What lessons can people learn from being in a war?

The recent documentary The November War asks the question, “Do you believe a warrior ever truly comes back from war, or will a part of him always remain there?” This question is asked by the documentary maker, himself a veteran of the Second Battle of Fallujah, to fellow members of his platoon ten years after their experiences in the battle that changed the direction of that war. There was no clear answer given by the Marines, but they all agreed that warfare and battle do have a permanent change on the warrior who goes through them.

As far as real lessons, I don’t know. I can’t say there are very many brief bullet points, rules of thumbs, or quiet meditations that can be summed up in few words that describe what one learns from war. None that I know that are meaningful absent the context behind them. It isn’t that you won’t learn from war. War is one of the most fundamentally evolutionary events that a person can endure, and something so uncommon for most people that there is ample opportunity to gain wisdom from the experience. It’s just that no one experiences it the same. It will have a profound effect on you and what you take from it can be many different things. I think, for my experiences at least, a person can’t come back the same as he was before war. It will change you. It can grow you and it can take things away from you. Many come back worse for the experience, while others are given direction for life, a sense of purpose or a new understanding of the world which people who haven’t been a part of the war will never understand. It took many years to realize it and come back to a state of normalcy after my time in Iraq, but I am glad for the opportunity to do what few would undertake willingly. I believe I am a better person for it, not for any particular lesson I might take from the event, but just for the complete change it gave me.

Before I go any further, I want to make sure to clarify that I am not, by my own definition, a “combat veteran.” I was deployed to Iraq twice in 2005 and 2007 in places very near where the fighting was going on. 27 kilometers from my base was Fallujah, 10 as the crow flies, which then was a hotbed of terrorist activities. Surrounding the base in other directions, the insurgent cities of Habbaniyah, and Ramadi. The second time I went I was on a base between the cities of Hit, Al Baghdadi. and Haditha. Though these regions were center to Al Anbar and Nineveh provinces, known to the military as the Sunni Triangle and the source of the worst resistance, I myself, never saw combat. I was part of a unit that oversaw base operations for Marine helicopter units which would fly out to all these cities and help infantry win battles as well as the army’s evacuation teams. My role was very far behind whatever lines of combat existed.  The worst I ever saw were a few rockets land a hundred yards or so from where I was, which were scary but not immediately dangerous by the time I was aware of them, as well as the midnight care flights of dead warriors being flown out of Al Anbar in black bags bound for home long after the heat of battle had subsided. I never came face-to-face with any enemy and never had a need to fire my weapon in anger. I was trained and equipped with all the tools and willingness to fight, but always needed just on the precipice of where fighting was happening.

Though for many, this disqualifies much of my experience as irrelevant to warfare, I am thankful for having had the opportunity to be so near the fighting, but never be fully blooded by it. I feel fortunate that my experiences allowed me to be a part of war while not becoming overwhelmed by it. Though I was ashamed of my passive role for many years, I now realized it gave me the intense training and viewpoints to survive it, while affording me the objective distance to view warfare less as an event, and more as a science of humanity and a practical thing which must be studied and understood. I could objectify it and understand it, while not being overly jaded and traumatized by it. Because of this, I have been able to gain an understanding that many combat veterans are too close to see and that most civilians could never fathom. In the last several years since my war has ended, for me at least, I have been able to use this to help others understand the truth of war, and have been extremely fortunate to help other veterans come to peace with their experiences, as well.

I appreciate The Huffington Post for asking myself and others this question and providing me with the impetus to share what war has taught me in as complete a single place as I can. I’ll warn though, if a simple Top 10 Lessons Warriors Gain From War three minute read was what they wanted, they have come to the wrong place. These warriors, many my fellow veteran friends on Quora, have shown this to be one of the few questions capable of producing volumes without ever being complete. My answer will be no different. My belief is that if one truly wants to gain understanding of experiences so unique and so important to the world they live, they had better be prepared to endure the full scope of the pandora’s box they have opened. That said, years of research and reflection on the matter have left me with much to say, some of which I would like to share with you now.

What lessons can people learn from being in a war?

I was recently asked by the Huffington Post along with a few other veterans to share what lessons one can gain from being in a war. I really went off with it. What came out was basically the outline to a book I may one day need to write. This is one of the few subjects that is so broad that I have literally invested hundreds, if not thousands of hours writing over it over the last four years. It’s incredibly important to me so I wanted to pull out all the stops for it. I’ll be sharing the full text with all my followers here over the next week or so. Hope you enjoy it and thanks for reading.

Standing Up to Your Bully

This is my story about being bullied. More importantly it is my story about overcoming it, how it changed me, how I grew from it and how my experiences changed my life. It is a deeply personal story and one which I haven’t shared much, but I want to now. It was terrible, but it made me the man I am today.

 

When I was in the seventh grade I was bullied, a lot. I lived in a small town and when you get ostracized there is little getting away from it. I was always the pudgy kid who was really smart in elementary school, so people hated me. I was raised to be a kind person and do right. I didn’t have the defense mechanisms that others had. I felt like I was always a bit of a target and that I could never really have close friends. I was lonely and left myself vulnerable when I was young to being hurt because of how badly I wanted to have friends.

Then one day in the seventh grade one of my “closest” friends started a vicious rumor for little other reason than to… I still have no understanding why. Perhaps to gain points with the popular crowd. Does knocking people down 50 notches raise you 5? Was it somehow worth it? This was one of the worst betrayals of my life and why I am always suspicious of people, always. Still though, this wasn’t the worst of it, not by far.

After that it seemed like my whole life spiraled out of control as everyone started whispering and laughing after I walked past. It felt like the whole school was in on it.  My friends completely abandoned me, afraid that they would catch loser, and I felt totally lost. It was probably one of the worst long term periods of my life. The worst part was how my old friends seemed to turn at the drop of a hat if it meant being on the wrong side of the loser line. I’m not exaggerating to say that I literally felt completely alone. Worse I felt that the only time I could escape was when I was actually alone. Worse yet, I felt like every time I turned, someone wanted to take their shot. In truth it lasted for years, but the culminating event happened when I was in the seventh grade when a friend started a rumor and then my bully found out about it.

The rumor lasted for about five months. Then people got tired of it. People didn’t really make fun of me, but I didn’t have any friends either. There was one person who didn’t get tired of it though. Andy. He was in the grade above me and ran with the popular 8th graders. It seemed he couldn’t go a day without trying to create some mental damage in me. Andy made songs that they would all sing, talk about me where they knew I could hear, pick on me in every available opportunity. I hated him. I loathed him. I hated my life.

This went on until the end of the school year, another three months. One day Mom was driving me home. It was about four days until the last day of school. She saw me looking incredibly down. I hadn’t ever told her what was going on with me. It had been a very hard day, I don’t remember what he did I just knew that I just wanted to be alone in my room.

She said to me, “OK. You’re going to tell me what is going on. I see you like this like this for months and you never tell me what is going on. What is happening with you?”

I told her everything. I told them what they were saying, how my friends had started the rumors to get me to look stupid, how it blew up from there, the songs, the names, and especially about Andy. I remember starting to choke up as I looked off out the window of the car.

A minute or so passed.

“Jon, tomorrow when you go school I want you to go up to this Andy and…”

I thought a dozen things in that second. “Ask him why he is picking on me” or “You’re hurting my feelings so please stop” or “If you keep doing this I will tell”. These were all stupid and I couldn’t believe that my Mom would have thought that would do anything. They were stupid, but that wasn’t what she was going to say.

“Jon, tomorrow when you go school I want you to go up to this Andy and I want you to kick his ass.

“…”

I just looked at her, completely shocked. This was not the woman I had known for the last 13 years of my life. The woman who sang me to sleep or took me to Church or raised me to always do what’s right. This wasn’t her. This was a scary woman, kind of like a bear with her cubs I guess. This I will always remember as the moment I met my mother.

That afternoon we talked about things. She asked me why I put up with it. The funny thing was that I could probably have fought him and done well enough at any time before that. Surprised? I had been in martial arts for several years. I competed and had placed first in the State in sparring two years in a row. Two years after this I received my black belt in Tae Kwon Do. Fighting wasn’t really the problem, it was not fighting. As miserable as I was I had one rule to follow. Since knowing how to fight gave me a certain advantage my mom also gave me a very important rule.

Never throw the first punch. If someone else attacks you, give it back to them, but I better never throw the first punch. However afraid I was of Andy came nowhere near how afraid I could be of my mom, of letting her, the people at Church, or my martial arts instructor down. The tragic irony in all this was that the rule was intended to keep me from becoming a bully.

So now is when she gave me the most important lesson of my life. She told me that I needed to make a choice. I could fight Andy, I had the option. I should definitely get in trouble for it, since I was basically starting the whole thing and I would spend the last four days of school in ISS. ISS was in school suspension and where the “bad” kids went. She also told me that if I got in trouble at school she would have to follow her rule that she would double the punishment and I would be grounded. She also explained that if I did fight him I would gain his respect and the respect of everyone who saw it, and that they would probably not pick on me any more. This was the first time that I ever contemplated that doing something traditionally thought to be wrong, would be right and that it may be necessary to make a sacrifice for something more important. The day I met my mother was the day she taught me how make a choice, a real adult choice.

I decided I would fight.

Of course she had made her opinion pretty clear when she gave me the anatomy lesson on how to both cause the most debilitating damage and pain to my victim. Did I mention she is a nurse? Yeah all that healing knowledge of the human body can be a dangerous thing when you mess with her kid I suppose. It was nice to know that even though I would have to be grounded, I had her support… and training.

The next day I planned it all out, set up the location, waited for an excuse, called in my actors, played out the scenarios. I had a plan. I would wait until after athletics class. There was a walk from the football field to the middle school that was a block away. We would be away from any adults and it would be just me and Andy, and all the boys of my school. All the people I wanted to send a message to and no one who would stop me.

That day I went to school with a sense of purpose. I felt different than I ever did. This day I wasn’t wishing that he would leave me alone. I was thinking “Oh I hope you do it.” Second period came around and he walked past my desk. “Hey there ‘poopiehead’.” ( He didn’t say poopiehead, but this isn’t an adults only thread.)

Thank you Andy. That was all I needed.

I spent the rest of the day looking forward to the sixth period. When we got out of class I remember the adrenaline. I don’t think I had been as prepared for anything in my life, perhaps not since. Two of my friends were beside me.

Me: “Hey… You guys want to see a fight?”
Chris: “What… You serious?”
Me: “…”
Me: “Go.”

I am serious that is exactly how it happened. They were excited and ran off to tell Andy. I don’t know what they said, I just remember Andy turning around yelling out “What’s your problem?”

Me: “YOU’RE MY PROBLEM!”

I walked up to this guy, stared up at him with an intensity that I couldn’t recreate if my life depended on it. I stood up to him, and the six inch, fifty pounds of post pubescent advantage he had on me. It didn’t stop me a bit, didn’t even slow me down. I was in some sort of rage that was the expression of a year of pent up hate and frustration. I don’t know what could have stopped me at that moment.

Andy: “What are you talking about? You’re ju-”
Me: “YOU KNOW EXACTLY WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT! YOU HAVE BEEN MAKING FUN OF ME FOR A WHOLE YEAR NOW AND I’M SICK OF IT.”
Andy: You know I don’t actually remember what he said next…

Let me step out to explain how guy fights work. In tradition the ceremony takes place when two young men are angry at one another. They will have what is known as the face off. Next is a round of back and forth banter. This can last a few hours until one will eventually lightly touch the other, usually on the shoulder. Then the other will touch him back. Then it turns to poking and poking harder. A light push, a shove and then a real push and then after around seven hours after the “fight” started someone will have finally thrown a punch and the real fight will begin. Well not today. Back to the story.

Andy: “Something, something, some-”

And then I hit him in the face. It wasn’t one of those pull back and go straight at him. It was a sweeping arc of a wild child whose fist was suddenly possessed by the spirit of a sledgehammer. There was the moment of shock in his face and of the kids who were watching. No one thought I would actually do it. It was a good feeling. Every punch that landed felt like gaining my life back. I didn’t even feel his punches. I fought well. We punched each other back and forth. At some point we were rolling around on the ground. I never stopped hitting him, kicking him, whatever I could to just cause him pain. And everyone saw it. They saw the chubby nerd they had made fun of, viciously attack a kid a year older, six inches taller, 50 pounds bigger who had it coming.

This went on for several minutes. Maybe hours, I don’t know. It was crazy. Then everyone else fled back to the middle school. That could only mean one thing… faculty. We both looked to the football field and saw the coaches walking towards us. They didn’t seem in any real hurry. All the other boys were gone. My mission was over. The fight was done. We started to walk over to the coaches and take what was coming to us.

They took us to the office of the field house and asked what happened. Andy, obviously the victim of this kid a head shorter than himself, pled innocence and ignorance as to why this crazy person would attack him in such a manner.

Me: “THAT’S BULLCRAP AND YOU KNOW IT! YOU HAVE BEEN PICKING ON ME AND CALLING ME NAMES FOR WHOLE YEAR! TELL THEM THE NAMES! SING THEM THE SONG! YOU KNOW EXACTLY WHAT YOU DID!”

The coaches had to pull me down. Like I said before, I was pretty set on getting in trouble for all this so I was ready for whatever the coaches were about to say, except what they said. They gave me a slap on the wrist, almost nothing… We have to sit next to each other at lunch? (We didn’t.) Seriously? Is that all? I just beat the crap out this guy and you aren’t even going to write me up?

Ok…

The next day when my mom dropped me off at school, I got out of the car and all the seventh graders cheered for me. They called me the “Giant killer.” That was one of those moments you bottle up and pull out on those really rough days. The 8th graders snickered at Andy. He also had a few more bruises than I did. That was a great moment. As much as I hold onto the vision of seeing all the seventh graders hooting and cheering I wish for a moment I could have turned around to see what the look on my mom’s face looked like when she saw the same thing.

I never really understood why I never got in trouble though. It was a small town so by that point, everyone knew. Not just the kids, but everyone; every teacher, every parent, the guy at Subway even asked if I was that kid who beat up Andy. So as I said, I was confused to say the least why I never saw the inside of any office for what was now the most important piece of town gossip. At least not until a few days later when my Mom went to talk to the coaches for an unrelated matter with football camp. They were laughing about it. It seems that the whole town thought he needed it. It seems that I wasn’t the only one he pissed off. I think she was proud when they told about how they thought I was going to tear into him right there in the office.

Coach: “Yeah I bet Frank (Andy’s Dad) sure had some questions that night.”
Mom: “Frank?”
Coach: “Yeah. Frank… Frank X.”
Mom: “As in Mr. X… the High School Principal Mr. X?”
Coach: “… You didn’t know?”

Nope, we sure didn’t. It was probably for the best. She might not have told me to do it. I might not have wanted to do it. There are so many things in my life that might not have happened if I had known. But I didn’t and they did. And for what it is worth their name wasn’t “X”, but this story has become rather public so I don’t want their names out there for the whole world to see.

I would easily say this was the most formative day of my childhood, and probably the most formative of my life. I was respected after that by other members of the school and I didn’t get picked on much more than anyone else. It gave me courage to stand up to things that I was afraid of. It influenced why I joined the Marines and how I treat others. I grew up without a father so many men like me never receive these lessons as they should, but I did. I did because I had a mom who knew what it took to make a boy into a man. She said the things that most people wouldn’t, because they are weak. She wasn’t, and because she was strong now I am too. I am very thankful that I was fortunate enough to have a mother who could give me the lessons she did.

There is more to this story though.

No one made fun of me about that ever again. From time to time little bullies would rise up. They would say things for a few weeks, then I had a way of reminding them about Andy. I enjoyed high school much more than middle school.

The Principal? It turns out he didn’t really hold a grudge. What I was really afraid of was that, since he was also a coach of the football team, he wouldn’t let me play. Well he did. He actually started me… offense… and defense… and special teams… as a sophomore. Apparently since the whole town was annoyed with his son who had a massive chip on his shoulder, I did him a favor.

And Andy? Well it turns out he never made fun of me again. He also played football too. A few years later we were starting together. We had spots right next to one another for the next two years. We practiced together, we played together, won together, we lost together, we celebrated together… We high fived.  I had gained his respect and maybe a little bit of his fear. Our past was behind us. And he was apparently better off for it too. People say that they were happy that he had it coming and that he grew up from it. I don’t know of anyone else he bullied either. We’re Facebook friends now believe it or not. That doesn’t exactly mean we’re old buddies or that we ever were, but he hasn’t been my bully since that day.

 

That single event taught me more about being a man than any other event in my life.

  • I learned how to make up my own mind and weigh the consequences with the rewards. I learned that real men accept that there are consequences and rewards to every choice. I can’t just do what people expect because it is the right thing in their eyes. Sometimes I have to make the hard choice. I have to make sacrifices and that sometimes is the only way to gain any real success. My mom left me with the very clear lesson that I could make absolutely any choice so long as I was willing to accept the consequences.
  • I learned that sometimes you have to fight to protect yourself.You can’t do the right thing all the time. It won’t get you anywhere, besides miserable.
  • I learned the importance of strategic and political planning. I waited all day to fight him in the one spot where we were the farthest from any adults who would break us up, where we were surrounded by the other boys and I could fight until I decided it was over. From there I delivered just the message to Andy and to everyone else I wanted.
  • I learned that my mother knew some seriously scary stuff about hurting people if you have to. She’s a nurse so her knowledge is meant to heal, but it is dangerous knowledge when she get’s angry. Seriously, I outweigh her by a good 150 pounds, stand a foot taller, have military and martial arts training and I don’t ever want to piss her off. .

 


In Summary:
I wanted to leave readers of this article with a single lesson about bullying. You’re a victim. It isn’t fair, but it is happening. It won’t stop because you tell or because you wish it away, or because you are hiding in the bathroom and no amount of crying into your pillow will fix it either. You need to accept that no one is ever going to help you. No one wants to see what you are going through and most of the time, they just aren’t thinking that hard about you anyway. You are in this alone and you have to fix the situation. You have to accept that no one cares as much about your situation as you do. Your bullies are also never going to change. Something has to make them see that it is wrong what they are doing and that, at the very least they are going to have to find someone else. Peace is a sweet ideal, but the funny thing about peace is that it only exists when there are no bullies. Pacifism, forgiveness, turning the other cheek or being the bigger man are luxuries of people who just haven’t been desperate enough yet. You have to stand up and scream that this isn’t the life you want to live. You were the victim and now you won’t be. You have to fight. My wife and I have debated about how we would raise our sons and daughters to handle bullies. I will let them know when it is right to fight. I will teach them how to fight, with their fists and their minds. Most importantly I will teach them about bullying and how much it hurts people and how they should never stand for it, not as the victim, not even as the witness, and never the perpetrator. I hope others do as I do too, so that there might one day be less bullies and less kids like me who stand up, and hopefully one day no more kids that don’t.


unnamedJon Davis is a US Marine Corps veteran writer, focusing on the topics of US veterans and international defense. His work has been featured in Newsweek, Forbes, Gizmodo and elsewhere. He is also a writer of military science fiction with his first book, The Next War, due out early this year. You can follow Jon Davis via his personal blog Jon’s Deep Thoughts, and can support his writing via the web donation service, Patreon.

What is this Patreon Thing?

Have you ever experienced an online artist, or piece of artwork in your stream so amazing that you wished you could have given that dollar you gave this morning to the barista who screwed up your coffee to them instead? Do you wish that there was a way to give them a tip for taking the time to do something amazing for you and everyone else for nothing? What if you could help them keep doing the things they love, and which you love too, by donating a very small amount, along with dozens, even thousands of others, every time they produce something amazing? What if that act could help thousands or creators go from being talented hobbyists to full time creators of modern culture? I think that would be cool, too.

For thousands of us who are completely enslaved by a need to make stuff we love it can be a real burden on our lives. We’ll spend years doing this hobby when others are being legitimately productive and making their parents proud with that beautiful thing called income. At some point we get brave enough to share our creations with the world and the few that aren’t beaten down by the constant onslaught of the comments below our babies, those little pieces of art, to improve and grow to the point that we reach a few people out there. Eventually, if you stick with it, you wake up and a good day begins with a message on the network you post to reading:

“I saw what you made last night. It was amazing. Thank you so much!”

But kind words, likes, shares, and upvotes don’t actually often solve the problems real artists have. They don’t pay tuition, feed the kids, fix the roof or keep the lights on. They won’t keep an engine from breaking down, get the dog its shots, or suspend an eviction notice. In fact, they distract artists from doing those things. Basically, there are only two options for artists, live years of a marginal lifestyle themed by self-sacrifice and dedication or live off of patronage from parents or wealthy connections for those years of exploration and creativity until they are introduced to the right people. I’ll say this, I’m not very impressed with the depth of the second option. Life experience is something that feeds great art, not good art, great art. Great art isn’t created by a kid with talent, but who has never experienced real pain. It’s created by aforeign immigrant who makes beautiful images and video games, it’s created bycomic book artist who has struggled with prejudice and injustice her whole life, it’s created by a single mother and nurse finally living her dream, it’s created bya writer who bravely smiles as she faces a reality that she will one day be blind.It’s works by warriors leaving the battlefield, firefighters, janitors and CPA’s that showcase the marvelous untapped cultural wealth that almost exists in the world today.

But these people don’t often get to just make art for you. They’re responsible people with people who need them. More often than not, they’re forced into cubicles and shift work, stocking shelves or fixing pipes, not because they are dimwitted, unimaginative, boring people or even because they don’t have talent, but because people rely on them. They sacrifice what they want to do, for the people that need them. Instead, those who we’ve handed over our cultural legacy are those kids who have some talent and who are funded by wealthy patrons to make cool things. They are the creators of culture most responsible for the images, writings and sounds of today. They will be the people who future generations judge us by. It isn’t that some of this isn’t good, but thousands of years from now, when our ancestors are judging our writings of the wall, which artists do you want to be remembered? What people and what stories do you want remembered? Who are the storytellers you want telling the story of the era in which you lived?


I’m a writer who enjoys writing articles and short stories on this site and I dedicate a lot of my free time to the hobby. I’ve written because I enjoy it, sometimes to the detriment of other pursuits. I’m a Marine, honorably discharged in 2008 after having served in Iraq and now I am a teacher in my hometown’s middle school. I’ve done many other things as well, but still, I think of myself as a writer. Writing though, has never been something that has paid any bills for me. It hasn’t come close. I’ve written thousands of posts, essays, answers and stories over the past several years and collected quite a following in doing so, the whole time, though, knowing that it was probably never going to help me lead the life I want to live for myself or my family. My hobby was sort of my burden.

Then I saw a youtube video from an artist I love and at the end he talked about this new site called Patreon.

I could go to his page on Patreon and donate a dollar for every new piece he put out; no obligation, no real rewards, nothing really in it for me, just a regular donation to something I want to see continue happening. I love this guy so I did. I pledged $1. He puts out about two videos a months, so as yet, I have given him a whole $3. I couldn’t be prouder, especially considering that the other 650 patrons he has now contribute over $4,000 every time he uploads something new. By my estimation, he’s made $13,126 since I watched his video in the first weeks of June.

What Patreon is is a crowdsourcing platform that allows individuals to fund their favorite artists and creators for the creations they produce. It’s a lot like Kickstarter except that it focuses on small regular contributions per piece of artwork or per month, rather than a massive one time contribution. It also allows a monthly cap so that you don’t go over any budgets you set. Kickstarter is great for launching projects like companies, building a massive artistic installation, or writing a whole book, but suffers for people who just create pieces of creative content on a regular on basis and aren’t planning on changing the whole world. People who are newer and aren’t already established with a community aren’t really served by it either. Basically people who didn’t already have a large following, or have a great big massive idea and the social clout to back it up didn’t really have anything before that could help them grow.

That’s what Patreon does. As a patron, you find artists you love, be it in photography, writing, comics, paintings, web videos or whatever and you pledge whatever amount you want per creation. It could be a dollar or more and through the magic of the internet it doesn’t matter what currency you’re using. It automatically gets converted into the currency of the person you’re donating too. It’s completely non-obligation. You aren’t paying for anything. You’re just giving them a tip for creating great artwork.

Basically, for the first time, anyone can show the same appreciation and respect of a great artist that they show to that waitress who screwed up your coffee this morning. So I thought I should give it a try too. I created an account after a few days of debating, and my wife finally telling me to just do it. It took about 20 minutes once I had everything ready. It was super easy.

I uploaded my first work, the first chapter of a present I made for my wife on our 10th anniversary. It is the story of how we started dating when we were still back in highschool that I called I Drew a Monkey in a Math Book and Now I’m Married on one of my blogs The Writer’s Block. From it, I got my first patron, my greatest fan, Kathy Davis. Nothing really happened for a few weeks after that. Then I decided to do something else. I started to upload the answers I wrote here on quora. What are the implications of Kurdish forces having taken over the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk? (June 2014). A few days later I sharedMilitary Intelligence is not an Oxymoron and I Know You From Somewhere…, all three originally popular pieces of content here on Quora.

And then I got a notification that someone became my patron, someone who hadn’t given birth to me! He pledged $2. Over the next few weeks I uploaded a little bit more and gained a few more and few more. One even pledged five whole dollars to support everything that I was doing! It was miraculous. People actually did like my stuff.

Now I’ve been doing it for about a month. I am up six patrons and $13 for a year-to-date total of about $50. I couldn’t be happier. It doesn’t exactly get me very far. At about six to ten hours a work I put out, it is still far less than minimum wage, but it is growing and I am excited about where it is going. But the money isn’t what gets me; it’s the sacrifice. Upvotes, likes, shares, these are all nice, but they are an infinite resource. You could give them out all day with no real burden to yourself, but a dollar is something of real value. It hurts just a little. You had to do something to earn it and it can do anything for you. Letting it go means that you gave something special. It meant that you gave upsomething of real value to yourself to say, “This is something of value and I want this person to keep going,” or at the very least, “This is worth the tip I gave for my cup of coffee.”

I think what Patreon is doing is something so very important and wonderfully executed. It allows and encourages extraordinary everyday people to create and communicate things that will everyone can enjoy without needing to do the most massive. Furthermore it allows people who want to contribute to culture in the ways that they can afford. It really shouldn’t take and endowment, or a foundation, or wealth to create culture. It should just take people who want something to support. Patreon makes that happen in a way that can be of use to so many people.

I don’t work for Patreon. I’ve never met anyone who does. I’m just a user who’s fallen love with a product that has done far more for me than I could do ever in return. If I’ve made you interested in site I really want you to try it out either as a patron or as someone who creates. Check out my site and see how it works here: Support Jon Davis creating Short Stories and Essays in Military, Sci-Fi and Life. Whether you decide to patron me or not I hope you decide to give the site a try. Great things are coming out of this place.

And you want to know what else is so great about it? I just made $13.


Thanks for reading!

Everything I write is completely independent research. I am supported completely by fan and follower assistance. If you enjoyed this post and would like to see more like it, follow my blog Jon’s Deep Thoughts or you could show your support directly by donating at my fan support page here: How you can support Jon Davis’ independent writing.

Welcome Newsweek Followers and Listeners to Art of Charm!

Hello everyone and welcome to JDT. You’ve probably recently discovered this page thanks to either my recent publication in Newsweek or my appearance on the Art of Charm with Jordan Harbinger. That said, happy Veterans Day. I’ve been very blessed this week to be able to put out the message of veteran awareness and I appreciate you taking an interest to check out my site to find out more.

If you would like to know more about me, I’m a writer and blogger who focuses on military and veteran affairs. I often also write on the future trends of military technology as well as communicating veteran perspectives on current conflicts and Middle Eastern Affairs. I am also publishing my first book on the future of warfare next year, so if you’re interested in military fiction with a well researched technology and geopolitics bent, park it here for updates in the months to come.

I publish in various venues across the web, so for anyone who enjoyed seeing what you read or what we talked about on the podcast, or would just like to stay up to date on current projects, I encourage everyone to follow me here by email newsletter or otherwise. Here I keep followers up to date on what I am writing about, where I am being published and where to find what I am working on next. You can also follow me on Quora where I answer on just about anything.

I would also like to add that everything I do from outreach for returning veterans, communicating Middle Eastern disturbances, and writing military fiction, I make available for free, but am supported by volunteer patrons via the crowdsourcing platform Patreon. Patreon is a crowdsourcing website where people can donate on a voluntary basis to artists, writers, musicians, or whatever to create content and be funded on a regular basis. It’s like Kickstarter or GoFundMe except that instead of many people making small donations for one large lumpsum payout, many people donate a small amount to be paid out every month or whenever a content creator publishes something new. It’s not a way to start a company or do one huge project, but instead to keep the creators creating many small pieces that, together, make something really huge. The program lets patrons set monthly limits and creators can give special rewards, such as exclusive content and anything else they can imagine.

I’d like to ask everyone that, if you support the work I’m doing, to pledge through my patreon support page. If you decide to fund me you’ll get special access to works I will be doing in the future as well as bonus content to my books and stories that won’t be published anywhere else. You’ll also get the satisfaction of knowing that you’re helping support military and veteran issue awareness as well as helping me fix my leaky roof. Also know that 20% of my pledges go right back out to funding other veteran artists and entrepreneurs attempting to get started, as well.

That said, welcome aboard JDT. Please explore and tell me what you think. I’ve recently rebuilt the site to make it more relevant and updated. If you see anything you enjoy, please comment and share. Thanks again for visiting.

How I Stabbed Myself With a Katana

Did I ever tell you guys about the time I was stabbed with a katana?

I was 15, it was the dead of night, and I had some swords. That should be enough, as anyone with a functioning imagination has already completed most of the unimportant details, but I will tell you the rest anyway.

When I was 15 I earned my black belt in Tae Kwon Do. To commemorate the event my mother got me a set of decorative swords. Don’t blame her, I was a smart kid most of the time. I know that there isn’t really a relation between Tae Kwon Do and Japanese swordsmanship, but whatever, they were cool. Stop nagging me about the details.

The stabbing:
So one night during Christmas break I was up messing around in my room. I have always been an insomniac so 1 o’clock in the morning is when I like to do stupid things. Well it was about 12:30 when I decided to try out something I learned with my swords. It was a simple move. Slash, stop, turn… Slash, stop, turn. Not difficult. So I tried it. It felt really good. I was doing well. Now walking: Step, slash, stop, turn. Step, slash, stop, turn. “Dude I am awesome at this. I bet I could kill a samurai or a zombie like this!” So I did as I did and tried to get faster with it. Step, slash, stop, turn, step, slash, stop, turn, step-slash-stop-turn, step-slash-stop-turn, stepslashstopturn, stepslashstopturn, then… step, slash, turn, stop. Did you notice the change there? It was a significant flaw in the order of operations.

I came to an abrupt stop in the way that something stopped my sword other my will alone. I looked down to see what event had taken place. I could see my sword stabbed right through my favorite pair of shorts. That was the first thing I noticed, a hole right in the middle of the leg of my most comfortable pair just on the inside of my left thigh. Right through them. Then I saw it; a small red stream start to flow down my leg coordinated with a sensation of heat pulsing throughout my body.

OH DEAR GOD! I JUST STABBED MYSELF IN THE LEG WITH A SWORD!”

What kind of an idiot actually does this? Then I pulled the sword out and it was the most… interesting… feeling I ever had. Just imagine the last time you pulled a blade two inches wide four inches out of your leg. It was kind of like that. Then the blood started gushing. I was terrified, but not for the reason you might think.

Mom had just had the carpets cleaned that day. My leg was gushing blood. In all honesty, the stabbing had happened so fast that there was very little pain and my only real thoughts were that if I couldn’t get all the way to the kitchen to stop the bleeding without getting blood all over the carpets, she is going to kill me. I suppose in hindsight I should have been much more concerned with the location of the artery I came literally within an inch of piercing. Yeah, I suppose Mom wouldn’t have actually killed me, but that might. So anyway, I began the long trek from my room to the kitchen. You can’t see it as you read this, but imagine me hobbling on my punctured leg as fast as I could in such a position so that the blood stayed only on my leg for the 7 miles between my room and the kitchen. That is really the best part of the story. You are just going to have to believe me on this one. I get to the kitchen and try to apply pressure to the wound and stop the bleeding. I’m proud of the fact that, amidst all the trauma and tribulation brought about by my self inflicted wound, I only lost two drops to the carpet. That’s pressure under fire there ladies and gentlemen. I was then getting the bleeding under control and for the most part it had then stopped. I thought to myself, “I wonder if I am going to need stitches for this.” I pulled the rag up and (gush). Yep, I am going to have to get stitches. I have to tell Mom.

So I hobble the 15 miles to my mom’s bedroom. Did I mention that she had also had minor surgery that day, too? This was really not the day to stab myself, but when is really? So I hobble into her room and I wake her up… like this:

“Mom I need you to wake up… Don’t turn on the lights!”

“What is going on?” she moaned

“Mom, the first thing I want you know is that, what we have here… is a learning experience.”

“Oh, what did you do!?” she exclaimed exasperated

I tell the story as if I am used to this sort of thing; calm, cool and collected, as I inform her of my situation. She tells the story as if I was a terrified kid half passed out on the verge of delirium. I bet it was somewhere in the middle. She turns on the light and looks at what I have done as I tell her the story. I took the washcloth I was using as a makeshift bandage off and the gaping wound started to gush again. She was shocked at first, but knew what to do. She is a nurse and had been for my entire life, so I was now in my safe place. She wasn’t too terrified and knew that I was relativity safe in my current situation, so I was calmed now too.

We went back into the dining room where we got an ace wrap and secured it tightly around my leg. From there I laid down and gathered myself as Mom went off into another room before we went to the hospital. I remember waiting there for what felt like an hour wondering what was taking so long. Now that I was safe, the adrenaline had subsided and the pain started to creep in. My leg was starting to throb and I was getting weak. I wondered what was taking Mom so long. I hobbled in there to see and it looked like she was reading a magazine!

“What are you doing!? I have a giant hole in my leg and you are just reading a magazine! Get me to the hospital!”

She was actually reading the insurance paperwork from her hospital to see if it would be cheaper to take me there (an hour away) instead of just go to the local hospital. I was kind of turning into a baby at this point and insisted on the quicker option for a misguided fear of my own demise.

So we got to the hospital, the only one in my sleepy little town of 2,500 people and I was talking to the nurse who stitched me up.

“I bet this is the first time you have ever had some stabbed with a sword before in here.””Nope.” he said frankly.”Really?”

“Yeah, but at least you did it to yourself… and you weren’t drunk… and it wasn’t your wife.”

So that is my big story about the time I stabbed myself with a sword. I hope you enjoy.

Want a special bonus that readers of that one didn’t get? A video of me actually telling the story… while drunk!

 


 

This has been an independent, publicly funded article brought to you by patrons via the social crowdsourcing platform Patreon.com.

Thanks for reading! Everything I write is completely independent and made completely free through the generous support of fans and followers through tips and donations made available through Patreon. If you would like to show your support for independent writers like me you can find out more here: Support Jon Davis creating Short Stories in Military, Science Fiction and Life.

 

Help Me Write My Book!

Hello friends and followers of Jon’s Deep Thoughts.

I just wanted to first say thank you for all the support you’ve given me over the last few months. I’ve had crazy growth that I never expected and it wouldn’t have happened without the smartestQuorans in the world following me and promoting my stuff. This blog is really special for me because it lets me communicate what I am passionate about to everyone within my reach.So I really happy to announce a project I am working on. For the last several months I have been piecing together parts of a story. It’s based on one of my favorite works. Since June, I have been rewriting Jon Davis’ answer to What is the future of war? into a web book. Each month, I am planning to put out a new chapter detailing the trials and tribulations of tomorrow’s warriors as well as showcasing the actual technology that will be in use. When the project is fully finished, I want to publish it as a completed work.

But I need your help to do it. As I have detailed before, images in your writing are eye-candy. No matter how wonderful the writing, people won’t take notice in their feed if there isn’t something to wow them in that first instant. For that, I need custom artwork to showcase each chapter. For that, I have teamed up with artists to create my images, images which have high standards.
Above is the premier image for the project based off Future of War, LCpl Nathaniel Romero – 2024, by a new friend Alex. Alex is a great guy, and a real professional. Professionals cost money. This work was $80 well spent. What I want, though, are a few dozen just like it. I’m very happy that I can offer everything I write completely for free, but making quality stories takes time and resources from my pocket. Quite honestly, creating what I want is beyond my reach, by myself.
So for that, I need donations from my friends and followers. Not in the form of upvotes and shares. Those are nice, but direct support is what I need to complete the project. So for that, I’d like to ask all of you who have been a fan of my work, learned a few things from my essays and articles, enjoyed my stories or those looking forward to what is coming to donate via the social crowdsourcing platform Patreon. Patreon is a new crowdfunding platform created by musician Jack Conte and developer Sam Yam. It allows artists to obtain funding from patrons on a recurring basis or per artwork. It is popular with musicians and webcomic artists and has been featured in Forbes, Time and Billboard. It means that every time I post a long form essay, major answer, short story or other work, your donations will be automatically donated. You choose how much you want to donate and you can set any monthly maximum you like.
If you become one of my patrons you’ll be entitled to a few special rewards others don’t. First of all, you’ll have access to a special feed for only patrons. This is a channel where I connect with only my greatest supporters. Those with access to the sponsor’s channel also get access to special patron only publications which may include bonus artwork, story behind the story postings, sneak peeks, and special updates from me. Other rewards include free ask-to-answers on any questions on Quora, membership in monthly Google Hangouts, getting a character named after you, or even a sponsor’s spot for you company at the end of every major published work. Lastly, you’ll be directly responsible for helping something really cool happen, if you donate.
So that I am clear, this is an absolutely no obligation deal. All my content is free and always will be so long as I can keep going. I’ll still keep writing, but would like your help to make sure that it lives up to something with my name on it. Also please support by upvoting, sharing and promoting content I share on this board. I’m really excited to start this new chapter in my writing and hope that all of you will join me on it. If you would like to support me directly at patreon please head to my site here:Support Jon Davis creating Short Stories in Military, Science and Life

How do I deal with the bitterness that has been festering inside of me since I’ve returned from the Middle East?

A question was asked on the social media website Quora. Another veteran expressed his frustration over trying to rejoin society after his combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. I deeply sympathized with his frustrations and felt the need to reach out.

The Question:

How do I deal with the bitterness that has been festering inside of me since I’ve returned from the Middle East? How do I stomach listening to ‘patriots’ who talk about things they know nothing of? How will I ever fit back in to our society after hiding in my apartment for the 5 years since I’ve returned from my final deployment? How do I deal with being so lost? How can I live with this anger for my countrymen who sent me to two wars and then refuse to pay thier taxes while carrying so much debt? All while watching American Idol and wearing a “I support the Troops” Tshirt, what does that even mean anyway?

The Answer:

Welcome to the club.

I’ve been where you are now and there are many of us who are frustrated. After four years in the Marines and two tours in Iraq followed by my biggest challenge, going to college with my 18 year old counterparts, I decided something: I hate Americans. That feeling isn’t really as severe anymore because I eventually mellowed out, but I do feel for you.

During this period I wrote these answers that might help you see that you’re not alone. Read them, see if they make you feel better.

In them you’ll see a unique amalgam of intense pride, disillusionment, patriotism, shame, self-sacrifice, self-righteousness, arrogance, entitlement, and an ounce of old fashioned chivalry. Sound familiar?

Warning: People who have never served in the United States Military will notappreciate the rest of this answer. Don’t get pissy. I warned you. Having said that, there are a few things the person asking the question should let go of if you want to move on.

1) How do I stomach listening to ‘patriots’ who talk about things they know nothing of?

Did you ever have that one E-3 in your unit who just thought he was really smart? So smart in fact that he tried to recreate a scenario he read in The Darwin Awards because he just knew that he could make it work? These are called idiots. You remember, the ID-10T’s. They are morons on a good day and in their best day all they do is talk. The political ones you will run into on the outside are no different. Most of them are just self-righteous know-it-alls who really love their country. Maybe, or maybe they just hate all the people who see the world in a different way. Fundamentalists don’t just wear turbans and the sooner you realize that the better. They all say the same thing, “I really wanted to serve, but my [ random pissant disability ] wouldn’t let me in.” And for some reason, seem to think that entitles them to some sort of glorified status among veterans. I don’t get it either. Stop trying. Just avoid eye contact. Smile and nod. Walk away.

2) How will I ever fit back into our society after hiding in my apartment for the 5 years since I’ve returned from my final deployment?

You won’t. Society isn’t all that great anyway. I went through a recluse phase, too. It isn’t productive. The best advice I have is to try to find a veterans group where you can vent your frustrations with an equally annoyed bunch of old farts, so that you heal in safe way among a fraternity of people who understand you. It really does help to talk it out with people who have been there. Even if they didn’t exactly go through what you did, they have experienced stuff like it or at least have thought about it far more than a healthy person should. You’ll need their experience and their wisdom. Your friends won’t get you. Your family won’t even get you. All they can offer are cliches and Dr. Phil nonsense advice. I wish I had done it sooner. I stayed angry for way too long and it cost dearly in the relationships I could have made as well as in my career.

Besides that, what you need to do is realize that you aren’t supposed to “fit back in”. You’re special and not in that Barney the Dinosaur sort of way. People respect you because you have done stuff that blows their minds, or at least their stereotypes of you blows their freaking minds. In some circles, you can walk in and command a room just with your presence alone. Warning though, eventually they get to know you and you don’t live up to their stereotypes, so they get bored and will want to throw you away because you somehow failed to live up to their impossible expectations. Sorry about that. This paragraph was supposed to be uplifting.

That said, you do have a lot of skills that most people don’t. You have a lot of character traits that others don’t. Values, ethics, ideals and expectations; the whole shabang. Your problem is that you suck at dealing with people, certain kinds of people anyway, and I am sorry to say, those certain kinds of people are everywhere. You are going to need at least, in my experience, two years to learn how to fill in the personality gaps between you now and normal for the rest of humanity before you can fake it well enough to happily work at a job with people.

3) How do I deal with being so lost?

Veterans of Foreign Wars – They have a waiting list that’s a year shorter than seeking counseling through the VA. It is a sad joke, because it is true. You should try to talk to people. Old vets are cool because you just hang out and they don’t mind being there when stuff gets real. If you start crying, civilians want to label you and run for the door. Old vets, just remembered when they cried. Sometimes they give you a hug. Sometimes they tell you to suck it up. They also know how you feel and can relate in a way that reminds you, “That’s right, I’m normal. I just went through a really crappy time in my life.” At the point where you seem to be, you might need to get started on the process to talk to a professional. I had a friend who was really messed-up after Iraq and it really helped him. It just takes dropping the macho, “I’m too tough to speak to anyone about my head problems.” or “There are people worse off than me,” or “I didn’t really experience anything actually traumatic.” It’s only your life you’re wasting if you don’t.

4) How can I live with this anger for my countrymen who sent me to two wars and then refuse to pay their taxes while carrying so much debt?

There is something that I really want you to realize and it will help you get through a lot. Your countrymen never sent you to Iraq or Afghanistan. You did. The United States is an all volunteer service. There is no draft. There is no obligatory service and there is no conscription. No one forced you to go to MEPS and no one held your hand up while you swore the Oath. Judging by the time frame, you also probably knew there was a war going on already. From that point until your DD-214 you gave your word that whatever happened, you would fulfill your promise to serve the Commander-in-Chief, the chosen representative of the combined will of these fifty states according the Constitution of the United States.  If war was going to happen, it wasn’t the fault of any one of them, not even all of them. If you feel that you suffered from war, you have to remember that it was because you chose to go. I’m sorry to be real like that, but you have be responsible for that part or you are just going to get more and more bitter about what others did to you, when really, it wasn’t “others'” fault.

As for the “and then refuse to pay their taxes while carrying so much debt?” have you ever read the book Starship Troopers? It’s a really great military sci-fi for military folk. It was written by a former Naval officer who really seemed to capture the feel of people in the service… four hundred years from now, anyway. One part I remember most is that, in that world, the only people who can vote are the veterans. It isn’t that they are the smartest or even the most qualified. The reason they are the only group allowed to vote is that they, alone, have proven the one trait that should be a requirement of citizenship, the willingness to sacrifice for their society. They don’t make poor choices which are self serving because they, alone, have actually invested real skin and blood into their society and they won’t break it with a black hole entitlement programs, an unproductive criminal corrections system, forgiveness for the chronically ineffective, and enabling hand out programs.  No other group, by virtue of their existence, has proven they have a vested interest in the future of their society, which they are willing to defend, besides the veterans. We don’t live in that world, but I understand what Heinlein was trying to say. You’re going to have to accept that there are just so, so very many people out there who are complete and utter leeches on society who have a vote no less powerful than yours. That is because we live in a democracy where merit, ability, education, and social mobility are traits that don’t really matter, just how many friends you have. Perhaps I should have said that democracy was based off of the belief of the fundamental equality inherent to all God’s children. Alas, I didn’t and I am sure your know why. Until the day when Heinlein’s fascist utopia/draconian nightmare (depending on your point view) becomes real, we are just going to have to accept this fact, too; worthless people matter just as much as the greatest in a democracy. For better or worse, this is how it will be in any sort of perceivable future. As yet though, this has been the most successful setup for self governance, so far, so it can’t be that bad. As I have already said, you also volunteered because, at one point, either because you were naive or really, really idealistic, you believed that that democracy was worth defending. If you still value it, you have to let go of the anger toward the idiots that also get to vote even though the have never and likely will never contribute anything but deficit to our society.

5) All while watching American Idol and wearing a “I support the Troops” T-shirt, what does that even mean anyway?

Americans, in general, are pretty self-centered creatures happy to sit on a couch and wait for, or even demand, whatever in the world there is to entertain them. Many will live their whole lives without progressing the human race forward one inch. That really terrifies me, but they have different values than you do. That’s why you joined the military; to do something heroic, or something important, something adventurous or just something different, or whatever, but they didn’t. Many of them are just worthless blobs demanding more intake of whatever gives them their individual fix. Call it American Idol, heroin, weed, sex, politics, money, work, or whatever. They just need whatever it is that makes them happy and that is all they will ever know.

That’s why when they faced the risk of their blissful happiness and their precious ability to consume entertainment at a breakneck pace was blown out of the water for the first time in sixty years, all anyone could do was thank a Marine for going out and doing the nasty stuff that kept their right to a 50″ surround sound maintained. That is seriously the only reason that many of them do it. They got scared of living in a world not as blissful as America in the 1990’s and the military suddenly seemed like the only group of people who would make that happen again.

And then what happens? They watch the news and hear that we are at war. They know a guy who went to war. Well, they know someone whose brother is in the war. Or maybe he is just in the Air Force. They don’t really remember, but they sure do feel like they are at war. No they aren’t rationing. No they aren’t planting victory gardens. No they aren’t recycling pig fat, panty hose, or iron shaving. No they aren’t buying war bonds or even enduring any sort of increased taxation to pay for this war, but they sure do feel the effects of that war, goshdarnit.

The fact is that many are simply saying “We support our troops” because you went to war and they didn’t have to. Others are simply just saying it because of social obligation. Nobody wants to be that guy who doesn’t support the troops, you know, like the entire country after Vietnam. They sure didn’t in that war, when absolutely no one thought it was important. Then veterans were spit upon when they came home. At least my generation still gets handshakes, social prestige and from time to time a real, true to life thankful person will buy me a coke after they find out what I did.

I do want to go on record to say that most people aren’t really the problem. The problem is a minority. There are about 10% of the people, of no particular race, religion, creed, or color, who come together as individuals to form a collection of the most loathsome, despicable, and worthless human beings imaginable. Not to themselves, of course. To themselves, they are the most magnanimous human beings on the face of the planet and worthy of all that was given to them, and so much more. It is only people who see things through your point of view that they are so horrible. (Me too, by the way.) You have to realize though, that they are a minority, a small number of people who command a massive amount of your attention because you feel very passionately about certain things which you have given so much for and have a certain set of values which many do not truly appreciate or even fathom. Once you learn to adjust your blinders during times when you don’t want to deal with those kinds of people which bug the crap out of you, you’ll start appreciating a lot of other people around that aren’t such oxygen thieves.

Summary

Wars are going to happen. Sometimes they will happen for reasons we say are good because the alternatives are probably worse. Other times, incompetent officials elected by incompetent voters will start them. At those times men and women who are willing to do whatever their leaders ask of them, in service of a country they are really proud of, will have to carry out the acted will of the United States. You already did that. As someone else who did, I am sincerely thankful for you doing that and I am very sorry that you are going through “the suck” right now. But you owe it to yourself, and to the rest of us veterans, to get better. There is a festering horde of worthless no-goods out there becoming more and more dependent upon the almighty “They” for absolutely everything in their world. You really are one of the few people out there with unique skill and value set, buried underneath all that pent up frustration and angst which we all share. Get some help and go talk to someone. You really are blowing the best years of your life being pissed off and it isn’t doing anyone any good, at all. Once you correct yourself, you’ll be happy you did. I promise.

-Semper Fi
Sgt Jon Davis (inactive since 2008)

Blues


An independent, publicly funded article brought to you by patrons via the social crowdsourcing platform Patreon.com.

Thanks for reading! Everything I write is completely independent and made completely free through the generous support of fans and followers through tips and donations made available through Patreon. If you would like to show your support for independent writers like me you can find out more here: Support Jon Davis creating Short Stories in Military, Science Fiction and Life

What do troops keep in all those pockets they have?

Most of those pockets are not really pockets as much as well-designed accessories, each with its own designed role, which are to be arranged by the individual troops’ need, specialty, designation, and mission to fit onto the Interceptor and MOLLE systems.

main-qimg-711d2d920c761a43c0b4f2a421586355
All that to say that when you see pockets, I see magazine pouches. Each item you see was engineered for a purpose. Those long ones in the front, for example, are for holding extra ammunition in the form of fully loaded magazines. Look at the Marine below and note the fact that those pouches are about the same size as the magazine inside his weapon. Each pouch holds about two magazine; some can hold three. They are meant to be worn as near to weapon as is functional to keep the momentary time when a warfighter is out of action because of gear to a minimum.

main-qimg-757ff64df8b85da4704b345fc440d12bOther items which are usually visible on a deployed Marine or soldier’s gear is a larger square pouch which carries a whole medical trauma kit, hanging bag to retain spent magazines and a much smaller pouch for carrying grenades, (or candy). Other attachments can be used which are useful for carrying radio equipment, or virtually any other piece of gear. Most anything can be converted to capable of being carried on the armor, depending upon the Marines mechanical creativity. If you look above again, you can see the first aid kit and the drop pouch worn on the Marine in the rear.

main-qimg-277b93c7ea58505066af1f048e5e2cd6The system is actually pretty remarkable in that it was created to provide such a secure, but customizable platform for any number of tactical needs. The basic armor is lined on the outside with many, many bands of material that a Marine or soldier will lace whatever accessories they are issued or buy in whatever arrangement and configuration best suits them. They may arrange them according their NCO’s instructions or on their own. There is always a minimum of expectancy, as in, you will have at least these pieces of gear on your equipment at all times. These pieces are always issued, but, as I said, the individual can buy better versions if they within military limits of acceptability. Take my gleaming example for a moment. In the image below, you’ll see me with my IFAK (first aid kit) in the front, and three magazine pouches which I bought because they were better than the standard issued magazine pouches of the time (2005).

imagesprotective_20custody

As of when I was in, there really weren’t set rules on where what went. As I said, it was more or less up to the individual on how they arranged their gear. There are, however, many guidelines and armament philosophies or rules of thumb. For example, some combat marksmanship philosophies said that a shooter should never remove their firing hand from the weapon. For that reason, the non-firing hand is needed to be the one reloading the weapon in the event that the magazine begins to run low. A smart Marine would be wise, then, to keep their magazine pouches within ready reach of their non-firing hand so that they do not have to reach across their body and the weapon to grab a fresh magazine. Such actions take precious seconds, which are a commodity highly valued in tense situation. It would also be wise if that dump pouch was then also behind the magazines so that in one smooth set of motions, the magazine can be changed out and the spent one dropped in the dump pouch.

MeMany different people will arrange their gear in many different ways. Some arrangements focus on arranging gear around a particular weapons system. Some focus on left or right handed shooters. Some focus on additional mission requirements and all try to maximize comfort. All of these can also be changed out completely in about an hour. Yeah, there is actually quite a lot of thought that goes into it. In addition, not everything we carry might be tactical. Now besides that, we might carry anything. Pocket utility knives, pens, note-taking material, covers. Below, you will find the contents of my cargo pocket during most every deployment, training mission, field op, or act of unpleasantness I experienced in the United States Marine Corps ever since I went on my first Iraq tour starting in 2005.
main-qimg-ef6a7b1514e8ee4f5669adc49a1a0dcaBesides the knife and the boonie cover (hat) there was Froggy. Froggy joined me during the first half of my first combat deployment to Iraq. He came in a flat rate US Postal Service shipping container with assorted letters, cards, sweet treats, and nice sox, addressed from my wife, safe at home. Inside the package was a small stuffed frog with a tiny crown and and a little red heart in his hands that read “Kiss Me”. When you pressed the heart it made a loud “smooching” sound. I think it was Jennie’s way of being there for me when she simply could not be. Maybe she just liked him because he was cute and different. From then on, I carried him everywhere I went inside my cargo pocket, nice and safe, but hidden away, because we were all big, strong, manly men back then.

One day, while in formation within our hanger, I popped to attention with the rest of the platoon. My fist struck my pants leg as the platoon went silent and the Gunny took his place at the head of the evening muster. As my fist contacted with my leg, a loud, long, “smooching” sound emanated from my pocket. Half the platoon heard it and half of them knew it came from me, though none of them could have guessed what exactly it was that they had heard. I wasn’t going to stop carrying Froggy for that. I had become too attached to him. Something had to be done though. That afternoon, in the a dark corner of a dusty bunker, deep within the sands of Iraq, I cut out Froggy’s heart, a symbolic act I am often reminded of when I think about him. From that point on, though, he was ready as my silent companion.

For the next three years, in fact, Froggy was with me. Throughout the rest of Iraq in 2005 he rode in that cargo pocket. On every long day and even longer nights, there he was. When I came home, he was there when my wife and mom greeted me. When I was promoted to Corporal and immediately sent on a ten-mile hump to celebrate, he was there too. In the training missions for months in Yuma, you could still find him. Finally, for my second tour in Iraq, the longest and some of the hardest months of my life, every time I needed to be reminded of the existence that somewhere there was something far greater than this miserable existence, all I had to do was reach down in my cargo pocket and feel his soft, velvety gesture. For three years of the United States Marine Corps after he joined me, beneath whatever facade I had to project, he was with me, for every step of every hike, every rifle range, every hole that was dug, every fearful moment, sandstorm, nightwatch, and all the tears shed both in remorse and in homecoming. We was present for all of them, hidden away peacefully in my cargo pocket.

main-qimg-fd00d740c824c768bee260f45870ffe8It’s been many years now since Froggy has seen action. Now, he is retired. In this new life he peacefully rests on the shelf above my desk. Sometimes when I write I look up at him staring off into the distance and think about all the adventures we shared. Now he’s a bit dustier and not quite so soft to the touch, and even going bald in a few places. Regardless of this, I can honestly say that at any given point, if anyone were to ask me, “Hey Marine, what’s in your pockets?” I’d reach down and pull out a little stuffed frog, because at any given moment, no matter where I happened to be, he was always there when I needed him, a task he remains true to, even today.

 


 

Blues

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Finale of I Drew a Monkey in a Math Book and Now I’m Married

Gorrilla Cover Part VI

(Start at Chapter One)

Midway through the summer between Junior and Senior year of high school, Jennie and I found ourselves on a trip in South Texas. We had to drive back home to Oklahoma. It was just us; no parents, no adults, and just miles upon miles of open road running the central Texas prairie. We spent the whole day together, most of it submerged in torrential rains. There was a monster gulf storm that seemed to follow us the entire length of Texas. We laughed about it and talked for the whole trip. There are a lot of things we still talk about from that trip. After a nine hour drive that should have only taken five, thanks to the storm, and luck perhaps, we arrived back home. By the end of the day, though, we weren’t quite ready to part ways.

We stayed together for what was left of the day and we found ourselves talking again in her room. That night, I was laying on her bed after we had been talking for a long time. It was not a particularly special conversation. If my life relied upon retelling even a single word of it, I would be gone forever. It was just more of the same little nothings kids in love talk about late at night; music, movies, each other, the events of the day.

There was a moment of silence where I began to think back about the day. It was perfect. I had spent the whole thing just hanging out with this beautiful wonderful girl who made me happy. I wanted it to be like that forever. The seed of a notion began to take root and reach up toward the light in my mind.

“(What is going to happen to us after high school? Will we be able to stay together?)” I wondered.

“(We probably won’t be able to. Not in the real world. She’ll probably go to college and who knows where I will end up?)”

“(I don’t want to lose her. Probably, the only real way this could work is if we got married.)”

“(I wish we were old enough that getting married might be an option.)”

“(Why, exactly, aren’t we old enough? What really makes a person old enough to get married?)”

“(Why should I wait until I am older to find the girl I want spend the rest of my life with, anyway?)”

(Jennie is everything I want…)

Returning to reason, momentarily, I caught hold of the hazardous progression of thoughts taking place in my head.

“(This is crazy. I am only seventeen. I can’t know what I want in a woman. Why would I even be thinking is?)”

I laid in silence for a while longer, pensively staring at the ceiling. This idea of mine wouldn’t leave me. I kept on thinking about the inevitable reality that High School couples don’t last after High School.

I decided the only way to resolve the situation was to give her the responsibility of proving to me that this was supposed to happen. There would need to be some test to validate my inkling. It would have to be something difficult, but that a good wife would be able to do, at least by limited imagination of what it meant to be a good wife. If she somehow passed the test, then my mind would be made up. If she failed, perhaps it was never meant to be, anyway. I could be done with the emotionally charged internal debate and go back to being a seventeen year old kid, free of the ludicrous tugging of fanciful heartstrings. Fate would determine what I needed to know.

“(She is great, but there needs to be something else. I need a woman who gets me. I think that a good wife should be able to understand when something is wrong with her husband, even if he doesn’t say anything at all. I have probably been thinking about this for a while. If she asks me in the next minute if something is wrong I am going to ask her to marry me.)”

It was an impossible thing to ask. It wasn’t fair to her to ask such a question. I had based the future of our relationship on a belief that a wife needed to have a telepathic level of empathy toward her potential partner. It was wrong to do that to her, put so much of a burden on her that relied on her never even knowing she was being tested. It was a foolish thing to do. A wiser person would have realized that thoughts like mine were the types of ideas which ruined what would have otherwise been beautiful relationships. If I were a wiser man, I probably would have never said them, but that didn’t matter.

Had I had the time to consider my thought processes, I may have dismissed it as the uncontrolled daydreaming of an infatuated youth. I didn’t have the time, though. As I finished that fateful sentence in my mind, literally, as the period landed in the sentence of my thoughts, I heard a whisper from the other side of the bed.

“Jon, is everything alright?” Jennie said.

“…”

“(What? Seriously?)” These were only real thoughts I could muster. I was startled at the immediacy of which my test was passed. I didn’t even have time to realize what a stupid idea that was! To place one’s fate in the whims of miraculous luck! Perhaps, however, it wasn’t really luck. Perhaps it was exactly what I needed to do, and her reaction, was exactly what I needed to hear.

“(Umm… No. It is ok.)” I thought, gathering myself.

“(She is the perfect woman for me. And I did say that I would, so I am going to. I’m doing this.)”

I rolled over and looked at her. She was concerned by my apparent absence. I talked to her and told her what I felt. I told her what my mind had been up to and what I had decided. I told her how much the time we spent together meant to me and how I never really wanted this day to stop. I told her that I wanted to spend my life with her.

That’s when I asked her to marry me. That was it. That was all the thinking about it and planning that I done. I hadn’t ever really considered it before that, not really. At that moment, though, I made a choice that was by far the most important of either of our lives, and I did it almost completely on impulse. There was no planning; no consultations; and no time for hesitation.
In all honesty, if you find a woman who is sweet, smart, hardworking, and wonderful in all the ways you need, you should consider taking a few chances for her. If, however, you find a girl who does all this and also instinctively understands you so well that her abilities border on clairvoyance, you really need to drop everything and take the leap of faith. I was rash like a child and almost completely driven on emotion with only the slightest ounce of reason to back it up.

Her concern for my few minutes of silence from a few moments earlier could now, more easily, be described as a stunned silence.

She said she would have to think about it…

Think about it.

Those words hung in the air for a moment and my heart sank. Sank is perhaps the wrong word. It’s too soft of a word. It crashed to floor taking with it my raptured spirit. Both descended with an almost audible thud.

What had I just done?

I told her that thinking it over would be fine and that I understood. That was a lie. I was scared, terrified to be precise. I was struck sick. Once the cold realization of the brash actions and all the potential consequences were fully realized I was left with the feeling that you get that there is a deep, deep chasm in your chest when you suddenly realize that you have already lost something extremely important, but the actual event was yet to occur. It was the looming presence of doom. More than anything, at that moment, I was wishing so very, very much to have been afforded, just for one moment in my life, the ability to return three minutes back in time and forget the whole thing ever happened. Internally, I was a wreck. Outwardly… I said that I understood. As I said before, that was lie.

It was late, so I slept on her couch that night. That was one of the worst nights I have ever had. I knew that was one the most reckless things I had ever done.

“Oh God,” I thought. “She is going to get freaked out and break up with me.”

“She will tell the whole school and make a laughing stock of me.”

“I should just walk in there and take it back… Stupid.”

“Then again,” I considered. “She might say, ‘Yes”…”

I eventually went to sleep. The next morning I went to see her. We talked for a few minutes. She didn’t bring it up, as if neither of us must have been thinking about the giant, invisible thing sitting there in the room with us. We would probably still be sitting there if I didn’t work up the courage to ask, again. I asked her what she thought about last night. After the night I had just had, I have never been so afraid to ask a question, let alone, ask it again. All my worrying and the cold sweat I finally fell asleep in didn’t prepare me for what she said.

She said that she spent the whole night thinking of reasons why she shouldn’t do it. That was swift kick in the stomach. Then she opened her mouth, as if to finish the thought. The next thing she said was that she couldn’t come up with any.

She said, “Yes.”

That was how we decided we would get married. We were still seventeen.
We didn’t tell anyone because, frankly the community wouldn’t support two seventeen year olds considering the idea of marriage. We grew up in a small town, but this wasn’t the 1950’s, after all. It just wasn’t wise. It wasn’t normal. It was ludicrous by almost any standard you could logically imagine. The town would not be understanding. And then there would be our families.

We spent the next year “preparing” ourselves for it, it being a life of marriage directly following a life of childhood. After school we laid in bed talking about our fantastic plans and built up our dreams together. ‘How many kids would we want?’, ‘What type of house would we want to live in?’, ‘What jobs would we have?’, ‘Would we have dogs or cats? Or both? How many?’
I think that that year was actually much more important for us than the romantic story above. We really contemplated our situation and started to really grasp the things we had to do. We began to think like married people as we kept up our secret engagement.

That’s when, I think, “I” and “me” started to dissolve into the much greater solution that is “us” and “we”. It’s an important transition. I don’t think most couples appreciate the moment. You don’t really realize when it happened. There was just a moment when you stopped making plans for you. You instinctively wonder how your choices will affect not only yours, but her life. If you’re lucky, that other person will feel the same way. Everything is “we” from then on.

In keeping up with our tradition of secrecy, I went, on my own, to the local jewelry store. She may only be a girl to the eyes of many, but she was my fiancé. I wanted her to feel like a bride. I wanted her to feel like an adult and that I was serious about her. I wanted to give her a ring.

Something about me believed that a woman deserves enough respect from a
man for him to sacrifice his wages to show he loves her and wants others to know it, too. Those wages aren’t just some obligations. It is a symbol. Those lost wages are a symbol of something more. They symbolize the very real time that was given up working, doing jobs my not like, for people you may not enjoy. That means something. That means a real sacrifice. It means that that person is willing to suffer for you to be happy. It doesn’t matter if she was seventeen or seventy. It is a romantic gesture to be sure, but more than that, it is a gesture of deep love. I am old fashioned, obviously. I know it might be materialistic, but I wanted her to know that I would work for her. I saved up my money and I went to find a ring.

I wasn’t stupid about it, though. I may be reckless and haphazard with most major life decisions, but not with my money. We were too young and too poor to be stupid. I went right after Christmas to take advantage of one of the best sales of the year. (Thrift is important to young couples, by the way.) It was January and we still didn’t want anyone to know, but the girl who helped me just so happened to be in our class. We lived in a small town and gossip was still more of a hobby than the internet. Well… I walked in, saw her and decided that this was just how it was going to have to be. The girl behind the counter, Myka, was, however, a very trustworthy person, and a good friend. She didn’t tell anyone about the ring. She just held her hands up to her mouth, wide eyed with glee that comes from someone living vicariously through the experiences of a friend. It felt really good to have the first person I told be so genuinely supportive and happy for us. She helped me pick out a great one. It was $500, but perhaps a more precise measurement would be to say that, simply, it was everything I had.

A few months later, we made it official. By this time, our families knew that we would probably get married, but they didn’t know that we had already been planning for the better part of the year. I showed them the ring at moments when Jennie wasn’t around to see. She still didn’t know I had it for her. My mom and I went on a family trip to San Antonio and we invited Jennie to go, too.

As the week drew to a close, I took her out to a very nice dinner. It was March 20th and exactly one year to the day since we first went bowling, or rather, didn’t. It was the anniversary of that first awkward date, that first pizza, first movie, as well as the first of many other firsts. I formally presented the little band on the one year anniversary of our first date. We were sitting in the restaurant, looking out across the city in lights. I gently held her hand as she looked over the sparking cityscape. As subtly as I could, I slipped the ring around her finger. She didn’t look away from her view, but a large smile painted itself across her face. To ever receive a ring like that was a surprise to her. At least now we had a story we could tell to people about how we decided to get married, though. Jennie still polishes it lovingly with pride.

The important things that I remember about it was the complete sense of shocked support we received from the community. Basically, I think everyone loves a love story. You will always get support at the face value, but when they think about it, people thought we were silly kids, that we had a lot to learn, but mostly, they thought Jennie was pregnant. Well, it’s been over a decade since then and no little Jons or tiny Jennies are running around, so I hope that theory has been officially debunked. We were young and had a lot to learn about the real world, that much was true, but we would learn that together.
We were married on June 1st, two weeks after we graduated high school. The ceremony was a lovely little quaint affair. “Lovely”, “quaint”; these are euphemisms that are best translated as cheap enough for kids to afford. We were married by the pier of the lake. It was a perfect summer afternoon, except for the rain. It rained, of course. Nothing in our story is storybook, after all. Weather didn’t interrupt the ceremony, though. We were already at the reception when it started. We aren’t superstitious people, but it still makes you nervous. On the way to our honeymoon at a romantic little bed and breakfast near our hometown, there was a rainbow. Jennie saw it. You know, sometimes it’s important to forget the rain and remember the rainbows.

We were eighteen years old then. We were each other’s first real boyfriend and girlfriend, first loves, first… well, we were young and experienced a lot of firsts together. We had been dating for a bit over a year and a few months. We probably would have done the same thing as everyone else our age. We could have kept dating after we went to different colleges, tried the long distance thing and then either would have broken up or gotten married a few years later, anyway. That would have been the sensible thing to do, but that’s not the way the Davis house works. Some bets you just don’t hedge. You go all in or don’t play at all.

We went all in. We did whatever it took to stay together, even if it meant that we had to be worlds apart. I knew that I had responsibilities now. I had a young wife, going to college in a few months. I wanted her to have a good life. I knew that I didn’t want to rely on our parents to support us, now fully realized adults in every sense of the word. I had to make some difficult choices. The most difficult choice would be how we would support such a young marriage; two kids by most people’s standards, no skills, fresh out of high school. The solution was simple. I had to leave.

When I knew that we were going to get married, I felt that the only way I could ensure that we would have the things we needed, food, security, and a place to sleep, was if I joined the military. I joined the Marines. We were signing paperwork to on our honeymoon, a fact Jennie was very aware of. She was strong, though. She understood that this was something we needed to do. She was strong. She was always strong in those days. Perhaps it was her strength that kept me going through far more than I would have wanted to go through. We spent only one week together before I had to leave. I left for Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, California on June 6th.

It would be another two years, three deserts, two moves, three hundred phone calls and twelve time zones before we could ever really be together again after that, but that is a whole other story altogether.