Lethal Minds Volume 8
Volume 8, Edition 1 01FEBRUARY2023
LETHAL MINDS JOURNAL
Lethal Minds Volume 8
Volume 8, Edition 1 01FEBRUARY2023
Letter from the Editor
In June of 2022, the first wave of Lethal Minds Journal landed on the beach of your consciousness. I use the metaphor because establishing a new journal in the social media era, even one as tightly focused as Lethal Minds, is the media equivalent of a forced landing upon an opposed beachhead. Indulging the image, consider me the rifleman trying to crawl deeper into his helmet as a tempest of fire and steel rages while screaming, “How the hell did I get here?!”
I did not volunteer. I’m a literary draftee; a retired Marine who now calls himself a freelance writer. That June edition held the first piece of pure fiction I ever published and I was grateful. But to be honest, I took exception to some aspects of the other content and I told the Lethal Minds behind the Journal. Tom Schueman and Graham refused to let me just fire a shot and melt away into the jungle. We all come from places where problems demand solutions so they challenged me to help. And here we are, six months later, looking inland and thinking about what might be dug into the hills in the distance.
Six months after I answered a call for submissions on an Instagram page; with better and better work by dedicated volunteer writers supported by an editorial fireteam minus; we are across the beach and moving forward with podcasts, YouTube channels, and of course, the Lethal Minds Journal, forever free of charge. We have me, your Editor-in-Chief, and a reinforced squad of volunteer editors on an actual line and block chart. Mainly, we have you and hopefully your trust.
Trust is born of honesty, so I have to be honest about that first piece of fiction. I’d unsuccessfully shopped it at multiple journals and writing outlets soliciting work from veterans and serving members of the military. That’s expected, rejection being the milieu of the writer. But there is an implied contract between writers and outlets that work will either be acknowledged in some way or an editorial policy will identify a period of silence as a rejection. After almost two years, that story you hopefully read back in June is still languishing unremarked at venues purportedly chartered to help people like us “find our voices”. The truth is we don’t need help finding our voices. They’re ours.
We used them on rooftops in Al Anbar Province and cornrows in Sangin. We had plenty to say in the streets of Baghdad and on the steep slopes of the Waygal Valley. Whether wading swamps in North Carolina, rolling across prairies in Kansas, crossing snowfields in Alaska, or churning up California deserts with HE and frag, the perennially young voice of the barracks echoes things said for generations while offering fresh perspectives about complexities I never imagined in my youth of starched eight point covers and mirror shined green jungle boots. Our voices echo from the third deck of the barracks at 0312 and are whispered under ponchos in the red glow of headlamps, preparing for the next fight. Sometimes they wake you up to let you know the Company Gunny or Battalion XO has a special surprise just for you.
We all have a voice. We know just where they are. We just need a place to amplify them. Lethal Minds Journal is yours.
Fire for effect.
Russell Worth Parker
Editor in Chief - Lethal Minds Journal
Across The Force
Ace of Spades
Book Review: How The Few Became The Proud
Navigating The New Reality of War
Report From Academia
Processing the Trauma of a Nation
The Written Word
Just a Rock
Fire in the Cockpit
Poetry and Art
Roots of Chaos
Laughter In Pain
Health and Fitness
Assessment and Rehabilitation Considerations for Chronic Shoulder Pain
Transition and Veterans Resources
Dedicated to those who serve, those who have served, and those who paid the final price for their country.
Lethal Minds is a military veteran and servicemember magazine, dedicated to publishing work from the military and veteran communities.
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Across the Force
Written work on the profession of arms. Lessons learned, conversations on doctrine, and mission analysis from all ranks.
EABO’s Ace of Spades - Hunter Keeley
As the Russian Invasion of Ukraine supersedes the Global War on Terror as the prevailing image of modern conflict, the world is reminded that digging is synonymous with war. Not that digging was absent from Operations Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, Inherent Resolve, or Freedom’s Sentinel, but the photos of Forwarding Operating Bases (FOBs) in Iraq and Afghanistan which circulated back home tended to showcase construction built from the ground up by resourceful engineering corps. Imagery from the front lines in Ukraine evokes the trench warfare of the first World War and reminds us that, when upwards of 25,000 artillery shells are fired daily, digging into the earth is more survivable than building out of it.
Now, most every general, pundit, or layman would not predict that America’s next war will involve a static, or even an identifiable, forward line of troops where a trench system could be dug in the first place. ‘Digging in’ could therefore be regarded as of secondary importance in the modern era. Our attention is drawn further away from the grim phenomenon of trench warfare by the beguiling capabilities of assets such as 5th generation fighter jets or the HIMAR system, and further still by the sheer complexity of technologies such as Space Force’s satellite network or Augmented Reality (A.R.) goggles that sync with small arms. At first glance, the juxtaposition between a rain-soaked and starving infantryman hacking at the earth with a shovel and a fighter pilot in low orbit looking through the bottom of his own plane and zooming in on a one meter by one meter square on the earth’s surface may seem incompatible. Beyond their stark contrast, humans have a fallible impulse to believe that these images must be incompatible.
At every turn and twist of history, humans surmise that technological and cultural advances have lifted war out of its less-gentlemanly previous form into an elevated, civilized pursuit. Thus, shovels and trenches and their attendant violence must be relegated to history. Together, these factors; the improbability that our future fight will have a defined front line, the dazzle of technological advance, and the persistent conviction that the next war will be a good war, cause us to overlook the critical role dug-in infantry will have in America’s future war.
Consider the Marine Corps’ response to heightened tension in the Indo-Pacific. The Expeditionary Advanced Base Operation (EABO) construct posits that small, skilled, and well-equipped units can sustain themselves within an adversary’s weapon engagement zone (WEZ) and coordinate enough combat power to secure the neighborhood for the Navy. Units executing EABO will rely on mobility and stealth to avoid detection in the shadow of Berlin Wall-esque levels of surveillance. If detected, those units will be just off the shore of a country whose gargantuan industrial output ensures munitions will not be employed frugally. Indeed, it is not so unimaginable that certain islands might be regularly shelled as a matter of course, regardless of whether Marines are positively identified there or not. Layer on the ongoing proliferation of precision-guided munitions, and it seems certain that the success of EABO will hinge not only on avoiding detection, but on a unit’s ability to survive being targeted and then to regain stealth.
The adage “to be seen is to be targeted is to be killed” sums up the current sentiment regarding the odds of surviving detection in modern warfare. 500 pound bombs, 1,000 pound bombs, 2,000 pound bombs, tactical nukes, and suicide drones all seem to eliminate the need for discussion about whether that would be possible today. However, the trenches of Ukraine remind not only that digging is synonymous to war, but why this is the case. The same earth which once shielded Germans, Frenchman, and Englishmen on the Western Front is today proving just as adept at protecting Ukrainians and Russians from each other, despite a century’s worth of intervening technological progress. The stubbornness of dug-in infantry is evinced on modern charts that match effects of various weapon systems against different platforms. Small arms can defeat dispersed foot-mobile troops, but are no match for armored vehicles, which can still be destroyed by shape-charged high explosives, which in turn alone cannot deal with dispersed foot-mobile troops. Such charts can reduce battles to a sort of rock-paper-scissors game, but nonetheless are valuable in that they facilitate understanding of weapon-to-target matches and underscore the importance of combined arms. Finding ‘dug-in infantry’ on one of these charts reveals that any weapon system can suppress ‘dug-in infantry,’ but that, within the logical bounds of the rock-paper-scissors matchmaking, only other infantry, closing on their fighting holes and engaging them in close combat, can destroy ‘dug-in infantry.’
The trenches of Ukraine, despite their dissimilitude to forecasts of America’s future fight, are a heartening partial proof-of-concept for EABO. They prove that soldiers can survive modern munitions in the absence of modern defenses. It is neither an Iron Dome over Ukraine nor a Stuxnet-style cyber-attack within the Russian’s artillery pieces which is ultimately protecting Ukrainian soldiers from shelling, though these sort of factors no doubt play a role. Instead, it is the technologically primitive shovel which most increases the survivability of the bombarded soldier. Of course, stealth will be the primary means of success for EABO, but the fact that avoiding detection is not the sole means of survival within the WEZ seriously increases the construct’s viability. It should also be considered that entrenchment could supplementarily decrease an EAB’s signature. To note, an Expeditionary Advanced Base (EAB) would be ill-served by a static and easily identified trench system. Rather, it is likely that a series of hidden and dispersed fighting holes from within which portable tech can be employed will be what constitutes many an EAB.
Digging in, the exhausting mundanity which has long grated against soldiers’ reservoirs of morale and energy will be integral to Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations. Marines won’t have backhoes or dredgers to dig their fighting holes each time the EAB picks up and moves, Marines will have only the implements they carry with them to dig each new EAB. Presently, each Marine carries a tri-folding entrenching-tool (e-tool) and, if digging in is anticipated, a unit will additionally carry a few shovels and picks.
The versatile e-tool can act as either a pick or a shovel, is lightweight, compact, and can be easily attached to the outside of any pack. Taking up little space yet technically granting each Marine the capability of entrenching, the e-tool is totally optimized for 2.2 pounds and 24 inch carriage. However, the e-tool is mismatched with the demands of EABO. If it is accepted that EABO will involve the frequent digging of deep fighting holes as a secondary protection against fires, and acknowledging that resupplies in EABO will be few and far between, then a heavier and larger spade should replace the e-tool as the individual Marine’s primary digging implement.
Proponents of the e-tool would argue that portability and weight are the essential variables by which we should measure that piece of equipment. It is true that, under both EABO and the counterinsurgency operations of the past twenty years, Marines always carry their gear wherever they go. Due to the austerity inherent in both operational styles, it is vital to stretch each calorie as far as possible, and to jam into each main pack as much capability as possible. Nevertheless, when the act of digging-in on a frequent basis is taken into consideration, the advantageous size and weight of the e-tool is outweighed by the efficiency gained by a comparatively larger spade.
A larger spade allows the digger to apply their bodyweight to pierce the ground, and then lever the handle to uproot a shovelful of dirt. In other words, a spade gives its user a mechanical advantage to more efficiently complete the task of digging. The e-tool, literally speaking, has the same forms of mechanical advantage, but, because it is so small, it is an awkward balancing act to get one’s weight over the implement, and the lever is shorter and therefore less efficient. The result is that using an e-tool is much more energy-intensive and time-consuming than using a spade. Before accusations about comfort based decisions begin to fly, consider the second order effects on a unit which digs in with spades as opposed to e-tools.
Firstly, Marines with spades can depend more on gravity and their own weight to wrestle with the earth as opposed to their own muscular effort. All else equal, the unit will expend less calories digging in and will be able to stretch the period between resupplies. Second, instead of hunching over the e-tool, Marines need not lift with their back and arms while using a spade. The stress on Marines’ bodies from digging will be reduced, and the unit will be able to travel faster and further while moving their EAB. Third, Marines will be able to entrench faster if they have a spade. Time will be freed for the unit to conduct EABO, as opposed to just building an EAB.
The corresponding trade-off, that a spade is less packable and weighs more than the e-tool, can be mitigated with the introduction of a tactical shovel. There exist commercially available shovels that are as light as, and can break down to about the size of an e-tool, but which have the advantages of a larger spade. Even simply adding a fourth fold to the e-tool would increase its length and be extremely advantageous. Units hypothetically equipped with lightweight, collapsible spades instead of e-tools would experience almost no change to the weight or portability of their digging implements.
Two apparently dissimilar forms of warfare, trench warfare and EABO, both seek to minimize the effects of enemy shelling. Trench warfare has seen its cards laid on the table time and time again over the past century. Looking at its hand for the first time, EABO might find its ace of spades to be just that, a spade.
Book Review: How the Few Became The Proud: Crafting The Marine Corps Mystique, 1874-1918, by Heather Venable. - The Cognitive Marine
Heather Venable, who currently serves as a professor at the U.S. Air Force’s Air War College, has delivered a precise, detailed, and informed look at a little-known period in Marine Corps history. Where most works about the Marine Corps quickly gloss over the period from 1874-1918, Venable uncovers a misunderstood history by focusing on the background actions of Marine Corps headquarters, recruiting efforts, and other lesser-known organizations of the Corps. Venable’s detailed and well-researched work explains how the Marine Corps created an identity in the face of significant challenge from the U.S. Navy, the War Department, and even the President of the United States. This crafted identity would later transition generationally through the Marine Corps as a manufactured history.
In part one, Venable informs the reader about the significant public relations efforts undertaken by the Marine Corps to promote its activities and better communicate with the American public. about the branch. These efforts would at times come at the expense of the U.S. Army and the U.S. Navy, contributing to the long-standing inter-service rivalry that continues today. Additionally, Venable describes in remarkable detail the challenges associated with recruiting the type of Marines expected by the service and Congress, while adding detail to lesser-known aspects of Marine Corps lore, such as: “The unofficial motto, Once a Marine, Always a Marine, and the invention of recruiting officer Lt. L. P. Pinkston.” Venable details other similar engineering by the Marine Corps throughout this work.
In part two, Venable departs from established works on Marine Corps history by explaining to readers how the Corps transformed its minor expeditionary operations in Mexico, The Philippines, Cuba, and China into headline grabbing adventures that would secure the Marine Corps’ role as the nation’s force-in-readiness and strengthen its position in a the highly competitive recruiting market. Venable rightfully identifies the nearly comical lengths the Marine Corps went to during this period of inter-service competition; frequently highlighting the literary license the Marine Corps liberally exploited to tell its version of events.
Lastly, Venable highlights the Marine Corps’ early female inequality, divisive language, and other early twentieth century notions of females in military service. The Marine Corps was certainly not alone, but it likely stalled any gender equality efforts for decades to come by its hyper-masculinization. Venable uncovers recruiting strategies that sexualized women in the Marine Corps, often with the assistance from other women, and characterized women as different from the uniforms to the duties assigned. Venable gives historical context to these former practices that the Marine Corps is trying to erase to this very day.
Heather Venable’s work was well-received as it added to the overall mystique of the Marine Corps during an era of great uncertainty for the struggling service while simultaneously unveiling information unknown to many in the service. Venable’s work was most importantly well-received by those who have and continue to serve in the Marine Corps, while giving historians insight into an era that is additive to the overall discourse on this burgeoning period in naval history.
Venable makes use of a wide variety of sources and most importantly, primary sources from the era. Using primary sources helps to solidify Venable’s work as methodically researched and well-established by using oral histories and personal papers of key figures from the period. Venable’s use of the Thomas Holcomb, Clifton Cates, and Smedley Butler papers add foundational support to Venable’s thesis as all of these key Marine Corps leaders were in positions of authority to have affected the assertions made in this work. The use of published histories from the period contribute to Venable’s nuanced approach to this work, and capture the sentiments and perceptions that defined the era. The bibliography is sufficiently resourced with key works that are established narratives about the era. Additionally, Venable makes use of secondary sources of the era that sufficiently inform overall scholarship, specifically such towering works as Hoffman’s Chesty: The Story of Lieutenant General Lewis B. Puller, USMC and General Krulak’s book First to Fight: An Inside View of the U.S. Marine Corps. Taken together, Venable’s well researched work adequately supplies both primary and secondary sources to confidently support the assertion that the period from 1874-1918 was essential to crafting an identity for the Marine Corps critical to its survival which in many aspects continues today.
Navigating the New Reality of War and our Attention, Data, and the Smartphone as a Weapons System: A Brief Review of "Radical War" - The War Murals Project
The rapid advancement of technology has brought us closer than ever before to the realities of war. With just a few clicks on social media, we can access high-definition footage of combat, providing a glimpse into the lives of soldiers on the front lines. However, this proximity also creates a disconnect few seem to understand. We are uniquely insulated from the true physical and emotional experiences of war- no noise, smell, or long hours of tense boredom experienced by troops fighting sleep deprivation and the elements. Drones and placed cameras provide a steady, sanitized view of violence, free of the fear and sensory experiences of deprivations that accompany it. Social media algorithms prioritize exploitative footage and sensationalized highlights over context and understanding to suck up your attention, bandwidth, and ability to think. As we consume these edited versions of reality, we risk losing sight of the true human cost of war and the complexities of the conflicts we are witnessing.
Much of this came to mind while reading and listening to discussions on the book "Radical War: Data, Attention and Control in the Twenty-First Century." Authors Dr. Matthew Ford and Professor Andrew Hoskins offer a thought-provoking examination of the ways in which technology, particularly smartphones and social media, are fundamentally changing the way we understand and experience war. For military leaders and social influencers, it is essential that we reflect on how we think about the modern battlefield, and how technological innovation will continue to affect the way we conduct warfare and invite society to view it. Our attention is for the taking, and the phone and camera can be weaponized platforms to connect and provide comfort, or just as easily, act as the lit cigarette in the dark that informs the enemy of your location and activity. "Radical War" provides a valuable framework for understanding these shifts and offers a compelling argument for why this topic should be at the forefront of our minds as we navigate the rapidly evolving landscape of modern warfare.
It is clear that new technologies, particularly the smartphone and social media, are changing how conflict is experienced, understood, or as I have previously submitted to Lethal Minds— remembered. Reflect on the media you've consumed in recent days: what were the most impactful things you saw? What did you learn? Where did it take place? Was it accurate? Can you easily find the information again, or is it lost in the noise? Did you gain knowledge that can make you a better leader or contributor to the team?
I suggest reading “Radical War” and listening to interviews about the topic to build a framework for thinking about these issues, gain a better understanding of how these systems are being used, and create awareness for the potential for manipulation. As technology advances, it is important to stay informed and aware of these issues to protect ourselves and our data.
The Modern Scholar Podcast: The New Ecology of Technology and Radical War on Apple Podcasts
The Smartphone as Weapon part 1: the new ecology of war in Ukraine
Book- Radical War: Data, Attention and Control in the Twenty-First Century: Ford, Matthew, Hoskins, Andrew
Lethal Minds Volume 2 - Losing Our History in the Age of Information - The War Murals Project
Op Eds and general thought pieces meant to spark conversation and introspection.
Report from Academia: The Current State of Psychology - Gage Gatsby
Trigger Warning: This article contains statistics and information regarding suicide and mental health conditions. If you are having a mental health crisis, please dial 988 and press 1 to speak to someone.
Author’s Note: None of this article suggests that you not seek assistance from mental health professionals if you need it. On the contrary, I would recommend it to literally everyone. If you take medications and they work for you, please continue doing so.
In this article I lay out the current state of psychology as I see it. All opinions and projections are my own, and although I have sources and logic to justify them, I make no claim to certainty. Many of my claims are vague so I can attempt to avoid professional repercussions from those who disagree.
I am a combat veteran attending a master’s degree program to become a licensed mental health counselor, specializing in military/veteran psychology. The program is considered by many to be the pinnacle of psychology programs in the United States, and although as a future LMHC I am not what academia would consider an expert (Psychiatrists, PsyDs, and PhDs are the doctors of the psychology world, all with a few extra years of college than a master’s degree), I am still able to observe, report, and interpret the facts of the field.
● I am one of 25 students; of those, the only veteran. There is nowhere I can go to find statistics on veterans in the field, but I can only speculate that the number is a minuscule fraction of the practitioners available to us, let alone those with combat experience.
At one point, I had to give a presentation on military psychology to the rest of my class. Four of my fellow class members responded that they could not treat or support someone who fought and killed anyone in the army of our fascist government. Others could not understand the concept of war at all for various reasons; “Does the Army not raise enough awareness of the trauma that comes from killing someone?”
● The VA claimed that between 2017-2020, veteran suicides dropped by 10%; the DOD claimed suicides amongst active-duty members increased by 15% in this same period. With that said, a veteran non-profit called America’s Warrior Partnership (AWP) conducted a four-year study called “Operation Deep Dive” to study data related to veteran deaths. The study claims the VA’s numbers only applied to instances where the cause of death was not questionable; factoring in drug overdoses, vehicular suicide, etc, the final total actually comes out to 44 veterans a day committing suicide. These figures are yet to include the suicides as a result of the Covid-19 lockdowns and the fall of Afghanistan.
● In July of this year, studies were released on the effectiveness of prescribed psychological drugs for conditions such as PTSD, depression, and anxiety. The study results show there is no conclusive evidence to confirm the dominant narrative of brain chemical processes (serotonin, etc.) being responsible for these conditions occurring. Researchers have admitted they “don’t understand” the medicinal/physical cause of these conditions. Further, there is no data that confirms the prescribed medications have any overall success in treating these conditions. Over half of the individuals studied saw no effect whatsoever from the drugs, and those who did were indistinguishable from those given a placebo drug (a false drug used as a control to observe results). The studies all agreed that the most effective forms of treatment for these conditions are traditional talk therapy sessions and positive lifestyle change.
Many of my opinions come from sources that are not empirical; meaning, no one official cares and I can not publish them into something the academic world would use to facilitate change. Take them with a grain of salt and form your own conclusions.
To begin, there are many people and organizations out there who are putting in work and doing everything they can to help our community out. Most mental health professionals will do the best they can to help you out of your situation, and even if you think they can’t help because they haven’t been in your shoes, I would still recommend that you go see them. I promise you, you will more than likely gain something positive from the experience. I would also like to say this is not a rallying cry to flush your meds and never go to the VA for help; if something is working for you, continue the process; if you need help, get it. These resources do have the possibility to work for you. With that being said, this is a call to arms for us to do more. We have some real fucking problems here, and more are on the horizon. I began my observations by talking about myself and my fellow mental health professionals. I would estimate less than 1% of mental health professionals are veterans, and a very small percentage of that percentage have direct combat experience. Why does this matter? Two reasons:
1. The “experts” leading the field have no fucking clue what our lives are like, yet are still able to call the shots for our treatment.
2. The number one complaint I hear from veterans as to why they refuse to seek treatment is because of this lack of understanding.
As a population, we could be considered as having one of the largest mental health crises the world has ever seen, and there’s barely a focus on us. For the past 20 years since PTSD at all became a concern, the “experts” have been assuring us they have the answers, and that the methods they implement work. If that is at all the case, why are we still seeing such staggering figures of loss? Why are these figures growing? I have seen no emphasis in academia on our population. There are degree programs and classes that specialize in our treatment but they are extremely few and far between, with many still in the developmental stage. The current programs I have been a part of or have researched almost do the exact opposite, with entire semester-long classes dedicated to feminist, LGBQ-T, and sexuality-spectrum-specific treatments and issues. Further, some of my peers have been borderline hostile to our community, claiming “we support the patriarchy, fascism, etc.”
These peers face no repercussions for claiming any of these views and will (I assume) graduate to become mental health professionals and officials, creating more of the treatment doctrine they will claim is “best for us.”
There is widespread academic belief that we can’t compare levels of trauma when talking psychology; “you can’t compare pain.” Since these conditions can affect everyone (which is true), we are grouped right alongside anyone else who needs treatment. Functionally, we are not distinguished from someone who may have PTSD from a fender bender or someone presenting with depression from gender dysphoria.
Not only can many of these “professionals” not relate, diminish our experience, or are hostile, but most of the doctrine utilized is also dead. Meds? Don’t work most of the time. Talk therapy? Can work, if you have a good therapist who cares. Lifestyle change? Mainly used on a “do as I say, not as I do” basis; one of the most effective and commonly prescribed lifestyle changes is to work out and be physically fit. So not only do many of these people lack any kind of understanding of our experiences, but they’ll also tell you to stay fit while looking like Jabba the Hutt.
In any case, you will only see results from working with a therapist if you can get access to one. My personal experience since my discharge in 2020? I had to wait three months for a VA appointment, and when I showed up, they told me they forgot about it. Within an hour’s drive of my house, there is one private therapist with veteran-specific training, and he isn’t taking clients until next summer. What am I advocating for to change this? We have to implement cultural changes. This is another topic I could write a book about, but I will summarize it here.
We have to change how we view mental health treatment, both within the force and out. Mental health conditions can affect anyone. I don’t care who you are, if you operate in our line of work for long enough, it will get to you. Even if your difficulties don’t come from the job, everyone can benefit from talking to a therapist, problems big or small. Unless it is to the point where you are dangerous to yourself or others, talking to someone should not be viewed as making someone unfit for duty. I guarantee you, with the right mental health professional, your quality of life will improve drastically even after just one session to get things off your chest.
Kill the stigma and save a life.
Everyone who’s lost a friend or relative would rather have them still around as opposed to keeping quiet and toughing it out until it's too late. Please, do not be that guy. There need to be more vets in academia. I am doing my best to make a difference where I can, but I am only one man. If you are about to transition out or are already working a different job, please, please, seriously consider going to school for an academic field. We need way more of us out there bringing change to academic fields. Even if your passion is soil science or pharmacology, your voice with your experience and realistic common sense can bring change where we seriously need it. Academics often aren't grounded, and it is very possible to be so smart you’re stupid. Be the change. (Academic jobs usually pay pretty well too.) Demand better access to treatment. We have to demand more of ourselves and our government; the VA clearly isn’t cutting it. Write to your congressmen, make connections, and demand answers; no one will do it for us. The biggest solution I advocate for and am actively working on: We must create more of our own in house treatment options.
The experts and politicians don’t have the answers and don’t care to find out. The “professionals” coming up in the ranks won’t be able to help each other as well as we can, even if they want to try. We must come up with our own initiatives to help each other, and we have to stop pretending like this problem will go away on its own; it won’t. Get involved, start groups, reach out and talk to each other. Find things you all want to do and go do them. It takes $0 to start a local veteran fishing or hiking group on facebook to hang out and shoot the shit; you’d be surprised what that alone can do for someone who feels isolated.
Change the way you view traditional means of therapy. The liquor you turn to at the end of every week is not helping you, it is poisoning you. I have nothing against the VFW, but liquor is not the way, and it makes our lives worse in a lot of ways, not better. Active duty, we need better answers than a battalion commander’s weekend safety brief and a chaplain no one wants to talk to. Veterans, we need something more than a fucking hotline. Take a risk, reach out, and organize. It only takes one person leading the way to get things moving.
I have plans I’m developing and will be launching shortly, but again, I am only one person. If you have something in mind but you need help fleshing it out, reach out and I’ll do what I can to assist. If you like the direction I’m trying to go, stay tuned and help me out down the line when I have more I can do; I’m limited for now until I finish my degree but I have a non-profit in the works.
My vision for our community is to have our own veteran-led teams get together with other vets, 1 on 1 or in group settings, sit back on a river bank, smoke some cigars, cast some lines, and shoot the breeze. Or climb, surf, hike, etc. Erase the cold, “professional” clinical setting of a typical civilian session, and embrace the idea of an active, friendly recovery, working together to enjoy life more. That's what it should all be about. Two groups I’ve interacted with and love what they have going on are Patrol Base Abbate and Veteran Surf Alliance. Links to these organizations are provided below.
We can do better.
Let’s get to work.
(n.d.). Veteran Surf Alliance - Nonprofit, Surf, Veteran. Retrieved November 23, 2022, from https://veteransurfalliance.com/
(n.d.). PB Abbate: HOME. Retrieved November 23, 2022, from https://www.pbabbate.org/
III, L. S. (2022, September 17). Veterans suicide rate may be double federal estimates, study suggests. Military Times. Retrieved November 23, 2022, from https://www.militarytimes.com/veterans/2022/09/17/veterans-suicide-rate-may-be-double-federal-estimates-study-suggests/
Shpancer, N. (2022, July 24). Depression Is Not Caused by Chemical Imbalance in the Brain. Psychology Today. Retrieved November 23, 2022, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/insight-therapy/202207/depression-is-not-caused-chemical-imbalance-in-the-brain
Processing the Trauma of a Nation - Jeremy Kofsky
War exists as the ultimate human experience. Joy, sorrow, highest of highs and lowest of low, these are all a part of what a person, be they a trained soldier or a neophyte civilian, will experience in their own way. While all sides experience war in a warzone, the way they express, accept, and ‘live’ in that time and place is unique both to them and to the time and place the conflicts takes place in. Understanding how civilians express themselves and make do whilst in the middle of these unimaginable, and somewhat indescribable situations provides a solid knowledge base from which to understand the effects of technology and fighting on the psyche of a people, a nation, and an era.
The American Civil War was the zenith of the pre-Victorian era of combat in which combat was seen as a spectator event. At the First Battle of Bull Run/Manassas, one of the significant overlooks was militarily denied for the battle due to the large number of families picnicking to watch the initial and (the thought was) final battle of this 'little insurrection' between the North and South. It is telling that during the next battle of Bull Run, the families had disappeared as the true toll and longevity of the war was understood. American author Mary Chesnut noted the loss of innocence when she referred to smells after the battle in two ways (gunpowder and flowers). Smells tend to be the most powerful memory inciters in people and Mary Chesnut likely never forgot the smells of flowers and decaying flesh mixed with cordite ever in her life.
Walt Whitman was a late part of the Transcendentalism movement in America. Transcendentalism had, as the bedrock of its approach, a reliance on the inherent goodness of people. It must have been a nightmare realization for Whitman in the many hospitals he visited, seeing soldiers die, not from a brave bayonet charge or heroic action but from tuberculosis, dysentery, or the other diseases that ravaged the ranks of soldiers on both sides of the war. Their conditions left them alone, afraid, and sometimes incapable of communicating with their loved ones, who never knew where they were or what was happening to them.
Whitman appeared deeply impacted by the results of what he saw in hospitals. An analysis of his writing discovers a very sterile manner. Internalizing trauma and becoming clinical in its description are typical measures used to overcome potential psychological damage on the outside person looking in on the damages of war. Whitman provided a typically unseen view of war to families waiting on their soldiers to get home, away from the physical but not the actual effects of the battlefield.
One of the more sobering statistics to come out of the Civil War is the extrapolation to modern standards of seven million Americans dying if the Civil War occurred today, using commensurate casualty percentages. The Civil War, more so than the War of 1812 (largely a naval war), the Indian Wars (far removed 'simple' conflicts), or the Revolutionary War (close but in terms of scale far smaller) defined what service to the nation could mean even to those who were nowhere near the fighting. The Civil War did serve as a catalyst for increased reach of the national government as part of the overall service portion of military service and death. Arlington National Cemetery did not even exist at the time of the Civil War, it was General Robert E. Lee's family farm. The crafting of a pension system, the national graves registry, and the actual procedures of battlefield removal of dead were all really solidified into an industrial model purporting efficiencies that is still in use today via the Marine Corps and other services CACO programs. This served as part of the nation’s sociological scale, grieving through the laterr acceptance stage of dealing with this national trauma and shock to the natural order the United States had developed, and as an attempt to mend the fences of sometimes literal brothers and families within the great American tapestry.
To prove the tethers of identity were not a uniquely American aspiration, the German treatment of Belgians is another example of how warfare by, with, and through a similar ethnic group can lead to unintended aspects. One of the key determinants in German and Belgium perceived cooperation is also the cultural affiliation the Germans had with the Belgians. Belgium is unique in that it is a constructed state of German and French citizens. The German speaking areas tended to be more open and welcoming to Germans than the Francophile areas of Belgium. When you do not have similar cultures, languages, or customs as another, it becomes easy to dehumanize and therefore commit moral and actual crimes.
These moral and actual crimes of WWI and the industrial scale murder of a generation of and in some accounts, complete villages, of males, inspired the creation of the Dada Art Movement. Dada was a counter-narrative to, and departure from, more traditional art styles that appeared to venerate the state, conquest, and the military (this is due in large part to Royal Houses and governments owning/commissioning most of the art up until this time). While satirists like Voltaire were quick witted in their literary style and critiques, artists tended to be more subversive in the styles; a hidden secret message in a crowd painting of potentially a widow of those coming back from battle for example.
Unlike what had made Whitman’s writings so historically valuable, in his ability to accurately scribe the suffering of soldiers, the bar of entry for Poetry was lowered by WWI due to increases in literacy amongst the warring nations. Unlike in the American Civil War, where a large portion of the enlisted could not write, by 1914, the lowest enlisted man had at least some education and could write their thoughts reconciling the horrors they saw and felt in the trenches. Tracing the poetry of the Great War, one can see the sense of innocence eroding into melancholy then further into despair and loss of perspective as the cannons rained down, the same field was attacked over and over for the same butcher's bill; the horrors only increasing with poisonous gasses and industrial murder facilitated by machine guns and breech loaded artillery. As the period moved towards its nadir, the poems got more wistful in their approach and wished this would truly be the war to end all wars.
This wistfulness was shattered in the next decades by major wars such as WWII and the Vietnam War, wherein SecDef Henry McNamara was brought into the Military/Academic Complex as one of the vaunted 'Whiz-Kids' of Ivy League education and 'proper' Northeastern puritanical upbringing. He sought to improve the military and the way it fought wars via the same approach he used as President of the Ford Motor Company, that of ruthless efficiency, technology as the solution to all problems, and war as an extension of the technology race vice the Clausewitz point of view regarding politics and war. This Jomini approach to warfare put the industrial murder of WWI into hyperdrive with an increasing reliance on 'body counts', 'y' ammo expended meaning 'x' amount of deaths, and technological solutions replacing the tried and tested 'boots on the ground' approach to warfare.
The reliance on body counts and ammo counts lead to more unintended consequences. Commanders were incentivized to report high body counts and therefore ammo expenditure rates despite little to no actual bodies being present after the battle. This in turn created the need for 'hostile intent' and led to the deaths of several innocent Vietnamese who were posthumously made Viet Cong to fill the proverbial 'butchers' list'. This in turn created more and more Vietnamese against the United States and the South Vietnamese government, thereby defeating the overall purpose of body counts in the first place, to have a quantitative metric to show success and more importantly, how close to the end of the war the United States was.
This disconnect from the human factors in war and the POV of unintended consequences was seen in Iraq and Afghanistan in the adoption and interpretation of ROEs that were equally stifling and open-ended to be freely imported to mean the actual ROE was on the individual to determine and more importantly, defend in the aftermath of execution. I remember during one of my deployments being told 'if something happens, let me or Plt Sgt know before you report up', the assumed understanding being they would get you out of trouble despite whatever the kill status was at the time. This creates dehumanizing factors at both the strategic level, with “people being numbers”, and at the tactical level with, “as long as the Americans come home, we are good, despite what ills we may have wrought to the civilian populace, and therefore ruined our overall mission.”
The Written Word
Fiction and Nonfiction written by servicemen and veterans.
Just a rock - A short story by Nick Orton
A picture taken by an anonymous service member during the 2022 Mauna Loa Eruption. The lava flow is visible from the PTA cantonment area in the foreground.
”It was just a rock. Just a rock,” he repeated in his head as he drove a rental jeep up to the gate of Pohakuloa Training Area (PTA). If he could just keep it together a little longer this nightmare would be over, he just had to convince the gate guard it was business as usual. As he drove up to the guard he pulled out his Common Access Card (CAC), “I’m just here to do a recon of the area. My unit is coming in a few months for gunnery and I’m just making sure we are set for my Battalion’s staff ride tomorrow.” He smiled under tired eyes. The obviously bored gate guard, a young military police private, rendered a salute. He sat there for a second, exhausted from sleepless nights, and paused before returning the salute. He drove slowly through the gate, and cautiously through the cantonment area of PTA. It looked like his guess was correct: there was only a signal unit out here training and no one should be training at his final destination.
The military police were scarce, most likely they were parked somewhere bored on their phones or taking a nap. Now he just hoped the civilian workers wouldn’t notice the dusty jeep wrangler slipping onto the tank trail that led deep into the training area. Hopefully they just assumed he was another Soldier finishing a snack run to his friends out in the lava fields. He picked up speed as his heart beats increased in intensity. He was almost done.
Before him lay the vast lava fields that made up the training area. Nestled between the imposing colossi of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea, these fields were the sights of battles and history so ancient that it is all but forgotten. Now much had been repurposed into live fire ranges and maneuver areas for the US Army. It was a sore subject amongst the citizens who called the Hawaiian Islands home.
“I’m sorry. I thought it was just a rock. I didn’t realize. It’s just a rock,” he pleaded out loud as he glanced to a fist sized piece of lava rock sitting snug in his backseat cupholder. It was the same size and dimensions of a baseball, black like obsidian, and smooth despite its porous surface.
Then he glanced at himself in the mirror. He looked like shit. He was disheveled and now that he didn’t have to pretend, he looked like a maniac. He hadn’t slept in months. He had really pissed off the wrong people.
He looked in the review mirror at the woman sitting in his backseat. A beautiful Hawaiian woman in flowing white robes glared patiently at First Lieutenant Dan Brookins. The MP at the gate never saw her. Why would he? She was for his eyes only. His punishment for his transgression had made that very obvious. The chanting and beating drums in his head began to increase in volume.
Three months ago he had come out to PTA with his Battalion on one of many routine gunneries. Crammed into a small, hot auditorium with 100 other Soldiers, he had to endure the same one hour “don’t do this” brief that every Soldier has to sit through before training at PTA. So many rules, so many fucks to not give. He sat bored as hell daydreaming during the welcome brief from the range control civilians of PTA. This was his first time at PTA, and he was eager to get to work leading his infantry platoon. He could care less about the nene goose or whatever “sacred” areas were out there.
At the end of the brief, they were released from the auditorium to the smoke pits, gym, or to strip the small post shoppette bare of energy drinks and candy. As Dan took his place at the end of the gaggle trying to squeeze through the exit, a range control civilian stood next to the door way. He was an old Hawaiian man with a long white beard, crooked smile, Pit Vipers, and a gut made possibe by the hearty cooking of his wife. He was smiling and telling each Soldier that passed, “Don’t take the lava rocks off this island. They don’t belong to you.”
When Dan reached him, he was alone now. The man with a friendly face, smiled at him and repeated in a tone of gentle admonishment and reassurance, “Don’t take the lava rocks off this island. They don’t belong to you. They are hers.”
Dan looked puzzling at him. “What do you mean hers?” he asked.
The old man chuckled, “LT, you may think this is just an open nothingness of wasteland. But this land, it doesn’t belong to you. Shit, it doesn’t even belong to Na Kanaka [the people].”
He lowered his glasses with a chubby finger, making eye contact with Dan. His face put on a much more serious mask and his eyes hardened of secrets known. He leaned in and Dan leaned back as the distance closed. He could smell cigarettes on his breath.
The man spoke softly to Dan next. “Don’t take the rocks off this island. Nothing good is going to happen to you if you do. They aren’t just rocks. Those rocks were once lava and magma, spewed forth by our goddess Pele. This is her land, this Island and everything on it belongs to her. Don’t forget you’re just a guest… Now you better get back to your unit.” With that he ushered Dan out the door.
“What a weird fucking guy,” Dan thought to himself.
Two weeks later, Dan was under the stars after the conclusion of his unit’s quarterly gunnery. He was exhausted and ready to go home. Sitting away from his Soldiers trying to get some cell phone reception to text his girlfriend Nina back home on Oahu, he stood among the lava rocks. They had just moved in together and things were starting to get serious. He was glad to be texting her back and forth now that he had some time (and reception).
Dan: I should be home in a few days’ babe.
Nina: Ok, I miss you. Can’t wait to see you again. I’m still jealous you got to go to the Big Island. Think you’ll be able to bring me home a souvenir?
Dan: Idk babe. We are pretty much locked down here and it’s the middle of nowhere. Probably not in all honesty.
Nina: ☹ ok
Dan: But maybe I can find something cool from you, I’ll try.
Nina: 😊 ok, I love you <3
Dan: <3 <3
Shit. Now he had to figure something out. He looked around. Nothing but fucking rocks. As he looked at the jagged teeth of volcanic rock sticking out of the ground, his eyes were drawn to a large outcroppings of obelisks. He stood up and took a walk to this curious formation stabbing into the sky. At the base he spied a lava rock that stood out among the others.
It was the same size and dimensions of a baseball and a deep black that stood out like a obsidian hole. Dan picked it up and was surprised at its lightness and smoothness despite its porous surface. It was almost gem like.
He got an idea.
“Nina would love this; she could use this for some artsy bullshit around the apartment.” He was going to give this to her! Solution found. Some flowers and this bullshit would get him laid for sure. He smiled at the thoughts materializing in his head. But then he frowned. He thought back to the Hawaiian, and his warning.
“Don’t take the lava rocks off this island. They don’t belong to you.”
Dan shook his head, smirked, and said aloud to no one in particular, “It’s just a fucking rock.”
The trouble started subtly. Once he got home, Dan seemed to be on the wrong side of luck. Once his unit got back to Schofield Barracks, embarrassingly he couldn’t seem to get his weapon clean at the armory. His car wouldn’t start once he left his unit to go home. Once he got a jump and hit the road, he realized in the middle of the H1 traffic that his wallet was missing. Once he got back to his unit and tore apart his office, he found his wallet inexplicably on the passenger seat. Then his car died again. Talk about rotten luck.
He finally got home past midnight and Nina was already asleep. When he finally laid his head down, he couldn’t get this strange tune of tribal drums and chanting out of his head. “Must have been something I heard on the radio on the way home,” he thought. His first night home was a restless one.
The next morning, he woke up feeling like crap. At least Nina was excited to see him again and that cheered him up. They sat together drinking coffee and he was telling her “war stories” of his time with his platoon on the Big Island.
“Oh, I almost forgot!” he remembered suddenly. “I got you something, you said you wanted a souvenir.” He fished out the lava rock from his back pack and handed it to Nina.
She took it in her hands, examining it. “It’s just a rock,” she laughed.
“Well ya. Look, don't blame me; I didn’t have many options!” Dan jokingly pleaded.
She smiled back, “well it’s the thought that counts.”
Nina inspected the rock with more scrutiny in her hands. “It’s definitely an interesting rock that’s for sure,” Nina mused.
She walked over to their pet fish tank and placed it under the water next to the bubble volcano. “There, now the rock has a home,” She said to him and gave him a sly smile. She gestured with her finger as she walked back into their bedroom.
“Maybe my luck is changing after all,” he thought
As he sat on the Hawaiian airlines flight back, Dan reflected that his luck did in fact not change. In fact it got worse.
Like a song perpetually stuck in his head, he kept hearing the beating drums and chanting. He couldn’t shake it, he tried everything: sleep aids, yoga, alcohol, praying. Nothing worked. He hadn’t had a goodnight sleep in three months. If he was lucky, exhaustion took him for an hour or so. But the lack of sleep was taking a toll, he could feel his body and mind fracturing day by day.
Nothing seemed to be going his way. Things randomly broke. His stuff went missing. Friendships ended over petty differences. Weather rolled in to ruin his plans. Bank account was getting drained from unforeseen bills. Car stolen. A wayward stone rolling down a cliff had smashed his motorcycle and almost threw him into the sea. He couldn’t catch a break.
Then there was Nina. He didn’t even know how; he was still at a loss. They had their minor disagreements, but after four years of dating and moving out together to Hawaii he had hoped they were finally getting serious. But they started arguing, over the most random things. She seemed on edge around him and he seemed always on edge around her. Like there was this invisible force driving them apart but he didn’t know what. They tried to work things out, but to no avail. Things fell apart quick, and arguing turned to yelling, turned to fighting, turned to Nina moving out and ghosting him. He had no idea where she went, but he didn’t think she was coming back. It hurt. He didn’t know when he cried every night if it was over her or his sleeplessness.
He used to be the Battalion rockstar. The promising lieutenant. Now he was the bottom of the barrel. A pariah in his own family. Between the sleep he wasn’t getting and Nina; he seemed to be making mistake after mistake. His platoon began to have the most issues out of anyone in the Battalion: missing equipment, Soldiers getting in trouble, stats falling, discipline falling apart. Dan found that the interpersonal relationships he had built within his platoon evaporated. He was an outsider overnight and he couldn’t figure out how. He was the battalion fuck up now.
Things finally fell apart when during a squad live fire, Dan’s M4 mysteriously went off in his hand. But not one round, it sprayed an entire magazine. At his battalion commander. In his favor no one died, but his career basically did. After an ass chewing that left him physically chafing, Dan was removed from his platoon that night and thrown in as an assistant to the assistant S4 (a nothing position) on staff. He was staring at a letter of reprimand from the commanding general. His short Army career had hit an impassable wall.
What he couldn’t say was that he didn’t pull the trigger. He couldn’t say that he felt the bolt lock back and forward; sending lethal rounds home to fire. That he felt the selector switch move on its own from “SAFE” to “AUTO.” He would not dare speak on how the selector switch moved on its own accord. He couldn’t say that an unseen force turned him from safely pointed down range, to pointing at the tower where his battalion commander watched. He couldn’t say that to his horror, the trigger moved on its own to fire.
There was a lot Dan couldn’t say. Because who would believe him? He would be labeled a maniac. A nutjob. Insane. Something truly strange was happening in his life.
When he was doing night land navigation in the jungle course, he saw things in the bushes throwing rocks at him. Thinking it was a local kid who snuck on the training area, he chased a figure through the elephant grass. He cornered it between a rock and a ravine, and flashed his red lens. What he saw looked like little traditional tribal Hawaiian woman but she was the size of his Nalgene bottle. They stared at each other wide eyed and in shock. Before Dan could act, she dove down the ravine and out of site. He started to notice things out of place: whispers, and movements out of the corner of his eyes. He would look up and see beady, glowing eyes, peering out of dark corners as he passed. Not animal eyes, but something more human, glances of what looked like little people moving to cover. Messing with him. Taunting him. Stealing his belongings and breaking his things from the shadows. Sometimes as he laid in bed struggling to sleep, something would tug at his feet and run away before he could catch a glimpse. But he would hear the fleeing pitter patter of little feet running on the floor, and what sounded like children giggling behind the walls.
He began to notice a white mongrel mutt of no discernable breed. He saw this fucking dog everywhere. Sitting on a corner, outside his window, watching from afar, up close, even running along his car as he raced down the highway going ninety in a sixty. The dog followed him everywhere. Sometimes it would run up and snarl at him, bluff charging him when he least expected it. But only Dan could see it. When Nina was still here, she denied there was a dog anywhere even when Dan swore he saw it sitting in front of them.
Then the warrior, or that’s what Dan called him. He looked like a Hawaiian warrior he had seen in all those paintings and pictures at the Bishop Museum when Nina would drag him there. Chiseled, ripped, dangerous looking. He screamed and danced at Dan in the darkness. Challenging him. Dan would oftentimes look up in horror to see the warrior swinging a traditional Hawaiian axe at his head. As Dan recoiled in fear, bracing for death, he would open his eyes to the massive man standing over him. Glaring. Eyes filled with hate. This occurred several times a day. Usually the Warrior would be waiting in a dark room or out of sight, and each time it was as shocking and terrifying as the last.
One night he sat in his empty, loveless, lonely apartment. He was a shell of the man he was three months ago. A dog scratched at his front door, a Hawaiian warrior glared from the corner of his living room, and small heads with shining eyes peered around the corner of his coffee table. He stared blankly at the rock in the fish tank in front of him. The rock resembled a massive black pearl now. Like a black hole sucking the life out of Dan.
Suddenly the room went silent, like a vacuum sucked every semblance of noise out of the room. It was getting hotter, and hotter. Dan was starting to sweat profusely, like he was in a sauna. Suddenly the fish tank burst out into flames, and what looked like lava began to pool and flood his apartment. Dan recoiled in fear as now his floor was literally lava. He looked up through searing heat, and he could feel his skin blister and burn.
A beautiful, Hawaiian woman dressed in white robes stood in the middle of the room glaring angrily; the fire, heat, and lava radiated out from where she stood. She held the stone in an outstretched hand as she glared at Dan. He was burning alive. He could feel her anger.
Suddenly, she vanished. Stone falling to the floor. Besides the puddle of water around it, the room was untouched. The words of the old man echoed in his head.
”Don’t take the lava rocks off this island.”
Dan knew what he had to do.
As the imposing height of Mauna Loa loomed over him, Dan snapped out of his daze as the chanting and drums suddenly increased in volume. He looked to his left to see the white dog trotting along, easily keeping pace with his jeep. He pulled his Jeep off of the tank trail and onto an assembly area.
He had arrived.
He stepped out of his vehicle and walked over to his backseat, opening it as a gentleman would to his lady. He carefully cupped the stone in his hands and carried it gingerly, as one would carry an infant, over the lava rocks. The drums and chanting began to beat louder in an increasing intensity as he stepped closer and closer to his final destination.
As the fading sun set the sky on fire, the old Hawaiian’s voice echoed in his head: “Don’t take the lava rocks off this island. They don’t belong to you. They are hers.”
His eyes began to water as he saw it: an assortment of volcanic obelisk jutting out of the ground. To the unknowing eye they were a randomly meager sight, there were rocks like them everywhere. But he knew better now.
The warrior stood before him. Arms crossed and scowling. Waiting patiently for the deed to be done. The white dog walked besides Dan now, nudging him along with a wet nose as he nervously stepped towards the throne. Out of the corner of his eye he spied glowing eyes peering over the boulders, little figures darting out of sight before he could look.
Dan sank to his knees in exhaustion, his self-inflicted burden was almost done. His hands began to shake, and he held his breath as he returned the stone to its welcoming home. As it barely began to touch the volcanic dirt, Dan could feel the slightest tug. Like two magnets drawing their missing halves home. He could feel the concussions of the drums now, the chanting overwhelmed his thoughts. Tears flowed from his eyes. As the stone rested on the ground, he let go.
Silence. The drums had stopped, the chanters had gone to bed. Dan remained, sunken to his knees surrounded by a thunderous silence and a raging, fiery sky. He looked down at the stone and he looked up. Before him now stood the woman, imposing, beautiful and radiant. She was the power beneath the rock. She was the rage beneath the earth.
“Pele.” The words escaped unwillingly from his mouth as he whispered softly. He understood his presence was at the feet of a literal goddess. His eyes filled with wonder and fear.
She simply smiled at Dan. Now, he understood.
The stone was part of her. Part of her anger and joy flung from the deepest part of the earth. Her destruction and creation. Each piece of stone was a reminder of her, part of her. But this stone in its deep obsidian beauty was her.
He returned the smile and with the final fading of a raging sky, she vanished into the cooling night air at the earliest emergence of the stars. Dan slowly laid down, embracing the forgiving forces beneath him, and closed his eyes. He welcomed the deep embrace of sleep. In the embrace of sleep he dreamt of lava and raging gods.
“Pele’s curse can last for days, months, and even years after picking the lava rocks. It’s believed that the only way to rid yourself of the cure is to return the “stolen” item to the island. This explains why numerous tourists write letters to the [Hawaii Volcano] National Park begging the rangers to return the rocks on their behalf” - Hawaii Guide
“Nick” of Tales From The Grid Square is an active-duty member of the US Army and logistics officer. He has had a long-standing interest in the paranormal and is a self-proclaimed “paranormal military historian” (a term he just made up). Several of his own experiences and experiences of his peers inspired him to start “Tales From The Grid Square,” where he collects and anonymous documents the paranormal stories of military service members. He hopes to elevate veteran/military voices and bridge the gap between the civilian and military. He has authored the book “Tales From The Grid Square Volume I,” a collection of 240 such stories from across the branches of the US Armed Forces as well as foreign militaries. You can share your own stories to the Instagram Account @Tales_From_The_Gridsquare or email: TalesFromTheGridsquare@gmail.com.
Fire in the Cockpit - Ten O’clock High: Aviation Stories by Miles Lourenco
Somewhere off the coast of England.
10 August 1940
“Blue Six, close up back there. You’re wandering off again.”
“Roger, Blue Leader.” Pilot Officer Colin Hughes looked to his left to see that he had, indeed, drifted farther back from the rest of his squadron of Hawker Hurricanes, momentarily lost as he scanned the sky behind his own aircraft. He eased the throttle forward and caught back up to the fifth plane in the echelon, positioning himself back in his place at the rear of the formation.
“Keep your heads on a swivel, Blue Squadron.” Squadron Leader Richard Alders sounded his usual terse self even over the garbled radio.
“Roger, Blue Leader.” The squadron chorused back.
Colin sighed and scanned the horizon, front and back. Half of the squadron had been scrambled in response to a report from an aerial reconnaissance patrol. A pilot had reported being jumped by two Messerschmitt 109’s somewhere in the area that the squadron of Hurricanes was now searching. As the most junior pilot in the formation, Colin had been assigned to fly “Tail-End Charlie,” the last Hurricane in the echelon. This was only his second sortie since graduating from flight school and being assigned to 151 Squadron, or, as they called themselves over the radio, Blue Squadron. His first flight had been completely uneventful, much like this one had turned out to be so far. So much for the promise of adventure, he thought to himself.
Colin scanned the horizon again, craning his neck to check his rear left and then rear right. The early afternoon sun glared down over his right shoulder, and he winced as he looked in its direction. He thought he saw something in the blinding light. He looked forward, recorrected his aircraft in formation again, and lifted his goggles to rub his eyes, keeping one hand on the joystick. The sun was plastered over his vision in blotches now no matter how hard he rubbed, and he replaced his goggles.
Colin Hughes looked over his shoulder again just in time to see the ME 109 open fire.
Thunk! Thunk! Thunk! Thunk!
His Hurricane rattled and shook as the 109 roared by, strafing the side of his fuselage and speeding down and away out of sight. Colin was rocked by the impact. He slammed forward and his plane veered right sharply, thankfully away from Blue Five, just off of his wing ahead to the left.
151 Squadron’s open radio channel became a cacophony of calls and shouts as the tight knit formation immediately disintegrated. It was a miracle none of the hurricanes collided as they split apart every which way. A second 109 roared through the formation letting out a burst of gunfire before following the first one down and away.
Colin desperately tried to regain control of his aircraft. He was slowly spiraling downwards towards the ocean. His engine let out a sick whine and began to spew black smoke. The plane would not respond to movements from the joystick.
“Blue Squadron, this is Blue Six, come in.” His attempt to call over the radio was in vain, drowned out by the rest of the squadron’s yelling.
He smelled the fire before he felt it.
“Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck.” At his feet, orange flames began to lick up into the cockpit. He instinctively pulled his feet up away from the fire, but could barely move them. A sharp pain seared through his left leg. He looked at it and saw his pant leg was stained with blood. There was a bullet hole in the cockpit by his knee. Colin turned back to the quickly growing fire. He had heard horror stories of pilots trapped, burning alive in flaming cockpits. He yanked at his seatbelt release and the straps came off while he continued frantically to try and keep his feet from catching fire. Next, he reached for the canopy slide. When he pulled, it didn’t budge.
The Hurricane was slowly rolling as he yanked on the slide’s handles to try and push it back, shaking them as hard as he could.
“Please, please God, help me.” He realized he was crying. The heat on his legs was becoming unbearable.
The fire was growing and Colin’s leg was bleeding profusely. The ocean continued to get closer. He rattled the canopy again and it slid open, just barely. It was enough to give him hope. With one last effort, he managed to force it back fully. Colin pulled himself up, crying out in pain as he put weight on his wounded leg. He pitched himself out of the cockpit and into the open air.
Colin pulled the cord on his parachute. Please work.
The chute blossomed above him. He was hyperventilating.
“Get yourself together, man.” He scolded himself in between deep breaths. He looked down just in time to realize he was about to hit the ocean. He double checked his life vest was strapped tight with shaking hands and closed his eyes as he plunged into the waves.
“Blue Squadron, get back in bloody formation and sound off!” Squadron Leader Alders had finally gotten his pilots to keep off the radio for a moment after almost a minute of chaos. The squadron members each checked in in order until it was time for blue six.
“Blue Six, where are you?” Alders looked in his mirror and then over his shoulder. “Blue Five, is Blue Six behind you?”
“No, Blue Leader, I can’t see him anywhere.”
“Fuck.” Alders swore to himself, and then spoke over the radio. “Did anyone see him go down?”
There was silence over the radio.
Poetry and Art
Poetry and art from the warfighting community.
Brothers in Arms
Roots of Chaos - Daniel Robinson
Does a seed grow in a desert?
Can it grow amongst the sand?
Without the sweet relief of rain,
Can it’s stalk ever begin to stand?
When you water it with wine dark blood,
And let it respirate on gun smoke.
Have it’s roots reach down to crude oil,
Till it drinks so much it chokes.
Though it be trampled down by crushing tracks,
And stepped upon by boots.
It still creeps on beneath the sand,
Within the dunes above its roots.
As it finds its way in the masonry,
And cracks open all you’ve built.
The desert has watched it all this time,
And it’s peoples hands have never left the hilt.
Which monstrosity but what has been made,
Can come of seeds sowed in scorching sand.
Many before have tried to lay siege,
To Pandemonium in foreign lands.
Mondays - Deadlined Poetry
I hate Mondays.
First formation 0900…motorpool.
I’m late for being early,
The morning dew is still fresh on the grass.
And I need a smoke break already.
No time to stop and smell the roses,
Just the wafting scents of military musk and metal.
The battalion’s all formed up,
Inspections underway (I didn’t get a haircut on Sunday).
Groundhog day happens once a week,
Dress right dress every Monday.
Fall in and give the report,
“All present and accounted for” (sure you are).
Leaders hold fast (Top needs the NCOs real quick),
Grab the TM and I’m ready to kick some tires,
Truck won’t ever start (no faults found).
Jump to my next crumbling, rusted, condemned truck,
It’s been like this for three months,
Will it ever get fixed?
But I’m told it’s all operator level.
Laughter and Pain - Deadlined Poetry
My laughter is hysterical;
Others follow suit despite the circumstance.
A sullen few,
A tired many;
Dirty, unwashed, unhappy plenty.
The absurdity of the moment;
The insanity of our predicament.
We laugh uproariously hysterically;
Humor which rages,
Rages against the worst of it all.
In the face of desolation,
We’ll laugh a while;
And for a moment we’ll forget.
So for now we laugh. We’re laughing.
Deadlined Poetry is a literary side project of “N” and “J.” Two brothers getting a lot wrong and a little right along the way. Featuring poetry of life, pain, humor, and times in a “peacetime” Army and Marine Corps. Occasional poetry can be viewed at: @Deadlined_Poetry (Instagram)
Clear - Mike Reynolds
Night Raid - Mike Renyolds
Health and Fitness
Fitness and PT Guidance for improving diet, physical performance, health, and leading troops in physical training.
Assessment and Rehabilitation Considerations for Chronic Shoulder Pain - Michael T. Fanning DC, DACBSP®, CSCS®
Shoulder pain is a common upper-extremity musculoskeletal injury in Military Service Members and First Responders1. Shoulder injuries in these populations have been reported as low as 8.3%1 and as high as 43% of total injuries14. While shoulder pain is often multifactorial, long standing pain typically has a predictable pathology based on previous injury and sports participation. The good news is that these painful shoulders are usually remedied without surgical intervention by adding a few stretches and exercises to your workout regimen.
Historical factors that must be considered include previous history of participation in overhead sports4, 5, 10, including but not limited to baseball, swimming, volleyball, etc. Previous or recurrent shoulder dislocation/subluxation (partial dislocation) increases the chances of recurring injury and concomitant glenohumeral joint (shoulder joint) capsule laxity4, 7. One more consideration is if there is a history of cervical spine pain. It is not uncommon for the cervical spine to refer to pain in the shoulder24; Pain between the shoulder blade and the spine and behind the shoulder blade is common.
Overuse of injuries is endemic to tactical athlete training: recruits, cadets, trainees, and in-service utilize the push-up for physical fitness assessments and everyday physical training. Repetitive stress injuries are a common cause of injury in military and law enforcement14, 15, 26.. The sheer volume of push-ups performed and their effects on the shoulder joint should not be overlooked13 as a contributing factor to pain.
Independent of athletic or occupational history, is congenital ligament laxity present? A simple, nine-point evaluation can be performed on oneself to discern if this is a contributing factor: Athletes with congenital ligament laxity may have bilateral, atraumatic, multi-directional rehab as treatment instability (AMBRI).
Chronic Shoulder Pain
Common chronic shoulder injuries include subacromial impingement, shoulder instability, rotator cuff tendinopathy, and glenoid labrum tears4, 5. Bridging the gap between a history of being an overhead athlete, job tasks, and current shoulder pain is important to consider and can help manage exercise programming. Even if you played baseball in your teenage years and haven’t played since you were an overhead athlete. Overhead athletes can develop the “Thrower’s Shoulder”5, 10 in their youth, but this may not be an issue until much later. The “Thrower’s Shoulder”results from a repetitive overhead activity that typically leads to particular biomechanical faults4, 5.
In the “Thrower’s Shoulder,” the repetitive motion that occurs with throwing, contracture (tightness) of the posterior shoulder joint capsule occurs 4, 10. This contracture can result in an offset center of rotation (COR) of the articular surface of shoulder biomechanics. This is important to understand as this results in excessive external shoulder rotation with a decrease in internal rotation, resulting in a glenohumeral internal rotation deficit (GIRD). This does two things:
1.) Increases forces at the biceps insertion at the superior labrum anterior to posterior (SLAP) labrum, potentially leading to a tear.
2.) Simultaneous stretching of the anterior joint capsule4, 5, 10 causing instability (too much motion) at the front of the shoulder.
If a SLAP tear occurs, a superior posterior subluxation of the humerus at the glenoid may involve the rotator cuff4, 5 (subacromial impingement).
While the biceps tendon is often blamed for shoulder pain, the culprit is a SLAP tear (where the biceps long head tendon inserts) or subacromial impingement. The key difference between the two is that impingement is often painful while lying on the side of the shoulder pain and SLAP tears often present with popping/clicking with shoulder motion. It is possible to have both together.
One last point, if the shoulder joint capsule is stretched out (through previous dislocation or overuse), you will often find it difficult to progress in bench pressing. During the transition from the eccentric to concentric phase of the bench press (or push-up), the humeral head translates to the front of the shoulder. If the shoulder capsule is loose (relaxed) a partial dislocation or subluxation can occur5, 6, 10, 13.
How often do you know of someone, or do you complain of a painful bicep tendon after bench press day?
Assessment and Remedies.
Glenohumeral Internal Rotation Deficit (GIRD)
GIRD only matters when it matters. Some people with GIRD can be asymptomatic.
GIRD is an adaptive process in which the dominant shoulder experiences a loss of internal rotation (IR)2, 4, 5. Most commonly defined by a loss of >20o of IR compared to the opposite shoulder2, 20. The typical cause of GIRD is posterior glenohumeral ligament (capsule) contracture, as previously discussed.
GIRD is often associated with subacromial impingement, articular-sided rotator cuff tears, and labrum tears2, 4, 5.
Below (image 1) is a quick screen to see if GIRD is present. This patient is suspected of having GIRD on his right side. There is a more precise way to measure GIRD, but this requires a partner and a goniometer. If you see an asymmetry, the remedy is often “the sleep stretch” (image 2). Try performing this stretch before any pressing workout or overhead activity (swimming included). Start with three sets of 10-second hold on the affected side.
Thoracic spine motion
Thoracic spine immobility should be considered with long-standing shoulder pain. Pain and decreased shoulder range of motion can be associated with a decreased thoracic extension. Measuring the thoracic spine range of motion is more cumbersome than other spine areas as it is generally considered a more immobile area11, 12. That doesn’t mean it can’t be done.
A few ways you can check thoracic mobility on your own are the stretches that are done to remedy the issue. Images 3 and 4 show the “T4 rotation” assessment/exercise. To check thoracic extension and flexion, see images 5 (if you have acute shoulder pain, refrain from performing) and 6. The goal here is to slowly ease the spine through its range of motion and hold for just a few seconds to find an end range. This should not be painful.
Improving thoracic mobility can influence shoulder blade motion, part of the shoulder joint, while increasing the overall shoulder range of motion. One study found that increasing thoracic mobility decreased pain levels of patients with chronic rotator cuff tendinopathy11, 12. Scapular dyskinesis is a topic that can be controversial and is outside the scope of the article.
Pick one of the above thoracic stretches, and try performing three sets of 10 reps with a one- to two-second hold before any pressing workout.
Congenital Ligament Laxity
A nine-point assessment can be performed on yourself to see if you have congenital joint hypermobility:
Left and right 5th digit passive dorsiflexion beyond 90o (Image 7)
Left and right thumb passive dorsiflexion to the flexor aspect of the forearm. (Image 8)
Left and right elbow hyperextends beyond 10o (Image 9)
Left and right knee hyperextends beyond 10o (Image 10)
Forward flexion of the trunk with knees fully extended. (Image 11)
Each joint assessed is one point, with a possibility of nine points. A score above six indicates global hypermobility (but not necessarily a connective tissue disorder such as Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome17). If you have six of these points, and you have chronic shoulder problems or inability to increase your bench press, you may have atraumatic multidirectional, rehab as treatment, instability (AMBRI).
Bridging the Gap
The good news is that long-standing shoulder pain can often be managed with conservative care (non-operative interventions). Some reasons to seek an opinion from a healthcare provider include the following:
Shoulder pain at night regardless of sleeping position.
Painful popping and clicking in the shoulder.
Recurring shoulder dislocations.
Progressive weakness or recurring numbness and tingling in the arm or hand.
Failure of conservative care.
Loss of range of motion or visible atrophy (muscle loss).
Inability to perform activities of daily living.
The following exercises are best utilized as a warm-up to any upper body “press” day. These exercises target the rotator cuff muscle group, which helps stabilize the shoulder joint dynamically. Please note that the rotator cuff muscles are small, hence the recommendation of light weights. I like dumb bells versus bands. The reason is that with dumb bells, consistent tension through the arc of motion is achieved, whereas bands have varying tensions through the arc.
Begin with three- to five-sets of 10-reps starting with one- to three-pound dumb bells.
Sidelying external rotation (Image 12-13).
Cue: Keep your elbow pinned to your torso.
Sidelying abduction to 45o (Image 14-15).
Sidelying horizontal extension (Image 16-17).
Cue: Keep your eye on the bell at all times.
I recommend starting very light. These exercises should be done with a lightweight of around one- to 7.5 pounds.
While long-standing shoulder pain can often be multifactorial, it is often treated with simple exercises. Don’t overthink or overcomplicate rehabilitation exercises. Keep it simple, stupid. Utilize these few exercises as part of a warm-up regimen to help strengthen the rotator cuff and maximize dynamic stability at the shoulder.
And beware of what you read on the internet. Any questions can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Transition and Veteran Resources
Career and civilian transition guidance, geared towards helping servicemembers plan their careers and help transitioning servicemembers succeed in civilian life.
Savage Wonderground - VetRep Theater
Following their stunning debut of Savage WonderGround in November, Veterans Repertory Theater (VetRep) returns to the Principle Gallery in Old Town Alexandria for a brand-new Savage WonderGround immersive performance art event on Thursday, April 13th from 6-8 pm. The show will feature local veterans performing in a wide range of artistic media - anything from dance to visual art, poetry to theater - tied together with a narrative/theme. Each show is developed specifically to the space and the local talent performing - no two shows are the same! The audience can expect to explore the unique gallery space and immerse itself in funny, gripping, fascinating performances featuring some of the area’s most riveting veteran artists.
Spawned from the success of the Savage Wonder Festival, Savage WonderGround is designed to be completely unique to the space and the local veteran artistic talent that we feature.
Admission is $20 - you can get tickets here. All proceeds are shared evenly with the veteran artists.
You can check out the review of the first Savage WonderGround in November 2022 here.
This ends Volume 8, Edition 1, of the Lethal Minds Journal (01February2023)
The window is now open for Lethal Minds’ ninth volume, releasing March 1st, 2023.
All art and picture submissions are due as PDFs or JPEG files to our email by midnight on 20 February.
All written submissions are due as 12 point font, double spaced, Word documents to our email by midnight on 20 February.
Special thanks to the volunteers and team that made this journal possible:
The Bulletin From The Borderlands Team