I remember when life was simple. I remember waking up to go to school and to see the people that I associated with Monday through Friday. I remember long hot summers filled with football and fake people who thought they were going on to bigger and better through said sport. I remember going out on dates in high school in my moms car, all with LDS girls who wanted a "break" from that life. Those were the days of "innocence", those were the days where we could laugh and live without thinking about the consequences. We didn't have bills to pay, we didn't have to worry about where we were going to sleep that night. The biggest worry was passing Ms. Snow's English class or if I had clean compression shorts for wrestling practice. Now its making a car payment on time, or taking care of rent.
I remember when I finally checked out of Alta, it was bitter sweet. Well, lets be honest. It was the sweetest thing I have ever encountered. I was literally saying, "fuck you, and the people who are still there" as I walked back home. I was so happy to be leaving that place, to be leaving Utah. I was about to start a whole new life. I didn't do much before I left, other than hang out with my then girlfriend and work out. I remember April 13 fondly, I spent the night in the sauna at the hotel. I was like 4 pounds over weight and my recruiter was worried so he stayed and made sure I sweated it all out. The next morning I weighed in 15 pounds under what I needed to be. Before that though was hard. My family was in town and they came to see me off along with my girlfriend. That sucked. I have never been so scared. I was literally shaking the entire time. After they left I began to sweat. I was in the sauna doing up/downs like in the wrestling room. I even did the Wyoming shuffle (for all the Alta wrestlers!). We woke up the next morning to go to MEPS. That sucked even more, it was real. I was leaving and there was nothing I could or wanted to do now. After everyone left we ate lunch and drove to the airport.
When you go to MCRD San Diego they put you on a plane and you fly into San Diego, the airport shares a fence line with the Recruit Depot. Its surreal seeing the rappelling tower with big lettering USMC on it. You go to USO and hang out for a bit. A very large black man with a "Smokey Bear" hat came in and said, " if you are here for Marine Corps boot camp, get your god damned nasty bitch ass outside. I swear to God almighty I will fuck you up if you run away. I don't have the time or the inclination to deal with your mommy and daddy fairytale fed ass!!! FUCKING MOVE!!!!!!!" That is where it began.
I remember the night before we graduated, one of the Drill Instructors came in and made us get out of bed. He was obviously drunk, and had something to say. He told us about how we were more than likely going to go somewhere and shoot people. He told us about how we haven't really changed and that we would when that time came. He told us that the lessons we learned here will be life long and be true to those who have gone before and died. For some reason he came up to me and told me that I had a lot to live up too. I remember he told me this, "Even though you're short and kind of quiet, I know you have the ability to be deadly", i still have no idea what he meant by that. We all went to bed after he went into the DI hut and we heard a crash. I didn't sleep a wink that night. I was so nervous as to what was going to happen to me over the next four or so years of my life.
I remember one night in Al Asad. We had just come back from a route clearing mission. This was the old school way, everyone gets on line and walks for like 5 miles. We didn't see anything other than some pictures on bridges of trucks and shit. Well the week prior to this mission we were creating a massive terrain model of Rawah, the city we were going to. Well I was laying in my rack listening to Nagashima's radio which was always on and tuned to BBC radio. When this loud roar went over head followed by a ground shaking boom. We were getting rockets shot at us. I put my gear on, and I remember saying "this shit isn't cool anymore." Naga simply handed me my rifle and we went to the birm. We didn't see anything.
I remember the company firmbase south of the peninsula of Rawah. We were in a open pit gypsum mine so it seemed. The sand was so dusty it made it hard to fill sand bags. The conditions were horrible, dust was getting everywhere. I cleaned my rifle like 14 times a day. We would go through the town and nothing would happen. We didn't get shot at once, until one night. We got lit up pretty good, it definitely made me realize where I was and what i was doing.
I remember laying on the rooftop. I was covering myself with a blanket hoping it would give me more protection from bullets. I remember removing it because that was just a stupid idea, i noticed the tracers going over head. Ours are red, the enemy's were green or some other color. All I saw was green. I remember seeing rounds hitting the wall above my head and the rock and mortar falling on top of me. I remember during the day watching an RPG fly over my head and bounce off the roof directly behind me like 10 feet away. It didn't blow up. I remember everything being quiet, I remember Ill Will hitting gold balls into the city. I remember Clark and I filling a refrigerator with diesel fuel and lighting it on fire, that was a big fire and the smoke was black. I remember the bodies in the street, I remember watching cats eating the bodies as well. I remember watching a guy run away with his finger in his side hoping to stop the bleeding. I remember watching one of the snipers braining a dude on a bike.
I remember patrolling through Fallujah in the middle if the night, you could hear the coughs of sick children. I remember thinking this was the coolest thing in the world. I remember raiding houses in the middle of the night and finding nothing but sleeping families and the fearful women as we roughed up the men for acting tough. I remember following a woman to her baby so she could comfort her newly born child and her asking me to not point my gun at her. I remember pointing the barrel down and realizing that I pointed it at her without thinking a thing. I took off my helmet and gave her some powdered milk that I took from our supply. I remember the fear in her eyes, I remember just wanting to take it all off and sitting down to watch her with her child. I remember feeling horrible about the whole situation. This was just some family we woke up in the middle if the night because we were going off information from another neighbor. The next day we went back the neighbors house and uncovered a small weapons cache. Plus a large sum of money, I took some and handed it to the young mother and told her I was sorry.
I remember the 7-ton truck on its side. I remember the ear on the ground. I remember that like it was yesterday.
I remember coming home my last time and feeling empty. Like I had no reason to do anything. I was getting out and going to college, because that's what you do. I remember feeling that I had nothing to live for anymore. I was just merely a pawn in life, I was falling into the "normal" person pipeline. I was going to go college and get a degree, get married, and have babies. I remember finding the anti-anxiety medication and getting angty that they weren't working. I remember drinking by myself and staring at the wall listening to my girlfriends TV. I remember asking myself, " So this is life? Fuck this shit." I remember going to work and contemplating burning the mans shop down because he knew nothing of what it was like to kill a man. I remember coming home after the year was out and working for Tim. I remember looking at my girlfriend and realizing how fucked up I was. I remember looking at her and realizing how fucked up she was. I looked in the mirror and saw what my body had become, I began to cry.
I remember telling myself that I wasn't a victim, I am a survivor. I chose the life I lead. I remember going to see Ray and talking to him about my feelings. I remember telling him abut the fighting, the carnage, the anger I felt. I told him that I never felt like ending it all, which is very true. I can honestly say I have never thought about suicide. I remember telling him that I was tired of this and I wasn't going to live with it anymore.
I remember my brothers who aren't here, and I miss them. I don't drown the sadness in alcohol because for some reason I don't think they want me to do that. I remember drinking and people looking at me in disappointment. It's like I'm hearing, "what the fuck Allen" all over again. Why are you doing this? Why can't we have one person who doesn't follow the crowd?
I'm not going into the whole. " Memorial Day is another long weekend to some, while its something else to others" bit. I'm simply just stating what this Memorial Day is to me.
I don't really buy into the whole "I deserve, because I did" train of thought simply because I feel it is stupid. I made my choices and you made yours, I don't look down on you for not going my route and I hope you don't look down on me for mine. My experiences and my feelings are just that, mine. I hope they will shape me to become the man I hope to one day be.
To my brothers who I have fought with, I say Semper Fidelis. To my sisters who have gone forth to a job as well I say, Semper Fidelis. To the person who speaks out against me, I say Semper Fidelis. To those who have no idea what its like to go forth and do the things we have done I say, Hi! I'm Seth and its nice to meet you. I look forward to being friends with you.
I remember asking God to take the sorrow and dreams and do with them what he will. I don't have a majority of the dreams anymore except the one. I no longer feel the deep sorrow, but I feel some. I don't feel guilty about coming out relatively unharmed, but i feel blessed. I feel that I have the ability to show the world that even though we have a lot of pain that it will eventually be ok. I feel love again, love for my family, for my friends, and for those who don't have much love in their lives.
That is my Memorial Day.