About Alex Limkin

I was born in Chicago in 1972. My mother was a Catalan; my father was Kapampangan. I enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1990 at the age of 17 with a GED. Over the next fifteen years, I served on active duty and with Reserve and National Guard components in Military Intelligence, Field Artillery, and Infantry. Following completion of the Infantry Officer Basic Course, I attended Airborne, Ranger, and Air Assault School. I received a B.A. from New Mexico State University in 1997 and a J.D. from the University of New Mexico in 2004. My last tour of duty was in Iraq from 2004-2005, when I was mobilized in support of the Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq (MNSTC-I) and served as an infantry captain with the 98th Division. While assigned to Counter-Terror/Special Operations, my commander, Colonel Ted Westhusing, shot himself over the corruption and human rights abuses taking place. Each year I walk the length of the Sandia Mountains in memory of Colonel Westhusing and as an indictment of our failed leadership that pushed us into an illegal and unjust war, bringing death, injury, and displacement to hundreds of thousands of people.

Interview With Newly Confirmed Education/Courage Czar, Medal of Honor recipient Dakota Meyer

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Newly confirmed Education and Courage Czar Dakota Meyer takes to social media to toast America on July 4th (Facebook)

In the face of mounting evidence that American society is facing a drastic diminishing of education levels, critical thinking skills, and spine, the White House has created a new organization known as the White House Office of National Education and Courage Improvement. This past June, Medal of Honor recipient Dakota Meyer was confirmed by the Senate by a vote of 92 to 0 to serve as the new education and courage czar. I recently sat down with Mr. Meyer to discuss his organization, what is expected of him, and what he hopes to achieve in the months ahead.

Tele: This effort by the White House, to address the shortage of education and courage in our citizens, which some say poses a real threat to the democratic process, is being referred to as the War on Stupid. Why are we labeling this the War on Stupid?

Dakota: Well, we’ve had a War on Poverty, a War on Drugs, and a War on Terror. Whenever we make a big effort against something, we usually call it a war on something. That’s just how it works.

Tele: Why do you think you were selected to be the new head in the War on Stupid?

Dakota: The way it was explained to me is that since I got the Medal of Honor in the War on Terror, which is the highest medal the military gives out, which means I either kicked a lot of ass or saved a lot of lives, or both, it was a natural fit to have a person with the highest medal serve as the leader in the War on Stupid. Especially where it involves courage, which is what the Medal of Honor is all about.

Tele: What are some of the things you are hoping to address in this new war?

Dakota: Oh, there’s a long list they gave me. Here, I’ll just read some of them. First off, guardian angels. A lot of Americans believe in them. According to this, it’s just not so. After what happened to me overseas, I thought for sure I had a guardian angel. But then I thought, does that mean my buddies that didn’t make it didn’t have guardian angels? That makes no sense. Anyway, no on the guardian angels. Racism. Lots of angry white folk out there blindly hating on blacks, and vice versa. Needs to stop. That’s just ignorance. I was raised, you know, a certain way, being from Kentucky. But I’ve got past that and everyone else should too. Blind hero worship. A lot of Americans get very reverential around heroes like myself, they want to come up, shake my hand, tell me what a great American I am, and basically worship me. That’s too much. I’m not a god. Try and see past the medal to the man. Evolution. Our bodies are made up, literally, of star dust. Apes, too. That we ascended from apes is just a reality. I know it’s hard for many Americans out there to believe, especially when you look in the mirror. I mean there’s not that much in common, say, between me and a gorilla, aside from the ears and nose and mouth, really the entire head, and then, well, there’s the torso and arms and legs, which are pretty similar. But they are obviously hairier than us, and we walk upright, so there’s still a lot of differences. Anyway, the point is that evolution is for real and to think otherwise, as many Americans do, is pigheaded and just plain wrong. Okay, there’s more. American exceptionalism. This is a big one. You know how we’re accustomed to thinking we’re the greatest people in the greatest country in the greatest nation in all of history? We just assume it, right? Well, apparently, unless we travel to a bunch of other countries and see how life is there, it’s kind of not justified to just blindly think we’re the best. Especially when we’re fighting epidemics of obesity, poverty, homelessness, racism, and general widespread ignorance. Because it’s pretty obvious we wouldn’t be waging a War on Stupid in our own country if we were, you know, the best.

Tele: Well, some things we’re the best at without question.

Dakota: For sure.

Tele: Like we’re the best at incarcerating our citizens.

Dakota: What’s that?

Tele: We lock up more of our citizens than any other country.

Dakota: Yeah, for breaking the law. Duh.

Tele: And we’re the best at manufacturing and selling weapons.

Dakota: No doubt. And owning them.

Tele: In fact we sell more weapons than any other country. Nearly half of all weapons purchased globally come from us.

Dakota: I believe that.

Tele: We’re also the best at making multi-million dollar blockbuster movies.

Dakota: That’s true. The new Avengers is coming out soon. Can’t wait. I’ve actually been getting some sniffs from Hollywood. Not supposed to talk about it but whatever. Audie Murphy got the Medal of Honor and then starred in a bunch of war movies. Pretty awesome. I wouldn’t mind going in that direction after this gig is up.

Tele: My point is that there are definitely some things we are best at, but we’re not necessarily the greatest country with the greatest liberties and the greatest freedoms and the greatest people etc etc. At least not anymore. But between you and me, Dakota, we are the best, and if you don’t think we’re the best, you should get the fuck out.

Dakota: Haha, exactly!

Tele: So, as the new czar, how do you get people to think differently about American exceptionalism?

Dakota: Well, what I’ve proposed, and I haven’t got any word back on this idea, but what I’m proposing to Obama is we do field trips to other countries, like Ireland and Switzerland, Germany, you know, other countries, so then Americans know a little more about what life in other countries is like. We could caravan around in huge RVs is what I’m thinking.

Tele: Have you gone on any of these field trips?

Dakota: So far just to, you know, Afghanistan, and I can tell you without any doubt that place, there’s no contest. Most of that country has not seen running water or a real actual toilet beyond just a hole in the ground.

Tele: Are you concerned that Americans will think the field trips are part of a brainwashing campaign to make them think they’re not the best? Because they already think this new organization is just another way for Obama to spread communism.

Dakota: Well, one way we’re going to sell the field trips to the public is with unlimited drink vouchers. That’s actually my idea. Keep things fun.

Tele: I get that. What are some other things your War on Stupid is expected to address?

Dakota: Like I said, I got a long list here. We’re going to start with the schools. But it can’t start and end with the schools. The parents have to get involved. There are a lot of parents out there that are misinformed and just plain ignorant. Also, we have to encourage people to respect learning and books and such. As of now, we kind of, at least the popular kids, look at the brainy kids as nerds. We don’t have much respect for teachers and learning. Also, we brainwash our kids from a young age. We glamorize violence. We glamorize sex. We glamorize war. We confuse and conflate sex and violence and war with our young people. We take something that is taboo, killing people, and we normalize it, we glamorize it. You know, people get excited to be around me, knowing what I’ve done in combat, sexually excited. I can feel it in the way they look at me, the way they shake my hand. They want to put their hands on me. They want to know what I know, and feel what I feel. The thrill, the exhilaration. I think it’s a cultural thing. We’re a nation addicted to violence, addicted to war. I’ve broken some of the biggest taboos there are to break and I would break them again, in a heartbeat, for freedom, for my country.

Tele:  So are you saying we shouldn’t glamorize violence and sex and war with our kids?

Dakota: No, we shouldn’t. It’s not right. We shouldn’t be drumming that into our kids. But at the same time it’s the role of the parents to monitor what the kids are getting into. So we can’t just blame it exclusively on a derelict culture, a morally bankrupt culture. And we’re all products of our environment, too, right? So we can’t just blame it on the individual, either. But that’s why it’s up to us, as individuals, to develop the reasoning abilities to be able to distinguish right from wrong independent of what the State may be telling us, and what we’re getting from TV and movies, etc.

Tele: But you work for the State, you’ve just been appointed as czar, and you’re saying the State can be wrong? It’s like you’re whistleblowing on yourself.

Dakota: Haha, I guess so. The reality is that the State, the Church, the Courts, the Army, the Navy, the Banks, the Corporations, can absolutely be wrong. Dead wrong. Look at how long it took for gays to serve openly in the military. Look at how long the country denied gays the right to marry. Look at the fact that corporations have been granted legal personhood. Look at how they are able to influence our elections and our politicians with unregulated donations of dark money. Lex Looper said…

Tele: Who’s Lex Looper?

Dakota: Some guy on Twitter.

Tele: Okay.

Dakota: Lex Looper said, “The holocaust was legal, slavery was legal, segregation was legal. If you use the State as a metric for ethics, you’ll end up disappointed.”

Tele: So basically we’re supposed to think for ourselves and not just let the current social order dictate our perception of normal. I get that. But why has the State declared a War on Stupid if they know that keeping the public uneducated and misinformed is actually to their benefit, allowing them to do what they want without question?

Dakota: Basically, and I’ll be straight with you, things are getting out of hand. The level of misinformation and ignorance among our people is at an all time high, and the disadvantages to having an ignorant public are beginning to outweigh the advantages. So we have to try and swing the pendulum back the other way, even if it means, ultimately, creating more independent thought and dissent. We can’t afford be a nation of sheep. “A nation of sheep begets a government of wolves.” That’s what Edward R. Murrow said. That’s really why I took this position. I want to protect our people from a different terror threat than what we faced in the poppy fields of Afghanistan. I want to protect them from the terror of ignorance. The terror of compliance. The terror of blind obedience. You know what the difference is between a cult and a religion?

Tele: What?

Dakota: Popularity.

Tele: What do you mean?

Dakota: If 100 people believe something, it’s a cult. If 100 million people believe something, it’s a religion. Think about it.

Tele: I can see that.

Dakota: And here’s something else, from Jim Carrey, the actor: “I wish everyone could get rich and famous and have everything they ever dreamed of so they would know that’s not the answer.”

Tele: Huh. Did he say what the answer was?

Dakota: No. I think we’re supposed to figure that out on our own.

Tele: When do you think these field trips are going to start up?

Dakota: Well, it’s all dependent on our military budget, which these days is way over half a trillion per year, more than 4 times the amount spent by any other nation. If we can lower that budget, we can work in some field trips, and get people thinking about what nationality and country and place of birth really means and signifies.

Tele: Maybe we should be declaring a War on Stupid on our own government.

Dakota: Haha, right.

Tele: Thanks a lot for sitting down with me.

Dakota: Anytime.

dissent

 

4th of July, 2015

IMAG9647

I trim my weeds with garden shears
at the base of Two Bowls Mountain
resting often by the well
to stretch my back
and drink water
in the shade of the capulin.

There are weeds–glorious weeds–
as far as the eye can see.

A neighbor down the road
offers up a gas trimmer
that can accomplish in a day
what is taking me a lifetime.

But I am daft.

I prefer the quiet monotony
of my garden shears
crouched down in the weeds
moving as remotely and idly
as any hooved creature.

 

Bill Moyers Interview with Iraq Veteran Tele Mon (cont.)

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Editor’s Note: Iraq veteran Tele Mon continues his projected conversation with Bill Moyers, touching on forest restoration, the call to raise the minimum age of enlistment, and telemark skiing. His initial interview with Moyers, in which he talked about pets in war, moral injury, and the police state, can be read here.

Moyers:  Welcome. Today we are pleased to be joined by 15-year Army veteran, poet, and environmental and social activist, Tele Mon. Welcome back to the program, Mr. Mon.

Mon:  Thank you, Bill. It’s good to be here.

Moyers:  Talk to me about the forest restoration work you’re doing.

Mon: Where I live in northern New Mexico, I have a neighbor who is devoted to forest restoration. He’s been systematically thinning and managing the forest in his care for the last several years, restoring it to health. We had a conversation about it, I toured an area that he had restored behind his house, and something just clicked.

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Moyers:  Tell me. Why does the forest have to be restored, and what forest are we talking about?

Mon:  We’re talking about the Ponderosa pine forest of the American Southwest. Most people think the forests have always looked pretty much like they do today. Nothing could be further from the truth. With regard to the Ponderosa pine forest, heavy grazing, logging, and fire exclusion have led to a completely unnatural and unhealthy forest. There’s many more younger and smaller trees, fewer older and larger trees, accumulation of heavy forest floor fuel loads, and virtually no understory. That would be the grasses that feed the elk and deer and such. So the forest, the current state of the Ponderosa forest, is grim.

Moyers:  What’s the biggest concern?

Mon:  The biggest concern, the biggest danger, is catastrophic fire. With the forest in such an unnatural state, with such an overabundance of fuel, fires burn out of control quickly, and at such a temperature that nothing can survive.

Moyers:  And the Forest Service is aware of this?

Mon:  Oh, very much so. Just the other day I was at a meeting for my local forest, the Carson, they’re developing a new forest management plan since the plan they’ve been working off of is nearly 30 years old, so they’re in the process of soliciting public input. At the presentation, the first thing they talked about was the unnaturally dense and thick state of the forest, and the need for comprehensive thinning. The problem is that they don’t know how to get it done on a large scale, and they probably don’t have the money. Anyway, my suggestion to them was to check in with veteran groups and propose a national effort by veterans to do this restoration work.

Moyers:  You think this would be good work for veterans. Why?

Mon:  Well, for one, many of us qualify as wards of the State, so we have some means of support other than the 10 to 12 dollars an hour this work pays. Second of all, it would be an epic undertaking. We’re talking about hundreds of thousands of acres of public forest that need this work done. Veterans relate to the feeling of being part of something big. A small army would be needed for this work. Third, the work is hard and dangerous. Thinning operations involve backbreaking labor and dangerous work conditions. You’re running chainsaws, trees are dropping around you. If you’re burning the slash it can be not only loud but smoky. It can feel apocalyptic at times. Veterans are familiar with this state of chaos and disorder. Third, the work is done by small teams working at close quarters under difficult conditions, again something veterans understand and often miss after returning home–the camaraderie, the sense of team, the sense of a shared mission. And finally, it’s restoration. How many veterans out there are struggling to restore themselves? Struggling to put themselves back together? Restore their moral compass? To be part of an operation with such an obvious and meaningful end state, a healthy forest, a forest that promotes life, a forest that projects life, a forest that helps insulate and shield us from the effects of global warming, that is a powerful and cathartic undertaking.

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Moyers:  And you speak from experience.

Mon:  Certainly. The forest restoration I am doing is deeply meaningful to me.

Moyers: In addition to the forest restoration work, you’ve also been working on raising the minimum age of enlistment in the Armed Forces to 25. I should mention that it’s currently 18.

Mon:  Actually, it’s 17. You can sign up and join under the Delayed Entry Program at 17, which is what happened with me.

Moyers: What justification could you possibly have for preventing so many young people from joining the military at their earliest opportunity? After all, that’s the age that we as a society say a child is an adult, able to make their own decisions.

Mon:  How about basic human decency, Bill? You think it makes sense that we don’t trust young people, we don’t trust their judgment enough to permit them to drink a beer until they’re 21, but we enable them to make a decision to commit themselves to becoming killers, to risking their lives, to dying some horrible death, at the age of 18? Even if the justification for war were legitimate, adult society should not be sending teenagers to die. I don’t think it’s right. Plus, as teenagers, we are way too susceptible to indoctrination and brainwashing, we’re too vulnerable to strong influences.

Moyers: The point about the legal age of drinking is a good one, but how do you get to 25?

Mon:  Numerous studies show that the brain of a young male is not fully formed, that he does not possess sound reasoning abilities, that his judgment is compromised, significantly compromised, until he is about 25, when his frontal lobe matures. Look at the frequency of emergency room visits for young males. Far exceeding all other segments of the population. They simply are not developmentally mature enough to make that sort of decision. There’s a reason why car rental companies ask if you’re over the age of 25 and impose a surcharge if you’re not.

Moyers:  You mentioned indoctrination and brainwashing. I want to return to that. Do you feel like you’ve been brainwashed by the military?

Mon:  Absolutely. Bill, do you have any idea the frequency during bootcamp, basic training, that I had to repeat, in unison with all my fellow recruits, “I want to kill.” Every time we sat down, every time we took a seat, for a class, for a briefing, for any gathering as a group, we would be ordered to take a deep breath. Deep breath, deep breath, they would say. Suck it in, they would tell us. Then, when they told us to let it out, we would be holding our breath during this time, right, we would all, in unison, not yell, not yell, we would whisper, all whisper, hoarsely, just like this, “I wanna kill.” It was eerie, Bill. Scary. And it was effective. Everyday, Bill. That sort of indoctrination turned me into an unquestioning mindless killer. You could have ordered me to kill a kitten with my bare hands and I wouldn’t have hesitated. Whatever. Look, Bill. I don’t want my sons, I have two sons, I don’t want them to even have the option to go through something like that at 18.

Moyers: But you were in training to be a soldier. You were training to shove a bayonet into a man’s stomach. You were training to disembowel people. Maybe that is an effective way to get you to become a better soldier, a better killer.

Mon: That’s right, Bill. I’m sure it is. And that is exactly what society has no business asking of our teens. We should not be molding them, at that age, to be mindless killers.

Moyers: It seems like you’re not complaining so much about the indoctrination as you are about the age at which we start the indoctrination?

Mon: We actually start much younger than that. Look at the Pledge of Allegiance. The daily Pledge of Allegiance that we exact of our children. I was spouting that off robotically before I even knew what the words meant. That isn’t right. I was already being conditioned, at that age, to a lifetime of unquestioning obedience and conformity.

Moyers:  You’re opposed to the social order.

Mon:  Without a doubt. If you’re not opposed to the social order…um…I would like to know what planet you’re living on. Let me tell you something, Bill. We don’t have to get into all the things wrong with society. I mean the list goes on and on. But without a doubt the problems posed by a world that favors the quarterly returns of transnational corporations over the needs and rights of everyday citizens to clean air and water and a healthy environment? That is a sickness. This unrelenting quest for profit at all costs is something the transnationals cannot self-police. They will never stop and desist on their own. This would be like expecting slave owners, on their own, to come to the realization that slavery is an abomination. No, never going to happen. The slave owners of this country were, given the standards of the times, good, law abiding folk. They were religious. They would quote scripture even as they whipped their slaves. The point is that the status quo protects itself at all costs. It is incapable of imagining the scope of its depravity, the extent to which it is violating basic human rights, the extent to which it is denuding and destroying the planet. The collective march to the brink, the diminishment of our world, this is something that will not stop without outside intervention, intervention from outside the social order.

Moyers: You’ve said in one of your essays, “When the first shots of the revolution are fired, I won’t be carrying a gun, but I’m not above carrying a pitchfork.”

Mon: That’s right. Pitchforks, rakes, hoes, keep all your garden tools close. (Chuckles.)

Moyers:  You believe that the revolution has already started?

Mon: I have to, Bill. I have to believe it. It is one of the few beliefs that keeps me going. I fervently believe that the revolution has already started. I fervently believe that people, young people especially, can see that the clock is running out, and I believe there are sufficient numbers of courageous people willing to practice civil disobedience, to defy the social order, defy the status quo, and bring about real change.

Moyers:  If you were being monitored by national security agencies, Homeland Security, for instance, would you be surprised?

Mon:  The most dangerous group of people as far as the status quo is concerned, as far as I’m concerned, are the ones with the scars, the disillusioned ones, those that have returned from an illegal and imperial war with the taste of poison and betrayal in their mouths. The ones that have taken their scars to ground, that have become planters and farmers, that have plunged their hands into the black soil, that have cradled babies, that have settled by streams and rivers, that have reconnected themselves to the sanctity of life. These are the ones that carry within them the ability to rise up, aware, supernaturally aware, that within them is the strength, the resolve, and, most importantly, the obligation, to protect life, good decent wholesome quality life, all forms of life, on this planet.

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Moyers: We’re going to move on to something else that’s close to you. Tell us about telemark. Free heel skiing.

Mon: Whew, that’s better. Okay, I spend a good portion of my life out of the range of cell phone towers. I live close to a broad expanse of wilderness for a reason. I go into the woods, into the mountains, regularly, for solace, peace, to calm myself. Being surrounded by wilderness is a form of medication and meditation for me. In the summer months I’m able to walk. In the winter months I travel on skis. Telemark skiing has become a great way to get out and about no matter the conditions.

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Moyers: How did you first discover telemark?

Mon:  I was involved in a bad accident about 6 years ago. At that point I had been diagnosed with PTSD but had not yet developed coping strategies. I was engaged in high-risk behavior, inappropriate behavior, compulsive and dangerous behavior, drugs, alcohol, on and on, and on this particular day I was traveling at a speed which left no room for error… and…um…yeah…

Moyers: What were the extent of your injuries?

Mon: I was pretty well broken in half. Had to be medevaced. Was in the ICU for two weeks, underwent 3 surgeries, hospitalized for another 3 weeks after that. Couldn’t walk for six months. Fractured sternum, fractured pelvis, broken back, shattered lower extremity, tibia and fibia, ruptured bladder. Doctor suggested I look into exercise to improve the range of motion in my ankle. That’s how I found telemark.

Moyers: You’re actually working on starting a foundation, “Telemark for Veterans.” This wouldn’t be just for veterans that need ankle rehabilitation, right?

Mundo: Haha, the funny thing is that telemark was initially just a way to get my ankle back, but it has become so much more. You have to be very centered to telemark. You have to constantly be refining your balance, always striving to remain within this narrow band of acceptable balance. You can’t be anywhere but in the present moment, absolutely attentive, absolutely focused, and this, for someone who is struggling with bad memories or bad thoughts, is like a window, a portal, into good feelings, into positive feelings. Because anything other than the bad feelings, anything other than the grief, or sadness, or depression, is going to be a preferable and healthier state. That substitute feeling can over time grow into a true feeling of stoke. Way better than any of the drugs we’re getting. Add to this the fact that you can do this in the mountains in just the most sublime state of physical and natural beauty, and this becomes something really worth living for.

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Moyers: And this becomes important when an average of 22 veterans a day are committing suicide.

Mon: Absolutely. If I have found something so good that it is keeping me hopeful, keeping me resilient, keeping me optimistic, keeping me strong, mentally strong, then I want to share this with as many veterans as I can. I’ve reached out to a couple big mountain telemark skiers and I think we can, with some collaboration, with maybe the support of Outward Bound or the Sierra Club, get a week long course together by next winter.

Moyers: Well, we wish you the best of luck in that endeavor. We have just enough time for a poem, if you’d like to read something for us, would you?

Mon: I’d be happy to, Bill. This is a poem about skiing the mountains of New Mexico in June. It’s called “Ride.”

Ride winter’s

last wave of snow

down to the trees

and river below

and go barefoot

in summer’s 

green meadow.

Moyers: That’s lovely. Short and to the point. Very nice. Thanks for joining us today, Tele.

Mon: Thank you, Bill.

Tele Mon served in Iraq with CTSO (Counter-Terror/Special Operations) under Colonel Ted Westhusing. He writes for the Alibi, New Mexico Compass, and blogs at WarriorsWithWesthusing.org. In 2012 he started the Rio Grande Bosque community Facebook page to draw attention to Mayor Berry’s plan to commercialize and develop the Bosque. Along with its sister website, SaveTheBosque.org, the page worked to help minimize habitat loss in the Bosque. Tele Mon makes his home in northern New Mexico.

4th Annual Skywalk: May 16, 2015

Skywalk 2015 started off, as in years past, with a gathering at the rooftop bar at Hotel Parq Central in Albuquerque. Early the next morning, the group reconvened at the Canyon Estates Trailhead in Tijeras and set off. What began as a mild spring day quickly deteriorated as a heavy weather system moved in, dumping snow and sleet and hail. 10 hours later, as the group descended into Placitas, they were rewarded with a beautiful rainbow. They closed out the 25 mile trek across the Sandia Mountains at the Kaktus Brewery in Bernalillo. Next year’s Skywalk is scheduled for May 14, 2016. IMAG9017 IMAG9209 IMAG9223 IMAG9228 IMAG9235 IMAG9253

Jonas Brothers Taken Out by Predator Drone per Executive Order

I guess things changed for me when our president joked about using a military drone armed with Hellfire missiles to defend his daughters against sexual advances from the Jonas brothers. Whoever they are. Maybe they go by the Jonas Brothers with a capital B? They must be famous to make it into the president’s joke. I know it was just a joke when he said, “I have two words for you: Predator drone.” (When he says “Predator drone” he looks directly at the camera, which is to say, directly at me.) I know he’s just joking, so I should be able to chuckle along with him. I want to be able to chuckle along with him. He is the president, after all. He should be entitled to a joke now and again. But joking about our drones, responsible for so many remote control deaths, indicates something that I don’t want to imagine, haven’t wanted to imagine, and that I still can’t bring myself to imagine. That we, as a country, have lost our moral compass. And that we are becoming, increasingly, a sociopathic people.

Which is to say, something to live in fear of.

To kill without remorse requires a certain level of sociopathology. Perhaps a great deal of sociopathology. As a society, we expect our soldiers to kill on our behalf, and we expect our military to train our soldiers to do this without hesitation and without remorse. We then expect our soldiers to reintegrate seamlessly into society when they are no longer needed in battle. But humans are not designed for this level of sociopathology. Even with very impressive and aggressive indoctrination, they still fail us in periods of great duress. They develop nightmares. They see dead people. They experience remorse. They experience depression. They experience anxiety. They experience rage. They do not seamlessly reintegrate. Then, when we say, to hell with it, I’ll just go do the killing myself since these sorry bastards are a bunch of limp-wristed pansies…oh, wait, we never actually do that, we just send over some more soldiers and roll the dice with them.
But here is the scary thing. The thing that is different now then it has ever been in any other time.
Increasingly, we are relying more and more on drones, and less and less on soldiers on the ground, to do our killing. This is to say, we recognize the toll that killing is taking on our soldiers, so we are resorting to machinery to get the job done.
Waging war by remote control and exterminating people with machines constitutes nothing short of abject moral failure. It is a crime against humanity. It is heinous. We are hurtling into a great darkness. Nothing appears on the horizon to deter our trajectory. We even joke about it for the camera.
Which is to say, if ever there was a time to fear our own country, and fear for our own country, it is now.
Alex Limkin
Captain, Infantry
U.S. Army (IRR)

4th of July

 

4th of July

 

Don’t get me wrong
I’m as 4th of July as they come

 

But when it comes to the
4th of July
The real no shit
4th of July
When it comes to celebrating it…
what do I do?

 

I’ll tell you what I do.

 

I get as far away from the
fireworks
as I
can.

 

As it is I live
at the edge of a
national forest…

 

Why is that, son?

 

I’ll tell you why,
general.

 

I get as far away from the
sights and sounds of
fireworks
because they…

 

Don’t say it, son.

 

Because they…

 

Son, to say it makes it so. To say it
gives it a strength over you
it shouldn’t have.
You’re better than that!
We trained you better than that!

*

 

Do you want me to tell you again
the story?

 

How when I was a general,
they came asking:
How fit is your division?

 

and why am I saying they???
everyone
damn
well
knows
at that level
people are on a
first name basis.

 

Jim, they told me.

 

Chrissake, there I am again with that they
when
every
one
of
us
knows
damn
well
knows
at that level they will know you
on a first name basis.

 

Jim, Don asked me.
Jim, how would you rate your division?

 

And by now, the way he was asking me,
the way he was
throat filling emotions
asking me,
I knew something was up.

 

Something was fixing to
shit the fan.

 

General, I said,
I looked him dead in the eyes.
General,
General, I says,
looking him
center of the eyes I am looking him,
Fellow General Ivan Don Denisovich Demarco
i says:
Now you damn well know
my division isn’t worth
two shits
you’ve known it hasn’t been worth
two shits
for months
and it’s going to remain so worth
until I get to the bottom of this inquiry
so help me god.

 

That’s a nice story, general,
but I was just going to say
the fireworks
sound like fighting.

 

*

 

And you know how I know I’m sane out there, general?
Because the peacocks complain about it, too.

 

I don’t follow you, son.

 

They shoot their guns
from the waist
at the dancing shadows
or at the stars
until I see green.

 

But the thunder
puts them in their place, general.
The thunder and the rain.
And the peacocks
complain about it
so I know I’m sane.

 

That’s why I always pray
for rain on the
4th of July
out here in the woods,
general.

 

I pray for rain on the
4th of July
because it’s not the same
firing rounds
from one living room
into another.

 

Letter to a Superior Officer and 5/87 Comrade

Major So-And-So

I was able to get away yesterday and spend a little time in the mountains 80 miles north outside Santa Fe. Still plenty snow up there. Peaceful. Quiet. Got me thinking about how nice it would be to get you into telemark and mountaineering. I know you’re tough as nails and could keep up what you’re doing another 10-15 years and start climbing and skiing the mountains in your 50s–but maybe no need to wait that long.

IMAG3088You deserve 40 good years ahead of you to hike mountains and enjoy your family and watch the clouds go by. Whether your family ever makes it out to NM or not, I want you to not shortchange yourself. There is only so much give in the legs and the joints. Keep some cartilage for yourself.

Respectfully submitted,

Alex Limkin

CPT, U.S. Army

Retired

Skywalk 2014

Skywalk 2014 began Friday, May 16, with a rooftop gathering at Hotel Parq Central in Albuquerque.

Brant McGee, Col. Rod Kontny (Ret.), John Cody, Terry Weir, Matt Huggins

L to R: Brant McGee, Col. Rod Kontny (Ret.), John Cody, Terry Weir, Matt Huggins

The group reconvened the next morning at the Canyon Estates Trailhead (6,500′) in Tijeras and set off to walk the 26-mile length of the Sandia Mountains.

Skywalk begins with an ascent to South Peak.

Ascent to South Peak.

IMAG2863

Chuck Hosking claims a bird’s eye view en route to South Peak.

IMAG2870

Atop South Peak (9,800′), the group surveys the next leg of the journey to Sandia Crest.   L to R: Philomena Hausler, Terry Weir, Matt Huggins, AB, John Cody, Chuck Hosking, Brant McGee

 

IMAG2886

Four miles from Sandia Crest, the group pauses at an overlook. From L to R: Brant McGee, Chuck Hosking, John Cody, Matt Huggins

IMAG2876

Looking back towards South Peak. L to R: AB, Philomena Hausler, Brant McGee, Chuck Hosking

IMAG2890

Chuck Hosking, 65, on the path to Placitas.

IMAG2891

Brant McGee,  Matt Huggins, and AB at 25 miles descending into Tunnel Springs.

In memory of Colonel Ted Westhusing (1960-2005)

Skywalk 2015 is scheduled for Saturday, May 16, 2015

Iraq Veteran Pens Interview with Bill Moyers

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REPRINTED FROM THE NEW MEXICO MERCURY

BM: We are pleased to be joined tonight by Iraq veteran, Alex Limkin. Welcome to the show.

AL: Thank you, Bill. Thanks for having me.

BM: And I should also mention AB. She’s here as well, lying under the table.

AL: That’s right.

BM: And she is?

AL: My service dog.

BM: Was AB your service dog in Iraq?

AL: No, I didn’t have a service dog in Iraq. Actually, I was my own service dog in Iraq.

BM: I’m not sure I follow. What does that mean?

AL: When service dogs were first introduced into our military in World War II, we expected two things of them. Perfect and complete obedience. I was perfectly and completely obedient in Iraq. I was my own service dog.

BM: Is AB perfectly and completely obedient?

AL: No, fortunately.

BM: Why fortunately?

AL: One of the reasons we required perfect and complete obedience from our dogs in WWII was the nature of their missions.

BM: Which were?

AL: Well, nearly all involved great danger, from walking point on patrol, to sniffing out bombs, to ferrying courier pigeons and ammunition to beleaguered troops under fire, to running into bunkers with satchels of explosives hanging off their sides.

BM: You mean they were delivering explosives to frontline troops?

AL: Not quite.

BM: You don’t mean…

AL: Yes.

BM: But not all the dogs were used as suicide bombers, right? Some guarded depots and the like?

AL: That’s correct. Many dogs were used in other capacities.

BM: These dogs, where did they come from?

AL: The Army put a call out for dogs and thousands of American families offered their family pets up for conscription into the Army.

BM: You’re kidding. That actually sounds quaint.

AL: Well, from a certain perspective, it’s even noble and gallant. Many of the families loved their dogs immensely, no less than families today. To give up a pet was a sacrifice. It was a loved one. But the war effort was huge. We did everything the government asked of us: panty hose, rubber, aluminum, you name it.

BM: In their defense, the dog owners were probably thinking the dogs would be guarding ammunition depots, something fairly low key.

AL: I imagine you’re right.

BM: And would the dogs, those that survived, would they be returned to their families?

AL: Yes, that was part of the deal. You gave up your pet knowing that it was part of a war time effort and that bad things could happen but it was understood that, if at all possible, the pet would be returned to you.

BM: Now in subsequent wars, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, etc. we stopped conscripting the family pet from families, and started getting dogs from other sources. Why is that?

AL: Frankly, there are a number of reasons why the military no longer recruits the family pet for war duty. I mean, that just sounds crazy. One of the most significant reasons was all the concerned calls and letters from family members inquiring about the safety of their pets.

BM: Can you imagine if…

AL:  …it was cats instead of dogs?

BM: Precisely. All the cat lovers. It would be like, “Has Socks had his pre-afternoon pre-dinner catnap? He needs his naps if he’s going to be fully alert for patrol-along. “

AL: And think of the care packages.

BM: A deluge of catnip. It would overwhelm the system.

AL: No doubt.

BM: Okay, getting back to reasons why the military no longer enlists the family pet for war.

AL: Yes, another big reason was that many of the dogs that survived the war were unfit to be returned to their families.

BM: Why?

AL: Different reasons. Many had altered personalities from when they left home. Some had personality disorders. Some were passive and withdrawn. Others were hyperaggressive. Some had exaggerated startle responses, inappropriate responses. Pissing and shitting in strange places. Can I say that?

BM: Right, and if they were returned home, and they snapped at their owner, or Suzy, the girl next door, or they were depressed and withdrawn, or they started killing other dogs, it was like, how come our dog is a vicious killer now.

AL: Exactly, it became a public relations nightmare returning service dogs to their families all whacked out and dysfunctional.

BM: Too many questions, too many problems, too many concerned citizens. So what happened to the dogs, the dogs that were unfit to be returned?

AL: (Squeezes thumb to index and middle finger as though giving an injection)

BM: Of course. And that was World War II we’re talking about?

AL: That’s when it all started with the dogs.

BM: We’ve gone a little wide on the topic of dogs. It’s fascinating… and scary… and I’d like to return to it if we have time. But now I’d like to bring us to one of the reasons I wanted to bring you on the show, to talk about moral injury. For those out there that are unfamiliar with this idea, this concept, can you give us a brief rundown on moral injury?

AL:  I’ll do my best. Moral injury, with regard to veterans, and of course it’s not just soldiers in a warzone that can experience moral injury, but with regard to veterans, it has to do with having, with being haunted by experiences that challenged you to your core, that shattered or disordered your moral being.

BM:  I don’t mean to be glib, but it sounds like what you are describing is what the rest of us simply call a guilty conscience.

AL: I think the difference is that…well maybe you’re right. Certainly one of the core aspects of moral injury is tremendous guilt.

BM: Survivor guilt?

AL: That can be part of it.

BM: Now, I have to ask. Why have you been speaking out and writing out so extensively on this idea of moral injury?

AL: The primary reason is that it isn’t being talked about or addressed. When we talk about the psychological afflictions of war, everyone’s familiar with post-traumatic stress, but the term “moral injury” is not heard of. If I’m not mistaken, that’s why you brought me on your show.

BM: Go on.

AL: It’s what you may have witnessed over there. What you may have done. What you may have not done. We’re not necessarily only talking about bloody episodes unfolding before you, whether your own blood or someone else’s. It can be things you are unsure of. It can be the sound of something you hit on the road that you suspect might have been a person but you’re not sure and because you’re maybe part of a larger convoy you can’t stop to check one way or another so you put it out of your mind or it might be having to open a gate at a checkpoint to let in some young boys or girls that you know are being brought on base for sex but you may only suspect this without having hard proof so you just go along with it or it may be signing over a caseload or truckload or containerload of rifles, handguns, various weapons, to Iraqi security forces knowing that those rifles will likely be sold on the black market and used against you later down the road, but either way you can’t do anything about it, or it may be handling monetary transactions, high cash transactions, millions of dollars in shrink-wrapped bundles to private contractors that you may know or suspect are bogus, completely bogus, but there’s nothing you can do about it so you go along with it because everybody is just going along with it. It is frequently the case that soldiers suffer just as much from those actions they do not take, those actions they were unable to take, for whatever reason, as those things that they did.

BM: In years past, soldiers would just come home and they would just, for lack of a better word, they would just “suck it up.” Some of the criticism levied against this new wave of veterans, the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, your generation, is that you’re just not “sucking it up.”

AL: We’re not sucking it up, Bill, because it’s spilling out of us.

BM: But why do you think it is different now than in past wars?

AL: One, I’m not entirely sure things are so different. Things have been changing. Many veterans that returned home in previous generations–haunted and aggrieved and distressed–could justify their role in the war because on some level they felt that they had been serving their country, and it was that knowledge, that they had somehow been protecting their families, and their communities, that helped them gulp down their pain, suppress their guilt, and just soldier on, just get on with life. But, really, I think I’m talking nonsense. Look at our Vietnam vets. You’ve had some on this show. How are they doing? The truth is, humans have always been aggrieved about killing. Look at Ulysses. What did he do when he got home from war? He went berserk and killed a houseful of people.

BM: And with this generation that’s not the case. Why? Are you saying that in the case of the Iraq War…

AL: …Certainly there are some true believers out there, those that feel that any mission their government sends them on cannot be called into question, but I feel that the majority of us are disgusted with what we’ve seen and done. It’s common knowledge that the Iraq War was a complete debacle. It’s common knowledge that we were serving the interests of the military contractors–Halliburton, KBR, Blackwater–not the country as a whole. It’s common knowledge that this was a heist of our national treasury on an epic scale the likes of which has never before been seen. We may not yet have the language to articulate our disgust. We may not yet understand even to ourselves what it means to have been let down by our country, let down by our leaders, let down by our beliefs, let down by our ideals. But that is what is spilling out of us. That immense betrayal of trust. Many of us have been shaken to our core. That is what this country is now dealing with. We’re killing ourselves. Every day we’re killing ourselves. Every hour we’re killing ourselves.

(Long silence.)

BM: You walk the length of the Sandia Mountains every spring in honor, in memory of your commander, Colonel Ted Westhusing. It’s 26 miles over a mountain range. Tell me about him.

AL: Colonel Westhusing was my commander in Iraq. He graduated third in his class from West Point, Class of ‘83. He was one of our Army’s top ethicists, sorry, that’s hard to say, he had a PhD in philosophy. He was an Airborne Ranger. He ended his life in Iraq on June 5, 2005. He died of moral injury.

BM: But moral injury, we talked about that, it’s just guilt. How exactly does one die of guilt?

AL:  I cannot support a mission that leads to corruption, human rights abuses and liars. I am sullied—no more.

BM: What is that?

AL: Westhusing said that. Those were his last words. “I cannot support a mission that leads to corruption, human rights abuses and liars. I am sullied—no more.”

BM: What then?

AL: Then he shot himself.

BM: And you were a witness to the shooting?

AL: I wasn’t with him when he pulled the trigger, no. I was about 12 miles away.

BM:  But it still bothers you, deeply.

AL: Yes, it bothers me deeply that my commander shot himself in the head rather than continue with our mission.

BM: Did you ever see his body?

AL: No.

BM: Any blood?

AL: No.

BM: Did you get any blood on your uniform?

AL: No.

BM: It says in my notes that you were shot at accidentally at least once. What was that like?

AL: At the time, I didn’t think much of it. The bullet didn’t strike me so it was like, “No harm, no foul.” Things were very unsafe over there. We had a lot of accidental discharges.

BM: You were working primarily with Iraqi recruits, Iraqi soldiers?

AL: Living and working with the Iraqis, yes.

BM: You slept with a handgun under your pillow?

AL: Yes.

BM: And two AKs under your cot?

AL: Yes.

BM: But you were never shot at intentionally?

AL: No.

BM: These notes indicate that you were awarded the Bronze Star. How do you get the Bronze Star and not get shot at?

AL: Frankly, I think I was given the Bronze Star for not, you know.

BM: Like Westhusing?

AL: That’s right.

BM: It’s a little reminiscent of the Silver Star awarded to Pat Tillman.

AL: Right. We awarded Tillman a Silver Star for getting taken out by friendly fire, and I got a Bronze Star for not getting taken out by friendly fire. For not taking my own self out with friendly fire. All our veterans should be getting Bronze Stars for not killing themselves. We should all be getting medals for not killing ourselves. Weekly medals. Daily medals. I’m serious. That would at least get us out of the house.

BM: Okay, we’ve got just a little more time. I know you wanted to address a situation in your hometown of Albuquerque. You sent me a video. Let me just say, when I watched this video without volume, and knowing that you had sent it, I initially thought this was footage from Iraq or Afghanistan. It looked like, to me, with the rocky terrain and the assault rifles, it looked like an infantry squad gunning down, frankly, gunning down someone who appeared to be surrendering.

AL: It does look like a warzone, but believe it or not, that footage is from the Albuquerque Police Department from just a few weeks ago. They shot a homeless man six times or so in our nearby foothills, then bean bagged his ass, then set an attack dog on him.

BM: It is absolutely horrifying. How has the Department explained this? Is it just a few bad cops? What’s going on?

AL: We all want to think that, Bill. But the scary thing is, that video, the video you thought depicted a battlefield in Afghanistan, that was released voluntarily to the public by our Chief of Police, Gordon Eden, because he believed that the video demonstrates proportionate and justifiable force.

BM: But in the video it appears…for God’s sake, it looks like murder. It’s horrifying.

AL: I agree with you. It’s a video that none of us should be able to stomach. To get back to your question, here’s the thing. If the video is considered by the Police Chief as proportionate force, justifiable force, appropriate force, and the rest of us are gagging and throwing up because we’re watching someone get shot up like a tin can, then clearly there are problems.

BM: Either way, that kind of policing, I mean, you can’t even call that police work,  but whatever it is that is going on out there, it needs to change. What are your recommendations?

AL: It’s too much to go into here, but at a minimum, we’re asking for lapel cameras, for accountability, replacement of tinted windows, so officers can actually be seen by the public, so we can feel like they’re part of the community–not a menacing and hidden task force–and the replacement of Chief Eden. You know, there was a time you could wave to cops driving down the street.

BM: Because you could see them.

AL: In Albuquerque, they’re hidden behind dark tinted glass. It promotes an us/them mentality. Half the time you can’t even tell if there’s a person in there. It’s just spooky.

BM: It’s a bit ironic the name, no?

AL: You mean Eden?

BM: Right, because we associate Eden with paradise, and yet for you in Albuquerque…

AL: For us, it doesn’t feel so much like Eden.

BM: You’re fighting a police state, a militarized state.

AL: It does feel that way.

BM: Now, I’m not a fan of Ayn Rand…

AL: Neither am I…

BM: But there’s this great quote. She said, “We are fast approaching the stage of the ultimate inversion: the stage where the government is free to do anything it pleases, while the citizens may act only by permission; which is the stage of the darkest periods of human history, the stage of rule by brute force.” Is that how you feel?

AL: That sounds super dramatic, but there’s probably some grains of truth in there. But I disagree that the stage of rule is by brute force. We are surprisingly complicit in the situation we find ourselves in. This might surprise you, but many people in our city agree with Chief Eden that the video depicts proportionate and judicious force.

BM: You’re kidding.

AL: No, in fact, there are people in your studio audience holding signs up to that effect. (Loud cheers and whistles from the audience members holding signs up to that effect.)

BM: I don’t normally say this, in fact, I don’t think I have ever said this, at least not on a show, but that is absolutely crazy. (Turns to audience.) Have you seen the video, people? What part of getting shot six times and bean bagged while turning away do you not understand? (Turns back to guest.) All other words fail me. Well, it looks like we’re running out of time, but I would like to touch upon one last thing. You have some writings on moral injury, entitled, A Captain’s Appeal: 6 Months of Letters to the VA. Is that available to the public?

AL: It’s out to publishers but so far no one has picked it up, so I’m considering self-publishing.

BM: Well, with your appearance on this show, hopefully that might change.  Would you consider returning?

AL: Where?

BM: To the show.

AL:  Yeah. Why not. Your audience is a little scary, but sure.

BM: That’s it then, we’ll do it. Thanks for joining me, Captain. It’s been a real pleasure. Good luck in getting your police chief replaced, Chief Paradise.

AL: Haha, exactly. Thanks for having me, Bill.

BM: I’ve been talking to former Army captain and Iraq veteran, Alex Limkin. You can learn more about his commander, Colonel Ted Westhusing, the memorial Skywalk across the Sandias, and the problems of a militarized police force at his blog site, WarriorsWithWesthusing.org.”

 

This piece was written by:

Alex Limkin's photoAlex Limkin

Alex Limkin served in Iraq with CTSO (Counter-Terror/Special Operations) under Colonel Ted Westhusing. He writes for the AlibiNew Mexico Compass, and blogs at WarriorsWithWesthusing.org. He is a founding member of the Bosque Action Team, a coalition of organizations and concerned citizens dedicated to conserving and protecting the Bosque. He runs a backcountry action and advocacy team for at-risk veterans, DVR-6. He lives in Albuquerque with his wife and son.

– See more at: http://newmexicomercury.com/blog/comments/iraq_veteran_pens_interview_with_bill_moyers#sthash.4RYNAUHn.dpuf

 

Every day 22 veterans commit suicide.

A Former Army Ranger Copes with His Friends’ Suicides, and Asks What He Could Have Done to Help Them

9 HOURS AGO – BY TED JANIS

Every day 22 veterans commit suicide. Former Army Ranger Ted Janis struggles with the suicides of his own friends and affirms the role that veterans can play in helping each other.

I will never forget the first day I heard the Ranger Creed, the motto of the Army Rangers that every soldier learns by heart before joining the famed unit. It was the fall of 2006, and my class of United States Army officers, the first to have joined out of high school after the attacks of 9/11, was preparing to deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan. The hallowed passage laid out what was expected of us in the years to come, as we fought in Anbar deserts and the labyrinth of Baghdad, battled from Pashtun poppy fields to the valleys of the Pech River. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the third stanza would forever haunt me: Never shall I fail my comrades. While tragic and testing, losing friends in combat was expected. It wasn’t until I had left the military and friends kept dying, taking their own lives, that I felt I failed.

On this past Veterans Day, I contemplated writing about the epidemic of veteran suicide, in honor of two friends. They had come home from fighting overseas and killed themselves. I decided against it. I did not want to darken their lives by bringing their deaths into the harsh glare of the media. I wanted to avoid causing any more pain to their grieving families, to avoid the renewed anguish that the sight of their names in print would bring.

Three weeks later, a third friend joined their ranks. Again, the pain was fresh and the shock numbing. And again the scouring for clues and agonizing over what I could have done.

This third friend and I had learned the Ranger Creed together all those years ago; then he went overseas and tested what it really meant. He served for six years before leaving the military and joining the civilian world. Wrestling with demons born in Afghanistan, he had lost his job, quarreled with his girlfriend and given away his dog. He hanged himself the day after Thanksgiving.

 

‘It wasn’t until I had left the military and friends kept dying, taking their own lives, that I felt I failed.’

 

As I called our veteran friends to tell them of his death, each of us tallied our number, calculating how many comrades had taken their own life. The reckoning was horrific.

The reasons behind an individual veteran’s suicide are unique, numerous and opaque. Yet one fact remains: an average of 22 former service members take their life every day. Most commentators take the government to task for this failure. They ask what the Department of Defense and the VA could be doing better, which is altogether fitting and proper. But, as we who served know, it is not only about them. Even the best bureaucracy, guided by the most enlightened policy, will never offer a complete solution. The government can do better but ultimately this is about us. We are the front line now, as we were in the wars of the past decade.

I know in my darkest moments I relied on my Army comrades. The military instilled in us a belief in the team—an ideal that we made real through the crucible of service and in our sacrifices for each other. Even out of uniform, those bonds remain.

The week after my friend’s funeral, I read David Brooks’ article on suicide in the New York Times where he describes Jennifer Michael Hecht’s book “Stay: A History of Suicides and the Philosophies Against It.” With my friend’s death still haunting me, one passage in particular stood out.

“Suicides happen in clusters, with one person’s suicide influencing the other’s. If a parent commits suicide, his or her children are three times as likely to do so at some point in their lives… People in the act of committing suicide may feel isolated, but, in fact, they are deeply connected to those around. As Hecht put it, if you want your niece to make it through her dark nights, you have to make it through yours.”

Or rather: if you want your Ranger buddy to survive, you have to accept help and fight through your own battles.

I have no training in psychology or therapy or counseling. Each suicide has their own reasons, and the turns of mind and depths of torment that bring people to this decision are beyond my understanding. The VA has a crucial role to play in providing adequate care and counseling to veterans, as does the active duty military whose soldiers at the unit level can form the front line in identifying those at risk and guide them to help. But there is a role for us as individuals also. Veterans who never shunned responsibility while in uniform and now, after returning home, when we thought the hardest battles had been fought, find that our duty continues. We, as a community, need to help stop this cycle.

And so, to my fellow veterans: Reach out. There is support waiting for your call. At my friend’s funeral, over twenty old Army buddies came to grieve, from New York City, West Point, D.C., Colorado, Tennessee. All of us would have done anything we could to have saved our friend. If only he had asked.