Penetration Before Detonation

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Going along the line of my last post about boxes full of my Air Force and AMMO shit that my wife got ahold of, I decided that my last post merely scratched the surface of a few topics that I finally decided to discuss. If you didn’t read We Live So Others May Die then this may seem pretty random and might not make total sense, but then again that can be said for most of the shit I write anyway. I had left out my jacket from the last story, I think I got sidetracked or something. But, the jacket pictured is a big part in ways of expressing and explaining how I’ve changed over the last 15 years since getting out of the Air Force. How so? In many ways one might say I matured, maybe grew up is better, since I was 32 at the time of exiting. The things that were my life and priorities were very different only a week later, no more eating all things dangerous for breakfast and shitting tiffany bullets by dinner, providing the enemy the opportunity to die for his country was no longer printed on my business cards. Overnight my life as I knew it was upside down, it was a disaster and a hard first few weeks, and slowly the stress of that job faded.

But let’s go back first, way back. My dad was a retired Air Force Chief Master Sergeant before I was born in 68. It wasn’t until my teen years that he began to open up to me about his military career. The thing that used to intrigue me the most about his career was him telling me, in a joking manner, that Uncle Sam used to pay him to blow shit up, and I thought that he had to have had the best job known to man. My mind was made up, I was joining the Air Force and do what he did. However, by the time it was time certain jobs had been retired and new ones created. Let history show that I chose to be a 461. Now, we all have heard that Air Force basic training is relatively easy, right? Right. I won’t lie, it was easy. I think it’s easy because they’re not really training “soldiers” or “badasses” by definition, they’re teaching military service as a way of life, like summer camp but with better weapons, because they know one is in the air force to do things on the more technical side. Blah, blah, blah, it was a breeze. Technical school for the 461 was a crash course in how not to end up dead, full of many technical terms, safety, and how one must absolutely positively respect explosives or they simply put your dog tags in an envelope to mail to your next of kin because typically that’s all one can expect to be remaining. All that being said, it stuck with me always, respect. And sure enough I got out with all ten fingers and toes and everything in the middle. I paid the price tho, I drank the kool-aid, I started believing the propaganda as the everloving truth, I would preach it all like the gospel itself. Later in my career I had my wake up call, and at that point I was no longer able to be detached from the horrors of what I helped create.

I wore this jacket everywhere, I wore it with absolute pride knowing if I did my job properly then without prejudice those weapons would function as designed. I mean think about it, without explosives the Air Force is just the world’s largest airline which was even more lore and propaganda, I had a head full of it, it was pounded in until my sweat glands weeped it all back out, it was like the victory lap after being full circle for hundreds of miles yet never going anywhere. It’s a beautiful plan. And just to think that the general population of the United States of America is opposed to the waterboarding of our enemies but it’s OK to brainwash our sons and daughters in the military because we must make stronger soldiers. Bullshit. They break you down and then build the you they think you should be, fuck the real you, the real you is DOA once you sign the dotted line. My whole career was just a dangerous game, I got to dance with the devil and sleep with his daughters all in the name of democracy and the American way. I know this sounds bitter and sarcastic, I’m not trying to, because I actually really loved being in the Air Force. As my jacket reads, I even advertised our services for free every moment I wasn’t in uniform.

Back to present day, this jacket was neatly folded laying on top of everything else in the box, resting for eternity, or so I thought, until I see it has been resurrected. But the emotion I had was not anger for digging up my skeletons, it was a smile and surprise. As soon as I said I would not be wearing it, simply because I had a growth spurt in my mid 30s, my son volunteers to be its proud new owner. Way wrong fucking answer boy, it will never happen. First of all, it is not appropriate to wear to school, I don’t care if he is in the AFJROTC in high school, I really don’t. Sure, it would be cool for him to show off, but all the perverts would find some way of making it a sexual statement. Just say it to yourself and imagine all the meanings. Of course, very few know it is the calling card and slogan for my favorite weapon of all, the BLU-109. Yes, I had a fantastic favorite, seems weird now, stop making it weird people. Plus, its not his “game” to play with people. I can back my shit up, he cannot. Yes, I can remember wanting to wear my father’s uniforms and so forth so I do get the psychology. But the responsible dad part of me just says no to it altogether.

Damn, of course, this story, this little piece of personal history, has gone in so many directions. Oh well, maybe some of y’all get it, and I cannot help the rest of y’all. This reminds me of so much more, I hope this doesn’t constitute violating the terms I signed when I got out, you know the form, don’t ever talk about your job from this day forward or go to federal prison. I knew I would crack one day, I just never knew when. So, until next time boys and girls, remember to eat it every day!

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We Live So Others May Die!

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There is no doubt that over the years I have collected my fair share of AMMO & IYAAYAS memorabilia. Until recently most of which sat in boxes collecting dust in storage. In a way it was me putting my past life to rest and eventually moving on to a civilian life. However, while thinning out boxes, repacking boxes, and deciding what stays and what goes, my wife and son got ahold of everything while I was working. When I came home much of the stuff was hanging on the wall of the hall leading to the master bedroom. It was both a shock and surprise to see most of it. When I asked why I was told that this stuff needed to be out, needed to be seen, and she thought I would appreciate the fact that they took the time to put allot of it on display. I do appreciate the effort, but if I wanted it out of the boxes then I would of done it a long time ago, but no, it remained boxed, hoping until I was dead at least.

I ate, breathed, and lived the motto “We Live So Others May Die” my entire Air Force career and when I got out, my priorities, opinions, and morality changed considerably. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my fucking job every single day, all day long, but once I got out, day by day it just stopped meaning the same thing to me personally. Trust me, there is no better satisfaction than seeing the munitions you had a hand in building get loaded onto an aircraft and not see them come back because when the pilot pulled the trigger the weapons functioned as designed. That was the beautiful part of my job. I always remained disconnected from the damage, death, and destruction because I was in the “supply chain”. We were never the one pulling the trigger.

One day, in an undisclosed place in the mid 90s, I got to witness the true power of what I helped create and happen. I didn’t care for what I saw. I became ashamed of the organization I belonged to. I made up my mind I didn’t want to be a part of it any longer. When I got out I was happy to see the Air Force in my rear view mirror. At that point everything, pictures, memorabilia, uniforms, paperwork, trinkets, and so forth, went into the boxes. I ask myself why I boxed them up instead of burning it all and my answers were clear, I had many great memories of places I had been, people I have met, and experiences I have had. It’s what we do right? We put our memories in frames, shadow boxes, and actual boxes, as keepsakes and so forth. I have always had trouble talking with people in person about my ” job” in the Air Force because it no longer held any “glory” for me. As an example, way back when I was married to my ex, she finally found out what I actually did for a living. Sure, she knew what I did, but she never put two and two together because I never spoke of my job to her, ever. Sure, I had friends doing the same job who we interacted with regularly, most with wives who were friends with mine, but work was never the topic. Then, one day I received a slap to the face as I got told she didn’t want to be married to a baby killer. Yea, I know.

Years later, many years, my boxes full of my past life resurface, now my current wife and 14 year old son have questions. Questions I don’t really want to answer. My wife on the other hand already knew the answers but felt if my son was asking me questions then I needed to be the one answering. How about……. I don’t know…….. maybe……. fuck this shit I don’t want to discuss anything. My son had but one question. He wanted to know what the motto “We Live So Others May Die” meant to me. I’m not going to lie, there were many minutes of silence on my part, as I watched my son reading that phrase over and over on different things now hanging on the wall. What does it mean, really? The simple answer, in my opinion, is that thru training, schooling, education, and brainwashing, we truly were the facilitators of death and destruction, part of a machine which promotes peace through submission. I took great pride knowing that I did my job exceptionally well. However, the me of today is ashamed in many ways to acknowledge that this, in another time, was my life. I should have just burned it all when I had the chance way back when, but I didn’t, lucky me. We also looked at my uniforms, he was particularly interested in my dress blues, as they were still adorned with ribbons, awards, tours, and accolades. Looking now, I had quite the rack. It’s meaningless now I suppose, only because I wonder what it was all for.

I am very proud to have served my country and have the deepest respect for all of the men and women who serve now, have served, or will one day serve. I know it isn’t easy, not during your service and definitely not afterwards, not everyone has an easy transition. The military changes who we are to be who they want and then turn us out back into society. I explained to my son the reason I visit two different Veteran’s homes and the Veteran’s hospital is because I like talking with veterans who don’t seem to have anyone to talk to. I’m not trying to help them nor solve their problems, I just listen and talk, we share our experiences, we smile knowing that we have friends within one another.

After a very long conversation with my son, about the good, the bad, and even the ugly, he stood up and hugged me, it was a deep and meaningful hug which brought tears to my eyes as he whispered that he loved me into my ear. He explained that he wanted me to know he loved me and will always be proud of his dad. He has been going hard at the AFJROTC all year and hopes to one day follow in my footsteps. As much as I would like to desuade him from this career path, I won’t, I want him to fulfill his dreams, I won’t allow my own experiences to be his burden. Don’t know if that makes sense.

I close this post with a final thought, we are who we are, it is what it is, we live our lives as we see fit, hopefully we find some happiness along the way. To all active duty and veterans, I salute each and every one of y’all!

A Very Open Fucking Letter………….

Fuck-you

Dear Active Duty Military, Retired Military, and Military Veterans Benefits Haters  —

We’ve been having a rough go of it lately, haven’t we?  There you are, a civilian, absofuckinglutely convinced that the average service member in the United States Military is not worth his weight in pay and benefits.  And here I , a United States Air Force disabled veteran, wondering how we got to this fucking point and why you are so fucking uneducated about the value of the the United States military. Let me be the first to tell you, fuck off and fuck you.

I think the problem may be that you are more than a little fucking confused. You’re there, sitting on your civilian sofa in your civilian house in the town of your choice after coming home from your civilian 9-5 job. You are feeling a little annoyed by the crazy awesome salaries that servicemembers and military retirees score because, in comparison, yours aren’t that amazing. So, now your fucking pissed our taxes are paying for us to have this fabulous fucking lifestyle. You are disgusted by our very existence which is supported by the American tax payers

You proclaim our benefits, the things we get in exchange for the willingness to die for America is overly lavish.

Don’t get me wrong, I put my benefits to use regularly, doing crazy shit like buying food and paying fucking bills. But I would live without the benefits just fine, making life happen other ways. If it comes down to bullets or your fucking BMW, I’d go with the bullets any day.

What bothers me about you military hating motherfuckers writing stories, posting stupid shit on social media, and your appearances on television spewing your bullshit is your fucked up tone.

Servicemembers, retirees, veterans, and their families, the tone says, are acting like privileged brats for expecting, accepting and clinging to the benefits which encourage them to stay military or even to join in the first place.

In fact, the tone says, it is a waste of tax payer money to meet military personnel needs or even give nice-to-haves in exchange for keeping them around to call upon at your every whim.

Servicemembers are overpaid, coddled low-skill workers who should not be given compensation for the inconveniences of military life, but who should still be expected to do their jobs while risking their lives for yours.

It’s a tone that says if you had to join the military to make it through life you are, logically, a substandard American worker and you do not warrant compensation in excess or even equal to the civilian market. Civilians are people who have choices and didn’t take the easy out of Uncle Sam. Military are people who are living off the tax payer.

The tone is supported by the flinging of inaccurate statistics to support your claims or, worse, the promotion sof weeping generalities about who servicemembers are and what they deserve.

Bad Statistics and Comparisons

Here’s this gem I read not too terribly long ago, pissed me off then,  pisses me off now.

“Over the past decade, military salaries have grown at a faster rate than those of civilian workers. The average enlisted soldier now earns more than 90 percent of Americans who have less than two years of college. Most captains – the third-most-junior rank of officer – will take home more than $90,000 this year.”

I’m going to disregard that ridiculous first sentence that ignores the fact that we also have been paid for deployment after deployment and all the tolls of war. Let’s just focus on the compensation “facts.”

Only one in seven Americans is even in good enough physical shape to join the United States military. That means that to be the “average enlisted soldier”a recruit already had to do something most Americans can’t fucking do, be somewhat fit. A whole other group of Americans is ineligible because they didn’t graduate high school or because they have a criminal record. A recruit also had to be willing to join the military, which puts him in a group with less than one percent (1%) of Americans.

After he joins that soldier then holds a more than full time job, often over 80 hours a week, for which he must continue to meet requirements such as staying fit, drug free, and felony free. He very likely does an intricate task that no average American with less than two years of college could do without months of dedication and training. He probably has also spent more than nine full months multiple times away from his family working around the clock where he put his fucking life on the line and accepted the continuing burdens of war as part of the gig. He’s likely to have held this same job for around five or six years.

Why is it so fucking unreasonable that this soldier make more than 90 percent of Americans who have less than two years of college? And how is that a good group of people to compare him to at all?

Military officers are compensated at a higher rate based on education and responsibility, at least in theory. While a captain may make more than $90,000 before taxes in a very high housing allowance area such as D.C., the average captain certainly does not. A little math reveals that a captain with seven years of experience living in San Antonio, Texas with dependents, for example, makes about $76,000 before taxes. But a breakdown of average hours worked during a year in which he does not deploy shows that he earns around $21 an hour.

And no matter how you shake it out, nobody in the military, retired, or a veteran, are making a whole hell of a lot after taxes.

In 2014 the average male graduate just out of college earned about $22 an hour. After graduating college and spending seven years on the job with countless additional months in training, a military captain is making about $21 an hour for putting his life on the line, being willing to live wherever the military sends him and leave his family for months at a time. He also has met all the qualifications of the “average enlisted soldier” that made that person valuable including, again, an interest in joining the military to start with.

As America rolled into sequestration and other budget cuts, DoD leaders decried the high cost of military personnel. After all, they said, supporting current and former military members takes up a third of the DoD budget.  And with the DoD budget as a whole taking up the biggest single slice of the federal budget besides Social Security, something surely must be done.

But what they fucking fail to note is that military personnel costs really aren’t that ridiculous when compared to the normal market. In civilian companies with big air fleets (the closest one can get to a military comparison), personnel costs hover at similar levels.

For the United Parcel Service, for example, personnel costs make up 61 percent of the budget. For FedEx, it’s 43 percent. For Southwest Airlines – generally recognized as among the most cost-efficient air carriers – personnel costs comprise 31 percent of operating revenue (which includes profit, so the percentage of expenditures is higher).

The idea that the Defense Budget is so out of control is also so very fucking misleading, particularly when you look to past trends.

If military pay and benefits are so great, where in the fuck are you?

But here’s the thing that really gets me.

If the pay and benefits for members of the American military are so lavish and such a steal of a deal, where are you, Benefits Hater?

Because that’s the thing that’s so great about the American military. You don’t have to be special or an elitist to hang out with us. You just have to meet the requirements and be willing to run while wearing boots while defending The United States Constitution.

This isn’t some exclusive club. We like all types of people. We’re fucking cool like that.

So perhaps you don’t join because you can’t meet the qualifications that us low-skill, not worthy of benefits folks met.

Or maybe you just love your freedoms and hate danger. Maybe you like picking where you live. Maybe your spouse has a career she doesn’t want to destroy by moving every three years. Maybe you don’t want to risk getting blown up in the street while driving through a far away land.

Those freedoms? We give you those motherfucking freedoms and make damn sure, all day and all night, sure you keep them.

Try remembering that and then see how you feel about the United States military, retired military, veterans, and all the benefits and pay we should live without.

Sincerely,

Steven (aka Scorpion Sting, United States Air Force disabled veteran)

 

I Was Walking In A Circle

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I realized that my feet felt as if they weighed a ton a piece, looking down I see that I’m wading through a foot of thick mud, going towards what appeared to be the direction I was drawn to head. The closer it seemed I would get to my destination I would notice the distance increase. I was carrying a bag which seemed to get heavier by the step, I wonder what I could be carrying that could weigh so much, I wanted to open the bag but in the darkness I don’t know how I would see inside. Hearing the loud crashes of thunder I wanted to move faster, I wanted to find shelter, as I watched the flashes of lightning in the distance I wanted to get away from the tall trees, but the flashes got brighter and the thickness of trees only increased, the more I pushed the more trees I can see. Hours seem to pass before my surroundings begin to seem familiar, I’ve been here before, and before that I was here also, but where is here, why do I keep coming back, I keep finding the same path, leading me to the same damn place, I’ve been here but this place is not familiar, it’s darkness reminds me of having my eyes closed, unable to see, only being able to hear, to feel, and smell the rot in the humid air. What is that familiar smell, why do I know the soothing scent, it is pleasing to me, it makes me feel secure in a place I should know but don’t recognize. As I rest I feel each drop of the rain touch my face, rolling down the skin like warm tears. In my mind I hear Freebird, it’s loud and I hear it echo in the trees, I need to start moving now, I need to get to a safer place, this place smells of death, it smells of rotting corpses, there are thousands of them. As the light of day breaks I can see the bodies I’m walking on, wading through like mud, the blood is over the top of my boots, it’s weight is increasing with every step, I look down and see the faces, faces that didn’t see what had killed them, I know what killed them, I know what the thunder is, I know the lightning flashes, I know what has happened.

As I sit in my recliner with my eyes closed shut, telling my wife for the first time ever what it was like to see the destruction as a result of what I did while in the Air Force. The reality of it is that it isn’t a forest, it is a desert, it is a place I never want to return to, and rarely, if never, talk about it. I’ve been married for 16 years, to a wife that came along after the Air Force, she just doesn’t want to understand, and I’m okay with that. The mere fact that I’m writing about it amazes me, it still hurts, it is still fresh when I close my eyes, and I fear there are not enough pleasant memories ahead to knock it the fuck out. I spent years detached from the reality that the weapons I helped build destroyed life and property, it wasn’t me pulling the trigger, it wasn’t me hitting the target, but a simple walk down a deserted street after a carpet bombing the night before let reality set in, no longer was I detached, no longer was I innocent, and I knew then changes needed to happen or I would lose my mind. Like a good soldier I pressed forward, putting behind me horrors that cannot be unseen or forgotten. What gets seen cannot be unseen, unfortunately it is very true. My wife wants me to talk to a headshrinker, I opted out. And now I see, once again, talking about it isn’t worth a fuck, I just leave more out each time. I hope that in time, preferably before my wife has me cremated, that I just forgot about the shit and everyone else forgets it as well.

When I talk about Desert Storm and later The Liberation of Kuwait it is to educate myself and others about how the real world is, beyond the news, beyond the media, beyond what the politicians think they know. There is zero reasons I should feel guilty for being a part of the machine which is called the military. I took responsibility for my personal contributions while in the Air Force, I do not blame others, there was no gun to my head, I served, fuck it, I’m a proud veteran, I can’t ever take it back. Some of y’all understand my pain, the rest of all will never have a fucking clue, y’all are the lucky ones, the innocent ones, the ones who close their eyes without fear. Anyway, to my wife who is reading this post, I hope this has helped you, at least a little. I never asked to be anyone’s hero, I never asked for people to thank me, I never asked for people to want to take a picture with me if they find out I’m a disabled veteran, I just joined the Air Force because I wanted to serve my country because I thought I could and would make a difference. But, I can’t fix stupid and stupid wanted a robot who didn’t care, that person is not me.

Before I go, let me tell you about the one and only time my ex-wife was able to pry out of me what I didn’t want open. Y’all see, she was studying to become a sociologist and well on her way to being a social worker, she thought we could talk about it, that I would be comfortable knowing that she, of all people, would not pass judgment. When I was done talking she was in tears, she was appalled that I was part of the organization which promotes peace through the use of violence, she told me she was ashamed to be in the same room with me, ashamed to share a last name with me in marriage, and that one day I will pay for my sins of being a baby killer in the deepest, darkest parts of hell, a place reserved for rapists and paedophiles. At first I believed she was right, it matches how I feel, but soon I realized that I am a simple person who was not looking for redemption or forgiveness, I wasn’t even looking for understanding, I just wanted to know if the words I would speak would or could sound like the thoughts in my head or the memories I have or how I feel deep down in that part of me nobody gets to witness, ever. Shit goes there to be buried and forgotten, it takes time to dig it up, nobody quite understands that, scratch that, some do understand, those are the people who don’t have physical scarring but are somewhat fucked in every other way, we know what each other are thinking, not even we understand so we don’t expect others to either. We don’t look for eyes or words if pity, we do appreciate it when others respect us enough as human beings just to let things be.

My wife hugged me, long and tight, not a word spoken, with tears down her face, she told me I’m home, I’m with people whom I love and that love me, support me, and care about me. That was the best hug I have had to this day in my life, a memory I will forever cherish. My message to my wife and to my son who will read this post later is that life happens every minute of every day, take time to see the scenery, smell the rain in the distance, we only have one shot at this life so we better live it to the fullest. My daughters give me their support as well, still I wonder if they really understand or if I just get the nod. This, unless something snaps again, will probably be the last time I discuss any of this on a personal level, this shit sucks to remember, to relive, and to talk about. Some call blogging “therapy”, and it is, but not today, today is more like anger management for me. Remember, no pictures please, ever, for any reason.