Specialist 4 Robert Patterson Bum-Rushed 5 Machine Gun Nests In Vietnam To Earn The Medal Of Honor

On a sunny day in October 1969, four American soldiers stood at attention on the east lawn of the White House in their Class A uniforms. Each one was going to be awarded the Medal of Honor by President Richard Nixon for their actions in Vietnam. Twenty-one-year-old Patterson, who had been promoted to sergeant after his tour in Vietnam, was annoyed that he couldn’t wear his jump boots. He was the only paratrooper of the bunch, and since the Army wanted them to be all dress-right-dress, he had to wear the standard low-quarter shoes. As the speaker read his citation detailing his acts of gallantry and intrepidity in the face of overwhelming odds against the North Vietnamese, Patterson stood bewildered — he didn’t have a single memory of his actions that day.

CLICK HERE to read the rest of this article on Coffee Or Die Magazine.

~Raul Felix

Follow me on Instagram.
Follow me on Twitter.

What Master Sergeant Roy Benavidez Did To Earn The Medal of Honor

The door gunner, Specialist 4 Michael Craigs, had been shot several times and fell into Benavidez’s arms. “Oh my god, my mother and father,” were the 19-year-old’s last words.

As Benavidez comforted the distressed pilot, he asked him who was out there.

“It’s that black feller who’s on your team,” said the pilot, referring to Wright.

Without time to go get his rifle, Benavidez boarded a different returning helicopter armed only with his knife and a medical bag — he knew there would be weapons on the ground to use once he got there. All the knowledge he had accrued throughout his rough life and challenging military career kicked in. He descended into the pits of hell for six hours.

CLICK HERE to read the rest of my new piece at Coffee Or Die Magazine.

~Raul Felix

Follow me on Instagram.
Follow me on Twitter.

Why Veterans Should Consider The Restaurant Industry

IG: raulfelix275

Now that you’re released from the overbearing clutches of Uncles Sam’s war machine, you’re completely free to conquer the world with nothing to hold you back. Well, there is one thing: money. It’s not like you were a baller in the service. Unfortunately, jumping out of airplanes and killing people isn’t highly sought after skill set in the job market. While there are a host of different job options, very few give a veteran the flexibility and ability to improve themselves as the restaurant industry does.

It Will Renormalize Your Human Interaction

Even though your Dysfunctional Veteran shirt states otherwise, you’re going to have to learn to interact with other people in a socially acceptable manner. That filthy mouth you’ve acquired while serving in the military has got to be tamed. Being forced to interact with customers who are spending their hard earned money in order to have a pleasant dining experience will help you curb those speaking patterns. It will also get you honed at another essential social skill set: pretending to like people.

Your work shift is steadily approaching. You’re mentally preparing yourself. Taking in the tranquility and ambiance of your apartment filled with emo rock. You take a toke, knock out a few push ups, then switch the music over to some gangster rap to get motivated. You head into the shower to freshen up and make yourself presentable. You never know what you’re going to be running into when you walk through those doors.

While most customers are great and enjoyable to be around, it’s the 5% of them that will grind you down. The inquisitorial customers who bombard you with reasonable and unreasonable questions about the food items. “Sorry, ma’am, I’m not sure if the eggs are locally sourced or if the vinegar contains sulphites”. The drinker who reaches his limits and begins showing disrespect to the establishment. “Sir, be nice or leave.” The nit-picky snob who makes it known she is a Yelper and who thinks having the TV on while it happens to be playing Rambo ruins the atmosphere. “Sorry ma’am, the boss insists on having it on.”

These little interactions will help you learn how to navigate gray areas between the customer always being right and the customer being a space cadet.

You Get Exposed To A New Culture While Making Money

If you’re a few years out of the service, you can go back to your old company or platoon and see one or two familiar faces, tops. Like the military, the restaurant industry is a big shuffle of humanity, where only a few grizzled lifers stick around for long. It’s a job field that caters to people who are in the building stages of their lives or fixing up their fucked one. You’ll encounter a swath of students, immigrants, corporate America refugee’s, lost-twenties-somethings, artists, and unique characters from all walks of life.

Not everyone will be your best friend and shouldn’t be, but you’ll find the one or two people who you can connect with. On one of my bartending jobs, I became good friends with a young cook. After I did my beginning of shift prep work and made sure the bar was stocked, I would head over to the kitchen to see if he could get away for a few minutes. We’d then go into his car and smoked a bowl as we talked to each other about our lives. I tried to convince him to join the Army, he couldn’t because he didn’t have papers. Whenever there was a lull in the work, we’d sneak out to smoke another bowl.

While it’s not the most prestigious career path, it’s not exactly a dead-end career. I’ve met staff members of all ranks who raised entire families and paid for their kids educations on their restaurant work wages. Each having their own style and flair as they flowed seamlessly through the floor taking orders, delivering drinks and food, and picking up dishware with utmost efficiency. Some were masters of the up-sell and had the ability to steer the customer to finer food items in order to increase their tip bottom line.

Since staff members are joining and leaving all the time, you’re not the new guy for too long. In fact, you’ll be able to prove your worth to the team in a quick manner if you’re on top of your game and are willing to be a sponge for knowledge and tips of the trade. You’re only as good as the last customer you served. Each new table an opportunity to correct any deficiencies you had the previous time, even if it was only you who noticed. Slowly, building your competence to move around and get tasks done at the restaurant with military precision and skill.

You Can Rebalance Your Chi

You’re at the cutting station in the kitchen. You’re preparing a huge batch of limes for the bar’s upcoming shift. Slice the lime in half lengthwise, make a horizontal cut through the belly, and then slice each of the halves into four wedges.

Repeat a few dozen times.

Get lost in your thoughts. Think about what’s going on in your life right now. What problems you have to tackle. What is under your control and what is out of it. Are you moving ahead in life at a steady pace? Is that chick you’re currently texting going to blossom into something real?

The beer coolers are half empty. A good variety of beer is held in each. You analyze the contents and make an mental estimation of how many boxes you’ll need. You walk to the fridge and pick up a couple of 24 packs and carry them to the cooler. Utilizing the bar key, with a swift and violent motion, you pierce through top of the cardboard and drag it to open the flaps. With three bottles in each hand, you pull out the beers and neatly place them on top of each other in the cooler.

Repeat a couple dozen times.

Get lost in your thoughts. Think about your past. The events that lead you to the place you are in today. The places you traveled and experiences you’ve had. The people you encountered along the way. The women: the ones you forgot about, the ones you almost loved, and the ones who left a mark on your heart.

The glassware has piled up in the bar sink. You’ve developed your own system for keeping the glassware in a steady rotation. You stand over the sink in an athletic position. You grasp a glass in each hand, emptying out the dregs of it into the waste bin. Fiercely scrubbing its insides with the brushes, then dunking them into the sanitized water to rinse out the soap suds. Each distinct piece organized so it can be transported to its designated place. Neatness and order radiates out of a properly prepped bar.

Focus on what’s ahead. Confidence settles within because you’ve done all that is needed to have a successful night, where hordes of thirsty clientele will pine for you attention in order to quench their need for booze. You’re in control. You’re ready. You’re able to handle whatever comes through those doors. You’ve got this.

You Get Thrown Into The Fray Of Controlled Chaos

You walk into work. It’s a complete shit show. It’s Friday night and the popular local band is having their end of the school year bash. It’s a pandemonium of customers wrestling with one another to catch the attention of a bartender. The bar staff is losing.

The beer bottles are running low, two of the kegs have just popped. You hear one of the bartenders curse. Make that three kegs. The glassware has piled up so high on the sink that they’ve begun to use the bar counter-top as overflow. There are only a few scoops of ice left in the ice machine. The three other bartenders are losing their patience with the customers and one another as they each fight for access to the lone cash register and key in the tabs.

You analyze the situation and make a plan of action. You run down to the basement, squeezing through the crowd. You change out the kegs, replenishing the stream of booze to the taps. You pick up two 24 packs and a bag of ice carry it up the stairs. In a firm, but respectful tone yelling out “Excuse me! Beer coming through! Excuse me! Beer coming through!” as a rift appears before you and you carry your burden to its destination. You quickly unload the beers and run down for more, prioritizing the beers which are lowest, until you’ve restocked it all.

A customer taps you on the shoulder trying to get your attention. He is not your focus right now. “Get one of the other bartenders, I’m barbacking!” You put your head down, avoiding eye contact with any other patron as you work through the stack of glassware. With sheer focus you grind it out, giving the bar the much needed ammo it needs in order to put it back on equal footing. You were the missing piece that was needed in order to give it a fighting chance. Now it’s time to get to the real work, you yell out “Who needs a drink!” and serve the first person who raises their hand.

The night is over. The last remnants of customers have left the establishment. The staff is cleaning up, counting the money, conducting a casual after action review of the night, and indulging in a victory drink.

“Whoa, that was a crazy night,” says one of the bartenders, “You saved our ass. Great job tonight, man.”

“Of course, I’m here for you,” you respond with a smirk.

~Raul Felix

Read: 4 Things That Are Awesome About Riding A Motorcycle
Read: Oh Well, We’re Off To War Again
Read: 12 Things Only Veterans Of The Global War On Terrorism Will Understand

Follow me on Instagram.
Follow me on Twitter.

What Your Choice Of Military Branch Says About You!

SrA Jordyn Fetter

Deciding to join the military is one of the most demanding commitments a person can make next to getting married. Even marriage has the option of divorce if you and your spouse should grow disillusioned with one another. But, the She-Beast that is the military will smother you in her clutches long after the honeymoon period has ended.

When you’re shopping around, trying to figure out which branch will be pounding its green weenie into your ass for the next X years, keep in mind that just like an astrological sign can tell you everything you will ever need to know about a person, so does their choice of military service.

United States Army

SGT Steven Galimore

You really didn’t want to join the Navy like some homo and you may have a petty criminal past. Nothing too serious, but back on the block people didn’t call you Slicky Ricky for nothing. One night while lying in bed after banging your mediocre looking girlfriend you begin to contemplate the direction of your life. Realizing that it’s heading nowhere and fast, you say to yourself, “Fuck it! I’m joining the Marines!” After scoring barely above mentally retarded on your ASVAB and revealing your less than desirable past to a Marine recruiter, you’re promptly laughed out the office. Well, you’re in luck low-speed, high-drag; the Army recruiting station is right next door.

With the ability to draw from its vast hordes of manpower and capabilities, the Army is the all-powerful steam roller of the armed services. While the Marine Corps is looking for a few good men, the Army is content with a shit ton of OK ones. Outside of the Special Operations community, this leads to a relaxed attitude about what it takes to be a barrel-chested freedom fighter. If you’re able to show up at the right place, right time, and in the right uniform, you are half way to winning Soldier of the Year.

United States Marine Corps

CPL Aaron Patterson

There is no gentle way to say this Devil Dog, you drank the Semper Fi flavored Kool-Aid. At some point in your youthful years you were brainwashed by the USMC propaganda machine or your old man into believing that joining any other branch of the service makes you a big ol’ blubbering pussy. You were bamboozled into believing that utilizing subpar equipment, having lower chances at promotion, and working in an environment full of overzealous non-commissioned officers who are sticklers for the rules, equates to being a better tuned killing machine.

Fuck it, though. The misery of your existence is a point of pride for you. It makes you feel like you’ve earned the title of Marine. Something you will surely brag about whenever there is a few minute lull in conversation in any situation whatsoever. Everyone knows you’re the best, or else they’ll die like the rest. As substantial proof, you have those killer Class-A’s that get’s bitches panties drenched.

United States Navy

PO3 William McCann

You’re probably a homosexual. Not that there is anything wrong with that. Don’t ask, don’t tell was repealed by the Obama administration, so you can at last be out and proud with your flamboyant gay ol’ self. We always had our sneaking suspicions of what you did while at sea, sailor boy. No worries seaman, we all knew you were in the closet and working up the courage to come out to us. We’ve always loved and supported you, even if you do choose to live an alternative lifestyle. Hugs!

The Navy is the service for those who want to leave their shitty lives behind to see the world, but want to minimize their chances of dying in the process. While there are some jobs in the Navy that does its share of ground-pounding, the lion’s share of combat casualties in modern warfare are taken by the Army and Marine Corps. That makes it the optimal choice for a service member who wants all the perks and benefits of being in the armed services without having to do anything other than suck cock.

United States Air Force

SrA Nick Emerick

You know what’s pretty fucking sweet? Driving into work, while drinking a hot cup of joe, listening to some boom-boom-I-beat-my-wife country music as you pass a bunch of soldiers from the nearby Army base doing a 12-mile ruck march. Then you walk into your office, say, ‘Good morning’ to your superior using their first name, go on a brisk 2 mile run, and then go about your daily tasks.

See, for an Airman, military service is not about having a job that will impress people or requires physically taxing work. You don’t really care about proving how hard and tough you are. Your life back home didn’t suck too badly and you really didn’t want your life in the military to suck either. If you’re honest with yourself, you are kind of a nerd and freezing or sweating your dick off doesn’t seem too appealing to you. Now learning some technical skill that will give you good job prospects in the real world, that’s what drew you into the service. Plus, Air Force chicks tend to be the hottest from all of the branches and one may even become your girlfriend/wife. Until you find out she has been banging an Army Ranger in the Task Force she was attached to while deployed because she wanted a real man.

United States Coast Guard

PO3 Andrew Barresi

No one knows or cares about you. You are like that kid in high school who committed suicide and has a quarter page memorial in black and white in the back of the year book, but no one remembers who you are. Thanks for your service, I guess.

~Raul Felix

Read: 5 People You Will Meet In The Army
Read: 3 Things People Who Served In The Military Do That Make Them Look Like Tools
Read: Army Rangers Talk About The Times Their Words Have Shocked Civilians

Read more of my work at Thought Catalog
Follow me on Instagram.
Follow me on Twitter.

Welcome To Arlington, Sergeant Gallegos

Rachel Larue

The light of the sun blinds me, my ears are ringing, and I’m lying on the ground. My eyes begin to focus, the ringing fades, and I see a hand reach out for me and I grasp it. It pulls me up to my feet.

“Welcome to Arlington, Sergeant Gallegos,” he says. He’s wearing an olive drab Army uniform with Master Sergeant rank on his sleeve.

“Uh…Arlington Master Sergeant?” I respond. I swivel my head about, noticing the rows upon rows of symmetrical white headstones.

“Yes, in case you haven’t figured it out—you’re dead,” he says sharply. “By the way, we don’t use rank anymore in the afterlife. I’m Sam,” he says, reaching out and shaking my hand.

“Tony,” I smile. “Dead? Huh? How did I die?”

“In the most glorious of all ways—combat,” he laughs.

“What? I don’t remember getting into a firefight recently.”

“What’s your last memory?”

“Well…I had just stepped off of a Stryker and walked a couple blocks toward our objective and…”

“BOOM!” he bellows. “I-E-fucking-D, motherfucker! And now you’re here with the rest of us KIAs.”

“Fucking A. But my body feels fine.” I begin to check myself out, looking for any injuries and notice that I’m still wearing my uniform and body armor.

“Well, this is the afterlife; of course your body is fine,” he laughs.

“Did any of my men get killed, too?”

“No, you’re the only one who bit it. Sherman and Tran got hurt, but not too bad. Don’t worry, they’re fine.”

“Damn…well at least there’s that,” I sigh.

“Now see over there?” Sam points to a funeral procession. “Your earthly body is right there…or what’s left of it, anyway. It ain’t a pretty sight.”

“That’s my funeral?” I see a group of people, some in black, others in Army Class-A uniforms in front of a casket with an American flag draped over it.

“Yes,” he responds.

I run toward it and see a bunch of familiar faces: my wife, two daughters, mama, friends, and a few men from my unit.

“My god, dear god…my love! My love! Sweet Pea and Cookie! Mama! Mama!” I try to grab ahold of my wife, but I pass through her. I attempt the same with my mama and pass through again. I fall to my knees and begin to cry. “They can’t see me, can they?”

Sam puts his hand on my shoulder. “Roger.”

Cookie, my youngest at age seven, sits on my mama’s lap, crying into her chest. My mama’s holding her close, releasing a storm of tears. My eleven-year-old, Sweet Pea, sits next to my wife, holding her hand tightly, head on her shoulder. My wife’s attempting to hold her composure, yet some tears overpower her and pour down her face.

“Ready, aim, fire,” orders a staff sergeant to the seven soldiers of the rifle party. The first volley is fired.

“Ready, aim, fire.”

“Ready, aim, fire.”

“Present arms,” every man in uniform salutes. “Taps” begins to play.

The casket party folds the flag into a triangle. One of the men walks it over to my family, takes a knee, and presents it to my wife.

“Ma’am, this flag is presented to you on behalf of a grateful nation for the honorable and faithful service displayed by your husband, Sergeant First Class Antonio Gallegos,” he says to her, then stands at attention and salutes her.

The cemetery workers finish shoveling dirt over my grave. My headstone looms.

Antonio Leonard
Gallegos
SFC
US Army
Apr 20 1977
May 4 2009
Bronze Star
Purple Heart
Operation
Iraqi Freedom

My wife, mama, and daughters are alone. I stand right next to them, placing my hands on my loves’ shoulders. Even if I couldn’t feel the warmth of her skin nor she mine, I still felt connected to her. My wife hugs my headstone, caressing the engraving of my name, and giving it a kiss on top.

My dearest Carrie…the love of my life…I’m sorry…

My daughters are on their knees. “Papa, papa…we love you. We love you. Don’t go, don’t go.”

Sweet Pea and Cookie…you two are my light…I wish I didn’t have to…

My mama stands there, running her fingers through my daughters’ hair. “You were my angel, my most precious possession, my gift from God. I’ll miss you, mi niño.”

Mama…you taught me how to be a good man…I love you…

I watch them in silence, wishing I could feel their tender embrace once more. Wishing that I had more time with them. Wishing I wasn’t dead.

They begin to leave and I follow.

“Sorry Tony, but you can’t go with them,” Sam says gently.

“Like hell I can’t.” I begin to sprint after them, yet as fast as I move my feet, I make no progress. I’m running in place as they are getting further and further away from me. “Damn it! What is this?”

“You’re dead, Tony,” Sam reminds me. “You may no longer go among the living. That’s not your place anymore. This is the afterlife and I’m here to help you on this journey.”

I give up running, watching my kin until they disappear. Goodbye my life. I wipe the tears from my face, turn around, and face my fate. “So now what?”

“Follow me,” he says, and we begin walking deeper into Arlington through a forest of headstones.

“So you said, us KIAs…that means you were killed in action also?” I ask.

“Yeah.”

“What war?”

“Vietnam.”

“Holy shit. What was that like?”

“I couldn’t really tell you. I was shot in the forehead jumping out of a Huey on my first mission,” he says with a smirk.

“But you have Master Sergeant rank on. So you had to been in the Army a while.”

“Oh yeah, seventeen long years. I was also in the Korean War. Made it through a whole year’s deployment in that frozen hellhole without a scratch. Then did the whole peacetime Army thing. Those were some wild times, I’ll tell you what. The first couple of months I was in Vietnam, I was doing a damn staff job. So I didn’t leave the wire much. I was waiting for a First Sergeant slot. Then finally got one. I was supposed to take over a company in a few days. So I decided to shadow one of the company’s First Sergeants on a few missions so I knew what shit to expect. Right as we landed on a hot DZ…BAM…bullet right through my fucking skull. Pretty funny, huh?”

I shake my head. “What’s funny about it?”

“Surviving one long bloody suckfest unscathed, just to be snuffed out quickly in the next one. It’s almost poetic.”

“You can only press your luck so many times, I guess. God knows I have. This last one was…”—I pause and count in my head—“my eighth deployment. Damn, I knew I shouldn’t have reenlisted.”

“Well, you did.”

“Yeah, well, I did have a family to support. Plus, the goddamn economy sucks right now. Those reenlistment bonuses were insanely good.”

“Hey, bud, look at the bright side, at least they’ll get your life insurance money now,” Sam remarks.

“Yeah, that’ll hold them over for a good while. But if you want to know the truth, I just fucking loved the job. Even if it sucked at times, I just loved training my men and going to war.”

“So did I, Tony,” Sam pats me on the shoulder.

“Did you leave a family behind, too?”

“Yeah, an ex-wife and a son. She and I were divorced before I even went to Nam, yet she cried hysterically when she found out about my death. She’s still alive and kickin’. Good woman she is. Pretty as a sunset and sweet as honey. My damn foul temper while drinkin’ chased her away.”

“What about your son?”

“He’s a high school teacher somewhere in California. Has a nice family of his own. He was too young to really know who I was.”

“That’s rough, Sam.”

“That’s life and death, brother. The world will keep spinning without either of us. I’ve been dead longer than I was alive. Whatever impact we were meant to leave on the world is done and now we must be spectators to it all.”

Stone stairs leading up to the sky appear over the grass.

“This leads to heaven?”

“Nah…you wouldn’t want to go there right now anyways. Its kind of lame without your family. I’m taking you somewhere way cooler,” he winks.

“Where is that?”

“Valhalla. You ready?” He grins.

“Hell, yeah!”

~Raul Felix

Read: Oh Well, We’re Off To War Again
Read: Eager To Pop My Cherry On The Battlefield
Read: Four Years Of Hell: College V. The Army

Read more of my work at Thought Catalog
Follow me on Instagram.
Follow me on Twitter.

Army Ranger Hospitalized After Having Balls Literally Smoked-Off

Joint Base Lewis-McCord, WA – A soldier was admitted yesterday to Madigan Army Medical Center after a lengthy corrective physical training session, or “smoke session” as commonly known, went awry. The soldier was rushed into the emergency room with the crotch area of his trousers drenched in blood and his testicles in a 7-11 Big Gulp cup filled with ice.

“I’ve seen cases of women cutting off their husband’s dick after they caught them cheating,” said Dr. Richard Cox, Emergency Room Surgeon, “but I’ve never seen anything quite like this. He was literally smoked so hard that his scrotum lost its elasticity and ripped off.”

Private First Class Chris Stiff, a new Ranger with 2nd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, was more than eager to give an interview after he awoke from his operation and immediately asked, “How long will it be before I can jerk it?”

“It was a pretty bad day,” says PFC Stiff. “I was all sorts of fucked up. First thing, I showed up to morning PT formation one minute late, unshaved, and without my reflective belt. My team leader was pissed and ripped into me during PT. Describing to me how he is going to smoke my balls off so bad that Indians—feather type— miles and miles away were going to think he was sending them smoke signals warning them that the white man cometh.”

Due to political pressure, the Army has been making it its objective to phase out hazing though there is still some cultural and traditional resistance in the combat arms.

“At 0900 we had to be at the motor pool to do PMCS [Preventive Maintenance Checks and Services] on our Strykers. My team leader found out my oil was low because I didn’t fill up the last couple of days we were training even though he told me to. That’s when he went apeshit.”

PFC Stiff then explained that he was ordered to do push ups, flutter kicks, monkey fuckers, alligators, star bursts, bear crawls, and various other physical exercises. The punishment went on for at least an hour.

“It wouldn’t stop. I was sweating, my arms were spaghetti, and I couldn’t do anymore. Then while I was doing a monkey fucker, I felt a sharp pain, like my ball sack was being pulled off. I looked down and saw blood spilling. It fucking looked like I had a fucking miscarriage.”

His team leader, Sergeant Antonio Verga, sprung into action to check out what was the matter with his soldier. PFC Stiff explained, “My vision was blurring, and I was on my knees in pain. My balls had fallen down my pants and were stuck right where I bloused my boots. I remember my team leader ordering me to calm down and applying pressure to my crotch in order to stop the bleeding.”

“I was smoking his fucking balls off for being such an incompetent piece of human waste that should have been a 60th trimester abortion. I didn’t know it was actually physically possible to smoke someones balls off,” SGT Verga says as he spit some dip into the ground “I’m kind of proud of myself.”

After SGT Verga stopped the bleeding, he then carried PFC Stiff into his truck and drove him to the hospital.

PFC Stiff balls were surgically reattached, and he is expected to make a full recovery in a few weeks.

“I can’t really blame my team leader. He’s actually good at his job and cares for us, even though he can be a dick… and I tend to fuck up a lot. Its fine though cause I get two-weeks of con-leave [Convalescent-leave] and there is a chick from back home I want to get married to before I deploy. She is turning 18 this week.”

Upon hearing of PFC Stiff’s plans when he returns back home, SGT Verga remarked, “Stupid fucking cherry privates. Well, I hope they reattached his nut sack pretty fucking good this time. I have a feeling this isn’t going to be the last time I have to smoke his balls off.”

~Raul Felix

This satirical news article was featured on Article 107 News.

Read: 3 Winning PR Strategies For Muslim Extremists
Read: Four Years Of Hell: College V. The Army
Read: Army Rangers Talk About The Times Their Words Have Shocked Civilians

Read more of my work at Thought Catalog
Follow me on Instagram.
Follow me on Twitter.

Two Army Rangers Discuss Going Nomadic

IG: leo_jenkins

IG: leo_jenkins

In the formative years of his life, Leo Jenkins was an Army combat medic in 3rd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. Having completed deployments to both Iraq and Afghanistan, in 2007 Leo ended his enlistment after four years of service, exchanging the high-octane world of Army special operations for the uncertainty of civilian life.

He has published three memoirs. In the first, Lest We Forget, he details his war experiences and drunken shenanigans as a Ranger medic. In his second, On Assimilation, he tackles the emotional rollercoaster of adapting to civilian life. His journey takes him from the kick-in-the-gut realization that his intensive training as a special operations medic wouldn’t qualify him to be a basic EMT…to battling alcoholism and feeling of isolation caused by those moments spent in a wartorn land…to opening and operating a successful CrossFit gym.

In his latest book, First Train Out Of Denver, Leo decides to leave the hustle and bustle that had become his life to go nomadic instead. With the utmost sense of purpose and intensity that is a definitive characteristic of an Army Ranger, he seeks to find adventure, enlightenment, and to make sense of those formative years of his life.

Raul Felix: Leo, your life as an unemployed vagabond started when you got up to go to work one morning and thought to yourself, “I don’t want to go to work today.” You then sold your possessions, business, said goodbye to your friends, and got yourself a one-way ticket to Costa Rica. What was the toughest part emotionally for you of that process?

Leo Jenkins: That is a phenomenal question that no one has ever asked me. I was in a dark place when I purged my possessions and took to the world. I was seeking some sort of solace in the comforts of solitude. By disconnecting myself from the only people who share my mutual experiences, I was forced into intense introspection. It’s a perilous endeavor if one is not prepared. Seven years of stuffing down the tumultuous cognitive dissonance created by multiple combat deployments violently surfaced, and there wasn’t another veteran, let alone Ranger, for thousands of miles. I was forced to sit in my own stewing antipathy alone. I was forced to truly come to terms with my youthful decisions and transgressions against my fellow man. It nearly killed me, but I’m a better man for it.

Raul Felix: What do you mean by it almost killed you?

Leo Jenkins: With no set schedule and no real responsibilities, I began drinking heavily. I began writing the book On Assimilation during this time. I was pulling up all the tribulations of my return to society and writing them down. I was alone, reliving my worst moments in vivid detailed prose.

Raul Felix: Just like being in the Army, traveling has a learning curve that can only be learned by actually doing it. What are some stupid cherry traveler mistakes and assumptions you made in the early phases of your trip, and what solutions did you come up with?

Leo Jenkins: Not everyone values what we value as a society. Traveling to any foreign country is an opportunity to shut up and listen, not to impose your belief set. Be a sponge and retain as much as you can. Release as much of your preconceived ethnocentric tendencies before getting on the plane, and almost everything else will come with ease.

The world is not a dark and scary place. Sure, there are assholes abroad, just like there are assholes in your hometown. Chances are, they’re just having a bad day and do not represent the ideology of their entire country. However, when entering their nation you become an ambassador for ours. So if you act like an asshole, the assumption will be that everyone from your country is [also an asshole], due to their potentially limited exposure to your nationality.

On a more specific note, don’t ever exchange currency at the airport; they will rip you off worse than the new Ghostbusters movie. Research the exchange rate ahead of time then hit the ATM. A lot of countries will take US dollars, but every shop will pound you on the exchange rate.

Raul Felix: When Marty Skovlund and yourself began doing your trip Eastbound to raise money for the Gallant Few, you tapped into your social media network of veterans. This dramatically increased the pace of your trip and raised awareness for your cause. Who was the coolest or most unique veteran you met in this manner?

Leo Jenkins: I’ve had the distinct honor of interviewing veterans all across the world regarding their experiences in war and assimilation. While Marty and my fundraiser across the world to raise awareness and funds for the Gallant Few provided me the opportunity to get to know many amazing war fighters, I’d have to say our conversation with a particular Korean War veteran and former UDT diver (predecessor to the Navy SEALs) was a standout. His narrative of war was equal parts adolescent inquisitiveness for the world, tragedy, and the dark profane humor of a salty special-operations soldier. Shrouded by a leathered face, his eyes told the story with the razor-blade poignancy of a young warrior. And his words regarding the separation, the isolation, following combat rang like a church bell through the ardor of my being.

Raul Felix: Aren’t you pissed off you got assigned to 3rd Batt instead of 2nd Batt?

Leo Jenkins: 3rd Batt was actually my fourth choice. At the end of the special operations medical course, each of the six Ranger medics graduating with my class were asked to list, in order, where they wanted to go. My list went, 1st (cause the beach), then 2nd (because the mountains), Regiment (because I already had a bunch of medic friends working there) and finally 3rd. To be honest, I was pissed at first, but the journey connected me with some of the most inspiring and amazing men of our generation. I wouldn’t trade those relationships for anything.

Raul Felix: In the past, you made your name known for your military articles and books. What made you make the shift from military writer to travel adventure writer?

Leo Jenkins: I believe vehemently in the necessity of evolution throughout the course of life, to expand and contract and flow with the natural fluidity of a river. It’s taken a decade since leaving 3rd Ranger Battalion, and in many ways my experiences there will always influence my writings, but being who we are, not who we once were, is the acme of a free and jubilant soul.

Raul Felix: I agree with that. Human beings are human beings everywhere you go. It’s easy to think X or Y people are bad because the narrative the media portrays of them. If you weren’t an American, what nationality that you encountered could you see yourself growing up and fitting in with?

Leo Jenkins: I’m often asked if I’m a Canadian when traveling through foreign countries for various reasons. My fiancée is Canadian and I do associate with their culture in many ways. I’ve even been told to tell people I am so as to not provoke the negative connotations associated with being an American abroad. I don’t do that; I will never do that. I am proud of where I come from because I know firsthand how many truly amazing people come from the US. I’m as welcome to external cultural experience as any human on Earth, but I’m simultaneously unapologetically American.

~Raul Felix

Read: 3 Signs A Woman Is A Dependopotamus
Read: Army Rangers Talk About The Times Their Words Have Shocked Civilians
Read: Jumping Out of Airplanes: How It’s Really Like

Read more of my work at Thought Catalog
Follow me on Instagram.
Follow me on Twitter.