In the original book, in this chapter, I leaned heavily on T.S. Eliot's The Wasteland to draw parallels in theme and emotion. The poem is not necessarily bleak due to sadness or loss, but rather, the futility of nothingness amid a purely dead environment. The poem is also laden with direct correlations to the book's heavier themes: death, rebirth, change, and the cyclical nature of history. It was a powerfully poignant tie-in that I ultimately took out because unless one is familiar, it's more of a novelty than anything. But as it were, I would highly encourage anyone along for the ride to give it a read. While the imagery of the poem is easily identifiable by anyone who's been to these kinds of dark places, it serves well to also say, "this too shall pass" in a way.
Above - With then-puppy Willoway sometime in February of 2002. Just a little baby A1C. I suppose Will and I both were puppies. Post-9/11, pre-OIF/Dover.
Above right - Airman Leadership School graduation December 03. It's a bit of a comical photo as I'm holding literally every award given at ALS: Levitow Award, Distinguished Graduate, Harlow Leadership Award, and Academic Award. If you notice, my tie is embarrassingly skewed. When he came to shake my hand, the Wing Commander, Gen Gray (whom I worked for as the HG/NCOIC) yanked my tie to the side. He asserted all the awards would go to my head and had to "knock me down a peg."
Below - Memorial Day 2004. After serving as escort for Gen Peter Pace for Bush's Arlington address, we made our way to the WW2 Memorial for the innaugural opening.
Right - First day as an E-5. After earning E-4 "Below the Zone," I tested for E-5 early and made it the first try. The BDUs were brand new, so they weren't *quite* starched to bullet-proof body armor yet.
Below-right- The short guy at Reagan's rifle cordon.
I show these--obviously with some pride--to serve as evidence for how sparked and inspired I was by my experience at Dover. The men I carried with me only ever said emboldening, encouraging things.
The good: Those BDUs are more in line with standard starch regimen.
The bad: what isn't seen. It looks like college. Young people celebrating the jovial infinity of youth. Unpracticed heathens released of juvenile bonds. Except...
It was all a lie. Seemingly the only place or time I ever felt freed of that mask was on stage, singing calculated lyrics. I add the last photo from the summer before I graduated for a specific reason. What isn't noticeable in the smile is noticeable in the body. I was 110lbs when that photo was taken. My last semester, I managed to secure a loan that helped me get through to the finish line and literally feed me, but until that point, the struggle was real. The issues conflated, though. It wasn't simply finances, it was all things at once and the looming failure became the motivation, not the success--a stark contrast from the Honor Guard days. By the time I graduated, something truly malevolent had metastasized in my mind and had begun to rot.
Undergraduate Pilot Training
Dallas and I had some of the best life experiences during these couple years. I introduced him to his future wife and mother of his children by nearly getting them killed on top of a Colorado mountain. Pensacola was fantastic, but it's also where things started to come unraveled. By the time I got to Oklahoma to fly the T-1, I had departed controlled flight and was in an unrecoverable spin. For the hundreds and hundreds of photos I have of the time in Pensacola, I literally have zero photos aside from the one photo of the T-1 when we flew out to Grand Junction, CO on a cross-country flight.
The smiles... I was always smiling for the camera. The two that get me the most, though, are the photos at the bottom. The one on the left was literally the weekend after I washed out. Dallas' wedding was the week following. Those smiles... they look believable, don't they?
On the funny side, the photo to the left is me writing "I will not overspeed the flaps 100 times" after I got aggressive on an emergency descent. I "underestimated my energy state." Take that for what it's worth.
Note: the pistol
Air Battle Management Training
As an officer, my assignments were: Kansas (in-process at Ft. Riley, KS), Montgomery AL, The Florida Panhandle, Oklahoma, Florida Panhandle, Oklahoma, Montgomery AL, Ft. Riley, KS. If that's not a manifestation of cyclic history or synchronicity, I don't know what is. My career followed the path of an artillery round fired at exactly 90-degrees. So many metaphors, so little time.
I did get a chance to re-attack SERE, of which I am forever grateful. It was even better than I dreamed it would be. Aside from all that abuse stuff. But then again, I suppose I was of twisted mind at the time to gleen masochistic glee from it.
Truly one of the best things that happened at Panama City was coaching Little League again. I needed something to recapture that spark of joy that had been all but snuffed out. I had always been loudly passionate about Little League Baseball and the purity of the game anchored me back to the kid in me who indefinitely exists in a state of innocense. I needed it. What I didnt' know was that the kids themselves would quietly alter my trajectory just by being who they were. We were the last-place team in a very talented league. But we won *one* game--but the glow and effort and magic radiating from these kids, day after day is enough to light any darkness.
And... for evidence, when I said, "not recently," I meant 1998. I hadn't ridden a horse since 1998.
Insightful side stories, mindless meanderings, dog pics, and a one-stop shop on how to dad while knowing nothing.
Occasionally I say things. @ me, and I'm 47% more likely to say things.
I too, like 4 billion others, am quick to sign over my privacy to conflicted, untrustworthy mega-institutions capable of mass manipulation.