We, the living.

Here we are, at another Memorial Day weekend. Long-time readers will know that I’ve struggled with these days for a long time. How do we, the living, properly honor our dead- our ancestors, our fallen?

Simply put, there is nothing we can do but remember.

I think the forgotten deserve this remembrance more than the mighty.

The image above is a simple mound in a nearby village, a relic of the indigenous Mound Builders culture. These folks lived until about the 17th century. It seems that most of these people died of waves of disease. Smallpox and influenza killed them off. They had no immunity.

Surely some scattered survivors lived and ended up with other tribes, but their culture was annihilated. Forgotten.

Who mourns the Mound Builders?

I guess I do.

It’s not much, but I prepared a prayer tie and hung it from the dead tree at the top of the mound. You could be depressed about the Mound Builders and the rotten maple at the top of their memorial, but I choose not to look at it that way.

The dead tree atop a dead civilization- it’s all part of the cycle.

Each and every one of us is a survivor of past calamity. Do we really think of ourselves as uniquely divorced from the track of history? Do we think we can escape the Mound Builder’s fate?

Nope, it’s not going to happen.

So on this weekend, I remember. I pay my respects to those who came before. To those whose luck ran out.

Like this guy. A tombstone tucked away in a forgotten corner with about twenty others. Victims or survivors of the US Civil War, by far our deadliest war.

How soon do many forget, or worse, idolize, an ignominious cause? It took years to recover all the dead strewn across the American landscape. Some ended up here.


But not by me. I took a moment and reflected. Hung out with the guys and left them a nice flag. Played a few songs they’d recognize, and the fiddle sang with the gentle breeze.

I sighed.

This is Memorial Day, as I prefer it. No speeches, no band, no BBQ or sales.

Just a survivor’s gratitude.

I remember.

The Stone Marker- released today.

Evening, everybody.

Today, with a lot of help from my peeps, book #3 of the Ohio Rifles trilogy hit the shelves at the Beast.

You can grab your copy here in the US.

Or here in the UK.

Here also, in AU.

This trilogy took years to get out there, but it’s been my most successful venture. Writing it was a lot of fun, and I’ve enjoyed my journey with the characters here. I think many other people have enjoyed this, too, and that’s the whole point.

We followed our hero as he grew in this alternate World War One, watched his world expand, and saw what happened to him and those he cared about. Some of it was pretty grim. Well, that’s war. No glory. No cool stuff, no guarantee of a happy life.

At best, you survive and tell the tale.

So, now it’s available in its entirety, the Ohio Rifles bit.

On to other things.

Cheers, J

Getting Smoked

Hey, all. Above is a pic of a private holding his rucksack above his head. He’s being “smoked.”

Back from a pretty amazing vacation. We had a lot of fun.

Now it’s time to do things again.

I happened upon this article, which is a pretty good story. This is what getting smoked is all about- instilling discipline through physical exercise. Being legally tormented to lengths of pain and exhaustion that are difficult to comprehend.

In the US Army, outside of extreme circumstances, you cannot beat the shit out of someone to enforce discipline. I’m not going to say it doesn’t happen, because it does, but you better have a damn good reason or you are in deep shit.

What you can do is apply corrective physical training, which is known as “smoking.”

I have been smoked beyond all reason and have given the smokings in turn.

This is because I came up through the ranks as a junior enlisted troop, reached NCO rank, then ended my career as an officer.

NCOs are generally the ones who hand out smokings. If an officer smokes you, you have really, really fucked up, and after he’s done, then the NCOs will take over until the offending soldier is a quivering mass of jelly, usually covered in sand or pine needles and mud.

Hmm, what are things I’ve done to deserve a smoking.

The list is long.

First, nothing. Someone else screwed up, and everyone paid. The one who caused everyone to get smoked? He’d pay later, after the NCOs went to bed.

Next, flicking a cigarette butt where it didn’t belong. Or, forgetting to button a button in an inspection. Not cleaning the latrine properly. Showing up drunk to formation. The list is long. Very long.

One of the worst, most painful experiences I had was something I don’t remember. But I do remember what happened.

We were in our Class A’s (dress uniform). Something happened. Don’t know what. We were ordered to “open ranks.” Basically, this is an inspection formation. Everyone spaces themselves out. The command “dress right, dress” is given to ensure the ranks are perfectly straight. When a soldier hears this command, they turn their head sharply to the right and extend their left arm at a 90-degree angle, pointing at the next soldier in line. The next command is usually “ready, front.” When you hear this, you drop your arm, turn your head straight, and return to the position of attention.

On that cursed day, it didn’t happen. Our arms remained perfectly rigid and extended, our heads cocked sharply to the right.

After a few minutes, my arm and neck began to ache terribly. Our sergeants watched implacably. A fellow in front of me, his arm began to tremble. Soon, everyone was doing it. It went on and on. An NCO walked down the lines, he started snatching “cunt caps” (garrison caps) from people’s heads and placing them on the tips of their trembling hands.

The minute weight of the garrison hats was too much. A soldier dropped his arm, utterly exhausted. Screaming ensued. “Are you letting your fucking hat kick your ass, retard? Get your fucking arm up!”

“I can’t!”

“Then get on the ground with your cap and do the front leaning rest.” (The push-up position. Also bad!)

I’m not sure for how long this went on under the blazing Southern skies, but it seemed an eternity.

We were wrecked by holding a simple body position through following a lawful order. Not a single blow was given. Very little was said. I’ve never seen this in a movie, and I don’t think you will. I never forgot how effective it was. You don’t need to hit anyone. Simple exercise or body position will do. Even simple children’s games like “Leapfrog” can become the worst torture.

Years later, I stood before my platoon. They had fucked up. They knew it, you could hear a pin drop. I looked them over and spoke a simple command.

“Open ranks, march.”

It was the gift that kept on giving.

Looking back on things, we were given a choice. Follow lawful orders and get what’s coming to you, or, bitch up and get paperwork.

Smoking’s better, trust me.