It begins

I’ve been threatening this for almost a year now.  I think the time has come.  This is the perfect place and time to kick start the “Engage Me” project.  I have access to all kinds of artistic talent and facilities here at Las Positas College and I intend to take advantage.

Since starting this Mass Communications class, I’ve seen some of the more extreme examples of social media’s effect on lives, companies, regimes et al.  It is both frightening and inviting at the same time.  My little world of beating up liberals on Facebook isn’t even a zit on the butt end of worldwide interconnectivity via this new media.

In class, we are learning to use some of the tools associated with the new media phenomenon.  The following is a presentation I created using  Prezi.com, a simple but truly amazing tool.  I’ve only incorporated the very basic components available in the interest of getting all my assignments done on time.  Still, this is a great starting point for my project and I can certainly build on this as I go.  It’s important to note that had I tried doing this several years ago, I’d have taken days to do so.  I finished this admittedly simple presentation in two hours.

Engage Me

God save me, but I can’t do this fast enough…

ENGAGE ME. I AM ONE OF YOU.

I’d meant to publish this in it’s musical format in memory of my Brothers, but I’m just not there yet.  My voice is still shot, my guitar work is shaky, so, I decided to let it go as is for today and I’ll get back to the musical version as I can.  They wont mind as long as I didn’t forget.

RIP Santi.  I know you’re watching.  I miss you Brother.  Hi to Prince and Rex.

Engage Me

What was the price I was supposed to pay?

What quest did I fail, to whom should I pray?

Did I come back too whole to warrant your greetings?

Was my soul not enough, or were your graces too fleeting?

Best friends dying, some gone in the head

Others are drowning in poisons instead

No one back home cares a damn for this mess

They wish it was over they do confess

 

Engage me

I’m not a name on a wall

Engage me

Just one little call

Engage me

Why do you stall

Engage me

This will end in a fall

 

If you live through the chaos and make it back home

They’ll think you’ve been brainwashed, a killer drone

If you don’t conform and act just like them

You’ll be banished for life, scorned and condemned

People will leave you without recourse

No one will show one bit of remorse

They’re done with you now, you’ve outlived your need

Move along soldier, we’ve got a new breed

 

Engage me

There’s a price on my head

Engage me

I’ve made mistakes that I dread

Engage me

I’ve been so scared that I fled

Engage me

Give me some purpose instead

 

Once you were golden, the cream of the crop

The best of the best that no one could stop

Your buds had your six, they kept you alive

Twenty-four seven, three sixty-five

Now you’re a nothing, you’re on your own

Left for dead in the VA zone.

Nothing can be done, there’s nothing we can do

Just roll over there, boy, join the twenty-two.

 

Engage me

I cannot live in this place

Engage me

So, I don’t fall on my face

Engage me

My choices end in disgrace

Engage me

Give me a chance in this race

 

Nobody warned us how you would turn

That in a moment you could burn

All that we gave, and all that we saved

You’d be happy to lend us an early grave.

What if we didn’t answer the call

What if we turned away from the brawl

How would your towers still stand tall

What good would be done if we all fall

 

Engage me

I don’t want to be through

Engage me

I am one of you

Engage me

Can’t you see that it’s true

Engage me

I bleed red, white, and blue

 

I am just like you

end

Alive

Its been so long since I wanted to write

not to scribble in anger, or hammer my rage

or describe the latest source of fright

but to reach out, touch it and earn the wage

that would buy me a reason to still be alive.

 

So it came as a surprise when

my keyboard came alive and then

words were thrown about to blend

and in every meaningful way did mend

my life, my soul, and all that jive.

 

Still, I wonder,

was this path forced upon me

because they felt it was a necessity

or because the gods destroyed the key

that would have granted eternity

before this purgatory they could contrive

 

Quickly I grasp at the tendered hands

Gratefully engaged, I reenter in time

For my soul to be kept in calm lands

To be part of the next phase in line.

So weak am I, yet He bids me survive

 

There is now a faint pulse in my chest

A door has opened, safe passage revealed

I strive once more to finish the quest

Before the favor might be repealed

There is yet much to claim as mine, to thrive.

 

I remember, I do, this thing called, Alive.

Last Days (Written on the 18th)

Most of you know I struggle with remembering “those bad days“.  Today I had another revelation.  It so happens that this is the anniversary of my injury date.  As has happened the last three years on or around this date, memories jump out at me.  Sometimes they come at me in droves.  Sometimes just one.  This year, so far, just the one today, but it’s a big one…and it’s early.

45 years ago, today (about right now, I think.  I was either injured on the 18th at 0300 and transported to Saigon later that morning, or I was injured at 0300 on the 17th and managed to suffer through an additional day in Saigon before shipping out.  I think that last is unlikely.

3rdFieldHospital

Welcome to U S Army 3rd Field Hospital. I read the sign sideways and realized I wasn’t on Bien Hoa anymore.  I’m on a gurney entering 3rd Field Hospital in Saigon.  I didn’t know it was Saigon at the time. I was still trying to sort out the ringing in my ears.  I’ve been in and out of it since cracking my head on the Tarmac at the 11th Cav’s Heliport on Bien Hoa earlier this morning, so I don’t remember a lot, but I remember rolling past that sign.

I’m lying on my right side, holding my damaged left one.  There’s a group of young Vietnamese women (girls, maybe) sitting under a large tree, in the shade, sipping tea no doubt.  It seemed like they were inside the Hospital compound.  I smiled when one caught my eye.  She smiled back, drawing her hand across her throat, the smile turning into a death’s head grimace.  I laugh and flip her off.  She feigns disgust and turns away.  An NCO is in my face screaming at me for messing with the locals.  I laugh and flip him off too.  Fuck it, I feel gooo-oood!

I think I spent at least two days here, though I can’t be sure.  It could have been one overnight and then across the street to Tan Son Nhut and home.  I just don’t know and there’s no fekkin records, of course.  I lost the Army when I left the 34th in Bien Hoa and they didn’t find me again, it seemed, until they discharged me 2 months later.  Things were so messed up, they paid me twice for my last 4 months, then took it all back before they discharged me…all that in about 45 minutes while processing out at Fort Devens, MA.

I do remember snippets at the hospital.  I remember looking out my window, I think it was my window or a window near my bunk in the hospital, though I don’t think I was able to get up then.  I was on the second floor.  The view was of the roof of a portico that stuck out from the hospital below me.  There was a sandbagged fighting position there.  I was suddenly thrust back into reality and fear gripped me.  I had neither Prince, nor any of my weapons.

I remember moaning.  Mine perhaps until I wake, but often, it comes from the fellow next to me who has no feet.  They must change the bandages every few hours.  He’s out cold and he screams through the entire process anyway.  I catch myself screaming with him more than once.  He doesn’t realize it, he just reaches out.  I reach out and grab his hand.  It’s a mistake.  He crushes my hand and there’s no getting it back until he finally gasps one last gasp and surrenders to what counts for his respite…an unconscious, raging, nightmare that never ends…and never will.

I look up from my bunk and someone is turning away from me, saying something about “sleepy heads”.  I feel a weight on my chest.  This man says something and my next-door neighbor moans, loudly.

“Hey! Can’t you keep this guy calm? I can’t hear myself think. Come on, now!”

“Yes, sir. He’s just very uncomfortable, sir. We keep him sedated but the pain still leaks through and his nightmares are horrendous, sir. He’s struggling.”

“I see, yes…”

My neighbor screams as his bunk is bumped with all the traffic.  There’s people all around.  WTF, over?

“Oh, hell.  That’s it.  I’m done with this.  Let’s go.”  The man turns from my neighbor to walk away.

“Sir?”

“I said, I’M DONE!  LET’S GO!”

I grab what’s on my chest and pitch it at the back of the jerk.  It connects.  The gent freezes.  Starts to turn, then freezes again.  He continues out of the ward with his entourage in tow.  Questions flying.  I’m disappointed the ass didn’t confront me.  I’m still feeling great.

Someone’s in my face in a minute.

“You better hope we can get you out of here, NOW, you idiot?  Do you know who that was?”

I’m not having any of it.  This was fun.  I laughed.  Whoever it was turned and walked away muttering.

I turn on my right side.  My neighbor is looking at me through drug crazed eyes.

“Fuck it, man. It don’t mean nuthin!” He was warning me.  I didn’t hear him.

————

My next memory is of sometime after that incident in the hospital ward. It could have been hours and it could have been days.  I’m back on a gurney being wheeled somewhere outside.  It’s blistering hot and sunny, I can smell diesel and Jet fuel.  I think I was headed for my Freedom Bird, a Medivac flight on Tan Son Nhut AFB.

I remember croaking something and trying to sit up.  Someone plants me back down and says, “Easy PFC, easy.  Don’t want another knock on the noggin, do you?”

“Where…” was all I could manage.

“Home, you lucky bastard, home that’s where.  Now, sit still and let me…”

I seemed to fade out for a while again then.  My next continuous spell of consciousness (lasting more than a few hours) occurred five days after I was injured, possibly 2 or 3 days after the incident in the hospital ward.  I was on a C5A Galaxy headed for Guam.  I had supposedly already been to Japan for a refuel and spent 2 days on Clark AFB in the Philippines.  I don’t remember anything but snippets of those times, if anything, but when I woke on that jet to Guam and had no Prince and no weapons, again, I went nuts.  I remember that because when the guy approached me with the needle to knock me out again, I begged.  He did anyway.

This is a bit of a breakthrough for me.  I hadn’t remembered much about the hospital until now. Tomorrow is the day I will have left Vietnam in 1972.  On this day, back then, I am trying to help my neighbor whose name and fate, I never will know while condemning myself to a difficult path out.  I wonder who that officer was and if he had awarded me some commendation????  No matter, I…ahem…promptly gave it back to him.  Lol!  The memory is worth twenty.  He was a shit!

Time wasn’t caught

 

 What if there wasn’t any reason at all

To wake up, take a chance, maybe a fall?

Why not just stay under, far out of touch,

Never see sunlight, people or such?

There always seems to be somebody’s cause

Something to save, or to give us pause.

Shouldn’t there be, just occasionally,

Nothing at all, on an endless sea

Of no need or want, no lack or pain,

Only an open field, on those great fruited plains?

Did I miss the turning point, go the wrong way?

Was there some other duty or tariff to pay?

Where did freedom lose my life?

Since when did honor bear only strife?

Time made me think that I could still win

Then drew me down to where safety thins.

Where there isn’t room to hide within

Where only God doesn’t fear the din.

Where I dance and writhe in blood-soaked skin.

What if there wasn’t any reason at all?

What if you had to make that call?

Who would you blame then, what would you say?

If you looked in my eyes and couldn’t look away.

“You’re too poor.”  “You’re angry.” “You don’t fit in”

“No, I can’t help you.  Good bye.” With a grin?

Where did your heart go, can you not feel the swell?

What coldness allows that you can’t even tell

That you’ve become the very evil we fought

That in the end, it was you who was caught,

While feelings, truth and time were not.

 

22 sounds about right, maybe a little light.

soldier1

Most of you know I was injured in work back in 2013 and haven’t returned to work since. Our hope was that I would eventually heal enough and build up enough core strength to return to work. Alas poor Yorick, I is done. My lumbar is not cooperating.   On March 8 of this year, I retired.

Now, I’m not one to sit and love it, so I’ve been game planning. Besides, we are not ready to retire $-wise.

You all know, I write. I also have a decent eye for what makes for a good picture. If I were to combine the two, I would have a sort of photo-journalist kind of person to work with. I can’t do that job though because of the mobility issues and I probably wouldn’t be able to carry all that camera crap around with me everywhere anyway. But, I can self employ at my own speed.

I already have one option opening up to do Tech-writing for a local company. This task will combine photography, videography and writing. Other similar opportunities will open up too, once word of mouth does it’s thing.  With just short visits to the factory, I can do most of this work at home.

Add to that my own creations and I have what I feel is decent plan. I don’t actually need to work full time and that opportunity I spoke of will take up about 20 hours a week. Tech writing pays very well, btw. Thing is, I need training. I barely can take simple “auto” mode pics with today’s rigs.

So, my plan brought me to earning an A.S. in Occupational Photography at Las Positas College.  I already have all the general ed course I could possibly need and only need the Photo, Video, Web Design, etal classes and some creative writing stuff too.  I can finally get that degree I put off for the needs of being a dad.   So, that takes care of the schooling but not living too. I need to bump our income at the same time. Hard to do when you can’t work.

I am still eligible for Voc Rehab through the VA, via a clause that covers disabled vets who through injury, can’t perform the work they are trained for, even if their normal eligibility for that benefit had expired. I fall under this category.  This benefit pays tuition, books, supplies and numerous other perks.  It also provides the veteran with a monthly stipend to help pay living expenses.

I applied for Voc Rehab with the VA on Feb 8, 2017. After 8 weeks of no response, and my registration date fast approaching, I called them. They couldn’t find my app and told me someone would call back that day. They didn’t. I called again, twice, and finally got through to a person. This time they did find my app and we’re very concerned that it had been sitting around for so long!!!!!  “Someone will call you back shortly!” I didn’t hold my breath.

This time they did call back…in ten minutes with very cryptic instructions to be there early the next day for evaluation and assessment with the good folks at Oakland VR&E (Voc Rehab and Education), applying pressure like it was my fault they had screwed the pooch.

I also had about 8 hours of prep work to do prior to going. I was up until 2am doing that then back up at 6am so I wouldn’t be late.

I made it to my appt. and after sitting around for two hours, doing absolutely nothing, my assigned councilor called me to her office and promptly excused herself, leaving me with her trainee. 30 minutes later she came in, reviewed my file for 10 minutes then said this…

“I have to be honest, Mr. Hurder, you’re 65, you’re injured, by the time you get out of school, you’ll be 67/68. Who’s going to hire you? I’m afraid I have to recommend against granting you Chapter 35 benefits, you’re unemployable.”

What I heard in my head to go with that was “go lay down in the corner and die.”  What I felt was that from the initial denial via no call to the moment I walked in that office, that they had pre-identified me as an easy rejection and made me pay for that status.  I was the only one still awaiting an interview , by an hour at minimum, when called into her office.  The next round of Vets were already processing in, before I was seen.  I was rejected before any of my group were finished, though.

Speechless and angry, I had to leave the room. While I was out, this-person-conferred with her boss who agreed that discriminating against the aged and the disabled was okay. I removed myself completely before the fireworks began. I sat in their damn garage for another 30 minutes, at $2/half hour, because I WOULD have gone atomic in a road rage incident for sure!  I couldn’t even wait for the assholes to reimburse me for mileage.

This should never happen. I have tried so hard to NOT point fingers at the VA. This was a truly suck experience, though, and it was at the hands of the VA. I was humiliated in front of several other Vets and all the fake-smiling, cold-hearted bastards who work there.   I was too embarrassed to face my family and tell them, yet again, I’ve failed to get that degree.

Later, after somehow making it home safely where I could further stew on this, I got progressively more angry, then depressed. For some period of time, I don’t know how long, I envisioned my end clearly. My vision was so black…and then red. I debated it, I really did. And they wonder at the 22…who are these fucking people?  I had to completely Isolate from humankind and from all things physical…for hours.

I wrote to everyone and mailed not a one. I doubt any of them give a damn. If they really did, could the VA still operate like this? While I will send those letters today because no one should be allowed to get away with that behavior, I’ve also decided to find a way forward, without them. They can eat shit, like they always have.  I will go ahead and register for classes and we’ll see what God and fate send my way.  I have some time, yet.

I made it 45 years without any help from the dicks. I’ll make it the rest of the way.  But, now I’ll hammer them every day of my life until the day I die, on their own sites/pages/forums etc.  No mercy!  No excuses!

The Department of Veterans Affairs  SUCKS!

And, oh BTW, for all the good the AMVETS have been, I’d have done better asking BLM to represent me. At least I’d have known they intended to fuck me.  The best thing I can do to reflect my dissatisfaction with those supposed agents of good who are nothing more than clowns in uniforms, pretending to give a fuck, is to change my representative in as public a way as I can.  I will do that very thing!  Coming soon!

Fuck ’em all!