I joined the Army Reserves in 2001 at the age of 17. I found myself in Balad, Iraq from 2004-2005. I walked around Camp Anaconda and parts of Iraq with a camera in one hand and a notebook in the other. These are my scribbles about my experience in Iraq and returning home.
Monday, September 28, 2009
Burn a flag, pay the price.
In Valley Falls, New York a young man was given three choices: get turned over to the police, go one-on-one in a fight with a seasoned war veteran, or be duct-taped to a flagpole for six hours with a sign around his neck identifying his alleged crime: flag burning.
The 21-year-old decided on being duct-taped to a flagpole for six hours.
Was his punishment over the top or did he deserve more?
Levi, Levi, Levi. There's something about him. You may or may not like him but you gotta give it to the kid, he's living the life right now. He knocked up the girl-next-door, he's shirtless in GQ, he may pose nude, and he's calling out Sarah Palin in a new Vanity Fair article. Chances are we won't remember who he is in ten years, he'll be somewhere in Alaska hunting, but right now he's the little dick who just won't go away.
I submitted my application (through VONAPP) for Post 9/11 benefits in May. I heard nothing for eight weeks. I figured everything was backed up and I had time before school started, so I decided to wait a few more weeks before calling. It's now the end of July and still nothing. I call and call and call...I get hung up on, "All operators are busy at this time." I picked up my phone at around six o'clock one night and was finally ablt to get through. A sweet southern voice was at the other end..."We just got your application two weeks ago." What? I told her I submitted my information in May, log onto VONAPP and look for yourself. She insisted I sent it in two weeks ago and seemed annoyed I was calling. It's now late August (August 27) and I get a letter in the mail..Congratulations you're entitled to receive 60% of the benefits payable under the Post 9/11 GI Bill program. Great! Now tell me why the hell when I go to verify my school attendance I can't and my benefit status is still REAP, Chapter 1607? Side note, it took the Department of VA a YEAR to give me my Chapter 1607 benefits. So thank you Dept. of VA, it now looks like I'll be turning tricks on campus for school supplies.
This past week I attended the launch of Operation Free along with 150 veterans in DC. I wasn't sure what I was getting myself into but I soon found myself at George Washington University being trained on everything from what Operation Free is about, how to smile, sit, speak, and create my own personal story to connect with the people I would be speaking to. Long story short, Operation Free wants the Waxman and Markey Bill passed. Waxman and Markey will create clean energy jobs, help end our dependence on foreign oil, and combat global warming. Sounded good, I was in. A few hours into training, we were broken up by states and began to craft our personal stories based on four questions: Who am I? What's a quick story from my military service? Why do I care and why am I here? What do I want? My buddy was a West Point graduate who deployed to Iraq as a tank commander. He had a great story, it took his tanks seven gallons of gas just to start up!...I had shit, so I fake ate my lunch to avoid having to pull something out of my ass. After lunch we headed to the White House. We marched along those DC streets proud! We were going the White House! We thought, maybe the President would grace us with his presence. He loves veterans and clean energy, why wouldn't he come say hello?
We soon realized how far off we were.
After getting through the security check point, we walked about 50 yards and took a left into the Dwight Eisenhower Executive Building. This was not the White House. I couldn't even see the White House. President Obama was no where in sight. However, Senator John Warner took the stage and spoke about his days in the Navy and being a Marine. He words seemed to touch everyone in the audience regardless of their political affiliation...he got a standing ovation. After our "White House" visit, my group of 11 headed to the offices of Senator George Voinovich and Senator Sherrod Brown. We were herded into a conference room. Voinovich's people were nice enough to throw some guy into the room who hadn't a clue why we were there. Voinovich’s people wised up and put another guy in the room who seemed to know more on the subject. We talked, they talked, we made our points, they made theirs...insert political bullshit, the end. Brown's people were a little more on point. They were looking forward to our visit...hell, they want the bill passed! We shared our stories with Joseph Schultz, Legislative Assistant, who had to cut the meeting a short but reassured us Brown was on board. That was it. My first day of lobbying was over. Got on a flight and headed back to Albany. Woke up the next morning, went to classes, picked up a dress for a wedding on Saturday, danced to a few slow songs, decided I never want a traditional wedding, and went to sleep.
Some of the highlights from DC:
1) Learning how to smile. You need your smile to come across warm but strong.
2) Meeting the VetVoice guys. Can’t say enough good things about them. Intelligent, funny, driven, down to have a good time, and always willing to help you out.
3) Hanging out with a few women veterans. It’s always a pleasure and there’s no petty bullshit.
The Associated Press released a photograph of Marine Lance Cpl. Joshua M. Bernard who was hit by a rocket propelled grenade during a firefight against the Taliban in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan on August 14.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates called this move appalling.
Is it? Or is it just the realities of war that the majority have been shielded from? I googled Bernard and came across the photograph. It's heartbreaking. Bernard's mouth is slightly open, eyes are closed, his weapon lay beside him as if his hand just went limp, his tan uniform is stained with bright red blood...the only color you pray not to see over there, two other Marines attempt to help him, he later dies from his wound.
I'm not sure if I should post the picture here. According to the AP the Marine’s father had asked – in an interview - that the image not be published.
A dad doesn't want his sons helpless body all over the internet. RIP Bernard. You died too young.