Happiness

What is happiness? I explain why I don’t think I have ever been truly happy. Let me know what you think it means, and how you have achieved the feeling.

I payed down last night around 11pm, and my mind raced. I thought about my past, and all the things I had accomplished, and all the failure that I have endured. If I was to make a list, it seems they would be even. An even list of the negatives, and positives that I have experienced. I eventually thought about what true happiness was. Had I ever really experienced it? Is it just a perception that we as people label events that we experience? Is it just a fleeting feeling that we have in the moment?

I’m sure it can be all of these things and more. I know I have experienced happy moments in my life. My son being born, and spending time with him. Watching my siblings achieve greatness on many levels. Moments with the person I loved intimately. I think a lot of people tie happiness to pleasure, and yes it probably is associated in one way or another. When does a person achieve true happiness in their day to day life though?

Ive thought about it most of the day today, even as I sit here in the VA chow hall. Are these people around me happy? Not just today, or right now. I guess what I’m getting at is that I don’t know what truly being happy is, or means. I don’t know that I have ever been happy for more then a moment or day. My life has taken so many drastic turns that it is hard to pinpoint a time I was happy longer then a day or two.

I hope one day I will know that I am a happy person, living life, and actually enjoying it. That time is not now. I am getting better in many ways mentally. Finding out more about myself and who I am. I’m not sure I will ever get there or even be able to comprehend what that would feel like. All I can do is try my best. I do know one thing, I want the people I care about to be happy, and experience the world in a pleasurable, meaningful, and happy way.

Tell me what you think happiness means. How do you personally achieve happiness in your daily life? I would surely like to know.

Okieschaos.com

@okieschaos

WillCornell2007@gmail.com

The Smoke Pit

The smoke pit is the place business is conducted in the corps. Good or bad, serious or just having a laugh. It usually happens in a Marine smoke pit.

In the Marine Corps, the smoke pit is the place were all the behind the scenes business occurs. Wether it’s back home in garrison, or in a combat zone like Afghanistan. A good majority of Marines smoke, so it makes it not only a convenient location, but a practical one. Smoke pits are strategically placed all around bases at home, and abroad.

After we had been in country a month or so, civilization had started to catch up to us. We went from living in small two man tents. To living in large comfortable, and air conditioned Alaskan shelters. They sent in two full sets of gym equipment, and a tent were we could fight over computers, to get on Facebook, or Skype home. Eventually there were even showers. You might have to walk in cheap shower shoes a half a mile to get to them, but they were there.

We rarely went to these places during the day though. It was either to hot, to crowded, or our family’s would be in bed. So it made sense that these activities were done at night. My engineer unit would stay up until 4 or 5 in the morning, sleep for a few hours. Then get up and work in the morning until it inevitably got to hot. We would sleep during the hottest part of the day, then get up that evening, and finish up our work before enjoying the necessity’s that had found their way to our camp.

For myself and my closest friends. We would work out anywhere from 2 to 4 hours every night. Usually after 2am. The gym and computer tent weren’t jam packed after 2. Unless we had a mission the next day, then this schedule became irrelevant, but the smoke pit is where we would congregate between chores, or whatever else we had going. The place you could always find someone to talk to, relieving the stress’s that inevitably piled up on your shoulders. Or just find someone to talk to when everyone else was asleep or busy.

There were many smoke pits scattered around camp Hansen. We claimed one that was close to our tents. There were a dozen of these giant tents, three wide in perfect rows. On one side of the tents was the inner wall. The inner wall was a giant triangle made of hesco. It was the original base that we had moved into, before the follow on forces arrived, and the base had to be expanded. On the other side was a long mortar shelter that was made of hesco, concrete, and sandbags. In the event the base was under mortar attack, these shelters were your best chance of survival. They ran from one end of the tents to the other.

A small gap used as a quick entrance in the long bunker, also served as the back door to our claimed smoke pit. The pit was about 25 feet in diameter. In the center was a butt can. With a ring around that, made up of improvised chairs. Some were just a simple sandbag on the ground. Others were full on arm chairs made of sandbags. Even better then the sandbag chair, was a chair made out of hog wire and hesco felt. These could be so elaborate that they resembled comfy beach chairs.

My friends and I spent many nights talking about all sorts of things. The “how are we not dead” subject was popular, along with criticizing politicians, or our higher ups. A lot of the time we would reflect on those thoughts that you normally get in the shower. You know! The meaning of life! Stuff like that. There were a lot of nights we would be smoking Pine cigarettes, and watch the sun rise. We had commandeered the Pines from the bazaar, cigarettes were hard to get in country. They were Russian in origin, and very strong. The sunrise in Afghanistan is spectacular, bright reds, purple, yellows, and orange colors were brilliant. The sand and dust in the air always brought the most amazing shows. The night sky is something else too. With there being very little electricity in the country, there are no lights to drown out the stars. Adding to that, the southern provinces see almost no rain, and the sky’s were almost always clear.

Looking back, and reminiscing, really helps me deal with the bad emotional memories. I would go back in an instant. Looking past the death, and dreadful ordeals we found ourselves in. There is always a good memory that trumps it. I have never experienced anything like the comradery that I experienced with my brothers. I regrettably have lost touch with a lot of the guys that shared these experiences with me, but there are still a few that I talk with often if not daily. Its true, that saying.

No better friend, No worst enemy, then a United States Marine.

Okieschaos.com

@okieschaos

Camels, Tornados, and dirty Marines

The Engineers leave the wire on a 8 hour round trip to resupply, encountering Camel, Tornados, and much more!

We were in our heavily armored MAT-V’s sitting in a line in front of the engineer area. That was our home. A walled off compound inside of the larger base. All of our equipment was here, along with our platoon HQ. We were the only unit that had the luxury of piss tubes in our area. We also sported a homade poker table, and blackjack table. Living in style, in the middle of the arid Afghan desert. In a few minutes we would be leave the safety of Camp Hansen, and venture out into the city, then beyond to Camp Bastion. The mission was to resupply our lumber pile, and other essential gear.

It would be a four hour, rough, and most likely boring mission. We should have been on our way an hour ago but, a common problem was holding us back…. COMMS. It is important, being able to communicate in battle is vital to winning an engagement. The sophisticated, but complicated COMM systems we used were always suffering problems. Us gunners had the standard black Motorola handheld radios. We kept with us in our turrets. They weren’t encrypted, so we normally either used them to B.S. and pass insulting messages to other members of each respective vehicle. Marine talk!

We had six vehicles in the convoy for this mission. Four MAT-V’s and two 7-ton utility trucks. The MAT-V’s are large, powerful, and fast, lacking in cargo room. They are well armored with a V-Shaped hull to direct blasts from mines and IED’s. The 7-Tons were like semis, only they sat really high off the ground. Making them fairly survivable in a blast. The convoy would start with two MAT-V, then the 7-Tons, followed by the other two MAT-V’s.

Brett was always the front gunner, manning the only ma-deuce that we had. Its a Browning .50 heavy machine gun, and has been around since WWII. A beast of a gun, always up front to deal with oncoming traffic. The rest of the MAT-V’s had 240B Medium Machine guns. They fired 7.62 and could mop up a squad of insurgents like it was nothing. The two 7-Tons were sporting a couple of SAW’s (Squad Automatic Weapon) each squad has a M249 SAW. We only had three 240’s that were functioning, so we had to settle. The M249 fires a 5.56 and make body’s reflect Swiss cheese. I was always the rear gunner, manning my 240B, I protected the rear of the convoy.

Finally the COMM guys found the issue, and it was time to go. The convoy rolled up to the ECP (Entry Control Point) stopped, and requested permission from HQ to leave the FOB. Permission was granted. Our Platoon Commander’s voice came over the radio “Engineers, were Oscar Mike.” Marines use the Phonetic Alphabet when communicating over the radio. Each letter of the alphabet is assigned a word. A=Alpha, B=Bravo, C=Charlie, and so on. Oscar Mike means “On the Move”.

The gate guard moved the concertina wire out of the road. The trucks roared to life, turning right onto the hard packed, clay road. Brett and I had a tradition. Every time we left the wire, brett would say over his Motorola “Party like a Rockstar!” Then as my vehicle passed the ECP, I would reply “and F*ck like a Porn Star!” We had never been blown up before, and for some reason we credited it to saying our traditional words when leaving the protection of the wire. #MarineLogic

We made the right turn and sped up fast, the plan was to push hard to Bastion, resupply, then turn right around, and head home. It would be a long day, but it was doable if we didn’t run into problems. For the next hour we rolled through little villages and bazaars. They all belonged to the city of Marjeh, but were spread out. There would be a group of homes, separated by fields of poppy. We drove by the fields were we had landed in helo’s in the middle of the night, three months earlier. Dodging kids as they played in he road. The ladies we would pass were covered from head to toe in their burkas. Every single one of them. The only skin showing on them was their hands. This comes as nothing less then a culture shock, you never get used to it.

After two and a half hours we made it to the outskirts of town. It is a shocking sight. You see, Marjeh is situated in the Helmand river valley. A fairly lush area, irrigated by an ancient canal system. It is also very flat, there is almost no discernible change in elevation while you are in the valley. But here green instantly turns to course, blowing sand. Gigantic dunes rise up, right next to homes, gaining in elevation the farther in you go. A lot like the Rockies, only dull and hot, and maybe like 70 feet tall. There are vehicle tracks that run off in every direction with no plan or reason. They cris-cross in random directions.

We drove out into the desert for half an hour before turning, and running parallel to the river valley. The only thing in view was a dry, ancient land, sand from horizon to horizon.. A perk to this area, was that you could haul ass! We drove as fast as we could, which was about 55 MPH. The MAT-V’s could do 70-75 MPH, but the 7-Tons ran 55 flat. 20 minutes into our new course a herd of wild camels appeared, hundreds of them in every shape and size. Walking along lazily on top of giant sand dunes, with their heads bobbing with each step. As we passed them I just thought about how unreal this place was.

Out of nowhere a giant tornado appeared under a clear blue sky. Being an Okie from Oklahoma, I am used to seeing the occasional tornado. Nothing like this though. These were enormous, at least an 1\8 mile wide at the base. Roping up into the sky for hundreds feet. A beige- light brown column of dust. Then another appeared on the horizon, and another! Then one more! It was insane! In a line moving parallel to us in the opposite direction, no more then a mile away. Never would I have thought that I would see four gigantic dust devils, vacuuming up the dessert floor. The camels didn’t seem to mind them, and went on with their business. Kind of like a lot of people I know in Oklahoma. Sitting on the back porch with a beer and watching a tornado pass by. Just another day in Afghanistan!

We finally made it to Bastion and got our supply’s loaded, just in time to get some grub at the fancy chow hall on base. It was a huge tent that employed civilian contractors from country’s in Southeast Asia. We were so dirty, us gunners had solid white faces, except for where our goggles had been. The cammies that we wore were drenched in sweat and mixed with the dirt from the road. We ate the delicacies, and laughed and poked fun at the “fobbits” that never left the security of the wire. We finished eating with out incident, surprise! Jumped back in our Vic’s, and headed back to Marjeh. Riding off into the sunset, winding our way through the desert, back the way we had come. Making it home without trouble, and completing our mission in record time.

Thought this was a good little story to share! Hope you enjoyed! If you can relate in any way let me know in the comments! Don’t forget to share to social media, and leave a like!

Okieschaos.com

@okieschaos

WillCornell2007@gmail.com

Old Man River Attacks the Hill

A short story about my friend Jason, on our tour in Afghanistan. Jason charges a hill while a friendly base is being attacked. We all thanked the Lord when he returned. I hope you enjoy, please let me know what you think.

It was another scorcher in the Afghan desert. Well north of 110 degrees this afternoon. So we were all in our air conditioned Alaskan shelters to escape the heat of the day. Dirty, filthy, tired, we were all lazily laying around in our racks. Brett and I had been working on a carpentry project for some of the brass in the CP (Command Post). The two of us would keep busy on the mornings we didn’t have another mission. Usually by building desks or bookshelves. It was our way to pass the time. Working until the heat was unbearable.

Just a normal day for us, evading the heat and upper management. Brett and I were always the first to volunteer for almost any assignment. Accept when it was that hot. So we relaxed and had a movie going on one of our laptops. The other marines in our tent were doing the same. Some were sleeping, others were going over gear or reading dirty magazines. Two of the four squad leaders, who were all sergeants, slept by the door. I was about halfway down on the same side.

Laying there. Half naked, and half asleep. I had my PT shorts on, watching the movie. Then I heard it. The sound of the Sergeant Major yelling. Over and over. “STAND TO! STAND TO! STAND TO!”. This was a pretty common occurrence for us. Each unit had a specific spot to defend the FOB if we were to be attacked. Sometimes it was just a drill. If it was “for real”, it was usually an IED blast that was close, or a pot shot or two.

Brett Surles (Right) Jason Shriner (Center) Bobby Stone (Right)

This time was different. An extremely small Patrol Base that watched the main supply route to India company was under a heavy barrage of small arms fire. We where about four clicks up the road from them. Separated by a large hill with a radio tower on top. The hill was an oddity being the only measurable elevation in sight. It stuck out in the landscape. They were being hit with AK and RPG fire.

In the tents we figured this was just another drill. You know. To inconvenience us lower ranking Marines. I looked over at my squad leader and he hadn’t moved. So I followed his lead. We sat there for about 3 minutes, and the door busted open! Our platoon Sergeant pushed the door open with a crash and started yelling at us to “GET OUR ASSES UP” and “STAND TOO, MEANS YOU STAND TOO MARINES!” I felt like I was in boot camp again. The way he was coming at us. He had a T-Shirt, and shorts on, boots untucked, and had his gear to top off the outfit.

Now i’ll admit I was still moving slow for about the first 30 seconds. I lazily started putting on my pants. Putting them on as he got in my face and yelled “FORGET THAT SHIT! GET YOUR GEAR AND GET OUT THERE!” So I threw on my gear and boots, grabbed my weapon and ran out the door. Marines filing out of the tents in a unorganized gaggle. Half dressed and getting excited now. I could hear the brewing fire fight a few clicks out. I passed a civilian reporter, he yelled “GET SOME MARINES!” That got me going! We hadn’t had a good fight in a month or more.

We ran over behind BAS (Battalion Aid Station), and onto the berm that surrounded the base. Facing out into the dessert. Ready to take on the hoards of the Taliban should they attempt it. That’s when I got that twisted, butterfly feeling in my stomach. It usually comes before a fight. Maybe it was because I hadn’t been in a fight in over a month, I don’t know. I was ready none the less. Sitting there, the feeling starts to go away, and slowest turns into that “this is BS” mentality.

The Firebase called in an air strike over the radio. The jet on station was an A-10 Warthog. It came in low and dropped flares over the enemy first. The Angel formation of the smoke left behind is pretty spectacular. Normally it is enough to strike fear into the screaming fanatics. This time the enemy kept on shooting. The jet was called back, only this time he wasn’t shooting flares. First I heard the engine of the jet come in and then BBBRRRRRRRRRRRRTTT—- BRRRRTTTTT—BRRRTTTT. That’s the sound of the Gatling gun that sits in the nose of the plane, laying hate to the enemy, and chewing up anything the exploding rounds reach.

That got them! Losing their will to fight, the cowards didn’t fire another round. The Sergeant Major called out for all Marines to Stand-Down. I got up and went over to the huddle of engineers that was forming a few meters away. Our squad leader began counting us, so that he could report we where all accounted for. Soon realizing Lance Corporal Jason Shriner wasn’t among us. He sent Brett to the tent in a hurry, to see if he was there. Brett returned after a few minutes and reported that Jason wasn’t there. A few minutes went by with panic brewing. Our squad leader was about to radio in that we had misplaced one of our Marines. Which would be very bad.

When with a giant Shriner smile, He comes trotting up to our now organized formation. Our squad leader yelled “SHRINER, FALL IN!! Then commenced to laying in to the 5’6” skinny Lance Corporal. Asking him where he had been, and why he wasn’t at our boring, but designated spot. Of course his version was much more colorful and lacked the word boring. Jason, now in formation and standing at attention replied “there were some guys running to take the hill! I thought we were attacking so I went with them!” The sergeant just looked at him with a blank stare, reaching for the words to destroy this perplexed Marine. After several seconds of staring, the Sergeant relented. He then gave the command for us to fall out. With that, we all returned to our tents. Asking Jason about his adventure as we walked.

Jason had fearlessly charged the hill with almost no support, looking for a fight! If that doesn’t describe the courage he possessed, then nothing will. Looking back, it could have been a complex disaster, but Jason was alive with a great story to tell. He would have stepped in front of a bullet for any one of us. The higher ups didn’t reprimand him. They just explained why he should have been with us. Realizing they to were at fault for not properly explaining the details.

Jason Shriner (Left) Jason's Brother (Right)

It makes me smile to think back on the work we did. Jason Shriner was one of my closest friends I made while in the Marines. He was 6 years older then me. He claimed the name “Old Man River”. Wearing the title proudly, complete with a tattoo in Japanese on his back. He was a character, and always had a smile on his face. Always projecting positive vibes, even when the situation sucked. Jason battled PTSD and took his own life fall of 2016. Myself and a dozen other Marines flew in to Phoenix, Arizona to attend a service, and spend time with his family.

In memory of Corporal Jason Shriner.

February 20, 1982 – October 17, 2016

I know I will see you when I get to heaven. Guarding its streets with a warm smile.

Okieschaos.com

@okieschaos

Willcornell2007@gmail.com

Getting stuck

Stuck in a rut? Take that first step to get help, and stop beating yourself up. It’s time to give yourself a break. That’s the first step toward improving your situation.

I was so hard on myself for a long time, that I didn’t think I could get help. If the thought popped into my head, I would tell myself I wasn’t good enough. That I wasn’t talented or good in social situations.

So I stayed away from those things and didn’t get help. You have first have a positive outlook, and tell yourself it can be done. I can get better! I can climb out of this dark hole I have been stuck in!

Stuck points are the easy way out. It takes time and energy. You literally have to change your life. Your routine, and the way you think. It won’t come all at once. You have to make small changes first.

I read a article today, it was about a pool of water in the desert that would fill up every so often and heal people, then go away. There was a sick man laying close to the pool.

A man arrived and knowing he other man was sick, he asked “why are you laying there, when the pool will heal you?” And the sick man replied. “I have no one to pick me up and place me in the pool.”

The man that had arrived replied “Get up and walk.” And the sick man rose, and was healed.

The sick man had been telling himself that he couldn’t do it for so long, that he no longer tried. It took the encouragement of another to get him moving.

I think we all get stuck with these thoughts, and need to just “get up” and help ourselves.

Okieschaos.wordpress.com

@okieschaos

WillCornell2007@gmail.com

Dust Storm on the horizon

The sun was low in the sky, we had been in country for over five months. This was probably my fourth haircut. Sitting just outside of the back door to our Alaskan Shelter. I was sitting on a box of MRE’s (Meals ready to eat). Diaz was cutting my hair. I liked it short and usually kept it about a quarter of an inch tall on top. I liked a high fade, and barely any hair on the sides and back of my head. We called this, getting a barracks cut, because they weren’t professional. In fact they usually looked like a blind cat cut your hair.

It was mid-July, and it had been a scorcher. Over 115 degrees. We didn’t do anything today, sat around and watched movies in our air conditioned tent. I usually would spend two to three hours in the gym late at night when it was fairly cool. We were all making jokes about how bad our hair looked, and wondering what the First SGT or SGT MAJ would say about them. They were always on our asses about Proper this and Proper that. It was their job though, so I understand.

The sun was fading by the time Diaz finished cutting my hair. It actually wasn’t to bad this time. I walked around the alaskan shelter, shirtless, and I brushed the hair off of my body as I went. I looked up and there was a wall of sand coming towards us. It hadn’t blocked out the sun yet, but was about too. i had never seen anything like it. It was out of the movie The Scorpion King. When that cloud is chasing the airplane. All I could do was watch it. I ran into the tent excited, and worried at the same time. I yelled for the guys to get out here. Marine after Marine stumbled out of the tent. Asking dumb questions, but when they saw it then stood wide mouthed.

Like idiots we stood there watching it come closer. As fast as a freight train. Laughing that this was it. We were done for. It hit like a tornado. Sandblasting everything. It got dark and hard to breathe. We all fought to get into the Alaskan shelter without the door being ripped off. I finally got through and into the tent. There was dust floating in the air inside! I coughed hard for a few seconds. My body hurt, and was red as a tomato. I had been standing out there without a shirt! Everyone looked like they had been showered in fine yellow/ brown dirt.

It lasted through the night. I woke up and looked around stretching. There was a inch of dirt on everything and everyone inside the shelter. Sighing I got up, and picked up my laptop off the make shift table I had build out of MRE boxes, and a piece of wood. Dumping the dirt into the floor. Brett looked up at me, “Dude, do that outside.” I just turned and started dumping the dirt from the rest of my stuff into the floor. it took us a full day to clean the tent. It was a fun experience!