Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Last Ride For The Malboro Man

"You will beget wolves on earth.
"You'll teach them to wag their tails.
"And if, later, you have to pay the price,
"So be it: that will be later."
- Soviet poet Galich

James Blake Miller (born July 10, 1984) is an American Iraq War veteran, who served in the United States Marine Corps and was dubbed "the Marlboro Man" / "Marlboro Marine", after an iconic, close-up photograph of his dirt-smeared, battle-weary face, with a cigarette planted in his mouth, was published on the front page of more than 150 American newspapers in 2004.

Because of his struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder, Miller is now separated from his wife and family and currently lives alone. He is unable to discuss certain things that happened in Fallujah, and has joined the Highwaymen, a motorcycle club under constant scrutiny by law enforcement.


Joey only cried with his motorcycle helmet on. Blazing down the road on his Kawasaki with his mind focused solely on the road ahead was the only time he felt safe enough and alone enough to let the pain come through. He had to hide: he was damaged goods in a world professing perfection. He never got more than three hours tumultous sleep before the nightmares jarred him awake in screaming sweat.

"Company leader to Raven!"

The intrusive, demanding calls still echoed in his head even as he raced away on the lonely Nebraska highway. Joey lived in another world now, unseen to unsoiled civilians. Shadows of black demons chased his every step, whispering his crimes of which no human would hear his confession. Everyone offered to help - only because they knew they could not.

Both the warmongers and peacemongers wanted to use him as propaganda. But Joey had had a lifetime of being used. No Arab face could he look again in the eye. Somehow, he knew, they would just know his unforgivable deed. The world could do as it wished now. But Joey had to find his peace before the bell tolled for him.


I came back home. But home wasn't there no more. Did it leave because I left? Or was it never there to begin with? I'll never know now. Sweet Jesus, this is driving me crazy!

First they use you. Then they break you. Then they leave you. I only wanted to know that I served. I should have asked exactly what I was fucking serving. Is too late to even care?

I see some of the other guys still lyin' and dyin'. Still thinkin' they can beat the devil. But that wigglin' worm keeps eatin' you up inside, never leaving you alone, making you wish you was dead.

Nobody's done what I done. Worst ones are the "understandin'" ones. "Oh, I know you're hurting. You can tell me anything!" Fake ass assholes, users. Hanging on me like I'm a broken chair to fix up. Don't be making my problems your problems. Don't be using me for your escape. They only say they want to help because they know they won't.

Some of them other vets have come around too late too. It's all fucking bullshit! Who was there for me when my brain snapped and I couldn't remember why I was pulling that trigger? Not a one of you fuckers! "He's a brave boy. He'll be fine." Fuck you! Fuck you out the goddam ass. You go kill and be fine, motherfucker! Goddam you to HELL!


When he was still scrambling through the brush and dust of Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley, listening to his buddies’ frantic pleas for a medic, Brendan O’Byrne gave no thought to whether he would be able to pay his bills when he returned home to the United States. He did not contemplate his future credit rating, or his ability to land a job.

...Additionally, he was having nightmares. Night after night he got shot, or his gun malfunctioned, or he watched a friend die. The only way to avoid them was to drink until he passed out, so he did, sometimes emptying two bottles of Jack Daniels in a day.

The drinking caused its own problems. He got arrested once for a bar fight, and other times for being “a little bit out of control, drunk, and mad at the world.” He collected unemployment and continued to ignore his bills.

“I have no idea how to catch back up,” he says O’Byrne. “I don’t have any way to figure out how to plan.”

It was as if his body was back at home, but his mind was still in combat, interfering with his ability to strategize during those first few months. “My head is spinning so fast at this point that I try to commit suicide,” O’Byrne says. “I can’t stop my brain from just racing all day. And I’m supposed to worry about this debt? Worry about this car payment?”

It was winter 2008 and the American economy was collapsing. So was O’Byrne.


Only place I'm free from you assholes.

Joey's mind kept shifting gears on him, disengaging one thought as the horror erupted too high, engaging another as it fought its way to the surface, a thousand more behind that crying out to be let out. Joey often needlessly shifted gears on his bike just to mimic his mind, to find any thread of honest communication between him and the outside world.

The more he tried to explain, the less anyone understood.


"Psychological evaluation". Just what the fuck is that supposed to mean? Who are you to evaluate me? Want me to sanitize your motherfucking war for you? Have Susan open her legs for me so she can "serve" and be part of the war game? You pathetic damn people never ask to know the truth. Only as long as I lie you call me friend.

Well, I can't lie no more! You fucking hear me? Pull your head out of your goddam ass!

Why should you listen to me when you won't even listen to you? You got crimes of your own, don't ya Mr. Upright? Maybe you didn't pull the trigger but you got blood on your hands. What was you sayin' when they put Jesus on the cross? "Halle-fuckin-lujah, praise the Lord"? You want to keep your shit down, don't ya? Hide your own sins knowing mine be out in the open. Your dark soul sees my soul, don't it? Yeah buddy, I know how dark souls get made.

You used to fool me with your clean cut neighborhoods and clean cut hair making me think I'm part of it. You sure played me for a sucker. Go fight for us, bitch! Idiot moron. Tote your gun in the shit so I won't have to. You had me fooled alright with your pretty teeth and nice cars. You ain't so goddam pure ya-self.

But that don't help me none. I'm still broke up in a million pieces.


When Walmart rejected O’Byrne, he was stunned.

“Coming out of Afghanistan, leading men in goddamn combat for fifteen months, to being turned down at fucking Walmart, it does something to your ego,” he says. “I wasn’t going for a supervisor role. I wasn’t going for any role. I was going for cleaning floors in the middle of the night. You know, it was such a shock to me that I was turned down for that. And it really, it scared the hell out of me because I thought ‘Oh my god, if I can’t get a job at Walmart, how am I going to get a job anywhere else, and what am I going to do for money?’”


Selling yourself short is a cardinal crime.

At 18, Joey had it all figured out what he wanted to do. First off, he was smarter than the Army. He still revered the institution but he bragged how he had no delusions on their wayward ways. Joey had a plan on the career path he was going to take and the army was going to facilitate that for him no matter what. This was not going to be a one way street, he vowed.

What he didn't count on was a mind permanently scrambled, his life made useless. He'd fought back part of the way but still no light on the horizon of coming home. Joey sat on the edge of the universe, a starless deep abyss dangling below. No matter the time of day, the light dimmed in continual sunset to his eyes. That's what he was racing: to reach the light before it passed away forever.


If I sleep in a comfortable bed, they'll come snatch me out of it, pissed off as hell. I can't get it out of my brain! "Company leader to Raven" cracks the radio in my head. If he's sleepin' good he ain't one of us. He ain't doin' his share. Say anything but don't say I ain't be doin' my share! Oh, Jesus God in heaven you're killing me. I can't get no rest. The rubber band just twists tighter 'n' tighter.

You want me now, assholes? Now that I'm all fucked up. You want me running your shop and hanging around your pretentious little office? You want to put me on display like a trophy? Hire Mr. War Hero to show much you love us "veterans"? And what if I'd never gone, huh? No room at the inn then, huh, you hypocrites.

Same wherever you go. I saw them clubbin' girls so hot you could die. They got eyes that don't know the world, all shiny and new. They ask me to come along. Some cause they love everyone. Some cause they feel guilty they ain't dead like me. Show you like me and you get a free pass on the war guilt, they think. I ain't found no free pass on the guilt no time never on nothin' for one fucking minute. I can't be in your world anymore.

I can't be in anyone's world anymore but my own. But there ain't no livin' there.

I don't want to die. But I guess them people I shot didn't want to die neither, did they? So how can I ask to live? How can I go on eatin' and laughin' when I left all those families crying not knowing why? Was this the plan all along? To make me like this?


Who heals the inner wounds?

On Christmas Eve of 2003, Kevin Lucey noticed the first sign of the "hidden wounds" ravaging his grown son, Jeff.

Jeff Lucey, a 23-year-old Marine lance corporal had been back from Iraq just a few months and was living quietly with his parents in Belchertown, Mass.

That night, Kevin suddenly "took off his dog tags and tossed them at his younger sister, crying," and began "saying he was nothing more than a murderer," the father recalled Thursday.

...The next day, Kevin Lucey found the body of his son in the basement of the house, his neck bound with a garden hose, dangling from the beams in the ceiling.

Next to the body was a shrine with Jeff's dog tags, two dogs tags of Iraqi soldiers his son claimed to have killed, several family photos arranged in a semicircle, a photo of his platoon in the middle and three notes.

"He once again was in my lap as I was cutting him down from the beams," the dad said.


Joey said that first night in the barracks bunk in basic training was the most scared he'd ever been. He'd put his life in the hands of strangers and his instincts told him to run. So much different looking from the inside out! Why didn't he see this before?

His bunkmates were just as alone and afraid, and as such they banded together in mutual trepidation. To hell with the big shots, we'll fight for ourselves, for each other. They weaved a cocoon that sheltered them from the knifing doubts that invaded their nightly dreams. "I can hide in this band of brothers. Nothing else matters."

All this was as the Army intended.


Did they know all along the worm was going to turn? That first I was going to believe, no problem. But that sooner or later I was gonna think and have that moment that changes everything? But then it's too late and you can't go back and you can't ever stop. You gotta keep killin' for your buddies, for your boss's approval cause you lost your own. You gotta keep killin' cause they don't expect anythin' less. Came a time when those bullets shot right through me no matter where I aimed.

I swear I can still feel them in me. "Company leader to Raven." We need more killin' done.

Dear God in heaven what I wouldn't give for just one safe spot to lay my head. With no one to leech off my tears. And no one to poke on my fears. Just put away your long knife for once and let me live. What is it about war that makes everybody make everybody else go do it? Sayin' truth works the same way. If they don't ever start letting me speak it how can I have any hope?

Shit I'm tired but I gotta keep running. Maybe when I get to the next place things will be better. Maybe. Who's going to love me now? I can't stand still with this wiggling worm inside me twisting my guts out. If only I could find a place where I didn't have to lie I wouldn't have to die. That's where peace is. If only someone would speak the truth...


"Sorry, kid, my career is more important than your soul."

“In a psychologist’s room or psychiatrist’s room there’s no connection, because you can’t connect, because that’s not their job to connect,” he says. “Their job is to understand, evaluate, diagnose and treat. But a group of guys that have seen combat, have seen people die -- that’s human, that’s connection, where people can cry and they can start shedding some of this guilt with guys that know what the hell they’re talking about.”


Patton was a "goddamed coward". Anyone can die. Takes a hero to live.