Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas.

I don't like this video completely, and it's kind of old (ignore the call at the end), but I woke up with this song in my head and figured I'd share it. Christmas is always heartbreaking as it is beautiful.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

DWI-Driving While IVAW.

There is something about being an IVAW member, I will say, that gives you a healthy respect for the amount of bullshit that police officers can pull on you if they want to. I've seen "the rules" ignored so many times that I no longer believe in the inherent righteousness of every cop and MP. Instead, I believe cops very well will pull you over if they don't like your bumper sticker, or the way you look through a window. Whether this is good or bad, I don't know.

I got to experience this fresh fear today. While driving off post after my Krav Maga class, I suddenly noticed flashing lights behind me. Please don't let them be for me, please let them be for the guy in front of me. It was nonsensical, but I hadn't thought I'd done anything wrong. I was too exhausted to have done anything wrong, having just spent the last hour and a half beating and being beaten on. Of course, they were for me. This kind of thinking is nonsensical. It's like that scene in Kent State when the black kid turns to the white one and says, "The guns are always loaded." The guns are always loaded, and they are always coming for you. And they may just smash a friend's face while they're at it. I have no inherent faith anymore.

A thousand things flashed through my mind. Was I going too slow? MPs love to look for people going too slow. They assume they're drunk, and we had another DUI just last night. Yes, a Monday night. Yes, there was one the Sunday the day before that. That's just how this post rolls, especially with the 1AD back. I wondered what kind of sobriety test they would have. Would I be able to pass it in my exhausted state? I could barely lift my hand above my head, and my walk had been kind of a slow stumble to my car. Would they ask me to get out of the car? I was in gym clothes, so I breathed a sigh of relief, that I might be safe. Then I remembered what gym clothes-black Army PT bottoms and my IVAW tank top. Would he recognize the logo? How much trouble might I be in?

The MP strode up to my window and asked for my license. My hands were clumsy as they reached for it, but it was not with fear. He assumed it was, of course, as he told me "not to be nervous". I wondered what mysterious sin I was going to be down for. What my nervousness translated to in his head. If he would spy the pack of SITREPs on the seat next to me. Instead, he just leaned in my front window, and said, "You know your headlights are out?" I felt like the biggest idiot in the world. In my hurry to get home and to my hot shower, I had turned lights on, but the ones that only provided a little light. I immediately flipped to that and the MP thanked me and let me go. It wasn't about me. It wasn't about my politics. It was about headlights. This time. And I wish I could say that this incident let me relax, let me think that there's never going to be a jerk MP who's going to ask "What the hell is this Iraq Veterans Against the War shit you have on your bumper?" But it didn't. It was a reprieve, but not a permanent one.

I got home, and enjoyed the hottest shower I could possibly stand. One thing I will say for the Army is that they really make you appreciate a few of the simple things in life. Like hot water. Until the end of my life, I will cherish a truly hot shower with good water pressure. I've had many a time without it. I've lived, but I've hated it. A truly hot, good shower, especially after an awesome workout, is almost as good as sex, just for the initial minute.

On a random sidenote, WWII combat vets are awesome yet very strange. I ran into a retired one who I suppose still lives in the area of post (didn't ask him why) Old as the hills, but still looked wiry and alert. I was making conversation, just to pass the time, when all of a sudden, out of nowhere, he popped out with something about us surviving Bush, and something about how people who hid in the Air National Guard at home while everyone else went to war shouldn't get to send other people into combat. Of course I shook his hand and continued the conversation, but (and I know you'll be surprised) it got too much even or me. He continued on. "And it was one of the assassination cycles, too. I was so disappointed. You know, the twenty year assassination cycles..." And on that point, my dear readers, I was off. That was definitely not the conversation I needed to be in, so I smiled, said goodbye, and headed for the door. I have apparently found the point beyond which I won't go in my dislike for our current president. It's small, but it's there.

Monday, December 1, 2008

No Christmas For You: Three Years!

I know how pay is supposed to work. I know the processes of how it and paperwork are supposed to function. I know its crafty ways and means. But like anything with enormous power that you are powerless against, I've begun to impart it with the flavor of a certain rude mythology. It's not that somewhere in the chain, a link has been broken. No, it's that the gods of S1 have somehow decided to make my Christmases a personal hell.

I haven't had a lot of pay problems in the Army, really, as things go. Really, I've been fairly lucky-only four or five over eight years. Why am I so bitter? Because out of those four or five, literally three of them have hit or culminated in a slim Christmas paycheck. Not in my wild single days, no, that would be too easy. No, literally every one of those three slim Christmases have hit while I've been a parent.

Once, because somehow in the mysterious world of paperwork, the Army decided that I didn't really have any dependents, and had been cheating them out of BAH for the past nine months. It was fixed, alright, and I got some hefty back pay-but still, my kid got a watercolor set for Christmas and some stocking stuffers, because it was already bought.

Then came the time when the dreaded Government Travel Card struck. There was a backlog getting travel claims settled while I was on a five month long TDY, and I was on paper rather than DTS. Well, my shop wasn't able to straighten it, and the card got turned off, leaving me to pay with my own cash or get kicked out of the hotel. That was a very, very expensive time-and guess when it started? You got it. December.

As I write this, I am now three months in to the worst Army pay problem I have ever had. One of those Army pay problems that really kicks you in the teeth and bends you over, without even so much as the courtesy of lube, or a reach-around. By my count, I'm now $6900 down. I've had to take out one personal loan and one AER loan just to keep myself and my family afloat. And the worst part is that I'm not ever going to see any of that money. The best I can hope for-the absolute /best/- is that things will be fixed and I'll stop actively being shorted. Hopefully this month.

How did it happen? That's the worst of it. I may as well curse the nebulous Finance Gods, because it's a culmination of a lot of small shit. Including my stupidity at trusting Finance, which is a thing that you never, ever, should do. They told me what I needed to get, and I got it, stupidly trusting that everything would go smoothly. Then came the hitches. They needed another piece of paper. I dug around and got it. Then they needed it submitted on a different form. Not a big deal. I wasn't discouraged just yet, because I knew that I'd get the backpay all at once, and I'd be able to pay back the loans.

It was two months after the entire paperwork runaround that they really dropped it on me. They had been telling me the exact wrong process. What I had wanted required an entirely different process. It would have taken an exception to policy to do it the other way, and despite my battalion commander looking into it, no one was having any dice. Oh, and then came the other shoe: there wouldn't be any backpay coming. When it got straightened out, the pay would only start from the specific date that something else happened.

Thanks, Army.

So now the paperwork has been resubmitted to start the process to get my pay issues fixed. It got sent last week to brigade, but somehow brigade waited a week to find something missing. They just sent it back. It's being sent up from battalion this week.

Who wants to take bets with me that it gets lost again?
Oh well. At least I already ordered and paid for the major Christmas presents already. Take that, Finance Gods!

Anyone military who wants to commiserate over the specific details is welcome to email me, it's a bit too technical to explain all in one long post.