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A lost warrior

This is the post excerpt.

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What a way to start my first ever blog.  Grieving the loss of another young soldier, taken too early by the demons who followed us home.  My profile picture is of the said young warrior.  Zachary Sparling of Seattle. Washington. An Iraq and Afghanistan veteran who lost his fight this week. We were deployed together in 2010-11 and remained battle buddies after we rotated back to the US. I’m not gonna pretend we were the very best of mates and that we were in touch every day; but we stayed in touch and spoke of visiting each other when we could afford the airfare.  No matter the distance, he was my brother and a small part of me leaves this world too when a battlebudy becomes part of the ’22’.  Mission 22 is an organization close to my heart. Bringing awareness to the approximate 22 veterans who commit suicide each day in the US.  An utterly alarming statistic, which goes unnoticed and, generally ignored.  The daily activities of an overpaid spoilt sportsman is acknowledged and debated far more frequently than the fact that our real life heroes are screaming for help.  Who are too often being drawn into the most desperate and totally heartbreaking decision they have ever dealt with.

My hope for this blog is to bring awareness to veteran suicides.  I suffer from PTSD and have often found myself so desperate I was unable to see a way forward.  Having said that, I’m here (obviously) and I’m moving forward. I still struggle at times, and I continue to see a VA doc for PTSD treatment.  I felt embarrassed and even disappointed in myself when I first sought treatment!  This stigma needs to STOP in our society! I highly encourage any and all of my brothers to seek help if you are feeling depressed, lonely, lost or any debilitating sysmptom. I want to see, I pray to see the 22 daily suicides vanish from our society.  I hope for this blog to be a place of comfort to those suffering, feeling desperate and in need of someone who’s been there.  Someone who still finds himself there!

All things are possible thru God, and I hope you enjoyed my first blog.

I am my brothers’s keeper!

post

John 15:13 — 4/19/2010

grave

SGT ‘Doc’ Rob Barrett, medic with the US Army, KIA 4/19/2010 in Kabul Afghanistan.  Attached to my unit and living on the same FOB.  Early morning before sunrise, 8 years ago today Rob and I were talking about Pizza!  Good pizza from ‘back home’.  How we missed it and couldn’t wait ot get back to the world in order to eat as much as possible!!

We both had a hot tiring day ahead of us, he was training some Afghan soldiers at the nearby airport in Kabul.  My team were heading to the mountains of Shakar Dara to conduct operations.  I told Doc I would swing by and check in on him and his guys later that afternoon.

The suicide bomber had gained access to the US held part of the airport with fake ID and an accurate Afghan Army uniform.  My guess is, someone simply let him on base to attack us.  Either way he made his way to our trucks and detonated himself.   Doc was the closest and took most of the blast.  The terrorist lay close, blown in half; his legs mangled and several feet away from the rest of his body.  Barrett lay motionless, scorched, smoking and in pieces.  Most of his throat and upper chest missing or exposed.  We tried in vain to put things back together and keep him with us.   I screamed in anger, crying out to God after we got him in the bird and on his way.  God must have needed a first class medic up there, and he must have needed one badly.

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Before he left Rob wrote a poem, below is an excerpt from that writing to his parent”

“I volunteered to put my life on the line for freedom and country. For my fellow soldiers, for my little girl, for my weeping mother and father, I am going to a land where American freedom is just a dream, a hope, a slow reality. I am an American soldier.”

Today is going to be a little unpleasant.  I am going to finish this and try to stay busy at work and keep my mind from wondering back to war.  I’m not very confident on this one though.  I can smell that day, I can hear the screaming, the shouting, the gun fire and the confusion.

The guilt on my shoulders remains heavy, there have been some dark dark days when carrying it nearly buried me.  Footprints in the sand always comes to mind during dark times and I can only pray that when I was unable to keep moving forward, God was carrying me.

“Dear Lord.  I know we can not understand all of your actions and why you sometimes do the things you do, or let happen the things that happen.  Lord, please hear me that I do trust you and I do trust your plan.  I ask that you pay special attention today to Rob’s family and friends  and especially his little girl Sophie.  Now, a 10 year old girl Lord who has only known her father through medals, pictures, memories and memorials.  May you bless her Lord and keep the memories of her brave father alive and vivid in her growing mind.  Dear Father, on this day I ask you to send the holy spirit  and cover me with grace and love and forgiveness.  And Lord, tell Doc that I am sorry I let him down that day.  On this day Holy Father I do thank you for sending me one of your most precious daughters; my wonderful wife Kaytee.   She supported me on a long and often dark, hellish journey.  I was still over there when I was physically here and she never gave up helping to guide me home.  Forgive me Lord, my life is yours Lord and I give it all to you.”

John 15:13 – Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

Hummer

A Poem for my wife.

When we forgive, we love

 

The clouds were rolling in, the sky grew darker and winds whistled mischievously

Yet, on that beach was a moment of light, a moment of love delivered by the unseen

Two hearts were reborn with the love and forgiveness of God

The clouds continued to dance; the wind blew the old away and delivered the new

 

A little girl praying to have a true love, a prayer offered every night to our father

A dream snatched by the devil’s laugh

The demons of his twisted soul trying to take the life from God’s children

A small boy tormented and broken, fodder for the smiling Lucifer

 

When we forgive, we love

And when we love, God’s light shines upon us as his heart glows with pride

A level of forgiveness delivered through the sacrifice of our Lord

A level of love that is unrivaled

 

We continue our walk in the grace of he who loves us

Lucifer no longer lives in our home; he has been defeated

A lifetime of true love offered and accepted

God reached down and held our hearts, he smiled and breathed a new life into our souls

 

He is particularly fond of who we are becoming

New year, Newer me?

OK, so I’ve never bought into the whole new years resolution thing and, still don’t participate when people ask what my resolutions are going to be.  I have no issues and do not think poorly of those that do, its just not my thing.  I don’t see how a new day, which happens to be January 1st is going to have a drastic impact on my decision making.  Again, some people do and I am all for that.

Having said that, it is the start of a ‘new’ year and I am in a new place.  We felt called by God to move down here so perhaps it can be the continuation of ‘new’ Mike, one I started back in Massachusetts about a year ago.

I am meeting my new medical team at the VA tomorrow which I am excited about (sounds weird I know) but am also feeling very anxious and nervous.  I’m deeply anxious about explaining things all over again, digging deep into who I am , who I was and, who I am trying to be.  Doing it alone in my own head is bad enough, so sharing it with people I don’t even know yet is a pretty terrifying idea.

I know I am a better person when I can speak with a professional about the war and about the disastrous ways PTSD has influenced my life.  I do have a better handle on things, that’s for sure.  However, when I go too long without talking and without taking medications I feel a change.  The hatred I have for myself, the world, people in the world and anything outside my world slowly creeps back inside me.  Its as if the Devil senses I am weak and he knows hate can harbor a safe place in my heart.  He jumps at the chance of using me again.

Although, I will never be the person some people would like me to be.  I am happy with the ‘nicer’ Mike and the less hateful Mike.  I know Jesus hates seeing me so torn and I hate feeling that/this way.

Fingers crossed for tomorrow and, for the rest of the year!!!

After all, its a World Cup year!! 🙂

I got your six!

 

 

 

 

God, its me; scrooge! I am sorry! Forgive me?

The big guy must be a little sick and tired of listening to me lately, more so listening to me complain and shout at him, sometimes screaming and crying to be honest.

I know its a tough time of year for many people, I am unfortunately one of those people. How many times have I been called Scrooge??  No clue, but we can be sure its far too many to track.

This is not a pity party for Mike, I am not looking for sympathy about my childhood/life. OK???  It is what it is and I have always said, and continue to say that overall,  I had a very blessed and wonderful childhood.

Having said that, we were pretty poor my entire childhood.  Not piss broke poor eating bread and water but, money was very very tight.  As kids we mostly got everything we ‘needed’ but rarely the things we truly ‘wanted’.  There wasn’t much to get excited about when it came to gifts in my tiny village on the morning of December 25th.  I never had cool clothes, toys and we never ate out.  My ‘sneakers’ were bought from a supermarket, no brand names could be afforded.  I went out to dinner with my parents once as a child, when I was 15.  We went on one holiday/vacation, 1 week in Wales when I was 14.  The big annual treat each year would typically be a birthday celebration lunch at BK.

Christmas motivated me on 2 fronts as a child.

I look back now with shame that neither was centered around Christ.  I couldn’t,  I wouldn’t and, I even flat out refused to make him the ‘reason for the season’.  This time of year would mean more than usual singing/caroling commitments and events at the church.  My family were not church attendees, nor enforced regular Sunday church attendance on us kids.  However, through my choir enjoyment at school, I had been offered the chance to sing in a rather prestigious and hugely popular Church of England vicarage.  I was utterly thrilled!  Since I was too young for my voice to have ‘broken’, I guess you could say I was able to sing with a certain amount of innocence and purity.  I truly enjoyed singing when this endeavor first knocked on my door.

Oh yes sorry, the Christmas motivations I mentioned………

The first, was Christmas day dinner at my nan’s house.  This entailed as much food as we could eat, and it was bloody good food too.  And I don’t mean, it was just prepared and cooked well.  I mean, it was also good quality food.   ‘Proper’ ham!  Not some processed, packaged crap.  Off the bone of a real, once living pig type of ham.  Ham that I now buy freely at the supermarket any time I want.   YOU ARE THINKING regular sandwich ham, and you would be correct but, as a kid it was a once a year treat for my siblings and I.  —  The second was the Christmas gifts from my grandparents.  Looking back, I think they were financially stable, perhaps even well off.  Either way the gift I received off them each year was always something I wanted, not something I needed.  I really treat, a true luxury gift you could even say.  As I got older, the gift would change to cash! Cold hard, I can do with what I want cash!!!

Unfortunately with things that were going on in my childhood, trying to find my way in the horrific young world I had been introduced to.  Mixed with the lack of razzmatazz over the 25th, this was a time of year I ached to be over as quickly as possible.

Fast forward 30 years, as a combat veteran and a somewhat ‘new’ husband, this time of year now has additional struggles which I am sure many of you can relate too.  Some of them I have brought on myself and others are ……………..situational I guess.  PTSD, flashbacks and nightmares don’t take a break simply because the fat guy in a red suit is getting ready to devour any left over cookies.  I spend time remembering those who didn’t make it back to enjoy the festivities this time of year delivers.  I spend time going over my own deeply depressing fuck ups.

God, forgive me for having a cold heart this time of year.  I offer you the hatred and misery that creeps into my soul each December.  Help me embrace it, enjoy it and be a joyful happy bloke to be around.  Take away the pain, hurt, guilt, shame, disappointment and embarrassment Christmas often fills me with.  My wife is full of such wonderful holiday spirit Lord and it IS infectious.  Help me to open my eyes, heart, mind and body to the wonders she always brings to my life during this time.  At the very least Father, I ask that you not make my issues become a burden to her or anyone else.

I have already been called scrooge a handful of times this December, and that’s ok.  I am currently the Grinch who wants to live alone on top of mountain every December.  Having said that, I am happy to feel a little ‘Whoville spirit’  inside.

Even the Grinch can be his brothers’ keeper!

http://www.mission22.com

Trump! Keeping his word….

And it goes a little something like this….

Donald Trump repeatedly vowed to “wipe the hell out of ISIS”.  Thank you Mr. President for staying true to your word.

Within a year, the Islamist terror group that gained so much ground and support during Barack Obama’s tenure has been forced from Syria and Iraq.  I had hoped to head over to Syria as a government contractor again to do some more fighting but the wife put that idea to bed pretty fast! hahaha    The money is good but I value her love more!

I have read articles where experts are saying this success is down to Trump authorizing his military commanders, led by SOD Mad Dog Gen. Mattis, to do what they needed to do without getting bogged down by politicians in Washington.

I don’t think we are complacent about the ongoing threat of ISIS (see today in NYC) and it’s supporters continuing to commit terrorist acts on civilian soil as they are driven from the battlefield.  But the importance of kicking them out of Iraq and Syria cannot be overstated.

At every campaign rally, Trump promised economic growth, get jobs going again, and stock market increases.

That’s happening people!!

Trump promised to confirm Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to move the US Embassy there from Tel Aviv.  He initially exercised his right to waive that decision in June, however has made good on his promise and kept true to his word last week.  I personally think it’s a potentially dangerous move that has already created unwanted violent clashes, but you can’t say he didn’t vow to do it if he got elected because he did, repeatedly.

These three momentous things follow a long line of promises Trump has kept.

He has moved to examine the Iran nuclear deal which was a gift to them by Hilary Clinton,  has finally stood up to North Korea and the increased threat it shows to the world.  He started work on repairing and strengthening the Mexican wall along the Southern border.  (just the threat of it has led to a 38% fall in illegal immigrants coming over that border since he was elected).

The Supreme Court recently approved his revised and controversial travel ban on residents of seven predominantly Muslim countries.

By contrast, Obama,  a person liked and admired by almost the entire world I think, failed on many of his biggest promises including pledges to close Guantanamo Bay, get new gun control laws, create a path to citizenship for  illegals immigrants, reform Washington, and end the war in Afghanistan.  I still remember his disastrous decisions that negatively and dangerously impacted my time over there.

Donald Trump is not a perfect president in many ways and I say that as someone who likes him.

Yet there can be no doubt now that President Trump is a man who is delivering on his promises to the people who voted for him.

I think they love what they see in the president, warts and all.  There are times I wince and cringe at things he says, having said this,  he can be brutally honest and absolutely to the point; which I honestly find refreshing and rather provoking.

He’s got ISIS on the run, illegal immigration back under control, jobs pouring back, the economy roaring again, and the lying all powerful fake media back in it’s box.

Love him or hate him, Trump’s doing exactly what he told us he’d do.

 

I have scars but the worst is one you cannot see….

A book and it’s cover

The classic scene in the Jaws movie where ‘Quint’ and ‘Hooper’ compare scars always makes me laugh and think of something I could do with veterans, and of course non veterans, like in the movie.  Striking up a kinship through tails of bravado and luck.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not riddled with them but I have a few.  However, the scene very quickly takes my mind to the ones you cant see.  The weathered old navy veteran Quint reveals the ones you cant see are perhaps and often become the deepest and most punishing scars one can have.

God sent me down range for a reason.   Some of those reasons have already become apparent to me.  I can safely say, without boasting or doubt that there are people alive (well they were last time I saw them) because of actions I took or because I put my own life on the line to make sure they were ok.  Its a feeling of profound pride that I wouldn’t trade for all the tea in England. Having said that, I am also left with days that include terrifying memories, flash backs, hyper vigilance, nightmares plus feelings of hopelessness and loneliness.   I’m not complaining, I know he will explain it all to me when he takes me home.  Yet, I still find myself asking why? When the demons come and I cant get out of my own way I scream why!!??  I look ok, act ok (my wife may disagree!) and have a good career going well.  Still I am often frozen with fear and locked in the every present battle between Mike being home and Mike not quite being fully home.

So, don’t judge me by my exterior, you don’t know whats going on inside my head and heart.  Wait, I have full tattoo sleeves, a hate to shave, I drive a truck, wear a military cap most days and I am typically always carrying a gun…… you can judge me a little I guess! haha

Joking aside;  the non visibal scars run deep and they are unrelenting and do not care if you need a day off.  So why write this today you may ask!?  Well, I feel like I am winning.  Life is going surprisingly well and has come around 180 degrees in the last 12 months.  Of course I have complaints, gripes and general bitching here and there.  The demons don’t seem to want to play as much as they used to, my marriage feels wonderfully new and fresh and the pure hatred in my heart has started to subside.  Hatred has been such a strong factor in my life I often feel lost without it, but with it gone I am able to allow goodness into my life.  This feel good. God IS Good.

I have surrendered to the realization that God does love me and he does want the very best for me.  He sent me to be his sword on the field of battle and I hope I did him proud.    He didn’t send me to get back at me or to hurt me.  Was it to simply take the lives of my enemy? To save the lives of those being persecuted? Or to speak of his son Jesus Christ to the occupiers of the mountains of Afghanistan.

Another battle is looming on my horizon and I know its one that is going to take me to an even darker place. A place I know I don’t want to go.  God will guide me but my anger with him on this one is monumental.  I pray my faith is strong enough to defend my heart from the hate that is vying for it’s attention again.

I am my brothers keeper.  I need my 6 covered.

 

USAA

Fuming, absolutely fuming with USAA right now!

This is what I just sent them!

“I am absolutely disgusted that my life insurance application was denied based on my VA medical history of Combat related PTSD and Depression. Wow, thanks USAA!!! I currently have a $100k policy with you guys.  Since we have bought our first home I wanted to make sure that I had sufficient coverage should anything ever happen to me. I applied for an additional $200k to cover the home in full. DENIED! So USAA is for the vets, for the soldiers blah blah blah. I voluntarily enlist, get sent over there to fight (more than once) and praise God, make it back in one piece. Get married, settle down, land an awesome Government job  and we buy our first home. Trying to get my thing in order, be a responsible husband and make sure my home and wife’s future is finally in tact, JUST IN CASE a worse case scenario happens and, you guys Deny me!!

Seriously guys?? Wasn’t asking for a policy that would lead to generations of wealthy babies. Just enough to cover the remaining mortgage on the house and a little bit left over for incidentals. We recently moved to Texas and I was forced to switch our car insurance, which I really hated doing/leaving you guys for that coverage.  However, since your Texas coverage doubled our monthly premiums from Massachusetts I was left with no choice but to find a cheaper option. Actually got slightly better coverage for our cars through Geico Insurance at the same price we had been paying. So it looks like Geico will be getting the rest of our business in the very near future.  Our home owners Insurance for starters and the rental property insurance too.

I am so disappointed with your company and will encourage other veterans to seek other finance options moving forward. How can a company that is specifically designed for Veterans and Soldiers refuse to cover a Vet with life insurance????
I have always been such an advocate for your company, yet that stops today.  You guys make me sick and I look forward to the day that I have no business with you at all.

Thanks for nothing!
Mike”

Too much? Too emotional? Either way, I cannot hide the anger inside right now. The denial letter literally said “due to your PTSD and depression”.   Am I blind and/or ignorant to the fact that potentially all Combat Infantrymen are refused life insurance from USAA?  That cant be possible right? Maybe it is and I am over reacting?

Suggestions, feedback, advice and comments all welcomed!