In Peace

To see my son playing chess

with my niece

has been the poetry

I have needed.


The cherry tree

regularly ravaged by magpies

somehow still has fruit.


I cast a thin netting over it

to protect what cherries remain

steadying a ladder

with both feet.


That they may ripen in peace.

Reduction in Social Media Consumption? Try it. You’ll like it.

For Akepa (before the start of her junior year of high school):

You should know that I have spent countless hours on social media, just like you. I have checked on my “posts,” felt buoyed when “likes” were plentiful, and diminished when they received little attention. Like you, I have tried to come up with “good” content that revealed the awesomeness of my life. And, in some cases, I have succeeded.

Take, for instance, the recent Instagram post I composed in which I can be seen swooping down in slow-motion out of the snowy trees in a deep tele stance in full battle rattle with Miike Snow’s song Genghis Khan playing in the background.

I mean, Wow, right?!

So when you suggested that we both make a pact to take a break from social media, I was admittedly reluctant.

While the benefits for you were obvious, the benefits for me were less so.

But it occurred to me that if entering this pact helped you in any way (and I believe it will!) then I should do it.

Which is what I have been doing for the last 48 hours.

And I have to admit I feel awful.

Not so much because of being away from social media, but because I have a chest cold, nasal drip, skipped lunch, and now my stomach hurts.

I’m actually hunched over while writing this. It’s that uncomfortable. :-(

But let’s get back to the benefits for you:

  1. As a high school student with a solid track record of two years of rather uninterrupted social media consumption, you’ve fallen behind in the classroom. Let’s face it, you have some catching up to do. Ireland, remember?
  2. Getting away from your social media accounts and severing your attachment to your “smartphone” will allow you to turn your attention to academic achievement and free up your brain to learn, which will assist with your critical reasoning, and provide you a solid foundation for the myriad challenges of adulthood that lie ahead.
  3. Imagine, if you will, you’re a running back trying to gain yardage in an important football game, the biggest game of your life. (Forgive the football analogies, this is what a military career does to you.) Could you do it with a “smartphone” in your hand? The distraction of social media and a “smartphone” is akin to trying to avoid being tackled while Snapchatting and monitoring your “likes” on Instagram, etc.
  4. The lesson is don’t play football while absorbed in your “smartphone.” Hee, hee!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      BUT you have taken a brave and significant FIRST STEP for which I applaud you. You–and I–are now both off social media! BRAVO FOR US!!!

Now, I would like to say that 90% of the hard work required of you is completed and you have only the 10% left. But I can’t. Because it is more like 10% is behind you and 90% is left. But at least now you have a fighting chance. I have no doubt that academic achievement of any sort would be IMPOSSIBLE were you to have retained your high levels of social media activities/distractions (and this goes for many of your peers, and probably increasingly middle-schoolers as well).

As boring as it may sound, SCHOOLWORK and READING and SYSTEMATIC STUDY will be your salvation. I have no doubt of this.

I am proud of our 2-day streak without “streaking” (If you are an old fogey like me, google “snapchat streaking” for edification and befuddlement), and I hope that this streak continues to grow! Let’s see how much we can accomplish over the months ahead without all the distractions of “managing” a cyber-existence and reality. (Not to mention, it’s nice to be more present for those around us,and more present in our own lives, right?)

After all, what is more precious than the sanctity and health of our own thoughts and awareness, free of constant intrusions in the forms of bells, whistles, and noxious flashings of light?

En davant, Neboda!!! Courage!!! You can do it!!!


(Please like and share :-D )

Hiking a mountain acequia at 9500′ in northern New Mexico…in slippers! Brrrr! July 13, 2017



Grow Your Earth

It would be a stretch to say my garden is thriving. But I can say that efforts to care for my garden–the watering, the weeding, the nurturing of sprouts–relaxes me, and promotes in me a sense of calm and peace. And with a little luck, there will be healthy things to eat. Thanks and appreciation for Not Forgotten Outreach of Taos and Jon Turner for the inspiration and example. What is more beautiful than transforming swords into ploughshares?

Skywalk 2017

Ready to depart Canyon Estates and make the long journey north. From L to R: Alex, Jonah, Alexia, Chuck, Brant

The 7th Annual Skywalk, as in year’s past, kicked off with an olive and cheese platter at the Parq Central Hotel rooftop lounge at 5pm on Friday, May 12. The next morning, the group reconvened at the Canyon Estates trailhead (6,600ft) at 6am in Tijeras to begin the initial climb up to South Peak (9,800ft) with the goal of reaching Placitas by evening– approximately 25 miles away.

Brant McGee on South Peak. At 18, Brant served as a combat medic with an infantry company in Vietnam. Upon returning to the States, Brant applied for and was awarded conscientious objector status, one of only a handful of recorded uncontested cases resulting in an honorable separation. In the background is the rocky western face of Sandia Crest, the halfway point to Placitas.

Chuck Hosking on South Peak. Chuck Hosking has been an anti-war activist and social justice activist all of his life. He rejects consumerism and materialism in favor of living his religious values and serving others. He disavows waste and provides for his meals by collecting by hand the foodstuffs discarded by institutions, supermarkets, bakeries, etc. He donates much of his earned income to those less fortunate than himself, and purposely earns below the taxable level of income in order to avoid contributing to war and military spending. A one-speed bicycle is his preferred and only form of transportation.

The weather was sunny and warm. Participants were soon in shorts and T-shirts. However, as the group descended from South Peak to continue their journey north along the Sandia Crest Trail, they came upon a patch of snow, the last reminder of winter on South Peak.

A break on the trail. From L to R: Brant McGee, Chuck Hosking, Jonah Drift Thompson

Jonah Drift Thompson, 17, ski patroller and aspiring wildland firefighter, looks back at South Peak


Alex ‘Tele’ Limkin, former Army captain, with trail running partner and patrol dog, AB

As the party descended into Placitas, they were met with sprawling expansive views to the east.

A brief rest on the last leg down to Tunnel Springs. Chuck Hosking and Brant McGee.

Tunnel Springs, Placitas

The group arrived in Tunnel Springs after approximately 13 hours on the trail. They retired to the Kaktus Brewery in Bernalillo for elk sausage pizza, frito pies and cold beverages; there were no leftovers.

The next Skywalk will be Saturday, May 12, 2018. To be added to the listserv for this event, please send an email with “SKYWALK” as subject to alimkin(at)

Alex ‘Tele’ Limkin served under Colonel Ted Westhusing in Iraq. Since returning home, he has retrained as a medical first responder and works as a ski patroller in northern New Mexico.


Airborne, Ranger, Telemark

This post is to express my gratitude and appreciation for the assistance and support of the Veterans Administration. Thanks to the VA, I have been able to pursue a second life as a telemark instructor and medical first responder. I have also the VA to thank for patching me up as needed and getting me back on the slopes. Telemark does not come without its share of spills, tumbles, and injuries.

An active life in the peace, stillness, quiet, grandeur and beauty of the mountains is the best therapy and medicine that I have discovered. A three year self-study followed by a three year apprenticeship with the Sangre Academy of Telemark and Nature have been transformative and uplifting to say the least. I am honored and blessed to recognize my sensei, below, whose mentorship and guidance and friendship have been instrumental to my progress and evolution.

I am also excited at the prospect of sharing the pursuit of telemark with fellow veterans at the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic starting in March 2018. If you are interested, please contact Teresa Parks at for more information and to sign up for next year’s clinic, which I will be teaching. Fellow instructors taking part are Navy veteran and big mountain huckster Stephen Eytel, and telemark champion and founder of Telemark Freeride Camps, Jake Sakson.

I’m also looking forward to the prospect of being the oldest veteran to compete at the Free Heel Life Cup at Grand Targhee in 2018 (at the age of 45).

I am stoked to continue this journey, stoked for my second chance at life, and stoked to share my stoke. In furtherance of stoke, here’s a recent crotchcam training video featuring The Donkeys’ Lower the Heavens.

Drop knees not bombs.

Alex ‘Tele’ Limkin





Telemark: Only Dead to You

As Mark Twain once remarked, the reports of the death of telemark are greatly exaggerated. Telemark is in fact alive and well. But is it for everyone? I would say no. Like any challenging physical endeavor, it is not for the timid or the easily dissuaded. Advancing in this discipline, like any martial art, demands rare levels of commitment and devotion.

If your primary concern is “efficiency of movement,” then conform to the conventional norm that is parallel skiing. After all, the fixed heel turn is powerful and readily learned. It is percussive, strong, easily replicated. But if your primary concern is sensation and fluidity, if you value the aesthetic qualities of being low and close to the snow, free your heel and ski for real. Fixed heel turns, certainly as practiced by top athletes, may be faster, but they are not the song—the deluge of notes—that is telemark. Locked heel turns cannot begin to match the panache, style, soulfulness, and freedom of tele-riding. (And what exactly do you achieve by getting to the bottom of the hill faster, anyway, other than abbreviating your joy?)

In his presumptive article announcing the death of telemark (RIP: Telemark, Powder Magazine, February 2017), Hans Ludwig reveals he is out of touch with the evolution and progression of telemark. He cites the lack of “tele specific” skis as proof of telemark’s decline, not realizing that dramatic advances in tele boots and bindings in the last decade have allowed us to adapt any ski to our purpose. Current teleriders, backed by burly bindings and beefy boots, are on everything from 4FRNT Devastators to Volkl Ones.

He is also far off the mark in his perception that telemark equipment suffers from a fatal lack of innovation, further begging the question of why he is offering commentary on tele gear in the first place. Binding manufacturers such as Bishop, 22 Designs, M-Equipment, and Rottefella continue to refine, improve and innovate in such areas as decreasing weight, increasing strength, and even, in the instance of M-Equipment’s Meidjo, allowing for both a free heel and fixed heel function. The latest development from Bishop Bindings, known as the BMF, will be both 75mm and NTN compatible, and is expected to have unsurpassed durability and strength to power even the most aggressive riders.

Additionally, with regard to boots, there are numerous 4-buckle options from Crispi, Scarpa, and Scott to take on the steep and deep. Think that the steep and savage is just for fixed heelers? Have a look at footage from big mountain telemark competitions such as the Free Heel Life Cup help annually at Grand Targhee.

Telerider: Stephen Eytel Photo: Bjorn Bauer

Telerider: Stephen Eytel   Photo: Bjorn Bauer

Could there be more books on telemark? Certainly. More telemark schools? Yes. These things would certainly help promote telemark and make it more accessible.

The reality is the greatest challenge to getting into telemark is the gear. Yes, it is scary to scissor your legs, pushing one foot out in front of the other to turn, and yes, you will fall. Multiple times. But the physical challenges involved in learning are dwarfed by the challenges of locating equipment and knowing what equipment to get in the first place. Tele gear is not obtainable at your local sporting goods store or even neighborhood ski shop. Major resorts in North America commonly do not carry even a single item of telemark equipment. And you can forget about rentals.

But is telemark dead? You know it’s not. It may be dead to you. Because you don’t know much about it. Because you are in a comfort zone with your locked heels. Because you don’t know anyone that drops the knee. Because you’re not curious enough to find out more. Because you tried it once and found it too hard, too challenging, too difficult. But difficult is a far cry from impossible. After all, you learned to ski and to ski well. You learned to snowboard and to snowboard well. So why stop there?

Despite what Hans says, the sun has not set on telemark. Maybe you don’t know a telerider. But you see us on the mountain. We stop and rest sometimes. We’re easy to spot with our broken bindings. Chat us up. Don’t worry about seeming ignorant. What’s ignorant is believing telemark dead when you see us shredding past, dropping bombs for knees. Talk to us if you’re not sufficiently terrorized. Then get on Craigslist and Ebay. Look at some YouTube videos. Check out Free Heel Life, Telemark Down, Jake Sakson’s Telemark Freeride Camps. Find some beater equipment for $50 at a ski swap. And start dropping knees. Get low. Touch the snow. Play. Find some powder. Do a tele press. Jump off stuff.

Grow stoke on your windowsill and put some panache in your diet.

This is how telemark never dies.

Alex 'Tele' Limkin, Sipapu Tele Patrol, Photo Jonah Thompson

Alex ‘Tele’ Limkin is an Army veteran, ski patroller and telemark instructor at Sipapu, New Mexico, one of the only tele patrols in North America. Stephen Eytel is a Navy veteran, big mountain telerider from Breckenridge, CO, and Bishop Bindings Badassador.

(This article was submitted to Powder Magazine for publication on 3/20/17.)


A Terrifying Journey into the Belly of the VA

I labored to get breakfast ready and get us out the door. Oatmeal and coffee for me. Oatmeal and Emergen-C for Ka’aina. I needed him healthy.

I knew something was wrong. I had slept fitfully, my back feeling like a million tiny pins against the bedsheet, sweaty, achy. But I didn’t want to disappoint my nephew. He had a dream of seeing snow. He was 17 and this was his first time away from his home on the Big Island. We had arranged to meet a friend of mine, a fellow ski patroller, and do a short 3-5 mile hike in the Pecos where we could observe a ridge line still covered in snow, even in the middle of July.

Although I felt weak on the way up, it was only at the turnaround point that I began to have some real concern. I could feel my temperature spiking. And with the sun climbing in the sky, I began to succumb. Luckily the trail ran alongside a small stream. Where there was a break in the bramble, I stopped and soaked my feet, splashed water on my face, and on my arms and legs. By this time my friend suspected I was in some trouble. I asked him if he had any Tylenol or aspirin. Fortunately, he had some acetaminophen in his fanny pack. I took a tablet. I knew once I got down to the parking lot, there was no question my next stop would be the hospital. The only time I had ever felt this weak was on a forced march in Ranger School, when I was 26. The lack of nutrition and sleep deprivation had weakened me. After 20 miles or so, plodding in the dark under a heavy load, I remember my field of vision shrinking. I could detect my body was riding the edge of collapse, that I was close to fainting on my feet. I did simple multiplication and subtraction and addition in my head to stave off a shutdown. And that is how I felt on the trail in the Pecos. I began to do the same simple addition and subtraction exercises in my head that had kept me on my feet in the dark at Fort Benning twenty years earlier.

During the last couple miles, I was moving quite slowly, like someone summiting a bitter and desolate peak. Each step was a conscious, deliberate, and agonizing effort. My friend, walking behind me, noticed what I had been aware of but had been doing my best to ignore: “It looks like your feet are trembling. I can see your feet trembling.”

We paused in the shade and I submerged my feet in the water. I knew the medication would soon help, but It was critical that I not pass out on the trail. Passed out I could no longer drink water. Passed out I could no longer assist myself. Passed out I felt I might die.


I continued to make conversation. Despite my condition, I did not want to overly alarm anyone. I still managed to point out bird feathers on the trail, and even take a few pictures of my nephew.

IMAG0277(1)Reaching the trailhead, I felt the hardest part was over. Soon I would be in the cab of my truck and I could crank the air conditioning. We sat for a few minutes on a picnic bench in the shade. My friend was quite concerned and offered to drive. But I felt I could continue. I had the medicine in me and would soon be in the coolness of the AC.

We stopped briefly at my house to gather my nephew’s belongings. I intoned out loud my actions as I did the few simple tasks that I normally did before leaving the house. “Turning off the lights,” I said. “Unplugging the coffee maker.” I had a peculiar feeling that I would never be back again. I felt some regret at the mess I was leaving behind.

By the time we neared Albuquerque, my fever was coming down, and instead of talking in short sentences, with a focus on breathing, like an old man, I found myself able to speak normally. But I knew there was something wreaking havoc inside me. A couple nights prior, already beginning to feel the symptoms of my illness, I had a dream that I had inadvertently drank a few swallows of brake fluid or coolant, something to do with the vehicle. I woke up troubled and uneasy, with a sense that some sort of poison was inside me.

To avoid alarming my mother, I stayed at her house long enough to eat something. She already had dishes prepared on the table. I knew I had to eat to have some strength. I had eaten almost nothing since my oatmeal breakfast. Just a peach at the turnaround point. After eating, I pushed myself away from the table, said goodbye to my nephew and mother, and made the last leg of the journey to the VA Hospital, which was about 15 minutes away.

There was only one person in the waiting room when I arrived. I approached the receptionist and, as asked, provided her my name and date of birth and last four digits of my social security number. Before returning to my seat I said, “If you have a mask, I’ll wear it.” She motioned to a small box nearby. As I reached for a mask, a rectangular cloth with four strings at each corner, I was aware of the other hands that had preceded mine, other hands that had selected masks from that same box. I reached in carefully as to only touch the one mask that would be mine. “Thank you,” I said, and returned to my seat. I put my mask on. The television, which was always on in the waiting room, was playing a Western. Men were about to have a gunfight in the street. I recognized some of the actors but no names came to mind. With my head already throbbing, I was dreading the gunfire that was coming.

Fortunately, I was called back to have my vitals taken before the shooting started. I was dizzy. Weaving a little as I walked. Every time I was up, I was looking for a place to sit down. “Is your blood pressure normally this low?” the nurse asked me. “What’s low?” I asked. From where I was sitting, I could not easily see the readout of the digital display on her blood pressure monitor. I tilted my head a little. Even the smallest movement came with some effort. 95/63. “No, that is unusual,” I said. “Okay,” she said. She took down the rest of my symptoms, shortness of breath, fever, achings in my joints, headache, and asked me to have a seat.

I barely had time to shuffle back to my seat before my name was called again, this time to have my blood drawn. Shortly thereafter the ER doctor came by.

She had a serious expression on her face. After her exam, she indicated that she was going to be conferring with other doctors and ordering X-rays of my chest. “Why?” I asked, suspiciously. What was wrong with my chest. “It’s the coughing and the phlegm. It will help us learn more about what is going on.” I nodded my head.

About half an hour after she left, two physicians appeared at the door. “I must have an exotic disease to get two doctors,” I quipped, trying to make light of my situation. They introduced themselves, and asked about my symptoms. They listened attentively and then asked if they could examine me. The female physician requested permission to do a palpation of my groin area. “Yes, go ahead,” I said. In the middle of their exam, the male doctor stopped and said something I had never heard before from a doctor or anyone else: “If your heart or lungs stop, what would you like us to do?” Even in my groggy condition, I could feel his words hanging in the air and in my brain like heavy weights.

“Let me think about that,” I said, stupidly. So my heart and lungs might stop at any time. Regardless of what I wanted. Regardless of how committed I was to living. They are asking me this because whatever I have might literally stop my heart. Right here. Without any warning. Stop my lungs. Right here on this table. Right here in this room. The lights seemed very bright. With each exhalation, the inner edges of my glasses misted a little from the mask. I thought of my sons.

“Try to revive me,” I said. The female doctor gave me a thumbs up. They continued with their examination. Had I been stung by any ticks? Any mosquitoes? Been around any mice or rodent droppings?

“Okay, what are the possibilities?” I blurted out. I couldn’t take it anymore. I had to speak. “You know what they say,” the female doctor said, “New Mexico is the Land of the Free and the Home of the Plague.” The Plague? For real? The Plague? You have got to be shitting me, I thought. But there was more. “And with your exposure to rodent droppings, we have to consider the possibility of Hanta virus.”

“But at this stage in the game, we are merely speculating. But we are going to be pumping you full of fluids, including antibiotics, and we are conducting a battery of tests on your blood. Because it’s the weekend, some of this work may take a little longer than normal. That is out of our control. But we will do the best we can to have answers for you. We are concerned about all these symptoms. It is clear there is a serious fight going on in your body. Maybe it is just sepsis. We will be back when we have more information. But we are going to be admitting you to the hospital. Continue wearing your mask.”

During the next hour, liquids continued to be pumped into me through an IV. Because of the fever, the coolness of the liquid flowing into my bloodstream, which I could feel throughout my body, was comforting. Because of all the liquids, I had to make several trips to the bathroom. One of the nurses asked if I would prefer a urinal, a small container so that I could just pee in the room. I tried to laugh. “No, the trips to the bathroom give me a sense of accomplishment.” It was true. Walking those steps to the bathroom made me feel like I was far from the edge of the precipice, which it appeared I might very well be.

Being admitted to the hospital meant getting into a wheelchair, and being pushed down the hall and into an elevator, which took us to the fifth floor. Everyone has heard horror stories of the VA. But as I was pushed down the corridor towards my room, I felt reassured and comforted by my surroundings. The room was spacious, clean and cool. My nurse, named Cyndi, was a young Latina. She directed me to some hospital pajamas and oriented me to the room. Her demeanor was just what I could have hoped for in a nurse: reassuring, gentle, and attentive. It was getting late and I was exhausted, but I was reluctant to sleep. The talk about my heart and lungs stopping made me want to remain awake at all cost. Somehow it seemed less likely that any of my essential body functions could shut down while I was conscious. Cyndi showed me how to operate the TV. There was a selection of movies, none of which I had seen, since I don’t watch movies. Cyndi was just a push button away. Despite how horrible my body felt, I felt comfortable enough to spend a few minutes playing with the controls of the bed.

IMAG0279It was a restless night. In the morning I was transferred to a room that provided even greater isolation, being at the end of the hall. Until the test results were in, the staff were taking as many precautions as they could around me. By this time, everyone was in masks and gowns when they came in to dispense medication, take my vitals, and keep me updated on my status. It was unnerving but I understood. Whatever I might have, no one else wanted. But this didn’t mean they didn’t care about me. Quite the opposite. I felt very well cared for. But it was the not knowing that was gnawing at my gut. A stream of meals and movies was all I had to distract myself with. I watched the entire EuroCup Final between Portugal and France. I rejoiced when Portugal scored in extra time. I rejoiced when the whistle blew and Portugal was victorious! If Portugal could win the final against France, without Reynaldo, no way was I going to die in the hospital! From that point on, I felt a little better.

When a doctor came in and delivered the news that I did not have the plague, or Hanta virus, or anything else they could recognize, I wept. He stood patiently and allowed me to cry, saying nothing. He must have known very well what had been going through my head over the last 48 hours. When he saw that I was recovered, he indicated that I could go ahead and suspend the antibiotics regime if I wanted. And that I didn’t need the mask anymore. Then he left.

I lay there blankly in the bed. The feeling of being granted a second life was unmistakable. I turned off all the lights in the room and tottered into the shower. I peeled the tape slowly back that secured the IV in place in the crook of my left elbow and then gently pulled out the IV. I shook off my hospital pajamas. The last thing I took off was my mask. Then I stood beneath the hot shower in complete darkness.

After my shower, I toweled off and put my hospital pajamas back on. I went out into the hall for the first time without a mask. There was a young man in the hallway with a portable machine that could be pushed around. He could have been a resident, doctor, nurse, tech, who knows.

“I don’t have Hanta virus,” I said, grinning. He smiled back at me just as broadly. “That’s great,” he said. He knew exactly what was us. I drifted up and down the corridors in a strange state, greeting every stranger like a long lost relative. “It’s so good,” I told people, people I would never see again, people I was seeing for the first time. I was still weak, my body was still fighting something, but I was practically skipping around delirious with joy.

Shortly after returning to my room, the head physician of Yellow Team, the team that had been assigned to me, came by to say that they would be discharging me in the next few hours.

The VA gets a bad rap at times. Because of this I want to recognize the excellent care and treatment I received during a very difficult time. Everyone who attended to me was caring and compassionate and professional. I wish to recognize by name the nurses that cared for me in Ward 5A: Nurse Cyndi, Nurse Boi, and Nurse Jerry, as well as the team of doctors, known as the Yellow Team, led by Dr. Smith. The infectious disease doctors from UNM were similarly excellent.

I am grateful to keep on with this life.

P.S. Go Jill Stein and Cornel West!  #TheDoctorsAreIn

Open letter to Senator Bernie Sanders

Dear Senator Sanders,

You are responsible for the most comprehensive improvements to veteran care that I am aware of. That should mean a lot to the American people. Obviously it means a lot to us.

You have said repeatedly, “If we are not willing to care for our veterans when they return home, we should not be sending them to war.” I could not agree more.

I have suffered some grave physical injuries, but not while I was in Iraq. That came after. Although I did suffer in Iraq, the condition I live with did not come from kicking in doors and shooting people. I am fortunate to only have fired my weapons on four, maybe five occasions, and no humans were downrange. Once was into a burn barrel, another was at a strand of wire that an Iraqi had just broken my SOG Multi-Tool on trying to cut, the next was when I shot a “ballistic” chest plate to prove the equipment we were issuing to Iraqi trainees was comparable to our own (it wasn’t–the bullet passed right through), and another was when I zeroed my M-4 at a secretive training facility at Camp Victory known as Camp Dublin. (Yes, a camp within a camp, the place was BIG.) It was the same facility where my commander, Westhusing, shot himself in the head over corruption and human rights abuses. At Camp Dublin they moved a huge armored truck back and forth to block the entrance just like in Mad Max. I’m not kidding. Prior to zeroing my M-4, which was brand new, I carried around an AK-47, which was not. This was a highly unusual practice. I can tell you that the ammunition available to us for the AKs was substandard Iraqi ammunition. And it was old. Maybe dating back to the Iran-Iraq War. I kid you not. Understandably, we made every effort not to fire the AKs. As far as being fired upon. Yes. That is unpleasant. Whether the shots are fired deliberately or accidental discharges. Gives you a kink in your stomach.

This is not to say I did not suffer physical injury in Iraq. While test firing my AK, I did get some powder in my eye. That’s how we knew the ammo was no good. But the IED going off, the flash of light, the screams, the burning. None of that. My trauma wasn’t violence per se. My trauma was the threat of violence. In other words, fear. Morbid fear. And moral injury. What some refer to as the awareness of “self-violation.”

Even though I was not out kicking in doors, shooting people, or getting blown up in my vehicle, my “self-violation” was recognized by the VA as an injury. And when my physical injuries came, they recognized those injuries as well. And when complications from my injuries arose, both physical and otherwise, they treated me for those as well. Which is to say I would not be here without the assistance and care of the VA. For which I give thanks.

But as everyone knows, the best way to deal with veterans is to not create them in the first place.

So, just as importantly as thanking you for your work to see that we are cared for, I thank you for having the courage and integrity to have voted against the invasion of Iraq. If Hillary Clinton and others had your similar courage and integrity, not to mention judgment, thousands of shattered and destroyed lives would not be shattered and destroyed. Thousands of deaths not incurred. Thousands of broken and debased spirits not incurred. Thousands of countless miseries not incurred.