Change

I just finished my second week at a new job. I’m no longer working in the airport, although I may or may not fill in a couple shifts a week as needed. I really liked that job. I miss most of the people I worked with. Unfortunately, I needed more hours than they could give me. The bills have to be paid. With the new job, getting 40 hours a week, that will be much easier now.

https://storyofmylife.blog/2017/03/04/back-to-work/

With every change there is an adjustment period. My new hours are later in the evening than I’ve been working the last year. I’m off around 10:30 each night, but I still need a couple hours to unwind. I’ve been staying up too late at night, I think because, before, I would have a few hours after work to relax and still get to bed by midnight. Now, a few hours after work takes me to around 3am. That’s a big adjustment, but I’ll get used to it.

Another change with the new job and hours is that I don’t get to see my kids as much. This is the hardest adjustment so far. I go to work about the time they are getting out of school and I don’t get off until after they are in bed. But we’ll make it work. I will have my boys spending the night with me tonight and since school is out Monday, I’ll have my girls Sunday night. Once summer break gets here, I’ll get to spend more regular time with them. This is only temporary.

https://storyofmylife.blog/2013/12/23/my-hardest-job/

My writing has also suffered. This new schedule has me way out of whack as far finding the time to write. When I wake up in the morning (sometimes not until noon), I don’t write. I need some time to fully wake up, eat, shower, and whatever else I need to do. Then, before I know it, it’s time to go to work. After work, I’m tired and don’t feel like writing. Granted, working on my novel has been hit or miss at best the last couple months anyway, but I always made time for my blog posts. This is the second week in a row I’m writing on Saturday instead of having it ready to go Saturday morning. I fell asleep the other night with a great post in mind, wrote it and rewrote it in my head. I couldn’t wait to put on paper the next day. I spent the whole next day trying to remember what that post was going to be. It’s probably gone forever.

I’m adjusting to my new job and the hours. I didn’t think it would be a huge adjustment, but I should have known better. I’ve always had some resistance to change, but the last few years, with the PTSD and depression diagnoses, change is much harder now than it ever was before. That’s why I didn’t seriously look for a new job when our hours first got cut. I liked where I was. I get into a routine, get comfortable, and I go with it. Now I’m getting into a new routine and it will be fine. I’m already comfortable in my new job surroundings. I guess I’m half way there, as far as adjusting

My goal for next week is to have my blog post ready in advance, like I used to do. And to have something a little more meaningful. This week is more of an update on me instead of some insightful discussion (at least to me some of my posts are insightful). If there was a price for admission, you’d be entitled to a refund this week. But thanks for stopping by anyway. I promise to do better next week. Good day, God bless.

Dave

Advertisements

Milestones and Reflections

This past week, my blog surpassed 400 followers from all over the world. Granted, that’s not a huge number, but it’s still an amazing milestone to me, considering I write for my own pleasure and therapy. I didn’t set out to create any kind of following for this site, only a place for me to put some thoughts somewhere, like a way to journal. Originally, Story of My Life was a place for me to do some writing during my deployment to Afghanistan and share a few things with my family and friends. After returning from war, I took a two-year break from posting here. I then started using Story of My Life again in February 2016, as an outlet for self-therapy and recovery. Based on the number of followers, comments and likes on the posts, it seems like a lot of people can relate to what I’m putting out there.

As I celebrate a very modest milestone, I also want reflect on Story of My Life and share with some of you that might not know the progression this blog has taken the last couple of years and why I post (almost) every week. I say progression of this blog, but in reality, it’s my progression. These are my thoughts, feelings, experiences that I share here. Some entries are comical or silly. Some are dark and painful. Some are rants, usually complaining about dealing with the VA. I’ve posted poetry and short fiction stories, but mostly, real-life stories of me surviving my life.

While my first blog post to Story of My Life was 5 years ago, it’s only been in the last two years that I started a new journey of using weekly writing as therapy and sharing my story with the world. The beginning of this new journey started with me opening up about a failed suicide attempt, being taken to the psych ward at the hospital in hand cuffs by the police, and being diagnosed with PTSD and major depression. From there, I shared what I saw as obvious irony in the fact that I attempted suicide, being that I was the lead trainer in suicide prevention training in most of my army reserve units. Ironic, in a twisted way, I know.

I’ve shared stories from my deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, stories about my kids, and I’ve written some entertaining fictional stories. I’ve touched a little on the end of my marriage and I’ve exposed some of the flaws with the VA that veterans have to deal with. I’ve written about the struggles I have from time to time with depression and suicidal thoughts. I’ve also written about some of the victories I’ve had the last two years, which include sharing a couple excerpts and progress from the novel I’m writing (yes, still working on that). I’ve written about the weather, traffic, youth sports, investing, the Mississippi River, and I’ve shared some about my civilian job in a few posts. I cover most everything that pops into my head in any given week. We can all see the pros and cons in that. But I do it anyway.

I write every week and post it here because it helps me. I am able to sort my thoughts and put them in some kind of order that makes sense to me. It’s a way to track my progress as well as my low points. Each post gives me a record of what I was doing or thinking and I can go back any time and see what was on my mind. I know, I can do the same thing without putting it on a blog, but I feel that making some of these stories public forces me to put more thought and effort into this project. And I know that my story helps other people, too, which is a bonus for my motivation to keep writing and sharing. Knowing there are people out there that can relate to my issues and mental illness is helpful to me as well. I appreciate all the likes and comments of support on my posts each week.

I do this for me. But I also do it for everyone else that hasn’t found their voice yet in speaking up comfortably about their own mental illness. I share it with the world so that someone that might be in the dark places of the mind, like I have been, know they aren’t alone. If you need help, reach out. If you know someone that needs help, help them find help. You don’t have to be a professional to help someone that is thinking about suicide. You only have to get them to someone that is (hospital, police, fire station, National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1.800.273.8255). Helping is easier than you think.

For those of you that might be new to Story of My Life and want to get a bigger picture of my story, below are some links to previous posts that will highlight my journey the last two years.

https://storyofmylife.blog/2016/02/06/battlefield/  (the beginning of my new journey)

https://storyofmylife.blog/2016/07/16/depressed-ptsd/

https://storyofmylife.blog/2016/11/26/suicidal-anonymous/

https://storyofmylife.blog/2017/03/18/ptsd-moments/

https://storyofmylife.blog/2017/07/15/my-worst-war-memory/

Thank you all for your support, I hope that I am returning the favor in some small way here. And thank you for stopping by this week. Good day, God bless.

Dave

Who Are You?

I was mobilized for my second deployment in 2013, this time to Afghanistan. I was a chaplain assistant in the Army Reserves and was being cross-leveled and reunited with some great people that I previously served with. I was going back to the 143d ESC family, this time with the command. I had previously been in a battalion within that organization where I was a chaplain assistant to the chaplain I would now be going to war with. We would spend more than a month that summer at Ft. Hood, Texas, training for the upcoming mission.

During that time at Ft. Hood, it was to be decided which personnel would be going to Kuwait with the main body and who would be going to Kabul, Afghanistan and be attached to the 1st TSC to become part of their mission. I was going to Afghanistan. Then it changed. Then it changed again. When the rosters were finally finalized, my chaplain and I were in fact going to Afghanistan. A group of 80 of us, or so, left Ft. Hood on August 8, stayed a day and a half in Kyrgyzstan, then arrived in Kabul on August 12.

https://storyofmylife.blog/2013/08/13/a-day-and-a-half-in-kyrgystan/

Believe it or not, there was some miscommunication between the unit I was in and the unit I was being attached to in Afghanistan. I know, right? Miscommunication in the army? No way! Believe it. When my chaplain and I got there with the rest of the soldiers being attached to the TSC, the chaplain and I were not on the TSC’s list to be there. “Who are you? Why are you here? We weren’t expecting a Unit Ministry Team.” Umm… I’m still getting paid, right?

The new unit wasn’t sure what to do with us and didn’t have office space for us. The Chief of Staff for the TSC told my chaplain and I to go see the chaplain with USFOR-A, at his office in the basement, and ask if they had anything we could do or help with until the TSC figured out what to do with us. (USFOR-A = U.S. Forces-Afghanistan). The Chief of Staff  told us to work with USFOR-A, do what they do, and that we would get some office space with the unit soon enough. So, we went to the basement and integrated ourselves in with the USFOR-A chaplain team. That miscommunication ended up being a good thing for my chaplain and me as far as I’m concerned. It was like getting bonus adventures on what was already going to be an exciting deployment.

By the third day of the deployment, I was already getting outside the wire on missions with the USFOR-A chaplain team going to other local bases in Kabul. We were told to work with them and do what they do. So, we did. The USFOR-A chaplain team was busy, always going somewhere. Some of the missions I went on with them included taking the USFOR-A Command Chaplain to meetings, picking up the AFCENT chaplain for a visit, attending the weekly NATO ceremony at ISAF (International Security Assistance Force), and more.

 

 

 

My usual view from the passenger seat while TSgt Hivner drove, in and around Kabul.

On a side note, the USFOR-A Command Chaplain at the time was CH (COL) Hurley. He’s now a two-star general and the U.S. Army Chief of Chaplains. To this day, he is still the only chaplain to make me drop and do push-ups. But eventually, he warmed up to my sense of humor. And I’m sure that working with me is what set him apart from other candidates for the Chief job. He probably used me as a reference. Ok, that last part might not be true. (This would be one of those moments when CH Hurley might tell me to do push-ups).

 

 

 

Left:  CH Hurley after a chapel service at ISAF.  Right:  Me and my chaplain at the left,  CH Hurley and CH Fredrick on the right, SGM England and Air Force TSgt Hivner (Both USFOR-A chaplain assistants) kneeling.

One mission I went on with the USFOR-A chaplain assistant was to get a vehicle serviced. More specifically, to get the Duke system updated. The Duke is a device mounted on a vehicle that jams remote controlled IEDs. Some improvised explosive devices would be placed on convoy routes and could be detonated from a distance by the enemy with a cell phone or other type of remote control. Our Duke was non-operational that day. Completely dead. We had to make the short trip to Camp Phoenix without the protection it offered. But we made it there without incident.

DSCN3291

Me and CH Mac at Camp Phoenix, Kabul, AFG, 2013.

On another mission with the USFOR-A chaplain team, we walked from our base to ISAF. It was a short walk, but to me, it was very exciting. It was a close-up view of the area that I could not get in a convoy or on a helicopter. I filmed the whole thing with a camera attached to my gear. I had my long rifle and my sidearm with me, both locked and loaded, both ready to go if needed. The following week, we were set to walk to ISAF again, staging behind the back entrance of the building we worked in. Keep in mind, we were told by the Chief of Staff to work with USFOR-A and do what they do. Imagine the surprise my chaplain and I had when our Command Sergeant Major showed up, about to pop a blood vessel in his forehead after finding out we did a walking mission the previous week, telling us that we are not authorized to leave the base on foot. He was livid. We made other transportation arrangements and still completed the mission.

https://storyofmylife.blog/2013/09/22/the-true-risk/

I thought we were going to be in trouble, well me, not so much the chaplain. When a Command Sergeant Major expresses his displeasure with you or your actions the way mine did that day, it can often mean you are in some sort of trouble. But, there was nothing in writing saying we couldn’t walk and we hadn’t been told not to. And the Chief of Staff told us to do what they do. We simply ended up being told to not do that again. Two positive things did come from that day. First, the entire command was given a memo very specifically detailing the proper procedures for going on any mission, to include prohibiting any walking missions. I should get a ribbon on my uniform for effecting such important change in a two-star command. Second, they finally gave us office space upstairs with the rest of the unit. I guess they wanted to keep a closer eye on us.

Thanks for stopping by this week and checking out my 100th post to Story of My Life. Good day, God bless.

Dave

Chapter 6 Complete

This week I finished chapter 6 of the book I’m writing. This process is taking much longer than I anticipated when I started a little more than a year and a half ago. The first four chapters seemed to flow effortlessly. Then life, writer’s block, work, and occasional laziness with my writing project each took turns keeping me from the keyboard. I started this project in February 2016. I feel like I should be further along by now. To be honest, I thought I would be done and on my second novel at this point.

I seem to lack the discipline in using my time wisely to write like I had in the beginning of this project. My motivation I once had is not as consistent as it once was. I come up with some wonderful “writing” in my head most days while I’m at work or hanging out with my kids, but I fail to follow through by putting the words down. I’ve probably written two or three books in my head in the last year. But, for the most part, I still make time to write to my blog weekly. That is something important to me because I made it part of my personal therapy after coming out of the lowest point in my life a couple years ago.

Sometimes I go back through my blog posts and read again what I was going through at a particular time. For some of the posts, I see the title and can recall everything about the piece I wrote. For a few of them, I need to read every word again to remember what was going on in my head. I find some of my posts still very powerful. Some of them remind me the dark place I was once at in my life. Some of them remind me of victories or progress I have made. Many of them make me smile. And there’s a couple of them that are just bad writing. But in keeping with my effort to post weekly, that will happen sometimes. (That might be happening now since I didn’t really have anything prepared!)

I did have more I wanted to write this week, but sometimes life dictates how much I get done here. And that’s ok. I’m living life and sometimes that means I don’t get to write as much as I would like. I do need to be more aware of that, when life really does slow me down, and not just use it as an excuse sometimes when I’m staying up until one in the morning watching reruns on television. In my defense, sometimes that’s my only time to decompress and relax.

I don’t know if my book will ever be published, assuming I finish it. I have already looked at some options. All the traditional publishers want a finished product. I don’t think vanity publishing will be the way to go. There are some self-publishing options online that are interesting. But I’ve always envisioned my work being printed. I guess I need to finish it first. I’m about half way done. I WILL get started on chapter 7 this coming week. Stay tuned for more updates. And thanks for reading Story of My Life this week. Good day, God bless.

Dave

Previously posted excerpts from my book:

https://storyofmylife.blog/2016/07/23/448/

https://storyofmylife.blog/2016/09/17/2nd-excerpt-from-my-book/

 

The Ceremony

Sometimes I wonder how I got to where I am. Not how did I get to Afghanistan, but how I got to be where I am, doing the things I’m doing, working with the people I’m working with, seeing the world in a way that so few get to see it. Some might think it’s weird for me consider myself lucky to be here, in a war zone, away from many of the comforts of home, away from my family. I do count myself lucky to be able to serve, even here. We do have some of the comforts of home, though not near as comfortable as being home. And while I miss my family back home dearly, these that I serve with are my family here. Putting it all into this perspective, I like this life’s adventure I’m on.

One of the things I have experienced recently is the memorial ceremony at ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) held each week in front of the headquarters building there. I mentioned this in a Facebook post a short while back, but I’ll go into greater detail here. I should note that my chaplain did the most recent ceremony and will do a few more as a fill in to the usual chaplain. The ceremony is only about 10-15 minutes, held outside. The back drop to the podium where the chaplain speaks is the Afghan flag, the NATO flag, then the flags of the Coalition Forces that suffered a loss. The chaplain starts the ceremony, then a senior military leader from each of the Coalition Forces reads the names of fallen from their respective country, an Afghan National Army leader says a prayer for his fallen and states how many (too many names to read at the ceremony), the bagpipes play, and chaplain concludes the ceremony.

It’s fascinating to me to be standing there with so many other Service Members from all over the world paying respects to the fallen. Up close to the center of the ceremony there are a couple of foriegn units in formation, but for the most part, we just find a place to stand in the background and watch. We all come to attention when called. We listen to the prayers and words of comfort. Then, seemingly as quick as the ceremony started, we all go our separate ways, back to what ever it is we are assigned to do.

The United States was the only Coalition flag up at the most recent ceremony. Five American Service Member’s names were read. The first time I attended the ceremony it struck me how quick it was. I remember thinking to myself, “How can we pay proper respect to the fallen so quick?” Not just for the U.S forces, but for who ever gives their life in such a manner. As I pondered this in the week in between ceremonies I came to a conclusion.

We stop here only long enough to recognize the fallen. We have a job to do. While our hearts are heavy and we feel a loss, we have to move on and complete the mission we’ve been given. If we stop too long we get distracted. We don’t have time to memorialize, grieve, morn, or reflect. At least not all at once, not here. It has to become a background thought. It can’t be foremost in our minds lest we lose track of what we need to do to get the rest of us home safely.

Even though I didn’t personally know any of the names called at either one of the ceremonies I’ve been to so far, I still feel a connection and a loss. Maybe it’s the kind of connection that only exists for those that wear or have worn the uniform, I don’t know. But it’s a sobering reminder of where I am in the world today and what’s going on around me. Each time I go outside the wire I take it all in. I look at the people on the streets, the shops, the traffic, the advertisements. As I file it all into my memory of life experiences, I make sure to find a place in there for the ceremonies so I don’t forget we are still at war. Sometimes it’s easy to not think about it from the inside of the walls, and forget what’s going on the outside.

Take the time remember the fallen and their families. Pray for them. Pray for us. Pray for our families back home doing all the hard work of keeping homes running. We will continue to do what we do until our job is complete.

Good day and God bless.

Dave