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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.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Sunday

I normally don't make much hoopla about birthdays. Three years ago I had just gotten to the fleet out in 29 Palms, and for my birthday I got my ass beat, you know, standard boot stuff (for the record, it was NOT hazing, just good natured pink-belly stuff, settle down). Two years ago I was in Iraq, where, since I was no longer a boot, the guys were scared to pink belly me because they knew I was going to put up a fight. So they called a fake QRF mission while my squad was on QRF, so when I ran out I was gang tackled by about 5 of them and held down... pretty standard. Last year I was in Afghanistan, and actually forgot about it on the day of it, thinking it was only the 25th, until Clay, God bless him, wished me a Happy Birthday and I looked at him like he was an idiot. Turns out the idiot was THIS guy. It actually turned out to be pretty sweet, because Toby Keith flew out to do a concert for me, and the proceeded to duck and run when the base got bombed during his show. I've got a video of that scene.

So this year I was pretty much just excited to be in the States with my friends. I hadn't had a birthday here with the South Bay crew, so I was kind of chomping at the bit to get out. Saturday night was the standard fare, aka I went to the establishments around 3 ish and went straight through, placing Lakers bets and downing Fanta Shots. Sunday I woke up face down on Joe's couch, regretting everything I poured into my mouth the night before.

I drove up to Pasadena, thankful for light traffic, only to find Indra on her deathbed, sick with the swine flu (expertly diagnosed by myself). That situation did nothing to fix my hangover. I spent most of the day annoying her by watching "Deadliest Warrior" reruns on Spike TV, which I wouldn't recommend wasting your time with. I figured that later in the afternoon she'd pull herself together and we'd go grab some dinner, but instead she told me to throw jeans and boots on, and before I knew it, I was riding a horse through the Hollywood hills with some of my best friends, and finishing up with some pretty serious bbq and margaritas.

I'll go ahead and preempt all the "Jake riding horses" comments. Yes, I look ridiculous on a horse. Yes, my horse looked at me before I mounted and had this look in her eyes that said, "are you kidding me?". No, her name was not Brokeback Mountain (it was actually Margarita, which could only have been better if it was Miller Lite). No, it was not a clydesdale. Yes, I would recommend a jockstrap next time. Yes, I would consider myself an EXPERT rider, along the lines of Kevin Costner in "Dances with Wolves". And yes, it brought back my childhood desire to be a cowboy, so we can go ahead and add cowboy to the 'to-do' list, alongside pirate hunting, for the next year and a half.

Thank you for all the well wishes.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Random Notes

  • Congrats to the former Badgers selected in this year's NFL draft- Matt Shaughnessy, DeAndre Levy, Kraig Urbik and Travis Beckum. Makes me feel old watching Kraig get drafted. He came in my senior year and I just remember him as the baby-faced, roly-poly kid. Well, he's still baby-faced (as am I, I suppose) but he's freakishly big now, obviously big enough to get selected by the Steelers. Shaughnessy, while I never played with him, is a great guy. He always came up to me in the locker room when I would go back and shake my hand and thank me for joining the Marines, he said that if his football career didn't work out it was something he was considering himself. Always good to see the good guys succeed.
  • Speaking of feeling old, I turned 26 today, which means I am officially closer to 30 than I am to 20, which is kind of scary. I keep getting older but I still haven't grown up...maybe that will come when I hit the 3-0. At 20 I would have thought the only way I'd be sharing a small room with 2 other grown men at 26 was if I were in prison. Well 20 year old Jake, you're not in prison, you're in the Marines.
  • YouTube yanked our 2/7 SS Platoon video off their site, along with about every other video on there worth watching, so I'm gonna try and post it up on here in a week or two...
  • I'm FINALLY getting all my screwed up joints/appendages looked at and documented by the Marines. Talk about a process. I show up on Tuesday for BAS sick call, "I'd like to have my foot looked at"..."sorry, we only look at chronic injuries on Thursdays, come back then." Show up Thursday, and BAS is PACKED with all these pog's limping around. Why? Because there was a battalion run the next day, and they were all trying to get a doctor's note to scam out of it. Wow, way to go Marines, you motivate me. Anyway, finally get seen by a Dr., only to have him look at my foot, curse under his breath, ask what the hell happened, and tell me, "Gee Corporal, I don't think there's anything we can do for you." To which I responded, "Gee Sir, do you think you could send me to a doctor that knows something about feet?" I finally beat an appointment with a podiatrist out of him. I can't wait for government run healthcare to touch everyone... it'll totally change your opinion on its validity.
  • As of yesterday, I was exactly 6 months away from being a civilian.
  • As of today, I still have zero idea what I'm going to do for 10 months while I wait to go to grad school in 2010... Ideas on the table- bartend, substitute teach, hunt pirates, collect unemployment (not), try to catch on as a precision firearms instructor, travel around the world (absolutely), write a book, attend numerous Badger games...

Monday, April 20, 2009

Great Success

The bachelor painball party (yes, painball, no typo) was, in Jon Stoeckly's terms "Great Success". The first two games played were 7 on 7, Marines v Nasty's, with all the Marines there being instructors from my school house. Things got nasty from there. As we were walking away to our end of the field, which was called the 'jungle' due to its thick vegetation and terrain, you could tell that the seven shells of men we were leaving behind were visibly worried about what was to come. At the start of the game we broke into two teams of four and three and went hunting, within minutes you could hear the other team on the high ground start picking guys off, accompanied by the embarrassing screams of grown men. On our side we started moving through the underbrush, freaking out Stoeck who was eliminated and watching on the sidelines, as we used hand and arm signals to tactically move in on Mike, the lone remaining civy, who had fortified himself in a bush. That didn't last long. Final score after two games... 14-2.

After that we held a draft and switched the teams up, moving around the park playing different scenarios. I think the lasting image of the day was Long's suicide/rambo charge at the end of the game, shooting one-armed while ducking his head, then realizing that he was about to get lit up, he threw his paintball gun in the general direction of the other guy and ran, arms flailing, voice screaming, in the opposite direction.

Then we sat around drinking some beers near my barracks, where the LA guys realized for the first time just how miserable life on a military base is. Upon seeing my room, and realizing that I share it with two other guys, I heard a few, "dude, this SUCKS'"... Which is why we immediately headed back up to the South Bay to continue the festivities. Beer, Shellback's, more beer, and dragging Clay away from a plate of Garlic Ranch fries at Big Mike's (quite the task) generally sums up that evening.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Seriously Navy Seals, way to go and steal my pirate hunting thunder...

I'd love to sit here and bash the SEALs and their sniper capabilities, or lack thereof (had to get one in there), but, in all reality, conducting a 3-way coordinated shot, from a bobbing ship, onto a life raft that is probably being tossed around like a toy, is pretty impressive, even if it was within 50 meters. My hat's off to them.

I did find the following funny-
A Defense official said that the three snipers, who had authority from President
Obama
to shoot if they thought Captain Phillips’ life was in danger, fired
when they saw a pirate aiming a rifle at the captain’s back. There was no
command to fire at that given moment, the official said.

There is NO WAY, that all three snipers saw a rifle raised to the captain's back, simultaneously were provided clear shots on the same wave, and then all decided to fire. Don't get me wrong, I don't care, shoot the guys, they're pirates. But let's not pretend that these guys didn't have a standing order to shoot to kill the moment they could all sync their shots on the same wave crest. It's comical how politically correct we've become as a country, when we're worried that someone will think we'll be accused of using 'excessive force' in rescuing a US captain from PIRATES.

Again, con...gratulations...SEALsssss, good...jooooo....b.

That was harder than you think.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter

I'm going to take a moment to wish everyone out there a very Happy Easter. Easter is one of those days that really forces you, no matter how religious you are, to sit there and look at an honest reflection of your life.

Whether the Easter story is true or simply fable to you, the power of the story causes you to think about your own life. What do I have in my life worth suffering and dying for? Who in my life would do the same for me? For me personally, knowing that in my hometown of Bettendorf, Iowa, my mom and dad are sitting in church, praying for me, my friends and my Marines, comforts me. Knowing that sitting here, 2,000 miles away, I can go up the street and my friends and my friends' families will invite me in for an Easter brunch, not even blinking at setting an extra plate out, comforts me. And knowing that while I was 10,000 miles away in both Iraq and Afghanistan, on days like today, that I had five nieces and nephews praying like only 6 year olds can pray (for me to come back from 'Africa'), and that my safety was on the hearts and minds of thousands of people I've never met, comforts me.

So many times people ask me why I joined the Marine Corps, and most often I give some cookie-cutter answer, like "didn't feel like wearing a suit," "patriotic duty," or the best one "Uncle Sam called, I just picked up the phone" (I have obviously NEVER used that last one). But the truth is, I joined because there are bad people in this world, whether they're bad because of daddy issues, religious issues or "damn life sucks because I was born in Afghanistan" issues, and, as I look at all the people in my life- my family, friends, and neighbors, they're all good. I joined so that the people that God has blessed me with, all the good people that love me, will never, ever, have to cross paths with those that would do them harm. I'm not writing this to garner kudos, I'm putting this all out there as a thank you to everyone special to me. Thank you for blessing my life and giving me something worth fighting for.

Happy Easter.

Betsy's Wedding

Last weekend was my cousin Betsy's wedding in Atlanta, GA. It had been far too long since I had seen many members from my dad's side of the family. It also made me realize just how much I've missed since joining the Marine Corps. I show up, suddenly my cousin Tony is married and expecting a little girl with his wife, my Uncle Kevin and Aunt Debbie have up and moved away to Minnesotaaaa, everyone has serious girlfriends, Christopher is designing websites, apparently things have been changing fast and no one bothered to fill me in.

The wedding itself was awesome. It was an outdoor wedding, which had everyone holding their breath since flights coming in were delayed Thursday night due to weather, but the skies parted all day Saturday and made for a great scene. Nevermind that it was scheduled during the Final Four games... really? Did no one deconflict this with the man calender??

Below are some pictures from the weekend.







Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Wedding Gauntlet

Wedding season has officially begun with last weeks little escape and it continue for the next couple of months. My cousin Betsy is getting married this weekend in Atlanta, and the Wood family is swooping in from all across the country to take part in the festivities. I haven't seen a lot of my cousins on this side of the family for a long time, so this is a good chance to get together and do what Woods do best.



After that, Badgerjake crowd favorite Clay Hunt is marrying his longtime girlfriend Robin right here in the South Bay. The Red Carpet for that event is going to be littered with the usual celebrity suspects that normally grace the stories I tell in these posts. I imagine that between the Marines that will be present and the South Bay booze hounds showing up, that the reception is going to turn into chaos. Obviously, as soon as we shut that thing down we'll be spilling outside and hailing cabs to our usual haunts, taking the South Bay by storm in dress blues.

Speaking of Clay's wedding, I'm taking speech submissions under the 'comments' section for the speech I'm going to give at the reception. I expect something good from a few of the guys out there reading this.

April Fools

The Top Five things I was hoping to get 'fooled' with today:

  1. A big fat stimulus check. I'm talking at least of the 5 digit variety. Yo boss, I could stimulate some serious local economy with about $10,000 right now. I'd make it rain.
  2. A car door handle on the driver side door of my car. It'd be nice to not have to open up the rear door and reach in to let myself in.
  3. Sergeant's stripes. Enough said. (and no, I have not 'dropped my pack'... come on people, just doing what Marines do best, bitching and moaning)
  4. I was kind of holding out hope that I would log in to ESPN and find that due to some crazy rules violations, Wisconsin had replaced a team in the Final Four. This one wasn't even close.
  5. That my barrack's duties for the month of April had disappeared. This one requires some explanation. It's easy to see by the pictures below that I was on leave two weeks ago right? Well, the day before I went on leave the barracks in all its glory forced me to move rooms. So, Tim and I moved into a new room a few floors down, which was already occupied by a Marine who said that'd he was moving out in a few days. So I throw my stuff in wall lockers and take off on leave. Well, this Marine decides to fail 'field day' on Friday. i come back off of leave and notice that I've been placed on duty twice in April, both on Fridays, for failing field day. Wait, but I wasn't even here, how did I fail? Well, gee corporal Wood, sorry, seems there's been a mistake, but that's not our problem. So now I have duty the Friday before Easter and the Friday of my birthday weekend. I haven't celebrated either in the States in 3 years, because I've been off FIGHTING WARS. Sorry, not only was I not here for this phantom field day inspection, but field day is also pretty low on my totem pole of priorities. (breathe in, count to five, breathe out, count to five) Obviously, my name hasn't been removed from the Duty Roster.