It's been an interesting week.
Call of Duty: Black Ops came out 2 days ago. This installment is a Cold War first person shooter game. In the first 24 hours it earned more than $120 million.
It made me wonder what $120 million could do to help prevent soldier and Veteran suicide.
It made me wonder about my friends and former soldiers who deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan without some of the essential gear to keep them safe.
It made me wonder about a friends dad who just saw his VA benefits reduced, even though he served our nation honorably in Vietnam and was exposed to Agent Orange.
I'm grateful that we celebrate Veterans Day. It wasn't too long ago that I viewed this as a forgotten holiday. Iraq and Afghanistan changed all that.
There probably isn't a day that goes by that I don't replay an event in my head or think about some of our finest moments on active duty. It's honestly tough to specify a singular event as my favorite/most memorable event while on Active Duty.
Here are a couple:
C33: Our Bradley Fighting Vehicle Crew while in the 3rd Battalion 5th Cavalry. Matt Maley from Arizona was our driver (and my roommate), I was the gunner, and we had John Shaw and Dave Kuusela as our Bradley Commander. Lots of fun times with the crew, Matt, Dave and I finished our final gunnery by posting a perfect score on our qualification table, earning Army Commendation Medals. These were some really fun guys!
Tomahawks, 1st Battalion 23rd Infantry: Within weeks of my arrival at Fort Lewis I was provided the honor of going to the Bradley Master Gunner Course. It was a great course, academically one of the toughest in the Army, and defined my 11 year career on Active Duty. At Lewis, I got to work with other great Master Gunners like Darrin Dreger and "Outback" Bob Prater. I worked my way from a Platoon "Mike Golf" up to the Battalion level, working with Colonel Bartran and a couple of great S-3's in Major Millet and Major Schenk.
Fort Lewis also introduced me to great folks like John Casebere, a 24th ID GW Vet who worked Long Range Surveillance in Iraq during the first GW. On our Battalion Staff I got to work with great guys like Shadd Williams and Jason Route. Major Millet took Williams, Route, myself and our Operations Sergeant SFC Webb to "Right Arm Night" at the Officer Club one Friday. It was the first and last time I ever made it into an "Officer Club".
Not only did they have free beer and food, they had karaoke too. After a rousing rendition of Sublime's hit "The Wrong Way", we were never asked back.
Camp Casey South Korea and the 9th Infantry Manchu's: We a First Sergeant from Puerto Rico that I couldn't understand and a Commander that resembled Mr. Bean. It was a great unit and a great time! One year goes fast when you're having fun. I had a great platoon full of young and energetic warriors. A month of our tour was spent up near the DMZ between North and South Korea as a Quick Reactionary Force. Hearing the North Korean propaganda every night while trying to sleep or seeing the world's largest flag flying in the North Korean "propaganda village" was a sight to see. Even more interesting though was trying to squeeze a 28 ton machine down some of the narrow South Korean roads and the crazy traffic.
Over 11 years I served with some really amazing people and I'm grateful for how they helped shape who I am today.