You never really know what it is going to provoke the guilt, but you do know something eventually will.  And when that something does, it comes out of the clear blue.  It is one of those things that you cannot protect yourself from; you fool yourself into thinking that you can anticipate it, that you can control the situations that lead to it, but you cannot.  There is only one fool when you seek to fool yourself.  You would think that I have learned that by now.  Kate's Diary has 13 entries, this in number 9.

Here in Sierra Vista, tensions are still high.  The wildfires have everyone primed in a way that things which they wish to get off their chest find voice in the right company.  The good thing about the wildfires is that life has not been lost.  While people are thankful to the firefighters for this, the loss of lives past resurfaces… in the right company of those whom are cherished most.  For that, I am thankful.  It is hard though, listening to the stories of those closest to you sharing their coping of the loss of loved ones’ past.  It takes me back to days of old.  When the inner rouge roamed free.  The stalking wicked, merciless in his own right.  He never missed and vengeance birthed the banality of evil.

There was nothing worse than the Barrett.  Thirty pounds of pure hell.  A day on the range meant a week of soreness.  Forty .50 Cal rounds would have you feeling like your arm was about to fall off, the recoil was simply brutal.  I hated it.  Plain and simple.  I was good with it because I knew the math the behind it.  I hated it because the weapon was as unforgiving on the shooter as the shooter had to be on his enemy.  The Barrett was just in an unjust world.  You can only imagine my displeasure being put on it.  It wasn’t the extra weight, it was that lugging it generally meant using it, and using the Barrett meant… well, using the Barrett.

Dryfus was instinctive.  He just followed gut and would randomly do things because his gut told him to.  I bare the scar of his gut to this day as he yanked me out of the path of a sniper round.  It just grazed my left arm.  Burned like all hell.  Heart level, left bicep and triceps as he pulled me to the right.  Three seconds later, we heard the discharge of the weapon.  A sweet shot ruined when you calculate the distance and factor in the wind.  A very sweet shot ruined by Dryfus’ gut.  I owed him big for that one. 

There was no one with Drufus and his gut to protect him two days later… a debt gone unpaid.

The mission was simple; “immobilize a troop transport - targets of opportunity as presented.”  Perfect for the Barrett and incendiary rounds.  One shot into the engine block and it was over, a target far larger than what we trained to.  Only it would not be the engine block sighted in on; it was the perfectly presented fuel tank.  Stopping the truck meant very little to me that day.  Igniting the truck meant watching the retched occupants burn to death; flames would escort them to hell, no better than the rogue in me to inflict the worst imaginable fate of will upon the retched – a far more enticing thought.  They could sit and await a death of flames, or they could attempt to run and be slaughtered from afar.  Either way, a meeting was being arranged and my hand was to deliver destiny.

The recoil tight and sharp as the dust was shaken from the rooftop.  Two thousand and two hundred meters later sparks ejected from the fuel tank.  A second round exploded into the driver’s side door.  The truck stalled and stopped as flames started spewing from the tank.  It was just a matter of time before the unfolding fate would be realized.  A third round thundering into troop compartment was released to hasten the reality. 

From the rear the troop compartment, occupants began hopelessly scurrying for cover.  Short lived was the safety of the open air.  My sense of humanity was left in the fallen gut of another.  While running for your life is better than sitting and awaiting death; on this day, opportunity was a mere target awaiting a discretion that would never come.  One by one, some two by two, magazine after magazine, the dismembered heaps piled.  Vengeance in the turnabout of foul play.  The incontrovertible deliverer of death had spoken.

For when the rogue walks, the enemy is laid to rest.

And they fell.  Husbands, fathers, sons and friends that would go forth to be mourned at times when they were least likely to be remembered.  Days like this one when good friends come together for the sole purpose of enjoying each other’s company.  Their names will be called off followed by the profound memories of their simple smiles, laughs and aspects that made them the individuals they were.  Snuffed from existence by the rogue from long away.

That is what makes such random turns in discussions difficult.  Watching how we mourn our own while feeling the guilt of forcing those to mourn in similar fashion.  Watching the anguish while knowing how much anguish I have caused.  Innocent days turned into difficult emotion.  A skill set good for one thing and one thing only; to bring death and force a will upon the unsuspecting from a soul where benevolence refused to exist.

Watching those close to you mourn those whom were once close to them can be unsettling.  You assume the guilt for their emotion.  Not that you have harmed them, but have harmed so many of the innocent like them; and even enjoyed doing it. 

Sitting on the rooftop methodically acquiring and neutralizing targets was justice served my way.  It felt great avenging a brother.  A sense of remorse only to follow in the years later at the hands of those mourning their own.  When the reality of death transcends the reality of life.

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K.A.T.E.’s Diary has 13 tales, each of which has changed me forever more. This is number 5.

I called him Ahab the Arab. One mean Iraqi son of a bitch. I would watch him from afar. The pistol wielding, short tempered squat man would not hesitate to beat, abuse and even shoot women. One child he set on fire, the screams I could hear on that breezy afternoon over a half mile away. The screams I still hear to this day; on occasion awakened by them – sometimes prevented even from drifting off to sleep because them.

On one fateful day Ahab the Arab was identified. A target of opportunity and only the four of us knew where he was. He was not why we were there and taking him off the list would compromise far too much. I watched the slaughters, the abuses and even watched him order his mangy ass mutt to attack a toddler.

The days were hot and long. Watching these things happen was a mental torture to wish on no man.

It was an unusually cool morning. Ahab’s pistol was replaced with a machete. He was going to be extraordinarily cruel. The relief of the cool did nothing to ease the discomfort in my gut wondering what he was going to do that day.

A truck was greeted in the courtyard by Ahab. It is who we are waiting for. Instead of engaging we are told to withdraw. Shortly there after, the truck and its occupants left. The long days of observing chalked up to character development training. Instead of pulling back, we waited for the sun to begin to crest behind us. We needed them blinded.

Ahab was not to be outdone by his prior acts of cruelty. The machete was blazing, the women too scared to run. They stood still, heads down hoping to not be the one.

910 yards, dry, still; a cool day turned hot. The machete would fall, but not on any the women awaiting it.

Clear. Oddly so actually. The single best vantage point I have nested in. The even slow pull unleashed two weeks anguished. The recoil straight. No vapor trail would follow, but I knew it was true. Ahab went to draw up his arm in vile hate when the full metal jacket enacted the inertia of kinetic energy in such a way that the signals sending his arm in motion were seized as the spray of blood red gray matter announced he was now a mere dead man waiting to fall. The “martyr” erased by the rogue. By the time the shot was heard a second round was already inbound. That damn dog.

One of Ahab’s cronies moved for cover. Too little too late. The second observation post sounded off with a single shot. He dropped slowly and silently. Another stood still, hands out from his sides facing into the sun; praying. He waited, I left. No shots followed that day.

Remorse; none. Ahab the Arab was maniacal and merciless. He was the banality of evil incarnate.

Going in to this, the last thing in the world I expected to encounter was a person such as Ahab. You hear about them, you read about them, but you never expect to experience them. They are supposed to be there and we are supposed to be here. Two opposite entities in a world that are never to cross, or so we think. They both exist; they are just not supposed to intertwine. It is horrid when they do.

Regret; I really did not have to kill his dog.

That scream has come back in recent hours. The boy burning alive before my very eyes. The sickening feeling came back with that scream, that shrieking. I woke to it at two this morning and saw not the child but the dark lifeless eyes of Ahab. When I hear the screams, I always see the eyes; always. So many times he looked directly at me. He’d stop and stare as if he felt me watching. My pillow covered in sweat as I arose in the wee hours to not return to sleep. They give me headaches you know, the night sweats. The memories of Ahab and what seems like so many others. A crucifix that connects the days of the past to today and the days of tomorrow. My burden for my deeds, actions for which only I can atone.

It’s a burden that haunts. It chews away at you slowly and methodically. You think it goes away while in reality it roots itself deeper while you are not paying attention to it. It’s an ugly world when the bringer of death is the protector of life. Polarities united in one. An awful, awful, wakeful world.

They’re repressed. Ahab and the others. Compartmentalized and relegated to the darkest corners of my soul. A place to which I unconsciously have sworn to never return. Years later they are escaping. Compartmentalizing them means compartmentalizing my entire life, something I am extremely skilled at anymore. Because they don’t mix well, nothing can mix. Opening up means letting them out. Ahab deserves to not have his story told, he deserves to rot in the bowels of hell. Even his despicable side need not be known to you. His memory should have perished and burned with him. His existence completely erased.

Ahab was number five. What scares me most about Ahab; I felt nothing. Never even watched him fall; dismissed him when I pulled the bolt action to the rear. Trained on the dog is what I did. That was sheer and honest hate. A feeling that none of us should have towards the other. Ahab is why my temper is controlled to the degree that is today. To get that angry, that hateful towards another can never again happen. Some have seen it my eyes. “You have rage PJ.” Dawna Wilson once said to me. She had no idea.

One of the most frequent questions posed to me is why I joined the military.  It was actually the easiest choice I have ever made.  I went into the military to ensure my younger sister and cousin had a chance to go to college.  Had I stayed home and gone to school, the odds of the two of them continuing their education past high school was too slim to risk.  Into the Navy I went determined to do and see things I have never before seen or experienced and would never again.  The hard decisions in life come easily at the hands of the love you have for those close to you.  I wanted better for them so I could choose my own walk in life and make my way forward under conditions that I set at my hand.  Reality of my new walk in life set in one dark and muggy night centered between the Tropics.

We had been there a number of weeks following an intensive training evolution that ended with Marine Corps Scout Sniper School.  The class advisor was the most infamous Marine Sniper in history.  His methodology was simple.  The most important aspect of being a sniper was the understanding that when your body was tired, your brain had to still be working at optimum levels; embracing that concept breaks most who walk erect.  The key is shutting your body down, almost turning it off and using only your brain which actually does not tire in the manner in which we try to insist it does.  My scores increased and I truly began to excel at the art.  Before long we were on our back to Camp Lejeune for our pre deployment brief.

Between the Tropics

The time in jungle region went by fast.  Our time was spent on an 800 meter uphill range that was riddled with rocks, bushes and small trees.  We grew fond of that range because there was no such thing as a clear line of fire, to hit the most distant target, one would have to slide a round through fork in a tree, wait on the breeze to blow a branch out of the way or even wait for the wind to bring your target into sight.  Nothing came easy.  At the end of the day you mastered the art of target acquisition given the windage and elevation factors to overcome in just easiest of shots.  Two weeks were spent on that range and the "speck of blue in a sea of green" that I represented seemed to slide into obscurity.

An early morning visit to the armory to check out our weapons is when everything changed.  Slid through the armorer's cage was my own M40.  She was old with a sloppy slide that seemed both tight and loose at the same time.  Her scares were extremely atypical for a Marine Corps weapon; my new 40 had a history.  On the range I quickly learned her quirks and dialed her in with ease.  One of the fiberglass beads that floats the barrel had been ruptured so a slight tilt to the right was needed and her slide action required an even, almost loving tug.  All in all, this M40 that had been through the ringer was more than willing to dig deep once more.  From a kneeling position she could hit a balloon swaying in the breeze, uphill at 890 meters; so far off the range that it took longer to find the target than it did to take it out.  She was more than capable, and most definitely willing.

Our operation order came down and it all made sense.  We had more targets than we had trigger fingers.  Those that were once spotters and support, no longer were.  It was one of those things where no one could miss.  "One shoot, one kill right?"  Shit.  There I was a Navy Corpsman whose hands were crafted to save lives sitting in a position where my hands of healing were being asked to harm.  I found myself stuck, until a name crossed the table.  I more than knew the name; I knew the name of the wife and children associated with it.  There was no longer a question about medical ethics and oaths; just a commitment to the call of duty.

We went back and drew our weapons for the final time.  She was now looking better.  She looked handled, back in the game; she looked ready.  Drawing her that morning I posed a question to myself; if I were as ready and willing as she was.

Born in death

Quietly moving into position I could clearly see my line.  It was almost too easy without the challenges of the range I taught myself to shoot through.  Watching the wind traverse the distance was completely predictable at this point.  Two clicks on the radio followed by three clicks for my position indicated I was not only in position but ready on the mark.  We sat overlooking this prison silently designating targets.  The long hours turned into days.  The longer I stayed in position the more the lessons ran through my mind.  You begin to question everything.  You wonder how the stiffness that has set in will impair your performance when the time comes.  You wonder if missing is more fatal than not.  Your final thought goes to your fellow military war fighter who has fallen directly into harm's hands.  You come to a point where you no longer question yourself and you force yourself to not fail because failing in this case means you have failed a brother; far worse than failing yourself.

Hours more pass acquiring targets after the night shift change.  I am set on a tall lanky smoker assigned to the central north wall.  He is 825 meters with virtually no wind, he stops frequently to lean back against the center stanchion to smoke.  "The walking dead my friend.  It is nothing personal, but I am sure you will take this personally."  I quietly utter knowing it is just a matter of time now.

The go tone.  Just a low level beep followed by a series of clicks.  All the positions acknowledge and await SoComm's go order.  You sight in and wait while you double, triple and quadruple check everything; remove the safety.  A slow deep breath gets held, the right index finger slides from the guard to the trigger.  A double low tone and very evenly you pull the trigger straight back.

The tropical air, so dense in humidity tells a very telling tale in the form of a vapor trail.  Holding the M40 slightly off to the right allowed her kick to follow the trajectory of the round through the vapor trail.  The hot match 7.62 lead cutting through the thick air practically drew a line.  There was no guessing whether you were off or on.

This moon lit night left an arching vapor trail that I wished I could take back or even change.  Not only was it dead on, the thick air slowed the sound of impending doom.  The vapor trail started to taper down.  He was leaned back, taking in his vice for the last time.  Not risking a miss I went center mass, a sneeze, or even a rat running across the walk could throw off a head shot; even though it is more humane.  He was hit square, hard and fast.  The look on his face was confusion.  He dropped his cigarette and slowly moved his hand to his chest and felt the hole left in him.  He saw the blood when he heard the confirming sound eliminating any confusion from his mind and slowly slid down the wall, not struggling, not moving for his weapon, simply succumbing to his fate at the hands of another he never knew existed.  As he came to rest he grabbed his cigarette one last time and tried to take on last hit, but his body failed him.  His arm having made it half way up slowly fell back down to the warm cement.  His eye scrolled upwards, his lips murmuring a prayer, the fear in his eye replaced by a solemn comfort.  There he remained.  I saw not him in those oddly long micro seconds, but the smiles of a young boy and young girl whose faces I still see to this day.  They came into my vision of acknowledgment of what I had just done; taken a father and a husband, a son and nephew - because he was standing at the wrong spot at the wrong time.  Not because he brought harm to me or the American way of life, but because represented a threat to a fellow American; a long time friend of my family who joined the military not just as I had, but by my side - to get away and start anew, to forge his future for himself and his family.

A part of me was born in death at that moment.  My life since has never been the same.

A short swim across the water way and we entered the complex through the drainage system and went virtually unchallenged into his holding cell.  He was beaten but not defeated.  His eyes bright, his scowl challenging.  As we entered his cell he popped up to his feet ready to fight.  It was not hard to figure out how he had become so beaten.  He greeted any entrance with a fight and was ready to do it to his death if need be.

Getting him out was not as easy, the resistance was strong, but very poorly organized.  Many died that night that did not have too.  Simply staying clear would have spared them.

Liberal contempt of hypocrisy

It is unfortunate what we must do.  It is sad that I live in a world that I had to be trained to do these things.  Our liberal ways of life dispel the reality of the world we live in.  I keep such events in my life close to my chest because few understand such a call to duty.  What is worse than taking a human life is the willingness surrender of a Soldier to be used against our way of life as a political chess piece.  As horrid as these acts are and as terrible as they may seem, they are a necessity to maintaining our respect as a nation and keeping the confidence and faith of our troops strong.  The liberals fault us for what we do, but these same liberals fail to understand the world and more importantly their world, without us.

We walk, swim and jump directly into harm's way to give them the luxury to object to our vile existence.  They stand up for life as they object to people like me taking the lives of those wishing us harm while they support the taking of innocent lives because parenting is not something in life to be planned for.  They stand by abortions and stand against the necessary steps in maintaining national sovereignty.

The blatant double standard demonstrated in such egregious hypocrisy is the luxury of their definition of Americanism.  To the non truth-seeking liberal, the ideal America is a land that allows them to have their cake and eat it too.  It is a land where being shallow in ideology and selfish in desire is embraced within their own sub-culture.  From liberal to liberal, life is fine in not seeking truth and understanding, but in the following toxically emotive response in denial of the truth.  For if the liberal sought truth, we may have no liberals to balance out the conservatives.  Liberals support the things they do because they are "supposed to" and not because they have sought truth in identifying the needs of the people within the nation and the steps it takes to protect not only the people, but America herself.  Liberals are toxic to both themselves and America because of this denial in seeking truth and their innate nature to persist in subjectivity over objectivity.

I have spent some of the best years of my life protecting freedom in ways that haunt me to this day.  The blood I have shed weighs on my mind and in my heart day and night.  In the end, I know I have done what was right because liberals still exist.  Because they are free to object in their hypocritical ways, means we are still a free nation and though those days may be numbered, I find the irony in that the limiting factors to freedom are at the hands of those who appreciate and understand Americanism and freedom the least; these same liberals.  Soon they will fall victim to their own tools in denying truth through hypocrisy.

Blood and life may well be on my hands, but so is freedom.  A liberal cannot state a single contribution to freedom whether it be controversial or otherwise.  They claim selfish double standards that hinder freedom while absolving themselves of responsibility by their inability to claim truth, accountability or responsibility.

Liberals are actually why I am conservative.