During a routine mission as part of a Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) deployment in Egypt last week, five U.S. soldiers were killed when their UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crashed.
The Army has identified the five who were killed:
Capt. Seth Vernon Vandekamp, 31, from Katy, Texas –Vandecamp was an Army doctor, on his first deployment and had arrived in Egypt in October. His awards include the Army Commendation Medal and Army Achievement Medal.
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Dallas G. Garza, 34, from Fayetteville, North Carolina – Garza was a Black Hawk pilot. He was prior enlisted, having commissioned in 2010, and had completed previous deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq. His awards include the Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters, Army Commendation Medal with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters and Army Achievement Medal with Silver Oak Leaf Cluster.
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Marwan Sameh Ghabour, 27, from Marlborough, Massachusetts– was also a Black Hawk pilot. He had commissioned as a warrant officer in 2018 and was on his first overseas assignment. His awards include the Army Aviation Badge.
Staff Sgt. Kyle Robert McKee, 35, from Painesville, Ohio– McKee was a UH-60 repairer. He had enlisted in the Army in 2003 and arrived in Egypt in July. McKee had previously deployed to Korea, Afghanistan and Iraq. His awards include the Air Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal and Combat Action Badge.
Sgt. Jeremy Cain Sherman, 23, from Watseka, Illinois – Sherman was a UH-60 crew chief who enlisted in 2015 and arrived in Egypt in October. He had been previously deployed to Korea and Afghanistan. Sherman’s awards include the Army Commendation Medal and Army Achievement Award.
Two other servicemen, one French and one Czech were also killed in the crash.
The French Air and Space Force previously identified Lieutenant-Colonel Sébastien Botta, a 21-year-old veteran and deputy head of the MFO liaison office, as the French serviceman who died. Czech chief of staff said army sergeant Michaela Ticha was also killed in the crash.
Another American injured in the crash was medically evacuated to an Israeli hospital. The soldier is said to be in critical condition, and has not yet been named.
The cause of the crash continues to be investigated, but is still believed to be due to mechanical failure. According to information previously released by MFO, the soldiers in the helicopter were on a routine mission near Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt when the aircraft went down.
In a tweet on Saturday, Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Rath Hoffman acknowledged the loss of the soldiers, saying the whole Defense Department “grieves alongside the friends and family of the service members killed this week in Sinai.”
It was April 14, 2004, when my perspective on the war on terror drastically changed. Arriving in the country two months after the unit had already deployed, I knew I would encounter social integration issues. At the end of Basic Training I was assigned to 3rd Squad, 1st Platoon, C Company, 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade. The squad was already battle hard, having fought in Operation Precision Sweep in Samarra, during the latter part of December. For the first time in my adult life, I wasn’t teaching young people, but being educated by young men on the essentials of conducting day-to-day combat operations.
On day 14, Sergeant Fitz, my team leader, told me to get my gear together; I was going on a mission that evening. It was 6 p.m. and the sun was setting. I had only been on one other night mission, so I wasn’t aware of how hostile the area could be at night. Our mission was to patrol down the road directly in front of our Forward Operating Base, cut down a small alley, and then take an over-watch position in one of the houses. From that over-watch position, we were to watch for a guy riding on a red motorcycle; he had been causing our unit some problems.
We made it to the house and secured it without incident. Sergeant Fitz instructed some more experienced squad members to go upstairs, while Specialist Jared Cate, who was the squad’s SAW gunner, and I did room security.
Before Sergeant Fitz went upstairs, his instructions were explicit. He bent down on his right knee and looked right at me, “If anyone comes through that door and it isn’t our guys, kill them, no questions.”
Seemed simple, but it was dark, and I was already nervous. I responded quietly back, “Roger, do we have a code word for quick entry?” He looked at me, then leaned in. “Kill anyone who doesn’t look like us, roger?” I replied, “Roger that, Sergeant”
Sergeant Fitz smiled at me and then quickly got up. He walked over to the door, looked both ways and then back at me and said, “Game time, Dead Meat.” I replied, “Roger that, Sergeant.”
Within five minutes of that conversation, I could hear a noise outside the door. I looked over at Specialist Cate and tried to get his attention, but he was transfixed on his coverage area. A million thoughts went through my head. “Why would they put a new guy at the door?” “What if I accidentally kill my own guys because I can’t make out who’s who?” “What if my gun jams and the terrorist kills everyone?” My heart started beating, and I felt a lot of anxiety. To make things worse, I wore the wrong undergarment that had me overheating and sweating profusely.
As I was changing my knees, I heard voices. I couldn’t make out if it was English or not. A quiet voice came through the darkness of the front door. “Rock, Rock, Rock”.
It was English, so I whispered back, “To the limit.” It only made sense because it was our company motto. Then they’re out of the dark came, four soldiers. As they came by me they tapped my right shoulder one soldier said. “Good job dead meat”
Two minutes later, Sergeant Fitz came downstairs and stood by me. He walked toward the door and again looks both ways. As he stepped back into the room, he turned around and looked directly at me.
“Well, I can trust you at the door now.” he smiled and hurried back upstairs.
I felt relieved but on edge. It was great that I earned some trust from my Sergeant Fitz, but I had a long way to go to be combat effective.
The silence of that moment stood out to me. It was only my third time outside the wire and my combat instincts hadn’t developed; I felt something was off deep in my bones, though.
As I scanned out the near window, I heard what sounded like a whistle.
Boom… Boom… Boom. As soon as those mortars fell, it was like a herd of cattle coming down the stairs. I wasn’t sure what to do, so I awaited instructions from my team leader. My mind was racing with terrible thoughts of what had happened outside.
Sweat poured down my face; my eye protection became fogged, and at that moment Sergeant Fitz gave me the order to move out. I gathered myself and shuffled to the door where I ran into a huffing and sweating specialist Cate. This moment at the door would affect the next minutes of my life. I looked at specialist Cate and said, “You can go first; I will follow you.” Specialist Cate responded sharp and convincing, “No, you go!” I took a deep breath, peeked out the door, looked both ways, and then made my way out into the night.
Sergeant Fitz was 5 meters in front of me. He was moving at a good pace, so I had to get a move on. I struggled to keep up with him, scanning the rooftops, looking for anything unusual. It was a clear summer night, and the moon was bright, casting a slight shadow on the flat rooftops. Sergeant Fitz turned around and barked out, “Dead Meat, make sure you scan the roofs and keep your interval.” My nickname was Dead Meat. Something about that name gave me the creeps. I finally managed the proper interval with Sergeant Fitz. I was carrying so much gear for the mission I could barely walk. This was something every new private went through, along with other Infantry hazing experiences.
I was strong being right out of basic training, but unfortunately, I was extremely fatigued from not eating well or getting rest during the afternoon. The nerves had me up as if I was getting ready for the enormous homecoming basketball game.
As I was scanning the roofs, I noticed what looked like someone moving in the corner of the roof across the street. I quickly relayed it to Sergeant Fitz. He looked up at the rooftops and replied. “I don’t see any movement. Just keep scanning the roofs”. I looked behind me to make sure everyone was there. When I turned back around, I noticed Sergeant Fitz in a complete sprint around a corner. I started the sprint.
BOOM… The heat and power of the explosion hit me with tremendous force, causing me to be thrown and twisted in the air like a rag doll. I landed on my back directly on my breach kit. My glasses were shattered, and my weapon was missing. The remains of the rifle sling lay beside me. It was sliced in two from the blast. After being stunned for what felt like 2 minutes, I quickly and painfully rolled over and looked for my weapon. I realized immediately without a weapon I was even more of a lame duck in the middle of the street.
Lying in the middle of the street was my rifle. If there was one thing I had picked up during basic training, it was low crawl in the dirt. My Night Vision goggles were jolted off and hanging on side of my helmet, sparing me from more of a traumatic experience. Thankfully Sergeant Fitz during pre-patrol inspections had me redo my night vision security cord.
I started to low crawl to my weapon. My heart raced, and the adrenaline coursed through my veins. Every inch I crawled closer, the anticipation of being hit was more immense. I could see tracers flying everywhere through my night vision goggles. As I crawled to my weapon, I noticed that the tracers were coming closer. It was obvious that I was a target. Because I was in the middle of the road, the soldier behind me couldn’t fire. I grabbed my rifle, and it was hot from the explosion. I didn’t have time to make sure everything was there I had to get to cover fast. I could hear the whizzing of rounds and see the impact of rounds sparking off the cement.
With my rifle in hand, I immediately slithered to a mound of dirt, then slumped behind an old, blown up car. Suddenly the sky lit up like the fourth of July. The gunfire back and forth was so deafening. Soon, specialist Cate joined me behind the same car. He looked at me and grinned “Welcome to Iraq,” I shook my head and look down at my rifle and it looked damaged, but I wasn’t certain.
After everything calmed down, I got up and tried to locate Sergeant Fitz, who had seemingly disappeared. While I was looking down the road, my squad leader, Staff Sergeant Eric Evans, got my attention.
“Are you OK, Hardt? Did you get any shrapnel or anything?” My heart was beating fast and my adrenaline was still racing so I couldn’t feel anything.
“I don’t think they hit me, but my finger hurts, and my elbow stings.”
“Pull security, I will check you out.” I looked down the road; it was eerily peaceful. As if time has suddenly paused.
Staff Sergeant Evans identified a hole in my uniform, and some blood spots beginning to form. I had been hit and the hot shrapnel had gone into my elbow and hands.
Over Staff Sergeant Evans’ radio, I could hear other platoons at Rock Base taking small arms fire and RPGS from every different direction. Rock base was now directly under attack.
Over the radio an urgent message came through from headquarters.
“Incoming mortar has hit the wall and Humvee, over” Sergeant Evans responded”
Roger, trying to locate position of outgoing.” My understanding of the chaos of war was now real.
As I leaned against the wall and looked up at the sky, I noticed what looked like a falling star.
Meanwhile, Sergeant Evans was completely engaged in an insurgent attack. He peeked around the wall, looking for more insurgent movements, but then looked up into the sky. He said calmly. “That’s a mortar round headed toward Rock Base, again.”
He radioed into headquarters to inform them of the direction the mortars were coming from. He asked permission to make a squad move on the position that was firing mortars.
He looked at me and said, “Can you walk or run?” I replied, “Roger, I am good.” I felt terrible, but in the infantry, if you are breathing, you are still in the fight.
Staff Sergeant Evans radioed the rest of the squad leaders and gave the direction that we would move in. He got up, looked down at me, and put out his hand. “Let’s go, you want revenge?” Without hesitation, I grabbed his hand, and I popped up. I was dizzy, my vision was blurry, and I had a headache, but I had to push through it and continue. What happened next seemed like a war movie, but in slow motion and real.
As we made our way down the alley in formation, I was in the second position behind Sergeant Fitz. He had survived the ambush but had received wounds from the blast. My heart was beating and my adrenaline was pumping.
In front of the formation, I noticed people running across the streets. Was this another setup? Were we walking into an ambush? Sergeant Fitz, in full sprint, noticed some suspicious activity that was peeking around the corner of the wall at the four-way.
Bang.. Bang… Sergeant Fitz shot gun blast blew apart the side of the wall. Whoever was there was gone, but was hit and was bleeding. Behind me were more shots. It was like an old western fight, but the enemy was moving faster than we could return fire.
Unfortunately, I could barely raise my rifle because my arm hurt, not to mention I felt the heat and pain in my back starting to radiate through my body.
Dizzy and now feeling the warmth of the blood coming out of my arm and through my gloves, I had no choice; this was war, not a game you could call time out in.
As the pain got worse my anger and spite came forth, with grunts and vulgarity. It was like a demon breaking through and devouring my soul. I felt different and changed even at the moment.
Sergeant Fitz noticed the blood and instinctively followed it, leading us into the house in question. However, the blood seemed to stop before entering.
We made it to a big red gate and lined up accordingly. Sergeant Fitz gave us the instructions. “On me, roll in and secure the house.” I looked over my shoulder and noticed Specialist Cate with a big smile. The tap on the shoulder came, and we stormed into the courtyard and with so much energy I could feel the wind from those in front of me.
As I moved into the courtyard and made my way around the small wall, I heard a shuffling of feet. When I looked up, flying toward me was what looked like a grenade. I heard the others yelling “Frag out,” but it was too late for me.
The object hit my helmet and rolled off. I quickly and painfully raised my rifle and squeezed the trigger.
I expected the noise of the M4, but there was nothing. I heard someone yell, “Shoot him.”
The damage sustained from the ambush was very obvious. With my rifle up, pointing right at the person in the dark shadows, I turned on my tactical light and it flickered and went out.
Within 3 seconds Sergeant Fitz came up behind me, pushed me out of the way, and turned on his tactical light. Tucked in a corner on the ground was a young boy bent over and crying.
Oh my God, I almost shot him, I thought to myself. Sergeant Fitz grabbed him from the ground and dragged him to the courtyard, then came over to me and said, “You had the right to shoot because everyone thought it was a grenade.” I responded sheepishly, “Roger that.”
With a family of 6 sitting in the courtyard, scared and being interrogated, I felt mixed emotions, feelings that ranged from angry, sad, relieved and disappointed. It disappointed me I hadn’t checked my rifle more after it was blown off me. I was relieved because I could have been responsible for a young boy being dead after throwing a rock. Thankfully, it turned out the way it did, but it was that moment that stuck with me and helped me become a better soldier.
We cleared the house and made our way back to the base. That next day, Sergeant Fitz mentioned to me he had yelled out that there was a grenade dropped and RPG incoming. With all the noise of gunfire going on, I had missed it.
After getting looked at and taken off the line for a while, I made my way back into the fight. However, I was angry and changed forever.
Getting Ready for Combat
Preparing for this tour caused me to think about how I would perceive the enemy. Fortunately, I have been trained and equipped with knowledge over the past year and a half, so I feel confident I will do my job better.
This is the story of a long, hard 15-month tour in Iraq. For a very difficult 15 months, I wrote a journal on the events that took place while in combat and some training we went through before we deployed. This is the true story of my second deployment to Iraq. While writing this journal, I had a column in the local military paper. Being the first infantrymen to write for a newspaper would bring on intense scrutiny and lack of career progression. It was worth it. No Regrets
Company A, 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, was activated at Fort Benning on December 31, 1943. Twenty-three officers and enlisted men were the first black soldiers to graduate from Jump School, long held to be one of the most difficult training centers in the Army.
The 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, was activated at Camp Mackall, North Carolina, on November 25, 1944, under the command of Captain James H. Porter, often thought of as the “Father of the 555th.”
In March 1945, the 555th was ordered to provide a reinforced company for participation in Operation FIREFLY in Oregon and California. Japanese balloon bombs were causing forest fires along the Pacific Coast and the 555th troopers were the Nation’s first line of defense. At Camp Pendleton, Oregon, the company was trained in “smoke jumping” techniques, developed in the 1930s by the U.S.
Forest Service as a means to combat wild fires. Throughout the summer of 1944, the troopers plunged by parachute into some of the most difficult terrain in the Pacific Northwest. They were the Army’s first rough terrain jump specialists.
During late 1947, Major General James M. Gavin, 82nd Airborne Division Commander, conducted the ceremony that transferred the 555th troopers to the 3rd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment. Gavin’s action was a first step towards integrating black soldiers into the ranks of the 82nd. The 555th, the Army’s only black parachute battalion, was now on the inactive list, but the troopers always thought of themselves as Triple Nickles.
In the years ahead they would be the cutting edge of efforts to integrate the Army. Gavin’s vision of racial justice and their resolve would help transform the Army. They were a vanguard of freedom.
Emily Perez was the first African American cadet Brigade Command Sgt. Major of West Point – The U.S. Military Academy — tough as nails in formation, she also spent her free time tutoring cadets and writing letters of encouragement to those who felt like quitting.
Deployed after graduation, 2nd Lt. Perez demonstrated this same selfless service by volunteering to go on convoy in place of an inexperienced leader and paying the ultimate sacrifice when an improvised explosive device took her life.
Her mother remembers, “In her diary, she wrote that people have taken care of her all her life and now she had the opportunity to take care of other people. Her biggest concern was taking care of her Soldiers.”
As a combat veteran, it’s important to me to share the stories of those who fought before me for our country.
War Heroes in Color.
Desmond Thomas Doss (February 7, 1919 – March 23, 2006) was a United States Army corporal who served as a combat medic with an infantry company in World War II. He was twice awarded the Bronze Star Medal for actions in Guam and the Philippines.
Doss further distinguished himself in the Battle of Okinawa by saving 75 men,[a] becoming the only conscientious objector to receive the Medal of Honor for his actions during the Second World War . His life has been the subject of books, the documentary The Conscientious Objector, and the critically acclaimed 2016 film Hacksaw Ridge.
Before the outbreak of World War II, Doss was employed as a joiner at a shipyard in Newport News, Virginia. Doss entered military service, despite being offered a deferment for his shipyard work, on April 1, 1942, at Camp Lee, Virginia.
He was sent to Fort Jackson in South Carolina for training with the reactivated 77th Infantry Division. Meanwhile, his brother Harold served aboard the USS Lindsey .
Doss refused to kill an enemy soldier or carry a weapon into combat because of his personal beliefs as a Seventh-day Adventist.
He consequently became a medic assigned to 2nd Platoon, B Company, 1st Battalion, 307th Infantry, 77th Infantry Division.
While serving with his platoon in 1944 on Guam and the Philippines, he was awarded two Bronze Star Medals with a “V” device, for exceptional valor in aiding wounded soldiers under fire. During the Battle of Okinawa, he saved the lives of 50–100 wounded infantrymen atop the area known by the 96th Division as the Maeda Escarpment or Hacksaw Ridge.
Doss was wounded four times in Okinawa, and was evacuated on May 21, 1945, aboard the USS Mercy. Doss suffered a left arm fracture from a sniper’s bullet and at one point had seventeen pieces of shrapnel embedded in his body. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in Okinawa.
Coloured by Johnny Sirlande for Historic photo restored in color Image courtesy of Desmon Doss Family
In my life, there have been a handful of people who have influenced my travels. Some of these individuals directly affected the way I went about relationships, careers, and friendships. Some of these people did not understand the effect they had on me. Some of these people’s hold on me took years to shed the negative impressions.
However, many had a positive and influential impact. I still face some issues, but I use these issues to help others, by giving speeches on hard life topics, such as adolescent love and insecurities.
When I think of impact, I refer directly to emotional and physical properties. Early in life, I knew I differed from other kids. Not that I was better than those around me, but I stood out like a sore thumb in groups.
I spent a lot of time in my head. Some would refer this to overthinking, creative introvert, however, sports changed me, but that’s for another story. I worked hard to solve my problems without my parents or friends. Answering my questions gave me power and resilience.
Most kids went through times of feeling socially insecure and emotionally vulnerable in the Middle School and even into High School. I was in-between those, but weirdly I could perceive things better and break down situations rapidly. I wasn’t always right at what I saw or analyzing information correctly, but my brain was working overtime and fast. This differs from being smart in school because I had trouble in math and science and things that required brainpower.
I was the worst at submitting to being one way or to hang out with a specific group. I knew that who I hung out with would come at a cost. I remember having a conversation with a young boy at lunch in junior high, and I didn’t know him, but I thought he was entertaining. He was in a group of what one would refer to as a school gang, and I swear he was a recruiter.
I was very open to exploring new things and experiencing what I wouldn’t ordinarily do. I was inquisitive, so I asked this young boy to share with me what gang or group he was in and what they did. I wanted to understand his path or what made him so eager to recruit the worst dressed and the awkward kid in the school, I just wanted to know why I was special for his group.
He quickly got up from the seat, and he told me to follow him. I remember looking over at the table across from me, and everyone was looking right at us. It was awkward, and the bells in my head went off, but I ignored them. I was so confused, but wholly enthralled in this adventure; it inclined me to find out what in the world was so outstanding. As we walked up the stairs, I notice my P.E teacher and coach standing by the office. He locked eyes with me and with a disdained look, shook his head no. I ignored the signs of this episode.
I continued walking and quickly glanced back. Mr. Munson was still looking at me; I wondered if he was trying to tell me something. I kept walking with the mysterious boy, and we ended up in the bathroom. That would be the third ignoring signs of directional change or path.
As we all know nothing ever happens well in the bathroom, according to every teen movie. We stopped, and he turned around and looked at me in the eyes. In a shallow creepy voice said, “Do you want to be like us?”
It was at the moment I felt uncomfortable and a little weirded out. I stepped back to get my distance because I wasn’t sure what was happening or going to happen. The boy looked possessed. I swear his eyes turned black. His disposition was intense.
What I didn’t see, my coach could foresee. I just wanted to understand and see this young boy’s perspective. The question is, would I have possibly gone down this road, most likely not, I had set my goals high, and everyone knew from elementary I was a kid-focused on being kind and always clean.
Influencing people can have enormous consequences or rewards. Mr. Munson, on that day, changed me and possibly my path. He encouraged me to stop or pause and think things out. This also taught me it’s okay to hit reverse. Sometimes we don’t get a redo, but I did with some help!
Have you gone down and path only to find out that the road back is the best path forward?
At the tender age of eight years old, my brother Danny and I sat in the pews of my father’s church playing games to keep ourselves entertained while my dad preached the hell and brimstone sermons from the pulpit. Some games we would play ranged from staring at a certain person in the church until they looked; whoever could stare the longest would win.Something infatuated my brother with war, planes, guns, and anything tactical. One service, I noticed Danny had a paper, and on it, he had drawn some figures that looked like little soldiers and also on the paper were tanks, planes, and designated tree area, which represented cover and concealment.
He drew a line down the middle of the paper dividing both sides. Then, he folded the paper, and he took his pen and started putting dots everywhere. After about 30 seconds, he flipped the paper and did it to the other side. I looked at him puzzled and then asked, “What are you doing, Danny?”
He looked at me, squinted his beetle eyes, pushed his nerdy glasses up, and whispered so he wouldn’t bring attention to himself, “I am playing GI Joe.” I looked at him more confused.
He then opened the paper and just like magic, the dots showed through. The little soldiers, tanks, and planes that he placed on the paper were a hit or a miss. My brother made sound effects as if bullets were being shot and little rumbling noises resembling explosions going off. I was so young and pure in mind that the word “war” wasn’t even part of my vocabulary.
I was very interested in the game, so as the service went on, I learned how to play the game. Over the next weeks, my brother and I had a full-blown war on paper; it was like the popular game Battleship.
We would keep score at the bottom of the paper. The only way you won was if you killed everyone. In my mind, that was how war was won. I once asked my brother, “Danny, if you like war so much, why don’t you do something like you do on the paper.” My brother was older and had knowledge of the military structure, so he answered me. “I just like playing war, I don’t think I would be a good GI Joe,” he said. I answered back, “Yes, I don’t think shooting someone would be fun, the paper game is fun, what do we call the game?”
“War, we’ll call it war,” he replied.
When I turned ten, I became fascinated with playing war out in the woodlands and the open dirt fields alone but occasionally with my brother or even all the street kids.
I was into the civil war, so it was always the North versus the South. I would run in the woods with a stick in my hand or even a squirt gun and act like someone was shooting at me, even making sound effects like I was talking on the radio. I would lie on a dirt mound and peak over, looking for the enemy. Just to act like I was getting fired upon, I pounded the dirt and it would fly up, giving a grand effect. I often would try to creep up on the construction workers who worked laboriously on the highway that would later take my field away.
One day while sneaking around way out in the woodlands, I found out what a gunshot sounded like. I couldn’t believe I was out in the middle of the woods and somewhere out there in front of me was someone with a gun shooting.
I wasn’t certain if it was at me, but I perceived it was close. Apprehensive, I rushed through the woodlands as quick as I could; I was so afraid that I was going to die and my parents would never find me. Cutting through an unfamiliar part in the woodlands, I went from running like the wind to crashing face-first into the mud, but this wasn’t just a typical mud, this was quicksand or something like that. As time passed, I appeared to drop further into the muck.
I tried not to cry; I tried to pull myself out of the mud, but I couldn’t. I grabbed the tree limb over my head, but go figure, it broke. In the distance, I could see something coming through the bush. With my luck, I thought it would be a bear. Just like out of the movies, a man came out of the bushes. He stood over me like some kind of odd-looking superhero.
In his hands, he held what looked like a big stick of sorts. The man had a big grin on his face and asked me, “Son, you know where you are?”
It scared me to answer, but I got an answer out. “I was just playing GI Joe,” I answered.
The man laughed and then replied, “Son, it’s hunting season, and real guns are being shot out here in the deep woodlands.” The quicksand that I was in had swallowed my leg and was up to my knees. Did he notice? I did not understand, but I had to get out and quickly. I could only imagine what my parents would say when they found out their second child died tragically in quicksand.
The man took what he was holding in his hand and stuck it out so I could grab on to it. I grabbed it but slipped back. A sense of urgency came over me, most likely because the man had a frustrated look on his face. I leaned in and finally got ahold of the stick and he pulled me out. I sat on the ground and looked at the quicksand and shook my head. The man laughed.
“These sinkholes are rare, but you found one, son.”
I shook my head in disgust. I mumbled back, “I sure did, sir, I sure did.”
I slowly got up and looked directly at the man who saved me from getting sucked into the earth. I observed he wasn’t carrying a stick; rather he was carrying a gun, a big one. The man wore a yellow vest that to me looked ridiculous, but I wasn’t about to say anything, he just saved me from dying in quicksand. I got out of the sand and sure enough; I had lost my shoes and socks and I was just a mess. The man asked me if I wanted to go back to his truck so he could give me a ride home. I was so lost, so confused, and embarrassed that I took the ride.
I know that wasn’t the brightest idea, to jump in the truck with someone I didn’t know, but it was Michigan. I found out later that everyone went to my dad’s church, and he was one of the members. As I got older my story of playing GI Joe and getting stuck in the quicksand became a novel story at church, well among the younger kids, especially the girls. Coincidently a few weeks later, I would stand in front of him again, but this time with my parents. With Dad being the preacher, I mean forgiveness, right?
While my dad was preaching I escaped from my mom’s watch and crawled underneath the pews, rendezvousing with his daughter Mary. There we had a strange kiss, it seemed more like a lick, and it was so confusing. After that life-changing experience, I scurried back under the seat. I popped up and my mom didn’t even notice I had left. Or did she?
Most likely she did, but played it off during the meet up with Mary’s parents. The question I had was what exactly did Mary tell her mom and dad. They asked me what happened, and I honestly couldn’t describe it, so I said, “We did what Moms and Dads do.” That was the end of that conversation. I mean, her last name was lips. It was going to happen. We grew into the experience, but weirdly enough after a while, both our parents relaxed and the excitement was over and we got bored. I moved on to the next church member’s daughter, Gretchen. Apparently, Mary had a thing for my best friend Steve, go figure. That’s a story, but I digress.
I didn’t go out into the woods again unless I was with my brother or friends. My brother and I would later spend endless hours out in the woods playing war against each other. I seemed to be sneakier and knew where to hide, were as he was more one that would spend a lot a time throwing things at me, like acorns, rocks, and sometimes eggs. I could never figure out where it was coming from. This was when I learned from my brother what a sniper was, I never understood, but I knew I didn’t like it. My brother didn’t mean to teach me about war, but he did, innocently. My brother gave me insight into something I would later reflect on when in Iraq on my 1st and 2nd tours. When my brother found out I was joining the military, he wasn’t thrilled, but the only thing he said was, “Dave, just keep your head down and remember they are not throwing eggs, it’s war.”
The year that sticks in my memories, from my younger years, was 1985. It was then I watched the news, well I tried, sometimes all of it just seemed like a bunch of old people telling stories, and started understanding what war and global conflict was and how these issues affected the world that I was in. President Ronald Reagan, whom people called “Jelly Bean,” was running the show and every time he was giving a speech on TV, I would sit and listen intently.
My mom told me I would sit in front of the TV in a silent trance when the president was on. On June 12, 1987, Reagan challenged Gorbachev, then the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, to tear the wall down as a symbol of his desire for increased freedom in the Eastern Bloc.
I was so excited; I remember jumping up and down right after Reagan said his famous words that I would later look back on for an example of a man who fought not just for those who he served, but those in other countries. The following words today still inspire me:
“We welcome change and openness; for we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace. There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace. General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
Looking back at the early years when life to me was simple and rather uncomplicated, there was still war and conflict. My parents never had to explain to me what war was, I found out on my own, and from doing that I learned lessons that to this day follow me and give me insight on what we call war.
When it’s hot and humid outside it’s important to start early. Hydrate and nutrition is very key to making it through this summer heat.
Here are some important tips for hydration.
If you fail to properly fuel your car, it won’t run effectively. The same goes for your body. Of course, we all know when to add gas to our cars because of the fuel gauge. Because your body doesn’t come equipped with such an easy-to-read indicator, it’s essential for your performance—and your health—to know when and how to hydrate.
Proper hydration before, during and after a run is imperative to meeting your goals. When dehydrated, your body won’t effectively transfer heat. When your body fails to transfer heat, your heart rate increases, which negatively affects your performance and your body. This is especially dangerous when running in hot weather.
Knowing what to drink, and when to drink it, is vital for runners. Follow these simple steps to stay hydrated, maintain good health, and get the most out of your run.
Before Your Run
It’s good to hydrate at least 30 minutes prior to running, but 60 to 90 minutes in advance is best. Try to consume at least 16 ounces one hour before your run, or 4 to 6 ounces if hydrating 30 minutes before your run.
Avoid popular bottled sports drinks, as they often contain artificial ingredients or dyes. Look for all-natural, alkalizing options, such as Vega’s Pre-Workout Energizer or Electrolyte Hydrator, which can be easily mixed into cold water.
If you plan to run longer distances—10 miles or more—work on proper hydration a few days prior to your race, rather than focusing on the day of the race. Your urine should be the color of diluted lemonade for the few days leading up to the race, and you should be urinating often. Eliminate alcohol consumption, as this is counterproductive to your goal of running in a perfectly hydrated body.
During Your Run
Some experts believe one should abstain from water during a run, but several studies show that runners fare better when properly hydrated. Dehydration during a run can cause cramping. However, in order to avoid the sloshy stomach effect, limit the amount you drink during your run.
Every 20 to 30 minutes during your run, consuming 4 to 6 ounces of water should suffice to prevent dehydration. However, the amount of water you’ll need also depends on the length of your run, the temperature and how much you perspire. If you’re a heavy sweater, increase your consumption to 6 to 8 ounces per 20 to 30 minutes. A good rule of thumb is to drink only when you feel thirst.
When you sweat, your body loses salt, or electrolytes. Vega’s Electrolyte Hydrator packets are the perfect size for slipping into your inner running shorts/pants pockets, or an SPI belt. They’re also easy to pour in your water bottle, shake and drink.
On longer runs, carry two or three packets. Also consider using lemon water, which adds natural sugars and carbohydrates that better fuel your run and increase endurance. Lemon water also contains several essential electrolytes, including potassium, which helps balance the body’s fluids and electrolytes.
Be sure to choose a lightweight, hand-held water bottle with a comfortable, breathable grip. Check out the 12-ounce Hydraform Handheld Hydration bottle from Lululemon.
That will get you through about 1 hour and 30 minutes of running in mild weather. If you’re running a longer race, simply fill it up at the water stations.
After Your Run
It’s essential to continue proper hydration immediately following your race for a fast recovery. Check your urine. If it’s darker after a run, you’re not properly hydrated.
Try drinking cold coconut water, which contains natural sugars and high levels of potassium. Drink slowly and often. You can also make a blended smoothie with coconut water, a banana, a scoop of Vega Recovery Accelerator and some hemp protein for a delicious, alkalizing and dairy-free recovery drink.
Your body is a machine. Keep it properly fueled, and it will work harder for you.
The Endorphin Speed quintessentially combines comfort and performance, creating it an excellent bridge between you’re regular trainers and you’re running flats.
The PWRRUN PB foam feels very responsive underfoot. It’s soft on landing, but it requires an effective reaction.
Like other shoes with plates, whether carbon-fiber or plastic, the Speed appears best at faster paces. The merger of the premier foam and the plate produce serious snap off the toe, which particularly gets better with a mid-foot to forefoot strike.
My overall consensus is the speed glows when I’m pushing quick and It seems like it’s urging for an immediate transition.
But that doesn’t mean the Endorphin Speed can’t handle cruising, too. Warm-up with an easy jog to the track, and then kick it into high gear for a speed workout; the Speed will pull double duty as a high-mileage trainer and a PR-hawking performer.
One of the significant benefits of Endorphin Speed is its feathery weight. At 6.8 oz for the women’s model and 7.8 oz for the men’s, the Speed doesn’t hold you back. It feels lively and light on the run, which I loved.
The Endorphine Speed at size 13 is 9.2 oz. I am 6’2 and roughly 208 pounds This is a great shoes for those like me that have back and knee issues. The soft landing keeps you refreshed and willing to grind out more miles.
It certainly looks like Saucony didn’t go overboard on anything here, which is nice. It has just the right amount of foam underfoot and not too much padding anywhere to keep the weight down. It looks and feels light.
Beneath the shoe, Saucony tacked on an abrasion-resistant rubber outsole. The majority of the rubber coats the forefoot, but a ring of rubber runs around the edge of the mid-foot and heel. The foam is exposed in the middle of the shoe.
One huge difference between Speed and other everyday trainers is the construct of the mid-foot. Designers pinched the midsole in at the mid-foot like they cinched a belt around the shoe’s waist. The shoe’s design encourages mid-foot to forefoot strike that you generally encounter when you run quicker.
The shoe also employs Saucony’s proprietary Speedroll technology. This is the combination of the shoes’ shapes, foams, and stiffness. Saucony says the combo aligns a runner’s hips for a more effective stride, reduces stress on feet and joints, and develops performance.
Endorphin Speed. Saucony’s middle shoe blends speed and comfort with a more flexible nylon plate. Great for speed workouts and uptempo days.
Endorphin Pro. A carbon-fiber plate powers the fastest shoe in the collection. Ideal for race day.
The Saucony Endorphin Speed bridges the gap between you’re everyday trainers and your’re racing shoes.
Designers shaped the Speed for a comfortable fit that’s easy on your feet even as the miles add up. The lightweight upper lets the shoe breathe easily, and the nylon plate pairs well with the ultra-springy PWRRUN PB foam for a propulsive ride.
The Speed for runs that vary in pace because it handles different speeds well. I love the Speed’s versatility and It excels at fast paces but can handle a warmup and cooldown just fine.
Today I realized that I am becoming complacent with my weight loss journey. I have dialed down my 10 mile runs every other day and for really no reason, except I am bored. Yes, you can get bored. I am not satisfied or my goal hasn’t been accomplished (195 pounds), but still the inner thought creeps in “You did good, just relax and have a burger or fries.” That just leads to a pattern of overeating and falling backwards .
Change it up
Breaking up the process is important to maintaining progress. I feel like I have not focused enough on my eating habits and focused more on the simple route. I see my mistakes and some days I can adjust to those actions. I don’t need motivation, because when I look in the mirror the dad bod project looks right back at me.
The question I must keep asking myself, “How much do you want this weight off and why?” The reality is I have been at this point before ( 209-210 pounds) and I just dropped into a dark phase in life.
Depression and other post combat things often come up, but how I deflect these issues is purely up to how I use my personal training and knowledge base as a veteran peer-support counselor.
I may have the answers in my head, but sometimes the demons fight hard to take me places all vet’s try to avoid, no not suicide, but interactive sabotage. I am not giving up on this mission, my kids depend on me to get it right. I must remind myself to always move forward, even if the voices in my head say otherwise.