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This blog exists only as an archive. It is a journal that serves as a window into my life as a Marine combat veteran serving in Iraq and Afghanistan; it was written with no filter, no politics and no agenda. Please feel free to follow my journey from beginning to end. Welcome to my life.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Welcome To Last Weekend

Mike aka "Beez" and I at the KK
Ahhhh Mike...the love of your life, the one that got away.
Is that a BoDiesel appearence?? And this was pretty much what our vision was like at this point.
THE STARTING LINEUP.
l to r- Beez, Myself, Joe, and Mr. Skeemite aka the Padre.
Joe and Mike
Mike straight devouring some Ian's Mac 'n Cheese.

the STARTING LINEUP in Green Bay
Jake Wood, "happy to be here."
$20 for all you can drink?? Did they think we were from Iowa and not Wisconsin?
About to regulate on some Chargers fans in some flip cup.
The game winning flip.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Who is this man and why did he keep asking me where all the good looking women were??
Just kidding Jerry.

Lucas Elementary Revisited

First I need to clear up something that seems to be tripping people up about my visit to Lucas Elementary. When I said that I was visiting my sister's class, I meant the one that she is student-teaching at, not one that she attends. Not that big of deal, but it will clear things up for this story that she told me today about what happened the day after I spoke with her students.

Apparently, the day following my visit to the class, a young girl brought in a care package to send over to the troops in Iraq. Care packages were something that we discussed- how to put them together and get them sent over to troops on the ground.

Well, this young girl brings in a care package that she had put together the night before. All day, curious kids were asking her what the package was, and, as she explained it to them, the kids would go back to their desk and grab something, be it a pen, pencil or eraser, and add it to the package. Later in the day, my sister Meghan had this girl get in front of the class and talk about her package. The contents included some used toys, some clothes, opened food in zip-lock bags (probably not the best idea...), used pencils/crayons/markers, etc.

Here's where it gets simultaneously hysterical and adorable. Apparently, as this girl is wrapping up her presentation, a girl who was seated stood up, and, without saying a word, took off her necklace that she was wearing, walked up to the box and gently placed it in. She then solemnly returned to her seat. A moment passed, and another girl got up, removed HER necklace and did the same. Yet another girl stood, opened up her desk, removed an eraser and added it to the box. My sister said it looked like a memorial service. She told which girls they were and I just about died laughing, picturing it in my head. Nothing beats kids.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Lucas Elementary School


Today I had the pleasure of speaking to my little sister's 2nd grade class at Lucas Elementary. Attempting to take what we did in the Zaidon and making it appropriate for seven year olds was pretty challenging. We're talking about kids that were 3 years old when this war started, and 1 or 2 when 9-11 happened. What did we talk about?? Spiders, candy, and what deserts are. I brought in all the PG rated photos that I could print. Their attention held pretty well until the Fire Department decided to run a fire drill in the middle of the presentation. Things got "Kindergarten Cop" real fast. While out on the lawn, I had to deal with having my shaved head rubbed and my hand held by a very clingy 7 year old boy, who asked me to be his best friend. Once back inside I realized that my moment had passed and wrapped things up with a few more questions, which included the awkward "do you carry a gun?" and "what are bad guys?"


Top Lucas School Quotes
  • Me: "Do any of you speak a second language?" Some girl: "I speak regular."
  • Me (pointing to a girl with her hand raised): "Do you have a question?" Her: "I don't like talking out loud (pouty face, arms crossed)"
  • "Do you have a teammate?"
  • "Can I touch your head?"
  • "Me and him are best friends." said kid who was obsessed with me.
  • Me (pointing to boy with arm raised): "Yes, do you know the answer." Boy: "No, I'm just stretching."

Monday, September 17, 2007

This Is Why You Donated

Back on June 25th I wrote a post requesting your prayers for two Marines that I served with in Iraq. At the time I decided to withhold their names, I just didn't feel comfortable having not known them that long. Today I received an email with a link to a story about an engineer being reunited with his platoon, and the man who sent it to me thought it might be the Marine that I had referenced on June 25th. Well, it was.

Reading that article brought back a lot of bad memories from that night a few months ago, but my memories are nothing compared to the reality that Corporal Hennagir and Lance Corporal Norris live every day. Why did I put up a link at the top of this blog requesting donations for my friends marathon charity drive?? Because I know men such as these, who desperately need that money.

Please, take the time to follow this link and read about a man who went to Iraq believing it was the right thing to do and who is forever changed because of it. If you have not known anyone affected like this from the war before reading this, you will feel like you know someone afterwards.

http://www.philly.com/philly/news/homepage/9811057.html


This is the video of Cpl. Hennagir at his platoon's return.

http://www.philly.com/inquirer/multimedia/9758872.html

Madison

How good was my return to Madison??

So good that I spent Friday night spooning with Jeff Lang in the backseat of my car in the Lake Street parking garage, with Will Buege working the heater in the front seat, trying to keep us from freezing. So good that on Saturday morning, we were woken up by Vic's girlfriend Annie, who was bartending at Wando's and brought us a pitcher of water to work off the headache. So awesome that I tailgated with Mike Capuzzi, Dave Beckham and Posh Spice (well at least their look-a-likes). Amazing enough that I sat in the student section of the game for the first time in my life. The Badgers were decent enough to eek out a win against a garbage team. And finally, the weekend was kind enough to allow me a second night out on the town at Wando's, and even let me indulge in some Ian's pizza (about three times actually).

You could say I had an alright time last weekend.

206 roommates reunited: l to r Me, Johnny, Jeff, Vic, Will

A dozen people offered us a place to stay, but at the end of the night, this looked like a good idea.

Striking a pose with Posh Spice.

So, this chair may or may not have collapsed underneath me...

Time to celebrate that win.

With Jim MacKenzie

My caucasian China Doll, Lindsay.

Old teammates, Greg Root and Jason Palermo.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Friday, September 14, 2007

Pure Joy...
Just watched Michigan get smashed, about to head to Saguaro Fest
Because we were the classiest guys at the hotel...

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Vegas Recap

Well, I suppose I should take a moment to step back and recap the events of the past weekend, I mean, after all, it was the only thing I seemed to talk about while I was in Iraq. Vegas, the Badgers, Vegas, the parties, Vegas, the blackjack, and so on.

The weekend turned out perfect. I am tempted to crown it with the "greatest weekend ever" label, but I will refrain for the time being. Friday afternoon I drove out to Vegas from 29 Palms with my two buddies Jeff and Clay, bags packed and a twinkle in our eye. We drove straight to the Golden Nugget where my father was staying, he greeted us with our phoned-in request of something tall, fruity, cold and with an umbrella. This is where the timeline begins to get blurry. After a quick dip in the pool we hit the showers and headed downtown to the strip. We met up with Lindsay, my Little China Doll, (who isn't Chinese), Amber, and their parents. You Badger crazies might remember them from the dance team a few years back. Frankly, if you do remember them, shame on you, there was a football game going on. We did a little late night burrito action, Madison style.

Then it was off to Pure Night Club at Caesar's Palace with a complete mob of about 30-40 guys and girls. Jenny Anderson hooked us up and got us all in, but not without an embarrassing "Okay, all the girls can come in, you guys wait outside here" moment. Puff Daddy, or P. Diddy, or the Artist formerly known as Puff, whatever he's called these days, made an appearence. I could actually not have cared less. The only thing that did for me was free up some space by the bar.

Saturday began with the Michigan debacle. Thanks guys. I took the "Michigan won't lose twice in a row at the Big House" angle and place some money on you. Soooo...I'm gonna go ahead and need that money back when you get the chance. From there it was off to Saguaro Fest IV, a big thanks to all those guys for the awesome hospitality. There we met up with my two friends from LA, Joe and Mike, and their dad. My first beer bong in quite a while was actually caught on tape. We're gonna go ahead and hide that one.

Jeff, Clay and I were able to stand on the Badger sidelines courtesy of John Chadima. Even though I had some cash riding on the spread, I was happy to lose that bet because the game was awesome. Yeah, I wish they could have blown them out, but seeing it live on the field was incredible.

That night we all went to a Badger after party at the VooDoo Lounge. We payed $100 that covered out cover charge and gave us an open bar. Best $100 I ever spent. I don't think they'll ever offer that 'deal' to Badger fans again. They didn't know what they were getting in to.

Didn't really sleep that night, but ended up at the Caesar's Palace Sports Book early Sunday and started placing some money on the NFL opener. Watched the Packer game with Joe, Mike, Clay and Jeff (big win boys) and won some cash on various other games.

We limped back to Pure that night again. One of the promoters, Chris Catalano, used to play on the Badgers with me, so we got the hook up there. It was another loooong night, that ended with me playing some late night, solo, blackjack. That has never been, and never will be, a good idea for me, but this time it actually worked out and I won about $150.

Monday I flew home. I decided to wear my uniform for my mom on the other end. I made the mistake of thinking that I might get decent treatment in it going through security. Instead I was completely molested in a plexi-glass closet by a disgruntled man whose father must not have loved him enough. It about came to blows. But, I'm over it and now I am home, in Iowa, with my family, and life is great.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Update

I would like to personally thank everyone from this site that took the time to make a donation to my friend Dave Folwell's Marine Corps Marathon charity drive. The results were tremendous, but let's not stop there, the troops need you!!!

****UPDATE****** Jake Wood, my friend mentioned below posted a link to my charity site in his blog. The response was incredible! I exceeded my original goal of $1500 in less than one day! Thank you to everyone who helped me get to my goal- your generosity is sincerely appreciated! However, since this is such a great charity, I see no reason to stop at $1500- the more money the charity receives the more injured soldiers that are helped! So, my new goal is $3000, Thank you again to all that have donated!!!****UPDATE******

Check out the results HERE

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Six Years Later

Today marks the sixth year anniversary of September 11th, 2001. What has changed? It's really pretty hard to say. Flying home from Las Vegas yesterday I was completely molested at airport security, even while wearing my service uniform. Was it a change from seven years ago? Yes. Did it make me feel safer? Not really. Some changes are obvious six years later. Obviously, we are at war, but strangely the number of flags you see being flown has steadily begun to wane. People are becoming less willing to state that they are proud to be an American. People have begun to allow politics to influence their support to things apolitical, such as support for those over in Afghanistan and Iraq. Doesn't something like that transcend politics?

Last September 11th was my first while in the Marine Corps. It was an important day for me because it was one of the primary motivating factors for my joining the military. This September 11th marks my first since having served in Iraq. How has the day changed for me? Well, it has in many ways. For the first time I feel that I can say that I knew someone killed by September 11th. No, Howey and Windsor were not killed in the WTC or at the Pentagon, but those attacks claimed their lives, even if it was five and a half years afterwards. For the first time I can attest firsthand to the evils of al Qaeda. I will not enter into debate on whether AQ was in Iraq when we invaded. I don't care anymore. But I do know that they are now. I know the atrocities that they are committing to the people of that country and I know that they are attacking US servicemen everyday there. I know that six years ago nearly 20 men, convinced and driven by a warped ideology, took over a plane and sacrificed their own lives to kill Americans. Guess what? Those same people came after us in Iraq. We were hit with nearly 10 suicide bombers while we were there, just our unit. Who can say what damage those men would have done if there target had not been available in Iraq, and instead was only available in the form of innocent civilians on American soil? We absorbed the horror of ideological Islam in Iraq so that it would not hit our family and friends at home.

So what would I ask of Americans six years post-9/11? Do not be afraid to fly your flag today. Don't be embarrassed to stand and put your hand over your heart for the National Anthem, let alone be afraid to sing along. Most of all, do not be afraid to remember the fallen, those that went to Iraq and Afghanistan to prevent another attack on our soil.

*Last night I posted a link to my friend Dave Folwell's charity drive. I don't want to use this site to push anything on anyone, but this cause is personal for me. I have friends missing arms, legs, and fingers from Iraq. Please take time and consider donating to his race, these young men will be carrying the price of freedom for the rest of their lives and could use your help. Thank You.

Monday, September 10, 2007

My good friend from high school, Dave Folwell, is running in the Marine Corps Marathon out in Washington DC. Deciding to race for a good cause, he chose to try and raise money for the Wounded Warriors Charity. It's an amazing cause and is obviously near and dear to my heart. Please visit his page and help him in his attempt to reach his target goal of $1,500. Thank you all.

http://www.active.com/donate/H4W-TWW/RunForTheTroops

David Folwell's Marine Corp Marathon Fundraising Page
Running to improve lives
Very recently I decided to run the Marine Corps Marathon on October 28,2007. I thought, “…if I am going to run 26.2 miles, I should do it for a good cause ?…. What better reason to run then to support the men and woman who serve this country?”

I chose to run for Hope For the Warriors, a fundraising organization for injured soldiers, because one of my best friends, Jake Wood, is in the Marines. In addition, one of his best friends, Clay Hunt, a person who I had the pleasure to enjoy some beers with in San Diego last December, was recently injured. Clay was shot in the hand. The bullet went in just above the wrist and blew out the palm of his hand.

‘Hope For the Warriors’ helps support soldiers who are adversely affected by injury or death in the line of duty. As a member of team Wounded Warrior, the donations that I collect are used to enhance the quality of life of affected US Service Members and their families.

Regardless of whether you support the war or not it is important that we support the people that are serving this country.

So what I am asking is that you donate a small amount to support US Service Members who have been affected by injury or death. Donations as small as $5, $10, or whatever amount you can give are all helpful. My goal is to reach $1,500 by October 20th.

Thank you,

David

Thursday, September 06, 2007

For the Glory of Our Dead


Tonight my battalion held a memorial ceremony for the brothers that we lost while in Iraq.

How do I even begin a post like this?? We lost 8 men in combat operations. Tonight their family and friends came to Twentynine Palms to help us remember them. But what can we possibly do that will ease the pain of their passing? There is no salve that will help close the wounds of their loss.

I think about two of those eight men every day. Walking down streets or through the mall I see Windsor and Howey’s faces. Whether it’s a brief glimpse in a store window that barely registers in my brain or a similarly dressed 19 or 20 year old that I actually come close to walking up to and inspecting closer. I think about Windsor when I pass by the barracks that he and I were roommates at when we first got to the fleet, or the sand pit where I watched Howey choke out Bullard during close-combat training. I didn’t know if I was unique or weird for these things, but, after talking to the other guys, I know that it’s common throughout the platoon.

Events today opened the floodgate of memories and emotions surrounding their deaths. Today I saw Kyle Rosenberger, or the former Sgt. Rose, for the first time since Howey was killed. The last time I saw him he was stomping back on a broken leg from the Humvee that Howey was driving and that was hit with an IED. After handing him a radio handset I ran across the bridge and never saw him again. He had a piece of shrapnel the size of Texas go into his leg and break his bone, he was evacuated that night. Tonight I saw an M-16 with a fixed bayonet upside down in a sandbag, adorned with a helmet and garnished with combat boots and dog tags, images of our memorials for Windsor and Howey in Iraq wouldn’t escape my mind.

Then there are the families. God bless them. I mean that with all of my heart. All my pain is trivial compared to what they have endured. I know what my own mother went through and I was fortunate to come home. Seeing them tonight just ripped my heart out. What do you say to the mother of a fallen comrade? Sorry? Thank you? Your son was a great man? All things that are true and from the heart, but certainly one could do better than that. But I failed again to come up with words that were worthy of them.

Tonight I saw over 1,000 Marines, seasoned fighters, combat veterans choked to tears as we revisited the memory of our friends. We know the sacrifice they made, a sacrifice that is the bedrock of this nation. These brave men, may their memories live on forever in the hearts of those they knew and in the thoughts of those who didn’t have the pleasure.

To Howey, Windsor and the six other brave souls who gave their lives with us in Iraq, I leave you with these words by William Shakespeare.

“We few, we precious few, we band of brothers. For he who sheds his blood with me shall forever be my brother.”

Frater Infinitas my friends. Brothers Forever.

Make sure you vote on the Badger game poll!

The VEG!!!

Well the Vegas Weekend has almost arrived. This is the one that helped me make it through 7 months in Iraq. Seriously. Nothing like coming in off of a 4 hour patrol and being greeted by Muir, who's offering a high five and the comforting words "Vegas Baby".

It's going to be pretty crazy for me. I've committed to a bunch of different things, and I've got drink offers on the table from a lot of people that read on here. I appreciate all of it, but, let's just cut the crap and cheer on the Badgers.

I have a room with my dad and two guys from my platoon at the Golden Nugget (and we're apparently sharing that hotel with half of Badger Nation). I'm also going to be spending a lot of time at the Monte Carlo and THE Hotel. I think I'll be headed to Pure Nightclub on Friday night, a guy I used to play with is a promoter there. Saturday we're gonna try and get some sun at a pool somewhere, the only conditions being that it has swim up bars and blackjack... Pre-game I know I'm going to Saguaro Fest IV and another Badger Tailgate (Get Lucky With Bucky!). The Game, well that's obvious. After game it's off to the VooDoo Lounge at the Rio for a post game Badger blast organized by Jenny Anderson, believe me, she knows how to throw a party. You can by wristbands online now and get in and drink for free with them. Obviously I plan on making them rethink that marketing move. Sunday I plan on showing up at Rehab at the Hard Rock, and maybe trying to sneak away to watch the Packers show the NFL how it's done. I have all day Sunday to recover with the pops and then I FLY HOME on Monday!

Let's get it on.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

well the third round has come and gone and i have tasted defeat. Myself and my opponent met, both at 2-0. Only one would walk away still undefeated. That, unfortunately, was not me. I am now 2-1. It was a good game, this guy was making shots that in 7 years of beer pong I have never seen. My hats off to him.

Uhhh...New update

Allright, new update. Round two in pool play had me facing Dave Stoeckly, a Rockham Palace Alumni and one of the potential champions. It was an intense pairing this early in the tournament, and you could cut the anticipation with a knife.

Final Score: Wood +1 in overtime.

I had to force overtime on the last shot of regulation, which I obviously completely splashed.

Overtime was a close call.

Mike Schmitt 1-1, +3 and a complete stud

Horne is 1-1, -2, but battling.

Jeff Muir is 1-1, and has perhaps the toughest bracket in the tourney, but he is currently the Cinderella story of the event.

Update

A little update for the masses.

We capped the participation at 40 people. The names were all thrown into a hat and drawn out, then were placed into brackets of 5, each bracket named after a local bar commonly frequented by yours truly.

I was placed into the Molloy's bracket, not quite what I was looking for, but i'll live with it. I drew a couple of hard plays in my pool, but I'm confident that I can be one of the top two that advances into the bracket play.

I won my first game +5. So let's just say that I came to play. Bottom line. I'm here to win.

The World Cup




Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls, the Beirut World Cup is set to tip off in approximately 2 hours. We have an initial entry field littered with some of the best athletes and players from around the country and world. The star-studded cast includes former champions such as Dell and Joe, and fast rising stars in the beer pong world.

Every player is coming to the Rockham Palace expecting to hoist the World Cup trophy at the end of the day, but whose Herculean efforts will prove victorious? Stay tuned to find out.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Oh, by the way, Thank You Michigan for completely blowing our strength of schedule for the rest of the year. We really appreciate it and look forward to completely blowing you out in the game in November.
Wisconsin Badgers = Complete Stud

Watching the Badger game at a bar in the South Bay was probably the biggest thing I was looking forward to in the States. Actually watching the Badgers woodshed the Cougars on live TV was one of the biggest moments of my life.

Live Update

So I'm sitting around with a shotgun in my mouth because the Badger defense did not even show up for the game today. Tied at 14-14??? That's bush league. Amateur hour in Camp Randall right now.
I'm not gonna lie. Today is a big day. Not only is it Saturday and I'm living large in the South Bay, but its Saturday and its the start of college football season. That and the Badgers are kicking off in 1 hour. I gotta run.