By Jim Kuiken
After I got off active duty in January 1977, I transitioned over to the reserve component, and stayed in the Marines…but with a twist…
I was coming from 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, where I was a Recon Marine, and transitioning over to C Company, 4th Tank Battalion… Talk about a transition! Recon to Tanks? What the H#!! was I going to do in Tanks? I didn’t know anything about tanks!
And besides that, the unit I was coming from was “squared away”…everyone in shape, looking sharp and all “gung-ho”! All these guys were bigger, and way dirtier – wearing greasy coveralls, etc. What the heck had I done?
It didn’t take me long to see that Marines are Marines – Recon or Tankers – and were focused on being the best Marines they could be. The tankers were dirty because they were working on big, greasy tanks! If they weren’t greasy and sweaty…it was because they weren’t working…and boy, did those guys work! I quickly became close friends with my fellow Marines, and felt right at home – except, I still didn’t know anything about tanks!
Never fear, I knew about weapons, and as a Staff Sergeant, they put me in the armory as the Company Armorer working on M-16 rifles, .45 caliber pistols, M-240 co-axial machine guns (basically an M-60 7.62mm machine gun), the big, beautiful M-2 .50 cal. machine gun, and other miscellaneous weapons. I was in heaven!
After a couple of years I was promoted to Gunnery Sergeant…but as a Gunny, I had to leave the armory and became the Company Tank Leader (which is like a Company Gunny to most non-tank units). The only trouble was…once again…I didn’t know anything about tanks, except their weapons. And as the Company Tank Leader, I had to know about tanks!
Again, easy fix. They sent me to Tank School in Ft. Knox, which is run by the Army. Even though the Army was transition to their new M-1 tanks, the Marine Corps generally got the Army cast-offs, and we were moving from the M-48’s (from Korea and Vietnam days) over to the refurbished M-60A3’s that the Army was getting rid of…
Lots of interesting things happened with me (as a Marine Corps Gunny) on an Army base, but I’ll save those for future “Frontline Tales” episodes. This one is about what happened in the actual classroom training that I attended there at the school.
As the senior Marine in the class (there were several PFC’s through Corporals, a couple of Sergeants, and one Staff Sergeant in class with me…along with a whole passel of Army soldiers), I automatically took charge of the class – and especially the Marines. I made sure I sat in the back of the class so I could see if any of them were goofing off or starting to nod out. With the Army guys, the instructors would ask them to stand along the side wall if they started to fall asleep, but with the Marines… Well, let’s just say we had our own way of doing things.
I had a sock with sand in it, tucked up into a ball, and if I saw any Marine heads start to bob, I’d bounce it off the back of their head to get their attention (which always freaked the Army instructors out – but they didn’t say anything), then had them come stand in the back (and bring me my sock full of sand in case I needed it again).
When break time came along, if we had any that had been drifting off during that session, I’d take all the Marines out back (because if one fails, we all fail…so we all pay with the one) and do a bunch of push-ups, sit-ups, jumping jacks, mountain climbers, or whatever I felt like doing during that break (and yes, as a Marine leader, I did them with my men), and after they really had their blood pumping and were all woken up, we’d head back in and see if they could make it through another of the scintillating classroom sessions without them bouncing their forehead off the table in front of them or getting whiplash from their heads snapping back as they lost consciousness.
After one of the non-sweat inducing breaks (i.e., none of the Marines had fallen asleep during the preceding class), we had been sitting out back on the grass enjoying the fresh air and some sun, when it was time to go in. The Staff Sergeant and I got up to head back to class with the rest of the Marines trailing behind, when I started to come around the corner of the building, saw an opportunity and jumped back, pushing the Staff Sergeant back behind me.
In order to get to the class from where we were, we had to come around the corner and walk along a long loading dock on the back side of a warehouse with multiple loading bays (doors), go around the other side, and go into the classroom attached to the other side of the warehouse.
What I had seen was an Army Major stepping out from one of the bays onto the loading dock – along with an Army Master Sergeant, probably to get some fresh air and a couple of minutes in the sun.
I lined all the Marines up and stood next to the corner, and at about 5 - 10 second intervals, sent them around the corner to walk down the dock, past the Major and back to class.
Of course, I first instructed them to make sure they gave a good, crisp Marine Corps salute and rendered a good, loud verbal greeting – “Good Afternoon Sir!” as they came within 6 paces of the Major.
For about the first 4 or 5 Marines, the Major stood there, and returned each salute and verbal greeting…but then he looked to his left and saw more coming, and stepped back into the loading bay under “cover”, and took his uniform hat off, so he didn’t have to salute. Each Marine continued to salute and greet him as they went by. “Good Afternoon Sir!” “Good Afternoon, Marine.” “Good Afternoon Sir!” “Good Afternoon, Marine.” Etc., etc.
After all 20+ Marines has passed, the Staff Sergeant and I came around the corner, in step, and marched past him, also rendering a good, crisp Marine Corps salute and greeted him. “Good Afternoon Sir!!!” He returned the greeting, and after we were more than 6 paces away, stepped back out, put his uniform cover back on his head, and said “Hey, Gunny!”
That should have been a red flag, because most of the Army guys just call everyone from E-5 up “Sergeant”, regardless of their actual rank. He knew the Marine Corps rank and protocol…
I stopped, turned, and said “Yes Sir?”
With a slight twinkle in his eye he said “Next time don’t space them so evenly…” He knew exactly what I had been doing.
With a smile, I said “Roger that Sir!”, turned, and went back to class…
Who Cares? I Wasn’t Even Born Yet!
By Jim Kuiken
Of course, I’m assuming most people even know what Agent Orange is…my personal bias showing again. Just because I happen to be somewhat of a military history buff doesn’t mean everyone is.
Agent Orange is a toxic herbicide that most people think was just used to spray around Vietnam from 1965-1972, to kill the jungle during the war so the enemy had fewer places to hide…and that those who were exposed to it got very sick or died because of their time in the Vietnam War.
Like I said…ancient history! Most folks now-a-days consider Afghanistan and Iraq as the main (current) wars, and even those are getting old! What does Agent Orange have to do with anyone except a few old veterans?
Don’t kid yourself… This is a LOT MORE than that! Toxic exposure to servicemembers has been going on since war began, and still goes on today! Just going back to WWI, there was Mustard Gas, WWII had many more, including radiological exposure and bio-weapon exposure to our own military, Agent Orange (and White, Blue, and others) during Korea and Vietnam, multiple exposures (chemical, biological, radiological) during the Gulf War (developing into Gulf War Syndrome and more), Burn Pits in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with more radiological exposure, asbestos exposure on ships from WWI to now, etc., etc., etc…
And do you think our Government (including both houses of Congress, the Military or Veteran’s Affairs, and others) actually helps, protects, or proactively treats and cares for those exposed!??!
If you do, you have never been exposed and had to deal with multiple decades of neglect, denial, and downright refusal to even recognize the issues that HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of veterans are dealing with every single day – if they’re not one of the many actually dying from the results of those exposures, again, every…single…day.
And let’s not forget the many miscarriages or birth defects from the genetic damage suffered by many of these exposures. Or the hundreds of thousands of caregivers who have to deal with their loved ones slowly fading away right before their eyes, long before their time; or dying from cancers and other diseases or maladies caused by their time in service to this Nation.
If you or anyone you know served in the military in any war from WWI on, they have very likely been contaminated with some toxic substance. Let’s just use me as an example. Here are just some of my known or likely exposures:
1973 – 1975, Guam
1991, Gulf War
2005 – 2006, Iraq
And there were other exposures during my 30 years of military service, and subsequent years of federal service in many places around the world – as I served my country.
So what? “They knew what they were signing up for…”, right? Well, yeah. Those who stepped up to protect and serve our country did so with eyes open – BUT – we also did so relying on the promise by our country, government and its citizens that if we did so, and if we suffered harm because of that service, that we and our families would be taken care of. We relied on that solemn promise – which in all too many cases, has not been honored.
I’m not just here to whine and complain about broken promises and victimhood. I’m asking each and every one of you to actually do something to help make sure those promises are kept – specifically as to toxic exposure – the silent but extremely deadly killer, not only of those who served, but their children, spouses and caregivers, and loved ones who not only watch what happens as those affected suffer and die, but who themselves may very well be directly affected by those contaminants and toxic exposures. (see the picture of the leaking Agent Orange barrels on Johnston Atoll, where my own father was stationed – which also had radiological material contamination on the beaches and other areas…).
A small group of representatives from Blue Water Navy Association, the Agent Orange Survivors of Guam, and myself (and Freedom, of course!) spent all last week and are spending all this week up on Capitol Hill, making the rounds and talking to almost 80 (or hopefully a few more) Representatives and Senators and their staffs, as well as the staff of a couple of committees (like the Senate and House Veterans Affairs Committees, the House Appropriations Committee, the House Oversight Committee, etc.) – and – participating this Friday in the GAO (Government Accountability Office) investigation / hearing on Agent Orange on Guam.
We’re asking for everyone’s help. It is very likely that during this or previous (and subsequent) extended trips to the Hill, we will be talking to your Representative and/or Senator.
Please help keep the promise that we relied upon when we signed up to serve our country and its citizens…and CALL OR WRITE your Representative and / or Senator, and ask them to support these three bills:
H.R.809 - Fighting for Orange-Stricken Territories in the Eastern Region Act
(Agent Orange on Guam and in Micronesia)
H.R.299 - Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2017
(Agent Orange in the coastal and territorial seas of Vietnam)
H.R.4843 - To modify the presumption of service connection for veterans who were exposed to herbicide agents while serving in the Armed Forces in Thailand during the Vietnam era, and for other purposes.
(Agent Orange on the bases in Thailand)
By Jim Kuiken
I’ve been writing a lot of stuff in the last 4 years, and have gotten a LOT of great comments and feedback. People read what I write… and that always surprises me, but also honors what I write about…
So that got me to thinking – all the folks who read my articles (and free sample chapters of my current book “The Making of a Warrior) – and who’ve made comments and who have written back ALSO have lots of stories! (Well DUH Kuiken! Took you this long to figure that out?)
This year I’d like to start out by reaching out to you! I’ve seen and read some of those stories, so here’s your invitation. I’d like all of you who have a story or stories to send them in to me!
Don’t worry if you think they’re not “professional”, just make them real – what happened or what you feel. Funny incidents. Tough times. Tales from the ‘front lines’, personal stories, whatever…just send them!
As I’ve mentioned before, here’s what I write about (which also happens to be what my “Bekker” series of books are about – both the 5 book Warrior mini-series and the 5 book Protector mini-series). If you find yourself or anyone you know in any of these categories – I want to hear from you!
If you are (or are related to or know) anyone in the military, a veteran, law enforcement, firefighter, emergency medical services, or anyone who serves others, and because of that service, places their own life or well-being at risk…I WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!
We will be looking at the stories you send in, and hope to publish some of them on my webpage and other sites (which puts them directly in front of 7K(+) readers nationally, and potentially many more indirectly).
You can submit your story or your contact information here, or go to the “Contact” page on my website – JamesKuiken.com.
So, here’s your invitation!! Don’t overthink it, don’t hesitate, just sit down and write it! Send it in, and let’s show the rest of the world what’s important, funny, heartbreaking, etc. for you – and to all of us. I can’t wait to hear your story!
By Jim Kuiken
Have you ever done (or not done) something that you later regret? Don’t worry, that was rhetorical…we all have, and we all do.
Unfortunately, sometimes those things that we do or don’t do have unintended consequences - and not just for ourselves. Last week, I did something that I deeply regret, because it affected a friend of mine (and Freedom’s).
It’s interesting that I was just talking to another friend, and they said, “I didn’t think you had regrets, because you live so much in the present!” It’s true, I do my best to not hold on to things from the past or present that I don’t have control over, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t regret things I did or didn’t do.
It arose from something that has happened to me a couple of times now, but deeply affected me both times (this time more than before). It had to do with a challenge to my integrity, as well as things I’ve done during my almost 45 years of service to this nation and its citizens (and legal residents). Additionally, it disparaged friends and colleagues who’ve spent a half-century of honest and outstanding service to this nation, and called into question their honesty and integrity as well. In my book, unforgivable.
This all started the day before Thanksgiving, and lasted up and into last week. I fully expected (and had planned for) that type of thing from opponents from other political parties during my U.S. Congressional campaign (2011 – 2012), but two things surprised me even there. The first was the downright dishonesty and viciousness of those attacks (which I squashed with proof of my service), but the second was that people from my own party did the same – i.e., one of my primary opponents (at least the other two ran honorable campaigns), and the neo-cons and others who tried to hijack the campaign, and when they couldn’t, turned around and attacked.
When it started again a couple of weeks ago, I pulled out a lot of the same documents I had used before (as well as looking up a few more) to counter those claims. But the damage was done, it deeply disturbed me, and caused me to rethink my commitment to not only my chosen path of telling stories of service (military, first responders, etc.), but my efforts as an Advocate (again for those who serve(d) our nation and its citizens), and working with all the Veteran service organizations – to even questioning my involvement with the non-profit we have been building for all military service members and veterans, first responders, and their families.
Needless to say, it shook me to my core, and d@mned near brought me back to that place where I was before I got Freedom. It shut me down, and almost made me just walk away from it all, again.
So, back to my regrets. Last week it was time to bring Freedom in to the Vienna Pet Spaw for his weekly bath. The Spaw is not just the only place I ever take Freedom (I tried and looked at others, but won’t go anywhere else), but they will wash, groom, or let you wash your own dog there – whatever works best for their clients. The owner / operator there is a good friend, and not only helps veterans with Service Dogs, but helps out with programs for animals in need, volunteers with Wreaths Across America, is a strong supporter of our military and veterans (coming from a military family), and is just a kind and supporting friend to clients – often opening early or staying late (or taking special requests) just to help them out.
Last week when we went in, Freedom got up into his tub and I sat in the chair nearby (they let me sit in there with him as he gets bathed so the SD and handler are not separated), but I was totally self-absorbed and wallowing in my own pain and disappointment, not at all my normal wise-cracking smart-@$$ self.
Had I not been so absorbed with my own issues, I would’ve picked up on the fact that the owner was also not their normal self, and could’ve used some support, and some of my normal humor – or just a friendly ear to listen.
We’d been friends since shortly after I started going there about 3 years ago, but we really became good friends after I went along with the family to Arlington National Cemetery (and later, to their home) when one of the owner’s brothers, Air Force SMSgt. Mark Rayment, was laid to rest there. We were there commemorating his long service to this Nation, as well as to be with friends and family as they grieved his loss and celebrated his life.
That appointment last week was on the day before the 2nd anniversary of his interment there in Arlington. I knew something was up, but I didn’t pull my head out of my own misery long enough to see what was going on with my friend. And that is my regret… I let a friend down.
In those darkest hours when it all seems too much to bear, is there a friend that needs your support more than you need to stew in your own feelings? As in most cases, yes, there was – and I’m so sorry.
I won’t make that mistake again.
Common Sense Solutions, Within the Law
By Jim Kuiken
Everyone is rightfully horrified by the shooting in Las Vegas on October 1, 2017, and are looking for answers. How could this happen? Who was this guy, and what was his motivation? Why did he have access to automatic weapons and/or semi-automatic weapons that essentially functioned as automatic weapons? How do we prevent this kind of thing from happening?
Unfortunately, we will never know answers to some of these questions, but one thing that has caught the media and public’s attention is a little-know firearm accessory, the “Bump Fire Stock.” It is not the only piece of equipment that can cause this function (firing a semi-automatic firearm like a fully automatic firearm), but it’s the one in the news right now. Believe it or not, that same function can be achieved with other devices, rubber bands, belts, and even your fingers.
But this one has everyone’s attention. So what is the solution? Not the emotional knee-jerk reaction of “banning” the Bump Fire stock…and yes, one Senator from California has predictably put forth a draft bill calling for exactly that. What will that achieve in practical terms? Nothing – since if it passes (and it won’t), it would ban one specific piece of equipment, and ignore the actual problem. (and it would be challenged in court, most likely successfully)
It’s like saying lots of people die because of cars, especially young males…and young males tend to like red sports cars, so let’s ban red sports cars to help solve the vehicle accident death rate…instead of looking at ways to help stop deaths attributed to car accidents by attacking the actual problems that cause car deaths…like drunk driving, distracted driving, speeding, etc.; and implementing safeguards like seat belts, car structural safety, airbags, guard rails, driver education, etc. In other words, a holistic approach to eliminating or reducing the actual problem. People are still and always will be the uncontrollable factor in most problems.
So let’s get rid of guns altogether. Ban guns from private use! Well…200+ years of the Second Amendment, and successful court defenses of that Amendment show that this is not a practical solution. We have the “individual right” to bear arms, as affirmed by the Supreme Court in several cases, but mainly in their primary Second Amendment cases, including United States v. Miller, (1939); District of Columbia v. Heller (2008); and McDonald v. Chicago (2010).
BUT…and here’s where we start building our solution…
In “Heller”, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote the majority opinion, which in part says: “Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited” – and – “nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.”
That’s the first step in a solution to the problem, the legality of regulating weapons by where and how they can be carried and/or possessed (owned), and by whom and under what conditions.
The next step is the National Firearms Act (NFA) of 1934 (amended under the Internal Revenue Code, Title 26, in 1968), referred to as Title II of the Federal firearms laws, coupled with the Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA) referred to as Title I. The NFA classifies types of firearms, and specifically, taxes the commercial sales, manufacture, and transfer of weapons – especially “Title II” weapons, including “automatic firearms”.
It does not “ban” certain types of weapons, but it enforces the regulation of the ownership, transfer, manufacture, etc. of those weapons by taxing them. Some of these weapons (and their accessories) are defined here, in Title 26 U.S. Code § 5845 - Definitions.
So, can we use that existing law to put restrictions on the Bump Fire Stock and other devices like it? Sorry to say, but no. Not under the existing law, which defines “automatic firearms” (defined as a “machine gun” in that statute) as “…any weapon which shoots, is designed to shoot, or can be readily restored to shoot, automatically more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger.” It also includes any device that would cause the firearm to shoot in that manner.
The sticky part is the last phrase “by a single function of the trigger”. The Bump Fire Stock and devices like it do not do that, and is why they are legal. They can cause the firearm to fire at the same rate (how many bullets it can fire per second or per minute) as an automatic firearm, but it does it by “bumping” the firearm back and forth against your finger, firing one round at a time per each trigger pull, but that happens so fast that it can fire (with each round fired by a separate single trigger pull) as fast as an automatic firearm which fires multiple rounds with one single trigger pull.
This can, and should, be addressed by legislation – the only remedy. By modifying the definition of a “machine gun” or it’s accessories, or by inserting a single paragraph into that law after the paragraph that defines the accessories, this semi-automatic weapon that fires at the rate of an automatic weapon can be classified as a Title II weapon (accessory), and regulated like the sear (a part of the trigger mechanism that can turn a semi-automatic weapon into an automatic weapon) or other device or accessory as described in the second sentence of the “machine gun” definition:
“The term shall also include the frame or receiver of any such weapon, any part designed and intended solely and exclusively, or combination of parts designed and intended, for use in converting a weapon into a machinegun, and any combination of parts from which a machinegun can be assembled if such parts are in the possession or under the control of a person.”
The additional sentence would be something like:
The term shall also include the frame or receiver of any such weapon, any part designed and intended solely and exclusively, or combination of parts designed and intended, for use in causing a weapon, through mechanical means, to fire at a rate of fire substantially similar to that of a machinegun (they would have to specify minimum rate of fire here, with stats from BATF, FBI, NRA and other organizations), and any combination of parts that can be assembled into such a device if such parts are in the possession or under the control of a person.
If such an amendment to Title II (definitions) were enacted, it would cause the Bump Stock and other such devices to be reclassified, regulated and taxed – which would do several things.
So contact your Congressmen (Senate and House), and fight for a common-sense (and realistic solution). Share this with them…heck, send them a copy of this article!
Just make sure they call it “Jim’s Law” if they enact it!
Angels and Demons – in Real Life
By Jim Kuiken
Everyone in Texas, pretty much everyone in the United States, and lots of folks all over the world are experiencing, watching or aware of what is going on in Texas this week (and probably Louisiana in the next few days).
It is a national disaster on a scale not seen since the founding of our country, and will continue to play out over the next few weeks, months, and even years. People across this nation (myself included) have family and/or friends living in the area who are affected by this tragedy.
The loss of life (with more to come), the devastation, misery and heartache are all very real, and deeply touch my soul, as well as most people of good will throughout the nation and the world.
Out of every tragedy or devastating event come stories of heroism (no, not “athletic prowess” or celebrity notoriety – actual heroism, where someone steps up to help and serve others at the risk of their own life and safety). This event is no different. All you have to do is watch any (responsible) news outlet, and you will see the stories.
People have come from all over the nation (and several other nations, like Mexico and Israel for example) to help. Many private citizens bringing supplies and help, their own boats, trucks, clothing, food, water, etc…with no compensation or other reason than to help others in need.
Churches, civic organizations, businesses and corporations, and many other organizations are stepping up to help. Agencies that are charged with the responsibility for assisting others (police, fire/ems, national guard, FEMA, etc.) are serving way beyond their lawful duty and normal capacity, and putting themselves at risk (some, like Houston Police Sergeant Steve Perez, will pay the ultimate price for their sacrifice), working non-stop long hours to do whatever it takes to save lives. I’ve talked about this before, in my article “What it Takes”.
These are the Angels. As described from the very mouth of many of those saved.
Unfortunately, in every bad situation where people are at risk and need help, there are $#!?heads. Some are just petty idiots, like those so focused on their own political agenda that they just have to tweet about shoes, or that Texans deserve what happened because of how they voted in an election, instead of about all the heroic efforts of those involved, what is being done to coordinate the rescue and recovery efforts, and ways others could step up and provide assistance. Disgusting fools.
However, some are just evil.
When the Cajun Navy, a volunteer organization of boat owners from Louisiana showed up, with 20+ boats to get out and start helping to rescue others – even though they know that the storm is headed towards their own homes – besides actually saving lives (like the elderly lady that was floating away, see the link above for the story), they also came under fire by armed looters. That’s right…disgusting dregs of our society began shooting at the boats full of people there to help…because they were interrupting their looting of the homes and businesses of people who were forced to leave all their worldly possessions behind and flee to save their lives.
Not only were these lowlife (I don’t want to call them animals – it would be a deep insult to animals to call these spawn that) going in and taking advantage of helpless people in their most vulnerable time, but they were actually shooting at other people who had dropped their own lives, packed up and come all the way over, spending their own time and money, and voluntarily putting their own lives and safety at risk just to help out those in need where they could.
And that’s not even the worst of it. Looting, and armed robbery (yes, actually pulling a weapon on someone who is fleeing with whatever of their most precious possessions that they could carry, and robbing them at gunpoint of those items and any money they had with them) has become so prevalent that Houston has increased the penalties for burglary. Before this, burglarizing a home would normally bring a penalty of two to twenty years in prison, but now brings five years to life.
Luckily, the vast majority of people (Texans, other Americans, and those from around the world) actually care about other people, and they step up to offer any help and whatever subsistence they can in another’s time of need.
I’m glad those who are evil will be sought out and punished to the fullest extent of the law. I’m also more than happy to give all the importance to those who spend their time in petty nastiness that they deserve – none. I step over them as I would filthy gum on the street.
But most of all, my faith in human kindness and decency is renewed by each terrible event that befalls us, and the caring and response that the majority of people feel and act upon – generously giving of themselves, and anything that they can bring to help and comfort those in need. I pray (and yes, I mean that literally) for those in need, and for those who step forward to help. Thank God there are people like you.
Angels – 99. Demons – 1.
Intruder On Deck!
By Jim Kuiken
So I’m in Marine Corps Boot Camp in San Diego, somewhere in March of 1973, going through Third Phase just a few weeks from graduation, when I flubbed a very simple question / exercise during our final Field First Aid test. I don’t remember what it was, but I believe it had to do with a gut wound or a compound fracture of the femur…but in any case, it was an exposed wound – and should have been pretty simple.
I was up for Meritorious Promotion to Private First Class
(E-2, to be effective a week before graduation), because of my outstanding performance, attitude, and Esprit de Corps…and I had screwed up a simple test question for no good reason… A GREAT way to get some attention from your Drill Instructor – just not positive attention.
There had been plenty of screw ups by pretty much every Recruit during Boot Camp (you can read about this one, and lots more of them in my upcoming book – The Making of a Warrior), but as we say about our rifles – “There are many like it, but this one is mine…”
The Senior Drill Instructor, who was not a large man, but who was a combat veteran (Force Reconnaissance) from Vietnam – and was terrifyingly perfect – swooped in on me, nose to nose with the brim of his “Smokie” (hat) touching my forehead, and said “What the #@*! was that Kuiken? I felt a quiver in my legs, and my heart jumped into overdrive.
Before I could open my mouth to answer, he stepped back and pointing to the floor said “Bends and Thrusts. Begin!”
Without a word or any hesitation, I immediately began a four-count exercise – with enthusiasm – by dropping down to a squat position with my hands on the ground in front of me “ONE”, kicking my legs back and landing in a good push-up position “TWO”, jumping my legs back up under me into a squat position – hands still on the ground “THREE”, and shooting back up to a standing position – hands on my hips “ONE”. That was one squat-thrust. He hadn’t said how many, so I just kept going. “ONE, TWO, THREE, TWO – ONE, TWO, THREE, THREE…)
Getting bored, he walked around the tables and stations, and watched the other recruits perform their tests until they were all done and dismissed, then he went into the Drill Instructor’s Hooch (an office at the end of the squad bay with a cot, small table and a couple of chairs), made a cup of coffee, and came back out to watch me. “ONE, TWO, THREE, FIFTY-SIX – ONE, TWO, THREE, FIFTY-SEVEN…”
Either I was starting to slow down, or he just got bored watching me do the same thing over and over, and he said “Mountain Climbers. Begin!”
Having just shot up to standing, I immediately dropped back into a full push-up position, and remaining down, I began that four-count exercise – with enthusiasm.
Hands remaining on the floor, I jumped my right leg forward until my foot was under my waist, knee under my chest while my left foot remained back in the push-up position…looking very much like a runner getting ready to start a race “ONE”. Then I jumped slightly up, keeping my hands on the floor, and switched feet in one move, my right one all the way back, left one under my waist with the knee under my chest “TWO”, repeated the move, switching feet…like climbing a mountain…“THREE”, and one more time “ONE”!
By this time I was huffing and puffing, and sweating profusely with the sweat dripping off of my chin and nose, forming a puddle there on the floor under my face. He turned and walked into the Drill Instructor’s hooch, and slammed the door – probably getting some more coffee.
About a minute later, I heard the front hatch (door) open, and looking out from under the folding table I was down behind while doing my mountain climbers, I saw shiny shoes…this was not one of my Drill Instructors, so I shot to my feet at the position of attention, and in a loud, clear voice, announced “SIR, SPY ON DECK, AYE AYE, SIR!”
It was a Lieutenant.
As the Drill Instructor shot out of his office, the Lieutenant asked me “Private, what were you doing down there?” My Senior Drill Instructor started to say something, but the Lieutenant held up a hand, and said “I’m not talking to you Sergeant. I’m asking this private.”
I knew something was wrong and the Drill Instructor was in trouble, but an officer had asked me a question, so I had to answer.
“Sir, the Private dropped his pen, looking for his pen, Sir.”
That got me a stern glance from the Lieutenant, and he stepped a bit closer and said “I’m going to ask you again Private. I saw what you were doing down there when I walked in, so don’t play games with me! What were you doing down there when I walked in?”
Now I was on notice – he had seen me and knew exactly what had been going on when he came in, and I had no choice but to answer him.
“Sir, the Private dropped his pen, looking for his pen, Sir!”
He said some very un-‘Officer and a Gentleman’ words, gave the Sergeant a dirty look, spun on his heel and walked out.
The Senior Drill Instructor stood there for a moment, watching him walk out, then he turned back to me, and looking me straight in the eyes, said “Did I tell you to stop?”
“SIR, NO SIR!” I dropped as quickly as I could and resumed my mountain climbers – with enthusiasm – as he turned, walked back into his hooch, picked his coffee cup back up and slammed the door behind him.
I knew that was his way of showing appreciation…
By Jim Kuiken
I’m so sick of this constant drum beating, I don’t even watch the news anymore. I don’t give a cr@p about what side anyone is on, and we’ve been over this ground before. I’m not even going to write a post this week…I’m just too tired of the constant and disgusting acrimony. Here are my thoughts on the whole thing – a review of my previous posts (too many on this subject already):
Can’t we all just get along?: Blind Ideology – a True Four-Letter Word
By Jim Kuiken - 4/6/2017
Reflections: What the #<!! is Going On?
By Jim Kuiken - 7/13/2016
Civility Lost?: Rats In A Cage
By Jim Kuiken - 2/3/2016
That’s Offensive!: Splinters and Factions and Groups, Oh My!
By Jim Kuiken - 12/9/2015
The First Amendment – Rights (or wrongs…): “Inalienable rights” Really?
By Jim Kuiken - 5/10/2015
I’ve written so many uplifting, happy, patriotic, informative and useful articles in the past, but the fact that this keeps popping up on such a regular (and actually, growing) basis is completely disheartening to me. I have no problem with people peacefully and lawfully expressing their opinions, whether I agree with them or not. As I’ve said, I fought, bled, and many of my friends died, to uphold that right.
Unlawful and violent actions (from any “side”) should be immediately punished to the full extent of the law, using the most serious charges possible based on the action.
Enough with placating, appeasing, and bowing to violence and extremism – from the left to the right, the top to the bottom, and anywhere in between. Period.
I think it’s time I hang out my Gone Fishing sign, and try to find some Peace – away from all these violent, unhinged idiots.
By Jim Kuiken
Freedom and I used to go for a walk every morning. Our walk took us about a block away to a greenbelt – a paved path leading out through the trees and quiet areas for about the first mile, then it picks back up on a tree-lined and shaded paved path that parallels a two-lane road, going up and down some good little dips and rises – and if we go the full route, is 3 miles…my old running route before age, old injuries and arthritis took that away.
Most days, we just did two miles, but occasionally we got froggy.
On one of our walks, almost exactly a year ago, I spotted something in the trees just off the path. I’m always alert to movement and sound, and Freedom is alert to smells, so between the two of us we spot a lot of critters out on our walks…chipmunks, squirrels, turtles, raccoons, foxes, deer, etc.
This time, it was something that really didn’t fit that caught my attention. Something white in among the trees. When we stopped and focused in, I finally realized that what I was looking at was a little white fawn. As I watched her (I liked to think of it as a her…), I slowly realized that right next to her was her brother (again, my projection), a totally normal fawn…and then, behind and just a few feet away, their mother. I hadn’t seen the mother or brother, but she had stood out and caught my attention. Freedom sat, and we stayed there in silence just looking at the magical creature and her family for several minutes, until they turned and slowly walked away into the trees. I still remember that moment, the peace and the beauty.
And life goes on.
Eventually, the slow, insidious creep of dis-engagement began re-inserting itself into my life, the walks tapered off and then stopped, my writing slowed down, and I got caught up in administrative issues, trying to respond to everyone, the meetings and appearances, etc., and without even knowing it, began to backslide towards where I was when I first met Freedom.
Don’t get me wrong, I was still orders of magnitude better than before, and in no real danger of shutting down again, but I had definitely been dis-engaging – and some of the frustration, anger and other issues were bubbling back towards the surface.
So yesterday, after finishing a particularly long, arduous few weeks of concentrated administrative tasks, I sent off the final document and decided I needed to get out, have a burger and relax. Afterwards I felt like taking my time and having a cup of coffee, so I drove over – didn’t find any parking – and ended up parking across the street.
As Freedom and I crossed the street – with the light and crossing signal – we were about half-way across when a car came speeding toward the light, and thinking that he wasn’t going to stop, I yanked Freedom back, pulling him completely airborne by the collar around his neck, as he spun around mid-air and yelped. The car slowed abruptly, crossing the big white line he was supposed to stop behind, pulling into the crosswalk and stopping right at the farthest white line, completely blocking the crosswalk. Unfortunately, stopping over the line (and even into the crosswalk) is not all that unusual here in Virginia and DC…but he didn’t slow until the last minute, making me think he was going to hit Freedom.
The young (late 20’s / early 30’s) male driver just looked at me, and although there was plenty of room behind him to back out of the crosswalk, just gave me a dismissive look as he went back to his phone conversation.
What happened to common courtesy, respect, basic awareness of anyone but self? Is civility completely lost?
That cold beast inside me that I describe in The Making of a Warrior popped his dark head out, and the anger flashed over.
What happened next (I won’t even try to put it in a flattering light…it wasn’t pretty), definitely got his attention and left him with no doubt about what I thought of his actions. He sat there in his fancy little car, stunned, as we walked on…until we got far enough away that he felt safe.
As we were approaching the far side of the road, he popped up out of the car and started yelling, saying what he’d do to me. A 20-30 something old “man” to a 60+ year old man with a fully vested and identified Service Dog…
Not one to turn my back to a threat, I spun around and started back towards him, telling him to kiss my #%&! #$$. As I closed on him, he jumped back in his car and locked all the doors – so with the threat gone, I turned and went back towards the coffee shop. The light changed and he sped off, as we went in and got the coffee, sat down, and tried to stuff that dark animal back into his cubby-hole.
This morning when I got up I was still feeling the residual anger, and saw Freedom lying there in his bed, looking up at me with his big brown eyes. For no reason I got dressed, got his leash, and we headed out – back on that trail through the woods that we hadn’t seen in months.
We didn’t even make it a half mile when guess who was standing there, off the side of the trail, looking at us. That white (now yearling) young deer, her brother and mother. We stopped and all looked at each other for several minutes, and I could just feel the blood pressure dropping, the peace returning to my soul, and I reached down to put my hand on Freedom’s head. Re-engaging, letting the press of the urgent drift away, and focusing back on the important.
I’m so very grateful for the reminder…message received loud and clear!
What’s the Plural of Y’all?
By Jim Kuiken
“Where y’all frum?”
“Sweetwater, Republic of Texas USA.”
Seems like a simple question, and a direct answer…if you’re from Texas…
To the outside world, lots of folks have a deep misconception of Texas, and a lot of Texans are just fine with that. If you really want to know what Texas is like, you can see a little of the official, and probably more holistic view of it here, and a little more Texas-centric cultural view of it here, but suffice to say, it is:
Texas is NOT a bunch of rural hicks, chawin’ and-a-spittin’ in the dust, like much of the outside world seems to think. But part of the overall Texas culture IS independent, self-reliant, proud, and fiercely Texan.
So…what is the plural of y’all? Y’all can be singular or plural, but is generally just generic. “Y’all come back soon” can be applied to one person, or a group of people. But there is a variation that is strictly plural.
I had just come out of a high-level meeting between the leaders of three corporations discussing mutual business opportunities at the Tower Club in Tyson’s Corner, Virginia (an exclusive club just outside of Washington DC for corporate leaders, government contractors, etc.), and was in the elevator coming down from the 17th floor penthouse club with those executives, and during our post-meeting casual conversation, one of the CEOs mentioned that she was originally from Texas.
Being the straight-laced, serious businessman that I am, I immediately turned to the rest of the executives in the elevator, and said “So…for all of you non-Texans, here’s a quick question. What is the plural of y’all?” Turning quickly to her, I said “Not you, just them.”
They all stood there for a moment with the deer-in-the-headlights stare, and finally one of them said “Y’alls?”
Everyone cracked up (I’m sure several of them were thinking the same thing, but he had the courage to say it), and I said “Nope.”
Another one said “Youns?” (pronounced yoonz or you-uns). Everyone just lost it. Some of them were actually wiping tears from their eyes they were laughing so hard, and one of them asked if that was even a real word. Well…in some parts of the Ozarks (especially Missouri), yes – it’s about the same as y’all – but…it’s singular too. The plural (this is real, I’m not making this up…) is “younses”.
After a couple more interesting guesses, I finally had pity on them, turned to the Texan, and asked what it is. Without hesitation she said “All y’all” (pronounced as one run-on word).
“So, you ARE a true Texan!”
She just smiled, and in total violation of DC corporate-speak, answered in Texan. “Yup.”
We accomplished more in that two-minute elevator ride than we had in the entire hour-and-a-half luncheon / business meeting, and we capped it off with an agreement to work together…again, using a time-worn Texas formula for getting things done:
“Less talkin’, more doin’”.
So, if y’all - or even all y’all – decide to come on down to Texas (physically or mentally), come on down…with an open mind, a friendly smile and a sense of humor, and youns’ll fit right in!
Just Don’t Mess With Texas…