I just happen to be a blogger. I’ve had a lot of opportunities open up to me because of the people I’ve met through the internet and because of my writing, but I don’t think that means I’m anything better or worse than anyone else. I serve in the military, something ANYONE can do. However, not just anyone can raise kids, build a house, pave a road, deal with customers over a phone all day, serve food to picky eaters, or clean up after us after every movie.
I didn’t start blogging because I want to be a famous celebrity. I didn’t start blogging so that I could get freebies or discounts. Heck, I got those way before I started writing. I just ask, “do you have a military discount?” I would like to take a little time and reintroduce myself and my motivations for writing because there are some people (who will remain nameless, but are probably reading this) who think that I write for selfish reasons.
I began blogging back in 2004 because I got frustrated with our stories, the Soldiers’ stories, being ignored. I started a little blog called “Chcknhawk’s Harem” over at Blogspot. I called it that because most of my fans were female troops supporters and I thought it was a funny play on words. I began my blog as largely a humorous way of getting through some of the things I was facing after returning from combat. Writing made me feel better. I didn’t feel like there were a lot of people I could talk to, including my own family. But, I’m also grounded enough to know that I’d go crazy if I kept it all in.
Blogging was my way of “talking to somebody without talking to anyone at all“. There were people out there listening, but I wasn’t talking directly to them. By writing about my experiences, I was able to revisit them and deal with them in a positive manner. In 2005, I published my war journal to mark the second anniversary of when I was notified I was going into battle. We were no longer training to the “what if”; we were training for war.
However, there is a lot that I never wrote in my journal because I knew that it would be read by others one day. There are some things I still don’t like to deal with. I’ve slowly found ways to deal with those areas as well. For example, losing friends. I started They Have Names because of a specific person, CPT James “Alex” Funkhouser, but he was just the catalyst that brought together the various reactants of losing friends and feeling like no one else cared about it. The hardest one to accept has been the loss of SSG Stevon Booker, a friend and fellow Tusker who was killed during the first Thunder Run into Baghdad on 5 April 2003. He was a combat proven veteran of Operation Desert Storm in the early nineties and knew his stuff. He cared deeply for his Soldiers and died trying to protect them. But, you won’t find Booker’s story on THN yet. I still can’t write it, but one day I will. Earlier this year a building at Aberdeen Test Center was renamed after his memory. I write so that people don’t forget people like Booker. And I still write
Anyone who knows me knows that I care deeply about Soldiers. I care deeply about Marines, Airmen and Sailors too (collectively known as Soldiers from here on). It frustrates me beyond belief that their sacrifices are becoming so taken for granted. Their stories are not being told and I feel that by telling these stories I’m taking care of them. Naturally, I take care of the troops directly under my supervision and care as well. This war is about the Soldier. There is a reason that Marine General Peter Pace, retiring Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke predominantly about the Soldier during his farewell speech. Look at the people paying the highest price in this war and you’ll see the names of Soldiers, peppered with NCOs and Officers here and there. Someone needs to tell their story and I feel like I need to be that person.
There are plenty of stories that are “sexy” or “newsworthy” and deal with death, destruction, blunders and botched decisions. There are also plenty of people willing to expose them and ensure they are known as far and wide as possible. But, who is there to tell the Soldiers’ stories? Unfortunately, it falls to a band of devoted military bloggers who make it their goal in life to get out the good news – and there’s plenty of it!!
I get nothing out of blogging. What little pittance of money I make of my writing goes to pay for bigger, better things (pay close attention to ASP in the near future) to help tell the story. It goes to paying for postage of care packages to troops who are away from the flagpole. It goes to organizations like Soldier’s Angels, Adopt-A-Platoon, and Wounded Warriors Project. ASP has donated more than $35,000 over the past four years to various causes, including the Camp Lejuene Ballerinas. And to be honest, I don’t care if anyone ever knows we do it. I’m sure the dollar amount will surprise even our diehard readers because I don’t advertise it. I don’t write for recognition and I don’t write to eventually meet the President. We could have used that money to pay off our bills, that’s for sure.
I’ve put a lot on the line to write. I’ve stunted my military career in ways by narrowing the types of jobs I’m qualified for. I’ve annoyed and pissed off senior military commanders and supervisors, though I’ve never tried to hide anything. I’ve taken away valuable time from my family! This is something I feel strongly about and as long as I’m able, I’m going to continue writing. If no one ever reads another word I write, I wouldn’t care. It’s therapy.
Hopefully, I’ve made some sense here and some people’s eyes were opened. To those people I say: you don’t have to like it or agree with it – just accept it. I’m nothing special.