“We need more Marines down here.”

I don’t know how to stop veteran and active duty military suicide. I don’t know how to stop any kind of suicide. I know part of my brother’s story, though, and maybe somewhere in there is an answer. He started writing a book in the early spring of 2013. He attempted to explain the sickness plaguing the Marine Corps. He never finished his book.

In his own words:

“I am no Chesty Puller. I am no Hero. I am no shitbag. I am a Marine that is retired from the business of keeping his mouth shut. I’m just telling the truth behind the things I saw and my Marine Corps experience. I am telling what I see causing the sickness and depression inside our Corps and how I’ve seen my brothers, some wounded Warriors support the efforts to fix the problems from the outside that our Government will not recognize.”

He has written more about his experience on his website All Around Intensity Fitness.

———-Tuesday, October 15, 2013. ——-

My brother was spray painting a pair of motorcycle helmets with a matte black paint. I told him to go closer by the woods, since the fumes were drifting toward the house. I went for a walk to the end of the driveway, and turned to look back at the house. Standing there, on the ground at the end of the driveway, the house was clearly visible. I walked back toward the house and stopped by the woods where my brother was painting.

“They definitely lied,” I said.

He nodded in agreement. For a moment he paused, looking down at the helmets, and I didn’t think he would respond.

Then he asked, “why?”

I told him that you could see the house easily from the ground. Without a doubt it could be seen just as well from the air. Earlier that morning, after we spoke to the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force , they went over to the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facility and had someone from CBP call us to explain a helicopter flyover. My only conclusion to their explanation was that they must have lied.

Several months before this conversation– July 5, 2013– a helicopter operated by Customs and Border Protection flew up our driveway, parallel to the power lines, and then circled three times over the very woods where my brother was standing– the woods which separated the front pasture from our private yard. The helicopter flew over us at less than 40 ft altitude (the height of our utility pole), perhaps the same distance– 40 ft– from the front porch of our house. I called FAA, outraged that anyone was allowed to fly that low. We were not close enough to the airport to justify that. I was told by FAA that they couldn’t do anything about government aircrafts, and that I would have to call CBP directly. I did. By CBP, I was told that the flyover was part of an investigation.

The October 15th, 2013 explanation was that there was an unanticipated low cloud ceiling and the helicopter operator was forced to fly at a much lower altitude than usual. He made three circles to get his bearings, then flew back to the airport.

On the phone with them, my brother asked: “do you make any effort to avoid people and houses on the ground?”

“Yes, we do,” was the officer’s terse response.

Looking at it from the end of the driveway, I could not understand how an operator with any intention to avoid disturbing residents on the ground would fly along the driveway leading toward the house, when the house could be plainly seen from 300ft away. He circled the woods 3 times, flying through our yard each time. Our trailer was shaking violently. He could have simply veered into one of the surrounding fields instead— we have 17 acres of open pasture– if it were a matter of getting his bearings straight. CBP

 

But I’ve never operated a helicopter before so maybe I’m just mistaken.

My brother finished painting the helmets. He painted 3 of them, one for me, one for Seth, and one for himself. He told me we’d have to get one for my 4 year old son, too, but for now he could use one of ours.

“They won’t stop a bullet, but they’ll still be helpful.”

My brother was getting us prepared for a fire fight. He was certain that the FBI, or another branch of Homeland Security, would be dispatched soon– most likely to take him, because he was a veteran. He was convinced that they would not spare any one of us, though.

He was troubled over the fact that he had recently had surgery for an infection on his right hand. He was on antibiotics that made him “feel weird.” He couldn’t use his thumb, and the reality sank in that he might not be at his prime when it mattered most. I remember how somber he was that day. How his mood had changed since the hours earlier, when he had been cooking pancakes in his swim shorts, joking and lighthearted.

I was concerned and relieved. My brother was looking out for us. He must know things about the government that we didn’t know. He knew his own training, his own capacities, and that there were other men out there with the same kind of training who might be ready, even eager, to use their training against civilians here in the US. Against us.

I mean, it was clear that the flyover must have been intentional, if not a sign of absolute recklessness. I didn’t need my brother to point that out to me. We had just been visited by the FBI as domestic terrorism suspects because we had been persistent to inquire about the flyover and because my brother was a well-trained veteran Staff Sergeant in the Marines who had been making videos to demonstrate tactical weapons training… that scared them the most. Not only were we upset, but at least one of us was very upset and very skilled.

I sat on the steps and watched him finish cleaning and prepping vests and other protective gear that we would use if it became necessary. When he was done, he walked over to me, calmly explaining how we would use each item and where we would store it in the meantime for quick access.

He looked at me intensely. “We need more Marines down here.”

Those words struck me more deeply than anything else he had said. He was losing confidence in himself. He needed his brothers.

We weren’t living in a mutual paranoid delusion. This was reality. Naturally, we had no capacity to know what it meant for the future. Perhaps the FBI really did determine that we were mostly harmless individuals with some political views rooted in suspicion and cynicism. Or perhaps we seemed more of a threat than we thought. And if so, then what would they do?

My brother Jon and his best friend from childhood, also a Marine.

Shooting at the farm. My brother Jon and his best friend from childhood, also a Marine.

Shaking Up Your Routine

Life is dynamic. It changes constantly and every time your work yourself into a good routine, something new comes along to knock it down. If you’ve pushed yourself hard in the past through intense workout programs and you KNOW you can do it, keeping it going may be more about your ability to adapt to life’s changes than your ability to actually do the work. If life were simple and predictable, there would probably be a lot more people keeping fit than there are. Without that predictability, it’s easy to shrug off your routine and start feeling sorry for yourself– telling yourself that you would do it if only this or that new obstacle hadn’t gotten in the way.

Let’s face it, life is all about work. Think of your body in the way you think of your house. You clean your dishes, you sweep the floor, you wash the laundry and the next day it has to be done all over again. Every day you have to wake up and work on your body, work on your diet, cook healthy food (wash the dishes, put away the leftovers, etc). Every day is work and it requires diligence. The moment you let the work slide, that’s when the house starts to fall apart. Next thing you know there is a pile of dishes sitting in the sink and you’re sitting on the couch eating a microwave pizza because there were no clean pots or pans to prepare any decent food with.

Keep yourself working. Remember diligence and consistency keep your momentum going and they are absolutely key to your success. Keep your house clean as the day goes along and you won’t have a big mess to clean up at the end of the week. Keep your body in top condition and you won’t find yourself 20 lbs overweight at the start of the new year.

If you have woken up to a big mess and you’re not sure where to start, just start slowly. One thing at a time. Get your body moving and get your heart rate up. You’ll feel better. Then spend some time putting together a plan to keep yourself from getting knocked off course by the challenges that fall in your path. Keep yourself motivated by putting inspirational quotes on the fridge or the wall or in front of your game system (anywhere that you’ll see them often). Set up a corner in the living room where you can put up a work out schedule or a poster with different bodyweight exercises that you can take a few minutes a day to do. Better yet, do 20 push ups every time you set foot in the kitchen, or do 30 squats every time you head to the bathroom. The more you incorporate your fitness into your lifestyle, the more successful you will be.

There is always time to change.

Picking Yourself Up

I’ve gone through so many ups and downs when it comes to diet, fitness and weight loss. It seems like the most important challenge that I face every single day is not giving in to my doubts. Even after weeks, months, or years it can be easy to start sliding backwards and within a few months of losing your ground, it can feel like you are starting back at the beginning.

Right now I am working on combatting this. I have been pushing myself every single day to dosomething and when I’ve proven to myself that I can do it, then it’s easier to push even harder. My workouts for the past week have been very consistent and very intense and my diet is much cleaner than it has been over the past several months, or perhaps even this past year. I can already see and feel the changes in my body, but most importantly, I can feel it in my mind.

I want to talk about one experience that I had when I was seventeen and I had spent 5 weeks in the woods. I was overweight, out of shape, but I was there for a challenge. I was curious about finding my limits, but unfortunately  I was not determined. I was with a group of people who were athletes of all different types and their fitness intimidated me, because I really believed that some people were just made that way and some people weren’t– they were athletes and I wasn’t, and I couldn’t be.

It was the last day of the trip and we had a long hike ahead of us, 5.5 miles where we would ascend nearly 2,500 feet– so it was constantly uphill, and then 5.5 miles downhill. The challenge, like the mountain, loomed over me and threatened my courage. I convinced myself that I couldn’t do it. I was crying, pleading with the crew leaders and on the verge of a panic attack.

But I did it. When I realized I had no choice, and that they would not leave me behind, I was able to turn off the doubt and I did it. We hiked quickly, too. My heart was racing and my breath was fast, but I kept climbing and climbing until we reached the summit of the mountain and I was standing on the deck of an old fire tower looking out at the sweeping landscape of the Great Smoky Mountains.

It’s easy to forget great accomplishments if you let yourself. It’s easy to forget that your doubts are just your imagination, and it’s really easy to forget, or to not even know or appreciate, all that your body can do. Our bodies are made to work. Our bodies are made to carry us through this life and they are made to overcome the challenges imagined by a weak mind.

I am about to start Day 8 of really challenging myself and changing my life. This past week has been the most fulfilling week I’ve had in a long time. I started this in some ways to battle the chronic and lingering depression that I was feeling, and I have to say that it really seems to be working.

When you wake up in the morning, and you see mountains on the horizon– ACCEPT THE CHALLENGE. You will make it.