Lost in the Desert

It's like 'dessert,' but with one 's,' because it sucks.

six foot skinny

six foot skinny
St. Paul, Minnesota, USA
December 31
Dad in Chief
The Man
Six Foot Skinny is a veteran of the war in Iraq who now lives in St. Paul with The Dane and The Dude.


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JULY 8, 2009 4:48AM

I'm not even supposed to be here today.

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Stoploss.  Sounds positive, right?  You are ceasing to lose something.  Perhaps I could stoploss my finances, or stoploss my mind.  I bet some of you would love to stoploss your jobs.  It ceases to be so positive when the Army applies the term to me.  Yeah, I’m a little flattered, they don’t want to lose me.  They want me, they really want me.  Right.  On an intellectual level, I absolutely understand the policy – at least as it applies to people in leadership positions.  You take a reserve unit that trains together for years and learns how to work with each other, then right before they deploy, BAM, you take away a squad leader.  That could be a problem.  It could affect the capability of that unit to perform at the highest possible level, which is the only acceptable level in a combat zone.  

Everyone in the Army, active and reserve, signs on for an eight year contract.  In the reserve components you spend six years drilling with a unit, and then two years – still on contract – sitting on the couch waiting for them to call.  The active duty side does four years of full time and four years on the couch.  That “couch time” is called the Inactive Ready Reserve, or IRR what with the Army’s affinity for TLAs, or three letter abbreviations.  I opted to remain with my unit for those last two years so I could finish school, and because I liked what I was doing.  By my calculations, and I was never good at math, my eight years would be up before my people were slated to go anywhere again.  I was half right.

We were activated in February.  My eight years were up the day before we got on a plane to go to Kuwait.  I am on stoploss.   I had a young troop ask me about a month ago, “How do you do it?”  I was confused.  I do a lot of things, not many of them all that difficult, so I asked for clarification.  “The stoploss thing, you’re not even supposed to be here.”  I guess I had never thought about it that way.  I have some connections.  I could have made a stink.  I might have even been able to get out of it.  The thing that’s hard to explain is that it was never really an option.  When rumors first started to fly about this deployment, the initial word was that all of our junior enlisted troops would be transferred to another unit and sent without us.  That was a punch in the stomach.  My buddies and I weren’t about to let these kids (most of them are kids) that we had trained go off to war without us watching their backs.  Then it turned out that almost all of us got transferred.  It was a strange kind of relief.

The comments on my last post really got me thinking (and I hope Narcissus, Mr. Wagner, and Mr. Raghuvanshi will continue reading) about why I am here and what this is all about.  Some of those thoughts don’t need to be aired here, I do have to censor myself a bit.  Maybe I’ll let it all fly when I’m out.  But what I came to, and what I have heard and seen in print in other places, is that it’s not about Iraq.  It’s not about the money.  It’s not about politics. It’s not even really about what I do or do not believe about the United States and what I think we should stand for.  It’s about my buddies and my kids – and by kids I mean my troops.  I am here for J, for his wife and daughter.  For A and M and C and their parents.  For S and her daughter.  I am here to try and make sure that they all come home in one piece.  That’s it.  Period.  And when we all come home, I’m out.  Done.  See-ya-bye.  Over simple?  Probably.  Necessary for now?  Yep.  

So here’s the deal.  I may not be your typical Soldier-guy, but I am one that you all have access to.  If you want to send me a PM and ask some questions, go for it.  I’ll try to help you out with some answers.  Bring ‘em on, keep ‘em respectful, let’s talk.  Maybe it'll give me or you some more to write about

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stoploss, milblog, iraq

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Keep the posts coming. I'm an Vietnam Veteran's wife - and have heard these sentiments before. You gotta own what's yours and give the government's what's theirs and keep your troops alive. Great blessings to you.
My respect and admiration have risen even more....and so have the goosebumps on my legs! You're an awesome writer and an awesome man.
Stop-loss is one of those weird open secrets that people know about, yet don't seem to discuss much. It's the #1 reason why I always advise kids thinking about the military (particularly the stretched-thin branches of the Marines and Army) to think very carefully about how this kind of policy might affect their lives.

I remember my ROTC instructor mentioning it to us, and literally saying "Oh, but that would only get applied in the most extreme circumstances, like if a world war broke out or there was a nuclear Armageddon or whatever."
As a person with a lifelong opposition to war, I'm surprised at how glad I am to see you here. You write with such depth and compassion. I feel that I'm on the path toward understanding. Thank you for watching over those kids. They could be mine. God bless you and keep you safe.
Aha, I just got the title of your thread, very apropo. Keep your head down and do come home so you can tell us all the stories.
It is soldiers like yourself that make me proud, and at the same time make me infuriated with our leaders.

May G-d or karma or whatever you may believe in watch over you and your kids, and bring you all home safe and sound. You are all always in my thoughts and prayers, and you always have my thanks for the job you do.
Thank you.
Stay safe.
six foot skinny (and feel free to call me 5'3" stocky), I hope you don't think it's stupid that I thank you for doing your duty. I despise this war, and every war our brilliant leaders have gotten us into since World War II, but I believe that the men and women who serve are by and large the most honorable members of our society, and you have my deep respect and gratitude.

As others have said, come home safely.
Thanks for helping to bridge the gap. I think you're helping a lot of us to understand this whole thing better.
I understand your concerns for your fellow men eg "Mission first. Men always", but it will take more than you or Freud to protect everyone's mental state.
Take care.
No matter what I think of this war - I'm thankful for what you're doing - for those kids, for their families. You've got your head on straight and we're lucky to have you - both here on OS and there.
Thanks for your thoughts.

It may not be about Iraq, politics, or money for you -- nor should it be. But it is about those things for those of us who are at home, voting (or not) and taking responsibility (or not) for where and how our country goes to war, and who pays the price.

In America we, the people, are the ones who send you, the soldier, off to war. Our responsibility as citizens is supposed to be as great as yours for your subordinates, since we -are- supposed to be mindful of all of the things you mention.

So it makes me sad when people express awe toward soldiers for taking on such a heavy responsibility. Rather than being dumbstruck, or cheering from the sidelines, let's take on our own part of the burden and start making the choices that are ours alone -- about Iraq, about money, about politics, about veterans care, about strategic command, and most of all about what we're going to do the next time a bunch of swaggering incompetents tell us that we need to all shut up and leave the hard choices to the experts.

Our military tradition, from Washington on, has always been one of subordination to democratic civilian authority. If a serviceman's or servicewoman's "family" is his or her unit, to whom they have a deep moral obligation, then ours consists of our uniformed services as a whole, and our moral obligation is just as great. Here's one soldier who feels bound by his duty to his people. If it inspires us, let's be inspired to a similar sense of responsibility.
I am reading and learning from you. Much gratitude.
Let my voice join the chorus of stay safes and refrains of thank you. As a country, we engage in far too much saber-rattling as opposed to genuine statesmanship. We need to leave the military as the last option on the table, not the first. Still, I feel indebted to those souls like yours who risk all they have. Keep writing, and I'll keep reading.
Great thanks for this. Keep posting to every extent that you can. We are listening and wanting your thoughts.

Like poetTess, I'd been married to a combat vet. I'll never forget the pain he carried alone for so many years because for the most part we couldn't bridge that gap.

There are plenty of military blogs where you can speak and be understood without explanation. And there are plenty of civilian blogs where those unfamiliar with military life talk to each other. What's needed so desperately by all of us are thoughts, feelings and words that bridge the gap - that help us in civilian life understand our troops, and that keep our troops connected with people and the life outside the military. The life you will, God willing, be rejoining in full again when all the tours are done.

I hope writing is as helpful to you, or more so, than to us.
Good luck, dude. I think a stop loss policy that results in anything less than a minimal time extension is wrong.
Your reasons are the best reasons. If troops have to be there, they need leadership like yours. It's just too damn bad we have to be there in the first place.
Not much to say, but Thank You for what you're doing for our country. Be safe.
Okay - so you are there for "others ". you yourself are a liberal and an artist you say, though I'm not sure why you feel you need to justify yourself .
At what point does it matter to you what those others are there for?
i.e to kick ass , to kill people for wrong religious beliefs ,to get out of jail, to prove manhood, to save money for school or just to Kill, kill, kill, as they practice in basic training .
And at one point is the group responsibility indoctrination?
If jihadists coerce others by convincing them that"we " and our way of life are being attacked because of American bases in their country
and they are protecting little Omar, Mohammed and Rahim how is that different and where does it end?

When does a soldier just say NO to protect Johnny , David and Cyrus
from indoctrination and the idea that killing others is manly and sport?When does a real man point out when patriotic come-on is just a bunch of hot air that may destroy you physically and emotionally and break your mother and father's lives forever for well honed rhetoric that has been time tested.
I'm taking you at you word that you are accessible and are interested in discussion .
I can understand the strength of Deborah Carter's feelings, and also sympathize a bit, but her comments feel to me like trying to put out a forest fire by calling it on the telephone and asking it to calm down.

I believe that war is fundamentally pointless but occasionally necessary. No, I don't think our involvement in Iraq was necessary, far from it, but there we are (or rather, there are representatives like SFS are.) I for one am glad that intelligent, insightful people like him are out there caring for their buddies and perhaps applying a little counter-weight to the empty patriotic blather.
You have a great name. If you are skinny you are less likely to get in the way of a RPG. Order the bullet rounds to swirl around you body.

Be so careful.
War is terrible.
War is a mystery.
Don't carry a phone.
No use the cell # tone.
The:`Bad Boys ringtone.
No Eat Cheddar Cheese Puffs.
You will cry, smile, and Remember.
Entrust:`a mind/soul/psyche to Truth.
Come home alive to bear Witness:`Life!
War is awful enmity.
Ms. Carter,

I was hoping someone would take me up on the offer to discuss. You hit some of the key things that I am wrestling with, and some of the reasons why I write. Writing is a way for me to work through some of this stuff, and to try to find a way to explain it in ways that make sense to me, and wouldn't come straight from a recruiter or a commercial. On top of that, I think mine is a voice that is missing from a lot of the discussion from the prgressive/liberal/democratic side.

As I pointed out in the post, I understand that the reasons that keep me going every day may be overly simple. Understand that they kind of have to be in order to keep my head in the game. Your point about the dilemma between me protecting my "kids" and jihadis protecting their people is absolutely valid. Further, we're on their turf. I know that if someone came through the Twin Cities the way we came into Baghdad, I would likely have armed myself and tried to get them to leave. A lot of us here understand that.

All of us agree that war sucks - to be blunt. As I said, I have lost friends here, some of them American, some Iraqi. I think the big difference a lot of us are having here on OS is that I know - regardless of how much I loathe war - it will continue to happen. It is human nature. As such, there is a need for a fighting force, and for people to join that force so that it is effective. For whatever reasons, I chose to do that. I have gained a lot from it, and lost some as well. I can't stack that against everything the people of Iraq have lost, but that's not a fair comparison.

I think Amity (if I read the comment right) hit it on the head. If we take it as a given that there will be war, and there will be that fighting force, then our job as citizens is to ensure that our elected officials are actually representing our views on when and where that force can be sent. We have to get involved, on even larger levels than people did in 2002/03, and be heard. And if we aren't heard, it needs to reflect in our votes, and letters, and phone calls.

Wow, that got a little long... Thanks again!

Jeanette D - You have no idea how appropriate your comment is.

Ocular - also a Clerks reference, hope you caught it.

Ms. Carter - My response kept binding up my internet connection, so I'll try to send it in a PM.

Thanks for reading everyone!

This was written for you:
Palin Follows GOP Members of Congress Who Quit Because They Felt Like It
SFS writes "Further, we're on their turf. I know that if someone came through the Twin Cities the way we came into Baghdad, I would likely have armed myself and tried to get them to leave. A lot of us here understand that."

Well, then you can see the difference between the Iraqi resistance and the US invaders. They, at least, are fighting in an honorable war. You, on the other hand, are a mercenary. So, to your advantage, you don't believe the idiotic hype out of the US govt. On the other hand, you don't have the luxury of a convenient rational for the death and destruction you and your soulless fellow soldiers are visiting on the honorable people of Iraq, and now Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Are you keeping score? What is now? A million, eight hundred thousand, ????

In short, as a human being, as an individual, you are an empty shell, capable of any atrocity.*

However, it's not really a matter of individuals. If you weren't on the front lines, some one else would be.**

I just finished reading Hitler's Mein Kampf. He was a twice wounded soldier in WW I, and talk about an enthusiastic soldier, he jumped for joy when the war started, with no questions asked. He describes his experiences in the book, and I'm pretty sure any soldier would find it interesting reading.

But, he goes beyond that to discuss the resuscitation of Germany. German, in addition to losing the war, had been crushed spiritually by the Social Democrats and communists in Germany, and had been saddled after the war with the treaty of Versailles, written by the 'international financiers', with the aim of enslaving the German people.

So, the book is a social and political analysis of what it will take to revive the spirit of nationalism that animates Hitler and that he wants to animate the German nation. Here is what I'm getting to ... he discusses what it takes to move the society to action, and his analysis is that the masses are essentially mindless idiots that can be swayed by propaganda and by charismatic leaders.

Well, there is good news and bad news.

The good news: If Hitler was right, and he was, then you are absolved of any personal responsibility. As one of the masses, you are and always will be a mindless idiot, easily swayed by propaganda and/or charismatic leadership. It is a harsh judgment, but accurate, I think.

The bad news: well.....

We are accustomed to thinking of and intelligent and informed electorate making democratic decisions .. etc., etc., ..... this is all just a bunch of leftist propaganda, identified as such by Hitler by the way ..... it is a ruse, and it's hard to shake. I, a very bright fellow, have bought (a little) into it for years. However, it is complete nonsense. A hundred miles from the truth.

Only a few see the ruse. And our significance? Zero. Hitler was also contemptuous of the 'intelligentsia', and, with good reason.

* I have to remind myself that I too participated in the war machine, designing/developing the weapons whose only purpose is the destruction of civilization if not the human race. So, I too should be judged harshly.

**This is our out.
six foot, my husband served for 16 years, and was medically retired. The only thing that keeps him from being called up and shipped out is that he's medically rated to fire a gun but not carry one. (yeah, I get a wtf feeling when I think about that, too) As much as his disabilities are often a serious issue in our lives, I am strangely grateful that it means I do not have to watch him deploy.

And I understand the notion of going for your buddies, to protect the people you serve with. People who haven't served or loved someone who has don't understand that one of the things that makes our military the best in the world -- the deep abiding loyalty that troops have to their comrades in arms -- is what makes them want to return to their units.

Thank you for your service, for your committment. Please keep safe as you do your mission. Keep writing. Your viewpoint is an important one for people to hear.
Narcissus - I reject your continued comparison of aerospace/defense industry employees and soldiers. That was a job for you. One that you apparently left. In so doing you incurred no legal consequences, and the boss didn't keep from leaving because it wasn't convenient. You were likely well-paid, and no matter how much you regret the time you spent designing instruments of death, you probably made in the vicinity of twice what I make, and three times what my troops make. I chose to join the Army, I do not get to choose which wars I go and fight. It's part of the deal, that's why they call it a duty. I also reject the idea that my fellow soldiers and I are soulless because - well, just because.

DavidNYC - Awesome.

Special shout-out to all the "Army Wives" (and husbands?) who are reading. You forever have my gratitude and respect.

Bed time.
Glad to see the new posts.

You are not a soulless empty shell, just because.
Good for you, SFS. I have 4 friends that have served in Iraq, all with varied political beliefs and reasons for being there. Ones just gone back for his second tour.
My grandfather is a retired Lt. Colonel and my other grandfather was retired Air Force. I consider myself a liberal, but as a student of history, I agree with you that war is going to happen. We, as a society, need a military. Period. As you wrote, a soldier doesn't have a choice in which war he serves. You are intelligent, thoughtful and conscientious. Thank you for your service and for writing here.
first the troops are loyal to the nation. but they are betrayed. then they are loyal to one another, but they are betrayed. then they are loyal to nothing, and the nation changes hands.
SFS writes "You were likely well-paid, and no matter how much you regret the time you spent designing instruments of death"

Actually, I don't regret the time I spent working for the war department. I knew what I was doing. I, like every other DoD employee that I know, designed WMD with the same sense of awareness that we would have had designing washing machines. Well, in my case there was a smidge more, but nothing significant. I'm afraid that I to am a soulless empty shell.

The bottom line is that the human animal is by and large without, at least on the societal level, any moral consciousness whatever. Not a bit. To think otherwise is useless self-deception.
Hold on and keep your head up, SFS. My best buddy (ok, lover) from law school is as much a dyed-in-the-wool liberal as I am, but he served well and honorably in Afghanistan and other war-torn parts of the world. His service taught me much about the military, duty, and why he and others like him do what he does.

Your posts accomplish those same things. Keep posting, and come home. And bring as many of the kids back with you as you can. I am assured by your post that that is your aim. I hope the families of your men and women know how dedicated you are to the troops' well-being.
Not a comment, just a question...why did you join the service? Inquiring minds and all that...
GabbyAbby - Funny you should ask... Go check out my post "Why I Quit Delivering Pizza." The reasons have evolved over the years, but that's how it all started.

Stop loss is nothing new. Due to reach my EAOS in September of 1982 after being admitted to a college to finish my degreeand approved for a one month early out to start in the fall semester. I was looking for my discharge physical when I recieved orders one day. Thinking that they were my final ones and contained my amended dishrge date they were instead orders telling me that since I was in a "critical" rating and the Navy had no replacement for me that I had been indefinitely extended at the convienience of the government. So stop loss may be used on a wider scale but it is in no way new. It's just one of those things that hide in the fine print of the contract that so many sign without fully understanding, like me.
SFS: Keep up the good work and the great posts. You've given everyone lots to think about and your friends even more reasons to be proud to know you. Can't wait to get you and yours up to the Cove for some R&R Canadian style.
Amazing, your sharing here.
What Floyd said. Thanks for being there. I'm no fan of the war, but I appreciate the sacrifices you all are making on our behalf.