Editor’s Note: This is a journal entry written by Havok Journal author, K.C. Aud on May 31, 2015.
I haven’t put much thought into Veterans or Memorial Day, even as a military member, until this past Monday. I remember being on watch last Sunday and having to work until mid-afternoon on Monday. I was griping quietly to myself and my wife about burning most of a four-day weekend, preparing for a security inspection. I sat down Monday evening to write and hit a wall. So doing what any modern 29-year-old does, I opened Facebook and started scrolling through the lives of my friends and family. It was post after post about Memorial Day and being grateful to soldiers, remembering their sacrifice and our loss when they don’t come home. Or when they do, and they’re quite broken. It took about two minutes for me to realize what an enormous ass I had made of myself the previous 48 hours.
While I spent that time muttering imprecations about the inefficient bureaucracy of the military, there were families and very lonely people visiting the Vietnam Wall; folks that have been grieving for the last 40 years. There were homeless men on the streets of Savannah, Georgia, weaving poppy blossoms from reeds and handing them out in silent remembrance. While I was bitching about being forced to come in to work again on my day off, there were men and women on ships and in the sandbox far from home, whose downtime consisted of taking off their body armor and putting their rifles down for long enough to eat and sleep, whose only break from endless watch rotations on their boat or submarine is the same movie they’ve seen a hundred times or the paperback that has been read so often they can almost recite their favorite chapter by heart. I closed the laptop in disgust with myself and went to bed.
In this undated file photo, U.S. Army Capt. Emil Kapaun, right, a chaplain with the 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, helps a Soldier carry an exhausted troop off the battlefield. Source.
I woke up Tuesday morning to a particularly vivid nightmare. I haven’t slept well since.
Friday, the 30th, I participated in the Brian’s Run Relay. It’s a 60-plus mile memorial relay run from the lighthouse in Port Townsend to our base at the end of the hook in Port Angeles. It is in memory of a Coast Guard Mustang lieutenant. He lost his fight with brain cancer after serving 24 years. His last tour was aboard my cutter, the Active. I signed up for two portions of the relay. My first leg was six miles. It consisted entirely of a deceptively gradual incline. It covered a vertical change of probably 400 feet. Run up 40 stories, and let me know how you feel in the morning. At four miles, I was reduced to walking every 500 feet. I had to call for relief when I started feeling spasms on either side of my butt.
Laugh all you want, but it’s damned hard to run when the connective tissue where your legs attach to the outsides of your hips starts twitching out of sync with your stride. The rest of the day was spent riding a bicycle as an escort for the runners or driving one of the two chase vehicles. Through the pain of the run and embarrassment at the knowledge that I had bitten off more than I could chew by picking a six-mile leg, I kept one thought in mind. There are those who can no longer run. They cannot run because they have no legs. They cannot run because they’re still out there, missing or dead. What would they give to rerun even one mile?
I don’t write this to ease my guilt about my extremely blessed life. I do not write to make you feel guilty about not serving or “supporting the troops.” I don’t expect a thank you or acknowledgment for what I do. I didn’t sign up for that. The majority of us didn’t. For many people, this is just another job with decent benefits and 100k for school. Do I think this makes us noble? Nah, I’m not that naïve. We’re human like everyone else.
I write this to acknowledge that generations of people died to honor their oath. Whether they were drafted or volunteered, whether they believed in the mission or not, I acknowledge what they gave up – their humanity included. They’ve earned that much if nothing else.
First Lady Melania Trump places her hand over her heart during the dignified transfer ceremony for United States Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 David C. Knadle, of Tarrant, Texas, and United States Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Kirk T. Fuchigami Jr., of Keaau, Hawaii Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019, at Dover Air Force Base in Dover, Del. Knadle and Fuchigami were killed Wednesday in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead) Source.
K.C. Aud has made a career of being lucky and has managed to find something positive in nearly every poor decision he’s ever made, even if it was only a new perspective on how not to do something.
Enlisting in the U.S. Coast Guard in 2010 he became an Operations Specialist (radio and navigation) and did his first tour in Georgia guarding submarines from drunk fishermen. In 2014, tired of the heat and the bugs he transferred to a 210-foot medium endurance cutter in Washington state. The cutter then regularly deployed to the hot and buggy west coast of Central America to hunt down drug runners. Aboard USCGC Active he traveled 94,194 miles and personally handled enough cocaine to keep a small country high for a decade. Somewhere in there, he learned to write, if not spell.
Three years later, daunted by the prospect of spending the rest of his career in a windowless command center, he separated from active duty. After 13 different jobs ranging from beer brewer to dairy farmhand, to machinist, to Navy civilian contractor, he reenlisted in 2020 as a Coast Guard reservist, changing rates to Maritime Law Enforcement Specialist. When not helping the Navy assets in the Puget Sound troubleshoot radios, he’s on drill in Seattle doing water cop stuff and or flailing away at his keyboard. Though married and now a father, he misses the mission.
As the Voice of the Veteran Community, The Havok Journal seeks to publish a variety of perspectives on a number of sensitive subjects. Unless specifically noted otherwise, nothing we publish is an official point of view of The Havok Journal or any part of the U.S. government.