Through A Heat Stroke Darkly

The countdown should have already begun but ol' Suspect here doesn't give two squirts of piss about how long we have left. Not til the last mission is over, then it's time to count days. Until then, it's just the same freakshow every day.

The boys all strap on their fancy high tech super soldier gear, oppressive body armor and an assortment of pads and doohickeys, and plop down on the benches in the Stryker. Prepare your nightvision. Click. Good to go.

The truck transports us to another nowhere neighborhood in a nowhere town of a nowhere country that makes big news and the ramp drops, and all of it is very familiar. Very.

Boots hit the dirt and good God is it hot tonight. Flip the NODs (nightvision) down over the eye and dart your focus in all directions, scanning through a green lens in search of that evil bastard that probably isn't out there.

Down streets, across fields, stepping over trash and concertina wire and donkey shit. Take a knee, pull security, step into the courtyard. Clear the house, wait for the word from someone who actually knows what's going on, step into the street, rinse and repeat. Gargle. Swish. Spit. Wipe the sweat out of your eyes.

My clear lens eye protection glasses fog up with sweat and after wiping them repeatedly with a filthy glove, I say fuck it and take them off. That's me, upholding the standard. Whatever, I'll take the risk of getting my ass chewed in order to see where I'm walking.

Miss a step, ankle almost went. And goddamn this place. God damn these streets, the filth, the fucking stench, the eyes on you, the gear you hump everywhere, god damn the fashionable Oakleys that protect our eyes from whatever.

Someone else misses a step and eats shit, hard. Bite your cheek to keep from laughing out loud.

Now I'm on another roof, looking out at the neighborhood, and I turn around to walk back to the doorway. A wire snags my foot and I jerk it forward. This causes part of a satellite dish to break free and skitter across the roof. Whoops. Maybe if they didn't string wires everywhere so much like spider webs.

I'm dabbing sweat away from my eyes with my disgusting glove and my face is good and red. It's the middle of the night. More houses and more streets and more trash and shit and I have no idea what our overall goal is. Hell, I never do. The only concept I can ever wrap my head around is "pull security".

You know the drill by now. Embrace paranoia and look for that monster in the closet, where's Waldo, trying to spot that threat that isn't there and you know it. But you also know what happens when you DON'T spot it when it IS there.

And so you spend a night keeping an eye out for the Islamic Boogeyman and no such luck good sir, and it's finally time to load back on the trucks and go home, get some sleep.

Wake up and do it again, mid-day.

Rooftops and radiating sunlight, the occasional breeze but never enough. More houses, more kids, more everything and the same thing we've seen for over a year now.

A shop vendor offers me an orange or some version of one. It's swarmed with flies. I drop it in my pocket and go back to looking for nothing. He starts asking me for things. Like my goddamn Oakleys.

I stand on another roof top with a friend, smoking and staring at the most miserable place I can fathom. On the street below, a guy with a tractor and cart throws rusty propane tanks on the ground. The people around him stare up at me and I stare down at them and I feel no connection whatsoever.

We're from completely different worlds, different eras, different EVERYTHING. And I'm just doing my time here. So do me the favor of not asking me for anything, not shooting at me or trying to blow me up, not interacting with me in any way and I'll be out of your hair in no time.

Kindly fuck off.


Kamikaze Kelly

After my last day of tower guard, I was afforded a day off. When the boys got back for the day, [StanMarsh] popped his head into my living area and sat down on my bunk to enlighten me on what I missed.

He pulled his camera out. On the screen, he showed me what looked like a black mop head lay on the ground, covered in dust.

"Oh, damn, is that a head?" I asked.

"Yeah. Some lady blew herself up. Look at this one, here's part of her skull."

I whistled a little.

"The smell was so fuckin' bad, dude," he shook his head, chuckled a tiny empty laugh.

While I did laundry and cleaned my living area up, they were dealing with the aftermath of a suicide bombing. Scattered body parts, wounded and killed Iraqis. The attack was targeting the local "good guy" militia.

She walks up to the house, probably trying to have a "meeting" with their head honcho. They stop her at the gate to search her supposedly. She goes with Plan B.

And it's all summed up by a dirty, disheveled, black Cousin It laying in the street. Guess she was trying to prove a point or something.

Now once again, here is where the gloves come off for a minute.

The truth is that maybe this is the stuff that we live for, those of us who wanted to come here and fight. When we see shit that went horribly bad, people all gored up, we know that we're right where we need to be. It's sick proof that we aren't just jerking our dicks.

Face down in the middle of the road in Baghdad, nothing left of one arm except the bone.

Face down, hands tied behind the back, head severed and blindfolded.

Riddled with shrapnel and bullets. A line of ants already walking into his nose (he fell on an anthill).

After a while, it isn't even all that disturbing. Just strange. Different.

Better you than us.


Don't Recruit Me

I have no place on any more bandwagons. This includes IVAW (Iraq Veterans Against the War). I have no problem with them whatsoever and I commend them for doing what they feel is right, but that ain't me.

There isn't a single cause I'm looking to rally for. I don't need any form of salvation or enlightenment or redirection. Don't need my eyes opened to the truth, I'll just kick it here in the Matrix, thankyouverymuch. Still committed to my last cause as a matter of fact.

I don't want your sweatshop petitions or dates of when your next rally is. Don't want to protest anything. Don't want to read about your Scientology. Don't want to know where mankind came from or even where it's going. Don't want to hear about evil political agendas. Don't want to fight "the good fight", don't even want to fight the bad fight.

I spent four hours in that godforsaken guard tower during a sandstorm that brought visibility down to less than a hundred meters, letting my imagination run wild. While I'm up there doing jack shit, my platoon is on a raid somewhere. When I get off shift before they return, the internet is down. That gets the old imagination running in over time. Phones and internet are cut off when something happens.

Turns out my connection is just shit.

Still, with this going on, and being preoccupied with things like Short-Timing, why would I want to rush to stand under another banner? WHO CARES? I'll be perfectly happy with what I have, no sandwich board sign required. I don't need enemies. Got enough of em as it is.

This is what hermits are made out of.

Truth is that no one out there has the answers. There ARE no answers. It's just a chaotic, crazy, fucked up world and all you can do is grab life by the short sweaty hairs and hang on, laugh in the face of it and be a little bit reckless. Most importantly, just don't bother to give one peanut-butter-jelly-fuck about half of the garbage people spaz out about. Who cares?

So please, no pamphlets, no seminars, no re-enlistment briefings, no weekend retreats, no meetings, no re-education, no fierce debates, no nothing. I don't have anybody's fight to fight but my own. Stop soliciting cuz I'm not buying.

Lemme reiterate real quick-like: I'm dooooone. Finished and kaput. About to punch the time card and toss my good work shirt aside, maybe even use it to mop up the after-party. Devoted enough time to a cause, now it's almost time to start working my way out of here, to get back into that groove of normal. Sell me that. I'll buy a thousand shares right now.

I've seen exactly what following a cause can do. Following a cause gets people killed. Religious zealots are following causes right up to the moment they push that button, leaving someone else to clean them off the street. I won't be anyone's tool anymore, not after this.

So dust off the brand spankin' new cars and write the prices with soap. Line up the furnishings and appliances, just swipe my card. File this application, check out these SAT scores, yo! Lemme rejoin the common populace and pick up where I left off!

Ah, not yet? K, well let's start working on it then. I'll be out of the meatgrinder soon enough.

And when I am, as far as I'm concerned, I'll be nineteen all over again. And I'll know everything, just like last time. Sounds great.


What A Dipshit

I perked up in the tower when I saw my platoon rolling back into the gate. I waved at the first truck, waved at the second one, waiting until I was out of their view, then proceeded to give the third truck both middle fingers. Then I turned around and stood in the doorway to the tower so I could flip the rear air guards off.

"Fuuuuuuuck yooooooou, buddy!" I yelled, demonstrating my ability to signal in traffic.

A hand reaches under the camo net of the Stryker and lifts it up to reveal none other than my First Sergeant. He points directly at me.

"Yeah, I got you now! I GOT you!"

I stood there in shock as my middle finger and the rest of my arm slowly dropped to my side, the same way my jaw slowly dropped to my chest. He has NEVER ridden in that truck before. What are the fucking odds?

Lemme tell ya about this guy real quick. Though most of the time, me and authority clash, not with this guy. He embodies what I thought the Army would be like. He's tough but fair, capable, he's not all about the bullshit. I have endless respect for the man. He's fucking awesome, but God help you if you piss him off. He'll snatch your soul.

And there I was leaning out of the tower with The Finger flying, shouting, "Fuuuuuuck yoooou!"

After that, I just shook my head and cracked open a bottle of water. Started hydrating.


Combat Blue Balls

This expression, in this particular context, is not one that I made up. I read it somewhere, and lemme tell ya, it's a dead-on description.

I sat on a cooler up in my tower, miserable and sweating. I'd pull on the neck of my body armor and feel heat steam up from my chest. My Gatorade was piss hot within minutes. Minutes dragged on and I cursed all who were responsible for putting me on this detail.

"Hey," my Ugandan counterpart broke the silence, "That ambulance is coming down the wrong side."

I looked down the entrance and sure enough, there was an Iraqi ambulance with lights flashing heading down the military lane. I snatched my M4 up and chambered a round (I don't chamber one until I dismount or need to fire) and waited for him to reach a point that justified a warning shot.

"Wait, call it up first," the Ugandan Tower Guard Veteran advised. I grabbed the radio with my free hand.

"[BossMan] this is [TowerDude], we've got an Iraqi ambulance attempting to enter [EntryPoint]."

"....Say again, over?"

Ambulance slows as a couple Iraqis near the gate try to tell him he can't come in this way. Thing is, when the insurgency first kicked off, they'd use ambulances to get through checkpoints and ambush people. When I saw it coming with lights a-flashing, it flipped that Activate Infantryman switch. I sent the report up again, cursing this guy on the other end.

"Roger...well they aren't supposed to come in through that gate. Do you have an interpreter? If you have an interpreter, have him tell them--"

Is he fucking SERIOUS?!

"--that they need to go to [OtherPlace]."

I dropped the radio on the cooler and waited for the ambulance to come closer, ready to rock. It turned around and left.

There is such a thing as Combat Blue Balls. It occurs when something kicks off and your adrenaline starts rushing and you're more than ready to get it on and all you need is that final go-ahead, whatever it may be.

And that go-ahead never comes. Gets canceled. Disregard that. Negative. Return to FOB. Cease fire. Stand down. Abort. Pull out, Goose.

So there you are, all jacked up over a false alarm, and pissed about it. Not even getting to fire that one inconsequential shot. Can't get a healthy dose of what you came here for.

Hearts and minds? Come on, we never thought anything about that when we were signing up, when we were packing our gear, when we were eating Chicken Freezedried Bleu on the plane. No, we had all that action and insanity on the brain. That's what you enlist into the Infantry for. Young, dumb, reckless assholes like myself wanting to wreak some havoc on some bad guys. The hearts and minds thing, that only comes in small doses, when you have those occasional moments out in sector that make you want to ooooh and watch LifeTime for a month, that's just not us.

Instead, you're standing there with sweat running down your face, thumb still on the safety, ready to feel like you're in Iraq for a reason, to fulfill your own individual purpose, and nothing. Sorry bud.

You wait for your nerves to settle while you listen to the radio traffic. Big incident inside the city. Large number of casualties, civilian. The reports of wounded come in systematically as injured civilians are brought in to be treated.

Burns of all degrees.
Head trauma.
Gunshot wounds.


So there's the proof. The assholes are still out there somewhere and I got a hardon that slings 5.56mm lead and agonizingly blue balls.


Another Brief News Mention

"Others choose to remain nameless, like the Usual Suspect. He's the author of one of the most well-known and gritty soldier blogs called the Unlikely Soldier. The blog carries photos and uncensored thoughts. And the author warns the content is not suitable for everyone."


Here's the article:


Thank you, thank you. It's only because people read and spread through word of mouth and links and all that, that we military blogger types get any recognition, good or bad.

Also, thanks once again to everyone for reading and commenting and emailing and offering opinions, support, criticism, toilet humor, and shivers of disgust. You are the reason I make an attempt to spell check.


Ah Shit....The Experiment Continues

Now and then I take it upon myself to firmly assert my position as the Bastard of All Bastards, Shithead Supreme. I can do this, even from the other side of the planet. With minimal effort, I had a gallon (yes, GALLON) of gorilla shit (yes, shit from a live gorilla's ass) delivered to someone's house. Was I wronged in any way? No.

Of course, this individual COULD act as my extended reach and use this newly acquired gorilla shit to get someone else for me, but in all likelihood, the dooker has already been disposed of, which is tragic.

Got a credit card and a desire to dish the shit out? go to http://www.poopsenders.com and enjoy.

The Zoloft Experiment continues with minimal progress. I still haven't been angry, rageful, or depressed, so I don't know how I'm going to gauge it when it supposedly kicks in. It may require the Old Yeller Challenge.

Side effects noticed:

-minor headache
-cotton mouth
-reduced libido (out here, I don't mind so much)

Gains thus far:

-Jack Shit.

So the experiment continues, with easy daily payments of discomfort and skepticism. I figure I have enough time to keep it up for a week once it kicks in, then come off of it and be over the half-life by the time I get back to the States. Progress reports to follow.

I had a new Ugandan tower pal today and we went with the norm: talking shop to keep ourselves awake. As always, the subject turned to women. That's a weakness in the cultural barrier. Men will always be comrades in the struggle with women, the only exception being when they are contending for the woman. The struggle between the men ends with one being the victor, and before long, the struggle between the man and the overwhelming dominance of the woman begins.

This particular guy was pretty fed up with women. He talked about a girlfriend he had for six years who suddenly cut him off, about cheating women, about a number of things. He looked legitimately bummed out, too. Not just the normal laughing and joking about the wrath of women, but seriously resignated. I felt bad for the guy. I didn't offer any lines either. In the normal world, this is the part where I motion to the bartender to get him a beer.

Here, I call up an inbound convoy and shift on the cooler I sit on.

He asked if I had a girlfriend on the FOB.

"Nope. You?"


This is the most significant event I've experienced in days. I'm going to buy him a Russian woman.


On Another Whim

I handed the forms back to the headshrinker in the digital camo uniform. Waited a few more minutes in a chair in the waiting room. Checked out the drawings sent from young American schoolchildren.

"I hope you have a nice war."

"Ok, let's see, you say you've been here before?" he asks. My attention snaps back to the task at hand.

"Yeah, I saw Captain SomeDude, last winter."

"Ok, what was that about?"

"Uh....anxiety. Occasional bouts of rage. Iraqmares. They gave me Benadryl. I stopped going. Still got the Benadryl though, if you want it back."

"Is this persisting?" he asked.

"Not as much these days," I leaned back. "Little here and there. Oh, I lied on some of those questions last time. Here, lemme explain."

I filled out some more forms, answered some more questions, explained a few things. I'm not bipolar, we know that one for sure. Said I got some sypmtoms of PTSD and depression/dysthymia or something like that. Nothing too serious, if I really had to be honest though.

"Do you ever feel like the world would be better off if you weren't around anymore?" I was asked. I laughed.

"That would be arrogant of me, wouldn't it? And no. I don't."

More hoops. Explain this. Have you experienced this? Uh huh. Hmm.

Zoloft. One bottle. 30 pills. Cottonmouth and nausea. Minor headache. Pissing all the time. And I wasn't even feeling moody or depressed or angry when I went in. Felt pretty good actually. Nevertheless, the experiment must go on. If I have improved concentration and energy in a few weeks, groovy. Let's see what all the rage is. What's it like when you chase the American Dream one little blue pill at a time? I think it's time I took a ride on this train, deep-imbedded journalism, investigative report. The test subject runs the experiments.

The doc mentioned a condition that was similar to bipolar disorder, but nowhere near as extreme, and mentioned the possibility that I COULD have a manic episode in reaction to the meds.


"Robin Williams?" the Doc began. "He's probably bipolar. It doesn't get much more manic than that."

Manic episode? Wait'll the guys in the tent get a load of me. I can already see myself laughing and having the time of my life, cracking jokes while doing pushups. "Can't help it!" I'll explain through fits of laughter. "They gave me bum meds!!! Oh what is this war coming to?!"

Down the hatch.

I gagged a little at the nausea and dry mouth on my way to brush my teeth. Shit better be worth it, cuz now I'm on day two (these little bastards take a couple weeks to build up in your system) and my stomach is already turning.

Zoloft. Hahahahahaha. It's just one crazy experiment after another, isn't it?

Put me on a commercial, smiling in the most content of ways while a slight breeze ruffles my shaggy hair and I cross my arms across my super-soft cream colored sweatshirt, sigh, then jump up and chase some chick down the beach. Zoooooloooooooft. Gimme a golden retriever while you're at it. We'll market these things like M&Ms.

Really, let's get to the bottom of this. I gotta tell ya, I'm skeptical as all hell. But good lord, am I entertained.


Tower Guard Reflections

One of the Ugandans that I work with enlightened me with some incredible information that I did not know. He told me, in a very matter-of-fact manner, that American women fuck dogs. And that's where gonnorhea comes from. You can't make this shit up.

It's cool watching Strykers roll out at night, when they turn the lights off so you can't even see them, you just hear the high pitched whine of the engine, and before you know it, you can't even hear that anymore. I never knew we were such stealthy bastards.

The April Fool's prank seems to have failed. I'll wait a bit longer before I give up and reveal it.

Gnats are horrible creatures. I found that the can of spray that's in the tower isn't repellant, but insecticide. It only works if you can spray it in their little homes. I have no idea where they dwell, so instead I prefer to shoot each individual gnat out of the air with a long blast of toxins. My brain cell count is declining, faster than normal.

In light of my theory on the uniform itself having passive effects on the wearer, I'd like to point out that while in normal attire, I obey social norms, atleast somewhat. In uniform, however, I will pick my nose and blow snot rockets, regardless of where I am, what situation I am in, and who is around.

The Ugandan who enlightened me on the intimate relations between canines and American women has never heard of Tijuana, or donkey shows. He made a mental note to hit up Google after his shift.

My platoon rolled back onto the FOB as I watched from the tower. At first I waved, but then I decided that it would be more appropriate to flip them the bird. Later on, I met up with one of the medics in the chow hall.

"I saw you in the tower," he said.

"Yeah, I waved. Then I flipped [Hannibal] the bird," I replied.

"Oh we saw that too. First Sergeant waved. Then you flipped the bird."

"No shit? What did he say?"


"Ah fuck..."

Now everywhere I go, I'm expecting to hear a voice somewhere behind me, shouting something along the lines of, "C'mere, 'Stud'!"

At that moment, I'll turn around and he'll see my hair all unregulation-long and I'll have what Army types call a "bad day."


The Yang

Talked with a Ugandan soldier during my four hour romance with complete boredom. I mentioned how our enemy is the good guy in their own eyes and WE'RE the bad guys and vice versa, and that America's Founding Fathers could have been considered terrorists by the British back then.

Then this guy backhanded my statement with one simple clarification.

The terrorists that we're up against target civilians, non-combatants. Oh yeah, forgot about that part. And they've had a personal impact on me numerous times, in different ways. This place gets you so fucked up that you lose sight of things like that.

After all, we can't seem to find them to fight them.

But yeah, turns out I DO still care. I'm just too worn out to realize it.

Well, I got nothin. Thought I'd clear that up real quick though.

Truth is, I'm pretty sure I'm coming home with a sense of failure, guilt, and other things that I can't put a finger on. I tried though, I really did. But I got no enemy to attack, so it's back to the regular game plan: survive, embrace the paranoia. Wonder why I made it through unscathed (it's called survivor's guilt). Feel like shit every time someone thanks me or acts like I personally did something when I was really just along for the ride.

Bummer it has to end this way, huh?

"Do you believe in karma?"

"Karma is justice without the satisfaction. ....I don't believe in justice."

Yeah dude. Epic fail.

How It Ends

My stomach churns and my head pounds, my sleep schedule is fucked almost as bad as this "war" or whatever the fuck you want to call it.

I spend two four hour shifts in a guard tower. Staring out at nothing. Waiting for that psychotic wiley asshole to hop in his 1977 Ford VBIED and plow through the gate so I can put the .50 cal on him and blast him and the car to shreds, slinging lead until the barrel melts or I run out of ammo, and only after my ears stop ringing would I hear someone on the other end of the radio screaming at me. Gimme my medal sir, shake my hand for the pichur in the paper, outstanding soldier yaddah yaddah, and it all means precisely: $dick.

But nothing happens. I just scan. And think. And think. And think. Too much time to think.

This whole thing ends anti-climactic as hell, that's how I'm seeing it. This crazy trip peaked a long time ago and I've been coming down for a long time, with a bitter-as-fuck taste in my mouth and no patience for bullshit.

But I'm Joe, so it doesn't matter if I got patience for it or not. Still chewing it by the spoonful. Shovelfull. Tractorfull. Om nom nom.

Let's contrast and compare the Then and Now.

Remember how idealistic I used to be? NOT AT ALL anymore. Don't care about anything but going home alive. Don't care what happens to Iraq. At all. Zero concern. In fact, I don't care about a fucking thing but getting out of this Army and trying to reassemble the fucked up mess that I've become, try to get back to something resembling normal so I can go about a normal ARMY FREE life.

Every salute is empty.

Every smile insincere.

Every "Roger" is hollow.

None of this means anything to me anymore. Iraq? Waste of time. I have nothing more to say because I've just been typing and deleting for two hours straight. Catastrophuck.



I went back and started reading some of the original posts on the old site. Who wrote that? Not me. Young and dumb, the enthusiasm dripping off of the page almost makes me nauseous. Guess you gotta touch the stove to know for sure.

All's the same. Same as it ever was. Griiiiiiiiiiiind.

Couple of days and things are going to get really monotonous for me, but don't let me ruin that surprise just yet. Looks like everything is going to come full circle. I started this deployment doing FOB details, I just may be finishing it that way too.

Sounds great to me.

There's a life sized dummy wearing a pair of my jeans and one of my PT shoes stuffed into a footlocker in front of my bed, with just the one leg hanging out. Freaks me out every morning, but it was too twisted and funny not to do it. That was after I threw it at an unsuspecting interpreter while screaming like an idiot. Scared the shit out of the poor guy.

Then we left the dummy in different guys' beds. Told them some new guy was sleeping in their bed. Good fun.

A deployment has gone on way too long when you get more joy out of chokeslamming a dummy across the tent than you do anything else. We're all on the verge of going for each other's throats some of the time. Other times we're just fine. It's just time to go. Forget this whole thing.

You get Part 2 of the April Fool's bit as soon as it's safe to divulge it. All I'm waiting on is for a certain someone to get royally pissed at me.

This person just might be madder than SHIT. I'm excited.



That's what an impacting mortar round sounds like. With those occasional rocket attacks we've been taking (I've always been outside the wire when it happened), who knows what to think when I heard it just after hitting the POST button.

I walked outside where some of my friends were smoking.

"Sound like incoming to you?" I asked.

"Haha, yeah we were just talking about that. But we didn't feel any vibration or anything, so who knows, maybe it was outgoing, short round or something."

"Yeah," I concurred. Profound.

I'm not even going to offer an opinion or what I think about this whole ordeal and what it's about. Doesn't change a thing. I'll just keep my eyes peeled for a little while longer and after that, it's all just filler in history books to me.

No one can make sense of this. There's way too many different angles to look at, different stories, different pieces of a puzzle. Catastrophuck, that's it.

Now will my unsuspecting victim PLEASE hurry up and deliver unto me their gallon of indignant anger so I can brag about what a bastard I am?