Friday, April 15, 2011

Church Bells Sing Suicide

The songbird singing on my windowsill will come and pass to be replaced by another and I will never notice. The old bird will come to rest in a shrub to be devoured by the cat, or maybe on a crowded sidewalk to be stepped over by the busy people of the day and I will have forgotten his song. Corporal Hunt killed himself two weeks ago in his Texas apartment. I didn’t know him but I could feel a lonely connection in deeper parts of my heart, and his story that made CNN headlines could not be shaken out of my head so I clocked out early today to write this blog.

Everything is so different out here and it has been years since my last deployment. After my first hospitalization for an attempted suicide I took a trip to Eastern France with my father to do some book research. We were on a Marine Corps battlefields of World War 1 tour hosted by former Commandant of The Marine Corps General Michael Hagee. Wandering through a well kept cemetery in the hamlet of Belleau France the General lit up and guided us to a tombstone. “Here it is!” He exclaimed. The General proceeded to tell us the story of Sergeant Streicher, who after his discharge in WW1 returned home to New York. He saved up enough money to take a trip to France and returned to the town of Belleau where he had fought. The former Sergeant asked the mayor if he would be allowed to live in Belleau to be close to his friends buried in a nearby military cemetery. The mayor granted his request, sometime later Sergeant Streicher wandered out to the wood line where he had fought and shot himself.

The Pentagon will not consider Corporal Hunt a war statistic, nor will they count the untold other number of post military service suicides. Sometimes I am walking through a parking lot checking the stubs to make sure that people paid for parking and I will think about all of these cars driven by all of these people and how they do not know that I served and that even if they did they would not care. I am a dead sparrow on the ground being stepped over and the weight of this thought is debilitating. I have sought help and sometimes I feel alright and other times I am walking through this never ending parking lot and it seems like I will never be able to leave. I always want everyone to know what my dead friends meant to me and what they should mean to their country but I don’t know how to say it.

Today I was walking through a cemetery in Eastern France. I was joined by Sergeant Streicher, Corporal Hunt and my dead great uncle Private Joesph Otto Turley who was killed on the last day of WW1, we were researching his story. Private Turley tugged my arm and walked me to the church where he had died. The French sky was grey and the old church was simple. Sergeant Streicher took hold of the rope of the bell and told me that when I didn’t know what to say it would be a good idea to ring the bell. The four of us took a hold of the rope and gave it a yank and it sang, “Another dead Marine!” The ringing thundered through the world, Corporal Hunt was smiling and we had known each other. We sang together, “Listen up you motherfuckers! Listen you passers by! Another dead Marine!” I shut my eyes and pulled the rope and when I awoke I was the only one ringing the bell.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Some Things I Learned in Combat

False motivation is still motivation!

If Gunny says, "Don't do it," someone will.

An empty house is a safe-house.

Never piss off your Corpsman.

Night-vision goggles require light to operate.

If you don't know where you are, the enemy does.

The extension will come as soon as you pack your gear.

"Help!" Is not a proper situation report.

Never trust a radio operator.

"Errr," is the proper response to everything.

Many dependent wives are not dependable.

The site count is never up.

Interpreters do not speak English.

Dear John letters are good for morale when read out-loud.

The MRE beef tastes like the MRE chicken, neither are beef or chicken.

If you follow the instructions you can heat an MRE by leaning the cardboard pouch on "A Rock or Something."

A rat-fuck is good if you’re pulling one; A goat-fuck is bad if you’re in one.

If it requires batteries to operate it’s already broken.

If you don’t know what it is, set it on fire.

Foreign troops will always pull the trigger to test the safety.

The only thing you weren't forced to do was sign the contract.

Combat is not a videogame!...

You cannot accurately hip-fire an M-203 grenade launcher.

There are no respawns in combat.

Auto aim is off.

Friendly fire is on.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Kat Dog

She made me smile and I wondered, “What’s wrong with that?” She is stunningly beautiful with a dog who stands on its head while chewing on its tail. We go on adventures together deep in the city of Portland. Sometimes you can find us in the back corner of a basement bar and other times we walk out of the city into the green, and we smile and laugh and during these moments I can forget the hard times.
Van Gough hangs on the walls of her apartment while I watch Craig Ferguson and she stands in the turn of the century doorway with the hand crafted molding, smiling at a dumb Neanderthal giggling at a Scotsman. I read, “The Catcher and the Rye” while she works at her computer and I enjoy the story but feel something deep for the protagonist who killed Lennon. If a person can hold out long enough after the world collapses it will put itself back together again. We can smile again and hope in ways that we did when we were young.
Life is as made up as a story book and I think about all of the time I spent not being alive before I was alive. The sound of rifle clatter comes as quick as it goes and for the rest of consciousness it will be there waiting, reminding us that we can always chase the dragon, or give it up and move along. Either way it will spin. And out of the nothingness comes a dog, walking on its head and biting at its tail and I laugh while she smiles because the dog is just like us.