Is Your Life Fate, Destiny, Or Choice?

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Your life is a maze, your life is full of choices, do you leave those decisions to fate, will the wrong choice be your destiny? There are as many answers to the many questions in life as there are individual people on this planet. I don’t think I have ever heard the same answer twice, maybe close, maybe a variation, but never the same answer twice. Have you ever wondered why? What is our fascination, as humans, to need answers to questions. We ask other humans but those other humans are no different than us and are seeking answers of their own. Is it just a vicious little circle? Is there a true meaning to life and why we are here? Here at The Sting Of The Scorpion, as well as in my actual daily life, I tend to stay away from conversations regarding spiritually, afterlife, and the purpose of us being on this planet. Why? Mostly because my opinions vary from Joe Public and they are things that can only be spoken of in theory. I had my bluff called by my children over the weekend, they had questions about two specific times I walked away from death, and they wanted to know some answers. I have spoke here about two times in my life which I, statistically, should have died, but instead cheated death, both times successfully. These two times, coincidentally, do not give me personal pleasure to talk about either, but since I have these thoughts fresh in my skull I figured I would try to put them into a post.

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Both instances, both incidents, both brushes with death are very, very long stories, so for the purpose of demonstrating the recent conversation I will condense them and just assume you can fill in the blanks. Both if these occurrences are very true and really happened to me. With that in mind let’s take this journey back in time now. When I was 15 it was time to get my Experimental Aircraft Pilots License because I had been leading, training, and preparing for a very long time. The date was set, the planning was complete, and everyone was in place. Amongst family and friends there were also people from the local newspaper and local television station because locally this was a big deal in the little farming community of Tea, South Dakota. When it was my turn I taxied out, did a final check of my Ultralight, pushed the throttle, and moments later I was airborne setting up for my demonstration of skills. After I had completed my designated moves it was time to bank around to line up for my final approach to begin my decent to land. At 426.3 ft in the air I hit a crosswind shear which stalled my engine which left me doing a nose down unpowered decent towards the ground, meaning I was falling from the sky like a rock falling back to the Earth. I remember the impact and the pain. 10 1/2 weeks later I woke up from the deep sleep I was in, confused, and surrounded by family.

I didn’t know why I was in a hospital room or why I was in so much pain. I was scared because I wasn’t aware what everyone else already knew. Later in the day the room was cleared of everyone except a doctor and my dad. Together they explained the journey I had been on for the previous 2 1/2 months. The impact of the accident caused 32 broken bones, one punctured lung, and my jaw being broken badly enough it had to be wired back together. When I arrived at the hospital in the backseat of my dad’s Volkswagen Thing I was pronounced dead due to heart failure and blood loss. After hours and hours of surgery I was stabilized but remained in a coma holding onto what was still my life. I was visited by a catholic priest later that day, since I had been baptized catholic as a very young boy, and the priest prayed with me while he explained it was not my time to die. To this day I don’t understand that conversation completely or what I was meant to do with the information.

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The other time I was 26, while serving in the United States Air Force stationed at Holloman AFB, New Mexico. When I was younger I was a serious adrenaline junkie, I had a passion for going fast, for living life by the seat of my shorts. So much so that I had to buy a Kawasaki Ninja ZZ-R1100 because, at the time, it was one of the only street legal bikes that boasts speeds of up to 175 mph as a stock bike. I got the bike used from a fellow airman who needed to sell it because he was getting stationed in Alaska and he didn’t think he would have the opportunities to ride it any longer. I had other bikes before and after her but this black beast actually was and always will be my favorite. This bike screamed speed and danger which allowed me to take both her and I to our physical limits. I had a part time job in Las Cruces, 68 miles away from my house, under normal driving conditions and speed one can make the trip in just under an hour. I could make it in under 30 minutes on this bike and used to do it regularly in 40 minutes. One summer night, the skies were clear, the moon was bright, and I was running very late getting to my part time job. It takes a moment to get dressed and leave no skin exposed in preparations for riding this bike. After zipping the last zipper I kissed my daughter and (now ex) wife goodnight before tearing ass into the night. There was little traffic on US-70 that night which is the excuse I used to see if my bike really could get to 170 mph and maintain that speed. But, as it stands, I will never know personally because while passing 3 18 wheelers at over 150 mph the bike lost traction, my bike and I were sucked under the trailer and spit out on the other side, resulting in me laying the bike down in a 100+ yard slide into and through the desert. When the dirt settled I stood up, checked my self out, and discovered I was in one piece, more than I can say about my bike.

This was a time before cell phones so I walked back to the highway and started walking back home. Lucky for me an older gentleman picked me up and drove me to the front gate of the base. It was a short walk to my house from there. I woke the wife up to explain and then called my best friend so he could go with me to scoop up the remains of my bike. To say it was trashed would be an injustice to the damage and reminded me what a lucky sonofabitch I really was since that crash should have killed me. Following the scrape from the highway through the desert we saw I went under a barbed wire fence and missed two giant rocks by mere inches. In fact, the lens on my helmet was smashed by the last rock which actually put the final stop for us. We loaded up the parts we found into the back of my truck and drove back to my house on base. It sat in my garage in a twisted heap for roughly six months when I had sold it as is to another speed enthusiast. I vowed then I would never own another invitation to death. A few years ago, much older, in my forties, I bought a Honda Goldwing, a touring bike, so I could get out and enjoy the open air once again. But nowadays, my only risk taking is driving into Houston.

After everything, I still ask if is fate, destiny, or the choices we make daily which allows us to cheat death just one more time. As I sit here I consider myself to be lucky because I have done some stupid shit in my life, hell I used to build explosives for a living, yet I am here today, a survivor of my own mistakes. The maze was found with a Google search, the picture of the tractor is of the remnants of the airstrip I crashed on taken this past March, and that is an actual picture of US-70 taken on a trip in late summer in 2009.

 

Welcome To The Land Of Enchantment

This will be installment number two of where I was stationed, how being in the AMMO careerfield influenced my drinking habits, and different places I traveled while still being stationed at Holloman AFB in New Mexico. If necessary, you might need to read Land Of The Rising Sun to get caught up to where I left off. Originally when I was given relocation orders at Misawa AB Japan I was heading to Keflavik Iceland for two years on an accompanied tour. That went south and I was diverted to being stationed at Holloman AFB New Mexico to fill in for a shortage of Munitions Inspectors that they were experiencing. But, I failed to get orders for this tour until after all my belongings were shipped to Iceland and I was in Iceland for three days. But, I am getting ahead of myself completely here so I need to back track just a bit. Let me take you back to my final days in Japan before I actually departed. Just a few days before we were scheduled to leave, neighbors and friends of my wife and I were thrown a party. It was a family oriented party held outside in two feet of snow. It had to be outside because that is where we were cooking. There was a fair amount of drinking being done by everyone that cold December afternoon. The kids were all playing in the snow and having a good time as well. After dark it got very cold and started snowing again so we all decided to clean up and call it an evening. We all said our goodbyes and farewells to many of the people since this would be the last time we saw them before we leave in a few days. However, this was only one send off. My personal send off from work was the following evening. My wife was well aware this was going to happen and was actually okay with the whole idea. The following evening I was picked up by friends since we had just sold our cars a few days ago to people who were just coming into Misawa and needed transportation. We did what is referred to as a pub crawl in the AMMO community. Meaning, that we started at one bar and then we hit them all as they were all in close proximity to one another. The entire “crawl” lasted for about six hours or so and some of us, including myself, were crawling by the time we arrived at the final bar. To say I was that drunk would be a mild understatement. I would say that I was pretty toasted to say the least. In fact, most of what I remember about the entire night is what was told to me when I was sober afterwords, plus some jackass decided it would be a good idea to take pictures with one of those disposable cameras and then decided to shove it in my pocket so I could develop it on a later date. Unfortunately, out of 36 pictures, only 3 were of me, all in a condition I don’t wish to share with anybody, ever. I didn’t get much sleep by the time I got back since our flight was leaving in two hours. I had enough time to shower, get dressed, get in the taxi, and head to the airport. Needless to say, the flight sucked because of rough weather which really played havoc on my developing hangover. I was awake 90% of the flight and knew it when we landed because I was 13 shades of green at the time.
 
After landing at Keflavik we went thru customs and eventually collected our bags. We then hailed a taxi to take us to the base so we could check into billeting (base hotel quarters). We were hungry so we called in an order of pizza and it was one mistake we only made once since it sucked pretty bad. That night my wife and I went out to explore, get something to eat, and pick up some toiletries we needed. All in all a good night, we even found this great bar! The following morning a messenger from the commander’s office was knocking on the door to inform me I had an appointment at 9am. It is there that I found out about my new orders and my new departure date to head to Holloman AFB. I went back to the room and told my wife not to get comfortable since we were leaving in four days to go there. She wasn’t overjoyed but was happy to go to the United Stated where she was closer to family. Meanwhile, we wanted to go explore locally and see what we could see. It was, however, an all expense paid mini vacation so we wanted to make the best of it. One of my favorite things to do is to try the local cuisine, from bar foods to actual restaurants, to see how the people of that land eat and drink. We found, very fast, that the actual restaurants were quite expensive and most required a more dressier dress code than what we had to offer. So, to a few bars we would go. We were able to sample some really great food, none of what I can remember the names of or pronounce. We did some drinking as well, we found that some of the bars were actually swingers bars, so those were fun. And, the rumors are true for what we saw in Iceland, everyone, with very few exceptions, was blonde and had blue eyes. We were the oddballs, we stood out like the tourists we were. The best drink I had was a Bacardi and Wild Turkey slushy served in a mug made from ice. It was real cool and it kept the slushy very cold. Our time soon ended and we were headed to the airport the leave this beautiful place. But, for me, and some time into the future, I will be returning so this isn’t the end of the story for Iceland. We boarded the plane and took off and after a few stops and layovers we landed in El Paso Texas. I had contacted my sponsor (also to become my new supervisor) that we were in town and we needed a ride. Around an hour later we were picked up and taken to billeting to get checked in. If memory serves me correct this was a Friday afternoon so we didn’t have anything to do until Monday rolled around. We were tired from our trip so we just said screw it and showered and then went to sleep. Sometime Saturday after noon sometime, my new supervisor came over to check in on us and see how we were doing. He mentioned that a few couples were going to meet up at a bar called Nickles right down the street from the base if we were interested. We were game. He left us to mill around a while and get dressed. He and his wife came over later to get us to take us out for our first “night on the town”. This place was interesting, a true mix of redneck meets hip hop meets metal type of place. A truly bizarre mixture of people were there. I found out real quick that I was no longer in the land of exotic drinks because this was a beer and shots kind of place which was quite a bore and very disappointing. This led to me asking some questions to the bartender. She liked me and recommended that I get my license to bartend at the local community collage because they need some new blood in this bar. So, we drank, we talked, we got the rundown on what Holloman had to offer and what it was all about. After a few hours of drinking, playing pool, playing darts, and many tequila shots, it was time to head on back to the base.
 
Soon enough it was Monday, time to get some in-processing done and get out to the bomb dump (munitions storage area) to get acquainted with my new job. Due to the luck of the draw I guess, I ended up in the Munitions Storage shop. There were a few very interesting characters working here to say the very least. It doesn’t take a great deal of time to find out who is all business and who is the work hard and party hard people. Of course, a few of the guys were going to be doing a little drinking and bowling at the recreations facility after work. So, I tagged along and found out this place didn’t have a whole hell of allot to offer besides working. What did I expect, this base is in the middle of nowhere in the middle of a desert. When I first got stationed at Holloman there wasn’t even a Walmart in town. The mall was dubbed “The Hall” because it was a Sears at one end and a 3 stall theatre at the other end with about 20 stores in between. It took about 30 seconds or less to go from one end to the other which made it a pretty sad excuse for a mall. Soon enough we got settled into base housing and began living our lives in the “Land of Enchantment”. I did successfully complete the bartender’s school to get my license. I did take a part time position at the bar out on the highway. After a few months I got TDY orders (temporary duty) to go to Nellis AFB outside Las Vegas Nevada to participate in a military exercise known as “Green Flag”. In actuality it was a school to teach us how to build bombs in a mass and rapid fashion to support the aircraft in a quicker manner during a time of deployment and/or conflict. There was allot more to it, but why do I need to bore you. As an adult this was the first time to visit Las Vegas so I was real excited to go. It didn’t take long to mix in with the locals and see that I was falling into their routine which was work, party, eat, work, and keep repeating. Sometimes, for a change of pace a few of us would go to a strip bar called Cheetahs to blow off a little steam. I found that I could drink for free pretty much all the time just by making simple bets with the people I was with and with the bartenders. I ended up with a part time job there bartending during peak hours. The money was good but I would have rather been partying with my friends who were getting drunk. I wasn’t into all the gambling or anything like that so I did allot of sight seeing when I could, went to school, worked part time some, and partied all the rest of the time. This place was more my “style” since there was so much trouble to get into there. Soon enough it was time to head back to Holloman AFB to get back into the routine there. After a couple more months I received orders to go to Osan AB in South Korea to assist another TDY group from some base in Alaska who would be doing inspections and maintenance on equipment that has been in long term storage. They had new equipment that they were also testing so it sounded like it was going to be a good time. Little did I know that after six months that these guys would get to go home and I would get extension orders to remain for 12 more months. I will not lie, I don’t remember much about the last 11 1/2 months I was at Osan, it remains a blur still to this day. I started drinking one evening and basically didn’t stop until I left. It all started with what is called a “Green Bean” since it was a party designed to introduce you to the AMMO drinking life in Korea. I was hooked. For me every night from that point on was a time to be so drunk I would not think about being across the world without my family. It was a lonely life there and it actually went pretty fast for me since I was always drunk. I met some good people there whom I remain in contact still today so many years later. If it weren’t for these great friends and an endless supply of alcohol I would have never made it out of there in one piece. Soon enough I go my orders to rotate back to the world and I was very happy to be leaving Korea.
 
Life hadn’t changed to much back at Holloman and it was easy to get back into the work and life routine there. We had nice weather all year long so we could grill out or smoke anytime we wanted to. Which was good, I always had a party to look forward to go to, even if it were at my own house. Then I got orders to go to Kuwait. I wasn’t real happy about that. I didn’t want to go to war again. I will make this as simple as possible for y’all since Kuwait sucked ass. The routine was work, eat, shower, sleep, and repeat every 12 hours every day for seven months. There was no drinking, there was no party, there was nothing. I saw things there that changed me inside for ever. But, I would think that seeing death up close and personal would change anyone. I was so damn glad to get the hell out of Kuwait. When I got back to Holloman I was in for a surprise, a big surprise. The night I returned I walked into my house to find that my wife had her boyfriend spending the night in my bed. I will spare you the details but just know I went to jail that night. It gave me some time to reflect on where my life had been going. When they saw fit I was released. But now I was beyond pissed, I was beyond wanting to be married, and I was beyond wanting to be in the Air Force. It is hard to make clear decisions when you are angry at the world. I spent the next few months sober struggling with my marriage and what direction I wanted it to go. I couldn’t forgive her, I couldn’t overlook the fact that she intentionally destroyed our marriage, and I didn’t want to be married any longer to her. I needed to get out of my house and away from her because every day that went by I found myself hating her more and more. I ended up at a friends house where we go stupid drunk. When I went home that next morning I started a fight with my wife on purpose because it was time to shit or get off the pot. We separated that afternoon and I never looked back. I ended up moving in with my good friend and his wife. During this time I had an end date for my marriage as well as an end date with my twisted marriage to the Air Force. Luckily for me my friend liked to drink almost as much as I did so it was easy to spend these last few months in New Mexico drunk as a skunk. There are many things I regret about being in the Air Force. I became one of those statistics that they write about to chart statistics since I was essentially an alcoholic, I ended my marriage in divorce, and I chose to leave because I didn’t want to be a part of the machine anymore. I found, soon enough, that there was indeed life after the Air Force, life for someone who was divorced, and brand new opportunities to do whatever I pleased once I moved back to Texas. My return to Texas is where I will pick up with the next installment of my story.