Sunday, November 28, 2010

letters in December

in December
write me a letter
and I’ll be writing letters to you
write a friend
write someone in Warrior Writers
write a letter
write a letter every week
put a piece of paper in the mail

I’ll miss you but we’ll be staying connected through words
building bridges with words

i'm off to the PI, be in touch in 2011. take care of yourselves, and each other
happy hibernating...

Monday, November 15, 2010

Voices of Veterans Month

Thursday, November 18th, 2010
Doors open at 6 pm
The National Liberty Museum
321 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA.

Free Screening!

Stories from those who have served and the challenges they face when they come home. Following the screening, Mind TV will present a discussion with Marsha Four, Vietnam Vet.

Light refreshments will be served. Please RSVP to Eric

Warrior Writers is a partner in this event!!!

Friday, November 12, 2010


How do I not be a veteran?
Can I go back and unwaste
the years spent trying
to win a schoolyard
game of king of the hill?
All that time we
thought we were men,
but couldn’t see we’d never
left the playground and
were still trying to win
the wrong game.
Can I have a do-over
now that I know
what game to play?
I cannot, so with
my identity defined by
my immaturity
I graduate from
soldier to veteran and finally
see how blindly blindingly
mean we were.
I feel like a child
who understands too late
what it means
to hurt someone.
I am better than that now.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Robocop: the Desensitizer

Sometimes it takes a small set back to personally illustrate how much one changes. Mental back tracking can be a very positive thing when viewed this way. It reveals the slow transformations that often go unnoticed. 

I must have watched Robocop over twenty times as a kid and the memories were nothing but cool.  Well, we finished up a lively event the other night and were wide awake when we got back to the house, so we decided to watch a movie - one of less than five movies I've watched recreationally since the ride started.

Everything was fine and 80's, just as I remembered it, until the huge crime fighting robot showed up.  Then I felt this deep fear bubble up to my chest, a fear I haven't felt in a while.   

I knew what was going to happen next, I'd seen it many times.  The robot mutilates the demonstrator with a fully automatic machine gun because of faulty programing; it was just following orders.  

What I didn't anticipate was a spike in my heart rate and the overwhelming desire to leave the room.  It took a lot of focus to sit there and force myself through what seemed like 10-15 seconds of someone being blown apart. 

My heart was racing afterwards and eventually slowed.  The ultra-violence continued throughout the movie and eventually we all started laughing at it; it was absurd.  

The movie finally ended at three in the morning and I instantly fell asleep.  The next day I constantly replayed Robocop and my reactions over and over in my head, trying to unravel the situation.  I was amazed that as a child I watched this repeatedly without fully understanding the events.  This reminded me of a young man that went to war repeatedly, just as ignorant as the child.

The most alarming thing to surface was the laughing.  Once I made it past the first violent scene, everything was a little easier to watch - I had been desensitized.

My heart didn't race and I didn't feel the urge to leave. It turned into an absurd, borderline prophetic vision of the modern day - without the robotic technology, yet the robots are present.  There was a commercial in the movie for a futuristic game of battleship, but played with nukes and the kid playing the game with his family spoke of fighting on the Pakistan border.  This movie was made in 1987.

I often observed and participated in this behavior while serving in the military.  We would laugh at terrible things to hide our pain, so we could call each other men.  

As I reflected on my actions and feelings from the movie, I initially felt unmanly because of my visceral reaction to violence.  I was almost in tears thinking about the boy inside of me watching this repeatedly, knowing what I know now.  

That shame is the old cultural programing and it didn't take long for this to surface.  I was reminded of the training that lead me to join the military, the cultural training that began before I volunteered for it.

Although it feels like Robocop has been haunting me, it's a very important reminder to myself: I have changed.  I love the fact that this movie has effected me so deeply.  On a personal level, it illustrates how real the healing process is, even though it usually goes unnoticed by the individual. 

This is a solid reminder of how life isn't about constantly moving forward. Sometimes we have to take a couple of steps back to understand where we stand.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Cowboys and Indians

One of the first things that hit me when I arrived on the Pakistan border was, "as a nation, we've been here before".  Now, I'm not referring to the Soviet conflict where we helped train and arm the mujahideen with the help of the Pakistani ISI.  I'm referring to the initial invasion of the North American continent, what we now call the United States. 

It took many years for me to go back and confront some of the deeper realizations of my experiences in Afghanistan.  It took going to college so I could articulate my experiences and living in a very supportive community that listens.  

Ultimately, I had to go back and face the facts: we, as a nation, are still erasing indigenous peoples and cultures to this day, in the name of freedom - and I had played a roll in this history of culture assassination.  There is no difference between the erasing of the Lakota nation through framing them as 'terrorist' and the erasing of the simple society constructs in Afghanistan, in an attempt to transplant democracy. 

I spoke with many afghans there and here in the states, and the general consensus is the tribe never asked for democracy; the tribe has it's own system of government.  

Some people say that this is what I get for trying to rationalize an irrational situation, but to me it's much more.  I now view my past warmongering as a mental health issue and think we as a nation are mentally ill.

It's not all doom and gloom though, behavioral disorders can be corrected if we'll just acknowledge our behavior. I did it on a personal level and I think as a nation, we can do the same.  

As a child I was taught war games and I've played those games for most of my 28 year life.  This is why I deeply value my 3 tours in Operation Enduring Freedom.  As Sgt. George, I gained an understanding of life outside the box I was raised in.  

Until recently, I was always the cowboy - but now, I will forever be the Indian. 

Friday, November 5, 2010

poem I wrote today and Veteran's Day assignment

the red bullets
couldn't get the red bullets to go away

No, I'm not talking about the ones he had that were covered in his best friend's blood
which were given to him
they were to be used
they were to be used to kill those two men
Iraqi men
in Najaf
who were sitting next to each other
on the ground
along the side of a building

At least, that's how I remember picturing it in my mind
when he told me about it
I'm trying to remember if he told me in the sun of the day-time
or if this was a night-time story, told in the dark

Yes, I think it was
and now I'm wondering if it happened in the daylight or nightdark

did he aim his sights
on these men
in daylight
or moonlight

these are things you get hung up on when you consider giant crazy things like this
because the rest is so overwhelming

I wonder, what it feels like to carry that
how often he remembers it
where does he remember it in his body

his trigger finger
his shoulder

maybe at the smell of
or at the sight of

his triggers I can only imagine

I wonder, if any of ours are the same
Likely not since mine include strange things like bathroom doors, quarters and orange slices

while his may include
loud sounds like fire-crackers or trash on the side of the road

try to imagine fearing that trash on the side of the road could blow up on you and kill you
and your friend

I can’t necessarily feel that in my bones like they do, but one thing I can do is listen

Writing Exercise

If you could get someone to listen to you, what would you say today, on "Veteran's Day?" That someone can be a certain someone or a kind of someone, the president or your mother, a soul you never met or a liar you wish you hadn't. So, imagine they're ears are ready, to listen...

(of course utilizing video, photography, drawing, music, etc. is exciting and encouraged. post in whatever forms and in as many as you want)