Contents: The Sir! No Sir! blog is an information clearing house, drawing on a wide variety of sources, to track the unfolding history of the new GI Movement, and the wars that brought the movement to life.
Where applicable, parallels will be drawn between the new movement and the Vietnam era movement which was the focus of the film Sir! No Sir!
Disclaimer: In accordance with title 17 u.s.c. section 107, this material is distributed without profit for research and educational purposes.
The Sir! No Sir! Blog has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is the Sir! No Sir! Blog endorsed or sponsored by the originator. Links are provided to allow for verification of authenticity.
This poem, by Jennifer Pacanowski, wass posted to Facebook by Michael Kern, August 27, 2009
WE ARE NOT YOUR HEROS
We are not your heros.
Heros come back in body bags and caskets.
We are now society’s burden,
We are displaying our pain.
Begging for help that falls onto the VA’s deaf ears.
Pill popping to silence us into numbness and dead eyes.
WE ARE NOT YOUR HEROS.
We are now a mental diease.
NO VACCINATIONS FOR PTSD.
NO CURE for Post traumatic stress disorder.
We fight for our cure with our
We are hurting ourselves,
Letting society watch our pain and suffering.
WE ARE NOT YOUR HEROS.
We are your BURDEN
Smacking you in the face with our honesty of this needless war.
So you have the freedom to JUDGE us.
I wish I never came back.
This letter was written a few minutes before Afghan war resister Travis Bishop was shackeled and taken away after his court-martial at Fort Hood.
To everyone who still cares:
I can not say that a year in prison doesn’t scare me: I am terrified. I just cried in the bathroom so no one could see.
But still, though I am terrified, it would be scarier still to know that my fellow soldiers who feel as we feel would never find out what we are trying to accomplish had I not gone to prison.
Everyone who hears or reads this should know that I love you all, and my life is forever changed because of you.
Victor and myself are starting something big . . . and it is now up to all of you to continue on.
With all of my heart,
This article, by Travis Bishop, was posted go the Free Travis Bishop, Fort Hood War Resister Blog, August 20, 2009
First off, hello to all those who still support me! Your support, kind words, and well-wishings have truly kept me going through this difficult time.
I want to assure everyone, well-wishers and nay-sayers, that I am still 100% confident that my decision was a smart one. Though I suffer a harsh personal loss, the gain for this movement is incredible. Already I have heard of others who have been influenced by mine and Victor’s decisions and actions, and it warms my heart.
Ultimately, the goal is to end these wars. And keeping that in mind, remember that my decisions are mine and mine alone. My hope is that others learn from mine and Victor’s sacrifices. They are small when compared to the ultimate gain.
To my supporters, Thank You and write me right now while I’m in Bell County even!
To those who think I was coerced, influenced or made to do this, please write me to. I would love to personally explain how I feel.
You can write Travis at: Travis Bishop, Bell County Jail, 113 W. Central Ave., Belton, TX 76513
This book review, by Jon Letman, was distributed by the Inter Press Service News Agency, August 17, 2009
KAUAI, Hawaii, Aug 17 (IPS) - Six months into Barack Obama's presidency, the U.S. public's display of antiwar sentiment has faded to barely a whisper.
Despite Obama's vow to withdraw all combat forces from Iraq before September 2011, he plans to leave up to 50,000 troops in "training and advisory" roles. Meanwhile, nearly 130,000 troops remain in that country and more than 50,000 U.S. soldiers occupy Afghanistan, with up to an additional 18,000 approved for deployment this year.
So where is the resistance?
In independent journalist Dahr Jamail's "The Will to Resist: Soldiers who refuse to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan" (Haymarket Books), Jamail profiles what may ultimately prove to be the United States' most effective anti-war movement: the soldiers themselves.
During the early years of the Iraq war, Jamail traveled to Iraq alone and reported as an unembedded freelance journalist. Over four visits, Jamail documented the war's effects on Iraqi civilians in "Beyond the Green Zone" (2007).
Although he is a fierce critic of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and of the U.S. mainstream media which he says served as a "cheerleader" for war, Jamail admits he was raised to admire the military. However, after covering the war from Iraq between 2003 and 2005, Jamail was enraged by what he calls "the heedless and deliberate devastation [he] saw [the U.S. military] wreak upon the people of Iraq."
Back in the U.S., traveling the country speaking out against the war, Jamail met scores of soldiers who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan and found that he shared with them a "familiar anguish" which drove him to further explore their motivations as soldiers. In doing so he opens the door to a growing subculture of internal dissent that is increasingly bubbling up and spilling over the edge of an otherwise ultra-disciplined, highly-controlled military society.
"The soldiers I spoke with while working on this book are some of the most ardent anti-war activists I have ever met," Jamail told IPS. "Having experienced the war firsthand, this should not come as a surprise."
In "The Will to Resist", Jamail profiles individual acts of resistance that he envisions as the possible seeds of a broader anti-war movement. The book is filled with stories of soldiers who refuse missions deemed "suicidal", go AWOL, flee abroad, refuse to carry a loaded weapon, even arranging to be shot in the leg - and those who in a final act of desperation commit suicide.
Soldiers who refuse to deploy or follow orders risk court-martial, prison time, dishonourable discharge and loss of veteran's medical benefits, yet an increasing number of active duty soldiers and veterans are willing to do so.
Rather than accept a mission almost certain to bring death, some troops simply refuse to follow orders. Jamail describes soldiers in Iraq on "search and avoid" missions who grew adept at giving the appearance of going out on patrol when, in fact, they were lying low, catching up on sleep and trying to avoid being killed.
Jamail quotes one Marine who served in Iraq and Afghanistan as saying, "Dissent starts as simple as saying 'this is bullshit. Why am I risking my life?'"
Soldiers tell Jamail that incidents of refusing orders are unremarkable and "pretty widespread," to which he responds, "It is also understandable why the military does not want more soldiers or the public to know about them."
"Army Specialist Victor Agosto, who served a year in Iraq, has recently publicly refused orders to deploy to Afghanistan," Jamail told IPS, "and the Army, due to the threat of more soldiers and the broader public learning of this, backed away from giving Agosto the harshest court-martial possible, to one of the lightest."
Jamail also dedicates two chapters to soldiers who stand up to systemic misogyny and homophobia in the military. Extensive interviews with female soldiers detail a pervasive culture of institutionalised "command rape," harassment, abuse and assault which, in a number of high-profile cases (and many more unknown) end in ostracism, coercion, demotion, suicide and murder.
Citing studies from professional medical journals that offer a grim assessment of sexual intimidation and abuse within the U.S. military, Jamail writes, "According to the group Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, one in six women in the United States will be a victim of sexual assault in her lifetime. In the military, at least two in five will. In either case, at least 60 percent of the cases go unreported."
As Jamail recounts horrific cases of violence toward women in the military, he notes the irony of frequent claims that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are "liberating" women of those Muslim countries.
Like female soldiers, gay and lesbian service men and women are targeted for harassment and abuse. Jamail meets soldiers who, under the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy, must conceal their true identity, falsely posing as straight while battling internal conflicts about their own roles in the military.
In the blunt language of the soldiers, Jamail describes the military experience as a process of dehumanisation. "The primary objective appeared to be to mistreat and dehumanise your guys [fellow soldiers]," one Marine says. "I could not do it, not to my men and not to those people. I like the Iraqis, I like the Afghanis. Why were we treating them like shit?...That is when I really started questioning what the hell was going on."
For many soldiers however, the pain of war is simply too much to bear and so they choose their own final discharge: suicide. In an emotionally exhausting chapter, Jamail cites statistics from the Army Suicide Event Report which states active duty military suicides have risen to their highest rates since the Army started tracking self-inflicted deaths in 1980, and the numbers are growing.
Documenting the phenomenon of "suicide by cop," Jamail quotes from a Post Traumatic Distress Syndrome (PTSD)-wracked veteran's pre-"suicide" internet article in which he wrote, "…We come home from war trying to put our lives back together but some cannot stand the memories and decide that death is better. We kill ourselves because we are so haunted by seeing children killed and whole families wiped out."
Contemplating the long-term implications of the more than 1.8 million military personnel who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, Jamail points out that the United States, for many years to come, will be faced with caring for tens of thousands of veterans whose lives are permanently marred by grave physical and traumatic brain injuries, psychological scars, PTSD, and a host of associated problems ranging from divorce and substance abuse to domestic violence, homelessness and run-ins with the law.
Other soldiers manage to cope somehow and, perhaps in a sense, recover. Following their discharge, some veterans profiled by Jamail seek to make peace with themselves by educating others about the realities they experienced in war.
The most successful and constructive of military efforts to resist war are made by those who turn their experiences into teaching tools and therapeutic exercises like music, video, theater, painting, books, blogs, photographic and art exhibitions, performance art and even making paper out of old military uniforms.
In a chapter titled 'Cyber Resistance,' Jamail contends the Internet "is probably the first time that we have available to us an inexpensive and extremely inclusive means to communicate and thereby advocate sustained resistance to unjust military action, at an international scale without losing any gestation time."
Websites like YouTube, Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, Blogspot and countless alternative news sources have given soldiers and veterans both a voice and the means to connect with those Jamail calls "fence-sitters, members of the silent majority and well-intentioned but resource-less individuals to participate in the promise of a historical transformation."
"While we don't have an organised GI resistance movement today that is anywhere close to that which helped end the Vietnam war," Jamail said, "the seeds for one are there, and they are continuing to sprout amidst a soil that is becoming all the more fertile by the escalation of troops in Afghanistan, the lack of withdrawal in Iraq, and an increasingly over-stretched military."
This article, by Forrrest Wilder, was published by the Texas Observer, August 17 2009.
In March, Michael Kern, 22, returned to Fort Hood after a year and a day in Iraq.
Shaken by his experience and disgusted with the war, Kern, a native of Riverside, Calif., tried to readjust by getting as hammered as possible. “Put it this way: For the first month, I was drunk at work, I was drunk 24/7.”
In Iraq the violence had been fast and furious. “We were going through all sorts of bad shit: mortars, IEDs, indirect fire. Anything you can think of we experienced the first day.”
On his second mission, Kern drew the short straw to drive the lead vehicle—a “mine resistant ambush protected” vehicle—in a convoy looking for a weapons cache near Baghdad. An IED exploded next to his vehicle, damaging his door. The platoon pulled back to base. The next day, April 7, on an identical mission, insurgents came after his unit with AK-47s, machine guns and IEDs. During the nine-hour firefight, a sniper killed Kern’s buddy, Sgt. Richard A. Vaughn. Two others, including Kern’s lieutenant, were seriously injured.
Kern tells me his story over two days in July at Under the Hood Café, a new GI coffeehouse and soldier-outreach center that opened in February. Since mid-May, when a drunken Kern first dropped in, Under the Hood has become his second home. While awaiting a medical discharge for PTSD and traumatic brain injury, he’s here almost every day, working out what happened to him in Iraq, planning anti-war events and helping other soldiers come to terms with their combat experiences. The coffeehouse provides a support network, friends who’ve helped him quit drinking, people he can call on day or night, and provides what Kern appreciated most about the military: a sense of camaraderie.
“If it wasn’t for this place, it’s sad to say, I feel like I would be dead. I feel like I would have killed myself,” Kern says.
Under the Hood is a rifle shot from the east gates of Fort Hood in a grim commercial zone of tattoo parlors, pawnshops, car lots, payday lenders, bars, strip clubs, and a place advertising “gold grillz” for teeth—establishments eager to drain young soldiers of their earnings. In this garrison town, the café has become a gathering place for dissident GIs, peace activists, veterans and active-duty soldiers who need help.
Inside, the walls are decorated with peace propaganda, including a map of the world pinpointing U.S. military interventions and a poster that reads, “You Can’t Be All that You Can Be if You’re Dead.” A bookcase is stocked with anti-war literature. For entertainment, there’s a dartboard, a foosball table and a big-screen TV with PlayStation. No alcohol is allowed, but there’s no shortage of cigarette smoke.
I came here to suss out efforts to build an anti-war movement within the Army. Fort Hood, the largest military installation in the country, has produced a smattering of war resisters in recent years. I met some of them at the coffeehouse, including Victor Agosto, an Iraq War veteran who refuses to deploy to Afghanistan, and Casey Porter, a mechanic who did two tours in Iraq. Porter, preparing to attend film school in Florida, recorded local life in Iraq, posting interviews with military personnel, battle footage and unvarnished street scenes.
Over the past four years, I’ve come into contact with scores of military personnel through my involvement with the Austin GI Rights Hotline, a group of volunteers trained to counsel service members about their rights.
Once a week, I sit on my couch and talk on the phone to soldiers, Marines and airmen who call with a dizzying array of issues, from the mundane to the impossibly complex. Many are stationed at Fort Hood. We get AWOL cases, people with untreated PTSD, 18-year-old enlistees who’ve found out their recruiter lied to them, middle-aged soldiers who’ve been stop-lossed, moms and dads calling on behalf of their kids, gay officers who’ve been outed—you name it. Some have made poor decisions; others are victims of a sometimes capricious, even cruel military system.
I got into it through my girlfriend. Katherine was in the news some years ago for being the first female conscientious objector to emerge from the war in Afghanistan. The military refused to recognize her as a conscientious objector, and after a long and painful process she was court-martialed and sentenced to 120 days in the brig. She ate lunch every day with Lynndie England, the young West Virginia woman best known for holding the leash in the infamous Abu Ghraib photos.
Joeie Michaels, Michael Kern’s roommate and an Under the Hood regular, used to dance at Babes, a Killeen strip club popular with GIs. Performing there, she made sure the troops left with a flier for the coffeehouse.
Under the Hood’s signal event was a Memorial Day peace march in the streets of Killeen, the city’s first since Vietnam. The Killeen newspaper reported about 70 participants. Cindy Thomas, the military spouse who manages the coffeehouse and plays den mother to the young, often-raucous soldiers, estimates about 10 to 15 were locals, including veterans and active-duty soldiers.
“It’s like a mother with a child,” Thomas says. “It’s unconditional love, and we help them any way we can.”
The building housing Under the Hood’s local antecedent, the Killeen coffeehouse Oleo Strut, is a few blocks away; it now houses an office complex. The Oleo Strut had a four-year run from 1968 to 1972, according to a history on Under the Hood’s Web site. Run by civilians and veterans, the Oleo Strut plugged Fort Hood soldiers into the Vietnam anti-war movement and spread their ideas in the barracks. An underground newspaper circulated from the coffeehouse, and the crowd there organized demonstrations and teach-ins. Musicians passed through, purportedly including a young Stevie Ray Vaughan.
“The tinder was very dry,” says Tom Cleaver, an Oleo Strut alum, Vietnam veteran and Hollywood screenwriter who helped raise money to start Under the Hood. “They ended up in ’69 and ’70 having big demonstrations there, a thousand guys marching in Killeen against the war.”
Fort Hood at that time was a holding station for soldiers returning from Vietnam with less than six months left on their enlistments. Before being discharged, many were deployed to suppress domestic riots and protests, including those at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago.
“Here they come back to America, and what does the Army want them to do?” Cleaver asks. “Fight a war in America. That radicalized a lot of guys. They came back with bad feelings about the war, and now they were supposed to go defend the war.”
There’s no draft now, nor is there a broader social counterculture, to tap into. Given that, Thomas says, one of Under the Hood’s primary functions is giving soldiers a place to speak openly.
“The military, they don’t want you to think for yourself,” Thomas says. “They don’t want you to be informed; they don’t want you to know that you have support because they function by fear and intimidation over these soldiers. So when you have a space where you can talk freely and find out what your rights are, you have that support, you have that kindness. It is a threat to them.”
One coffeehouse regular, Spc. Ben Fugate, told me that after his commander spotted his name in a Killeen Daily Herald article about the Memorial Day peace march, his unit was lectured for two hours on the dangers of protesting.
Fugate, who describes himself as “very conservative,” had been quoted in the paper saying, “I lost three buddies in my platoon in Iraq, and for what? Why lose more when we don’t have to?”
Kern, seated on a couch in a cozy back room at Under the Hood, explains how he became a coffeehouse fixture. It’s a Thursday in July, and he’s wearing a T-shirt that asks, “Got Rights?” He’s pale and swallowing tranquilizers to suppress panic attacks.
“I’m fucked up,” he says. “I know it.” Later, he says, “You know how they say a teenage boy thinks about sex every eight seconds. Every eight seconds I think about Iraq.”
Kern, a tanker, says his unit averaged about two and a half missions per day.
At first, Kern says, he was gung ho: “I was an excellent soldier. I took joy out of killing people in Iraq. It was such an adrenaline rush. I craved it.”
Over time, bravado faded into depression, guilt and a strong feeling that the war was wrong. When Kern deployed to Iraq he took a small handheld digital video camera and a laptop with editing software. He fixed the camera to his vehicle’s turret and captured hours of patrol footage.
Some of that raw video has been distilled to a 10-minute film called Fire Mission that’s available online.
In the film’s last minutes, Spc. Steven Pesicka, a soldier in Kern’s unit, narrates what he calls a “mortar mission for shock and awe” near an Iraqi village. The first mortar lands near a house, and the forward observer calls for the next one to be targeted 200 meters farther from the village. The mortar team thought that was too far away, Pesicka says. The film shows the second mortar hitting the town. “Oh fuck,” the forward observer is heard to say. “They did not drop 200 [meters], over. They hit the town.”
Minutes after the explosion, the soldier describes dead bodies being loaded into the back of trucks.
Such experiences led Kern to a radical form of empathy.
“If you just take a step back and you think, I mean, I’d be doing the same thing if Iraqis were in the United States,” Kern, dressed in battle fatigues, says in Fire Mission. “I’d be the dude trying to plant a bomb under the road. I’d be trying to kill them. Oh, hell yeah, get the fuck out of my country.”
Beginning in May or June, Kern started having nightmares, sometimes while he was awake. On several occasions he hallucinated an Iraqi child with half his skull missing, as real to him as the desert heat. His psychiatrist says the child might represent guilt, but all Kern knows is that it scared the shit out of him. In January, on his birthday, while his unit was on patrol, he told a commander—in confidence—that he was going to see a mental health specialist. The doctor prescribed Zoloft and sent him on his way. Back with his platoon, Kern discovered that the commander had ratted him out to his platoon sergeant.
“I was called out in front of the entire platoon, was made an example of, saying why are you going to mental health. This isn’t a war. This isn’t bad.” The next day, on a mission, Kern talked openly of suicide. “Still to this day, my buddy doesn’t know he talked me down, but I really wanted to kill myself on that mission. I had three loaded weapons sitting right next to me. I could have done it real easy.”
Back home, Kern avoided his demons, drowning them in drink. Thomas and Michaels encouraged Kern to open up.
“They’d be like, ‘How was Iraq?’ I’d say ‘Oh, it was just Iraq.’ I kept brushing it aside and stuff. They kept telling me, ‘You’re gonna break, you’re gonna break. You need to get help.’ ” Kern relented.
Michaels found a psychiatrist in Austin whom Kern has been seeing twice a week for free. In May he visited Fort Hood’s mental health services office, but was told he’d have to wait six weeks to see a doctor.
Meanwhile, the Iraqi child had followed Kern back to Texas. On the first of June, Kern was in the bathroom at Under the Hood when the child made an appearance. Afterward, Thomas and Michaels found Kern sitting outside under a tree. “The look on his face was just empty. His eyes were hollow,” Thomas says. Kern entered the 12-bed psychiatric ward at Fort Hood’s military hospital. He spent the next week there, emerging with a diagnosis of PTSD and traumatic brain injury. Doctors put him on five medications, including tranquilizers, antidepressants and antipsychotics, which he carries in a small orange pillbox.
A week after being released, Kern started a blog, “Expendable Soldier.” In his first post he wrote, “I still hate myself and everything I do. No matter what I am doing any day of the week I some how am still reminded of the things I did while I was in Iraq, and sometimes it gets so bad that I believe I am still in Iraq. ... Sometimes I wish I never came back.”
Still, Kern reports for duty at the coffeehouse every day. He’s working on restarting an Iraq Veterans Against the War chapter in Killeen and talking to other soldiers about the coffeehouse. Does he feel like he’s become part of an anti-war movement? “I am part of an anti-war movement,” he says. “There’s no ‘feeling’ about it.”
The Coffee Strong GI Coffeehouse is asking GIs stationed at Ft. Lewis to submit nominations for the worst Lt. at Ft. Lewis. To nominate your Lt., or read existing nominations, Click Here. On July 10, the following was posted
I kid you not, My first Lt. would use a gps and a plugger and still couldn't get the platoon from point A to point B.
We would do night ops and end up driving around the desert until the sun came up because of his incompetence.
My driver told me he'd seen the Lt. use a compass inside the Humvee. I didn't believe it until I saw it with my own eyes.
Why is it that the military thinks a college degree qualifies someone to be an officer?
This was originally posted, by Salena Coppa, to her blog ActiveDutyPatriot , June 13 2009
Though the story has not yet gone public, this isn't a good time for milblogger's freedom of speech. I myself am facing potential charges for having a different political opinion than some of my leadership believes I should, and another milblogger who shall remain nameless is as well. Certain prominent milblogs, especially ones from Iraq and Afghanistan, have been removed-Pink's War, Big Tobacco, and LT G among them. Too much honesty, too much humor, too much reality. Too much free thinking.
In something straight out of Joseph Heller, however, at the same time that some are getting in trouble for voicing opinions, the Army has apparently decided that it wants to hear Soldier's stories on social networking sites. As the article says..
The commander said the unblocking of some social networking sites was in keeping with direction from Army senior leaders to have Soldiers tell the Army story.
"This order first and foremost is about establishing web-filtering standards. However, it was crafted deliberately to meet the intent of Secretary of the Army and the Chief of Staff of the Army, who are encouraging Soldiers to tell their stories and maintain contact with the American people. Leveraging social media is an effective way to tell the Army story."
Hey, you know what's another effective way to tell the Army story? NOT PROSECUTING PEOPLE WHO TELL IT. I'm just saying. FYI. This buck sergeant's view.
In other news, I got my promotion counseling today, on why I'm not going to make staff. One part of it's fair-my PTSD has gotten out of control a couple times over the lat few months, and I do need to work on that. The other part of it, though, really ticks me off. Because I'm flagged.
Why am I flagged? Well, given that it happened the day after I accepted the IVAW appointment to the Board of Directors, some people might be excused for thinking the two are linked. Supposedly, some sort of investigation was opened. However, I can't tell you for sure why I'm flagged. Why's that? Because I haven't gotten a single piece of paper telling me about it. How did I find out? By taking a peek at my ERB. Yay, Army.
There's also some dispute about whether or not you can take leave while flagged, which tells me that no one's read AR 600-8-2 in a while. The answer for those of you following at home, is that you're not allowed to take ADVANCE or EXCESS leave, but you are allowed to take REGULAR leave, because regular leave is not a "favorable personnel action", it's something you earn.
If you can't tell, I'm a bit frustrated with the situation right now.
This was originally published on the GI blog, Iraq: The Purgatorium, February 21, 2008. The author of this blog has finished his final patrol in Iraq and is heading back to the world. Congratulations. While we here at Military Lies hope you continue to write about your experiences, we hop[e you never have to do it from Iraq again.
We fly down the roads of Nowhere, Iraq, on a no one, nothing mission. We have a mission? Hahaha, fuck right off, pal. It's all just tomfoolery and assclownery here.
I'm in one of the air guard hatches of the trail vehicle, gloriously uninformed and perfectly happy about it. Hell, maybe they DID say something about what was going on over coms and I just shrugged it off without realizing it. It's all the same anyway, right?
A ridiculous traffic jam gums up the works, and we're having none of it. Can't let these crazy revolutionaries, extremists, and commuters get too close. Standard procedure, stay the fuck away. I'm on the 240 (that beautiful belt fed fully automatic bastard of all bastards), so my friend takes advantage of the situation and sticks his rifle out the back.
The car stops its advance in a damn hurry.
"What the hell was that?" someone inside the truck asks. We radio up for all to hear, "This is [Truck: Pestilence And Plague], warning shot, over."
The road is lined and constipated with angry motorists, all of them very familiar with this drill. The Americans plow and shoot their way through while everyone else is held up for god knows how long. Sometimes they get brave and shoot out into traffic and zoom away, shaking their heads in moderate rebellion, head full of "Fuck off, Americans, seriously..."
"My turn, motherfucker!" I snatch my M4 up and point it out the back. CRACK!
"God, there's another one." My ol' pal shakes his head and blasts away at a random point in the soft dirt.
It's demonic, not-all-there fun. If you go too long without firing a weapon in public places, you forget just how fun it is. I've damn near got bloodlust, I'm enjoying myself so fucking much. Any piss-poor excuse to shoot, we take it. Banging away at nothing, our own version of celebratory gunfire, like we'd just remembered that our rifles actually fire. Each trigger squeeze is a public service announcement. It's an orgy of blatant disregard for Hunter's Safety. The lead truck fires a warning now and then. We reciprocate two-fold. Someone gets too close, no problem, find an open spot of dirt and plug it. WHOOO!!!
I motion with my hand for the car to back off us, "Back the FUCK up, chump!"
As if the guy can hear me, but hey, that's escalation of force, Rules of Engagement and all that. I take aim at dirt, flip the safety off, and start to squeeze. There's NO play left in the trigger when a pedestrian's head appears in my sight.
My finger leaves the trigger so fast, you'd have thought someone shot it off, and my thumb rips the selector back to Safe. International incident averted.
That could have been REALLY bad.
"Pestilence and Plague, warning shot, over."
Later on, we stop to test-fire our weapons systems. The .50 cal is up. The other 240 then sounds off with a couple small bursts. In the spirit of boisterous male assholes since the beginning of time, I charge my 240 and squeeze the trigger like I'm trying to strangle the damn thing. 7.62mm automatic fury, the loudest chattering you could imagine, chewing links and spitting lead downrange. Passionate five second bursts until everyone including the LT is yelling, "Ok! It fucking WORKS!!!"
For some, love is a powerful emotion felt between two people, or a feeling of family that can't be described, or the deepest devotion to their God. For me, love is a fully automatic weapon unleashing chaos in my hands. I'll miss it.
This marks the end of combat operations for my friend and I, until we return. Soon, we're off across oceans, to uncharted territory, "where the beer flows like wine and the women flock like the seagulls of Capastrano." We'll sail seas of liquor, see sights, throw caution to the wind, no planning whatsoever, every action on a whim, no bounds, no ties.
We'll be no one. A couple of strangers with no history. No background. It isn't a clean slate, we won't HAVE a slate. Famished and ravenous, we'll wring every last drop of life that we can out of this place, suck it dry, get our money's worth. This trip is on Uncle Sam's dime. He's got his money's worth and then some out of us, so it's only fair, right?
Nothing is too strange or taboo. It will never be weird enough for me. Stop at nothing, sleep only when absolutely necessary, chew vitamins and keep moving. We're making our escape from Shawshank.
Just two strangers sticking out like sore thumbs in a sea of normal people.
Sounds great to me
This article, by: Brandon Friedman, was originally published at the VetVoice blog, February 18 2008
Sioux Manufacturing--the company currently in hot water for providing our troops with 2.2 million substandard Kevlar helmets--was also awarded one of three U.S. government contracts to provide armor for the new MRAPs. This happened in November, but to this point, it appears that few have made the connection.
From the Bismarck Tribune:
A Fort Totten-based American Indian-owned company has been awarded a contract to build protective armor for bomb-resistant vehicles for troops in Iraq, the company's president says.
Sioux Manufacturing Corp. was one of three companies selected to build armor for the mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles, called MRAPs, said Carl McKay, the company's president and chief executive officer.
When this story about the MRAP contract was reported three months ago, the Bismarck Tribune noted that Sioux Manufacturing was indeed under a federal investigation for "questionable business practices" involving its Kevlar helmets. However, no follow-up on this angle occurred once the company agreed to pay a fine earlier this month.
So here's the timeline as we now know it:
Sioux Manufacturing provided troops with 2.2 million shitty helmets through at least 2006.
The company came under federal investigation in 2006 after two former managers filed a whistleblower suit charging that the substandard helmets had been produced deliberately.
On November 12, 2007--in the midst of the investigation--the Defense Department decided that it wanted this same shitty helmet-producing company to provide armor for the critically important MRAP vehicles. When this was announced, no one paid it much mind, apparently, because the company had neither pleaded guilty, nor been found guilty of anything.
In late January 2008, the Defense Department--knowing full well about the Kevlar allegations--awarded Sioux Manufacturing with a new $74 million contract to produce what else? More helmets for the military, of course.
In early February 2008, Sioux Manufacturing agreed to pay a two million-dollar fine--less than $1 per helmet--for providing troops headed to combat with substandard equipment. The company called it a "prudent business decision."
I call it bullshit. These guys just got away with paying a measly $2 million fine for giving men and women on the front lines bad equipment. And now, along with the questions about the Kevlar in the helmets, we can add questions to the list about why the Defense Department awarded the crucial MRAP contract to a company under investigation for providing crappy equipment.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is still working on this, as are we at VoteVets. We're urging both the House and Senate Armed Services Committees to hold hearings on this mess. If you'd like to put your name on our petition, please click here.