Monday, December 31, 2007

Alpha down...

Alpha died. After moving to Killeen TX, my Betta fish have decided against life. They stopped eating two days ago and Alpha senior has now left us. He was burried at sea and lived a good life of comfort and care.

Saturday, December 29, 2007


I have been living with Ms. Bruning for one week and three days now. It is a lot of fun as are most things one could do with Ingrid because she's just a fun person. Having a kitchen is fun too. I like to cook and do it as often as possible without going broke or getting fat. Here are some pictures of food we've eaten. I would also like to point out that, minus the cost of the pot to boil the water in and the bottle of wine, the pasta, shrimp and dip night cost us a total of seven dollars and fifty cents. We pretty much rock.
Wine, some sort of dip and a shrimp tray (four dollars on special...split in half between snacking and the pasta below)
Shrimp, garlic and sun dried tomato sauce, mushrooms, tomato and spinach.
Breakfast this morning...chorizo and eggs, tortillas, bacon, mimosas and coffee with chocolate liqueur (the ones my mom gave me for Christmas in place of sugar).
Ingrid. Not food, but still a photo worth posting. If you ain't Chem, you ain't shit...or something like that.

Friday, December 28, 2007

hey LT...

I have begun in processing to Fort Hood and go to my unit tomorrow. I will have to divert from this path of conversation for a moment to tell you about some other things going on, and then, if all goes well, return to this point to bring it all full circle.

As anyone who’s read this recently knows, I lost two friends in Iraq right before I got to Fort Hood. When I got here, I had nowhere to live until a friend offered me a room until I find my own place. I have been there since, in an unfurnished apartment with no television, internet or food (we are both broke). This has given me far too much time to sit around thinking about “things”. I have finished reading Fiasco now and some other things that I have been meaning to read for a long time.

In reading Fiasco, I noticed something that many people may not. While the Civil War was “West Point’s War” (all but three battles were commanded on both sides by West Point graduates), in some ways, I believe, all wars are West Point’s. I say that not to be arrogant, but because I think simply due to the number of officers commissioned from West Point, any armed conflict will have an impact on the culture and collective memory of the institution it will not have elsewhere. (Yes, more officers by quite a few are commissioned through other sources, but those sources are either de-centralized, such as ROTC or short term, such as OCS, and, thus, do not create the same lasting bond that West Point does).

There are examples of West Point graduates throughout Fiasco from General Officer level, down through COL’s, LTC’s, Captains and Lieutenants. Some are good, some are bad, some are in that horrendous grey area in between where decision making is toughest. Some have gained notoriety, good and bad--the names LTC Sassaman and CPT Fishback should not be unfamiliar to anyone who has followed military issues of morality and ethics throughout the war. In re-reading the tragedy of LTC Sassaman’s situation, I was struck by how close to home it for a West Pointer. LTC Sassaman was a graduate, as was CPT Paliwoda, an officer whose grave I have visited and whose classmates have introduced us (I wrote about that experience before). LTC Sassaman’s BDE Commander, COL Rudesheim, has a son who was a classmate of mine.

While this particular story is not a high point in West Point graduates history, it is a good example of what I mean by calling wars “ours.” When something happens, such as this, the institution itself goes into a self-examination. What was it teaching us, what was it doing well and what was it doing wrong, that such things happen? Meanwhile, CPT Paliwoda’s classmates stop by his grave to remember a time when they were all wearing grey and drinking at the firstie club together.

After loosing my friends, particularly Adam, an Officer I had more respect for than almost an other Officer I knew, I went into a period of self-examination similar myself. How could someone such as Adam have died when he was everything the country had asked of him and everything I hoped to be? And here I return to the first point…

Am I ready to lead? I read about so many Lieutenants in Fiasco doing things that a year ago seemed so far away. Leading platoons, fighting in close quarters, analyzing intelligence that saved or killed their soldiers—all of which I could be called to do and which, more importantly, I will ask of my own soldiers in a short period of time. I began to wonder if I’d wasted my time at West Point. Teachers always told us to make the most of our time, to get the mentoring we needed to be the best officers we could be, or else we were selling the nation, and more importantly the soldiers we may someday lead, short. I listened, and a lot of it went right in one ear and out the other as I half-assedly did my homework to head down to the Firstie Club.

I think I am prepared, although no one is ever “fully” prepared as constantly seeking improvement is probably the only way one can maintain a level of confidence in himself, but I worry that I’m not as prepared as I could have been. That is where my second-guessing had kept me in a funk for the past week. It seems that if I was willing to take leadership within the army and be accountable for the training and preparation of soldiers, I should be as prepared as humanly possible, and yet, I can look back and see areas where I could have done better.

Nothing can change that now, however, and I have chosen to move on. Adam understood that, when he was a Cadet, when he was a Lieutenant and when he was a Captain. He always strove to be the best at whatever it was he was doing. That is something I learned from him and somehow managed not to take onto myself. Now that he’s gone, however, I can’t continue to be mediocre. Part of me feels a responsibility to him, and part of me feels a responsibility to everyone else who counts on the military, but I think the time has come for me to see how good I can be for once instead of settling simply for doing “good enough”. While “good enough” is sufficient to pass a test, it isn’t good enough for Soldiers, it isn’t good enough for West Point and it isn’t good enough for Adam. While I don’t know what my “best” yet is, I can only hope that continually striving for it will be enough for me to somehow repay the trust that has been placed in me.

I only wish I had realized this some years ago…

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

looking forward

The deaths of so many people I know has weighed heavily upon me, but it is something I think I was ready for. In fact, with the war raging as long as it has, it suprises me that I haven't really faced it until now. With Mark's death, the idea of loss and death and war hit home, with my civilian friends, in a way it hadn't before either. This is an email I got from a friend of mine in regards to the loss:
i had becoome immune to this war. so much of what you see on television is so scary that i'd learned to block it out. but when [he] called me it became so personal. it's really upset me, now every mention of it, and there are so many, makes me think of the great loss this country is going thru. i'm so sorry about your mentor. i was looking forward to seeing mark at our reunion. it's just so sad.
I've often asked, sometimes on this blog, if the war has become just background noise to life as usual here in the states. This email makes me think that, for many, it has. However, for those of us for whom the war is real, it continues, and more and more of our friends and family continue to fight it.

The first of my friends from the class of 2007 are making their ways to Iraq and Afghanistan now, mostly those in non-combat arms branches. It is very strange to think that the war will now be fought by my peers, by people with as much training as I have. They are no longer "soldiers" in the generic sense of the word, people in uniform that I don't know personally, but they are all individuals with names and stories and families and fears just like mine.

It is odd thinking about how long it will be before I see many of them again. After graduation, we had BOLC II and BOLCIII where we were with almost all West Pointers in training. Now, for the first time, I'm going to a unit where there will only be one or two of us. Moreover, with our deployments overlapping and scheduling, it may be years before I see some of my best friends again. Strange to think of. The idea that I may never see some again, however, is one which I choose not to think of yet.

Fort Hood

I made my way to Fort Hood yesterday to find a place to live. As with most Army posts, barring one or two of the better ones, I knew I was getting close to the front gate by the increase in the number of pawn shops. Housing was scant and after driving around for hours looking for an apartment to rent myself, I gave up. I had lunch with a friend whose roomate isn't moving in until February. This means I can take the extra room and have two months to find somewhere for myself that doesn't suck. I am leaning toward moving into a house...I just need a roomate now. I'll post pics I took of Hood when I get my camera out of the car.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Now in TX

I realize my blog has, of late, become a bit of a downer. I feel like I'm writing about death too often, but it's not really something I have much control over (death, not the writing). I'm sure things will pick up soon and I'll be writing about wrapping and presents and songs and Christmas lights soon enough.

I'm in TX now, but not a Texan. Trying to find a place to live is difficult as I've never set foot near Fort Hood. I think I might drive over there tomorrow or the next day and see what there is and where I want to live. It seems, thus far, that every apartment is the same. If I had a roommate, I could split a house with someone or a nicer two bedroom apartment, but I don't. I realized after I chose Hood that there are only one or two good friends of mine going out this way too even though about half my class had posted here.

Anyway, my Aunt and Uncle are here at my sister's house and we're doing our family Christmas today. Should be a good time before I embark on the great apartment hunt. Wish me luck.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Mark Carter

A decade ago, I was sitting in English class. Ms. Fellios, my high school english teacher, had us tell what we'd like to be when we graduated. We were supposed to write letters to ourselves in the future. I didn't know what to write, but Mark Carter did. He wanted to be a Navy SEAL. He had no question about it, it's what he'd wanted to do since he was a child and what he dedicated his life to.

Some years ago, we went camping in the desert. Mark, already a SEAL at this point, was bored with the what kept the rest of us excited (shooting guns and otherwise making asses of ourselves). The quiet of the desert was interrupted by the sound of massive car sized boulders rolling down the mountain behind us...Mark had pushed them over just to hear them crash.

Mark died in that service on Tuesday. He was a Navy SEAL and a great person. I don't think I've ever known anyone who wanted to do what he was doing more than Mark. Well done Mark, Be Thou at Peace.

Thursday, December 13, 2007


I am finally in Texas. After almost sixteen hours of consecutive driving from 1200 yesterday through 0500 this morning, I made it to Austin just in time for my friend (who had let me crash at his place) to leave for work. I slept until eleven, had lunch and drove another three hours to Houston.

I would write more about that trip, or the unusually inept outprocessing that happened at Fort Huachuca, but I am ready to sleep instead.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

I can't sleep tonight, thinking of my friend. Other than family, I have never lost someone this close to me. I don't know what I'm feeling right now, but if there is a term for confusion, anger, pain and loss all rolled into one, that is it. I can't fathom how someone as good as Adam was could be gone, or how someone who always strove to better himself and those around him could be taken so young. I feel, as illogical as this is, that if whomever set that IED had known how much Adam had done for the Iraqis (Adam had solicited so much in donations the postal service had asked him to cut back at one point because it was making it difficult to process all the mail to his FOB) then maybe he wouldn't have set it. I know that's not the case, and that to the insurgents, an American is an American...that they don't know, or care, if Adam was a true patriot there to do what he thought he should do to help others. All I know is I'll never get a call again just to see how things are going or to congratulate me when I've accomplished something else in life.

Adam had come up to New York one weekend last month and, while I can't remember what it was that I "had" to do that weekend, I realize now it wasn't important enough. People always say that after someone dies...that they wish they had told the person how much he meant to them or tried to spend that little more time with them. It's more true now than I've ever felt it before. With my father, we knew he was going to die and we were able to say our goodbyes and I've never felt that we missed that opportunity. With Adam, I have the faith to know he knows how we all...felt about him, but the regret of knowing that I was never able to tell him what a role model and friend he was to me in person.

I have begun to dread conversations that begin with "Did you know ____?" with classmates of mine because I know how they're going to end. I was talking with a friend of mine tonight and he, who has also lost a good friend, replied, "yeah i know man and unfortunately i feel its just the fucking beginning." I worry this is the life I've chosen. One where it's a crap shoot which of my friends will be like Adam...a memory.

I called some friends back at school. I let the kids who donated money to help supply his soldiers with equipment that he was gone. I let some kids in his old company who never knew him that he was been in A3 too, and that when the First Captain announces, "It is with great regret that I inform you of a fallen comrade..." that he is not talking about someone far removed from them, someone faceless or just a memory. He is a real person. A good person. Someone to be missed and praised, someone they should emulate. And I hope, at the very least, that in that moment of silence, his memory is a tangible, solitary moment wherein Adam is at West Point once more.

I don't understand this, and I don't think I ever will.

Monday, December 10, 2007

CPT Adam P. Snyder

My plebe year, I was in upper level arabic classes because I had already learned to speak the language. In the class were all Juniors and Seniors, something which happens rarely at West Point. I was also in the Glee Club. Most of the Seniors in the Glee Club didn't talk to me much (probably because I wasn't a very good plebe) and one of them was also in my Arabic classes. His name was Adam Snyder.

The day after my father's funeral, I came back to West Point and had our Glee Club photo. I walked out to Trophy Point on a grey and windy day and sat off by myself, upset about my father. Adam came over and introduced himself asking if I was the plebe in his Arabic class. He asked if I could help him study Arabic and we began to meet every day in the Dirt Library before class to study or I would brave the halls of A3 to his room.

Grad Week '04, my first experience with West Point's graduation traditions, Adam came to my room. He had in his hand his dress grey shirt with three stripes designating him as a Cadet Lieutenant...he was A3's XO. He told me he wanted me to have it so there was still a part of him at West Point. I took it feeling as though the day I'd need a jacket of a firstie was further off than I could imagine and knowing I didn't even know for sure if I'd stay. More than that, Adam was a big kid. He worked out all the time (and used to give me hell for not doing so myself...he thought it imperative an officer be in the best physical condition). I took his jacket and kept it hanging in my closet for four years. I hoped someday I'd fit into it myself.

He was the lead in the class of 2004's Hundredth Night Show and on his company's Sandhurst team. When he deployed to Iraq, the Army made a new rule that one could only wear shirts of natural material under your ACU's so that blasts would not melt the material to the skin. The Army did not, however, give soldiers the money to pay for new shirts. Adam took it upon himself to organize donations to provide shirts for his soldiers and, in doing so, provided shirts not only for his own platoon, but for the soldiers of three full companies.

Last we talked, he was headed to Iraq for his second tour. He volunteered to go instead of going to the Captain's Career Course. He would have had to do so eventually, but he would rather go to Iraq and be able to lead troops instead of sitting in a classroom environment.

Adam died in Iraq on Dec. 5 2007. My heart sank when I heard the news and even now, writing this, my hands tremble at the loss. And now I type the words I have sung so often, but never for a friend like Adam...

Be Thou At Peace.
Captain Adam P. Snyder, November 18, 1981-December 5, 2007


I went out Sat night with a bunch of the guys I'm here studying with because it's our last weekend. We had a really good group and some of the ones who never come out came out with us. We ate, drank, danced and overall had a blast. I didn't really drink much because I just wasn't feeling much like getting drunk, and it's a good thing I didn't. I woke up that night around five with the cold sweats and had to vomit like I haven't vomited in years. Without getting into the details of it, I basically got amazingly sick. We drove back to Fort Huachuca where I immediately went to sleep (this was noon) and didn't get out of bed but to shower. My friend John came over and helped me out. He sat on the couch watching TV and reading and ever once in a while, I'd wake up, moan something about water or pepto bismol and he'd get it for me and I'd go back to sleep. That right there is a good friend...someone who will give up a Sunday to help you when you throw up. The good news is, I'm feeling much better today and I pack up to leave to TX on Wednesday.

Sunday, December 02, 2007


A lot of people talk about how, while the rivalry between Army and Navy is intense, we really feel some sort of kinship for one another because we know the other one goes through just as hard a time as we do etc. etc. blah blah blah. I have never felt that least, until this weekend. This weekend, I watched Army lose--and lose bad. A missed ten yard field goal, turn overs on the Army 1, 5 & 9 yard line along with numerous other unforced errors. I watched it all from a bar in Tucson with the West Point and Annapolis societies, mainly old men and their wives. Across the table from me was a Navy graduate from the class of '49.

As the game wore on, he smiled and laughed as we groaned and nearly cried and, at the end, when we sang our Alma Maters, ours, as the losers, went first followed by Navy, we stood at attention (minus one of the Navy football players who didn't have the professionalism to stand at attention for his own instead choosing to "conduct" the band...typical). As we left and the cameras showed raucous midshipmen smiling and laughing, the '49 grad patted me on the shoulder, pointed at the screen and said, "Don't worry, thanks to Davis and Blanchard, I don't know how that feels either."

So there it is. Kinship. Understanding and camaraderie with a Mid, albeit from the class of '49, shared over the mutual pain of watching a rival beat you.

Saturday, December 01, 2007


I'm in Tucson at a hotel waiting for the Army/Navy game to start. It's my first year doing the game as an "old grad" so we'll be watching from a bar with the West Point Society of Tucson. I have high hopes this I guess I do every year.

Last night I went out with some friends and somehow lost my Red Sox baseball cap. It was my favorite hat both because it's one of the only ones that fit me and because I got it when I went to my first game in Boston. It was from one of the best weekends of my life and it's gone.

In any case, the game is almost on and I have to run. Expect more constant postings once I have a computer that works in my room again in a week and a half, but most importantly,

Go Army!