Wednesday, December 21, 2011

last call


The last US military member killed in the Iraq War
A cutup who liked to joke around with friends. A physical fitness fanatic who half-kiddingly called himself "Zeus" because he had a body that would make the gods jealous. A ferocious outside linebacker at Northeast Guilford High School who was the linchpin of a defense so complicated they had to scrap it after he graduated because no other teenager could figure it out.

Hickman was these things and more, a whole life scarcely glimpsed in the terse language of a Defense Department news release last month. Three paragraphs said Hickman died in Baghdad on Nov. 14, "of injuries suffered after encountering an improvised explosive device."

He was more, too, than the man who bears the symbolic freight of being the last member of the U.S. military to die in a war launched in the political shadow of 9/11, which brought thousands of his fellow citizens out into the streets to oppose and support it. Eventually, the war largely faded from the public's thoughts.

"There's a lot of people, in my family included, they don't know what's going on in this world," said Wes Needham, who coached linebackers at Northeast when David was a student. "They're oblivious to it. I just sit and think about it, the courage that it takes to do what they do, especially when they're all David's age."
And they were mostly young. According to an Associated Press analysis of casualty data, the average age of Americans who died in Iraq was 26. Nearly 1,300 were 22 or younger, but middle-aged people fought and died as well: some 511 were older than 35.

"I've trained a lot of kids. They go to college and you kind of lose track of them and forget them," said Mike King of Greensboro Black Belt Academy, where Hickman trained in taekwondo for about eight years. "He was never like that. That smile and that laugh immediately come to mind."



SWAT Team Shooting of Marine Vet Causes Outrage

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Jose Guerena Ortiz was sleeping after an exhausting 12-hour night shift at a copper mine. His wife, Vanessa, had begun breakfast. Their 4-year-old son, Joel, asked to watch cartoons.
An ordinary morning was unfolding in the middle-class Tucson neighborhood -- until an armored vehicle pulled into the family's driveway and men wearing heavy body armor and helmets climbed out, weapons ready.

They were a sheriff's department SWAT team who had come to execute a search warrant. But Vanessa Guerena insisted she had no idea, when she heard a "boom" and saw a dark-suited man pass by a window, that it was police outside her home. She shook her husband awake and told him someone was firing a gun outside.

A U.S. Marine veteran of the Iraq war, he was only trying to defend his family, she said, when he grabbed his own gun -- an AR-15 assault rifle.
What happened next was captured on video after a member of the SWAT team activated a helmet-mounted camera.


The officers -- four of whom carried .40-caliber handguns while another had an AR-15 -- moved to the door, briefly sounding a siren, then shouting "Police!" in English and Spanish. With a thrust of a battering ram, they broke the door open. Eight seconds passed before they opened fire into the house.
And 10 seconds later, Guerena lay dying in a hallway 20 feet from the front door. The SWAT team fired 71 rounds, riddling his body 22 times, while his wife and child cowered in a closet.


"Hurry up, he's bleeding," Vanessa Guerena pleaded with a 911 operator. "I don't know why they shoot him. They open the door and shoot him. Please get me an ambulance."
When she emerged from the home minutes later, officers hustled her to a police van, even as she cried that her husband was unresponsive and bleeding, and that her young son was still inside. She begged them to get Joel out of the house before he saw his father in a puddle of blood on the floor.
But soon afterward, the boy appeared in the front doorway in Spider-Man pajamas, crying.

 The Pima County Sheriff's Department said its SWAT team was at the home because Guerena was suspected of being involved in a drug-trafficking organization and that the shooting happened because he arrived at the door brandishing a gun. The county prosecutor's office says the shooting was  



But six months after the May 5 police gunfire shattered a peaceful morning and a family's life, investigators have made no arrests in the case that led to the raid. Outraged friends, co-workers and fellow Marines have called the shooting an injustice and demanded further investigation. A family lawyer has filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against the sheriff's office. And amid the outcry in online forums and social media outlets, the sheriff's 54-second video, which found its way to YouTube, has drawn more than 275,000 views.
The many questions swirling around the incident all boil down to one, repeated by Vanessa Guerena, as quoted in the 1,000-page police report on the case:

"Why, why, why was he killed?"


Wednesday, December 14, 2011


Some very big things have been going on in my life lately all of them good. I'm making measurable gains in my strength and stamina in both occupational and physical therapy. The approximately 13 months I have been going to the VA for therapy sessions have resulted in going from sitting in my wheelchair for about an hour a day, was unable to hold my head up straight most of that time with very limited range of motion in my arms and legs;  to spending an average of 10 to 12 hours a day the same wheelchair with little or no fatigue. I've completed countless hours of physical exercise and I'm to the point where the home health care system at the local VA has decided to promote me out of the home healthcare program!

this is a good thing!

along with physical and occupational therapies, I'm in psychological therapy. I've written about that a couple of times so this shouldn't be a surprise. This posting is directly attributed to that psychological therapy. Because of my transition, I'm no longer going to be able to see the psychologists I have been seeing in the home health care program. And because I'm obviously still nuttier than a Christmas fruitcake she recommended I attend therapy sessions in the hospital at the mood clinic. I have an appointment on 19 December for evaluation there. They think they are evaluating me, but I assure you I am doing as much evaluating as they will. And in light of this transition Dr. Steiner has asked me to write a little essay about what it is I hope to accomplish in sessions at the clinic.

1. I'm still having a hard time with my mental self-image.
A little background:
in grammar school I was one of the smaller kids in the class. Boys my own age were at least half a head taller than me, and although I ate like a horse I was skinny as a rail. But I had a built-in mean streak and an extremely quick wit that prevented me from being bullied in class. I attended the only Catholic school in my hometown and as such I was required to wear black trousers, a dress white shirt and a necktie everyday. None of the other families near me attended that school I was the only one going home every afternoon dressed in something other than jeans and T-shirt. They may as well have painted a bull's-eye on me. I averaged one flight a week and sometimes more, from the first grade all the way through the sixth grade.

Then in the summer before 7th grade a miracle took place. The first time I walked through the doors of Jacksonville junior high school in September of that year I was 6 feet tall, broad shouldered and looking for a little payback. Ansd since I was no longer in the Catholic school I wasn't required to wear a shirt and tie every day and fighting back without the fear of being punished for having my school clothes ruined gave a free reign to the anger I had from those grade shool days.

But I still had a mental image of myself as a small skinny kid. A physical confrontation with a bully, where I was able to intimidate him just by my size alone, helped me to reform a more positive mental image of myself. And as I grew older, I grew larger and my mental image grew with it, so that before this cancer struck I was physically and mentally 6'4" tall 225 pounds.

Today I'm still 6'4" tall on my right side and approximately 5'9" tall on my left side. But from my vantage point in my wheelchair I'm probably right around 4'5" tall and I literally have a belt buckle view of the world around me. 
I have not come to grips with this physical situation and I guess my biggest problem is I'm still carrying a mental image of 6'4" tall man. This problem becomes more complex when I continue to hang onto the notion that all I need is a prosthetic leg and a little more time to be that 6'4" man again.

2. I want to work on acquiring skills that will help me cope with the situation if I am unable to accomplish my goal of walking again.

3. I want to discover who I am now on the inside, regardless of success in number one above. The things I have gone through in this ordeal have made significant changes in me. I want to recognize, address and embrace those changes.

4. I need help in acquiring new skills of communication with people around me. I'm still unsure what is considered proper etiquette or protocol when people question me about my status. This isn't new. I've always been the kind of person who wonders aloud when people say things like "nice to meet you" 
to which I usually reply "really why is that?"
but now there's a whole new set of circumstances and opportunities for people to say things to me that elicit a sardonic response. And while sometimes such a response is mandatory for my well-being, there are other times, like when a child asks what happened to you? It is quite inappropriate! 

5. I want to accomplish all of the above without being institutionalized…

Merry Christmas

Sunday, December 4, 2011


it's that time of year again. People are decorating their houses. Shoppers are in the malls searching for the perfect gift. Families  are making travel arrangements to go back home for a visit. Menus are being planned for the occasion. Stockings are being stuffed and children have eyes widened in great wonder in anticipation of a visit from Santa Claus.

not much exists of the Christmases I remember as a child. It's all become a commercial mess, where people when asked "What's the true meaning of Christmas?" They almost always respond it's about family and giving, and remembering our loved ones, and caring for the poor and needy, or any number of things that have absolutely nothing to do with the religious nature of the holiday. 
We used to attend midnight mass at the Catholic Church in my hometown. We used to say Merry Christmas to everyone we met. For reasons beyond the scope of this discussion around age 12 I stepped away from all of that. I spent the next 20 years of my life in complete rebellion to all the things involving Christianity and Christmas.

but at no time in my life did I ever hold the belief that's reflected in this picture:

So while you may be offended by me using the term


You're nowhere nearly as offended as I am by the sentiment espoused by this jackass.

ps, Not happy holidays. good kwanza, season's greetings or any other no religious themed salutations will be uttered by me. 

just a plain, simple, direct and to the politically incorrect point,