Forever Wars, Forever Mourning

I’d be lying to you if I said deploying to Afghanistan was a monumental moment in my life. I mean it was a deployment, I did go to some forwarding positions to help with some weapons & night sight maintenance. But there isn’t a lot for me to say other than a bomb went off in the vehicle behind us; But by then the technology on our unarmored vehicles could take it. So even then, it wasn’t a big explosion.

I always tell people a lot of the trauma happened after I left that place, after I got out of the military. When the friends who did lose people, came back and I lost them. Afghanistan is a lot of things, for a lot of people. It isn’t just the place the good people who helped out American servicemen are trying to flee; Or the place we confronted the Taliban. It’s not just a place for political pundits to score points on the news; It’s not just a topic that people are talking about right now. It’s not just a prediction gone wrong; It’s not just a place where empires go begin their decline.

It’s the last place I ever got to speak to Alexander Nguyen.

I wasn’t in his unit, he was in my job school though. A GREAT friend to a lot of men, and a man who suffered in silence; Battled his demons alone if you will. He was a man that anyone who knew him, loved him instantly.

And his unit was the only reason mine landed in Afghanistan.

They had been losing a lot of men, so our unit was sent in to reinforce the mission they were on. We were on a Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), separated on large on three vessels. Each of the vessels had a different experience before sending men & women to Afghanistan (I think we had some female servicemen land with us but I honestly don’t know). And to me, the time was mostly spent on a Forward Operating Base (FOB). I volunteered to go out whenever I could to do my actual job, but I didn’t have to a whole lot to be honest. When I went outside of my FOB I got to go to some of the forward positions and see how some of the men lived. Pretty typical stuff, one of the positions had been an old building that was rumored to have been bought out to the locals; So there was that.

After our role there was beginning to wind down, I saw an old friend of mine from the same job school; And he and his friends looked defeated. He wasn’t the same jovial man I knew; Luckily, he’s still alive & trying to come to terms with so many losses too. Alex was his best friend, they were in that same unit together.

Then one day, I think literally 2 weeks before we had to leave I see Alex. Was right after the shower I took; A first world luxury that ran out of hot water frequently. We didn’t talk for long, just asked him how he was doing. That I knew his unit was the one we were trying to help out, sorry if he lost anyone. You know, the typical stuff you tell a servicemember. He was short and to the point, didn’t really seem fazed by it; And that’s the last time I got to hear that man’s voice in person.

When I came back, another friend of mine that happened to be serving with a unit at the same base showed me that Alex had been having problems. Not just problems that he hid, problems at his unit. He had been knocked down to private and was heavily drinking; But the photo my friend showed me, well he still didn’t seem fazed by it. Smiling, and flipping off the camera lol. That’s one of the last pictures I saw before that same friend told me, Nguyen had died to alcohol poisoning on October 7th, 2012.

That was the day I realized, I might be losing more friends after that.

And I lost a lot more friends after that, a lot of people I served with that I even have a story or two about. And I have a lot more friends who miss those men every day.

And it is just men for me.

You see I served at a time when women weren’t allowed to serve in certain units alongside men. Hell, I served when they repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in the military. The United States Marine Corps (USMC) of course was the VERY last branch to accept the decision and integrate the knowledge that queers served among them *gasp*. But I mean, that’s not important lol. Most of my friends & coworkers back then didn’t see it as a big deal if I’m being honest. The USMC doesn’t pride itself on what it holds back, it prides itself on being the killers & the most non-political branch of the military. The aggressors in the fight when the Army isn’t.

And honestly, I believe that they are.

There’s a contradiction that lives in the existence of the military, and especially in the Marine Corps. That it’s very existence isn’t political in nature, that somehow you can just order the military to NOT be political. When EVERYTHING is literally political. Politics, it might be hard to conceptualize but the textbook defintion (that I JUST GOOGLED) is: relating to the government or the public affairs of a country.

So unless every servicemember wants to OPENLY say they’re an anarchist in a philosophical sense, like i did; Then they aren’t REALLY non-political. The fact that you served, is political. The fact that you serve (or try to) the public, is political. It’s in the literal definition of it now. If you want to get out, not serve and go STRAIGHT into that business life; Hey GO FOR IT. This country is built on the premise of “hey just try it out and see for yourself buddy lol.”

Until everyone takes the time to think an entire strategy through: for their lives, for our country, for their businesses, for how the sectors of the corporations they worship will steer their industries; Until then, we’re doomed to make the same mistakes over and over again.

And so the fighters laugh at you, so you mourn. So your politicians will be doomed to make the same mistakes over and over again.

Right now instead of writing this article I was going to practice some Dragonball Fighterz; And I do mean practice. I’m going to enter a tournament in April for a game; And if I’m paying money for this tournament then imma practice. Instead, everyone is talking about this anarchist’s wasteland we call Afghanistan. Right now, the Taliban and the fighters they employ are laughing at us. And right now, I just don’t have the energy to give a shit anymore. And I’m not sorry about that either.

It’s been 10 years since I got the news about Nguyen, and I still miss him

And I care about the men who loved that man, who cry today because he’s no longer with us. I care about my family, the same ones that a white marine and her husband put in danger. I care about my community, the FGC, fellow veterans, and I care about my colleagues in the future career I’ll be in.

But I don’t care about fighting another war haphazardly; sent by politicians I don’t I don’t identify with. I just DON’T.

If we go into another war, make everyone pay a price for it. And I mean EVERYONE; Nationalize the police, and have them act like the National Guard. Nationalize American Industries; Have the people buy into war bonds & have them save save save for the war effort. No really DO IT.

Send literally every unit to war to get the job done quick; Do as the Marines say “Kill, kill, kill them all.” It would make them submit to the power of the United States Military after all; But not the United States. And this, this is what the American people & the American Military DON’T understand. If you’re going to go to war, the optics of the invasion you can’t think about in advance. The International Community, and International Politics are the greatest weakness of a nation. But that’s only if you want WAR.

If you want Peace, you need the politicians first. If you want war, you need generals to not be hindered by them.

I want peace y’all; I’m no longer a Marine. Yeah that’s right, I’m not afraid to say it; I’m NO LONGER A MARINE ANYMORE. There’s a saying in the military: The only two real branches are the Army & the Navy; The Air Force acts like a corporation, and the Marine Corps is like a cult. And well, I’ve never heard any Military Veteran DENY that saying if I’m being honest.

Right now there’s a copy-pasta going around; It’s pretty long so you’ll have to look for it yourself, some Military Veterans might’ve already shared it on social media TBH. And only other people who identify with these people, only they will be able to get the message; War isn’t about politics it’s about winning and willing swiftly.

Sure it’s NICE to take care of our Military Veterans, and we should. But War isn’t about Peace, it’s its dark violent/racist/sexist/misogynistic ugly brother. If you want peace in our borders, then leaving is the right thing to do; If you want War, then accepting that blood & killing abroad is what you have to accept.

War is ugly, peace is beautiful. If you want peace seek out the beautiful & political; If you weren’t prepared before for war, then prepare to lose.

The copy pasta, it’s supposedly something a Taliban leader wrote up to stir up propaganda but once you get to the end of it, it’s just another military veteran stirring up emotions. I don’t know if this MAN wants to stir up enough emotions to head back and “KILL, KILL, KILL THEM ALL.” But quite frankly, I don’t give a shit anymore.

I just DON’T. It’s why I can call myself “a former Marine”; It’s why I won’t care if we go back there or not. I don’t see myself in today’s military anymore, if I ever did. The military didn’t learn their lessons the first time they went in 2003; Or before that when they kept people in Afghanistan, or after when they went BACK to Afghanistan. If a politician is going to win in these places, they’ll have to start thinking like a WARRIOR. Like a man who spent the greater half of a decade practicing the same tired moves in Street Fighter 3: Third Strike just to win ONE TIME in a tournament. Just for the bragging rights (seriously FGC, up the pots already in our tournaments and PAY THE FUCKING ENTRY FEE).

That I didn’t learn in the Marine Corps, I didn’t learn from the military or veterans. If you want to win, you have to practice CORRECTLY; You have to forget humanizing the enemy, you play to win. But war & the military, it isn’t fighting games & the fighting game community (FGC). It’s real, people die and people are indoctrinated into the military for a reason. You go to war to kill, to win, to lay waste to an enemy and DEMORALIZE them in the process. Demoralization isn’t the goal of war, it’s a side effect of it.

If you want to play those types of war games then play a video game you clowns. If you want to enter politics join their space as a “leftist”; If you want to be safe, stay at home. No PLEASE, stay at home. The only thing I cared about when I was in Afghanistan was doing my job; If you would’ve left me there for years, eventually I’d run out of stuff to do and I would’ve joined the grunts in their spaces. But uncle same ordered me to stay in the FOB, so I stayed in the stupid ass FOB. If you want to get aggression out of your system without ACTUALLY dying, then play a fucking a fighting game, you CLOWNS.

Otherwise just go back home and wait for your uniform inspection.

The only thing I know, right now…I wish I could go out with Alexander Nguyen just one last time.

Edit: I’m not trying to say women shouldn’t join & be in the military, if you want to suffer with the other grunts. Fuck, I’ll be the first one to give you tips to make it not suck. You do you boo lol.

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Writer/poet for hire and fighting game enthusiast. I’m a neurodivergent queer who is also a military veteran. I write about politics & culture sometimes.

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E. D. Esqueda

E. D. Esqueda

Writer/poet for hire and fighting game enthusiast. I’m a neurodivergent queer who is also a military veteran. I write about politics & culture sometimes.

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