Iraqi society and favorite destination for international travelers.

It made sense in regards to what i knew. I had previous experience as a security guy, not the mall kind, but the kind that did background checks, worked with and destroyed the classified papers, and even was in charge of Security during the invasion for one of the Generals, like the Secret Service, but with none of the perks. I had a ton of training in it too, this included counter terrorism and physical security of buildings, locations and what not. So when I first arrived at my new job I saw the things that were wrong. Like a good little Marine I pointed out what I saw. And was ignored.

The problem was that our main post was set in the middle of one of those clover leaf on/off ramps of a highway, the ones that make a huge circle. It was sunk enough so even a leprechaun walking up the ramp could look down over the eight foot concrete barrier into the little checkpoint. It was like opening the hen house door at night and then expecting the fox to go to Applebees instead. I didn’t have to worry about it, they sent me half a click (kilometer) up the road to be in charge of the satelite post that checked commercial traffic.

I did it again, pointing out what I saw was wrong. I was ignored again. It got to the point that I was threatened with punishment if I kept it up. One of those things where they would punish you for something that you really didn’t do like disobeying an order, but where the order was to stop talking about the gaps in security. It sounds asinine, but it was the military. It’s about who is in charge, not what makes sense. The higher ups (bosses) are always looking to make themselves appear better, just like in the real world. And in that regard they could care less about those beneath them in pursuit of that appearance. In corporate America this means the workers might get stiffed some hours, benefits or what not, in the military it can get you killed.

* * * * *

I was lucky when it happened. On this morning we were just waiting, because we were a satellite outpost it took awhile for ride to come by and grab us during shift change. We had opened the post for the morning rush. The gates open at 6am and the trucks start rolling in. No rest for the wicked, or the jarheads in this case. So, it was like any other morning, but nice and sunny. I was out in the main area supervising, just waiting for our ride. Then I saw the cloud from an explosion. Moments later the shockwave came and knocked me on my ass. I was up in a jiffy and yelling at the guys on the towers if they saw anything.

No one had a clue. We suspected what had happened but wanted to know. I ran into the trailer while shouting to shut everything the fuck down. We turned all the trucks around that were in the post and the ones waiting. I also gave the clear to go hot, loading all our guns, and no more escalation of force procedures. We had certain Rules of Engagement we had to follow. This could be waived if a situation arose and an officer said to ignore them. I wasn’t an officer, but none were around and I could answer for it later, because that meant I would still be alive. So the new rules were, if something looked wrong, just shoot it. No warning shots or anything. If it moves kill it, if not, shoot it till it moves, then kill it.

I tried calling on the radio but wasn’t getting any details. We had long range walkie talkies as well to try and call over to the base, which was less than a mile away. I was trying to get hold of the main post anyway I could. I called in the explosion to headquarters, but they were trying to figure out what to have for breakfast or something. Finally, after about three minutes I got a message, “They hit us.” From the radio. It wasn’t a lot, but enough. We didn’t have any transportation, but our IA guys had a truck, more like an open bed cargo truck, but close enough for government work.

It was a piece of shit to boot, we had to push it to get it started. Luckily it was a day when it did it on the first try. Maybe having a dozen people pushing it instead of the usual three did the trick. No one was in the mood to figure it out though. I passed off the reins to one of my Corporals, barked orders to the IA guys to load up, and took off in their transportation with half a dozen of them. I wanted my guys to stay behind and secure our post, plus they had just been assigned there, a rotating post. Only a couple had been there as long as me and they needed to stay to run it, plus none of them were infantry. None of them needed to see the shit that might be waiting. Plus, I was the only one that could speak any lick of Arabic.

* * * * *

I saw the cause for the mess as we pulled in. Halfway up the on ramp was a large orange dump truck. The ramp went to the right of the post and up at about fifteen degrees until it met the highway that ran across the bridge right before it. There was nothing but desert on the other side from the edge of the asphalt, down the embankment, and then out as far as the eye could see. The truck had been loaded with explosives. It had pulled up right next to the post, just above the concrete barriers and detonated. The on ramp was two lanes, it was the outer one.

There was one car between it and the post, and a couple behind it. They were all on fire. I could see the engine from the truck about 200 meters further up the on ramp. The only thing I could tell about a couple of the cars were what kind they were. The explosion had ripped the one next to it apart so bad, just saying it was a sedan was a 50/50 gamble. The three bays we used to inspect vehicles were all collapsed, these were on the opposite side on the post on the road that entered the city, about 150 meters away from the ramp.

The thing about a landscape that had just been devastated by a large explosion is it takes time to adjust to the new scene, like trying to understand calculus the first time they throw it at you. I know I saw the wreckage when I first got there, but I still can’t remember seeing all the dead and injured until a bit later. If it was my brain trying to put it all in place, or just it trying to protect me I can’t say, the type of cognitive dissonance you get when you are first told Santa isn’t real. It eventually had to settle in though. With the changeover happening there was almost thirty Marines on the post.

The first big thing, aside from the wanton destruction of structures and cars, was seeing my Gunnery Sergeant crawling out from the rumble of our little building. It wasn’t the best built thing in the world, just a bunch of plywood really, but it was covered in sandbags and surrounded by smaller concrete barriers and hesco barriers, canvas square boxes held together by wire framing that are then filled with dirt. The Hescos are great because they absorb shrapnel. There were a ton of them around the building.

It wasn’t until I saw the corpsmen (Doc) from 3rd MAP lining up the wounded that I began to realize how bad it was. There were maybe five or six at this point. A bunch of others were wandering around in a daze. Being that close to hundreds of pounds of explosives going off would do that to a guy. I had to put everything out of my head and start doing my job. The site itself was secure, the other platoon had set a perimeter and no follow-on attacks were happening so that was done.

* * * * *

I was the highest-ranking member of the checkpoint crew that wasn’t injured or in a daze, so I had to do the head count. This part is always shitty. The headcount usually is the last act when you are done training or doing something that involves moving a lot of people around. You have to make sure you didn’t lose anyone, like a kindergarten teacher. After an attack it was the first thing, to see how many you did lose.

I also had to work with our Iraqi counterparts because the post also had Iraqi Police and Army guys. We all started going around taking count of our people. How low is the bar that each time you see one of your people your only thought is, he’s alive, regardless of how fucked up he is?

You don’t think about it initially, you just want to make sure that everyone is alive. Fixing them up is secondary. I took a mental roll call and found most of them, we had to get a couple out of the building. That was where the shift change happened, everyone else waited outside, so not too many were in there. One thing I can say about our engineers, they overdue structural support, which wasn’t a bad thing in this case. The guys in the building were just trapped under stuff, but not really hurt, aside from the blast wave that gave them a concussion and maybe a headache from random stuff that might have fallen on their heads.

Then I made the way to the Tower that had been closest to the blast, it had collapsed. I saw one of the last guys I was still missing. Well part of him.

Most of the Marines that were outside had been sitting behind the 7-ton, which was armored. Think monster truck, but more practical. The angle of the blast based on the height of the on ramp was higher than where they were sitting. The truck was taller, so when the blast went off it shielded them from a majority of the shrapnel. The tower on the other hand would have been almost level and nothing was in the way.

LCpl Short had nothing in his way to stop the incoming fragments. The only solace I could take was that he probably didn’t even know what happened and that it was quick. Seeing something like that first hand, right after seeing the cause, and knowing the guy, is one the hardest things most of us had ever been through. In all we lost one Marine, and three Iraqis. This was just the service member fatalities though. There were easily a dozen wounded, that number would grow to over thirty Marines alone in the next day or two.

* * * * *

The blast had turned the concrete barriers into tiny shrapnel, debris from the bomb and vehicle. The larger bits that hit people were obvious, but some guys didn’t start reacting to the smaller bits for a while, once their systems started to force it out and they became sick. The blast had been so large that this eventually was the cause for most of the wounded. I never did find out how many of our Iraqi co-workers had this problem. They were all sent elsewhere, and a new crew came in.

It’s not like I hadn’t seen things like this before, it was just a little more personal, but I was still rolling with it. The thing that still haunts my dreams was yet to come. Once I knew where all of my people were. I started to survey the damage outside of our post. The ambulances and other first responders were showing up now.

Most Iraqis are decent human beings who have to live in conditions you can never even imagine. Despite this they carry on and react to situations like true heroes and help each other. We had been so conditioned to see them as an enemy that you can’t imagine them as anything else. Look at the basic math for this scenario, the bad guys got one Marine and wounded a bunch more, but they also killed three Iraqi service members and I don’t even know how many civilians.

* * * * *

We’re trained to expect death and losses. It’s part of the job. The thing they can’t prepare you for is all the other shit. At least half a dozen cars had been taken out in the blast. They were just going about their business when it happened. I had seen burned bodies before, nothing new on the experience scale, but the thing that hit me came almost out of nowhere. Even had I known it was coming I couldn’t have prepared for it.

The paramedics were pulling a guy out of car that had been right next to the truck when it went off. I mean it was right next to the post and was just to the left of the truck. The explosives were likely packed to detonate to its left. I say this, because the damage to the right of the truck was minimal. They knew their target and how to get the most carnage in. That car though had a family in it. Mom and Dad in the front and two kids in the back. If the kids were older than ten I would have been surprised, it’s hard to tell though when all that is left is smoldering flesh.

The medics were working on the dad. By some miracle, if you would even call it that, he had survived. Looking at him though, covered in burns and his clothes melted into his flesh I can’t imagine that it would be a very lengthy or pleasant existence. His entire right side was burnt, his left side still had some skin. The thing that hit me the hardest though was that as he was placed on a stretcher he rolled towards an ambulance and started yelling.

This was one time I wished I didn’t know Arabic. He was calling for his wife and children. Here is a guy that should be in intense pain, burnt over a majority of his body and all he can think of is his family. It was a testament to what true love is. And because of it I don’t think I could ever feel it myself again. There are things that can scar you, this is one of them. Because now when I turned and looked at was left of his family I saw them as the people they might have been before the blast took them. I had names now, I had a family member wanting to know if they were still alive. He couldn’t tell, shit he probably couldn’t even fathom much at this point. I never did find out what happened to him.

The smell of the burning flesh of children has a way of changing how you look at the world. It also lingers for the rest of your life. You might have defining events, but stuff that alters the very core of who you are I don’t wish on anyone. The compounding of all the events of that day are still the biggest cause of my inability to effectively reintegrate back into the real world.

* * * * *

When I finally got back to my post I had to gather up all my guys and give them the news. I was just blunt about it. In hindsight I could have been subtler, but we were Marines, just do it and get it over with. I told them, “We lost one, he’s dead.” Nice and simple. Most of them took it in stride, but one of my Corporals just broke down. He was LCpl Short’s friend. They were basically inseparable when we weren’t working. A fist through a wall, then crying. Sights like that can be just as heartbreaking because you know that somewhere a family will be doing the same thing, but worse.

None of it made sense. No rhyme or reason. Do you want closure? Tough luck. Life is rarely wrapped up and topped with a bow, sometimes it just never makes sense, no matter how long or hard you think about it. So get over it.

Existential Crisis


One of the things about being new to a unit, and a retread, and a lateral mover is that you already had three strikes going in.  So each one needs a word I think before we move forward with this one.  Being new?  Nuff said.  A retread means you got out and came back in, which was true in my case.  The lateral move was not my choice initially.  When I came back into the Marines Corps they said they had openings for infantry.  I was an Admin clerk.  So a step up  in some cases.

That was one of the weird things about the Marines I never got, “the Needs of the Marine Corps” was always a thing.  So when I first went in I didn’t exactly pick my job, instead I was offered a “group” of jobs that included Legal services, air field services, and administration.  I was thinking legal clerk or air traffic controller would be tight.  After taking my ASVAB, Armed Forces Vocational Aptitude Battery, and seeing my scores I had high hopes.  After boot camp when I was told what my job would be.  Needless to say I was perplexed, mainly because the job I was given was based on a score from my test that was also my lowest.

Needs of the Corps my ass, I bring this up because when I went back in I wanted to be an intelligence analyst.  They had made me retake the ASVAB, which I got a perfect score on, and I already had a Top Secret Clearance, so I thought it was a no brainer.  Nope.  I was offered infantry, and only infantry.  So I did what any guy who had a wife and two kids to support would to, I took it.  I later found out they still had over forty openings in the job I wanted.  I can say going infantry was good for me, but at the same time it’s a matter of principle about not getting what I wanted and what they had.

The silver lining was I was offered 0352, anti-armor assaultman.  We shoot big ass missiles at tanks, so that was cool.  The other bonus was that it wasn’t a job that was in a line company.  You know the rifleman you think of when you hear infantry?  Well a Marine Battalion had three companies full of those.  We call them crunchies because that is the sound they make when they get run over by tanks and other big vehicles.  My job was mobile, we were in the weapons company.  Where if you can’t truck it, fuck it.  We put our missile launchers on top of HUMVEEs and drove around being supported by machine gunners.  Plus you needed a Secret clearance.

We were the “smart” grunts.  The ASVAB had a high score of 99.  You only needed a 33 to be a grunt, to be a TOW gunner (our fancy title based on the weapons system we shot) you needed at least a 50, a driver’s license, and not be color blind in addition to the clearance or ability to get one.  The additional down side for me was that even as a Sergeant they made me go through the entry level training with all the boot camp fresh Privates.  That was an experience.  The class was also tougher than I thought it would be, mostly because they crammed so much into three weeks.

The worst was the armor identification.  We had to know over 50 different vehicles not only by their picture, but also heat signature, because our weapon had a cool thermal site that was like a really bad Virtual Boy.  The same colors too, but blurrier.  It was a hoot though.  This was a case where rank did have its privileges.  I mean I basically outranked most of my instructors, but since I was a student they could tell me what to do.  It didn’t much matter, I got to eat with the regular Marines during chow and when the boots (new Marines) were getting thrashed I got to sit back and chill.  I also got to keep my cell phone.

When I graduated I did have some words with an instructor or two that were kind of pricks when I was a student.  Once that ended though I got to have my own fun.  Ahh, the uber macho systems that we have.  They can be stress relieving if you know what to do.  Sorry, I got side tracked there, it does have relevance to the main story, which we will now get back too.

I had gone through a lot of shenanigans so far.  Well, I thought after my new job training I could get back to the business of being a Marine.  I wasn’t in bad company, they were so hard up for TOW gunners that I think we had about seven lateral movers in my unit.  So the shit I got for being one didn’t last long once all the others started to show up.  What I did do though, was show my prowess for learning and adapting.  The addition of already having a combat deployment under my belt didn’t hurt either.

Soon I found myself in charge of a team.  Each platoon in the company had six trucks, made up of two three truck teams.  I was moving up the food chain.  There was that one guy though, isn’t there always?  Gunny Vice, we’ll call him.  He was always riding my ass.  Most of us saw him as a giant douche, but I got the brunt of his focus.  Not a good place to be.  I never did find out why, I always assumed he saw me as a dirty retread and thought I lacked the skills to lead Marines.

That all seemed to change though in the Summer of 2005.  We were in California at 29 Stumps, the Marine base where all the fun desert training took place.  It was during a training evolution that simulated IEDs and an ambush that my bosses in the platoon were hit and “killed”, I had to take charge.  At the end of it the Gunny came up to me and said I did a fine job.  That was a good day.  Of course, if something didn’t happen later I wouldn’t even be mentioning this.  On to that part.

We get back to North Carolina and are getting ready to deploy to Fallujah, Iraq for the first time.  Remember early when I said if someone was asked to give up bodies they usually went for who they saw as not their best?  Well, three weeks before we are set to deploy we get a new guy.  He was a reservist that had volunteered to go active for a deployment.  He was active duty and was in the invasion and was also a TOW gunner and a Sergeant.  Well he joined our platoon.  A couple of days later Gunny Vice told me I had been reassigned to Headquarters Company and that the new guy was taking my place.  I guess I didn’t impress him that much in training.

The new guy Sgt Buck, was a nice guy and had actual combat experience.  I don’t knock him, but I was and in some ways still am butthurt.  I had busted my ass to prove myself and earn my position.  Now I was being relegated to possible shit duties, like Camp Guard, the shittiest assignment that an infantry Marine can get while on a deployment.  Luckily? I didn’t.  Instead I got to man an Entry Control Point (ECP).  So we got to check papers and cargos of commercial vehicles going into the city.  Talk about a waste of training.

This is where the sad part comes though.  About two or three months into out stint in the sunny deserts of the ass crack of the world, I find out that Sgt Buck had died from shrapnel caused by an IED that his truck hit.  At that time and to this day I still wonder if that would have been me had I not been sent to checkpoint duty.  It’s one of those things that stick in your mind long after the events happened.  The thing was, it didn’t really hit me until about a week after words when I finally got to talk to the guys in my former platoon.

It was sad that he had passed, and it still kicks me in the gut, but knowing that the person that took your spot may have taken something you would have gotten kind of makes you rethink everything.  Thus my existential crisis.  All the what if’s and should have been’s linger in the back of my mind.  Also, where would he be today if he didn’t make the choice to come back?  All the little choices that were made for the events to unfold as they did just make me think, and not nice thoughts.

What security?

One thing about working in the security field, especially after 9/11, was that everyone was paranoid.  And they had a right to be, we were just attacked and a lot of people died.  That also meant that security measures all over the country were being increased.  In my case that meant a lot of additional training.  I attended a lot of courses and my responsibilities went from a few to a fuck ton.

This covered personal security, physical, communication, information, operational, and a lot of other keywords.  Training is one thing though, using it in the states and then during the invasion meant I had a lot of knowledge and practical experience when it came to matters of staying safe.  One would think that this kind of expertise would be useful to a Marine or his superiors when looking at check points.

Where are our weak spots?  Where could we be hit by the enemy?  Which of our policies can be improved to ensure more safety?  Questions like these always seemed like they would be a constant factor in a hostile environment where people will just walk up to you and blow themselves up.  Giving them fewer opportunities to do so was a good idea.  Apparently not for everyone.

Since I was passed off to Headquarters Company I always assumed they saw me as the weaker link.  Just look back to the reference I made to being the one picked when asked for bodies.  I can’t say I blame them in this regard, it was SOP.  That being said I was more untested so passing me off at face value might have been the best thing in my previous company’s eyes.  In any case I was now working for people who ran the two main checkpoints for Fallujah.  One was for regular traffic the other was for commercial traffic.

I had the fun task of running the Commercial one.  I guess it was cool in the fact that I was running it.  Even though I was sent over the guy I worked for saw I wasn’t a total moron and basically gave me my own little command.  I had six Marines and about a dozen Iraqi Army Soldiers (IA).  So a good amount of bodies.  I had taken an Arabic course so it kind of made sense too.  I think I was the only guy out of the forty Marines working the check points that had taken it.  We had a translator too, but only one and he was oat the main post.

Anyway, we were split into two shifts.  Each shift had about twenty Marines, when they took over the main post, six would be sent to the smaller checkpoint, then our day long shifts would start.  We worked day on, day off.  Not too bad a gig really, aside from the fact people in the area wanted us dead.

There was a weird way that all of this was set up though.  It kind made of sense, but not really.  This is the point where it can get kind of boring, but the setup has to be clear.  Entry Control Point – 1 (ECP1) was the main entry into the city for all regular traffic.  It was right at the meeting point of two major highways.  One road ran straight through the city, we called it Fran.  We had names for all the roads to make it easier than trying to learn all the Arabic names.  Well, as Fran entered the city it ran under a bridge that had the main highway going over it.

The on ramp to that highway off of Fran started right before the checkpoint and went up to merge with it.  The couple of buildings that made up the checkpoint were in the space between Fran and the onramp, which is again elevated as it goes up to meet the highway.  We had eight foot concrete barriers making a wall around the ECP, but the height of the on ramp made it so even going on it in a sedan, you could look down inside of our area.

It might seem obvious from the description what could go wrong here, but Marines in general are not known for shall we say their intellectual prowess.  To be fair when we first got there in September of 2005 it wasn’t that big an issue, because the on ramp was closed.  Then someone had the bright idea of opening it.  Something about convenience for the locals.  The command had met with local representatives and it had been brought up, at least was my understanding.

I personally understood their point, but being a former security guy I raised concerns about the problems that opening that ramp would present.  Simple things like a car load of insurgents could drive slow and spray us with small arms fire, or the worst case of stopping there with a bomb.  I brought this to the attention of the two Gunnery Sergeants, one ran each shift.  They of course saw my concerns and agreed with me, because it seems that enlisted Marines in general can see common sense.

Now we start running into the problems and the start of the problems I would have with authority in the future.  It’s not like a lowly enlisted Marine can get anything done on their own, they have to bow down to the all might officers.  In our case our Company Commander.  We called him Captain America, because he acted like he was.  I can’t for the life of me remember his real name, but he was kind of an ass out for personal glory.  If that came at the expense of those under his command, so be it. The kind of Officer that would have been shot by his own men in Vietnam for being a liability.

That is one thing about an unconventional war like we were in, the opportunities for “friendly fire” accidents or blaming the enemy were far and few between.  When they happened it was usually sudden and you didn’t have time to set anything up.  I’m not advocating for anyone to be taken out, I’m just saying that some tales I have heard from Vietnam vets would have made this guy a prime target for a trip home.

The concerns were brought to him and dismissed off hand, I am talking about at the moment they were pointed out to him.  There were other occasions on which we told him again, each time he said no more harshly.  At one point he did say it would be a hassle to get the Engineers out there to do anything, which was bullshit as will be pointed out later.  I was even personally threatened with punishment when I approached him on the subject, so I dropped it, because that is what good Marines do.  I still regret it to this day, and I think he is still an asshole.

Shit, one time we were driving the perimeter of the city on the roads we used to take to our posts.  He couldn’t get a good radio signal so he stopped our little three truck patrol, got out of his truck and got on top with his portable radio trying to get comms.  I was praying the whole time he would get taken out.  We had sniper activity in the area and had already lost two Marines too it.  First off, stopping three vehicles on the edge of the city was stupid, we were in the old Humvees, no armor, no mounted guns.  Secondly what he was just checking signal, it’s not like he had anything important to call back about.

This was the kind of asshole we worked for, the kind that seemed oblivious at to where he was and what we were out there to do.  I still shake my head at how worthless this guy was, he came out to the checkpoints maybe once every other week, so he had no idea what we were even doing out there.  I guess the Marines will give any asshat with a college degree a commission.