Rookie

Luis Fuentes talks about a harrowing night in Iraq as a member of the Green Berets Army Special Forces team.

Ar Ramadi, Iraq March 2004; It is around two o’clock in the morning. It is pitch black and the only sounds are from our rifles and equipment. We are racking our bolts back on our rifles to make sure they are oiled up so there is no kind of jams later on. We check our night vision goggles to make sure they work properly, and check our radios to make sure we have communication with everyone on the team.

“Any station, this is Louie, radio check.”

Then someone replies back by saying, “Louie, this is Sean, Lima Charlie, how me” and I reply back, “Sean, Lima Charlie.”

Everyone in the platoon does a radio check with someone. We roger up to our team leaders and they roger up to the team commander. Then someone yells, “Bring it in!” and we gather up one last time to go over what everybody is going to do.

I am attached to an Army Special Forces team, also known as the Green Berets. This is what I have wanted to do my whole life. I have always wanted to be part of the very best that the United States military has to offer. This is my first mission with these guys and I do not want to look like a rookie, even though I am.

The convoy of six trucks leaves the base, the lights are out on all of the trucks and everyone is looking through night vision goggles. We drive for about 20 minutes making turns here and there and then over the radio the convoy commander says, “Target house coming up on the right,” and the trucks slow down. I am part of the assault team. We are the ones who are going to kick the door open; and we are the ones who are going into the house first. I am the lead guy, the first one in the house, maybe even the first one to get shot. There is so much going through my head right now (What is it going to look like inside? Do I have my weapon on fire? What if I get shot? And I hope I can throw myself inside so the rest of the team can get in). The convoy comes to a slow roll; we are creeping to the target house now. We start jumping out the back of the truck and slowly and methodically move to the house. It is a small compound, we moved to the gate to make our entry. That is when the number three guy moves up to open the door.

“It’s locked,” he says. “What the fuck do you mean it’s locked?” was my reply. Without hesitation, our team leader is telling a truck to ram the gate. One of our trucks lines up to the gate and rams it (Boom!); they know we are here now!

We move into the compound up to the front door, our third man comes up and donkey kicks the door open. As I enter the house, there is a long hallway, and once in I make my way up to the first room. I stop before I enter the room for a brief second. Behind me, I feel my team leader’s knee nudge the back of my leg; letting me know to enter the room. I go into the room and through my night vision goggles I see a man’s silhouette holding a gun! I follow the wall to the left, but I am still facing the man in front of me. I squeeze my pressure pad on my broomstick the little handle on the barrel, to turn on my Surefire flashlight, to blind the man in the room.

At the same time, he is holding a gun, probably to kill me.

I shoot at him, I hit him six times in the chest and he is still not falling down. During this same time my team leader is entering the room and shoots the man as well. He finally goes down, we clear the rest of the room and remove the gun away from the man on the floor. All this took place within less than a minute. But, it seemed like it took 20 minutes to get to the corner of the room when I first entered. The other team members are yelling, “GET ON THE FLOOR, GET ON THE FLOOR!” and some of it is in Arabic. Then my team leader tells me to stack up, so I move in front of him and he is behind once more. We are ready to move to the other rooms “We’re not done yet.” But before the knee nudge he hits me on my head and says, “Two to the chest, and one to the head” kind of a friendly reminder to remember your training.

We clear the rest of the house within five minutes. Over the radio, we give an “all clear” that is when more guys come in and look for any kind of intelligence inside the house.  I play everything I did back in my head (what could have I done better). I did exactly what I did not want to do. I made the rookie mistake of forgetting how to shoot. All my training went out the window on my first raid. I could have gotten someone killed, because I did not follow my training. I told myself I would not make that mistake again. Later that day, I was at the range practicing my shooting skills; I never made that mistake again. I am a professional shooter and not a rookie.

 

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A Man with Nine Lives

Taylor Cox interviews a friend who was lost in the wilderness near Bear Lake and almost didn’t make it out alive. The following is a story and video created to tell Scott Long’s story.

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/93335701″>scotts story</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/amyelizabethcox”>amy elizabeth cox</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

On August 26, 2011, Scott Long, an 18-year old student at the University of Utah, survived a near-death experience near Bear Lake in Idaho that would leave him wondering how many lives he might actually live.

“All I knew is I had to figure somethin’ out that would keep me alive” stated Log with a stressed look on his face. “I had my empty motorcycle, my helmet, and some nasty sagebrush. That’s it!”

Long was lost for thirteen hours in the Bear Lake Canyons that night and due to his diabetic condition he experienced several life threatening moments.

“I’ve had a few pretty dumb things happen to me in my life,” admitted Long. He explained briefly about his other near death experiences.

“I smashed my truck into a tree one day, um, I woke up to my heart going like fifty billion miles an hour, I dunno, the list goes on,” said Long. Although he has had several experiences, Bear Lake seemed to stand out the most.

Long and his friends had gone out into the mountains on their motorcycles late one afternoon in search for a tiny town near Bear Lake called Pegram.

“You can only get there on motorcycles,” he added. They left and were determined to not go back to the cabin until they discovered this treasure. Long, having suffered from type 1 diabetes since the age of nine, realized his blood-sugar was low while riding the dirt paths to Pegram.

“We got there finally and all I can really remember is racing some train on my dirt bike and feeling like crap,” continued Long. His friends also realized his blood sugar was low and offered to ask for food from someone in town. He refused he said, and being the stubborn person he is when “low” he decided to take the hour and a half trip back to the cabin.

Over the next eight hours or so Long’s friends and family aimlessly searched the mountainous dirt paths for him. He never arrived back to the cabin and the frantic group left immediately in a desperate search of Long. “We looked and looked but couldn’t find him anywhere, and it was gettin’ pretty dark too so we felt kinda useless at that point,” said Brandon Brown, a close friend of Long.

Long crashed several times as he road his motorcycle in an unconscious state of mind. “I was way too low to be riding a motorcycle and I couldn’t figure out anything at all. I needed something to eat, so after I crashed the last time I rolled over into some bush and grabbed a handful of leaves and ate ‘em.” Long laid there in the dirt path for several hours hoping and praying someone would find him. He was the only one to wear a helmet that afternoon and it was all he had to keep him warm as the night passed by.

The group continued to look for him and in desperate measures called Search and Rescue for their assistance. Long expressed, “I just remember laying there thinking I was gonna die and looking up at the stars and seeing so many. There was like a shooting star every other second.” He then added, “Then there was this huge one that went forever. It just kept coming out of the corner of my eye.” Long then looked to get a better view of the star and it was the headlights of a Search and Rescue truck. Attempting to run down the trail to meet the truck Long passed out once again. He stated his name to the crew and they helped him. He was given a large Pepsi, a Reese’s peanut butter cup, and a seventeen mile ride back to the cabin. Arriving shortly after to the worried group he greeted them all with a hug. “They were so mad at me,” said Long. “I probably deserved it though.”

Long feels lucky to be alive today after going through some close calls. He said he knows he’s alive because he has things to do in this life that he hasn’t done yet.

“Everyone says I have nine lives and I’ve already used up quite a few,” he says. “We’ll see what happens with the ones I got left.”

“Body Composition Program”

Jake Payton writes a satire about the obesity epidemic in our modern society and offers his own “modest” proposal including Big Brother grocery rationing and card declining for heavyweights who try to buy cookies

 

Throughout history, the human race has witnessed some of the most gruesome plagues and diseases. There have been cities, even civilizations wiped out, claiming life by the millions. From about 1300 to the mid 1700’s it was the Black Plague or more commonly known as “Black Death,” which killed an estimated 75 million people. When European settlers discovered America 95 percent of the Natives were killed from smallpox. Since being discovered, smallpox has taken roughly 300 million lives. Today we live in a more civilized age with billion-dollar-funded organizations which focus on health care and disease prevention; however, there is an epidemic called obesity that has spread to more than 38 percent of the world’s population and the number continues to grow at an ever increasing rate.

With the developments of new medicines and vaccinations we can prevent illnesses our body cannot defend alone such as smallpox or the flu, but obesity requires a different kind of medicine and it lies within every one of us. For most overweight people simple exercise and diet would prove an excellent prognosis. On the other hand, some individuals require medicine to assist in controlling weight fluctuation for people who are diagnosed with hypothyroidism, which is a disease that effects the thyroid gland, and in short causes your metabolism to drop. But this is not the issue. I am talking about the people who have a poor diet or eat fast food every day and wonder why they have a keg for a stomach and other health problems directly related to obesity.

David Zinczenko, the editor-in-chief of Men’s Health magazine and author of numerous best-selling books, writes about taking personal responsibility in his article titled, Don’t Blame the Eater. “Apparently this, a group of kids are taking on McDonald’s in court ,are claiming they got fat because of the delicious food they have to offer.”

Zinczenko emphasizes the importance of parenting and how some children do not always have the opportunity to eat a healthy meal. One cause of this he suggests is by single parents who work long hours and don’t always have the time to make lunch or dinner for their children. Zinczenko insists that in order for us to make better decisions, the fast food companies should print labels on what the people are consuming so they are aware of what they put into their bodies. It is not just the fast food companies fault, but the availability of already made healthy and affordable meals are pretty much non-existent.

Zinczenko certainly has made a good point in stating that fast food is unhealthy but no one is forcing us to eat those delicious high-calorie cheeseburgers. The decision to eat that type of food is a personal decision for most and I think many people lack the willpower to take the time and maybe pre-make a turkey avocado sandwich or chicken salad for lunch the next day rather than of grabbing a gas station hot dog or grease filled burger at the nearest fast food joint. I strongly agree with the author as he states in his youth fast food was the only option. Being able to cook a full balanced meal is not necessarily something every child can put on his or her resume. With the parents, or parent, being absent all the time, the only option may not always be the best option. Zinczenko reminds us this was the case in his family when he recalls the fact that he had a choice between four fast food restaurants.

I believe the problem does not lie within one individual or group, it is human nature in general that has caused us to be in this “obesity epidemic.” We are natural hunters and gatherers, as are most species, but you do not see any non-domestic animals that are overweight or obese. I have never heard of fat lions trying to take down a zebra or water buffalo. Why is it that no wild animals experience the same epidemic as humans? Well, there was a time when humans actually hunted for food, gathered nuts and berries, and harvested crops from farms. When I look at genealogy books or photographs taken more than 70 or 80 years ago, everybody was thin as a pole or ripped from manual labor. That is because people had to work hard with both hands to make a living and survive. Time and technology has slowly enabled us to get fat, we have created ways to make things easier allowing us to order pizza, take the elevator and drive to work. Technology is an amazing advancement in our history but it comes at a great cost for some of us.

There are, however, alternative solutions to this obesity epidemic that if I were President or a dictator I would explore. After serving in the Marine Corps for six years I am no stranger to exercise and feel strongly that if you can, you should. During my enlistment I was chosen to be a Body Composition Program Team Leader. This program measures the individual’s height, weight and circumference of the neck and waist. Then your age is taken into account as it is easier for younger people to lose weight. If you exceed your measurements according to your age then you are placed in BCP (Body Composition Program.) My job was to “train” these Marines until they met their personal weight standards. This meant being a health and food coach as well as exercising the Marines until the fat falls off. In short you have 6 months to achieve your maximum allowed weight limit or face the possibility of being kicked out of the Marine Corps, talk about incentive!

Now here’s where my solution comes into play. I would like for this program to be implemented into our society. Of course the guidelines wouldn’t be as strict, as not everyone can handle the amount of physical exertion that Marines face on a daily basis. However this program would reflect everyone and there would be ramifications for not achieving your set weight guidelines. For example, if you are six feet tall you should not exceed the weight of 225 pounds. If you do then you have 6 months to try and accomplish this goal on your own. Failure to achieve your goal will result in a strict grocery allowance. This means that when you go to the grocery store if you try and buy a box of cookies or something heavy in empty calories your card will be denied until a healthy substitute is found or the item is removed all together.

If one year goes by and you still have not achieved your goal you are placed in the physical portion of BCP. This means three times a week you must exercise at an approved BCP gym with a provided trainer. These trainer’s will be paid for by members of the BCP as there is a monthly tax placed on those who are overweight. Of course individuals with extreme medical conditions will receive a tailored program to fit their needs.

Some may say this violates the constitution, which says “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Well this program is actually trying to help people achieve these goals. Generally heavyweight people die before someone that is not necessarily skinny but healthy. Also I would like to speak for most people when I say, I am a much happier person when I am fit and can walk up a flight of stairs without losing my breath. If everyone was within their own weight guidelines we probably wouldn’t have the healthcare issues we have today. Not one week goes by, where I don’t hear someone talk about how much they have to pay for healthcare or what a load of garbage Obama Care is.

It may seem like some freedoms are being taken away here, but look at all the countries in the world that aren’t as free as we are. The populations are filled with skinny people, they don’t have the opportunity or freedom that we do to get fat in the first place. I believe that if you abuse your freedom than you should be punished. If you eat until you have a heart attack that’s punishment in itself, but why let it go that far? After helping hundreds of Marines achieve their goals and hear their testimonies of gratitude. I can assure you; that if stay healthy, you will live longer and be happier. Also, I won’t have to place you in my Body Composition Program.

Dining at Tepanyaki with Grandma and Knife-clanging Kung Fo Masters

Quan Duong writes about a family trip to a local Japanese hotspot where the food was great and so was the entertainment

 

sushi

Tepanyaki, a “Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi Bar” was my family’s destination for dinner when my grandma flew to Salt Lake, Utah to visit us last weekend. Besides Vietnamese food — which is our origin–  Japanese cuisine has always been my first choice for a family’s night out. Even though I had tried many traditional Japanese restaurants, this was my first time going to this type of Japanese steakhouse, which later turned out to be a perfect choice.

At Tepanyaki, customers have the option of having Sushi only at the Sushi Bar, or having Tepanyaki, which is usually known as Hibachi grills. My family picked the Hibachi one. According to the information I found here, Tepanyaki comes from the Japanese word Teppanyaki, which is a style of Japanese cuisine that uses an irongriddle to cook food. “The word teppanyaki is derived from “teppan” which means iron plate, and “yaki” which means grilled, broiled, or pan-fried.” Hibachi cooking is an Art that has been performed since the early of 1900’s.

Each table comes with a personal chef who not only cooks food but also delights to perform with the skill and art in which he has been training for years.

We arrived with a small group with four people: my grandma, my parents and I and we were assigned the seats opposite another middle-aged couple to fill up the table. This was the part I didn’t like about this restaurant. Totally weird. We couldn’t have any conversation.

“Why would you want to have a conversation where strangers could hear you? “said my grandma with a little bit of upset on her face.

There’s nothing better than a Tempura for appetizers, so I ordered the shrimp one with an Okonomiyaki, a Japanese savory pancake containing a variety of special ingredients. For the main dish, I picked the Tepanyaki Deluxe, which contained lobster tail, fillet mignon and King crab with house fried rice. The appetizers were already cooked in the kitchen and came first. Shrimp tempura was crispy and good as always, but the Okonomiyaki impressed us the most. The first time I tried this pancake was almost ten years ago, so the feeling that day was like brand new.

“Awesome!” said my dad, who couldn’t stop praising how great it was, “I would definitely look for the recipe and make my own Okonomiyaki at home”.

About five minutes later, the most special part of the dinner got started when a chef walked out with his small cart containing raw foods, some kinds of sauce and ingredients. We had Lou – a young Taiwanese as our chef and he was awesome with friendliness as well as lots of jokes. The performance began when he heated up the iron plate with the splash of ginger and mustard sauces; side dishes followed, sizzling in a mix of hot oil and soy sauce. Everyone was saying “Wow!” when he did the knife-clanging, zucchini throwing drill, and vegetables chopping in the air like a Kungfu Master Chef as in Chinese movies. Lou kept surprising us with his talented skills and many incredible tricks as he caught the flying bowl of fried rice without losing a grain, flipped a shrimp tail into his shirt pocket, caught an egg in his hat, tossed an egg up in the air and split it with a spatula.

George and Nancy, the middle-aged couple on the opposite side, couldn’t believe in their eyes. While George was gaping at the chef with his eyes and mouth opened in surprise, his fiancée Nancy was focusing on recording every movements of Lou with her cell phone. It’s Lou who lit up the exciting environment of the night with his performance and brought every one closer. My family had lots of interesting conversations with George and Nancy, and Lou as well. We laughed out loud as Lou shared real experience about his life and this career:

“You guys cannot imagine how many eggs, dishes and bowls I have broken on those first days of training. That amount could have filled up as high as Mount Fuji in Japan, haha.”

My lobster and crabs were seasoned very well. The fragrant steak was grilled to order by the chef before cutting it into one-inch bites with a few sharp slashes of the cleaver. I could feel the juicy flavor in the meat. While we were enjoying our meal, Lou performed some other tricks like juggling utensils or arrange onion rings into fire-shooting volcanoes. Yummy! Every one gave him a big applause for the amazingly creative volcanoes. The part I liked most was when he flipped flattened shrimp pieces into diners’ mouths. I missed the first two times, and finally caught it on my third try. It was very funny and entertaining. I really enjoy my dinner. House fried rice was the last dish to be processed once all the foods we ordered were served already. Even though fried rice is very simple to cook, it was much more delicious under Lou’s skillful hands. The Japanese sticky rice tasted so good, together with eggs and fragrant smell of butter were a perfect ending for an awesome meal. Finally, Lou cleaned the iron plate, wished us a great meal and pulled his cart back into the kitchen. We continued with our foods till we finished and got home about twenty minutes later.

“It was my first time to a Japanese Steakhouse, and I loved my experience. The host did an incredible job. He was so great with his hands and had amazing control of the knives. He had a smile on his face the entire time, even when I missed the shrimp toss three times, haha. Everything was absolutely delicious and cooked perfectly! I have heard good things about the Sushi Bar here, would definitely come back and try soon.” said Nancy as she offered me a quick interview after dinner.

I would give this Tepanyaki an A in overall, A in food and environment, A+ in service and performance but, a B in price since these types of restaurant typically cost higher because of the personal chef. However, it’s worth giving a try! Treat yourself for birthdays or special anniversaries and you’ll enjoy wonderful times with your loved ones like my family and I did. For a big meal that makes me full, I would go to a buffet, but for a warm dining out, I can see this place being a potential spot with the entertainment and cultural value. “It’s not just dinner, It’s Entertainment”, said the slogan of the restaurant. I love this place and highly recommend Tepanyaki to my friends!

Long Boarding with the Boys

Ashlyn Stackhouse talks about facing possible bodily harm and road rash just to hang with her friends, the long-boarding “boys.”        

Hanging out with a group of guys 24/7 is much different than hanging out with a group of girls. When the snow melts and the radiant sun beams down on Salt Lake Valley, most girls are excited to lie out by the pool and get sun-kissed. But a specific groups of boys who I know all too well, get overly-excited about the warm weather for one thing and one thing only: Longboarding. After only knowing Tyler, Mitch, Dave, and Bryce for only a year, I know this is the one activity they love to spend their time doing in the warm spring and summer months.

These guys begged and begged to let them teach me the magical sport, but I have always told them, “No thanks, I would rather not have road rash all over my limbs.” Except on one special, sunny day after we had all stuffed out faces with Café Rio, I said yes when they asked if I wanted to learn. I was willing to put my clumsy, unbalanced self in a death trap. We drove back to Tyler’s house in Cottonwood Heights, went out to the street in front of his house and they handed me an extra long board that they had laying around the house. This is when I started to doubt my sanity about saying yes to such a dangerous activity.

Ever since I was nine years old after falling off my bike and getting gravel lodged into my knee, I have always been terrified of falling on streets. So why would I agree to learn how to ride a wooden board with four, probably unsafe, wheels down a hill?

“It’s fun, Shlyn. I promise you’ll love it.” My best friend, Tyler said, using the nickname that they all called me.

I was relieved to find out that they weren’t going to make me ride down a big, scary hill for my first time. They first taught me how to just normally ride the board. Left foot towards the top of the board, push off with your right foot and bring that foot up onto the back of the board. This part was surprisingly the hardest part for me because I’m not the most graceful and balanced person in the world.

I continued to listen to all four boys trying to tell me the best way to do certain things on the long board, but my mind started to wander from the moving object I was riding on, to the four boys standing in front of me.

When I was younger, I always got along better with boys, probably because I have always been a slight tomboy throughout my life, but I still need my girly moments, of course. This explains why I find myself connecting with these boys more than I do with most of my friends. They are like the older brothers I have never had. Dave and Mitch are the brothers that do every adrenaline-rushing activity out there together. There was a time when Bryce was not be a brother to me, he was my boyfriend for eight months but things changed, which  caused me to see him more as a brother. Last but definitely not least is Tyler, a.k.a my best friend, and one of my favorite people in the world. He and I have such a strong sister and brother bond. I have never experienced that type of bond ever, until now.

Looking at all of them, excited to teach me something they all love to do was a very heartwarming experience. Even though I may have whined a lot during this learning process and completely let out the girl side of me, they still put up with me and helped me learn something new. Now, I may not be as good as they are, but at least now we have one more activity to add to the list that we can all enjoy together. I now understand why they love long boarding so much. It’s not just the sport itself; it’s the fact that you are able to grab your longboard and cruise with your closest friends.

Cure for the Middle-aged and Out of Shape

Ryan Butler write about his journey to the strange universe of Planet Fitness where his growing willpower and the Lunk Alarm help him defeat the “winter jelly-roll” demon

 

ImageSource of graphic

Alarm goes off;  It’s 6:30 a.m.: time to make my attempt at getting my summer body put together. I roll over in my bed.

Alarm goes off; its 6:45 a.m.: time to make my attempt at getting my summer body put together.

Alarm goes off and its 7:00 a.m., this time I mean business. It’s time to get my summer body put together. Tomorrow, I think to myself. I will do it tomorrow. I roll back over and fall back to sleep.

And so it goes for the next few days, time to make a commitment to myself, time to get back into the gym. I can do this; tomorrow.

Alarm goes off; I roll over in my bed, its 6:30 a.m. and today is the day. I slowly rise from my warm comfortable place of security and slumber to instantly get the painful reminder I am less than a year away from 40 and the years of snowboarding haven’t been easy on my knees. I can almost hear the noise they make as I rise; it is the same noise my dad’s old Ford Pinto made when you opened the door on its rusty hinges.

I shuffle sleepily to the coffee pot, fill it with water, start the brew cycle, and turn impulsively finding my way to the bathroom to brush my teeth and dress in my workout attire.

I can do this, I repeat myself. I see them jogging happily in front of my house every morning, and how I hate them, with their pep and self-motivation, but, I’m willing to give it a shot, I need to acquire the habits of the successful, I can change! I walk back into the kitchen to pour myself a cup of that same pep and motivation, when I realize I didn’t fill the filter with coffee grounds and all I have is a pot of steaming water.

Tomorrow, shouts my brain, back to bed for you, you can’t live like this, and you’re not like them. Tomorrow; start tomorrow.

Not this time, I think myself, I can do this! I fill the grounds, press brew and head back into my bedroom to finish getting my gear together.

I’m in need of a new gym membership, being a student isn’t cheap and I don’t have much to budget. I have seen the ten dollars, no contract ads posted around my neighborhood, so I drive to investigate.

I find myself at the Planet Fitness around the corner from my house. As I walk in I am immediately overcome by the overuse purple and yellow, its everywhere, the walls, the equipment, and I find myself thinking, isn’t purple supposed to be a calming color? Since when are we trying to stay calm while we work out?

That’s when I see it: high on the wall for everyone to see, the Lunk Alarm, a purple siren shrouded in the color purple and yellow, with ominous warning signs. No Grunters. No heavy breathers in this sanctuary. This is not your typical gym; it’s a safe place “A Judgment Free Zone” boasts the stickers on all of the workout equipment. But for ten bucks a month, I’m willing to put up with the stares I get from the old and out outdated.

I sign the contracts, and my mind wanders as I read their version of my Miranda Rights regarding the rules of conduct, and attire. I head to the locker room to secure my personals, as I walk out I locate the bank of treadmills. I find the perfect one, not too close to anyone since it’s been a while since my last attempt at cardio. I step up, press start, adjust the speed and begin to jog. I’m trying to find my rhythm, my zone, but the back and forth swishing of my winter jelly roll is a distraction.

My eyes begin wander back and forth along the bank of flat screen TVs looking for something to draw my attention away from myself, when I am overwhelmed with a feeling of desperation. I feel as though I’m being force fed disease and sickness, on one channel there is a lost airplane, the next its allergy season, the next is what the planet will be like after the apocalypse, then who is tweeting who, and “conscious uncoupling” it’s the trendy new word for divorce. The madness of American society is too much for me, but I can’t look away. All I can do is close my eyes and breathe while trying to focus on the rhythm of my feet and my breathing, hoping to restore internal balance and order. I do this for a half hour, but now it’s time to lift.

I step down from the treadmill, and make my way to the weight section. I feel the glare of the pale twenty-something employee, his eyes are scanning the workout floor, like a searchlight scanning a prison yard, and he is hoping to catch somebody breaking the rules. This appears to be his first job with any authority, his hand hovers over the Lunk Alarm the same way a game show contestant waits excitedly to chime in with the right answer. Not this time pal, you’re not going to catch me breaking the rules. I’m far too seasoned to be caught by such a young amateur. I lift my weights, I clean my machines and I do as agreed, not to drawing any attention to myself.

I finish my workout, and walk to the locker room to collect my belongings. Upon leaving I’m looking around the gym at all of the other patrons, they come in all shapes and sizes. I see them sweating, some are reading, others are focused of that bank of death, disease and destruction. I’m wondering if they too go through the literal hell I went through just to get the feeling of accomplishment. As I leave I’m wearing a small grin on my face for today I finishing my first day back at the gym.

9-1-1 Wake Up Call

Angela Holmes shares the powerful story of the day she woke up in a hospital bed on a military base in Arizona and helplessly watched the events of September 11th unfold as she struggled with her own private hell. Her story is one of many “military wife” stories that often go untold.

ME- Angela

I heard the sad and horrible yell, coming from the other end of a cold, metal hallway. The noisy sound of children yelling and adults crying and screaming.

The smell was strong of bleach and cleaning supplies, and I could taste charcoal, as it dripped down the back of my throat, making me gag; I tried not to throw up. Slowly I opened my eyes in wonder and disbelief that I was lying in a semi half-tilted up bed, with the television turned onto the news channel.

As I looked around, to my left was a doctor, his mouth wide open and in shock from what he just saw and heard, and  a nurse yelled out, “OH No!” And “Hell No! I have family there”  Someone in the bed next to me said, “Did you see that? The two airplanes, took a short left and drove in to that building,  one of the Twin Towers!”

Just then, the medical hand cart dropped, hitting the cold title floor, making a banging and clanging noise, as the contains spilling onto the floor.

I looked up at the nurse crying next to me, holding a cup of black charcoal, telling me I needed to drink another cup, before anyone could talk to me.

“What’s going on?” I asked her.

She turned and looked at me with fear in her face, tears running down her face.

“Sweetie, are you gonna be okay?” she asked. “In the state of mind you’re  in, if I kept the television on?”

I replied with a “Yes. What’s going on?” Then I heard the announcement across the speakers, “Everyone, please stay calm, and please sit down where you are so the nurses can count the numbers of people in the hospital building.”

An hour had passed before I heard the Fort Huachuca Military Emergence procedures steps, giving instruction for lock down over the intercom.

Looking over at the television, the nurse had turned on about ten minutes ago, I saw all the commotion that the world was watching: two planes just hit the Twin Towers as I watched Channel 4 News and a military channel.

It was September 11, 2001. I heard all the channels on the television saying 9-11, over and over, like the message was on repeat from a recorder. Tears still running down her face, make-up smeared and with a quiet, yet sad tone, she said:

“You must be an angel!” With a puzzled look on my face, I asked her, “Why do you say that?”

The nurse replied, “Well, 9-11 happened to you and the nation, and you did not die. You’ve got to be an angel. Your name is Angela right?”

“Yes,” I said.

As she repeated herself again “Well, you are an angel.” She looked at my vitals.

I asked her what is going on with me. Then I asked another nurse that walked in my room, “Can you take this needle out and this black stuff I am drinking? It tastes like dirt.”

“It is charcoal, it help with all those pills that you took.”

“What pills did I take?” I said. My eyes were bloodshot, like red lines on a roadmaps. Was I that mad and upset at the world that much, to take pills? I thought.

I wanted to leave at that point. How could the nurse laugh at me in a time like this?

“I am a First Sargent’s Wife, at the age of 27 years old, most wives were over the age of 50 years old.  I look over and care for 400 soldiers’ dependents, while their soldiers are deployed, ” I said. “Why would I do such a thing as to harm myself?”

In a quiet voice again she said, “Because you tried!” came from the doctor as he walk in my room.

Looking at the nurse, water started to fill up my eyes like buckets, why? My thoughts raced through my head, a thousand-miles-per minute. Then it hit me like the airplanes hit the Twin Towers:  I was stressed out to my max and beyond my limits, like five credit cards ago. I was 27 years old, married to a First Sargent in the military on the Fort Huachuca Military Base in Arizona and 1900 miles from my home in Utah.

Before I requested to get the sleeping pills, my husband had been deployed overseas, doing a top securest mission for the Military Police. I had just found out that my children had been abused by their new step mother, and they requested that I come and pick them up from the base in Colorado. And on top of everything else, my father who I dearly loved, just had a heart attack, and I needed to go home with in the next couple of days: what was I to do?

As well as the military families under my care, I had two different families asking for Judge Advocate General, the military lawyers. Both of them wanted out of their marriages, had a family who were getting removed from base housing for breaking the rules, another was in jail from a weekend of being too drunk, and needed money to be bailed out.

“I remember taking a couple of sleeping pills to help me relax,”  I said as the nurse as she filled out the forms on her clipboard.

“They found you with only three left in the bottle. And to make things worst, the nurse was telling me, that I am five month pregnant. You are lucky that neither of you died, ” she said.

I looked at her in shock, did I just hear her right, 87 pills and what? A baby?  Then the doctor walked in.

“How is our Angel doing?” he said.

“I am fine,” I said.

As I looked at the doctor, the butterflies that were in my tummy left,  his was a face that I knew: First Sargent Steven, he was over the medical field and staff for the hospital. He sat down on the edge of the bed, and said.

“Angela, what the Hell were you thinking? What about your husband? His military soldiers, their families, and most of all, what about you and the baby you are carrying?”

As he was talking to me, like my father did when I was six years old, I told him that, “I remember taking five or six of them, and laying down, and trying to sleep, counting the minutes past by going into hours, and still nothing. I took a couple more. I do not remember taking 87 out 90. He then told me, “Well, when you mix them with alcohol and other drugs, they work differently.

I told him, all I wanted was to get some sleep. It had been days, maybe even weeks since I’d slept.

“Okay, I know you are stressed out, and if you can promise me that you will never think about harming yourself, I will not report this, and it will mess up your husband’s military ranks forever.” First Sargent Steven said.

“Okay, it is a deal,” I said. And then he explain after I get my clothes on one of the soldiers would take me home because the military base was on a full lock down. When I left, I had to check up on all 400 soldiers and families and have them prepared for what could come next. Steven let me know how serious the issues were, that Fort Huachuca, Az.  Military base was next on their list of places to take out. Our base, which in the head on communication for all other military bases.

When I left the ER that day, it was truly a 9-1-1 shocking day, thinking about my friends and family, that I knew in New York, and feelings of sadness and helplessness of why this, why now? And Thanking my God, above that I got to see another day and was able to be a support for the soldiers and their families, instead of feeling  anger, hatred, sadness, and a wishing that I was never a First Sargent’s Wife.

I looked at life differently, realizing that today may not turn into tomorrow, that I might not been able to see what is coming my way. Looking back to the 9-11 screams of fear, lying on my back in my bed, with no cares in the world.

I look at life as a gift that God could take back at any time he wanted to.

With this gift of life, he gave me one to watch over: my baby.

Not having to worry about matters, or what does not matter.  Many times people think of troubling and sad times, thinking that no one cares. Remember you care, and you matter. Do not stop smiling! Most of all, LIVE for today, because today may not turn into tomorrow.

My Angel

 

Angela’s baby in photo above. “My Angel,” she said.

On the Road with the Utah State Unique

Damien Holmes writes about a day in the life as a coach for a semi-pro team, the Utah State Unique

It was a chilling Saturday morning with a partly clouded sky; rain began to drizzle down on the football field just before kickoff.

Last weekend the Utah State Unique (which is a Semi-Pro team) suffered a minor loss to an opposing team for fourth seat in the playoffs. This early morning the players of the Unique knew they had to win today in order to gain fifth seat in the round of the playoffs. You can feel the tension in the air as the player were warming up during drills.

“I feel a win today coach,” said one player.

A meeting of the minds began off the side of the field. All the coaching staff huddled together as they were starting the game on offense.

“Hey coach look! They are not even warming up!” one of the captains said. “They must think they are going to get an easy win today!”

If  the Utah State Unique pulls off the win today. They get the first round bye (first week off) with time to practice and focus on the next game. The Unique hit the field first on offense like hungry kids to a dinner bell. Without going into an offensive huddle The Unique drove the ball down field for their first score on a one minute 50 yard drive to the opponent’s end zone for a touchdown. The team became electrified after scoring the extra point.

“All that practice and film did a lot of work this week coach. The players are starting to come along.” The head coach muttered.

Soon after, the opposing team scored right back with the same quickness. Tempers started to flare as players argued with each other as well as coaches. One little mistake on defense and the opposing team made the Unique pay for three touch downs after.

The second half came with a vengeance. The Unique started on defense and began to take back what was rightfully theirs. “THE BALL”! They needed to get the ball back and keep it this time. With two interceptions in the third quarter, the Utah State Unique began their campaign of attack against the would be foes who would keep them from entering the playoffs.

By the fourth quarter the Unique had come from behind to tie up the score 12-12. It was still not over. The opposing team had the ball with 1:30 left in the game and was driving the Unique back to their own end zone. The opposing team’s offense pressed hard but gave up an interception. At this time there was no holding back. This was it. The offense either had to go hard or go home. In the last thirty seconds of the game the Unique offense drove the ball back down the field for a deep pass to a receiver in the end zone which pulled the Utah State Unique ahead by a touchdown. With an extra point scored right after the team was able to pull off a win and advance on to the first round of the playoffs.

“Man this was the most exciting game I have ever been a part of outside of high school. I’m exhausted and I was coaching.” I said.

Next week, we will see the Utah State Unique uphold its word by climbing above each win to the championship game.

 

Belly Dancing for a Worthy Cause

 

Single-mom, Nikki Devers, writes about the night she went on stage to hip-bump and dance to help raise funds for a women’s center in Africa.

          

 With hair, make up and costume complete, I head to North Ogden with directions to the Weber State University campus scribbled hastily on a bright orange piece of paper.  We students of Utah’s tribal style belly dance troupe Beaute Obscure, taught by Meg Hinds and Andrea Hansen, have an opportunity to showcase our talents at a benefit concert put together by several WSU groups.  The geology, dance and women’s studies departments in collaboration with the “No Poor Among Us” project are raising funds to build a women’s center in Mozambique.

I’ve never driven this far north before and I hope I don’t get lost.  After an hour’s drive, my directions lead me straight to the college.  I soon realize I never took note of what building the event was being held in.  I drive around, noticing the information booth was closed but find a campus map alongside the main parking lot.  Once I get a good idea of the layout, I drive toward the performing arts building.  There are a lot of cars parked near this building which boosted my confidence this was the place.

Upon entering the building, I realize there is an event for the Paralympics also taking place.  I weave through the attending crowd and find my way to an information desk.  I ask where the “Mozwoq” benefit is being held and they direct me up the stairs to a row of doors leading to various ballrooms.  Confused once again, I wander around until bustling sounds catch my ear.  I enter the ballroom and gazed over the open floor now being filled with rows of chairs.  I recognize Kylie Peterson from the dance community.  She is a student here and has pulled this fundraiser together by gathering talent to perform and items for a silent auction.  I inform her who I am and what group I am with.  She shows me where the backstage area is designated, basically a large closet behind the stage, and where the restrooms are for anyone needing to change outfits or fix their hair and makeup.

We walk around the expansive room as she explains what the Mozambique project is for and the different items available for the auction; paintings by a local tattoo artist, spa gift certificates, handmade scarves and jewelry.  Dr. Julie Rich of the geology department states the mission statement for the project is “if we lift a woman, we can raise a nation.”

Since I was the first of any of the performers to show up, I anxiously wait on the stairs overlooking the entrance to direct others up to the venue.

Our whole group has arrived and they check in.  Then we all congregate to the women’s bathroom to make final touches, trade jewelry, tie hip scarves and verify everything was in their place.  We all match with black skirts and bra-tops with purple and sequin hip scarves.  Dark eye make-up and red lips with our long tendrils of freshly curled hair trickling down our backs.

Right at 5:30 p.m., we gather in a large inconspicuous hallway to run through the dance a few more times to check that our entrance, staging marks and spot turn timing is perfect.  We pass around a media release for everyone to sign; this event is being filmed for a documentary.

We’re told it will be another two hours until our queue to perform so we decide to go in and watch the other performances.  Several belly dance groups and soloists perform and a singer-songwriter serenades us with his original works.  Then a hip-hop group popped and locked for a good six minutes with precision.  There is also a female Michael Jackson impersonator dancing to a medley of his most famous songs, complete with the rhinestone glove and a hat lit up like a Disney parade float.

As the number before ours commences, we line up behind the audience in a formation designed to put us at our staging marks when we stop in front of the audience.  Butterflies in the stomach, clammy palms, increased heart rate.

I remind myself to focus and control my breathing.  We’ve had eight weeks of intense practice.  Certain movements have been drilled to near perfection and specific combinations have been practiced over and over.  The complete choreography has been worked through and we knew the routine without thinking.

We make our way to the front of the room; our group is too big for the tiny stage they have set up, so we’re going to dance on the floor in front of the stage.

Our routine begins with our backs facing the audience, which gives us a few seconds to compose ourselves before the music starts.  The first “doom” of the song is heard and the next three minutes feel like ten.

In my head I have the dance broken up into three sections punctuated by spot turns, undulations and hip bumps, which mark the ending.  I nail the first three spot turns and my shimmies aren’t at the level of some of the other girls, but, improved and more pronounced.  The second set of spot turns comes and I try, but fail to make the fourth one around, not a big deal as long as I don’t trip on my skirt and fall on my face, I’m happy.  The drum solo accompanied by an intricate set of chest and shoulder isolations with undulations is all muscle memory and the audience whistles and hollers at our mesmerizing moves.  As the section with the hip bumps starts I’m excited for it to be almost over, without any casualties.

The song fades and we exit the floor just as meticulously as we entered and the audience is applauding and whistling again.  I feel relief and a sense of accomplishment, reassured it wasn’t as nerve wracking as I had expected.

Some of the girls change from their costumes and we regroup to watch the last two performances, another singer-songwriter and a gymnastic pole routine.  The whole evening is a success.  We regroup and decide to meet up in Salt Lake to eat.  While we’re there we review the video one of the girl’s boyfriends had taken.  I’m so proud of us, after two years of dancing together, our group is really getting good!  We finish our meal and drinks and everyone disperses to go home.  It’s been a great day and I can’t wait to perform again, in August, at Craftlake City.

The Nightmare that Wasn’t Paralysis

Vietnamese student, Vy Vo, writes about the frightening symptoms which led her to discover an unexpected health condition and how to better care for herself.

I think most of us have experienced paralysis dreams: the kind of dream that freezes your body and makes you see terrifying things such as figures with spine-chilling appearances trying to kill you, or hearing voices and sounds around you but you see nobody there.

They were once the reason why I didn’t want to sleep at night, because I would always feel helpless trying to escape. However, it’s been two months and I still cannot forget the incident that happened when I first came to America. It was the incident that taught me to be more careful with my health and that cold weather cannot be taken lightly. It happened when I was staying at a friend’s house while waiting to finish assembling the furniture and move into my apartment. I see her as my older sister, she is the daughter of my father’s friend and I just met her twice before coming to America.

I had somehow gotten used to the cold of Utah and I loved it, this was my first time seeing snow in nineteen years of my life. The inside of the house was always warm, sometimes even hot, so I started to get careless about the cold. One night, I didn’t feel hungry so I went to the kitchen and got only a cup of milk; I didn’t want to have dinner, and I guess that was because I had eaten sushi at school in the evening. I was feeling fine, absolutely fine, I spent the night reading and talking to friends. It was 2 a.m. when I fell asleep with my casual outfit on.

At 3 a.m. I woke up and felt uncomfortable, the room was hot somehow; I was sweating a lot and it made my clothes and bed damp so I decided to get up and get change. The last thing I remember was me picking up the blue striped pajamas from my suitcase and walking towards the bathroom.

I woke up and found myself lying on the cold bathroom’s floor a moment later. I was terrified and I panicked; I had no idea what happened. I knew that I fainted and I had no idea why. I quickly stood up and a headache occurred right away. All I had in my mind was that I had to get to my room quickly and get the phone. I realized I was sweating wasn’t because of the heat, I could feel the cold from the inside spreading out to my whole body. I tried to walk but my vision got blurry, my legs got shaky, everything turned upside down and the next thing I knew was me waking up on the bathroom floor, again. That actually scared me, I lost consciousness for the second time. I got up and almost fell again when I tried to walk back to the room.

I got in the bed, lay down, and then came a stomachache; it hurt way more than how a normal stomachache would. Imagine if someone was stabbing your stomach; I couldn’t even stay still, I had to roll back and forth so many times. The sweat dampened my pajamas once again and everything kept fading away then coming back clear. I thought I would lose consciousness and die. Even now I still cannot figure out why I didn’t call my friend, she was right downstairs and she could help me, but I only used the phone for… Google. Perhaps I thought I could fight it alone. Silly me. I stayed calm and thought about all the symptoms, then I searched for it on Google, just to be disappointed by how many people were in the same situation as me but no one gave a clear answer.

Suddenly, something came to my mind, I remembered something like that had happened before, when I didn’t eat breakfast and went biking, I didn’t faint but I sweated a lot and my vision also got blurry. That was when I figured out my blood sugar level might have dropped, or I had hypoglycemia. Luckily, my backpack was right next to the bed, I crawled down and got a bar of KitKat. I quickly ate it and tried to lie still to see if I could get any better. And I did. The pain in my stomach gradually went away, and I started to feel less dizzy; the sweating finally stopped, I have no words to describe how happy I was, but I got really tired afterwards, I was exhausted and quickly fell asleep, the night was crazy enough.

In the morning, I woke up and actually felt glad that I didn’t die in my sleep. I grabbed the phone to search on Google for “hypoglycemia”, all of my symptoms appeared on the list. It seemed that you would burn more energy in cold weather so you had to eat more, too. When I called my parents and told them about the incident they scolded me about how careless I was, but I was relieved because I was still able to hear their voices. Actually I’m kind of a paranoid person, sometimes when I wake up I wonder if I am still alive or am I in some kind of afterworld. I know, I’ve been watching too much movies.

The incident and everyone’s worries made me realize I was alone, that was when I realized I was already in a foreign country, away from my family and friends. I have to be responsible for what I do, no one is going to take care of me or be right there to help me anymore. It was scarier than any nightmares I’ve ever had.

Spring has come and the weather has gotten warmer, even though the cold is no longer here to drain my precious energy, I now have moved out and live alone. So, to prevent it from happening again, I have been trying to provide myself enough nutrients even though it means I have to cook most of the time. I promised myself to never be careless again and start making adjustment to my life to make sure I don’t wake up in an after world for real next time (even though I’m a little curious about what it is like over there, I wouldn’t want a sudden one-way ticket to a vacation I didn’t ask for).