I have about 5 plus articles that I haven’t published recently. You want to know why? Because, I feel like a whiney little bitch in each and every blog article I try to write. I live a great life. My kids have a great life. I know what kind of lives we have. I have been to the worst countries in this world. I have seen the worst that people can do to each other. Most of you have no idea how bad life can really be. How a hot shower is almost a blessing from god. How sleeping in a comfortable bed makes you feel.
I’m grateful for what I have. When I get up in the morning and take a shower; I am grateful for hot water because I remember when I didn’t take a shower for 3 months in Iraq. I remember the salt stains on our uniforms because we couldn’t wash. I remember it all. It hurts. The memories of me on a convoy in 2004. We hit an IED and it was all Chaos. There were civilian vehicles moving through our convoy and I was pissed off. I told the Marines to move the civilian vehicles away from our convoy and on to this dirt road. I had a feeling that this damn dirt road wasn’t safe and it sure the hell wasn’t safe at all. The bus I was telling to get off the road was full of women and children and they ran over an anti-tank mine. The carnage was horrible. I had to point out to one of my Marines who helped out during this crisis, that there was a skull fragment from a child attached to his trousers. A child, maybe 6 or 7 years old. That child’s head was attached to someones leg. People were mangled. The smell of burning flesh never leaves me. The image of those dead women and children never leaves me.
I have a hard time with this. I have a hard time with that fucking war.
I did three tours in Iraq. I did one tour in Afghanistan. I know what it is to be scared. I know what it is to be vulnerable to those around you. I know what it is to be numb to the thought of a violent death. Maybe that is why I don’t really care when I write these blogs. Maybe I want people to hear what I have to say. Maybe I want my kids to understand me when I’m gone. I don’t know if anyone will understand me. I don’t know. I worry that I don’t have much time left in this world. I was exposed to God knows how many chemicals. I remember the burn pits of Iraq that we inhaled every day. I remember the bunker that I worked in and how it gave me headaches every day. I worry that I’ve cut my life short for a worthless cause. I worry my kids will lose me before they ever get married. That maybe, I will never walk my daughter’s down the isle because the sacrifice was too much. And, for what? I don’t know what the hell we were doing over there. I don’t know if my sacrifice was a true and real sacrifice. Fighting Nazi Germany was one thing, but what we were involved seemed unreal.
I sit here scared. I’m scared to death of not making it. I’m scared to death that just like my buddy Chris Denson, I will end up with a brain tumor. A person, gone from this world and never to return. A man with a family that will never talk to his children again, never laugh at a stupid joke, or never glimpse the last majestical sunlight that breaks through the horizon. So, I have a hard time writing these blogs. I feel like I’m complaining about insignificant things.
I’ll probably write more and more about my bicycle. My bicycle has saved my life. I’ve worked out more problems on my bicycle than any other tool in my life. I’ll tell you a little story.
Afghanistan 2010: 2 months into my deployment my grandfather died while my wife was pregnant with my first child. My grandfather was one of the most important people in my life. You don’t get to go home for a grandparent’s death however. You can only go home for immediate family; Mother, Father, Brother, and Sister. It was the hardest deployment I have ever done from an emotional standpoint. It took me weeks to get back to a normal life after I heard the news that my Grandfather passed away. Then there came the news that someone would be replacing me early. I thought that maybe my grandfather was looking after me. Maybe, I could get home for the birth of my first child. I did get home within 10 days of my first child being born. I knew at that moment I was lucky.
After my child was born I jumped on my bicycle. I rode 30 miles. It seemed long at the time and not that long that I look at it now. 20 miles into that ride I was crying like a baby. I was deleted, I was raw, I was able to deal with my emotions. I asked my grandfather to forgive me for missing his funeral during that ride. I asked for strength for my wife and my daughter during that ride. I asked for it all. Ever since then, the bicycle has been my savior. It has been my counselor, my goals, my hopes and my salvation. I have rode my bicycle 16000 miles since I came back form Afghanistan in 2010. Each one of those miles represents redemption. Each one of those miles represents a struggle. Each one of those miles represents a hope for my future.
My bicycle saved my life. I cried that day I got back from Afghanistan and rode my bicycle 30 miles. I cried for my grandfather and missing his funeral, I cried for all the coffins I saw loaded up on the airfield, I cried for all the innocent people that died during this conflict. What’s important though, is that my bicycle, and all the suffering that ensued, led to a place to deal with problems in a healthy way.
I’ve been through some horrible shit. My family and my bicycle has helped me survive.
Please share this if you want to help. I’m thinking about the charity Pedal Against PTSD right now. They are an organization that helps veterans get connected with bicycles to improve their lives. I’m thinking I might need to do something spectacular for this organization come next April. Maybe go for a sufferfest knighthood to raise money and awareness.
I don’t know, most of all, when the going gets tough; I just try to embrace the suck!