Episode 346 William Yeske Damn the Valley – An Inside Look at the ‘Meat Grinder’ Deployment Transcript

This transcript is from episode 346 with guest William Yeske.

Scott DeLuzio: [00:00:00] Thanks for tuning in to the Drive On Podcast where we are focused on giving hope and strength to the entire military community. Whether you’re a veteran, active duty, guard, reserve, or a family member, this podcast will share inspirational stories and resources that are useful to you. I’m your host, Scott DeLuzio, and now let’s get on with the show.

Welcome back to Drive On. I’m your host, Scott DeLuzio. Uh, before we get started with this episode, I want to send out a huge thank you to a former guest, Robin Bartlett. He was on episode 342 a couple of weeks ago, uh, from the time that this episode will air. Uh, and the episode was titled, uh, Vietnam Combat.

And when we finished recording, uh, he commented that he liked the background that I have here with all the flags and everything like that. And he wanted to send me a couple of flags to add to it. So over my, my left shoulder over here, uh, you’ll see the Vietnam Veterans of America and the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War flags.

Um, he sent both of [00:01:00] those, the yellow and blue ones over here. He sent both of those to me. Uh, so I want to thank Robin. Thank you very much for sending those, uh, to me. I think it kind of adds a little bit to the background. Um, I also… He kind of motivated me to get my brother’s, uh, honor and remember flag up here, uh, which is that red and white one next to the other two that I just mentioned.

Uh, and of course we still have the six service flags for each branch of the military. Uh, but Robin, thank you so much for sending those flags. Um, definitely appreciate it. Um, so anyways, let’s get back into this episode today. My guest is William Yeske. William is a combat veteran who served 11 years in the United States Army.

Uh, he… He is also the author of the book, Damn the Valley, based on his experiences while serving in Afghanistan in an area that earned the nickname, The Meat Grinder. So we’ll get into the book and his experiences in just a minute, but first, welcome to the show,

William. I’m really glad to have you here.

William Yeske: Oh, no, it’s great to be here. Thanks for having me on.[00:02:00]

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, you bet. Um, for the listeners who aren’t familiar with you, maybe haven’t, uh, you know, heard from you and, and seen your book or anything like that. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, kind of your background, how you got into the

military and things like that?

William Yeske: Oh boy. Oh, that was, I mean, I took a little bit of a different path. You know, it was one of those, I was going to join up at 18 was talked out of it. Hey, let’s, uh, maybe see if you’ll go to college and go that route. And I was like, Hey, you know what? That sounds pretty good. Let’s, let’s head off to, to college, see what it’s all about over there first.

And, uh, worst case scenario. Finish that up. And I’m like, I’ll just go join up as an officer or something. And the, uh, well, the college route didn’t exactly go as planned. So, um, kind of just ended up in this life experience in between to where I was, everything up to that point had been all about me. Um, you know, and at that point things were kind of stripping down [00:03:00] and I made the decision to, to, you know, essentially jump out the door, I guess, if you want to go in 82nd terms.

I, uh, you know, so I joined up, uh, on a special forces contract, uh, at 26 and it was sort of that reset button for me and sort of realized through it that quite honestly, it’s something that I think that my mind had said, Hey, you need this discipline. You know, cause that’s really what happened in college there.

I didn’t have the, the discipline. I had the smarts, my grades were great. Um, but I had gotten in trouble so many times, you know, on campus with the, the wild Bill antics that they were like, Hey man, like you’re not staying on campus anymore. My parents were like, yeah, I don’t think we’re fun in this anymore.

So, uh, What’s the failure to launch

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, there you go. Right.

William Yeske: And then they just did

the kick out the door. So, um, yeah. So, I mean, I ended up, uh, [00:04:00] you know, evaluating my options. I had been doing pretty good at that point, but, um, I was involved in the racing world, but it just wasn’t. There’s no purpose behind it, you know, and in military, it was something that I always wanted to do.

I had wanted to join the Marines actually, uh, at 18, taking the ASVAB and everything. And of course, like I said, I had gotten talked out of it, but, um, you know, I, I had looked at the war in Afghanistan and said, Hey, this is winding down. Uh, so let’s read the writing on the wall. Let’s base it towards. The soft side and I head over, you know, with the goal being towards special operations.

Um, so I went down on a contract with that and, uh, yeah, I mean, was that guy who came in to the recruiter and he was like, all right, you know, we took the test. It’s like, all right, you can do anything. I’m like, no, I told you, I wanted, wanted to do a special forces contract. And he, um, okay. But, uh, where, and how I ended up with the [00:05:00] 82nd, you know, I got hurt along the way and, uh, they just ended up cutting med hold out of nowhere.

They just, um. Man, I was not given the chance and that was like part of 400 people just out of nowhere. I don’t know how they ever let this many collect up in medical hold there. I mean, I know they were breaking people off, but that’s the numbers were insane. Um, so I found myself, you know, Into the, into the 82nd, right down the road and, uh, headed to Afghanistan shortly thereafter.

And, you know, it was as they do intensive training cycle into JRTC and then out the door you go.

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Awesome. You know, I [00:07:00] think there’s actually some similarities with, with your, your background and mine, um, where I, I was, I went in, um, You know, took the ASVAB test and a pretty good, good score on that. And I, I went in, I wanted, I wanted to go infantry just straight off the bat. Like I, I, that’s what I wanted to do.

I went to the recruiter. I said, sign me up as, as an infantryman. Um, I got a pretty good score. And the guy who was like looking over the paperwork at MEPS and he was like, Infantry? You sure? Like, that’s, that’s what you want to do? Like, you could do any, like, pretty much anything that you want. Any job, pick it, it’s yours.

I’m like, no, I’m, I’m, that’s what I came here for, is infantry. Like, you give me anything

else, I don’t want it. So,

William Yeske: It’s kind of, it’s like that bread and butter. It’s everybody, the infantry is so varied like that, you know, there’s just so many different, you’ll find the, um, the ones to where really all they’re good at is, is taking the shot. You [00:08:00] know, but, but then you find the ones that are just like these adapters and thinkers and stuff.

And it’s kind of just this mesh

of misfits, I guess, that

Scott DeLuzio: It is, it

William Yeske: all just crushing together into

something that works. It’s just weird.

Scott DeLuzio: you know, the cool thing too is, um, I was with a National Guard unit, and… Everybody there has their own civilian jobs. So they all have their own outside of the infantry. We’re all, all were trained as infantrymen, but we also had other jobs like mechanics and, uh, you know, everything, you name it, we had it all.

And so when like our, our trucks would break down or something, normally you’d be like waiting for mechanics, but we had a guy who actually worked on, uh, on trucks that use the same engine as the MRAPs. And so.

William Yeske: Oh

Scott DeLuzio: like, Oh, I know exactly what’s wrong with this thing. I, maybe I don’t have

the parts for it, but I know exactly what’s wrong.

I, he can

William Yeske: That is gold.

Scott DeLuzio: you know what I

mean? Like it, it just made it so much easier. Um, you know, even if we were out on a mission or something and something happened to the trucks, he could [00:09:00] like diagnose it and like call it in and be like, Hey, bring this part and, and, you know, come, come fix it or whatever.

You know, like

it was just so much better that way.

William Yeske: that’s one of the first things I found that, um, I kind of picked up when I went over to the civil affairs side was that the first things that they would do over there when you signed in was they grabbed you up and they’re like, all right, what’s your other skill sets? And they would kind of supplement you into a team where you Helped out the others.

And I mean, so many people take that for granted. I mean, that you bring up a great point right there, you know, you’re better off as a team where you can supplement each other’s skills and having that type of thing, I mean, we ran into it with what you were saying right there, a diesel mechanic thing, our generator.

Um, we had a big 50 K at one point that, you know, it was, uh, I think it was a Cummins five, nine motor in there actually. But nobody, you know, I mean, nobody else knew how to work on it other than this one, one dude who was a bit of a hick, you know, that shady tree

[00:10:00] mechanic.

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. And you know, you don’t learn this stuff in, uh, in, in your, your, your training,

the army doesn’t teach you this stuff, right? Like,

William Yeske: they don’t.

Scott DeLuzio: trained as a mechanic, but, and

then you’d like switch over to another, uh, you know, MOS, but they don’t teach you any of these kinds of things. So it’s just super awesome to have that diverse background of people, like you were saying, like there’s, there’s people who, you know, they’re great at pulling triggers.

And then there’s other people who have this other diverse skill set and you bring all those people together just makes the team so much better. And I think we had a great team out there, um, the people that we, we were with, um, you know, even, even things that, you know, we, we joke about, but even administrative things, we had that covered too with some of the people that we had.

And it was like

all, all the paperwork was squared away, all the,

William Yeske: Always know your boys in

the yes shop. Yeah,

Scott DeLuzio: Exactly. You have all that

stuff squared away. It’s good. Everything’s good to go. But, all right, let’s get into, um, your book. [00:11:00] Uh, Dam the Valley is the name of the book. Um, tell us a little bit about, um, kind of what, what led you to write the book, um, where the title of the book came from.

Tell us

about the book, I guess, in general.

William Yeske: Yeah. I mean, really the whole thing. This is. There’s small snippets of things like prior and then after, you know, lessons learned and stuff, almost like an AAR, but really the book came about as the need for a historical record. Um, there was a, another book that came out that touched on this particular deployment and it didn’t really sit well with a bunch of the guys only because they, they noticed some inaccuracies in there.

It was also, it was more of a literary version. So, I mean, this one, it’s a, it’s an easy read. It’s a quick read. I wrote it at a high school level. Um, I did, man, I know that some of these people coming back to me, [00:12:00] you know, I’ve had a few of them and I’ll get messages like, man, I started your book at noon and I couldn’t put it down.

Like, I finished it that night, you know, and it’s like, It really, it makes me happy to hear that just because I wanted something that was, um, really for the guys, you know, and you have to think that your standard inventory guy, quite honestly, they, they come in, they don’t, you’re, you’re enlisted side. They don’t have the, um, they don’t have the education and stuff.

And then a lot of them after they leave, it’s kind of abysmal on how little actually use their GI bill. Uh, that was one of my biggest things. I mean, I went back and I finished business school, uh, well, you know, started over, but Hey, you know, two and a half years, nail it out, but like go back and finish business school.

And then just started from there realizing that like your habits and disciplines that were instilled within the military. Gave you a lot more than some of these other peers that out here in the collegiate group, like shoot for the moon, man. [00:13:00] You know, and that’s when I started hitting up the Ivy leagues and getting stuff back, you know, Hey, you know, I, I had something, uh, you know, I just finished up with Columbia business school with a program.

But, um, you know, before that, I’ve been looking at Wharton, uh, for the NBA stuff and they were, they were all about it. Uh, COVID kind of messed with a bunch of those plans, but to have that sort of, Feedback and stuff. Man, you guys are selling yourself short, you know, like these. type of frameworks that you have in, in the discipline, it sets you apart from a lot of the other students out there and right time, right place, right uniform goes a long way in the civilian


Scott DeLuzio: Well, I think, to your point, you said, you know, a lot of, a lot of times the guys, especially on the illicit side, they maybe don’t have the education, they maybe didn’t have the best grades in school, uh, you know, high school, and they kind of just write off college, maybe in their mind, and they’re just like, yeah, yeah, I know I have the GI Bill available to me, but You know, what am I going to do?

I’m going to go there. I’m [00:14:00] not going to do well because I didn’t do well in high school, but they’re different people when they get out, you know, they’re, they’re a lot more disciplined than they were in high

school. Um, yeah, I know we, we, we screwed around and we probably got in some trouble and stuff like that too, but, but you know, you know how to be disciplined.

We all have that. In us, we all can figure that out. And that’s a big part of doing well in school is, is being disciplined saying, okay, yeah, I could go to that party or I can sit down and

study. Like,

William Yeske: Oh, I literally, I,

yeah, I had my, uh, their college right now is really big

on collaborative peer group type

Scott DeLuzio: Oh, okay. Yeah.

William Yeske: Like huge, they’re, well, they’re starting to realize like you, a team is better than individuals and you kind of have this built in accountability. And, you know, again, like we were talking about before we came on, um, about supplementing the team skills.

Um, You know, that’s one of the biggest things. [00:15:00] And really at one point it was my, it was my final year to where I, I got so upset at some of these kids to where I was like, all right, that’s it. Like some of them, these guys don’t even know what right looks like in some of them. So I just jumped in and was like to the professor, I’m like, uh, you know, can I say something.

Prior to us doing the, the group assignments where everybody bundles up. Cause I know exactly what’s going to happen. It’s the same thing that happens every time. And it’s been going on. These people just gravitate towards their little clicks, you know? So I, uh, she was like, okay, sure. You know, it’s thinking out of maybe imparting old adage of wisdom or something to these kids.

And yeah, cause I’m, I’m at this point, man, I’m that old guy in school, but I, I completely unexpected. I, um, popped up and was like, Hey, you know, you guys have seen me around school and stuff, but, um, who is. You know, you don’t have to answer, but [00:16:00] the guys that are tired of people not pulling their own weight on the team and falling behind on deadlines and where they end up pulling the weight, you know, and everybody else too.

If you’re tired of that, I’m going to have my own group over here. I’m not moving towards anybody else’s group. You guys just come to me. All right, we’ll figure it out, but I’m going to offer you a little bit of warning too. If you think that you’re going to do that and skate by because some of these other guys are coming over here, there’s an agreement and a pact that is going to be signed.

Prior starting this. And if you fail, I will make sure you fail this class. I will go to the professor and like, at this point, she’s looking

like, you know,

Scott DeLuzio: What did I do?

Oh, okay.

William Yeske: number one, I was like one of the quickest groups to fill up for one. And like, we. Always had our stuff in. The professor was like, man, your guys stuff is in, like, our final project.

We actually had it in two weeks prior. And we were like, what are your suggestions to the professor? And they were like, no one’s ever done that [00:17:00] before. Like, and we’re like, well, we’re done early. So, like, let’s figure out, like, we’re, we, we know what you’re doing. You want to play the range, you know? And we ended up going on to, uh, finals within, This particular one, it was like pitching an idea to a bank, a fintech firm and stuff.

And they were, we were one of the finalists, you know,

it was just crazy.

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, that’s awesome. Um, well, you get some motivated people together and you’re going to get good results. Right? And I think that’s, that’s same in just about any team, whether it’s military or school or business or whatever the case may be, you get, get a motivated team together. You’re going to get the right results.

You’re, you’re always going to find those slackers who just. They don’t care. They’re going to skate by and whatever grade they get, they get. And, um, you know, I don’t know what their motivation is or lack of motivation, why they’re not motivated, but it’s like, you’re, you’re paying a lot of money to

be here, maybe

William Yeske: think maybe sometimes it’s

it’s the, sometimes it’s gotta be the, that they just [00:18:00] don’t think of, you know, a lot of them. It is, it’s the parents

that are paying them

Scott DeLuzio: Could be. Yeah.

William Yeske: you know? Well, I mean, not one in particular, this guy is super smart in one of my marketing classes and here I am on the GI Bill and I’m trying to figure out.

You know, ways to survive. So I’m stacking, you know, Pell grants and, uh, any scholarships I can get and stuff. And I’m just like, Oh man, you know, it’s whatever I can do. Maryland’s, the cost of living out here is insane. You know, and new kid, uh, we had just moved out. I mean, there was just thing after thing.

And I was just like, I had to hustle. And, um, I found this one marketing scholarship that was open up and I go to them. I’m like, Hey man, like, did you, Sign up for this. Like I found it, you, you would be a shoe in, you know, it’s an extra 1500 bucks in your pocket. And he’s like, Oh yeah, I did see that. And I kid you not, the very next day, the Dean of the marketing department comes in and personally hands him an envelope, [00:19:00] nobody else in class, just him and walks out and his grades are like phenomenal.

Scott DeLuzio: Okay.

William Yeske: He’s on my team and I’m like, Hey man, like, so what was that? And he’s like, Hey, it’s so crazy, man. It’s a invitation to apply for that scholarship you were telling me about the other day. I’m like, Yeah. Yeah. Dude, they’re literally trying to give you 1, 500 bucks just apply to it. It’s like, uh, an essay on why you want it.

Like, that’s it. Um,

Scott DeLuzio: that doesn’t

take too much work to just write, write,

William Yeske: minimal effort, minimal



Scott DeLuzio: want to give it to

them. Just, just do it. You know?

William Yeske: I know, right. They’re like handing this olive branch and,

uh, you know, when I got mine come back, you know, they were, um, I think I got like, cause it’s a, it’s on a scale. So I think I got a thousand or something like that. And, um, I go to him and I’m like, Hey, uh, You know, I just got my scholarship, but I’m curious, like, did you get yours through yet?

And, uh, he’s like, Oh no, man, I never even applied. Like,

Scott DeLuzio: Oh, geez.

William Yeske: [00:20:00] and I, just,

I, was like, dude,

Scott DeLuzio: I had a feeling,

like just a gut feeling that that’s what you were

going to say. Like the guy never applied.

but I was listening with like

hopeful, hopeful that that’s not the way

it went, but

William Yeske: Right.

Scott DeLuzio: It’s just a different world. I don’t know. Um, so let’s talk about this deployment, uh, that, that this book is based on, um,

switching gears a little bit here.

William Yeske: I know. I know. I kind


Scott DeLuzio: That’s cool. no, no, that’s okay.

We went down that hole a

little bit. We, we got out though. Um, so let’s, let’s talk about this. So the, the book is about, uh, this deployment to Afghanistan. Um, deployment didn’t receive much media attention, the, the stuff that went on there. Um, and you guys. Are there, you’re fighting and this place gets the nickname, The Meat Grinder, right?

Uh, obviously you don’t get that, that kind of nickname when everything’s [00:21:00] going great and everyone comes out unscathed. So tell us about this deployment.

Tell us, tell us kind of what, uh,

William Yeske: essence of the meat


Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. The

essence of the meat grinder.


guess that’s, that’s a good way to put it.

William Yeske: I mean, it was like, so you have to look at Our deployment was, it was a little weird to begin with. You have a few different things in play to where we were actually originally slated for Iraq.

Scott DeLuzio: Okay.

William Yeske: So the entire time on the buildup, we’re doing, I mean, hardcore CQB, you know, our ITC and JRTC cycles, it’s all, um, it’s all fighting.

You know, it’s all just, you know, your standard infantry stuff, but a lot of it is urban combat stuff. And we ended up, um, coming down on executive orders, you know, cause there was that surge into Kandahar back in 2009. So, President Obama signed off on orders. We were the next ones out the door. So, it just moved us from, you know, they just moved it.

They were like, well, Forget Iraq, you’re going to [00:22:00] Afghanistan. And we’re like, oh, uh, okay. I for one was happy because they were starting to have that EFP problem out there,

um, where they were getting a huge uptick in, in EFPs. And, um, to add something between that and that just door to door, you know, you come up to an urban sprawl and have to clear.

Oh my God. I just, Forget that. Like, I was like, thank God, Afghanistan. So we ended up out here and we ended up, originally, we ended up getting pushed out to Helmand province. So this is your typical, I mean, moon dust, wide open spaces, hot, dusty desert, Lawrence of Arabia type, you know, you’re out there just salt all over your uniform because you’re sweating out as fast as you can drink it.

Um. we got into a rowdy gunfight out there. So, I mean, it wasn’t like when you tell people like, yeah, we were Helmand province out of Lashkar Gah, they’re like, you know, whoa. And they’re like, [00:23:00] no, man, like primarily the Brits were getting, they were getting their butts handed to them. And then you had Marjah out there and that’s ultimately where our battalion commander was trying to push us.

They were trying to get us into the Marjah fight with the Marines. Well, the Marines didn’t want us there. You know, well, you got a bunch of paratroopers and the Marines, they have Ton Tavern and, you know, all their,

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah.

William Yeske: um, which, I mean, I love the Marines, like, honest to God, anyone that I’ve ever worked with in the Marines and stuff, they’ve been phenomenal.

Um, It’s a really good professional and stuff, but so the Brits wouldn’t let us in either. I believe the words, the exact words were, we don’t want a bunch of paras mucking about on the, on the battlefield, you

know, which I can just hear, it.

Scott DeLuzio: I can hear, that’s probably exactly how it was said, too. Yeah.

William Yeske: Um, yeah, and it’s in his field boots and, you know, whatever. Uh, but,

Scott DeLuzio: I’ve

William Yeske: um, So, [00:24:00] our battalion commander had been, uh, General Stanley McChrystal’s aide at one point, and yeah, so Lieutenant Colonel Genio, I mean, he goes to him and he’s like, hey, um, I’m trying to get these guys into a fight, you know, where we trained up, this is what these guys want, uh, they’re a bunch of meat eaters, like, what do you got for me?

What’s, what’s hopping out there? And he’s like, oh, I got a spot for you in, you know, out of Kandahar, we’re going to be pushing into there. And that’s how we ended up replacing 5th ID and the Stryker Brigade that was out there. And if you look at, um, Colonel Harry Tunnell, I believe the article is the ill fated Stryker Brigade. Those guys had already, I mean, it was already, Argonaut River Valley was just… It beat you up. And if you ever tried to take a vehicle, you know, to do a mountain patrol down through there, you have to look at the history of the Argendom, and if you actually go back to 87, when the Russians were in there, they [00:25:00] lost like battalions force down in this valley, like, and it’s surreal.

Like there’s. Like through that Valley, there was heavy drop shoots, like that people were using as like awnings and like, you know, old guys that are clearly old Mujahideen wearing Soviet officer belts inside. It’s just the craziest place. But if you look at a modern day striker, you know, it looks, it looks like a BMP.

It looks like an updated BMP. So a lot of these guys just kind of looked and they’re like, Oh man, Russians are back time to hunker back in. And, uh, You know, let let the bombs do their job.

Scott DeLuzio: seen this show before, right?

William Yeske: Oh man. Yeah, I mean, when we got there, they were already combat ineffective. Um, the kids that were, that I had talked to, you know, off to the side at the talk and stuff, when we were, when we went in to go do our left seat right seat patrols, um, they were, I mean, they were scared.

Like he kind of pulled me aside and was like, man, we haven’t been outta the wire in a while, and. [00:26:00] When we went down, you know, into the town for them to show us what we were looking at and kind of our area, um, they were, it was clear. I mean, they, they literally, they were, they were jumpy. There was, um, two guys digging in the riverbed and they, uh, they called in Kiowas on them, you know, and just, and we’re like, what was that?

You know? And they’re like, oh, they’re, they’re putting in IEDs and like in a riverbed. Like, really? Like I. Okay. You know,

it was just,

I mean,

Scott DeLuzio: for a while, okay?

Maybe you know, but…

William Yeske: yeah, I know. And it just, it really ended up to where they were postured so hard. They were going in with, uh, counter guerrilla tactics. I mean, they had search and destroy painted on the side of their strikers, just that on how they went in, they went in with the wrong mentality and they weren’t doing a coin fight and the entire region ended up [00:27:00] really hating them.

Um, and we had to change those. Those stereotype that had been ingrained, like they see the guy’s same type of uniform, but the patch is different, but it takes, it takes time on quite honestly, it takes bleeding in front of them from the realize, you know, which is, uh, is what happened, you know, I mean, you, you go down and you just start the first one we hit, you know, going from somewhere where Helmand province, we were untouchable to the first casualty we took on December 26th day after Christmas was a specialist, Jason Johnston.

You know, and that was an IED where I had actually stepped over the initiating charge just prior. It had already been cleared, but the, oh yeah, the, so they were, the emplacement teams out there, they were good, like really good, like the, the amount of metal. That was in these things. They use these, if you’ve ever seen, um, they look like a [00:28:00] hockey puck.

All right. And it’s, uh, it’s a composite material and the only amount of metal in it, it’s just such a small amount of metal to be able to pick that up in the soil content that already has a lot of iron and different things in there is dang near impossible. So what they would do is they would constantly You know, put these smaller initiator charges, uh, to larger charges and that, you know, was, uh,

Scott DeLuzio: triggered it.

William Yeske: oh yeah, yeah, they had, so the, the charge for this particular incident, the main charge was up in the wall and the, like along the footpath where you come in was the initiator

and EOD came in and cleared, you know, and, uh, I came in at the backside of alpha team that went in and they’re already starting to clear stuff out and I’m like, You know, I’ve got the long whip up and I’ve already sent in as we were going there, I already sent in where we were, but I’m getting onto the [00:29:00] radio just to confirm, Hey, we’re bedding down, you know, we got guys going up on the roof and, um, B team’s coming in and boom, you know, they hit this thing and I just, the shock wave, you see this thing just

Scott DeLuzio: Wow.

William Yeske: come over you, um, you know, and then just got onto it.

Like it was a, Hey, our last known position is where we’re at. We just hit an IED. I don’t know. Uh, we definitely have Urgent Surgical. I just don’t know how many. I’m going to get back to you, spin them up. And they had already, you know, they initiated and stuff. And I had had some EMT training on me as well. So the Lieutenant, Lieutenant Vince Demarest that was there, you know, he took control of the radio anyway. And he’s like, Start rendering aid, man. Like get on assist doc, you know, doc was so, man, that guy, so doc Ponce was, no, he was a trooper. He, so he was at the back end of the [00:30:00] patrol and he caught shrapnel to the face, like a bunch of dirt and dust.

He couldn’t see, um. He was like kind of squinting doing stuff blind, but the squad leader also thrown back on top of him as well during all this, you know, so, I mean, he’s already limping around and, um, I mean, he was just on

it, you know.

Scott DeLuzio: That’s the thing with docs. They, they, they’re not going to quit. You know, they, they see there’s somebody else out there who’s banged up, damaged, broken, whatever. They could be on their last, last leg and they’re going to keep going until they can’t keep going

anymore. Um,

William Yeske: Oh, he was, they, they had to send us, they had to send us another one just because of like, he had that continence to where he felt the need to be on everything and just with how, and I know, you know, on the RTO side too, they, they ended up bringing in, um, FO assets and stuff. And we, instead of having the both of us out [00:31:00] there, we would rotate, um, just because the op tempo is so brutal, uh, And the fact that the area was so saturated to where we ended up getting split apart into separate elements.

So in platoon size elements.

Scott DeLuzio: Okay.

William Yeske: So that’s where, yeah, it’s a little bit different. And this is another reason why the book had to come from First Platoon’s side. Because when you start looking at how many incidences happened out there, um, we ended up Quite honestly, we ended up, if you boil it down, we were 28 guys on a combat outpost in the middle of nowhere.

our, there was nobody coming down the roads to get us. The only way we got mail was by sling load. Um, no, I serious, like they would bring this thing in once a month and that’s, we would have two tri walls come in, one full of water and one had, you know, uh, supplies and mail.

You know, and that was it.

Scott DeLuzio: [00:32:00] Yeah. Yeah. And a lot of, I think one of the good things about writing a book like this is we were talking about this, I think before the, uh, before we started recording, um, that the vast majority of people in this country have no idea of what actually goes on over there. I mean, you see that, like I was saying before you see on the nightly news, you see the green screen with the little.

little dots on the screen and the little flashes that go across the screen and that then they explode and there’s there’s all that kind of stuff and people just get desensitized and think oh that’s what war is and it looks like freaking call of duty or whatever like it’s it looks like a video game um but it’s not like there’s real people down there who Are blowing up when those little flashes turn into big flashes, that’s somebody blowing up.

Um, you know, and there’s someone on the other end who’s pulling the trigger that’s causing that thing to fly across the screen. Um, there’s people on both ends and neither one of them is an easy job to [00:33:00] have to be near that explosion. Um, obviously not being in the explosion, but, um, and being on the other end pulling that trigger, like none of those are easy.

Um. And so, people like you, who’ve written these, these accounts down, um, I think it, it’s important so that people can learn what the hell is actually happening when we send our men and women overseas to go fight in a war. I don’t care what the, the cause of the war or, or what the justification for war is.

This is what’s happening. Is the stuff that you’ve written about in this book and having this, this first person account of these are the horrible things that we had to do, had to see, had to experience. I mean, without these things written down, like who knows about this stuff? And, and then, you know, the next time, you know, some Thing kicks [00:34:00] off where I don’t I don’t want people to just be quick to go Just send our troops over just to go fight another war.

I want us to think about it Like is this worth it? Is this worth all the stuff that you just wrote in your book stuff? I’ve written in my book. Is it is it worth all of these things? To have our men and women come back broken or maybe not at all Is this something that we want and trust me? I’m not anti war At all.

Um, I know there’s a time and a place for it. Um, but we gotta be smart about it, I think. And, and by knowing what actually happens over there, um, that’s, that’s half the battle, I think, um, just knowing how this is going to affect people and, and doing the right thing and getting, you know, making the right decisions when we’re around it.

When we’re deciding to send people over there.

William Yeske: Well, I know you said something right there about people being broken as opposed to, I, [00:35:00] you know, that’s one of the things that there is that stigma out there of the broken veteran. And quite honestly, I. I think it’s more about how we frame it and we do kind of hear a lot of that society end of like a broken vet and this and that and quite honestly, you know, maybe there are issues and I know that like even through writing this, uh, was enough of an opportunity to slow down to realize that there is You know, some more PTS type issues,

Scott DeLuzio: Mm hmm.

William Yeske: um, here that it did, that was one of the ends that I was really, was interesting that came out.

I’ve never had a problem talking about this stuff before, but when I really started delving down and it slowed down enough to where I’m writing it down and that disconnect. You know, it was sort of fused, you know, and then all of a sudden I’ve got tears coming out of my face while I’m, you know, writing some of these chapters, but I know that the emotion flows into the chapter.

So I’m like, you’ve got to [00:36:00] keep going and face this stuff. So it was really therapeutic on this, on that end of things, but so many people kind of feel that, you know, they might, they might portray that broken veteran, but it’s not, you’ve been forged. is really on how I look at it. You’ve been through some more that other people haven’t seen and you’re on the other side of it.

Like what lessons did you learn from there? And maybe sometimes it’s taking that tactical pause to sort of realize that. You know, the tools are there or the people and the support is there.

You just need to slow down a bit more. You need to take that breath, you know, don’t let it stack up. And that’s one of the biggest things that we found is when the, when that stack just becomes, you have, it might just be that one.

Last thing on there, maybe some money issues during the holidays, or, you know, maybe there’s that bout of loneliness and stuff. And I know that, um, you know, guys feel cut off and that’s one of the biggest things too about communicating [00:37:00] with one another. And that was another super rewarding side of doing this is getting in touch with some of these guys


And that really, it wouldn’t have been, and I talk about it later on in the chapters and stuff, that opportunity wouldn’t even have been there if it wasn’t for, uh, something known as Operation Resiliency. That was a, this was a peer to peer type therapeutic event to where they brought everybody from this particular company back, um, to Charlotte, North Carolina.

And I think this was in 2018. It was the pilot program for OPRES. And… Um, normally what you get for normal military reunions is maybe 20, 30 guys at max.

We had 125,

Scott DeLuzio: Oh, wow. Yeah

William Yeske: these, these guys came in. From all over the place. And it just ended up being something really special [00:38:00] and getting that accountability with one another again reconnecting and stuff.

And it kind of lit off the network. Um, you know, and then again, with, with this book, uh, them together at the, um, the Airborne Museum down at Fayetteville for that event, you know, and some of the, man, those guys during writing this have just, they’ve gone so. Over and above with helping like, uh, the, one of the first things was pictures.

The publisher wanted 30 pictures. I had nothing. I told the publisher, I’m like, yeah, we’re good. I got this. Um, and they responded in droves. I mean, they literally, I kid you not, within a month or two time, you know, I had Easily a gigabyte. Now there’s just, I mean, it’s massive, but also making that almost like a share drive for guys too.

And they’re, they’re seeing this stuff up on [00:39:00] social daily, you know, or even now to where the fact to where guys that were there before us, after us involved in different units, they’re noticing the mountain ranges and it’s just so ingrained in. And they’re like private messaging me like, Argonaut holds.

For a lot of people is just this place of, you know, good times and some absolutely terrible times. So, I mean, you’ve got both ends of the spectrum and I mean, this whole through the book too, and I tried to keep it. To where it’s a little bit of a rollercoaster ride, like it really is, and there is ups and downs.

It’s not all just that, um, know, that brutal, I mean, there is, there’s some, some chapters are pretty brutal, man. Some of them are pretty, pretty hard, but it’s real. And that’s the difference. There is, it’s just, I don’t hold it back. I was a little worried. Um, at first, and then [00:40:00] really it was reading a Vietnam book, uh, We Few by Nick Brockhausen.

And he actually just wrote an endorsement on the book the other day, but it was kind of cool to get that, you

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, sure,

William Yeske: um, you know, but I was reading this and I’m like, okay, this guy was. Obviously in it, uh, but people are actually reading this stuff and they’re okay with it. Okay. Like there’s no more, there’s no more military historians out there on the battlefield.

They’ve, they’ve done away with that. Um, or at least there wasn’t when we were there, that’s for sure. And to be able to put something together, you know, by triangulating it with the different guys that were there and like breaking it down into a historical record and something that you can actually, at this point now, it’s, uh, You know, accepted in the Library of Congress.

It’s been DoD approved. The guys from the platoon have been through it. I’ve gotten stuff back from the majority of them, you know, Hey, this, this is, this is accurate. This is [00:41:00] the best accurate picture. And, um, you know, that’s what pushed harder for, we were talking before too, like, Entering in these other elements and pushing yourself to wear, you know, the flag that’s on the cover.

Uh, that’s, that was the big thing is down at the Special Operations Museum. The, um, flag that’s featured on the front cover is down there. On display for everybody to see along with a bunch of the other artifacts that, um, guys carried on patrolling that valley. And like, that’s, I don’t have any control over that, but for them to step up and offer these like pictures of history in there, you know, it’s really, I really had a, you know, a duty at one point in this, and I felt that weight and burden of like, this needs to get pushed as far as you can possibly go on that end of things.

And it’s, it’s been so


Scott DeLuzio: [00:42:00] and and I think there’s there’s two sides of things right like so there’s your side that you’re just talking about like Putting this historical record together, writing this book, getting it, you know, as accurate as possible, checking it with other people that you were with, and yep, we’re good to go.

This is, this is accurate. Then there’s the other side of, like, the consumer of this book. Who’s gonna read this book? Um, and I, I think there needs to be The people who actually care enough to know about this stuff. There needs to be more of that. I think, um, there needs to be those people out there who want to know, you know, about this historical record.

And, and there certainly are those people out there. Um, but there’s some people like we were talking about before, who are just blissfully ignorant of what’s going on. And

it’s almost like they need a kick in the ass to say, like, read

William Yeske: tries to make it.

Yeah. I mean, it, well, this tries to make it a little bit more [00:43:00] like where normally you find these historical accounts and they’re boring. They’re dry. You know, they’re, uh, written by, uh, a general that really wasn’t there. You know, he’s writing it from the accounts of people that were on the

ground or from a battle drill assessment or

Scott DeLuzio: or, or, or


William Yeske: battle damage assessment

Scott DeLuzio: Let’s be real, it’s probably written, like,

ghostwritten, too, and it’s not actually the general who


even there, kind of, you know,

William Yeske: Those times, no, mostly you’re, you’re absolutely right. Most times, that’s exactly how it is. I mean, even a lot of the, uh, soft books on the market, you know, which is just surprising, you know, it’s like, come on man. Like if you’re going to do it, like dial it in and do it and do it right. Um, you know, which I mean, there, there are, there’s some other good books out there, but then when you kind of look and then you’re like, okay, this isn’t even, you can’t count this as historical.

Yeah. For one, there’s not other, this is your end only. And it’s even happened with some of those books to where it’s been called out and be like, no, no, like that’s okay. Just cause you know, you were in [00:44:00] this unit and that left you with a, that check mark or that blue, that blue, uh, blue tag as they everybody knows these days, um, Maybe not so much, you know?

So this one, you know, when you get a platoon of guys together, man, I, I, I was, I was nervous at the launch event because a bunch of them had flown in, but not so much because of the, not because of the accuracy. I, I had shot this manuscript back and forth with them during the thing, and I, I carp compartmentalized it until the very end, you know, and then I put it out to the company and the battalion like, Hey, if you want APDF, like, I’ll get it out there.

Just to make sure on stuff. And a lot of guys, you know, came back and they’re like, man, this is, this is it, you know, and I had a ton of that, that feedback during and formulating it and everything and really got some stories. This is one of the best parts is like getting those stories. Some of these guys aren’t [00:45:00] with us anymore.

And it’s really like keeping them alive because nobody would hear. There’s one in particular to where I can literally hear this particular Sergeant’s voice during it. It’s,

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah.

William Yeske: something special, you know, it’s, it’s really something special and to be able to put that down where nobody else knew about it, but then that somebody would, would shared it with me and opened up about it.

Um, and to do that, that really. That really makes this something different. And it’s really, I think more guys out there need to be, that’s, I say it in the, in the closing too, like we need to be working on more of this stuff together, you know, and with how the world is these days and what we have for technology, I mean, we’re talking, you know, we’re hours difference.

But it’s real time talking to one another without any issue. Like, why aren’t we holding workshops like this now, or, you know, all this stuff is coming in good time. It’s people [00:46:00] that have to step up and do that, but I kind of call out to other veterans. Like, Hey man, like get involved, get involved within your, your veteran communities with your guys, but even honestly, just your civilian ones too.

They need that, that leadership that we’ve. You know, and we can offer, even if it is just like a basic thing, like, uh, you know, running, running the soccer, you know, for your, for the smaller kids and stuff, you know, the amateur soccer stuff, you’re, you’re going to have more, um, Sign on a leadership end, you know, on that coaching end then, then a bunch of them.

Well, you know, and quite honestly, some of those parents these days, you’re going to be the only one stepping up.

Scott DeLuzio: Right. Yeah. That could be true. Yeah. Um, let’s talk about, so we talked a little bit about the deployment, um, and you know, how it had its ups and downs. There’s a lot of people, um, you know, it was, it was

challenging. Right. A lot of people with

William Yeske: 52 [00:47:00] percent cash theory. I mean, like we’re talking,

Scott DeLuzio: life

William Yeske: an injury.

Scott DeLuzio: and yeah. Exactly, um, you had a significant Purple Heart count in your unit, right?

That was, when I read about that, I was like, holy crap, this was

William Yeske: Yeah. It was just glossed over,

you know, just glossed right over.

Scott DeLuzio: And I, I didn’t want to not mention that during this, this episode either, like there was a lot going on, uh, during that deployment. So it’s like, you know, nobody left there unscathed, you know, like whether, whether they physically were, were.

injured or not, they, they saw it, they had to, you know, help those people. And that, that, that does impact you, you know, so nobody left a hundred percent the same that they came in. Um, and I think that’s true for a lot of deployments, but in this case, um. This is especially true, I think, um, how did you, you and, and the other guys that you were with, how [00:48:00] do you guys, um, kind of cope with that, the aftermath after coming back home and, you know, what kind of support systems were in place for, for you


William Yeske: So a lot of that stuff. And that was. Man, the first, the first mass formation back at the company, you know, it was, it was clearly apparent, uh, there was a, they started firing off a cannon at Bragg, okay? And nobody had told us about this,

Scott DeLuzio: Oh,

William Yeske: nobody. And we’re back, first day back, mass formation in the morning for PT and boom!

And it was in the distance still, but the entire formation, like standing. Like all of us flinch every single, even the first sergeant at the front. And he just kind of did this like little giggle and was like, Oh,

PTS much like, you know, for real,

like, I mean, they had, I honestly, because of, I had received orders.

Um, [00:49:00] halfway through the deployment and it was actually for 5th ID, the striker guys that we had replaced. And I was like, there’s no way I’m going over there. Not a chance. And, um, I, since I had always planned on going the special forces route, I went across and did selection. And quite honestly, after what we had just been through, it, um, it wasn’t all that


Scott DeLuzio: There’s perspective there, right?

William Yeske: Yeah. So my end. I didn’t get a lot of the support on that end just because I just kept running. Um, and it wasn’t until a lot later on that I actually went, you know, and started seeing somebody at, um, uh, Womack there on post, you know, and they kind of, once I started unpackaging it, they were like, Ooh, what?

But I mean, they had guys that they brought out to us over there. You know, I think it was after, uh, Staff Sergeant Brunkhorst’s death that [00:50:00] they, they flew in this, um, psychologist, this female psychologist. And, you know, she was, um, just surprised with the conditions and how it just went, whoa. Um, the fight out there was totally different where we’d hear a gunfight across the river.

And we would like ache to go and do that as opposed to the psychological effects of having to walk through minefields all day.

Scott DeLuzio: Right.

William Yeske: And

you know, the support VA has come a long way in it, but really, I mean, a lot of this stuff just got kind of pushed to the side.

You know?

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, I mean for sure. I mean, I know, you know, years ago support that was available was, I think virtually non-existent. Um, you know, it’s definitely come a long way. I mean, um, but it’s got a long way to go, I think, too, [00:51:00] not.

William Yeske: Oh, for sure. For

Scott DeLuzio: And I’m not trying to put

down anyone who works for the VA or anything like that. I think the folks that I’ve interacted with anyways, they’re, they’re great people.

Um, I’m sure like anywhere you’re going to get your bad apple, but, um, you know, everybody I’ve worked with, even, even just the people who call like scheduling appointments, they’re pleasant and they, they’re

they’re awesome people. Um, you know, it’s,

William Yeske: Okay. So there we went. No,

Scott DeLuzio: mean. No,

you know, honestly, like, like sometimes you deal with, with, with certain people and they just have this, I don’t give a shit

attitude about their job.


William Yeske: yeah, it’s not,

it’s not the

Scott DeLuzio: not that

anymore. You know, like we


have that issue.

William Yeske: I’ve found that in the VA is usually the frontline workers and stuff. You know, they’re phenomenal. I’ve had amazing care there. You know, I’ve had a surgery there that was like, they were like, Oh, you trusted the VA with that? I’m like, dude, they were like, They’re better than the civilian, what I’ve seen on the civilian side, quite honestly.

But it, it [00:52:00] tends to be at the top, you know, that bureaucracy and like that paperwork and cause like. There’s another one. I mean, I’ve been on the last eight months on the schedule for something else and I’m like starting to rattle the cages and say, Hey guys, like what in the heck

Scott DeLuzio: yeah,

William Yeske: going on?

Scott DeLuzio: yeah, and

that is true, and I think on the lower, um, front line, I don’t want to say lower, that sounds degrading, I don’t mean that these people are like, you know, the bottom of the

barrel trash or anything like that, that’s not what I’m

William Yeske: No, no, they’re the, they’re the frontline workers there. They’re the ones that are, yeah.

Scott DeLuzio: And a lot of

William Yeske: they come in the door.

Scott DeLuzio: a lot of times those, those people are, are veterans themselves.

And, you know, like if I, if I was a veteran sitting there behind the desk, like at a VA facility and you walked in and you’re like, I need help with something, I’m going to move mountains to make sure that you get the support that you need, you know, damn the bureaucracy. I don’t really care about that stuff.

The paperwork and the, the, the people. You know, often their, their [00:53:00] offices someplace else, I don’t really care. I’m gonna figure out how, how am I gonna get you in to get the care that you need? And that’s, I think, is, is a good thing. We have, we have a lot of that going on. Um, but there’s definitely some improvements that could be made, um, you know, in, in, in there.

So, you know. We’ll, I’m sure we’ll we’ll cover that in

another episode sometime, uh, , you know,

William Yeske: Oh no, no, totally. That’s, that’s literally like, so five years ago I wrote another book. Crazy enough. I just never. Published it. It was something that I bounced off with some of the guys. And so it was just really a lot of frameworks that, Hey, this is what worked for me. Or, Hey, this is what you could be using within your own transition experience out of, you know, the military to the civilian side.

Things that I’ve found have worked. Um, and I put a lot of this down just because, I mean, when I left the military, my last eight months, I went back to the 82nd. And there was an instance to where there’s a, [00:54:00] there’s a specialist he’s sitting on, um, staff duty, but You know, it wasn’t like your typical, I’m like, man, you’re, you’re gone in two weeks.

Like what’s going on, man? Like you just seemed really bummed, like really bummed something was off and yeah, no big deal. I get, I’m like, dude, look, man, just come back to my office. Nobody’s back there. We’ll just hang out for a little bit. Nobody’s in the freaking building. I can’t remember what we were doing, but it was just us both.

And he just breaks down and is like, I got busted down in rank. They’re separating me early. Like, I don’t know what to do. I have. I haven’t done anything to clear. I don’t know where I’m going. And quite honestly, I’m getting ready to kill myself. And I just looked at him and I was like, look, man, what’s your, I hear you and you haven’t spoken to anybody.

So, I mean, I know this is serious. I’m like, but like, what, what do you want? What’s your goal? You know, [00:55:00] nobody’s talking to you out here, but I give a shit. I care about you. Like what’s going on. And, um, he’s like, I just don’t see the way forward. And I’m like, Well, if I get, if I try to get you the help that you need, will you at least go through the steps and just take that next step?

And he agreed, you know, and so I put in the call for a Sergeant and uh, man, that guy, wrong answer. He literally gets back to me and he’s like, get him out of here. Freaking, he’s a problem. Get him out of here as quickly as you possibly can. And I was like, dude. So I go back to the kid and I’m like, Hey man, come with me.

We’re going to see Sergeant Major. And, um, That’s, I mean, that’s what I had to do, you know, I mean, they hated me for it and I got assigned this kid, you know, for the next few weeks and they thought I wasn’t going to be able to, you know, they’re like, uh, they’re going to hang it on me. But, um, you know, not only did I get him out the door, but the help he needed as well, like they were tracking and stuff.

We had them seeing somebody constantly and they [00:56:00] like got him. Actually seeing somebody and like getting the counseling and stuff he needed. But on top of it, he had no idea that he was also owed like another 75, 000 from the military for the contract and moving forward. And like, this is just stuff to where he had no idea and it just took someone taking that minute and like.

All right, calm down. Like, let’s look at everything in front of us. Let’s look at the options, what we have here. And, you know, somebody say, thank, thank God. Thank God that, you know, but it’s like, know your guys and know the people around you and just talk to one another,

Scott DeLuzio: Well, and

and, and like in your case, notice changes in people’s behaviors, right? You, you see someone who’s sitting there and they, they’re looking like, like just a shell of a person. You might want to go talk to that person. Like that, that something’s not right. Like that’s not a normal way to be, uh, you know, behaving or whatever.

So, um, you know, maybe it’s not a cry for help necessarily, but [00:57:00] it’s, it’s a red flag. You can definitely. Definitely

see that there’s something going on. There’s something wrong. Let’s, let’s investigate. Let’s, let’s peel back that onion and figure out what’s going on with this person and, you know, in your case, thank God you were there and you were the one who recognized this person was.

Hurting or struggling or something was going on. You didn’t know exactly what was going on, but you talked to him and you


William Yeske: But it’s know your guys, you know, know your guys, know the people around you, know your team. Um, that’s one of the larger things that, and I know that it’s starting to shift back, you know, they are starting to put an emphasis on this thing, thankfully. Cause at one point, um, Like, as I was leaving, like, I asked the team leaders and squad leaders and saw like, you know, what do your guys do?

Who do they hang out with? Do they hang out together? Are they always with one another? You know, it was mainly like, Oh no, they just kind of separate and go back to their own barracks rooms. And I’m like. And do what? I don’t know. Well, [00:58:00] wrong answer, man. Like you should know. Those are your guys.

Scott DeLuzio: had another guest on not too long ago who was talking about how the barracks rooms, you know, where you have a room where you can go to, you can close the door and you can be by yourself. Um, it might be part of the problem that we’re dealing with where, you know, in the past, there was a, these open Bay barracks, uh, everybody’s.

Together all the time. And, and I mean, yeah, it’s nice to have a little privacy every

once in a while, but

William Yeske: you want unit cohesion and stuff. You bring them out to the field for like a month or something. I mean, that’s literally, and you learn things about each other and you put them in those pressure cooker situations, but you get guys to start talking and realizing their similarities and their differences and where they can.

interact with one another. No, you’re, you’re, you’re right there. That interaction has disappeared at some point, and maybe it’s either more field time type stuff, which takes more funding, [00:59:00] you know, and more uncomfortable moments

Scott DeLuzio: Right?

William Yeske: for sure. But.

This is it. It is a unit for a reason. I mean the very word unit,


Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. Unit, unity, you know, you, you bring every, everyone together and you, you learn stuff about each other. I mean, even, even just as simple as basic training, you know, you’re, you’re in these open bay, uh, barracks and yeah, there’s, there’s going to be people who butt

heads. That’s going to be in any group of people.

William Yeske: Oh yeah.

Scott DeLuzio: take a random group of people. You’re going to get people who butt heads.

It’s going to happen. But

William Yeske: there.

Scott DeLuzio: sometimes those people who

butt heads, they, they, they’re yelling, they’re screaming at each other. Eventually they figure out, Hey, you know what, that person’s not that different from me. I mean, yeah, we have some differences.

We may be different opinions or, you know, whatever the case may be, but they actually, sometimes

they turn out to be great friends afterwards.

William Yeske: those commonalities is why you’re butting heads [01:00:00] is

because you do things the same way.

Scott DeLuzio: yeah, yeah, you know, it’s crazy, but I think, I think all of this is just, uh, uh, maybe a wake up call. Um, maybe, maybe we, we need to rethink how we are, you know, maybe even structuring some of the units, maybe how we, how we do some of the training, uh, doing more that, like you said, more field time, um, or just things to get people together.

I know one of the, the, the. Experiences in the unit that I deployed with, that brought us so close together happened when we were out in the field. Um, and it was just a simple, it was supposed to be a very simple, uh, exercise. Um, just some kind of more off road driving,

getting some of the younger guys trained up on driving.

William Yeske: is going.

Scott DeLuzio: We got, got

the truck stuck in the mud. Um, we were down in Fort Polk in Louisiana and it was wet, muddy. We got the truck stuck in the mud. We were only supposed to be out for, I don’t know, maybe an hour or so. We left around. Around dinnertime that [01:01:00] night, I don’t know, uh, probably maybe an hour or so we were, we were supposed to be out.

Didn’t get back until about

lunchtime the next day. Um, you know,

but we, we came so

close together like afterwards, um, because we all had this shared suck experience where we were cold, we were wet, we were muddy. We had mud up to like our hips on our pants. Like it was

William Yeske: Oh yeah.

Scott DeLuzio: deep. Um,

William Yeske: That’s the good stuff.

Scott DeLuzio: mean, I’ll remember

that experience till the day I


William Yeske: The rest are, yeah, exactly. And that’s the that’s the same thing. Like all this stuff, like in there, people, there’s been somebody who said, especially that, uh, you know, the December 26th incident. And they’d say, you know, I’m, oh man, I am so sorry that happened to you. And I literally go to them. I’m like, I’m not, I’m actually glad that happened to me because I, it gave me a different perspective on things.

I’m not happy that it happened, but.

Scott DeLuzio: [01:02:00] Sure,

William Yeske: You know, happy that it, uh, it happened to me in the way

of, like, it was a lesson,

Scott DeLuzio: that life lesson that you end up with, right? And you hear that kind of message from people who, like, for example, they, they’re, uh, they’re battling cancer or, you know, some other life. Uh, threatening kind of illness or disease or whatever. And they’re like, honestly, it was the best thing that ever happened to me.

Changed my perspective on life, changed all this stuff in me. And it, it, um, you know, fortunately they, they, you know, beat the disease, whatever the thing might be, but, um, they, they turn out and they’re like, my whole perspective on life is, is a complete 180 to what it was before. And, uh, I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Um, and it’s. It’s just crazy when, when you haven’t experienced something like that. Uh, you, you’re like this, this, this thing must have messed this person up more than they think it did because it’s like, whoa, you know, but, but, but then [01:03:00] you, you, you really start to think about it. And it’s like, you know, I kind of get it.

Like some, sometimes you gotta go through some of these hard life altering experiences to. See the

light if you will to get that

William Yeske: No, there’s, there absolutely, like, there is a whole thing with, um, today’s men in society not having the traditional trials and stuff that they used to have. Like, I mean, you look at anything going from any sort of tribe type societies or civilization, it’s usually that young man leaves for his trial and comes back after it either stronger or not at all kind of thing.

And I know it’s a little bit of a, like either stoic or, you know, but like these things do,

they help build you. not something to be broken over or, you know, you got to realize there is a way out, um, or there is a way forward. It might be really rough night right now, but like, you just don’t see the next [01:04:00] step and you do, you need to take a pause, take that, take that breath, maybe reach out to one of your friends that’s also been in a tight spot with you, you’d be surprised.

Um. Again, like one of those other things that was started during COVID was a, uh, peer to peer thing over Zoom.

And it was put in a format to where it was the guys getting together, but they would share stuff, you know, they really were like, Hey, is anybody going through anything? And because it was these guys from back then, they would, and more times than not, it was like, Oh, Hey man, I’ve been through that before.

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah.

William Yeske: me give you some options that might work for you. And just knowing that even that, Hey, you got somebody behind you, um, that has your back on that. And that group

is really, you’re accountable to that group. Um, in the way, you know, whether you like it or not, you know, you might not realize it, but you are, you know, in the back of your head, it says, Hey man, like when’s the next meeting?

Or, Hey, you’re going to have some news to To give to them in that next meeting or something, or even just the guy you’re talking to on the side that [01:05:00] had experience with it. You know, I really want to bring something back to him. Um,

Scott DeLuzio: yeah, yeah, it’s not when you say accountable, you know, some people might get that that thing like that’s oh my god I have to do this like a homework assignment. Like I it’s do you know, it’s not that you know It’s it’s like hey this guy reached out to help

me. I don’t want to let him down. I

William Yeske: Someone gives a

shit. someone gives


Scott DeLuzio: about me and I don’t want to let that person down.

I want to, I want to, you know, I want to beat this thing, whatever it is. I want to get through whatever this obstacle is. I want to get over it. Um, and. That other person is in my corner, you know, kind of like you think about like a boxing match or something, you got that guy in the corner, holding the bucket and you know, all that stuff.

You get that, that image in your head. It’s like, I don’t want to let that guy down. Like he’s, he’s sitting there holding my spit bucket, you know, he’s going through the suck too. And I don’t want to let that guy down. I’m going to get in there. I’m going to give it my all,

you know?

William Yeske: Yeah. [01:06:00] No, no. I mean, again, like that’s again, stuff with this book, even, you know, it’s, I just, you just keep pushing, you know, and it’s like, There have been times when it’s been like, man, like, why am I doing this? And then you just remember, you’re like, no, that, that is why you’re doing it. Like, stop, stop freaking being sorry for yourself about that.

And what’s the way forward, you know? And like, okay, let’s go.

Scott DeLuzio: that’s

William Yeske: It’s been good. It really has


Scott DeLuzio: For the listeners out there who are interested in this book and they want to find out more about the deployment, more about your story and the folks that you serve with, um, What what do you hope that they can take away from from this this book when they read it?

William Yeske: I mean, there’s a few different missions on that end. That was, you know, what the original. The original intent was for the guys that were there to be able to have something to put on, you know, their bookshelf and hand [01:07:00] to their kid one day. Um, and really, you know, it’s kind of evolved into, uh, most anybody out there with a combat experience.

So, I mean, really either helping them understand that other guys have been through this stuff. And, you know, they’re okay, or they’re at least moving towards being okay. Um, and then also for those that, you know, are trying to understand it, there’s one in particular that, uh, I sent him a, I sent him a copy early, early, because, um, you know, some of his family members, he just, he can’t talk about it with them.

He doesn’t have that type of rapport. And I’m like, dude, just hand him this. You know, give this over to them. So, I mean, it’s, it’s for that crowd too, but it’s also for very possibly we’re at a time right now to where you, is a very uncertain place right now. And right now, I mean, kids do have a choice on that and I’m not trying to dissuade anybody from military [01:08:00] service. Quite honestly, I actually, people are like, would you do it again? I’m like, yeah, I actually felt like I was right where I needed to be when I was in the Valley at that time.

Um, and it gave me some of the best lessons that, You know, I’ll ever learn, but for them to at least know what they’re getting themselves into.

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, that’s right And and I think reading stuff like your book You know other books that are similar to that. I think that can help give them that kind of insight to What they’re getting into, um, I know some people who’ve joined the military, never had anyone in their family or anyone that they knew ever in the military, and they, they for some reason decided that they’re going to join.

Um, they, they were jumping in the deep end blind. They had no idea what they were getting themselves into,

William Yeske: Oh yeah.

Scott DeLuzio: it’s like, you know, do

William Yeske: Well, even just the, like, you know, like I was saying as well, too, is the guys that are in, you know, there’s a lot of guys right [01:09:00] now that we have a bunch of people in our military that don’t have, you know, they don’t have a CIB or a combat, you know, identify, like they haven’t seen combat yet. And that was, uh, the Airborne and Special Operations Museum actually opened up on the ninth.

We did a private event and I got to meet. The new generation of kids within First Platoon Bravo Company. And man, I mean, it was just such a surreal experience. Um. 10 minutes in, you know, I gave a, I was like, all right, you know, I got about 10 minutes before these guys get, start, start getting the bobbing head kind of thing.

So ,

Scott DeLuzio: it. Yeah.

William Yeske: I talked at ’em for like 10 minutes, you know, but then I called up, I was like, all right, you know, where’s, uh, where’s the first platoon? Where’s the first platoon’s? RTO? You know, they all kind of, all the guys pushed him up there, you know, Hey, you know, like,

Scott DeLuzio: sure.

William Yeske: and I, I come up here, you know, and I had written an inscription.

book that I handed over to him. And I was like, I, I need for you to do like, this is a nasty burden I’m about to put on you. [01:10:00] But You need to read this differently because you’re in the position I was in, when I wrote this and you very well might face this type of stuff. Um, and he did, he took it very seriously.

And like afterwards, it was just crazy to see that some of the things that the new generation does differently, because after everything, I went into a Q and A, you know, he sat back down and we had a You know, really good Q& A session and stuff. They started, I was just like, let me hear from you guys. What do you want to know about?

Um, but afterwards the RTO kind of pulled me aside and he was like, Hey, do you have any other advice? You know, something you said in here clicked. And we had a little bit of a talk on like, you know, passing some of this mantle generation. It was particularly, uh, doing cards and stuff and having a nine line written up, you know, pre done because when that hits the fan.

You know, you, you’re not thinking that way and it’s a good to have a guide in front of you. And it’s just some simple stuff like that. And, [01:11:00] but you could see that his mind, he was already working on these solutions and stuff. And I’m like, man, this new generation is just so they are hungry for it and they’re thinking about it differently.

Um, and it was really good to see that. It was really good to see that.

So there’s hope.

Scott DeLuzio: There is hope. There is


That’s good. I mean, you know, you, you see a lot of negativity in the, in the news and all this kind of stuff

when in society and everything

William Yeske: We have good people that step up

to the challenge. We

really do.

Scott DeLuzio: that’s the important

message is We still do have good people here, um, and they’re, they’re willing to, like you said, step up to the challenge and, and do the work that needs to be done.

So it’s, There’s hope for the future. I’m glad about that. Where can people go to get a copy of

this book?

William Yeske: Well, yeah, I mean, you could get at any, uh, any of the major retailers. I mean, you got Amazon, Barnes and Noble, bookshop. org, you know, your independents and stuff. Um, I [01:12:00] have all those links on damnthevalleybook. com. So you can get shot, shot out to like wherever you need to be. It’s almost like a link tree.

Um, there’s also author copies on there and I know it doesn’t help my Amazon numbers, but what I’ve been trying to do is, I know, right? It’s all, everybody these days is all about that. But, um, I guess if you don’t put the message out there,

you don’t get the story. But, uh, on there, for any of the author signed ones on there, for every two that I sell, I can get one copy out to the guys that were there.

So, I mean, my goal is to get, you know, 150 copies out to these guys. Um, and we’re getting there. We’re actually, we’re doing pretty

good so far.

Scott DeLuzio: Excellent. Excellent. Well, I will have a link to that in the show notes for everybody to Take a look at, get a copy of the book, wherever they

prefer to buy a copy.

William Yeske: Review it. review


Scott DeLuzio: it, you know, go to

Amazon, buy it.

get the reviews, um, help boost the stats there. Um, [01:13:00] there’s, you got the algorithm that you got to deal

with over there.

William Yeske: Oh, it so is. It’s crazy. You got to put, it’s crazy. The

games you have to play for that, but

Scott DeLuzio: It’s not, you can’t just write a book anymore. Like you, you have to become like a marketing expert to, to

figure out how to navigate Amazon and all this other

William Yeske: Oh, well, that’s funny. Cause I mean, that’s what I went to school for, but no,

Scott DeLuzio: know?

William Yeske: like, no, I mean like, so like the book is written, you know, from that perspective. Do any of the tricky stuff in there, but it’s definitely helped along the way. Like this whole, that’s why I went to school for, for like, for real was marketing.

I didn’t go to be a journalist or a writer. This was just something that, um, you know, the call came and, you know, I answered it and here we go. Um, but it’s, it’s been getting some really good feedback, which I can’t. And I’m happy about that, but I’m really happy the most about

hearing back from the guys.

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. Well, that’s, I think the best reviews that you can get is from, from the guys who were there and, [01:14:00] you know, knowing that it’s resonated with them, uh, in a, in a positive way that I think that’s a great thing.

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So before we wrap this episode up, um, I want to do a segment I call, Is It Service Connected?

And for the viewers who aren’t familiar with it, uh, maybe you’re not familiar with it either, Is It Service Connected? is sort of like America’s Funniest Home Videos, a military edition where we take a look at a video of a service member doing something stupid, and we try to predict whether or not whatever happened in the video would qualify.

Uh, as a service connected, uh, disability, uh, somewhere down the line.

William Yeske: Awesome.

Scott DeLuzio: always a good time. I love doing it with, with other veterans. Cause we always get a good laugh out of, out of these [01:16:00] videos. Um, it’s to me, it’s, it’s

one of the most fun, uh,

William Yeske: I’m wondering now if you

picked out a parachute specific one.

Scott DeLuzio: you know,

I. I didn’t, and

William Yeske: There’s so many good ones.

Scott DeLuzio: I know there are so many, and I’m thinking about it now. Like, as I was about to pull this up, I was like, I am such an idiot. I should have grabbed

the, something parachute related,

William Yeske: I am literally like, I know you’re going to bring up what you bring up, but there’s this one out there with this guy who like comes flying in, but he, he must’ve caught like a crosswind or had to pop a reserve or something. He goes like flying down

right onto someone’s balcony.

Scott DeLuzio: Oh, that’s funny.

William Yeske: It’s hilarious. That’s

Scott DeLuzio: I, I saw another one the,

uh, the other day and there’s this guy, he’s, he’s coming down. Everyone’s coming down. There’s this big open field. Beautiful landing area, like no, no obstacles in the way, except for there’s this one tractor sitting off on the side and this one guy comes in and he nails the tractor.

The only obstacle in the entire [01:17:00] field, this guy nails it.

And he’s on top of the tractor, like he is where he hits it. And then he comes down on

the ground. I don’t know if he got injured or not, but it

William Yeske: gotta slip away, baby.

Scott DeLuzio: I got to find that one again. Maybe that’ll be the next one I pull up here for, uh, for this segment, but I’m going to get this

uh, this thing shared up here with

William Yeske: Let’s see what we got.

Scott DeLuzio: you can take a look at it

and we can both laugh at

this, uh, this guy

William Yeske: Oh yeah, Canal crossing.

Scott DeLuzio: yeah. it looks like a little Canal uh, I’m, I’m going to, uh, Kind of describe this for the audio listeners who maybe can’t watch this right now, but if you want to check it out, go to YouTube, go to Twitter, wherever you, uh, you want to go where we have this video, um, you’ll be able to watch the video and you can, you can laugh along with us.

Um, but the video, yeah, it looks like it’s a canal crossing and I don’t know about you, but I’m looking at this, it looks like a pole or a pipe of some

sort. It looks pretty flimsy.

William Yeske: Yeah. Probably has a little grease on [01:18:00] it, you


Scott DeLuzio: Grease, um, probably it’s never been cleaned ever. Um, who knows what’s flowing under it in that canal, um, which may rise up

and cover that thing.

So It’s not going to be an easy time. Yeah. It’s not going to be an easy time crossing this thing. So let’s, let’s play this video and see what happens here. So I’m going to hit play here and all right. So he’s a little timid going across. I think you got to be a little quicker yet. I mean, he didn’t even get. Face, face planted into the other side, uh, then he, then he’s like straight, man, face planted into the other side of the canal. And then he like back flipped into the water, he’s, he’s covered, he’s covered, um, you know, head to toe in that. I’m, I’m, I’m being generous maybe by calling it water, um, who knows what the hell’s floating through there.

Um, probably whatever diseases he ended [01:19:00] up with, inevitably, after getting out of that, that

might be service connected, right?

William Yeske: Doc about them Doxycycline

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, yeah. You’re going to want to bump up the dosage on that. Um, and definitely change your socks. That is some advice I think Doc would probably give you. Definitely do that. Your feet are going to be crawling with grossness.

You don’t

William Yeske: that funk. All that


Scott DeLuzio: I’m kind of looking like I was kind of looking at the other side. It didn’t look like anyone else was on the other side of that, that canal. Um, so this is probably like. Hey, private, go check this out. See if we can make it, you know? And, uh, they clearly couldn’t, so there’s someone

else scouting how to get across this

William Yeske: You gotta be careful though. I mean, it looked like he was wearing full kit. Um, you hear about guys going under and I mean, we, we actually had one in particular that that actually happened to, um,

you know, but yeah, yeah. He just, I mean,

Scott DeLuzio: it didn’t look, like, that

William Yeske: drag you down.

Scott DeLuzio: you know? It wasn’t that super deep. Like, he… His [01:20:00] feet were still, like, up above the water, I think, when he…

William Yeske: Yeah.

Scott DeLuzio: When he fell in,

so I, but you’re right, like you might do something stupid like this and not realize how deep it is. Like we were in Afghanistan and the monsoons came through and flooded this area.

And there was this group of, uh, nomadic people. They were, they were, they happened to be in this area temporarily. And the rains came in, flooded this area, and they had cows that were on this little Island in this middle of this flooded area. And they came to us to see if we can help rescue their cows.

And I’m like, first off, I’m not going, I’m not me or I’m not sending any of my guys out across this water that’s flowing right now, especially in full kit. Um, because I’m not having them take that shit off either outside of the wire. Um, because who knows, is this an ambush that. They’re setting up. You don’t, you don’t know what’s going on.

Uh, we went out and we’re like, sorry about your cows, man, but we’re, we’re in no position to help you [01:21:00] right now. Like

William Yeske: Nothing you can do.

Scott DeLuzio: at that point, I wasn’t going

out there. I wasn’t going to send any of my guys out there. Um, and I wasn’t going to drive

any of the trucks out and hope that it

William Yeske: Oh, yeah, that’s, yeah,

Scott DeLuzio: else were we going to help them, you know?

So, I don’t know what they were expecting us to do. Like, fly a helicopter in and scoop them up? But,

like, I’m not doing that either. So…

William Yeske: I know. Right. This is not operation Dumbo

drop guys.

Scott DeLuzio: No, exactly. We’re here to fight a war, not

save cows. I don’t know. Like, maybe that would have won the hearts and minds of that group of people. But, I don’t know. They didn’t attack us. So, I guess we’re okay. I guess they understood.

Like, there’s not really much we could do. But,

William Yeske: yeah, it was a long shot on their end too.

Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. Yeah. It was just a hope and a prayer, I guess.

But anyways, thank you so much again for taking the time to join us, uh, sharing your story. Uh, again, for the listeners, Damn the Valley is the book. Go, go get a copy. The link will be in the show notes. Uh, and go, go to Barnes Noble, go to any of the local bookstores around you or go to [01:22:00] Amazon, uh, get a copy of the book.

Um, but, but thank you again so much for taking the time to join us,

sharing your story. I really do appreciate it.

William Yeske: No, no, it’s been great. Thank you for having me on. It’s been great.

Scott DeLuzio: Thanks for listening to the Drive On Podcast. If you want to support the show, please check out Scott’s book, Surviving Son on Amazon. All of the sales from that book go directly back into this podcast and work to help veterans in need. You can also follow the Drive On Podcast on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and wherever you listen to podcasts.

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