Deaths Curse

Four months into deployment overseas and the war began to take over, as the missiles flew across the sky, falling in various places on base, the sirens screaming the sound of danger approaching, telling us to get to bunkers. This was just a glimpse of my life as SW2 McDowell, that’s what the patch on my chest says anyways. Heck I still can’t get over being called by my last name for eight years. My days consisted of being driver, and sometimes a gunner in the harsh environment of Afghanistan, moving from one base to another. Sometimes down rigorous roads, up steep hill sides through the mountains of Afghanistan, and through small villages made from clay and straw, with no clear signs of electricity; all the while doing this during the darkness of night and sometimes during the scorching daylight.

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Most weeks involved explosions near the various bases and fobs (forward operating base) we were at, in this time I had seen death, heard death, smelled death, and feared death, wondering if I would ever go home or even make it home. As war starts to consume you, you try to find a way out, well my way out was going to be my M4 rifle; it could have been so easy, sitting there in my room, alone, with no one to interrupt me, a M4 by my side, with eight clips, thirty rounds in each one, of 5.56 rounds; granted I would only need one to take the pain away, to end it all, you could say “taking the easy way out.” At this point in my life, I had no god by my side, no family besides my brothers and sisters of the armed forces, I had no support but myself to make a choice, life or death.
“Now that’s the kicker isn’t it, with us losing 22-veterans a day to suicide” we all see it, we just choose not to believe it, until it becomes our issue.
It’s not that we don’t have support, or someone to call, it’s that the time we have alone, can be our most vulnerable point, it’s as if once left alone, we get locked in a box, with all the tools needed to give up, it becomes a mental battle, do we choose life or death, do we keeping driving on, or do we kill the engine?
As the night falls, the wind blows the smell of dirt, gunpowder, and death all around, and the sirens scream “take cover”, you stop to think, will this ever end? and if so when? Every day is the same here, somedays are different, but for the most part there is a way of life here, and nothing can stop it. It’s as if you’re in the land of death, where the reapers rome, watching and waiting for their next victim of war. At night while you sleep, the darkness embraces you in a blanket of fear, while during the day darkness confronts you around every corner, always keeping you on your toes, never knowing when your time could be.

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In a world unknown, we have the greatest strength a man or woman could ever find physically, but mentally we weaken as every day passes. Death becomes a part of you, whether you see it, hear it, smell it or think it, it’s there. Living with death everywhere, you begin to change, not much, but just enough for it to lay dormant in you until it finds its moment to attack you from the inside out. You don’t know it yet, but in time this darkness will reveal itself to you little by little, until you become someone who you can’t recognize in the mirror, it’s as if there is two of you, one side good and one side bad. This darkness begins to manifest itself as you, within yourself, where you can see yourself doing things you would never do, but you are helpless to stop it.
People, doctors, family and more never understand a veterans disabilities in a way the veteran can from their experiences of war; unless you experience it, you don’t know, some things are physical, such as amputees, or pains and aches, but the mental side of things is what you don’t understand from my perspective, whether it’s my dreams, or lack of sleep, depression, anxiety, anger and so much more, it all stems off our memories, you can’t erase my mind, or my thoughts, my experiences and memories, and this is the problem because whether it’s a year after this trauma or ten years, when you hear a boom, it takes you back; when you see a flash, it takes you back; there are so many triggers out there, that bring back memories, and every day is different; if it’s an off day for you, it can through you into an episode, sometimes small, sometimes big, sometimes it progresses throughout the day, week or even month. It all stems off memories, which makes this battle forever lasting.
What do you imagine when you think of death? Well what I imagined was what I’d already seen, which is friends and family dying from old age, disease, cancer and such, or the norm you could say, but the most horrific death I’ve seen firsthand was when I was at war.
Three days in and I saw the aftermath of a VBIED (vehicle-borne improvised explosive device,) while in a IED (improvised explosive device) training class, it was as if it were yesterday, standing there seeing two locals outside the wire walking to this spot in front of us about a hundred yards out, not quite knowing what they were doing until they stopped. Then one of them laid a flannel shirt down on the ground, the two men pick up the torso of the man who bombed the base in the VBIED; there were no arms, no legs, and no head on this torso, they picked up this body, laid it in a shirt, wrapped it up, then through it over their back like it was Santa with a bag of presents, then walked away as if nothing happened. If that doesn’t tell you this isn’t a game, I don’t know what does, because this image that’s burnt into my brain, will forever trap apart of myself here in the dessert.
The second time was at night, I was heading to the chow hall like I did every night, except I pushed it off this night, due to getting caught up in a conversation with my roommate, thankfully, because originally, I had planned on leaving thirty mins early, and the walk alone took ten minutes. But on my way to go eat, I heard this sound which I can only describe as a weapon of some sort having a miss fire, then a boom with the sound of something hitting metal. At this point I was nearly there. The missile that fell from the sky had hit the roof of the chow hall, the roof deflected most of it, but what had made it through, killed a 22-year-old EOD kid in the army, face down in his dinner, and a piece of scrap metal hit one of our senior chiefs in his neck, causing him to be life flighted to Germany. Everyone else either took cover, or ran for cover, until it was safe to help, go seek medical attention and get back to our way of things during war.
This one affected me because if I would have left when I wanted to, I might not be here today, and that’s not me procrastinating, that’s the truth, I would have been somewhere in that galley eating, at the mercy of flying metal with the force of death behind it. Not to mention there were plenty of close calls, from the IED explosions either on the road we were driving, bomb scares, and explosions right outside of where we were located, as well as driving through mind fields due to a careless driver, and one of our vehicles being hit by an anti-personnel mine which blew off the front of a tactical vehicle, injuring four of our people. Hell, our battalion even has its very own Forrest Gump, which will forever live with him. I still remember that day, Doc up on the wall, patrolling the perimeter, then wouldn’t you know it, we started receiving fire. Well guess what, Doc got shot in his ass. It wasn’t funny at the moment, but when everything was all said and done, we sure had one hell of a laugh. But this was just some of many incidences, it was the way of life at war.
Then lastly the death in our minds, from the nightmares of everything we have seen and experienced firsthand, the fear of dying and never coming home, how we could possible die in this country surrounded by death. Which all of this eventually manifest into death personally on the home front. An example would be, let’s say, driving. I always have these thoughts of dying in a car crash, sometimes by my own dewing, but other times by other drivers, then what I would do in my final moments of life, who would I call first, would I walk my bloody mangled body home to say my final words to my loving wife, my beautiful daughter, and my smart boy, what would I say? You see the thing is death lurks around the corner waiting for our moment; sometimes I feel as though I have a glimpse or an idea of how it will happen, but when? How bad? We fear what we can’t control, the mind being one of those things. Death is a very vivid picture in a veteran’s mind, whether it be the past, present or future. Many of us have seen death first hand, our lives revolved around the ultimate sacrifice for your country; not that we want to die, but that we would gladly lay our lives down for the people and country we love, so they may live a life of freedom.
“Isn’t that what we do for love? We sacrifice.”

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Puzzle Pieces

 I had a moment in these past 10 weeks, when I had an epiphany. For those that do not know what an epiphany is, or those who know the word but not the definition, an epiphany is “A moment of sudden revelation, or insight”, or “A moment when you suddenly feel that you understand, or suddenly become conscious or, something that is very important to you.”  Depending on where you look, the definitions are close to one another. Now what I learned from this moment was, how to get where I want to go in my life, as well as what I want to do with my life, my passion that is. And I call this my Puzzle Pieces.
 

Now what it taught me was, even though a little later in life than I would have liked, that the paths that I have followed, and the paths that I am following in my life have purpose, it led me to the moment in which I knew what I wanted, was where I was meant to be, and that I’m doing what is needed to achieve them. You see I’m in my 30’s now, not quite old yet, but tired. I would say I have lived, and I have much more life to live. I was in the armed forces, I’m a disabled veteran of war, I had my struggles as a child, I had my struggles as a young adult, I’ve travelled, I have worked hard to climb the ladder at all my employers, because I desired to learn, and to succeed, and I am a student, among much more. I would like to say I have experienced life, and I have much more to experience, but I followed the wrong ambitions, and dreams in the beginning. Granted all my experiences have made me who I am, and I don’t regret that. Because everyone is different, you might get your epiphany as a younger age then me, or maybe even later, but nevertheless, if you follow who your truly are, and what you desire out of life, you will see the way. But this is what the puzzle pieces are, they are your life, your experiences, your goals, achievement’s and so much more. It what makes you, you. For everything good, and bad in your life, but it’s up to you to embrace yourself, and be true to yourself.

 You can do it too, but you must work at it, I know my journey wasn’t the easiest, but I’m thankful to know what I need too now. Life’s rough, I’m sure we can all contest to that, but you can’t give up, whether it’s in work, or school, or just life in general. We all have dreams, ambitions, passions, and so on. So sit down, take a minute to breathe, and really think about what really makes you happy in life, now I know that’s easier said than done, but now look at it, and make it realistic, as well as practical, trust me I wanted to be an Olympic Swimmer, but I’m not, and maybe it was possible at one point, but nevertheless take those desires, and plan, and make steps to achieve your goals, even if the next 5 years are going to be rough, dedicate yourself, because it will pay off. But keep those steps close to you and constantly remind yourself that this is what I need to do to get where I want to go. The saying the sky is the limit, can be a true statement, if you commit, and dedicate yourself to a realistic plan to achieve what you want. That’s what I’m doing anyways, and its working for me, nevertheless this is your puzzle, and you need to figure out how to put it all together to see what the actual big picture is. And I have faith you will all get there.

Life is like a math equation, it can be hard untill you figure it out. 

First off in math there is all sorts of equations just like life where there are many problems good and bad. So I’m not saying I have every awnser to a problem/equation, but I believe I have solved one of the main problems/equations to life which consist of a simple life.

I don’t know about you but a simple life is a dream these days, besides the fact that how many generations have worked their fingers to the bones to just get a taste of the simple life before their dieing days. And maybe simple means many things to different people, but simple to me means, little to no bills, the freedom to do what I please when I please with my friends and family, and just living the one life I have on this planet to the fullest.

Now like I said this doesn’t apply to everyone’s situation, for instance if you love a big city, and expensive things, you might not want my advice because it doesn’t apply to you. But if you love the outdoors like hiking, fishing, hunting and camping, which is like the biggest attraction to Oregon, then this might be for you. But again don’t misconstrue my words, outdoors can be a pretty broad spectrum of things, like the beach, well this isn’t for beach lovers, mainly because the beach is expensive.

Now that we have narrowed down a general location to my kind of simple life we can start getting to the simplicity of life if done right. Let’s start with bills, let’s face it we all hate bills there is no denying that, but this can be the easiest part of the equation/problem with some variables ofcourse like your choices you have already made in your life, like a new car for instance you can’t really stop paying your $200 to $500 car payment now can you. But break it down, look at all your bills, what bills are needs and what bills are wants, you know what I’m talking about, do you really need a $200 phone bill when you could go prepaid, since no one really talks on their phones anymore these days, especially when you can pay $10 a month for a home phone, you might say it’s not convenient or its lame but it saves you $190 a month. I’m not going to give and example of every bill it’s common sense, but think about it next time you look at your bills, you could save a lot of money. One last thing on bills and this applies to the bills that are needs, these can be adjusted aswell if not to $0 a month or even get you paid versus you paying for a utility bill. But you need to have a house of your own which is the only catch, but when that day comes and it will, think about what I’m saying. Buy a property with a Well, no more water bill, get Solar Panels, no more electric bill or you could even get paid by PGE for producing more then enough electricity to your property, take your own trash to the dump, or burn it, you can even throw your scraps in he compost bin, burn wood instead of gas, make a garden and go hunting and fishing, that alone if your any good can eliminate most of your food bill if not all of it and lastly but most unlikely to happen, get a property with a warms springs, to heat your water, now if only we could collect rain water we would be set. I know this sounds like a lot of work, but it’s worth it.

One big thing is a house, it’s scary I no but don’t be greedy, do you really need 8 bedrooms, probably not, but go simple. Buy a lot of land, and get a manufactured home, they are just as nice as a built house. Hey or you could build your house, but if you are smart about it, you could have at least a acre lot, 4 bedroom house with money in the bank for less the  $100000 versus $300000, but it’s your choice, not mine.

Well let’s see we’ve covered bills, and location, let’s move on to work, which can be the hardest one of all depending on what you want in life. Well this equation/problem is all over the board, some people enjoy what they do, and if you are the lucky one who has his dream job then I guess we are done here, but if you hate your job, your boss, and your just outright unhappy, then fix it. Did you know that not only in this era but in oregon is the best time to be who you are and make money doing it.Yes I’m talking about being an entrepreneur, it can be hard, but I’m sure there is some thing you have to offer this world whether it’s arts and crafts or singing, maybe even being a guide to the hunter, the sky is the limit and you can work in the luxury of your own home, look at all he stay at home mom and dads, all it takes is time and little money, so quit buying that coffee and save your money to follow your dream. Not to mention there are so many options for help to start your dream if you just make the effort to find them. You might not be rich at the end of the day, but if your bills are tooken care of, and you free to do what you want, then whats the harm.

Well at this point I’d say we are about done except for three things, credit to help get you the things you desire like to house for instance, be smart check your credit, don’t use more then 30 percent of your credit card limit, so you can build that credit, and please make you payments on time, credit can destroy you unless you don’t need to buy anything. Saving your money so you can pay off that house before your 80, which kind of defeats the purpose of his whole blog if your bills are $2000 plus a month till your 60 if your lucky, plus your gonna need something to live off after a certain age, a nest egg basically. Learn the stock markets, turn your money into and investment. And lastly the ones that served our country even disabled people, you have benifits that can achieve these goals a lot faster then the average joe.

Well I hope this helps some of you if not all of you, and if you liked my blog, let me know. Best of luck in your life no matter what path you follow.