Oh Well, We’re Off To War Again

“Ones!” yells the private as he opens the door of my hooch.
It mildly annoys me.
It’s a pretty fucking good episode of Scrubs, damn it.
I quickly slip on and tie up the laces of my boots.
Oh well, we’re off to war again.

I zip up my top as I speed walk to the ready room,
I make a quick detour to grab a couple of Rip Its and Pop Tarts from the MWR.
From my cubby, I slip on my kit, Peltors, and MICH.
I test my NODS, grab my M4: clear it, pop in a magazine.
We’re off to war again.

The gunner and I begin our respective duties.
The gunner turns on the comms and loads the .50 cal,
I hop in the Stryker driver’s seat, fire up the engine,
I stand on the seat, looking out the hatch.
The TC approaches us after the hasty mission brief,
A steady flow of men, the tip of America’s spear soon follow.
Sixty-seven men, six Strykers, two Little Birds, and a military dog will descend Tonight on some poor souls’ door step.
Fuck yeah, we’re off to war again.

~Raul Felix

Read: Eager To Pop My Cherry On The Battlefield
Read: Jumping Out of Airplanes: How It’s Really Like
Read: The Military’s Parasite Problem

Read more of my work at Thought Catalog
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11 Veterans On How To Succeed After The Military

SPC William Lockwood, 55th Combat Camera

SPC William Lockwood, 55th Combat Camera

The military life has its own protective bubble in a way. You have a steady paycheck, health insurance, and a host of career trajectory options. Retention Non-Commissioned Officers will attempt to scare you into reenlisting by warning you about how hard it is in the real world and the dire condition of the economy. The feeling of finally gaining your freedom back as a civilian can be overwhelming and full of contradictory emotions ranging from full-fledged glee to utter dread when you realize you have no idea what you want to do with your life now that you’ve hung up your uniform for good. Most of the career advice you find never quite feels suited to your unique skill set and experiences. In an effort to pass down some hard-earned knowledge, the following 11 veterans will give you a bit of advice on how to succeed in your post-military career ambitions.

1. Raul Felix, U.S. Army 2005-2009, Writer & Poet

“Realize that most people will not understand that dark sense of humor you may have developed. Be consciously aware of whom you’re talking to and whether or not they can handle a fucked-up joke that may come out of your mouth. Test the waters a bit first; don’t go full-on dead-baby joke after only talking to a person for five minutes.”

2. Jack Murphy, U.S. Army 2002-2010, Editor at SOFREP

“The most important thing I realized when I left the high-octane world of Army Special Operations for the private sector is that you have to learn to be both a soldier and a manager at the same time. That is to say, you no longer have a Team Leader or Squad Leader looking over your shoulder telling you it is time to rest, time to eat, time to go to sleep. That soldier work ethic is critical and gives you an edge over civilians, but you also have to keep in mind that life is a marathon, not a sprint. Besides, you’re not a 19-year old Ranger now. It’s OK to take a vacation, read a book, or play some video games at the end of the day. Otherwise you end up working yourself to death.”

3. VaNiesha Honani, U.S. Navy 1998-2005, Certification Manager

“Job Interviews outside of DOD / Government jobs like Tech Startups: 90% of my interviews outside of DOD and governmental jobs have assumed that because I was in the military—it’s ‘robot do.’ We are only used to instructions and stringent structure with little initiative or innovation. I started cutting them off at the head with a good anecdote (they love hearing the “Once in band camp…’ stories.) that shows how we had to use some innovation in a stressful time. Second thing I point out is we are very adaptable. I’ve won every time by pointing out, ‘Being in the military – I’ve learned you can’t have a 3rd eye and be sensitive about it, adapt and take it with a grain of salt.’ In Tech Startups – you tend to be around some finicky but talented people – not being high maintenance and self sufficient is a dream employee.”

4. Leo Jenkins, U.S. Army 2003-2007, Author of On Assimilation & Lest We Forget

“Leaving shouldn’t mean severing ties. I get it; I wanted nothing to do with the rank and file of the military when I got out. Sadly that meant isolating myself. Guess what, you just served in the most cohesive fraternity in the world. You know the one thing fraternities are actually good for? Networking. You’ve just spent X number of years establishing relationships with people from all over the country. Those people are your best bet at making it in the world. You’re gonna need a job now and I guarantee one your military buddies has a family member looking for an employee who know what responsibility looks like, who can show up on time, and get the job done right, regardless of the raging hang over caused by binge drinking until 4AM. Bottom line, stay in contact with your buddies.”

5. Tyler Gately, U.S. Army 2004-2009, Press Secretary, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America

“Come to the realization that when you get out of the military you are starting over professionally. The truth is that your military skills will likely not transfer to a civilian career. Research careers you are interested in and read about how other people got there. Maximize your benefits and intern as much as you can. Internships are the easiest and quickest way to learn what your passion is and more importantly, what it is not.”

6. Brent Ebell, U.S. Army 2001-2007, Professional Cameraman

“Use your past as fuel. Remember all the pain, suffering, humiliation, freezing weather, blistering heat, spit flying in your face as someone screams the most degrading shit at you. Use all of it because people will inevitably doubt you. You will hear phrases like, ‘that’s impossible.’ ‘Can’t be done.’ Or ‘those are pipe dreams.’ All you have to do is look back at what you’ve already survived and overcome. Whenever someone doubts you, look him or her in the eyes and smile, but just think to yourself, ‘Fuck you!’”

7. Glenn Ness, U.S. Army 2004-2015, Student

“Try to get up to college level before you get out so that you aren’t wasting the GI Bill on menial classes. If you know that you are shooting for a high-credit degree, try to pay out of pocket as long as you can before tapping into the GI Bill because a community college now is going to be cheaper than a university in 4 years. Also, stay away from predatory schools. Some for-profit universities design their programs to squeeze every bit of money out of your GI Bill.”

8. Nick Palmisciano, U.S. Army 1994-2003, CEO of Ranger Up

“You know how you look at guys who were high school athletes and all they do is relive those days forever because that’s as good as it ever was for them? Don’t be that guy with your military service. Just like high school athletics should be a stepping stone to greater successes, so should you think of your service. It made you stronger, taught you valuable life lessons, and helped you hone your character. So take that wisdom and find a new mission and get after it, knowing it may suck at first the way basic training did. Your life should always be leaning forward, never anchored to the past. When you lean forward, no matter how hard a year is, at the end of it, you’re a tougher, better, more skilled person than you were before. When you spend all your time looking back, the world keeps changing and you remain still, slowly becoming less useful with each passing moment.”

9. Shannon L. Adams, U.S. Air Force, IAVA Michigan Community Leader

“Find a mentor to help you with the transition that’s recently been there themselves. This can be achieved through your IAVA [Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America] network or a Veteran service organization. We all learned from others’ experiences while in the service, we accepted advice from our peers, our leadership and learned in professional environments (training) to overcome obstacles, to get promoted and to dust ourselves off when we stumbled. Don’t try and do it alone!”

10. Vincent “Rocco” Vargas, U.S. Army 2003-2007, Army Reserves 2007-Present, COO of Article 15 Clothing

“I have two things that really drive me. One is my family. I always imagine them watching me walk across some imaginary stage receiving an award of some sort and just seeing the proud look on their faces….It’s easy to justify giving up to yourself, but when you have to justify failure to your kids, or your father…that’s always more difficult. That thought has gotten me through some of my hardest days in training and in hardship.

I know the only way of making that thought a reality is to work hard toward a goal. Which brings me to my second driving factor….I like to give myself small goals or missions if you will. Once getting out of the military, I felt there was no real direction. I wanted to do something with myself, but unlike some achievements in the military, there is no prebuilt path. So I created these missions and strive every day to achieve them. Something as simple as being a more affectionate dad to something as difficult as getting back in shape. I continue to hold myself accountable for my self-improvement.

By the end of the year I should have, hopefully, become a better person, husband, and father by accomplishing these small missions. This has given me motivation to wake up the next day and keep grinding. Setting these smaller step goals and holding myself accountable to be the man I want to be for my family.”

11. Jarred Taylor, U.S. Air Force 2003-present, President of Article 15 Clothing

“There is no magical career path where you don’t have to put in hard work. Yes the circumstances and definition of ‘hard’ change outside the military, but don’t for one second think it gets easier once your out. Focus that ‘never quit’ and ‘don’t have the option to quit’ attitude when pursuing a civilian career and you will quickly see yourself rise above your peers. Because those that only know an environment where if they don’t like something they can just ‘quit’ don’t have the same drive a military person has.”

~Raul Felix

Read: 4 Things That Security Contractors Love To Spend Their Money On
Read: Army Rangers Talk About The Times Their Words Have Shocked Civilians
Read: 12 Things Only Veterans Of The Global War On Terrorism Will Understand

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An Army Ranger Interviews A Navy SEAL On Resilience

What is resilience? It’s not something you can buy off the shelf. You can’t pout until it’s given to you, either. You acquire it by doing the most human of things: struggling. In this struggle, it’s essential that you keep fighting through and driving on, whether you have succeeded or failed in your goals. Each time you go through the process, you become a bit more resilient.

Eric Greitens is a former Navy SEAL, Rhodes scholar, and founder of veterans organization The Mission Continues. He has written a book on the subject: Resilience: Hard-Won Wisdom for Living A Better Life. In a series of letters to his SEAL comrade who struggles with depression, alcoholism, and post-traumatic stress disorder, Eric seeks to break down the elements that make for a resilient life so he can help out his friend and, in turn, others.

Raul Felix:
Eric, your organization, The Mission Continues, puts post-9/11 veterans to purposeful work by leveraging their already established experiences, skills, and giving them additional training. This is a bit contrary to what other organizations have done, which focused on giving veterans goodies with no long-term value. When did this idea come about and what does your organization do?

Eric Greitens:
Our wounded and disabled veterans had lost a lot. Some had lost their eyesight. Some their hearing. Some had lost limbs. All of that they would recover from. If they lost their sense of purpose, however, that would be deadly. I also knew that no one was going to be able to give them hope; they were going to have to create hope through action.

I wanted to welcome returning and disabled veterans not just with charity, but with a challenge.

So I donated my combat pay to begin a different kind of veterans’ organization, and two friends contributed money from their disability checks. My plan with The Mission Continues was to offer fellowship for veterans to serve at nonprofit, charitable, and public benefit organizations. We would provide veterans with a stipend to offset cost-of-living expenses and with mentors to help them build plans for their post-fellowship life. Most importantly, we would provide them with the challenge and the opportunity to rebuild a meaningful life by serving again in communities here at home.

Raul Felix:
In your book, you mention three forms of happiness: Happiness of Pleasure, Happiness of Grace, and Happiness of Excellence. All three are needed. Many veterans, especially the ones who get out in their early or mid-twenties, fall into the trap of overindulging in pleasure with alcohol, drugs, unscrupulous sex, and other whims in order to get that emotional high they experienced while on mission. I know I did and still do. Why does focusing more on excellence, which is way harder, lead to a richer form of happiness?

Eric Greitens:
I think that—most simply—the happiness of excellence leads to a richer form of happiness because it involves growth. When we push ourselves and engage in activity that leads to excellence, we exercise our power—and this leads to growth, to mastery, and—in time—to achievement. All of that deep engagement with the world creates joy along the way.

In addition, part of what makes this happiness richer is that, often times, our efforts actually make others happy along the way. You, for example, know that it takes a lot of effort to write a good piece. As you write more, you become better at your craft. At the same time, your writing offers something to others. And if this is true for you, you’ve got a great combination—inner growth and outer service.

Finally, I think that the happiness of excellence is often richer because it helps to provide us with a sense of direction and, over time, a sense of purpose. When I think, for example, about the kind of happiness that’s available to the man in your poem, “Keep Moving, Young Man,” we both know that the happiness of pleasure might offer a moment of relief, but afterwards a guy like this might plunge even deeper still. If, however, he had a sense of direction…if, however, he felt himself getting better…if, however, he felt like he was making a contribution to others…that might—over time and with lots of hard work—lead him to a different place altogether. And that’s the great promise of the happiness of excellence.

Raul Felix:
You mentioned that “The naive mind imagines effortless success, the cowardly mind imagines hardship and freezes, the resilient mind imagines hardships and prepares.” We were taught in the military that you have to have a contingency plan in case things do go wrong. When you acquire a veteran fellowship, what do you do in order to ensure they are prepared and do succeed?

Eric Greitens:
That’s a great question. We try to apply all of the lessons in the Resilience book to make sure that they have the best chance of success. So, for example, we make sure that they have mentors to learn from, models to follow. We create counselors to guide them, friends to aid them, and there is a curriculum that they complete, all designed to help them to build the mental toughness and to develop the sense of purpose that are necessary to make it through a tough time.

Raul Felix:
You have a whole letter dedicated to friendship. I agree that having good friends is one of the great things that makes life worth living. My friends have been there for me and have bailed me out of physical and legal trouble more times than I can recall. Also, real friends will call you out when you’re messing up your life, business, or just plain being an asshole. Can you give us a recent example of when your friends have helped you out?

Eric Greitens:
Of course. I run a small business—I started it when I came home from Iraq, and I’m proud of it. It provides a good living for my family and for the people on the team. A few months back I had a guy who worked for me—a guy I’d given a lot of opportunities to—who lied to me and stole from me. That’s a gut punch. I called a friend [to replace him] the next day. He was at my house two hours later, and he’s been with me now every day for over seven months. My company is so much stronger than it was before—and we got there because of my friend and the incredible people on my team. It’s a classic Resilience case: I never would have wanted it to happen, but in retrospect, I’m actually grateful that it did because it made us so much stronger.

Raul Felix:
Part of the allure the military, especially Special Operations Units, has to young men is that whole transformative process. It pushes you to your physical, mental, and emotional limits. It has the power to test you and make something more out of you than you were before. If not the military, what other rites of passage do you think would a young person need to go through in order to earn the same amount of pride and sureness of oneself?

Eric Greitens:
A rite of passage usually marks a transition from one phase of life to the next. When you join the military, you literally step off of the bus, and *bang*, you’ve got a drill instructor yelling in your ear and you’re in a whole new world. You’ve come to a place that is meant to transition you from a citizen into a citizen-soldier/sailor/airman/Marine who is built to serve others.

Going to college usually marks a transition, as does entering a monastery, getting married, or having a child. You move, in each case, from one phase of life to the next. You become a husband or wife, a father or mother.

For young people looking to develop pride and confidence, there is only one path: self-created success. You will know you are good and strong when you have done things that are good. Achievement can take place in the art room, on the athletic field, in an auto body shop, in your business, on a farm—and achievement can take many many different forms. But true confidence comes when we grow, when we learn, when we master new skills. Almost everything new can be frightening at first, but with the right kinds of experience, we grow in courage.

That’s why resilience is an essential virtue; you can’t grow without it.

Raul Felix:
You’ve done quite a bit with your life. You’ve been a Rhodes scholar, humanitarian volunteer, Navy SEAL, and you’ve started a great non-profit organization. A lot of people would look at what you’ve accomplished and think they can’t hope to reach that level of excellence and may be even intimidated by it. Obviously, everything you’ve accomplished was a result of your own hard work and resilience. What last bit of advice would you give to someone who is young but hasn’t really done much with their life in order to get moving toward the right path for them?

Eric Greitens:
Well, thank you, Raul. That’s very kind of you. I’ve been fortunate to work with wonderful people along the way.

What I say to young people is this: You have a contribution to make. You have something to offer. And to develop your own sense of purpose, do two things. One, stay humble. It’s important that we remember that every person is better than us in some way. Every person has something to teach us. So learn from people around you. At the same time, be bold. Try new things. Attack hard problems. Do the tough stuff. Push yourself. If you can be humble and bold at the same time, you’ll create something beautiful.

~Raul Felix

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4 Things That Security Contractors Love To Spend Their Money On

The Global War on Terror has offered unique career opportunities for American veterans that past wars have not. The US military’s inability to recruit enough troops to fill the mission requirements in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other sites throughout the world has created the need to hire private security contracting firms.

Being a private military contractor allows a combat veteran to grab some of those big bucks that are usually reserved for those in the upper echelon or technical side of the military-industrial complex. Since well-paying jobs on the home front are hard to come by, it makes perfect sense for a man who was willing to fight in a foreign land for less than $20,000 a year to become a shooter for a six-figure income. If you’re one of these men, you come back with quite a bit of money in your pocket after doing a contract or six. How should you go about spending it?

1. Getting a sweet ride.

Now that you’ve spent a few of the best years of your life in a shithole country being the personal security for some faceless executives of Tax Payer Money Funnel Incorporated, you’re ready to live out your own dreams—unless you’re a closet hipster who has wet dreams about owning a Prius, which signals to the world you’re trendy, environmentally conscious, and gay. It will include one or all of the following: a truck, a badass sports car, or a motorcycle.

You’ve been stalking the vehicle that catches your fancy for months. Checking out every color and trim variations. Deciding which features and extras you must have: sound systems, limo tint, grills, and lift kits. You know what? Fuck it! Just murder that motherfucker out. Should you put 24s on it? You fantasize of cruising down an open highway with your hands in between the thighs of a hot brunette sitting in the passenger seat in a tank top who is barely able to contain her breasts and singing along to the latest Taylor Swift hit single because you’re confident enough in your heterosexuality to listen to pop music without irony.

You’re finally able to strut into a dealership like an OG gangster with cold, hard cash. You’re not playing any games; you’re getting the car you want.

“I have $XX,XXX cash,” you say to the shady salesman who is eager to take as much of your money as possible. “You will give me this car, at this price.” He’ll then try to swindle you by saying they don’t give special cash discounts. You’ll then be like, “Hey Broseph, I ain’t no dumb private just out of Basic that you can financially rape with your 18.99% APR loan you’re able to secure through a subprime lender because I got a secure job in the military. I’ve been contracting and doing my research. You’re going to give me the car I want, with the specs I want, in the color I want, and at this fucking price.” You then drive away with a gangster lean in your car because you just dick-slapped the dealership.

2. Taking a vacation that fully indulges your vices.

Sure, your friends and family back home will be eager to see you and have missed you dearly. But if you have learned anything from your years when you were in the military, it’s that being home on leave is pretty lame after two or three days. All your friends and family are doing their own thing. Even if you do show back up, you’re not really going to see them more than once or twice. Why sit around in your hometown where not much has changed when you can take a trip to a foreign place where the foreigners aren’t trying to kill you?

Wolf Of Wall Street

Wolf Of Wall Street

If Hollywood and music videos have taught us anything is that it’s standard operating procedure to celebrate your newfound riches with scantly clad women in an exotic location while snorting mountains of coke and popping piles of Viagra to combat chronic erectile dysfunction. However, since you’ve spent the last few months around men, your game with females may have suffered. No worries; the time-honored profession of prostitution is there to make sure you have someone who will pretend to care about you for the allotted amount of time that you have bought her. Make sure to hide your drugs.

Perhaps you’re not the hookers-and-blow type. Perhaps you’re the drinking copious amounts of alcohol, brooding by your lonesome, thinking to yourself how everyone in the bar seems like a pussy and you miss hanging around real men, awkwardly hitting on chicks, and then falling asleep as you jack off type. No matter; you’ll have a way better time in foreign places where your American brutishness will be considered a cultural flaw rather than a personal one.

An extravagant vacation may not give you any tangible assets, but it will give you life experiences. Think of all those stories you’ll be able to tell while you’re pulling security at your next contracting gig to break up the monotony of everyone bitching about who they think are total cocksuckers on the contract and bragging about how hard they were back when they were in the military.

3. Embracing your right to bear arms.

You can’t spend all your money on cool toys, travel, drugs, and hookers; you need to be an adult and make a responsible investment. A gun is an asset that assures the security of the rest of your assets. It insures that any person who intrudes upon your person or property will get two in the chest and one in the head.

As much as freedom haters will protest, gun ownership is your right as an American. You risked your life for this country not just selflessly in your military service, but for personal profit when you became a mercenary—I mean, a security contractor. You’re the embodiment of patriotism and capitalism, two major principles in our mighty nation.

Now it’s also crucial that you just not have enough to arm yourself, but everyone in your household, and two or three of your closest friends. When Obama causes a nuclear holocaust, currency won’t be stocks or deeds, but weapons and ammo.

4. Getting yourself out of the rat race.

OK, you’ve blown your money from your previous contracts, but this time you’ve learned your lesson. You can’t keep on deploying anymore. You hate being away from your wife/girlfriend, kids, or dog. You need to figure out how to make your money work for you, not the other way around. While the pay is great, this isn’t a long-term career. You have to make plans for the future on the off chance that the zombie apocalypse doesn’t happen.

You’ve sacrificed and put a lot at risk for the opportunity you have now. You can use your money to start that business you’ve always wanted to start. Or invest in real estate to create a steady stream of income. Or learn a new skill set that actually has a market in the US.

You earned the money; whatever you do with it is up to you. You’ve been broke before and now you’ve gotten a taste of what making real money feels like. You know having money is awesome and it allows you to buy the things and experiences that make you happy to be alive. But it’s also a trap to keep you coming back for more and more. With a little smarts and a bit of luck, you can figure out how to have a sustainable income instead of being caught in the up-and-down cycles of being contractor-rich.

~Raul Felix

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Army Rangers Talk About The Times Their Words Have Shocked Civilians

Sgt. Brian Kohl, 55th Combat Camera, US Army

Sgt. Brian Kohl, 55th Combat Camera, US Army

Men in Special Operations units look at the world very differently than the average civilian does. There is no subject or phrase that is too taboo for us. All kinds of jokes are commonplace: rape, racist, dead baby, misogynist, and plain disgusting ones. You’ll never get scolded for offending someone; if anything, you’ll get mocked for not being offensive enough. Such an environment has a lasting effect. When we’re set loose on the civilian world, we must learn that most people can’t handle our dark, twisted humor. I asked my Ranger buddies about times they have said something that horrified society’s sheep.

Raul Felix:
When some cunt broke my heart I was drinking at the bar I worked at drowning in booze, my own tears, and woes. I told the young female blonde dumb bartender, “I want to slit that bitch’s throat.” Then word got around that I was a psychopath.

George:
“This [name a situation] is a fucking abortion, it’s a bloody mess.”

Leo:
I told a woman that was trying to take my dad’s beer that I would fillet her like a fish.

TJ:
When people ask me, “What’s up?,” I say rent and the price of pussy. Both are always going up.

Matthew:
In film school I was in a class that was covering all the things you needed a permit to legally do—shut down a street, fire a gun, etc. So I was doing a short at the time that required shooting someone in the back of the head and that person falling off a building. So I ask, “What do I have to get in order to shoot someone in the head and throw them off a building?” I thought it was a perfectly logical question considering the movies that come out these days, but holy shit did everyone else, teacher included, think I was a psychopath.

Calvin:
In reference to an abortion [my girlfriend] had: “No, I felt OK about it. After all, it was one more confirmed kill.”

James:
Saw new talent in the office, told my coworker that I would “pee in her butt.”

Raul Felix:
At my best friend’s birthday I had been heavily drinking. They had two short female friends they were close with but that simply tolerated my existence. I joined the group and said, “I like to dominate small women” and patted one of the chicks on the head like she was a dog and walked off. They were upset about that for a while.

George:
“You’re looking at me like you either want to fuck or fight; either way it’s a good time.”

Steven:
“Look at the turd-cutter on that chick. I’d eat a mile of her shit to see where it came from.”

Dirty Dick:
I can’t think of a story or anything I’ve said out loud off the top of my head because I’m so inappropriate all the fucking time. But you can talk about how my cousins showed me videos of the cartel mutilating each other and I laugh about it while they’re staring at my crazy American Psycho face.

Chris:
I used a freshly skinned rabbit pelt for a puppet to the horror of the college girls at the campout. I guess skinning it without a knife didn’t help.

Calvin:
Felt a pregnant classmate’s belly in a bar—classy, Oregon—and said, “That’s so cool that you’re adding life to the world. I always wanted to leave it with less than I came.”

Matthew:
I was sitting in the newsroom at NBC in Kansas City and felt the presence of the cameraman and reporter over my shoulder as I read a text message [in] which the thread included a thumbnail of my most recent dong shot.

Steven:
(In reference to the Ice Bucket Challenge): If dumping a little chilly water on yourself is the level of intestinal fortitude that you consider being Rangerrific, then you, sir, should be a Seal. If the challenge was to pour a gallon of ISIS and virgin blood over my head while I aggressively masturbate to “Two Girls, One Cup” while I fist-fuck a porn star’s ass and kick a puppy in the face, then, sir, we are on the same page.

Alvin:
A few civilian friends and I were going to pull a train on some chick. While they were all arguing about who was going to go first, I called dibs on last.

Erik Larsen:
Civilian to me when I was a recruiter in New York: “How do you live with yourself knowing you killed innocent children in Iraq?” My response: “Don’t knock it ’til you try it.” Civilian walks off in horror.

Rammers:
Before I leave certain locations or say goodbye to people, I use certain words to say goodbye instead of the usual (“have good one,” “see ya later,” “keep in touch”). Most of the time I say, “Don’t get shot.” Once, before I left my economics class prior to the Thanksgiving weekend, my professor told the class, “I hope everyone has a good holiday weekend” [and] I replied, “Hopefully no one gets shot.” She then repeatedly asked, “Who’s getting shot?” three times. I laughed and said, “Getting shot is always a possibility where I am from.”

~Raul Felix

5 People You Will Meet In The Army

The Army is one of the few organizations that give you a true sampling of the types of people that live in America. It seems that shooting and blowing shit up while getting a free college education appeals to people of all races, classes, and creeds. The Army welcomes everyone from the lower-class youths who come from the ghettos, suburbs, and small towns to the kids born with a silver spoon in their mouths who join because being a veteran will look good when they’re running for Congress 30 years from now.

While there are hundreds of thousands of people on active duty and millions of veterans with complex personalities and unique sets of circumstances, this is the Internet and we don’t have time for such silliness. We like to package people in neat little descriptive boxes in list format so we can have a good laugh as we can relate those personality archetypes to those we have met in real life while taking our daily dump. In accordance with such a timeless tradition, here are 5 types of people you’ll meet while on active duty in the Army.

1. The Old Man

The Old Man decided to join the service in his late 20s to early 30s, which effectively makes him an old fart in an environment full of 18-to-21-year-olds full of testosterone and optimistic patriotism. He has a staunch air of dignity about him and is soundly schooled on how the real world works. The Old Man is no stranger to hard work and has done many blue-collar jobs in his late teens and throughout his twenties. He may have even gone to college, but more often than not, he didn’t graduate. Nevertheless, the Old Man isn’t stupid. From Basic Training to beyond, he’s usually the first one to grasp a concept, apply it, and unfuck the damage the dumb 18-year-old privates did when they fucked something up.

The Old Man always seems to have a dark past that he doesn’t talk about until he truly trusts you: a former lover who destroyed his spirit, a drug habit that took to him to the brink of financial ruin, or a slew of unfortunate life events and circumstances that made him need to get away from it all. Regardless, the Old Man sees the military as a fresh start in life and knows how to leverage it to his advantage. He is well versed in all the pay increases and benefits he is eligible for and won’t hesitate to take advantage of them. The Old Man’s maturity will make him a model solider that his superiors (whom he is older than) will never have to worry about.

2. The Ambivalent Patriot

The Ambivalent Patriot is the last person in the world you ever thought would join the military. When he was a civilian, people would describe him as shady and shiftless. His attitude toward life aligns closer to that of Jay and Silent Bob than that of Audie Murphy. Whether he got some chick pregnant or because he got kicked out of his house and had nowhere to go, he joined the armed forces. He usually picks a job that would require him to do the least amount of physical work and will enlist for the bare minimum amount of time required of him to get his full GI Bill benefits.

Surprisingly, the Ambivalent Patriot is usually a competent soldier not because he has any sort of patriotic duty or motivation, but rather because he realizes it’s easier to shut the fuck up, follow the rules, and do the right thing than it is to be an idiot who is constantly getting in trouble. He follows the philosophy of being “the grey man,” meaning that he remains invisible and tries to be exceptionally unexceptional. He meets the standard in every task that is presented before him, but he never stands out in such a way where he draws positive or negative attention. He’s in it to do his time and get the fuck out as soon as his enlistment is over so he can actually pursue the career he actually cares about.

3. The Cherry

The Cherry has been planning on joining the military since he was fifteen and has watched nearly every war movie made in the last fifty years. Fresh out of high school, what he lacks in real-world knowledge and common sense he more than makes up for in unrelenting motivation and physical aptitude. The Cherry will be a constant headache to his leadership. He may have grander visions of becoming a great soldier, yet he will make every retard mistake in the book on his path to doing so. He often has to learn lessons the hard way and will be constantly getting his balls smoked off because he fucked up something simple for the third time that week. He may receive an Article 15 or two and perform extra duty en route to becoming a good soldier.

The Cherry will spend his formative years in the military and spend the weekends in his barracks room drinking, bitching about his life, playing video games, and jerking off to gang-bang porn. On the rare occasion he does get laid, it will usually be with a woman of questionable moral character who already fucked one of his buddies. Yet he knows he isn’t in any real position to be picky. He’ll get his first taste of combat, lose a friend, lose a love, and lose his faith in humanity before he is 21. While the Cherry may have entered the Army full of innocence, glee, and hope, he will leave it corrupt, grizzled, and cynical.

4. The Lifer

The Lifer never intended the military to be his career, but several combat deployments and two reenlistments later he’s now a Platoon Sergeant with twelve years in service and knows that he may as well do twenty. While he is quite good at leading men and killing people, there isn’t a huge job market for that in the civilian world. Accepting his lot in life, he now seeks to be the best and most professional soldier he can be.

The Lifer comes in two varieties: 1) a total dick who, having been in the belly of the beast too long, is a stickler for the rules and regulations; or 2) a totally chill guy who realizes he isn’t going to make Sergeant Major and is over the fuck-fuck games. One will make you work your ass off to the point of stupidity and redundancy. The other will make your work your ass off, make sure you’re properly trained, and will release you at a reasonable time because he doesn’t see the point of you working late if you’ve been properly and adequately trained. Plus, he wants to get home and fuck his hot wife, too.

5. The Living Legend

You heard of him before you even see him. Even if he isn’t in your direct chain of command, just the sight of him strikes fear into your heart and soul. He has this aura that is a healthy mix of anger, hatred, and badass. His face is by default a scowl and his lower lip is constantly filled with chewing tobacco. He’s a salty, senior non-commissioned officer with the energy of a 19-year-old. You’ve heard of the crazy shit he’s done in Afghanistan and Iraq leading his men into the fray and leaving many dead Hajis in his wake. Some of the stories you heard seem so farfetched that if it were any other man, you would call bullshit. But since it’s him, you believe his stories.

He’s so respected and feared in the battalion that even his superior officers are afraid of him. When he gives his opinions, everyone listens. He rarely raises his voice because he is above that. He’s calm, cool, and decisive. He’s one of the few individuals you’ll meet in your life that not only lives up to his legend but adds to it every time he deploys. Even if you saw him today as a civilian, your heart would race and the hair on the back of your neck would rise because he is a scary motherfucker and you’re damn glad he’s on our side.

~Raul Felix

Read more of my writing at Thought Catalog.

3 Historical Examples Of The Federal Government Screwing Over The Troops

Anyone with a half a brain knows that politicians are self-indulgent ass clowns who don’t have the nation’s best interests in mind, but rather the best interests of themselves, their party, and their private-sector cronies. Doesn’t matter whether they’re Republican, Democrat, Whig, Democratic-Republicans, or Federalist; most of them have their fingers up their ass and let their party feuding take precedence over taking care of their men. It’s the common practice of politicians to go with the easy wrong over the hard right. As a result, the soldier on the ground and the veteran in the wheelchair suffer.

1. They refused to send much-needed resources to George Washington’s troops.

In 1781, the American Revolution had been raging for five years. The Continental Army under George Washington’s command had finally evolved from a haphazard militia to a professional, well-trained military force. Yet they were wasting away in the New Jersey winter. They had not been paid in a long time, were malnourished, and were freezing their balls off because they didn’t have the adequate cold-weather gear. Desperate to keep the ranks filled, they had also been coerced and bullied by their line officers to remain in the Army and reenlist under unfavorable terms after their initial enlistment was up.

George Washington had appealed to the Continental Congress on several occasions urging for the proper funds and supplies so he could adequately pay, feed, and outfit his troops. Yet, the fat, wig-wearing, self-centered politicians let Washington’s pleas go unheard. They were too busy involved in their own corrupt scandals and politicking to give a damn about the common foot soldier’s poor conditions.

The soldiers saw this as a broken promise by their nation. They were putting their life on the line for the Revolutionary cause, yet their government was not fulfilling the most basic part of the deal. They’d had enough. In what came to be known as the Pennsylvania Line Mutiny, with muskets in hand and artillery pieces in tow, virtually the entire Pennsylvania Line headed on a two-day march to Philadelphia to make the ungrateful Congress listen to their demands. They made it as far as Princeton.

Their commanding officer General Wayne caught up with them and negotiations began. The general heard their grievances and they had come to terms: The men who were detained beyond their enlistment or coerced into reenlistment were to be separated with their pay. The men who remained were to get their pay and clothing. The number of men in the Pennsylvania Line was cut in half from 2,400 to 1,150.

2. They used police and military actions on World War I vets.

After coming home from The Great War, American combat veterans realized they had gotten the raw end of the deal. While they were in the trenches of Europe getting shot at, shelled, and gassed, the men who had stayed back on the home front working in war industries had made about ten times as much money as they had. To make a fair readjustment, they lobbied Congress for what would be commonly known as the Bonus Act, which passed in 1924. Each veteran was issued a certificate for $1 for each day of domestic service and $1.25 for each day of overseas service. The catch was that the certificates wouldn’t mature until 1945.

Then, in 1932 at the height of the Great Depression, realizing that many of the fat-cat corporate gods had gotten special treatment from Congress because of their lobbying power, the soldiers decided to press Congress to pass a bill for the early redemption of the certificates to provide some relief from poverty many of them had been experiencing.

Forty-three thousand veterans and their families with little to no money in their pockets traveled from all over the nation to march on DC. The Bonus Army had been mobilized. They organized a well-run Hooverville built from the material salvaged from rubbish dumps. They would peacefully occupy the House of Representatives’ offices to have their voices heard. The strategy worked and the House passed the Wright Patman Bonus Bill. It was a small victory, but their biggest obstacle was just ahead of them: the Republican-run Senate under President Herbert Hoover.

They massed on the United States Capitol awaiting the news, chanting, “The Yanks are starving! The Yanks are starving!” so loudly that they could be heard in the Senate corridors as the bill was being debated. The Senate overwhelmingly struck it down with a 62-18 vote. The marchers were deeply disappointed but decided to remain in continued protest. A month later, with tensions running high, the 72nd Congress adjourned. The cowardly congressmen left the Capitol through the back doors and underground tunnels to avoid any confrontation with the Bonus Army. Now with this session of Congress over, Hoover wanted their poor, unemployed, homeless asses out of DC. He ordered their forceful eviction.

Police went into one of the half-demolished buildings that had been used for housing and began evicting the veterans and their families. Someone threw a brick at one of the police officers, which resulted in the police officers shooting their guns and leaving two veterans dead on the ground. With that bloodshed, it was time to call in the troops commanded by future World War II General Douglas MacArthur.

MacArthur sent over 200 cavalry, 200 infantry, and six tanks to disperse the protesters. The soldiers donned their gas masks and shot tear gas into the crowd. Fearing for their lives, the Bonus Army ran for safety. The soldiers went into the camps and forcefully removed those who occupied it and then set it ablaze. One reporter said, “The blaze was so big it lit up the whole sky. A nightmare come to life.”

3. Pandering to racial bigotry overrode their common sense.

Theodore Roosevelt is considered one of the greatest presidents in our nation’s history, and rightfully so. But even he made a severe mistake in his presidency by succumbing to the racial bigotry and pressure of his time.

In 1906, Brownsville, Texas was a small town with a little over 6,000 people. The community’s citizens were anxious over the fact that a regiment of Buffalo Soldiers had been stationed at nearby Fort Brown. “Buffalo Soldiers” was the name given to all-black units because the military at the time was segregated.

A shooting spree had occurred, leaving a white bartender dead and a Hispanic police officer with a destroyed arm. To the townsfolk, it was pretty obvious whose fault it was. Several people reported seeing some black soldiers leaving the scene of the shooting. Then, to further their conspiracy, they allegedly planted discharged ammunition of the same caliber the Buffalo Soldiers used in their rifles on the ground as evidence. Despite this effort to incriminate them, the soldiers’ all-white commanders insisted that all of their men had been in the barracks that night and had been accounted for at the time of the shooting.

Though there were many contradictions in the evidence and statements given, the Army Inspector General accepted the townsfolk’s statements. This developed into what has become known as the Brownsville Affair.

The soldiers were then pressured to name who fired the shot, but they said they knew nothing about the incident. As much the community wanted to, they could not tie the shootings to any one of the men. Yet on the advisement of the Inspector General to appease the piece-of-shit people of Brownsville, Roosevelt ordered that 167 of the men be given a dishonorable discharge for their “conspiracy of silence.” Among the ranks were men who were had served in the Spanish-American War, some with 20 years in service and only months away from receiving their retirement pensions, and six of whom had been Medal of Honor recipients. Congress later did its own investigation into the matter and upheld Roosevelt’s decision. Those men lost it all because their political leaders lacked the morale and intestinal fortitude to do the right thing. Instead they shoved their corrupt political cocks in their ass and called it a day.

~Raul Felix

You can read more of my writing at Thought Catalog.