So here I am, sitting next to the fire, sipping my favorite bourbon. Today it’s Knob Creek nine year. I typically add a sphere to my glass then fill it with bourbon to the top of the ice cube. Has some great notes. It’s got a strong bite, like the one you love, and full of flavor.

If you are adding coke to this drink, you’re wasting the drink and go back to your whiskey or rum. Stop insulting the bourbon.

Many great bourbons are reasonably priced at $50-$80. Some of my favorites are Angel’s Envy and Jeffersons Reserve. If you know nothing about bourbon, these are good bottles, easy to find, and can serve as an excellent gift to a friend.

What were we talking about…?

Did I mention I was a Green Beret for almost 15 years? NOPE! I’m not a Navy SEAL.

*me chuckling inward and out*

The fireplace is going. Yes, the Christmas tree is still up. Hey, it’s pretty and fills the room with joy, so back off, I’ll get to it. Well, not tonight, but ya know, eventually. The wife will get to it. I’ve always referred to a fire as the caveman’s TV. Its pops and crackles. The light draws your eyes, the heat is warm to the skin, and the flames are forever moving.

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Many tears, laughs, and hugs have been shared next to a fire. If you’re having a tough time, I always recommend inviting that person over, pouring a bourbon, lighting a fire, and just talking.

I’ll sadly admit that when I can home in 2005 from Iraq after being in constant gunfights, I knew every person and their shift at the ABC. I was an SSG, and it was my go-to stop on my way home, every, single, day.

Hold on. I’ll be right back.

*My bourbon needs a fill, take this time to fill yours as well.*

Ok, we are back. Well, apparently. We are going to talk about me coming home after that trip. I meant to go a different direction, but I guess that will be another day. Let’s see what happens.

Um, yeah, so Iraq 2005. I was on my third combat trip and was a young, very young SSG. I was just 22 when I pinned SSG, and someone thought it was a good idea to make me in charge of a ton of stuff. Looking back, I was probably in way over my head, but it seemed to be the right thing at the time.

Our schedule really sucked. I was in the Infantry at the time, and we were doing 12 hours on and 12 hours off. But that was just on patrol. That didn’t include maintenance of vehicles, food, PT, and all the other stupid shit. So for 13 months, we basically did patrol and slept.

Remember that time we had to put SGT XXXX in a body parts bag? Damn, that sucked. Al-Qaeda in Iraq, the bad guys, started putting out IEDs on the walls and hitting our dismounts.

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*Sips bourbon. It’s spicy and smooth, and the taste lasts. Imagine the fire breath exhale for dramatic effect.*

We raced to the scene. Me being a leader I went to the platoon leader. Everyone looked fine, and I didn’t see a problem. Without a word, the young Lt. looks at me then looks at the mound of dirt next to a wall. I look. WTF is that? I slowly walk over, fearing the worst.

I was right, it was SGT XXXX. Except the only thing left was a flak vest. I look at my driver and call for a body bag. Inside is a smaller parts bag. He and I put it in the bag, zip it up. The bag feels like it’s 200 plus pounds. The smell is terrible. I couldn’t hear anything, and everything seemed to be in slow motion.

SGT XXXX was married with kids. I spent what seemed like hours looking for his wedding ring. But we found nothing, just the flak vest with a torso in it. That was all that was left of him.

Our 1SG usually met us at the gate to retrieve our wounded and dead. He would then transfer the body to the morgue. In 13 months, we would have over 80 guys in our infantry company of 130 receive the Purple Heart, one guy, Steve, receiving four. Steve and I were close when we left for Iraq and never spoke after returning. He was a completely different person, understandably.

I remember at the awards ceremony them reading the purple heart citations: “For wounds received to the penial shaft.” HA! Poor guy, poorer wife.

*Large gulp of bourbon. Almost gone on my second drink*

It’s strange, ya know? Looking back, I remember weeping as I put the SGT in the parts bag into the 1SG’s truck. I was sad, and this was a moment to briefly grieve. I looked up and could see the gate guards looking at me. They were Army Band.

They knew what was going on and observed it.

I will forever remember the way they looked at me. So strangely. Like, they couldn’t understand. They had no concept of the feeling we were going through. F**k ’em, I had to go back out and continue our day.

Hoot (Blackhawk Down) said, “When I go home, people’ll ask me, ‘Hey Hoot, why do you do it, man? What, you some kinda war junkie?’ You know what I’ll say? I won’t say a goddamn word. Why? They won’t understand. They won’t understand why we do it. They won’t understand that it’s about the men next to you, and that’s it. That’s all it is.”

Truer words have never been spoken.

Well, I’m going to close my eyes now. You all take care.

Ok, Mr. Editor Man, help fix me fix my errors.

Oh, if you need a reason to open your bourbon… try reading this without getting upset.