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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.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Off to AZ

Tomorrow I am headed out to some obscure fort in Arizona with a couple of other guys from the platoon. We're going to be attending a man-tracking course taught by some civilian instructor for about two weeks, so I may be off the map here for a while. Not quite sure yet what kind of facilities we'll have access to, but it should be incredibly interesting so I'll try and write about it if I can.

The Recap

Hmmmm... a recap of the Showdown.

Where could I possibly begin. Maybe with any one of the six interceptions that we threw. Or perhaps I could start by attempting to describe how anemic our defense was. The bottom line is that 2000 handed it to 1997 in every aspect and facet of the game. When your revolving door of a quarterback situation steps up to the plate and completes 7 passes, and then another six more to the other guys, you really aren't setting yourself up for success. Now I'd like to sit here and write some excuses like, "well, our starting quarterback had a separated shoulder, and if he'd been playing..." or, "hey, we didn't practice until 3 hours before the game even started." But I'm not going to write those (woops, I just did), because at the end of the day, it simply comes down to the fact that 2000 wanted it more and came out hungrier.

I personally played poorly, recording only one sack and a handful of tackles, so I'm dedicated the next 364 days until next years game to focused training on getting bigger, faster and stronger.

Mr. Schmitt was kind enough to open up his house once again to the post game festivities. It is at this point in the recap that I will make the argument that the class of 2000 should be forced to surrender the cup to the class of 97 because of their incredibly lame showing in the celebration department. Where there were at least a dozen grown men in the jacuzzi last year popping bubbly and partying, there were only a paltry 3 from the 2000 squad, not quite the same 'mancuzzi' as in year's past. Of the ten bottles of champagne bought for the victors, a whole 5 or 6 of them were guzzled by the losing squad. Bottom line: the game isn't everything, its the total picture that should really count.

While I'm on the subject of the party, let me say this- if you go play all out in a football game only once a year, the ideal rest/recovery/rehydration plan should not include multiple bottles of Korbel, Jack, Jaeger and keg beer. Try and sneak some water in there somewhere.

Dimes Productions did it's typical fantastic job with the Showdown highlight video, which was unveiled around midnight during the party. As soon as it gets loaded up to youtube I'll post it here, along with all the photos taken professionally by Joe and Mike's madre.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Well, we lost. I'm not happy about it and I'm definitely not willing to talk about it right now. Maybe tomorrow after I sleep it off I'll be ready to give a recap of how awful we played for four quarters.

On a brighter note, the kegs just showed up and we're about to live up to our motto..."win or lose, we still booze".

There's always next year.

GAMETIME

Joe and I are on our way down to pre-game practice. The champaigne is on ice, the kegs are on order, now it's time to take care of business.

It's game day.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Turkey Day

Just woke up from the most ridiculous food coma of all time. The Schmitt family was nice enough to allow me to spend this Thanksgiving with them, and Mike and Padre Schmitt cooked up an insanely good turkey dinner. Let's just say that after a Packer win, a Showdown practice, 12 pina coladas, 6 pounds of turkey, 3 pounds of mashed potatoes, a couple bottles of wine and a slice of pie or two I didn't win the fight with fatigue.

Before I sign off here, I just want to take a moment to thank everyone in my life for all that you have done for me. I'm not going to get emo on anyone here, but you know who you are and I hope you know how much I appreciate all the support that you have given me over the last year. I've been through a lot in the past 12 months and it's all been easier because of you. Happy Thanksgiving, God bless.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Let's Do This!

Spent all day yesterday on the range, shooting from 100 yards all the way out to 1,000. It was great to finally get behind the rifles.



The important thing is that I'm on my way out the door and on the road to Pasadena, host to this year's annual Thanksgiving Showdown. Be sure to catch the highlights Friday night on ESPN. (actually, I'll probably just put the highlight video up on here....I don't think ESPN responded to our request to send out Corso and Herbstreit to cover the game, something about 'College Football' or some bull...)

Monday, November 19, 2007

SNAFU

Situation Normal All F'd Up.
.

It would be easier to hear if this was an anomaly, but, unfortunately, this is how the Marine Corps rolls. Example B would be how we were supposed to go to the range tomorrow to shoot. What snagged us there? Apparently 7.62 ammo likes to get up and walk out of the uber-secure ammo lots.

The day didn't end on an entirely bad note though. Our platoon sergeant had to remove himself from a slot to go to a man-tracking course out in the Arizona wilderness. I was lucky enough to get moved into his slot. I don't know a whole lot about the course, but it's supposed to be one of the best tracking schools in the country and it's located on the Mexico border. Maybe I'm really just doing temp work for the Border Patrol.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Wisconsin Pride


ARTICLE


I recently read an article on the BusinessWeek website that discusses how the great University of Wisconsin School of Business (forgive my bias), has received an $85 million donation from 13 donors to keep the school from selling out to some egotistical alumni with a $100 million wallet. This is the first time that something like this has been done.

I think this is awesome. I have been looking at various business schools around the country to pursue an MBA at, and they all have names like Wharton, Kellogg, Stern, etc. Who cares about those dudes? I don't want to apply to Stern, I want to apply to NYU.

Well, now, for at least the next 20 years, I wont have to worry about applying to the Joe Thomas School of Business. I love Wisconsin, and I love Badger Pride.

Madison


Wow. That would be the only word capable of describing how amazing this past weekend was. Jeff, Clay and I flew up to Madison, watched the Badgers stomp Michigan, it was Veteran's Day, it was the Marine Corps birthday (we're all closet motivators), and it felt like every one of my old teammates were back in town.

The weekend started off for us with a drive to Vegas. We had planned on getting a cheap hotel (they have to be a dime a dozen off the strip, right?). Well, apparently not cheap enough for Marines. Sixty bucks? No thanks. So we decided, "Hey, let's just go to the airport and sleep there!" So after a briefly scary moment when we were trying to check in and our reservations weren't there (apparently they won't let you check in the day prior to your flight???), we staked out a spot underneath some pay phones that was near a restroom. It had a beautiful view of the strip, and seemed tucked away enough that we wouldn't be bothered. Well, we got bothered. At one point at 4 am, some creepy dude that had crawled next to Clay and fell asleep within arm's reach of him, followed me into the restroom and started asking me for money.

Iraq Mode Switch: On.

That situation ended up not escalating, but needless to say, our night was miserable.

Fastforward to Madison. We arrive Friday night, and surprise, we drive straight to Wando's. Walk inside, take a deep breath, and ordered our first Spotted Cow. Friday night we also had a birthday party for an old friend of mine, Owen Daniels, whom I had not seen since I graduated almost two and a half years ago. A bunch of our old teammates were back in town and all showed up. It was practically a Badger Football team '04 reunion.

Saturday, we woke up, walked to our car in the parking garage (yes that means I didn't sleep in it this time!) and got all dressed up in our Marine uniforms. It was Veteran's Day, it was the Marine Birthday, and, well, we were on a budget. We grabbed a razor, walked back into Wando's, shaved, got looked at strangely, and we were off to the stadium.

The game was unreal. We were walking around on the field pregame, and were about to return to our seats when one of the band directors grabbed us with a motivated "Semper Fi Devil Dogs!" and told us that he wouldn't allow us to sit in regular seats and that instead we were going to sit with the band in their section. He said, "you have free reign to do and go as you please, if anyone gives you any grief, tell 'em Gunny said so!" THANK YOU.

We spent the first half partying with the band, which I might add I worship. It might sound weird to hear an old football player talk about the band that way, but ask anyone and they'll tell you that we have the best band ANYWHERE. No one has more fun. One of the strangest things happened while I was going to the restroom. I was walking up the stadium steps and I heard someone shout my name. I turned and looked and some guy was leaning over a railing, waving at me. "I read your blog all the time!" he shouted. Well random dude up in the stands, I didn't have the chance to tell you then, but thanks.

The second half we walked back down onto the field and hung out by the bench, all the same ex-players from Wando's were down there as well. It was a great time, made even better by the woodshedding that we put Michigan through.

Post game was the best. On our way to our friend Jerry's tailgate we got sucked into the Stadium Bar, which throws a big bash in it's parking lot. Once in there, there was no escaping. Jeff, Clay and I have never been more inappropriately touched in our entire lives. I think every middle-aged woman at one point in time groped one of us, most of them while holding their husband's hand. Makes for an awkward moment when a gentleman says, "hey Marine, happy Veteran's Day, let me buy you a beer." And then when he turns back around to hand it to you, his wife is feeling your chest. AWKWARD. It was all in good fun though. We ran into plenty of retired Marines, the majority of whom were higher ranking than us, luckily we didn't get locked on by any of them.

Any guesses on where we ended up after the Stadium? If you guessed Wando's you guessed right. We were there, literally, from 5 pm until 5 am, way after bar close. I won't even go into how nuts that place got, it would just get repetitive- beer, shot, beer, beer, shot, beer....

So there it was. One of the best weekends I can remember. To everyone that came up and gave us a sincere "Thank you for what you do" I just want to say, "No, thank you." Why? Because it's the kindness of the everyday person that makes fighting for strangers worth all the risk and sacrifice. I rag on the Marine Corps all the time on this blog, but ultimately I love what I do, and I would join all over again, and I am more than willing to go back to Iraq, or Afghanistan or any corner of the world to finish the job, because I love my family, my friends, the Badgers, Wando's, State Street, Ian's pizza late night and Spotted Cow.

Happy Belated Veteran's Day

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The SHOWDOWN Looms

There are certain things that make this country the greatest place on earth. Apple pie, drive in movies, the Green Bay Packers, and guys that refuse to admit that their athletic careers are behind them.

That is what the Thanksgiving Showdown is all about. For those who have read this blog for over a year, you know that the Showdown is as American John Wayne. It pits the LCHS class of '97 against the class of '00 in the epic pursuit of "The Cup".

Last year was the first chance that I had to participate in this hallowed event. I was a free agent pickup of the class of '97. I have since been taken in as a token member of that graduating class, complete with an honorary diploma, with all rights and privileges thereunto pertaining.

This year I will be taking the field again. Entering the arena to try and bring the all-time series to 4-3 in '97s favor. As the photo to the left shows, it will be no easy feat. It will only come through pain and sacrifice. But we will not fear, for we have been doing 12 ounce curls for 365 days in preparation for this contest. No one put in more bar and club time than us. Do you think waking up on Sundays to go train at Dragon's $1 beers is easy? The answer is no, but that is the sacrifice we have made.

Visit the website and see what this Thanksgiving is all about. It's about doing what American's do best, caring way too much about something that doesn't really matter. To that I raise my glass and toast.

Only in victory would we share a hot tub and a bottle of champagne.

Madtown Bound

Ahh yes. It's Thursday afternoon and I have just been let off of work. That means that within hours I will be screaming down the interstate towards Las Vegas, which means that tomorrow morning I will be screaming down a runway towards Iowa, and from there I will be screaming at Camp Randall Stadium, cheering on the Badgers as they dismantle Michigan.

I've been waiting for this one for a long time. There are many reasons to pick up a beer and toast this weekend. First and foremost is the impending Badger win. Secondly, it's Veteran's Day weekend, and, for the first time ever, I can celebrate as one with my two Veteran buddies, Jeff and Clay. Lastly, it's the Marine Corps Birthday, which, to some people is a big deal, but for me is an excuse to pretend to care as much as some people do and toast it anyway.

How does this lineup sound? Wando's Friday night, whenever we arrive in Madison, from there, maybe a jaunt down State Street towards Brats or the KK. Saturday morning, I'm thinking eggs and Bloody's at Wando's (I know, I know, expand a little), followed by some Regent Street action, maybe Stadium Bar and Grill, followed by a little Camp tour for my amigos, followed closely by a win. From there its up in the air. Did I over do the morning and need a little nap? Probably not, but not out of the realm of possibility. Maybe straight to a bar to watch some more games (more likely). Saturday night is open, let's see what happens.

GO BUCKY!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Reasons

Reason #43,483 that I will not stay in the Marine Corps-

Being at 29 Palms we, as infantry Marines, were told that we would never wear anything other than our desert cammies. "You don't even need to have your woodland cammies, you're in the desert Devil Dog."

Having heard this, I naturally left all of my woodland cammies at home in Iowa. Why would I need them? I live and train in the desert, its a regimental policy to only wear deserts, and only pogues wear the woodlands. Heaven forbid I be mistaken for a pogue.

(<---- Only pogues like this clown wear woodlands)

Today I hear, "By tomorrow morning, every Marine in this regiment will be wearing their woodland cammies until further notice."

Actually I heard, "ARRRGHHHHHHHHH", because that meant that I now had to go out and spend $32.36 on woodland trousers, and $35.75 on a woodland blouse. Never mind the fact that I have 3 sets at home in Iowa, I don't need THOSE sets, I need the ones that aren't here. Fantastic. Thanks for the heads up last week when I could have had them sent out to me.

Reason #43,484- So I finally managed to schedule a dental appointment. Scheduling a dental appointment in the Marine Corps is like scoring Yankees World Series tickets, or season tickets to Lambeau Field. It just doesn't happen. Well I got one.

Then tonight we were told that we had to go to the rifle range tomorrow. At 2:30 am. I'm sorry, but do you classify that as tomorrow or tonight? To me that's right on the border, but I guess that's just semantics. So I say, "Can't go boss, got me a dental appointment." I hear, "Screw dental, everyone has to go, no exceptions."

OORAH.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Had a pretty quiet weekend this past Saturday and Sunday.

As far as the Badger game is concerned, I really don't know what to say. I thought we had them. They just made more plays then us at the end. On top of that, if I see one more player on our defense talk trash after a routine play, I'm going to pistol whip them. Seriously, try me.

At least the Packers are still on top, ready to derail the Patriots in the Super Bowl.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

GAMEDAY

Alright Badger fans, it's game time. Ohio State, number one team in the country, and us. If I recall correctly (and I should, I was there), the last time we played at that dump "The 'Shoe" we ran the Buckeyes into the ground and then danced on their O.

Brooks Bollinger said it best, "They built it, but we own it!"