The anniversary of when I almost died is coming up. June 13th, 2004, was when I was blown up by a car-bomb in Taji, Iraq. My good friend Eric was killed that day. I guess I bring this up a lot, but not half as much as I think about it. It’s been 9 years and that day, my service, is still a huge part of my life.
What do you do with your life when you survive something you shouldn’t have?
That was a hard question for me to answer especially since a good friend of mine died who I was supposed to look out for. I was the squad leader and it was one of my decisions that put him in the back of that truck.
For years I thought the answer was to drink and be self-destructive. On my first anniversary I drank heavily in some sort of celebration I guess, but I remember there was a point where I thought if I just kept drinking I’d die, and that would be okay. On my second anniversary I had just come back from helping people during Hurricane Katrina cleanup. I had my act together a bit more and while we were down there I know we saved some lives. I remember one in particular. Mimi, she was a insulin-dependent diabetic who hadn’t kept her insulin cold since there was no power. My squad found her and got her help. Another day and she would have died. I guess it was that year I come up with an answer for the question.
I decided that I would try to make a monument of my life, a memorial to Eric and the others that died.
If I could be a good person and help people then there was a reason why I survived. A good reason. Unfortunately, that realization didn’t stick. That third year was very difficult and I fell back into drinking and self-destructive behavior. This period lasted too long with more thoughts about ending it all. But after a wait the VA gave me a new mission: go back to school and finish my degree. Words, art, and my wife Kell saved my life. For some of that time we saved each other. I graduated with a BA in English on June 13th, 2008, my four year anniversary. It says it right there on my degree.
I graduated with my masters in June, 2011. Miah and I started A Rock or Something in 2012. This year on June 15th, two days after my 9 year anniversary we are holding a fundraiser for my friends Ghaith and Tiffany Sahib. Ghaith was born and raised in Iraq. I hired two of his good friends who were also from Iraq to work as security officers. I am amazed at all the obstacles they’ve overcome to get here in order to just enjoy life, the life too many take for granted. I’m amazed by the work he’s put into his restaurant and the support his wife Tiffany has given him. They were nice enough to hire my seventeen-year-old daughter to wait tables there last summer. Last Thursday his kitchen burned down so I decided to do what I could to help. I called the news and rallied the troops:
I will be reading from my book Wax Bullet War which is a chronicle of my experiences during the Iraq War. Next year, in June, on my tenth anniversary I’ll be on a book tour. The book comes out next May. Here’s a sneak peek of the cover:
I hope in years to come I’m able to help other veterans and do something about the horrible suicide rate. I want to inspire and show people there is hope and they can do great things with their lives.