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How the Government, VA, and Military Fail Our Veterans. From a Veterans Perspective.

Updated: May 8, 2022

The podcast covering the article is now available on Spotify!

First, I will give you a little insight on my military service. Those who know me, know that I hold my service to this country in high regards. While also doing everything within my power to remain humble. We served so that others did not after all. But as a veteran, I also feel like I have a lot to say. And often I find myself in the darkest depths of my mind and guilt wondering who it is that will listen. I will always have an Army of brethren to place my confidence in when I feel like my demons confine me. But those conversations only go so far. We know what we did, why we did it and the manner in which we did it. Veterans can find themselves in the darkest depths of agony fighting for something as simple as a breath of fresh air. I find that in my daughter nowadays. I find that in my belief that one day I will feast in Odins great hall where I will be amongst warriors again. But my past found it in a bottle. If I had to describe the life of a veteran. I would equate it to a life of constant suffocation. Never ending strife that torments and confines the soul.

I never had a bad life growing up. But I always made bad decisions. I had role models, I had spirituality, a roof over my head, clothes on my back and food in my belly. My teenage years are a point of comic relief now that I have grown over the years. However, during those times I often felt lost and confused. Even at the age of 17 I was living on my own in other people's houses.

I joined the Army in 2005. Initially I had gone to the Navy recruiters because at that time they were accepting high school dropouts without a GED. That is right. I was a high school dropout. After going through the entire enlistment process, the Navy refused to let me join because they were no longer accepting applicants without a GED. Not long afterwards, I was contacted by an Army Recruiter who would help me later take and pass my GED. The Army was the best thing to happen in my life prior to becoming a father. I shipped to Basic Training on September 26th, 2005. Where I would attend Basic Training at Fort. Knox Kentucky to become a 19D Cavalry Scout. However, my basic training was not standard. I attended what the Army called One Station Unit Training (OSUT) which lasted a total of 16 weeks straight. Essentially 16 weeks of Basic Training. Which all combat arms go through in the Army.

OSUT is where I really fell in love with the Army but also where I realized that I was in it for the long haul. Basic training really wasn't a struggle for me in terms of ever wanting to quit. I struggled, miserably at times, but always felt the need to never quit. I had something to prove not only to myself, but the people that spent years doubting that I would ever succeed. I felt like I had to prove a lot. I will never forget the moment I earned my cross sabers and became a Cavalry Scout in the United States Army. After the final field exercise, we had to complete a 20k road march back to the barracks in order to graduate. This is the closest I ever came to feeling defeated. You are talking about a 5'6 150 pound, 19-year-old carrying over 100 pounds of gear for close to 12.5 miles. It was the most exhausted physically that I had ever felt up to that point in my life. But I never quit. I never wanted to. I knew it wasn't an option.

I will never forget the moment that we rounded the corner into the quad outside of our barracks. I felt such accomplishment and pride. They had a podium set up with our branch insignia pins. They were playing Eye of the Tiger and I just remember breaking into tears. Thinking about it often still makes me choke up. I had never in my life felt such pride in something that I had accomplished to the point it brought me to tears. I remember my Drill Sergeant pinning my sabers on me and feeling like I had finally done something others would be proud of. I remember thinking to myself that I was ready. I was ready to go fight for and defend my country. As soon as possible. And if my life was the cost of freedom, I would belong to a brotherhood of heroes that seem immortal. Being that I never graduated High School. I still feel pride in the fact that my class ring is the ring that I earned becoming a soldier.

My first duty station after basic training was B Troop 1-4 Cav 1st Infantry Division in Schweinfurt, Germany. I still remember the flight to Germany because it was on February 14th, 2006. Being that we were flying over international waters, I got to have a few on the plane. Upon arriving to my first unit, it was like attending basic training all over again. Nonstop yelling, smoke sessions and being treated like a child. Which never really bothered me. Being that you have to earn the respect of those you serve with. However, the Army can be highly toxic at times and there are plenty of leaders who fuck with you just to fuck with you. That is neither here nor there. But it was never something that made me a better soldier. It made me more bitter than anything. I never understood the point of fucking with a soldier just to fuck with them if they were otherwise squared away. I will never forget the first interactions I had as a private fresh out of basic. And the good ole boy club that existed before I arrived at Germany. I remember being asked by a fellow private what my 2-mile run time was and I stated that it was 13 minutes. Obviously, a passing score. One that I had to have in order to even pass basic training. But you would have thought I was bragging about being the fastest soldier that ever lived. I simply answered the question that I was asked. And answered it truthfully.

As a result, I got the privilege of having someone scream in my face for hours. Dusting me off. Then heading to the 2-mile track to run a PT Test. Sounds logical. Let's make sure the guy can pass a PT Test after being dusted off because he said he can pass a PT Test even though I had to pass a PT Test to graduate basic. Where I literally just came from. This is when I started to realize how toxic the Army was. Don't get me wrong. I loved my time in service. But some leaders exist just to fuck with people. A solid example of what not to be as you progress in the Army. That is just one of many examples of having to do stupid shit just for the sake of having to do stupid shit. Entertainment for others. Watch me go fuck with this guy.

You want to know why veterans are so salty and rough around the edges? The amount of stupid shit that they had to do over the course of their career.

Of course, I got to do a lot of good things and I had a blast while serving in the Army. Especially being stationed in Germany.

In 2006 I got to attend Airborne School at Fort Benning. Which I graduated. But I will tell you a funny and short story of my first few days at Airborne School. I had to fly to Airborne School from Germany in December of 2006. Right before Christmas. The plan was to go to Airborne School then take my 2 weeks of block leave for Christmas. As soon as I arrived at the airport in Georgia, the airline lost my luggage. So, I had a backpack with my orders and the clothes on my back when I arrived on base. This is the funny part. My first morning in formation before Airborne School started, I had to explain to the Black Hats (Instructors) that all my uniforms and gear had been lost because the airline lost my luggage. At which time they told me I had to have it before the course started in a few days or I would be recycled to the next class. That night I went out with some friends I was attending Airborne School with. And of course, they bought me drinks. I did what any responsible soldier would. Returned to the barracks that evening and went to sleep. Just to wake up in the middle of the night in a puddle of piss. Yea, I pissed the bed at Airborne School. I didn't have a change of clothes. So, guess what this guy had to do. I had to strip down naked with a blanket wrapped around me in the laundry room. And stand there all night until my clothes were washed. I got to spend my first moments at Airborne School, naked and wrapped in a wool blanket, washing my clothes because I had just pissed the bed without a change of clothes.

Not really a meaningful story, but one that I find hilarious. Needless to say, the airline was able to recover my baggage and return it to me on base that morning before the course started. And I went on to graduate Airborne School on time.

Fast forward to the summer of my first deployment. My unit, B Troop 1-4 Cav 1st Infantry Division re-flagged to B Troop 1-91 Cav 173rd Airborne the summer before I attended Airborne School in 2006. By the summer of 2007 we were slotted to go to Afghanistan. Nuristan Province, Camp Keating. A deployment that would play a part in the book written by Jake Tapper, The Outpost, which would later become a movie.

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