Friday, March 7, 2014

Untitled, part 1

It's almost as if the kid had washed ashore in Los Angeles - so quickly he was battered and bruised upon arrival.

The kid?  Maybe only in terms of his naivete'.  At this point, he was was 30.

But he had some things going for himself.  Primarily, a job.  Sufficient in both stability and promise, one could accurately describe it as a career.  And his health.  Always strong from a lifelong dedication to fitness.  

Already scarred by war, disappointments, and life, he was allowing L.A. to flush all he had positive away.

But, boy, was he having fun.

Long a devotee of the Jim Morrison cult, he worked fast to establish his own drunken reputation on the Sunset Strip.

Known to the Doors then as The London Fog, the bar now Rock and Reilly's quickly became his go-to hang-out. Opening at 11:30 a.m., he had a beer in hand by 11:31.  He had also been the final patron out upon closing. During the same visit.   

The "Whiskey", next door, conjured special allure.  Steeped in history, he partied there with angry and frenetic energy. An effort, no doubt, to develop a particular legacy of his own. His wallet, lost forever, was a victim of the Whiskey.  Ultimately, so was he. 

He once stumbled out.  The type of stumbling that produces blood, and leaves scars. That particular evening ended, thankfully for him, in his own bed.  He arrived there via taxi cab.  A taxi cab that he was placed in by gracious police officers.  The following morning, the return ride was a 100 dollar fare; exactly as it had been the night before.  

Only a handful days past arrival, he took a quick liking to a local strip club. A habitual visitor, he beat a worn path from ATM to the private dance room.  Fueled by beer and whiskey shots, his expenditures there could have financed an exotic car.   

A preferred Irish bar was just a few short miles from his apartment; an easy right-left-right. Driving home after a long night of libations, he once got lost. 

Plenty of money and time was spent in pursuit of the perfect hedonistic L.A. lifestyle.  But, none of it, he thought, wasted.  Besides, he was being responsible, never drinking on nights prior to workdays.  

Unbeknownst to him, it was coming.  A wake-up call, though not the first of his life, but the most recent.  And, perhaps, the most important.  

More to follow during the next entry....

Just something I am working on.  Toying with the title, "Burnt Out by the City of Lights"...

Monday, December 2, 2013

Started From The Bottom

Having returned home this morning (Monday), I find myself listening to Kendrick Lamar and Miley Cyrus on repeat.  

A sure sign of an enjoyable weekend

On Thursday, I drove to Florida. 

And, this morning, I walked back in my door at 5 a.m. Four days, and a few hours; total damage: 

In between, mostly excellent things occurred, with a single exception (one specific play during the Football Game That Will Not Be Named). 

For the first time since I left Tampa, I finally felt again totally comfortable in my own skin. Probably because I was, in fact, back in Tampa.  It sure felt good to be home. 

Going back to Tampa is like having the reunion I never want to have.  Only because I wish there was so little time lost between the crew. Reunions should be unnecessary.  

I can hardly adequately describe the satisfaction I receive from getting back in touch with Charlie, Kristy, their amazing family, Ian, Tim, the assorted other Kristys, Sweet Tomatoes, USF and, of course, my daughter: 

(and adopted nephew, here pictured using the couch as designed)

But what truly made this weekend special was simply seeing how well all my friends are doing.  Everyone seems genuinely happy.  

Me, included.  

The weekend in Tampa was so totally fulfilling, and I can't wait to make my way back down there.  

This weekend, on a scale of one-to-five, was Emily Ratajkowski.

Saturday, November 16, 2013



I've been writing for hours. 

And then erasing. 

I can't bestow a Medal of Honor.  But, Joe deserves one. 

It's not up to me.  

While I can not grant Joe the honor he deserves, these letters I type may at least preserve his actions in history.  Or else they would be lost. As so many are.

If Joe's meritorious actions are otherwise lost, I feel honored to record them here. 

War is glamorized. 

Yet, the history of war only memorializes the few. Presidents, generals, commanders. 

And not the many, and certainly not the few of the many that really make a difference. 

I am here to buck history.  The records need to know of the admirable few that I encountered.  The ones during Iraq (OIF) that no books seem to care about. 

During OIF, there were Marines (recorded in history), the Army's 3ID - me-  (read "Cobra II") and various special operation forces (volumes written), but also an unsung crew that entered Iraq prior to the conventional forces and, perhaps, at the same time as SOF.

No one wrote about these guys.  Insignificant.  Who cares? 

Until I explain....

...These men literally dug themselves in to hide positions after directing an aerial war that America has forgotten. Like, "dug," literally.  And buried themselves.  Think about that. Breathing  through straw-like apparatus that poked through the earth.  

Prior to the Marines and the 3rd ID entering. The 18th Corps LRRS (and others) ensured that "easy" regime change in Iraq was "easy". When the armored war initiated, they literally dug into the ground, and watched.  They had been there all along. Who knew? 

Who knew?  Well, who knows now? But, worse, who cares??? :(

My unit "rescued" these men.  It was my first "mission" in Iraq, in March, 2003.  As if heroes can be rescued by mortals.

They escaped from dirt graves and inexplicable conditions and required continuous IVs to resume awareness. I witnessed the walking dead that day.  But not one book that I know of recounts any of this.  And none of them are writing.  

So, few know of the ghosts that emerged from the dirt that morning. 

That would be one thing.  But these unsung heroes weren't done. 

One of them was Joe Latulippe, an eventual friend of mine. 

Few have done so much as Joe and received so little accolade. 

Skip ahead:

Ar Ramadi, Iraq, 2004.  The heart of the "Sunni Triangle":

The opposition in Iraq rarely conducted planned ambushes. But, one day, they did.  

Have you seen Black Hawk Down?  Imagine that.  But for real.  Burning tires.  Smoke.  No where to go.  Your friends one side of an urban roadway, you on the other. Totally the same with the steel door, rolled-down garage fronts, and burning trashing barrels.   It would have seemed stereotypical if it weren't real. 

Imagine this: Iraqi mortars were so close that it was literally comical. On my radio, I relayed a joke about our pending death. Who cares?  Little bombs dropped from the sky. They were zeroed on the intersection that our humvee was sitting.  They impacted the vehicles and closer.  We took cover. I recall a period where my jokes on the headset were washed out by agonizing screaming. 

But no one knows any of this. But, you now.  

But I'm not writing to commend Iraqi periodic strategic genius. 

I am writing about Joe's heroics.  And I feel anger right now sensing that if I don't explain his actions now, they will be saved by only fleeting memories, or lost. 

So, if you forget all else, including the heroics you are about to read, just remember: JOE JOE JOE JOE JOE!  

He doesn't care.  But I care that you do.  Thank you.  

NOTE: To those who were there, I'm referencing routes Apple and Michigan, Ramadi; the day, 2004, that Able company, 1/503, was overrun and Baker was nearly the same. 



Let's recollect what's going on here.  

Urban environment.  Mortars raining down.  Joe is across the street. On my side is the platoon leader.  In the road, we have a truck with an automatic weapon raining carnage.  Joe and a small contingent are in a building ahead of that truck.  Joe is leaning out, laying fire toward those sending bullets our direction.  Suddenly, on the same side of the street as Joe, but behind our truck, one of our peers is hit.  

The victim's location is composed of all junior soldiers. 

So, consider.  

There's us; opposite side of the street -- across the street and a field of bullets from the victim. The fallen soldier is with a group of great soldiers but none prepared to help him adequately.  There's Joe.  But to maneuver around our truck, he'd have to enter a corridor that nearly guarantees death.  

Of course, Joe did exactly that. Superhero.

 With my own eyes, I watched as Joe miraculously evaded bullets. Amazingly, he ran with his carbine held behind him, firing all along. I almost don't want to tell you that he paused in the street and directed a derogatory finger in the direction of the oncoming bullets.  It seems too hyperbolic to be true.  

But Joe did it. 

And, well, if I didn't tell it, no one would know.  

I'm sure there's a billion stories like this one.  

Joe was entered for a silver star, but someone not there decided his actions were more worthy of the inferior bronze star; the same award that Majors receive for stepping foot in foreign countries.  

The End.