Friday, February 12, 2010

With this Ring I Thee Bled

A couple days ago I noticed what looked like a little welt on my ring finger, past my knuckle. Well, I put some antibacterial ointment on it and didn't think anything of it but this morning, I realized my finger had become so swollen I couldn't even take my ring off.

So, I see the company medic and sure enough he tells me to go the clinic. I get there later in the afternoon and they look at it, squeeze it and then tell me my ring has to come off because if it continues to swell the ring will cut off my circulation. At this point, I can't even get the ring to come up to my knuckle, my finger is so swollen. It's also incredibly painful and the welt on my finger is incredibly tender.

The docs tell me if they can't get the ring off it will have to be cut off. It's an old plain cheap gold ring, Tatiana got me when we first got married. It's got scratches all over it because I wear it all the time and everywhere I go. Tat has offered to replace it numerous times but I'm sentimental about it.

So, I'm like no waaaaay they're cutting off my wedding ring. They bring a tub of ice to see if it will decrease the swelling. Well after ten minutes of holding it under ice the swelling still hasn't gone down one iota. The only thing it managed to do was slightly numb my finger. So, I start tugging on the ring. The real trick is to twist it. It hurts like no tomorrow and I'm making these grunting noises that sound like an angry constipated bear growling in pain. People in the other patient rooms said they could hear me and thought someone was being tortured in there.

I get it to the knuckle and it's still impossibly stuck on my finger, so I twist even harder and eventually after a lot more grunting I get it off. Whew!

Well, another Doc comes in and she says they want to try and drain whatever is causing the swelling. So now, they come back with an 18 gauge needle. After dabbing some anti-septic on it, they stab the welt on my finger twice in two different spots. It's on a very tender part of my finger so that's painful as all get-out. I'm like, "Rawwwwwwwwwwggggh!" and then one of the medics takes two fingers and squeezes hard where she stabbed me and then I'm like "Awwwwwwwwwrgggghhhh-rawwwwrl-Ha-duuuuu-ken!"

Then another Doc takes a look at it (a Major) and she says to the medic, "'re not doing it hard enough."

I wince. She grabs hold of the finger and squeezes it like no tomorrow and I'm like "Greeeeeeeeeeeeeennnnnnnhhhhhh!" and blood is just pouring out of my finger in a big puddle. Nothing else comes out...just blood. Lots of blood.

So, they put a band-aid on my boo-boo, give me some antibiotics and set me off on my way.

If you want to really know what it feels like, take a hammer to the end of your finger and smash it as hard as you can dead-on...a couple times.

At least, I've still got my old wedding ring.



Monday, February 1, 2010

Happy Anniversary Tatiana!

How we Met (According to Richard)

I knew when I first saw you I wanted to get to know you better.
Of all the girls in the club that night, you were the one that looked the meanest.
Your eyes were beautiful yet fierce and the look on your face said,
"Why is that weird guy staring at me?"
...even though I was being totally nonchalant so there's no way you could have
known I was secretly checking you out.

I knew I would need a strategy. I looked around the club for something I could use.
A piece of wet string hung off the bottom of the chair...yes, that would do.

On a bar stool, a delivery man had left a clipboard and some papers held together with...
Yes! A paperclip!
On an abandoned table was a half-drunk Appletini with a little toothpick umbrella. Double-Score!
Suddenly, I knew what I had to do! Taking the paperclip, the string and the umbrella (after finishing
the Appletini) I fashioned together a primitive grappling hook. I closed my eyes. This had to work...

Well, whatever happened that night... (I don't fully remember because I blacked out after the Appletini)
...worked because here we are now. We've been married for 8 years. We have four wonderful children Ryan, Leilani, Ian and Gabriella (my own little fire-team! I'll inject them all with Super-Soldier Serum once they're of age...10) and a cute little chihuahua named Mr. Bark McYappers. Well...okay. We don't have a Chihuahua for real...yet anyway.

We've had some good times and we've had some bad times. We've had hard times and we've had harder times. Remember, that time I was really thirsty and I drank a whole bottle of apple juice and then all of a sudden I didn't feel well? Well, that's when I learned too much of a good thing can actually be bad. I also later realized the same principle applied to excessive amounts of cheese. Learning hurts.

You're my compass...because you're so COMPASS-ionate. You truly are an honest and caring person. You're genuine and you're selfless. You make me want to be a better man...which is unfortunately what led to the Bionic Man Debacle of '03, which involved me, some parts I got at the hardware store, a welder and an insanely hair-brained scheme. That was some ambulance ride though!

No matter what happens between us I will always love you. Not even that time you kneed me in the groin after I tried to lay a finger on your crispety-crunchy Butterfinger (TM) could make me love you any less. There is literally nothing in this world that I would trade for your love. Not even a Klondike Bar.
I love you that much.

That night I first saw you I knew you were the one for me. And after I fought off those Ninjas in the alley who were after an ancient Dragon Scroll which had the ability to give whoever recited the words one pure wish, and you swooned and fell into my arms and our lips locked tightly together...I knew you were mine, always and forever. What became of that magic scroll you ask? I tossed it in the trash...because I knew I already had the one and only thing I ever truly wanted. 

I love you Tatiana.

Happy 8th Anniversary!

~Rich (aka Forrest)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

WWE Tribute to the Troops

I got back from my trip to Forward Operating Base Poliwoda (Ballad) a couple days ago. During the flight to and back from Ballad the one thing you notice is that Iraq isn't as much of a desert as most people think. Sure, there's lots of sand but as we flew over there are green fields, groves of fruit trees, crops and waterways that stretch from one end of the horizon to the other.

On the 3rd the Soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment got a visit from the stars of World Wrestling Entertainment during their 2009 Tribute to the Troops Tour. John Cena, Vince McMahon, R-Truth, Ray Mysterio and the Bella Twins were all there.

What really made my day was getting to interview John Cena, professional wrestler, actor and entertainer. These guys aren't all muscle and no brain either. John Cena gave a great interview. He comes off as quite intelligent and genuinely caring. The WWE stars were supposed to have a private lunch but they said let the Soldiers in so they ate with everyone.

The whole time they ate they were mobbed by Soldiers, Civilians, and members of the Ugandan Security Forces for photos. Throughout the whole day there's nothing superficial about them and not a single look of annoyance on their faces after being stopped for picture after picture. They smile, shake hands and some lucky Soldiers even get kissed on their cheek by the Bella Twins.

I stopped watching WWF (changed to WWE due to a trademark dispute) when I was about nine years old. One day I saw one guy do a head stomp and you could see from the camera angle it missed but the other guy's head jerked back anyway. That's when I realized it wasn't real. After that it pretty much stopped interesting me. But this group of people really made me rethink my position on the WWE. It may not be real but the people are real.

I got a nice picture with the Bella Twins hoping to make my wife jealous :P

After we got back I produced the video. You can check it out on the Dragon Brigade Facebook fan page or at the link below:


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Back in the Saddle

I know it's been a while since I posted here. My father's death was kind of hard on me. Problems can really weigh you down when you're deployed. Family issues and illnesses, work issues, personal issues...when you're deployed problems have a tendency to multiply and it's hard not having your family there with you or being with your family to reassure them.

I guess I haven't been the usual crack wit I used to be on a daily basis. I have good days and I have well...days.

Aside from all the rain turning the sand around here into mud we've also had a lot of fog lately. I get kind of nervous when it's foggy outside. That's when the ninjas sneak in and if you can't see any ninjas that probably means you're already surrounded.

We've been really busy as of late. Last week and this week have been one late day after another. We covered the 701st Brigade Support Battalion's Diligent Challenge yesterday. It's an all day Soldier Challenge that pushes you mentally and physically. (Story & Video upcoming)

While we were following the Soldiers throughout the day I saw a large cloud of smoke in the distance. It didn't strike me as unusual at the time. I figured they were stoking the fires at the burn pit but it turns out they weren't. The building that a MPAD (Mobile Public Affairs Detachment) and a lot of other Soldiers worked in caught on fire. Apparently, most of their equipment was destroyed or burninated. No one was hurt as far as I know.

While we don't have a lot of office space ourselves it looks like we're going to be hosting a few of the MPAD Soldiers so it'll be even more cramped than usual. :P

While I've been deployed I purchased the Star Trek: The Next Generation series box set and I've been having a continual Star Trek: TNG Marathon since. I'm currently half-way through Season 4. I'm not exactly a Trekkie but Star Trek: TNG was a pretty awesome show. I'm just wondering what I'm gonna watch when I get through Season 7. I thought about DS9 but if I remember correctly it was a little less space opera and a little more soap opera.

I'm also a fan of Psych, My Name is Earl, Burn Notice, Family Guy and American Dad. I used to keep up with all my favorite shows on Hulu ( and Cartoon Network's Adult Swim ( but, those websites only let you stream their shows in the USA, not to mention our internet connection is way too slow.

I picked up dinner to go from the chow hall today. I got a turkey wrap and some Waldorf Salad. I wasn't sure what it was but it had apples in it so I thought I'd give it a try. Well, it appears to be diced apples drenched with mayonnaise and relished with tiny nuts and I'm not sure but maybe tiny bits of bacon too. Well, it doesn't taste as great as it looked to me...Whoever came up with this should have stopped at apples or at least left out the mayonnaise.

I'll be traveling tomorrow and talking to Soldiers at various camps to get some thoughts on Thanksgiving in Iraq. Then it's another late night of production when we get back.

We've gotten a lot of boxes and goodies from churches, organizations and friends and family lately. That stuff is a real morale booster. Well, not only have I been amiss in keeping up my blog I've got some letters to write to Grandma too!


As always if you want to keep up with the latest news, photos and videos from the Dragon Brigade check out Facebook Fan Page or Youtube (links on the right)

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Last Salute

The flight back home was grueling. It takes a day to make the trip from Iraq to Kuwait and back to Oregon. The processing, waiting and endless security checks are infuriating. By the time I got to the airport in Oregon (two hours from Mom's house) it was one in the afternoon. For me though, it was still about 6-am and I had only gotten about 6 hours of sleep during the flight.

I gazed out the window of the plane, across the sun and the rolling fields of clouds and wondered why couldn't he wait? I got the news when I called my boss from Kuwait. He had been in an induced coma for three weeks and he finally succumbed to respiratory complications and an infection which had been caused by a terrible bout of flesh-eating virus he had miraculously survived many years ago but had lived in pain since and his condition was worsening. I hadn't realized how bad it was when I first found out. Before I had even left Iraq my Dad had already died.

My Mom and Dad got divorced when I was about two years old. My Mom had to deal with me and my two sisters. I was the real hellion though. I went through a foster home then she took me back and finally put me up for adoption. I was just five years old when Mike and Marsha adopted me. It wasn't easy for me being taken away from my family. I didn't understand and I guess looking back I felt betrayed, unwanted, and discarded.

Growing up I was somewhat of a social misfit and eccentric to say the least. My parents and I had a rocky relationship. I won't deny it wasn't easy raising me. I was wild, hyper-active, and always getting into some sort of trouble.

After I graduated high school I joined the Marine Corps. During that time I met Tatiana and I later had to inform my parents that I was getting married and she was pregnant. Well, Dad didn't quite approve and things were said. It was hard after that.

Over the years, things got better between us but it seemed like exchanged politeness mostly. I would call and we would talk for a minute or two usually and he would hand the phone to Mom. The last conversation I remember with him went pretty much the same way. I told them we were going to Iraq for the second time.

Life teaches us hard lessons. If you have something you want to say to someone, treat every moment as if it was your last chance to say it. I wanted to be angry at him. I was angry at myself too. But all I could think now was that I wish I could have told him I loved him one last time.

During the trip home, I had to stop a few times in a private corner and stop the flow of tears from my eyes. I've always been stubborn with my emotions. I don't think a man should be seen crying. That's foolish, of course. So instead, I kept it in during the trip home. And through the entire trip my head ached and my stomach hurt but I didn't want to make a 'scene'. I didn't want strangers' pity.

I started writing this down on some paper I had and it felt a little better, as if I was talking to someone.

Our flight to Denver got delayed and when I got off the plane I had about 15 minutes to get to my connecting gate which was on the opposite end of the terminal. I had to practically race down the moving walkways just to get there barely in time to board.

As I was making my way through the terminal I noticed a comical character. A man, tall and thin as a rail in his 30s or 40s, wearing stone-washed designer jeans, a black leather jacket, aviator shades and sporting a styled hair-do reminiscent of Elvis. But I didn't have time to stop and gawk.

On my flight to Oregon I struck up conversation with a contractor for a company that specializes in sniper equipment and had just come from the annual sniper competition in Fort Benning, Georgia. After talking to me and hearing my situation he handed me a coin. It's one of those military coins engraved with his company's logo on it. I also sat next to a retired hunter from Roseburg, Oregon just a quick drive from Oakland where my Mom lives. He offered me a ride if I needed it but Mom was going to meet me at the airport.

It was raining when I got there. A couple days later we went to a viewing. My Dad didn't want a ceremony or a service or anything like that and had requested to be cremated. He was stubborn too and didn't like people fussing about him. He hated being nearly crippled and admitting he was in pain.

I finally broke down and cried. He looked peaceful. At one point, I almost thought he was just sleeping maybe. We may have had some bad times but we had good times too. My thoughts drifted back to when I was younger. I love my Dad and this is how I'll always remember him.

 Before I left I joked with my Boss. I said bad things happen in threes and my dog would probably die. Well, today my dog Hilde had to be put down. She was an old German Shepherd and had severe arthritis and was succumbing to it finally. My Mom still has Hilde's son and daughter Lothar and Falkie thankfully though. So when the chips are down they really are down.

My fondest memory of my Dad is when he read The Hobbit to me when I was 5 years old. He would read a chapter every night to me and every night I would beg him to read just one more. I've been an avid reader ever since.

When I get back home from this deployment I'll read The Hobbit to my kids too.

As we left the viewing and said our final goodbyes I walked over to him alone. I looked at his face. It was him but just a shadow. I'll always remember him as he was in that photograph. What I had to say to him required no words to be spoken.

I stood straight and at attention and slowly raised my hand in salute to the former Marine who had served in Vietnam and perhaps more admirably had served as my father, then slowly lowered my hand.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Going Home

Well, my Dad has been in the hospital for a while in critical condition with an infection in his leg from complications from a bout of flesh-eating virus he had some years ago. He has been kept in an induced coma for a while but now his condition is worsening. He has organs on the brink of failure and is being kept going by an array of medical machinery.

I don't want to go into the full details of it but I got a Red Cross message today and I've already got a flight going out tonight. This wasn't exactly how I envisioned spending my R&R but this is it. But if anything, I have to hand it to our unit for getting me out of here so quickly on their end. I hope I will get a chance to say goodbye to him while he's still alive.

For those of you keeping up with my blog you probably won't hear from me for a week or two. There isn't a whole lot I or anyone can do right now but pray.

As always you can get the latest news from the Dragon Brigade by checking out the Dragon Brigade Facebook Fan Page and other links (see links on the right).


Monday, October 19, 2009

What a Feeling

As a broadcast journalist sometimes we have to do stuff that may seem dumb or embarrassing to other people and even ourselves. Today, I was working on a story about health and fitness and I was doing a stand-up in the chow hall. A stand-up is something where the reporter is on camera, talking about something and showing something to illustrate the point of their story. Well, needless to say I got a lot of funny looks in the chow hall as I was setting up my camera. I took my camera to the main chow hall last week too and managed to scare everyone away from the dessert bar.

My OIC (boss), CPT Walsh just happened to sit down at the table next to mine as I was setting up the shot. She asked me if I ever felt weird doing this stuff in front of people. I said no, not really. When I was in high school I had a reputation for doing almost any trick, stunt or silly bet in the cafeteria for a flat rate of fifty cents.

Once I drank a cup of insanely hot salsa for 3 bucks and change. My lips burned for the rest of the school day. We also had a friend whose dad grew jalapenos and he brought a bag of those to school one day. I'll just say this, if you're going to eat an entire jalapeno in one bite you better have a big glass of something ice-cold standing by.

Anyway, for fun last night I put together a half hour, non-stop dance mix for aerobic workouts I call 'The DJ Workout'. I might share it online sometime but the mp3 is over 50 megabytes so it would take forever to upload. As a note to anyone whose deployed out here with us, see me if you'd like some pumped up jams to groove out to on the treadmill or whatever.

I also made a little music video for fun last night. What's a Soldier to do when they want to cut loose? We're not exactly next door to FunLand so we make our fun (and fun of each other).

Anyway, just to prove that it would be absolutely impossible to blackmail me,  I submit this:

How does the saying go? Is it "white boys can't jump" or is it "dance" ...or is it both? You decide.