What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
—Wilfred Owen, Anthem for Doomed Youth
PFC Leonard Hasford hated Bowman since the day Bowman got the entire platoon smoked for straggling when he did not make it down the stairs in time to first morning formation.
"Drink waaa-ter!" the Drill Sergeant trumpeted, stern-faced, wearing his green, broad-brimmed felt Campaign Hat. The high crown pinched symmetrically at the four corners, known as the Montana Crease. He scanned the ranks of exhausted recruits lined up in orderly rows inside the assembly area. Had just finished smoking them with one hundred push-ups, followed up with one hundred four-count flutter-kicks while holding rifles over their chests, because Private Bowman had also left his weapon back in the barracks and unattended.
They took a knee, sweating, puking, shouted as one—"Beat the heat, Drill Sergeant! Beat the heat!" Then uncapped their green hard plastic one quart canteens, and for the next few seconds, gulped the water without pausing. They could not drink it fast enough.
The Drill Sergeant issued the next set of rifle drill commands. "Position of attention, MOVE!" All at once, they jumped to their feet, to the position of Attention. "The Up and Forward!"
"The Up and Forward, Drill Sergeant!" they shouted together.
Exercise! One, two, three!
One, two, three!
One hundred four-count exercises.
Then, the Drill Sergeant barked the commands of the next set of rifle drills:
"Position of attention, MOVE! The Fore-up Squat!"
The Fore-up Squat, Drill Sergeant!
That was how it started, when Hasford started hating Bowman for the first time, and it would follow him to Iraq, to the Troop Surge, the bloodiest year of the war, that year of 2007, when the war was hungriest and gorged on a mash of 906 soldiers, the most in a year, and 654,695 Iraqis up to that point. The funny thing was that Hasford believed in looking out for the soldier to the left and to the right of him. He understood the dire importance of that camaraderie that exists between soldiers out of necessity to stay alive and increase the odds of making it back from over there still in one piece. To make it alive out of the sandbox in one whole piece—not pieces. To make it home alive to your significant other, your family, your kids, your friends, or if none of those applied, just to your own bed. Just to roll—back and forth—in your bed. You'd make widows and orphans of all Iraq just for that simple pleasure. You'd make widows and orphans of their families so that there were no widows and orphans waiting back home when you returned. Although, there always were. There was no getting around that. The only way was not to fight in a war. But that was bad for business.
It came down to the odds, he figured, and what they were gambling with was the greatest cost that any man or woman alone could possibly stake on a wager, and the even more absurdly comical thing that occurred to him was at the same time how cheap the cost of their lives were should they lose. The going rate for Servicemembers Group Life Insurance for a dead soldier was $400,000. In contrast the going rate for a dead Iraqi was worth a significantly less condolence payment of $2,500. That is, a dead Iraqi whose family could 'prove' wrongful death caused by the negligence of the American soldier (other than murder).
At least there was some small comfort, Hasford had decided, in knowing the life of the soldier was worth more. Besides, to him and most of the soldiers to his left and right he looked out for, the Iraqis were a lesser people and if CNN were to ask the soldiers of his unit on camera whether they thought this was a righteous war, they would all say a resoundingly rehearsed YES!; but ask that same question when the cameras were turned off and the embedded reporters were absent, what he and the soldiers of his unit thought about being in Iraq, the most shared sentiment across the theater was a theme of: nuke the country and let God sort them out.
But Hasford was in Iraq during the bloodiest part of the war and there was not a whole lot he could do about it. It is what it is, the soldiers liked to often say, so it came down to increasing their odds of survival, and how they accomplished that was by being dependable and looking out for the soldier to their left and to their right. The jackpot was to make it home still in one piece, and then from there the winnings would decrease to the next highest pay out which was making it home in one piece but with a severe fractured mind (there were degrees of PTSD), and then from there the next best winnings were to make it home wounded or missing a limb (there were degrees to that, also), and of course losing meant making the ultimate sacrifice and paying the ultimate price for God and country. Most soldiers fell into that second highest winnings category, and the third. Not too many lucked out and hit the jackpot and made it out of the sandbox unscathed.
At least, that was how Hasford looked at it. His own narrow philosophy on the war. But when it came to Bowman, Hasford just plain hated that kid. Bowman was just one of those type of people you hated, but really did not know why you hated them, just that you did. He was one of those type of soldiers, the shitbirds that could do nothing or very little right. His mistakes reduced their odds of survival and that was why Hasford had his good, angry reasons for hating Bowman the way he did.
After BCT, the needs of the Army had sent Hasford to 1-21st Infantry Battalion "Gimlets", 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. However, Hasford knew it was that fate had been cruel to him and it sent Bowman along as well. Not only the same Battalion, but the same Company, Alpha Company "Gators."
Midway through that deadliest of years in the war, on a scorching summer afternoon, they had a few hour layover at Camp Victory, where the main body of 1-21 was headquartered. Then it was back to the outlying Joint Security Station where the Company was posted. The CO was called in with the rest of the Company Commanders for a critical meeting with the Battalion Commander, and Hasford was part of the three Stryker convoy that escorted the CO to Camp Victory. While they were busy talking strategies and personnel and legal matters and whatever else went discussed when briefing the BC, Hasford had no idea what the fuck they talked about since those matters were way above his pay grade, the enlisted used their down time efficiently to go to the Post Exchange and grab some Burger King, or keep it simple and eat at the big fancy Dining Facility with the Surf and Turf on Fridays and the giant flatscreen TVs that showed Fox news and sports and pay-per-view UFC fights all day.
Bowman was with them. Hasford could not figure out for the life of him why or how Bowman seemed to get selected for the same missions and convoys, but somehow he managed. That fate was just into dealing Hasford cruel hands was all he could conclude as a reason and it made him angrier and resent Bowman that much more. If they were to come under attack Hasford had a feeling in his bones that Bowman was going to fuck up somehow and end up getting a soldier killed. At the rate fate was dealing Hasford rotten luck, he suspected that soldier would be him. He did not care whether Bowman got himself killed, but Hasford'd be damned if a shitbird like Bowman was going to indirectly cause the death of a good squared-away soldier.
They were smoking outside the Strykers, the ramps were down, and the Platoon Sergeant, Sergeant First Class Fisher, was sitting inside on the narrow bench of one, reading a copy of Maxim Magazine. Doing less reading and more admiring all the sexy pictures of the half-nude models, about the closest thing to legal possessed porn a soldier could own in theater.
Fisher said, "Check out the tits on her." He showed Hasford and Bowman the model in the picture and said it a little louder than he meant to and cringed, remembering the medic was in the next Stryker over, repacking her med kit by his orders and she could hear him. She was a Specialist on a second tour of duty in Iraq, but had errantly left her med kit on the floor and the Sergeant tripped on it and almost broke his neck getting out. He grabbed the kit and spilled the contents of it out on the floor and then he ordered her to repack and went into the next Stryker where the Privates were smoking outside and saw the magazine on the bench and started admiring the pictures.
Hasford grinned. "Nice one. Those are big tits, Sergeant." Hasford said it loud and Fisher was shaking his head and his eyes got big and round. Fisher had a look of sheepish guilt on his face, but Hasford did not care about sexual harassment, or the equal opportunity training they sat through every quarter. Not here he did not, and not in an infantry unit. Not 'Infantry Land' he didn't. Infantry was the 'Queen of Battle', the most versatile chess piece on the board, but as far as Hasford felt about it and the majority of the males were concerned, the female had no business in Infantry Land. There were other combat related jobs, Field Artillery, the King of Battle; Forward Observer, known as the Fister, Eyes of Death. The female soldier had no business there if Hasford and the others had anything to say about it. Hasford was an 11-bravo. He was an Infantryman. Infantry was the "queen" of battle.
The same way the Queen was the strongest piece on a chess board, the Infantry served the most powerful, decisive, critical function in the game of war. The Infantry was analogized to the Queen, a female, but women were not permitted into a Combat Arms MOS, not yet, and Hasford and the rest of maledom in Infantry Land preferred to keep it that way. As he propped himself against the Stryker, smoking his cigarette and packing a hit of Copenhagen and pinching a fat dip into his bottom lip, dipping and smoking at the same time, he laughed in his mind at the irony. Then, reaffirmed it was a good thing females were not allowed to fight, it was for the best, not because they were weak, but because they made the men weak. Because Hasford would be less a man if he did nothing to stop a female from getting hurt, and he would be no man at all, if captured by the enemy, she was raped and he had to stand by helplessly and watch it happen.
"Put those fucking cigarettes out! You know you are not supposed to be smoking near the fucking vehicles, Hasford! You too, Bowman!" Fisher yelled. Then: "Go on, get the fuck out of here. Go to the PX or something! Get yourselves some Burger King. Or eat at the DFAC, I don't give a fat shit which. Be back here in an hour."
He sighed, more angry with himself than at them. "Bring me back a fucking Whopper Meal! With cheese!"
They hurried toward the Post Exchange. "Roger, Sergeant!"
Humvees rumbled past them on the pocked dirt road to the PX. The road was hard as baked clay: A compacting of the gravel-blended dirt for four long years under the passage of so many heavy vehicles. The top was a fine gray powder that mixed with the black exhaust of the Humvees, billowed out behind the column, and smothered Hasford and Bowman as they walked. The two boys tucked their chins into their chests as though that would spare them the discomfort. But the gray dust was everywhere. In every nook and cranny of the vehicles. The clamshell rapid deployment shelters. The plywood buildings with camo tent roofs. The containerized housing units. It was in their boots; their eyes. Where they ate, slept, and shit. There was dust. It begrimed their hearts. It dirtied their souls. It stuck to them like Judgment. And they knew it. No amount of cleaning could get rid of it.
The column passed. Finally the dust settled. Then two "KBR-land" contractors riding in an electric cart sped past. More dust kicked up.
The north was a large open field with gray sand, sickly yellow grasses, and the ugly brown clumps of the Anastatica called the Rose of Jericho—the most famous of tumbleweeds. The south road was lined with concertina wire topped T-walls and shorter Hescoe barriers in front of the long stopgap concrete wall. There were small upside down u-shaped concrete bunkers with more concertina wire and sandbags on top of them at twenty yards.
Hasford looked to the wall. He gazed through it, as if it were glass. On the other side, he knew was a city filled with people scheming to take his life. Right now there were small skinny brown men outside the wire zealously digging holes, strapping on suicide vests, and rigging mortar tubes in the rear cargo area of civilian trucks.
"You ever wonder how many Haji are on the other side of that wall plotting to kill us right now?" Bowman asked, as if reading Hasford's mind.
Hasford played dumb: "No. That is stupid. Why would you think something like that, Private?"
Bowman frowned, rolling his eyes.
Hasford said, "You got your head up your four-pointed contact again, Private Bowman?" Talking sideways at Bowman, he continued, "We got a mission to complete, Private. Just keep your mind focused."
Again, Bowman rolled his eyes. Looked at Hasford with a face, "'Private?' Hey asshole, who are you trying to kid! You are just a private, too." Hasford was a Private First Class, E-3. Bowman was a Private E-1. But in the junior enlisted ranks, anything below Sergeant did not mean shit. Even Corporal was only a glorified Spec-4.
Hasford looked back.
The tall line of T-walls disappeared into the thick haze of the dust shrouded distance. Like the dust, the barriers were everywhere, too. A massive fortress of T-walls. And a prison. The super-base was your protector and jailor. In no time flat you recognized its function. Quickly, you learned to appreciate the irony.
So had Bowman.
The exchange was bustling. The bizarre in front was noisy with the broken English of the Iraqis snake oil salesmen hawking wares and the chattering soldiers talking over them. The line at the Burger King shack was long. The Taco Bell not so long.
The soldiers crowded the T-wall encased food court. The dust-covered mobile-home like white trailers with 'Atco' stenciled in the corners, passing up the free all-you-can-eat chow at the 800-seat dining facility. The ersatz-Starbucks called Green Beans, was the busiest. The Post Exchange was the size of a department store.
This was VICTORY BASE!
The super-base was an island of fully-functioning amenities so big that it accommodated a 140-mile triathlon course in the heart of darkness. It was dubbed 'has a small-town feel.' To bring a Little America to the war. But it was a corporate rape of American tax dollars on an epic scale. A rip-off. OIF was seven years of war = REAL ESTATE. The most lucrative of the time and … most deadly; and the more millions of dollars that were spent (the lion's share going into corporate coffers like Kellog, Brown, and Root), the more it reminded the soldiers like Hasford and Bowman of what they missed most back home.
Hasford stood in the line. Bowman said, "GREAT! We will never get Fisher's cheeseburger meal in time," again as if reading Hasford's thoughts.
Hasford decided to try pulling a Jedi mind trick of his own, and he said: "Go away. You're bothering me."
Bowman shook his head, "Fine. Fuck you very much, too. I know when I am not appreciated."
Hasford wanted to guillotine choke the kid right there. "When we get back to JSS tonight, how 'bout we practice some combatives training?"
"You are on!"
"Good. 'Cause I'm gonna choke the shit out of you!"
"We will see about that, tough guy." Bowman slipped into the crowd.
Suddenly, the early warning PA system went off. The first rocket exploded fifty yards away. The loud speakers in the camp blared the air raid siren—'Thirty seconds MY ASS!'—Hasford thought; the early warning was late again—Then the mechanical voice shouted: Incoming! Incoming! INCOMING! as the second thru fourth rockets struck inside the food court one hundred feet from where Hasford was standing. He saw the arms, legs, and bodies of the soldiers thrown into the air like a horrific trapeze act; and for a second, the image froze—then the blood splashed down.
The tattered limbs scattered across the court.
Three more rockets whistled toward them. Now the Phalanx on top of Signal Hill spun up. A fiery stream of 20mm rounds shot down two rockets. But the third made it past.
Gracefully, the rocket arced. Then hurtled back down to terra. Right for Hasford! He saw—plain as day—his name written across it. 'This one is for you, Hasford!' Death was riding the rocket bareback, grinning … steering the rocket for Hasford. Lassoing its icy bone-fingers through the air like a bull rider.
Blindly, Hasford ran.
The rocket impacted terra several yards behind him. Earth and concrete shrapnel bloomed out, struck his Kevlar, and knocked him face-first flat to the ground. Looking up, he saw two Bowmans, waving and sprinting toward him. The world was slipping—in, out—of darkness. Hasford fought to clear his bleary sight. He fell back. Bowman was there, gone, and back again. When Hasford looked up Bowman was standing over him. Bowman lifted Hasford up with superhuman strength off the smoky floor. All his gear and armor, Hasford easily weighed 230 pounds. Bowman was only a buck-sixty. The same size as Hasford without the gear.
Now. As the dust and smoke began to clear Bowman effortlessly scooped Hasford up. Bowman slumped Hasford over a shoulder in a fireman carry as though he were paper instead of meat. Bowman ran for the bunker. At least a good hundred feet away! Behind them the dust and smoke settled.
But not the screams. No. The air was thick with them. Hasford wished it would stop. All the wounded soldiers that were bleeding out and spitting out their 'fucks' and 'goddamns' and 'Jesus Christs' through their clenched teeth and their grimaced faces. He wished it would stop. The whole damn war. He wished he could stop it. Wouldn't that be nice? No more war. No more fighting. He considered. The other soldiers crowded into the bunker with Hasford and Bowman pulling in their arms and legs. He leaned back against the hot concrete. No. The war would not stop. It would never stop. Only, take a break. Once this war finished he knew there would be the next one in ten to twenty years.
He gazed out. A final rocket exploded.
Where only seconds ago Bowman had carried Hasford away.
In a hurry, Lieutenant Colonel Jones said, "What issues are you having, soldier?" Jones was one of three Army psychiatrists in the Combat Stress Clinic. He sat down in the swivel chair behind the desk in the cramped plywood room that was his ersatz office. "Sleep?"
Hasford was sitting in a small plastic chair on the other side of the desk. Startled, he said, "What, sir?" Was sitting in a small plastic chair on the other side of the desk.
Jones looked at the clock on the wall, "Are you have trouble sleeping?" He asked. Then, "Have you been prescribed Ambien, yet?"
For the first time since he sat down, Jones looked at Hasford. Narrowing his eyes, Jones said, "You're not just saying that to get more? Are you? You do not need to lie, Private. I will prescribe you as much as you need."
"As much as I need?"
The Lieutenant Colonel looked at his laptop screen on the desk, eyes narrowing again, "Whatever it takes to keep you in the fight, Private," he said mechanically like an automated message.
"No, sir. I would not lie—"
"Right," Jones interrupted. "I see on your record here you have no prescriptions yet. What about your battle buddies?" Flatly, Jones looked over his laptop screen at Hasford, "They been hooking you up on the side with anything?"
There was a large crowd in the waiting room. Hasford could hear the soldiers chatter through the thin wood. The entire Combat Stress Clinic was filled with them. He wanted them to shut up. 'Just shut THE FUCK UP!' He stood, shouted, and grabbed his rifle. He emptied his thirty-round magazine in a random three hundred sixty degree arc through the plywood … "Nothing, sir." He snapped out of it.
Hasford shook his head.
Hasford shook his head.
"Right. I am prescribing you Ambien," said Jones while typing, "and we will start you off with Remeron."
"Thank you, sir," Hasford said and left.
The prescription was a Band-Aid on a sucking chest wound. Hasford was told to soldier on. But he could not get rid of the terrible images. Both in his dreams and his waking hours.
He looked at the prescription bottle.
The little black box warning: increased risk of suicidal tendencies. These were medications that should be closely monitored for potential side-effects. Medications with alcohol-like effects that warn 'should not perform hazardous occupations.' Medications that prior to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were not prescribed to the soldiers because it was too difficult to get the doctors into theater to supervise the medicine's use.
But now they could give soldiers with PTSD anti-depressants and sleeping pills to keep them in the fight. He glossed over the long list of side effects on the attached sheets of paper. It was an exhaustive list that included: insomnia, anxiety, agitation, irritability, hostility, impulsivity, and aggression. All the kinds of behaviors you want in a soldier on the battlefield.
Whenever Hasford returned to the Combat Stress Clinic, Lieutenant Colonel Jones' standard operating procedure was prescribe more medication or experiment with dosages. But even if Jones 'had' wanted to provide the true help that Hasford needed, it was too easy for Hasford to convince them otherwise. All a soldier had to do was tell them he was fine, needed to move on, and they accepted that. They would tell him, 'Okay, you're good to go.'
Most soldiers were on Ambien.
It got them high. It helped them sleep. It was hard to find someone not taking it. It made you forget things. It lowered your inhibition. Which was what everyone wanted. They had given up a part of their morality to the war. Instead they accepted the morality the Army had given them. Their sense of right and wrong. It allowed them to survive. It allowed them to kill.
But there still remained the part they had not given up. It was in the back of their minds. It was eating away in their stomach. Or, a dull ache in their heart. That was why they took the medication. For that small part they had not given up: to get rid of it.
So went the war. This was the war for many. They were fighting two wars. The war against the insurgency. And the greater war inside.
"What is this room called again, Bowman?"
Bowman giggled like a little school girl. He did whenever Hasford posed that question. The other soldiers racked out in the room laughed.
It was May, 2008. Near the end of the deployment. Hasford and Bowman were inseparable. The two boys had been joined at the hip since that cruel afternoon when Bowman saved Hasford's life. Now there was nothing Hasford would not do for Bowman and vice versa.
"Ali Baba's room," replied Hasford.
Bowman shouted "YEA!" threw his arms up in the air. The soldiers laughed—louder.
A chorus went around the room: "Ali Baba's room! Fucking Ali Baba's room!"
It was a child's room—a little teen girl's room—scattered with sleeping soldiers, guns, and equipment.
"Ali Baba! Ali Baba!"
Or it had been.
"Ali Baba! Ali Baba! Ali Baba!"
Now it was THEIR ROOM.
The room was in a house that Hasford, Bowman, and the rest of their squad took over and turned into a combat outpost. The brutal sun beat down on a ruined courtyard and the grinning heat licked the thick sweat off the soldiers, lapped up their perspiration like a thirsty dog. But it was hot inside the house too. No portable air conditioning for junior enlisted. Ha! Not for grunts. Officers perhaps. But not for the squad.
Hasford's gaze drifted through the jagged glass of the shattered latticed windows covered in camo tent to where a wide perimeter of T-wall barricades and sandbag walls circled Bradly tanks and Humvees. The bloody battle to retake Sadr City had lasted nearly two long months and the fighting still raged in the war-torn streets and buildings.
He looked back.
Weapons and equipment were scattered throughout Ali Baba's room. There was a striped green couch and beat-up empty cabinets. A soldier was cooking at the kitchen counter, his metal canteen cup directly on an open flame lit inside a small plate. It was against SOP but he did it anyway. Another soldier was racked out in a hammock, wearing dog tags and earphones plugged into nothing. He was sleeping in nothing but his ECWCS GEN III Black Silk Weight underwear.
A soldier grabbed a Louisville Slugger off the dusty Persian rugs shouted, "Batter up!" The soldier in the hammock opened his eyes, looked up, then went back to sleep.
Drunkenly, Hasford put on his body armor.
"You go first," said Bowman.
"Fuck that. No, you go first!"
Bowman stepped forward, "Alright, fuckstick!"
The soldier pulled back, "You are both fucksticks. Step up to the plate fuckstick. Hey, batter, batter!"
He swung into the chest plate of Bowman's body armor. Bowman stumbled back, giggled, and shouted, "Strike!"
The soldier said, "I almost had you!" Then, "Next fuckstick!" waving Hasford over. "C'mon. Step up to the plate!"
Hasford stepped forward.
"Hey, batter, batter! Swing batter!"
THUNK! Right into Hasford's chest. He also stumbled back. But didn't fall.
"That is BULLSHIT!" said the soldier. He threw the bat on the floor. It rattled across the hard tile. The soldier in the hammock looked up again. Then back to sleep.
The harsh echoes of gunfire rattled off in the distance.
Hasford fished his prescription bottle out of an ammo pouch on his body armor and ate more Ambien. Then the squad was called out to fight. They piled into the Humvees. The Mahdi Army militia were running out into the middle of al-Quds Street spraying and praying with their Ak-47s. The RPGs whistled like streaks of fire from the gutted high-rises along the street. The Apaches and unmanned Predators in the air retaliated with hellfires. Hasford heard the screaming civilians trapped in the crossfire along al-Quds Street.
He turned back where he was hiding behind the ruined walls of the villa. There Bowman and the squad were loading five dead soldiers into the Humvees. Next the wounded poured in. When there was no more room for the casualties, the squad took the dead, and piled the trunks of the vehicles with dead American soldiers. The dead soldiers were hanging out of the trunk, and Bowman tried to close the trunk, but it would not shut.
Hasford heard the rocket.
Then he saw the rocket streak down from the rooftops. The rocket slammed into another Humvee. There was a flash of fire and cloud of dust.
When the dust settled there were lots of body parts in the street. There was a soldier bleeding out at the side of the Humvee. He was doing a dead fish thing, gasping for air, real pale. They were all hurt, yelling, crying, and screaming in agony. It was not like in the movies. People do not die that way. They turn very pale. Then there is a look in their eyes. Nothing is behind their eyes anymore. Just a dead look.
The squad rushed over to assist. Hasford went to help. But Bowman shouted, "Cover us!" Hasford retook position behind the ruined wall of the villa, sighting the rooftops.
When the fighting was over, and the squad returned to the house—to the little teen girl's room—no one said anything. They quietly ate MRE's. Then went to sleep. But you do not really sleep. You are only half asleep.
Bowman woke Hasford later that night for guard duty. Hasford cleared his eyes. He took up position at the gutted window "I feel safe here with you. But when I think of the people back home, I feel like they are against me. It won't go away. I am worried it will follow me home. And I will view all those people back home one way. If you weren't here with me then you are my enemy. If I don't know you then you are my enemy. I'm worried it will never go away." Bowman stares. Then pats Hasford on the shoulder. Bowman lies down, pulling his woobie (his poncho liner) over his head.
Hasford gazed out the broken window, angry, still filled with hate.
Hasford no longer hated Bowman—Hasford hated being over there, in Iraq, far from home.
Hasford hated the war, he hated the politicians for sending him, and he hated the people back home who took his service for granted. He hated them because he knew soon the politicians and the people back home would grow tired of the war and withdraw the troops from Iraq and the country would fall apart and everything he and the other soldiers had bled, sweated, and died for would be in vain. Yet it was also his hate and anger which kept him moving forward. His hate and anger, and the hate and anger of the other soldiers fueled them, and in turn helped fuel the war. It helped fuel the war because the hate and anger transferred to their guns. And it was then Hasford realized the gun was the perfect tool for their hate—the perfect receptacle for their anger—because when they pulled the trigger what came out of the gun was just as angry.
Copyright © 2014 Jason Duke.
Jason Duke is a former Sergeant in the United States Army and combat veteran served 15 months in Iraq during 2007 "Troop Surge", OIF 07-09. Before joining, he earned a BA in Public Relations from Arizona State University. Now he lives and writes full-time in his hometown Phoenix, Arizona. His short stories have been published in Thuglit, Plots With Guns, Spinetingler Magazine, Crimewav.com, Shotgun Honey, Needle Magazine, Yellow Mama, D*cked, Pulp Ink, Pulp Pusher, A Twist of Noir, Darkest Before the Dawn, Flash Fiction Offensive, Pulp Metal, 3am Magazine, Suspect Thoughts, Shred of Evidence, Outsider Ink, The Hiss Quarterly, Dungeon Magazine, The Murder Hole, and A Cruel World.