A little bit more about my background: I was a lazy and unmotivated high school student, and got horrible grades in almost every class. Most of my classmates had plans to attend prestigious universities and go on to high-paying careers; many of them did just that. My aspirations were to get out of high school and never go to another school again, join the Marines and spend the rest of my life in combat or training for it. I didn’t concern myself with minor details of life, like how to make enough money to support a family. All I wanted was to someday be with a Marine infantry platoon, laying in the mud behind a machine gun, waiting for the enemy to attack. If the Marines around me trusted that I would do my job, and if I held my ground under fire, then as far as I was concerned my life was a success. Even if I died behind that machine gun.
Three weeks after high school I was in Marine boot camp. On my 18th birthday I was too busy throwing hand grenades to celebrate. When I graduated basic, I could almost see that muddy machine gun position out there somewhere, just waiting for me to lovingly wrap my fingers around the pistol grip and pull the stock into my shoulder. My Marine Corps life would be a grand adventure. My teens, twenties and thirties would be a replay of all the cool parts of Belleau Wood, Iwo Jima and Hue City. The Corps would be my happy home and provide me with everything I needed for at least 40 years. In my golden years I would be a wise old sage, tutoring young warriors.
Of course, it didn’t happen that way. Civilians might be surprised to hear my plans didn’t work out. Veterans are probably doubled over laughing right now.
To make a long story short, here’s what happened: I was 17 when I joined and needed my parents’ consent, so they made me join the reserves. I thought I was joining to be an infantryman, but I didn’t realize until after I swore in that my job would be weapons repair (curse you for taking advantage of a gullible kid, Gunny H). I spent 6 years in the Marine Reserve as a support guy and did basically nothing. I watched Desert Storm on TV and listened to stories about Panama and Somalia from guys who had been there. In 1995 I finished my enlistment, my pride at being a Marine mixed with disappointment at what I had actually accomplished.
That same year I joined the Army National Guard. I spent years serving as a tank crewman, then went to Iraq in 2005 and never got in a tank. My entire deployment was dedicated to escorting supply convoys. There were moments of terror, long stretches of boredom and frustration, and a few close calls. I came home and eventually volunteered to go to Afghanistan with a different unit. And that’s where I finally, after 20 years in the military, found myself behind a machine gun, surrounded by fellow Marines and Soldiers, waiting for the enemy to attack. The machine gun was on a humvee and I wasn’t drenched in mud, but no matter. Later, after a particularly rough firefight, a young Marine infantryman made a profound comment about something I did during the battle: “That was good s**t.” That comment was worth more than any medal I could have been awarded. And it told me I had finally achieved my life’s goal. I had stood my ground in combat.
Of course, a few other things happened to me in the intervening years between the beginning of Marine boot camp and the end of my Army tour in Afghanistan. I spent two whole years in community college but didn’t get a degree (I make sure to bring up my vast educational experience every time I use a big word like “correlation” in conversation). I got married to a beautiful, curvy, surprisingly fertile woman who has two bachelor’s degrees and poor taste in spouses. I became a cop. I moved with my family to several different cities. I became a young father, then a slightly older father of two kids, then an older father of three. Three days after I arrived in Afghanistan I broke down in front of a group of soldiers I didn’t know when I was informed my wife had given birth to our fourth child, the only one of our children whose birth I didn’t attend. I spent 18 months working for the UN police in Kosovo. I wandered the woods of East Texas for two weeks with thousands of other soldiers, searching for fallen astronauts and wreckage from the space shuttle Columbia. At work I was in fights, pursuits, and countless high-stress incidents. I wandered around St. Petersburg, Russia, trying to control my spastic lower intestine. I got in a tug of war over a roll of concertina wire with an old Albanian man in Prishtina. I watched in awe as Apache helicopters blasted enemy positions with missiles and gunfire a few hundred meters from me in Afghanistan. Outside of Baghdad I was stunned to see the night air around my humvee suddenly turn orange as a roadside bomb blew up a truck 25 meters from us. I developed a deployment-long fear of helicopters after a Chinook I was in almost crashed on landing. Back home I arrested a murderess who I’m pretty sure committed a minor act of cannibalism in the back of my patrol car. I just missed being shot by a Taliban machine gunner while sticking my upper body out of a French armored vehicle.
In other words, I lived a life that’s given me tons of subject matter to write about.
I didn’t write a book because I expect it to make me rich. Getting rich hasn’t been my life’s goal. I decided to write a book because what I experienced in Afghanistan was something I had to express, and once I decided to write a story, that was it. I was committed. Proof of Our Resolve is part 1 of the story I felt compelled to write. It’s my attempt to convey some of what I experienced through a fictional platform. And it’s my contribution to what I hope will be a widespread effort by veteran writers to dispel some of the nonsense floating around about combat and combat vets. In future posts, I’ll delve further into specifics about that nonsense.
If you’ve managed to read this entire post, thank you for your time and interest. I hope you’ll take a gander at my book , and return to read future posts. And most of all, I hope I manage through my writing to open a window into what I’ve lived, what I’ve imagined, and what kind of thoughts are kicking around in my head.