Burn Pits, the VA, and Keeping a Positive Attitude
[Explicit Content Warning]
In this episode, we talk to Wes Black, a veteran is suffering from extremely serious complications from burn pit exposure, yet still manages to keep a positive outlook.
I know I learned a lot by listening to his story and outlook.
Links and Resources
Vets who served in any of the following are eligible to be registered on the VA's Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry:
- Operation Enduring Freedom
- Operation Iraqi Freedom
- Operation New Dawn
- Djibouti, Africa (on or after September 11, 2001)
- Operation Desert Shield
- Operation Desert Storm
- Southwest Asia theater of operations on or after August 2, 1990
Check your eligibility and sign up here.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:02 Hey everybody, this is the Drive On Podcast where we talk about issues affecting veterans after they get out of the military. I'm your host, Scott DeLuzIo, and now let's get on with the show.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:14 This is Part 1 of a two-part episode where I talked to Wes Black, a soldier who served with my brother in both Iraq and Afghanistan. We got to talking for over two hours and while it was all great stuff, I thought that it was a little bit long for just one episode. What we talked about was really good and so I didn't want to cut out any of it. Instead, I'm going to break the conversation down into two parts. The first [of the] two here in just a second in this episode where we talk a lot about Wes, his military career and some medical issues that he's going through. And the second will come out next week on September 3rd where we talk a bit about my brother Steven. Without further delay, let's get on with the show.
Scott DeLuzio: Hey everyone, thanks for tuning into the Drive On Podcast today.
Scott DeLuzio: 01:00 My guest is Wes Black, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan with my brother. Wes is here to tell his story about his time in the military and then serving his community later on as a firefighter and some of the struggles that he's had along the way. Wes, I don't want to give away too much information about you here; so why don't you tell us a little about yourself and your military service and when you joined and all that kind of stuff, and then we'll go from there.
Wes Black: 01:31 Yeah, sure. I enlisted in November of 2003. I was a student in Norwich University. It's actually where I met your brother, Steve, the first time. Not 2003; I met him in 2004 but I enlisted in ‘03 in the Vermont Army National Guard. I went to basic training that following summer, came back, did another semester at college, and then we got the warning order that we were going to Ramadi, Iraq. So, we deployed January of ’05, went down to Camp Shelby. We did six months to train up and then I was in country June or July of 2005 in Ramadi, Iraq, and we served until June of 2006. [We] came back, I tried to go back to college; it didn't work out for me.
Wes Black: 02:24 And then, I actually worked for the Vermont Army National Guard as active duty for specialized work. ADSW is what we call it. So, it's a Title 32 order, so it's like active duty, but it's for a year-long term; what we would call a tour. So, I did that for a couple of years. I worked for the Army Mountain Warfare School as a supply person. I was helping in the supply room. Every once in a while, they let me sneak out and I'd kind of go up and help with training, setting it up and taking it down. But I was never an instructor or anything like that. And then I spent a little bit of time working for the unit when we were getting ready to deploy to Afghanistan. And then in 2010, we deployed to Paktika Province, Afghanistan. We deployed in October of ‘09, and went to JRTC. Then we deployed to Afghanistan. We were in country like January/February of 2010. Again, I think it was in January, Scott?
Scott DeLuzio: 03:26 Oh, it was somewhere. Yeah, towards the end of the year maybe.
Wes Black: 03:28 Yeah somewhere around there. So, I got home from that and did a little bit more time bumming around the guard. And then I was medically retired in 2015 for post-traumatic stress, my back and my knees. Basically, I couldn't do the infantry job anymore, which is what I went to basic training for. Some of the schooling stuff that I've done: I went to sniper school, I went to the army mountain warfare school, I did some small classes like combat lifesaver and javelin and stuff like that, but I wasn't real high speed. Some of the, do you want me to talk about it with like awards and decorations and stuff like that or I'm not sure if you want me to go ahead?
Scott DeLuzio: Sure, if you want to go ahead.
Wes Black: 04:21 So, I had my Combat Infantryman's Badge, I have a Bronze Star with Valor that I got actually the day that Steve got killed. I have a Purple Heart, I have an ARCOM with Valor, and then just all the blanket award kind of stuff, the deployment ribbons and all the other kinds of fruit salad stuff you get for just showing up and participating. But we do have from our time when we were under the Marines in Ramadi, we do have a Naval Unit Commendation, which is something that our unit’s really proud of. And then underneath our 101st Airborne counterparts, when we were in Afghanistan, we actually got the Presidential Unit Citation; the Alpha company did; that was Steven and my unit. So, we've been recognized for our unit as being a pretty valorous unit for our times deployed.
Scott DeLuzio: 05:22 Yeah, absolutely. And from what Steven had told me throughout everything, while we were deployed and everything, it seems like you guys were kind of in the middle of quite a bit over there.
Wes Black: 05:35 Yeah. it was kind of a running joke, cause if it was a fight, send, Alpha company or send the Mountain Boys because it was the running joke.
Scott DeLuzio: 05:45 Yeah, Well I mean as you know, I was over there at the same time and I don't think we had it nearly as bad as you guys did, in terms of combat and everything like that. But we all thank you guys for everything that you guys did over there
Wes Black: No, thank you because you were there too, dude.
Scott DeLuzio: Thanks. You mentioned that you met Steven at Norwich back in ’03 or ’04.
Wes Black: 06:16 I think it was 2004 because he had transferred in from, he went to Hofstra, didn't he first?
Scott DeLuzio: That's correct; he went to Hofstra for a year.
Wes Black: Yeah. And I think he failed out or did he get kicked out for drinking?
Scott DeLuzio: 06:31 Well the way the story went with him was
Wes Black: Because I never got the full story.
Scott DeLuzio: Because he wasn't focused on school, he was more into the partying and everything else. So, he came home after, I don't know if it was like on a weekend or something, and he was like, “You know what, I can't go back there.” He wanted to go to a military school. And at the time he had no idea about Norwich or which military school. To him, it was kind of irrelevant at that point. He just knew he wanted to go to a military school to kind of get that discipline and kick his ass in gear so that he wasn't doing all that partying and drinking and everything else that was kind of knocking him off course.
Scott DeLuzio: 07:25 That's kind of why he went there. One other thing about Steven, just for people who are listening, we're recording this the day before the 9th Anniversary of his death. Wes said when we first talked about setting up a time to record, he said he wanted to do it around this time, just to talk about Steve and remember him a little bit too. I appreciate that kind of sentiment as well.
Wes Black: 08:01 We lost Steve that day and we lost Tristan Southworth as well. And actually, tomorrow Jason Smith, who was our Platoon Sergeant, he and I are doing a thunder run down to Steve's gravesite in Glastonbury [CT]. And then we're coming back to do a run up to Morrisville [VT] to see Tristan's gravesite as well. So, my day tomorrow is going to be a little packed with that but we're going to do the thunder run for the boys.
Scott DeLuzio: 08:30 Nice. Well, we appreciate that, that they're obviously not forgotten and people are continuing to pay their respects and everything and that's awesome all these years later
Wes Black: 08:43 Yeah, wait, I didn't get to it last year because I was a, well, we'll get into it, but I was too sick last year. I couldn't go. So, this year I'm making a point of going.
Scott DeLuzio: Awesome.
Scott DeLuzio: 08:56 So talking a little bit about that, your sickness that you are talking about. I know you've had some health problems stemming from your military service. And would you mind telling us a little bit about that?
Wes Black: 09:13 January of 2017, I started noticing, I'd been having a lot of bowel issues. Loose stools, watery stools, abdominal cramps, nothing crazy. It was uncomfortable. It was kind of annoying. I would eat dinner or lunch or breakfast and then literally within five minutes I'd be running for the bathroom. The joke was I can clear the firehouse, because I work as a career firefighter, I could clear the firehouse from the bathroom in the back of the bay. I was eating at a meal, like the guys used to joke that I had two hollow legs because I would eat 5 to 10,000 calories in a meal and I wasn't gaining weight, I wasn't losing weight.
Wes Black: 09:57 I was just eating so much food and it was a running joke that you'd have to take a second mortgage out just to feed me on shift. January of 2017 I'd actually just come back from Ireland. My wife is from Ireland. I'd come back early because I didn't have that much time to take off. So, I don't think we’d gone over for like two weeks and I came into the fire station one night to do what we call coverage, so we have a minimum staffing that's always at the firehouse ready to take on a call, and our minimum staffing right now is three. So, anytime there's only one or two firefighters in the firehouse, we call somebody in to kind of cover and boost our numbers.
Wes Black: 10:42 So I came in for coverage because my wife was still in Ireland and I said, oh, I'll come in and just hang out at the firehouse. And I had to go to the bathroom; which isn't a big deal but I went into the bathroom and sat down on the toilet and I had this really awful sounding, smelling kind of thing come out of me and I was like, boy, what the hell was that. It's going to get gross so I apologize to your listeners. When I went to clean myself up and when I went to reach for more toilet paper, my hand looked like I had dipped it in some kind of horror movie style pool of blood and I turned around and looked and it looked like somebody had taken an IV bag full of blood, like a blood donation bag like you would do at the Red Cross, and just dumped it in the toilet.
Wes Black: 11:30 I thought, oh my God, what the fuck? I went running out to one of my paramedics and I was like, Keith, you got to come look at this. He was sitting in one of the chairs and he kind of leans back and he looks at me and he's like, fuck you bro. I am not going to look at your shit no matter how big it is. And you know, he was a lieutenant. I was like Keith, now. He was like, whoa, and so he got up, walked into the bathroom, took one look in the toilet and he said, get in the fucking ambulance. We're going to the hospital right now. Where I live in Vermont the VA is actually 10 minutes away from my house, but it's five minutes away from the fire station.
Wes Black: 12:11 They ran me up and a couple of tests and colonoscopy and blood tests later, I found out that I have Stage 4 colon cancer with metastatic spread to my liver. So that was in January of 2017. I had literally just finished my probationary year as a fireman. I was in the middle of the process of buying my home. My son was just about to turn one. I mean, I had everything going right in my life and then all of a sudden, like, you get that big C-word kind of diagnosis and I thought my fucking life was going to fall apart. And so, it took a long time for me to come to grips with that. I obviously know that the title of this podcast is “drive on.”
Wes Black: 13:09 It's hard to take a hit like that and roll yourself back over, wallow in the dirt for a second, spit the blood out and spit whatever loose teeth are done, rolling around in your face from the blow and then stand back up. I had to because I still needed to provide for my family. You know my wife is a physical therapist, but she's a stay at home mom right now because she wants to take care of our kid. I still have a mortgage. I still have car payments and all this other stuff. So in between rounds of chemotherapy, I've actually still been working as a career firefighter, which my doctor looks at me like I have seven heads, because he just doesn't understand.
Wes Black: 14:06 He doesn't understand how I do it. You think of most people you know who are on chemotherapy, they don't look healthy. They look sick. Right now, I am very fortunate, knock on wood, I'm still very healthy. I'm able to do chemotherapy on a Monday and I'm usually back in work by Friday or Thursday, the earliest. If my lab counts and stuff are going right, I'm back in work on a Thursday working full duty as a fireman, which is fucking unheard of. Like my guys at the firehouse joke that, I'm either like a biomechanical freak, like superman or fucking Deadpool. They don't know how to take me, dude. The thing is that I've had to learn that no matter how hard it is to get this kind of [diagnosis]. I've had setbacks; obviously, the Cancer. It's contained right now. That's the kind of best thing I can hope for. But it's still growing a little bit every time I take a break from chemotherapy. I just did my 36th round of chemotherapy on the 19th of July. I'm scheduled to do Round 37, Wednesday. It's been a long grueling process.
Scott DeLuzio: 15:42 Gosh! And so, before we started recording here, we were chatting a little bit about that whole process of kind of picking yourself back up. It's amazing to see somebody who has the diagnosis that you had and all the other things going on in your life and how you've managed to pick yourself up and just continue, like you said, to drive on. Dust yourself off and keep on going and not letting something like this get you down or keep you down anyways.
Wes Black: 16:23 And the thing about it, I mean, I don't know if you're familiar with the stages of cancer. So, Stage one is typically like early diagnosis. There might be a small cell cluster, like a small tumor. This stage usually means like for colon cancer, like stage one is like a polyp. Stage two, it means that it's a polyp that's kind of gone into the intestinal wall, but not all the way through full thickness. Stage three is when it's kind of gone full thickness through the intestinal wall and maybe affected some of the lymph nodes around it. Stage four is when it is actually trans, like transplanted throughout your body, which is what they call metastatic, metastasizing, or metastases. Depending on the different types of cancer that you can get, typically, if you look at colon cancer, the survival rate for stage one, because obviously it's early detection,
Wes Black: 17:21 the survivability rate is like 75 to 90% after five years. A stage two, the survivability rate is anywhere between 50 to 75% roughly give or take. Obviously if it's progressed into the wall, they don't know how much it's progressed. Stage three is borderline of 25 to 50% survivability after five years. Because, if it's gone stage three and it's permeated the wall and into the lymph nodes and obviously there is a chance that it's spread somewhere else. And then a stage four is essentially a death sentence. Survivability rate after five years is less than 10%. Granted, if you look at those statistics, it's typically in people who are much older than I am.
Wes Black: 18:18 I'm 33, 34, I just turned 34. So, I was diagnosed at 31 32. I've been fighting it for two years. So, my survivability rate might be a little different because I'm younger and doctors can give me a much higher dose of chemotherapy than they can in their stereotypical patient who is 50, 60, 70, who they can't blast with all this chemotherapy and then they can't recover as quickly as I can. So, they have to lower the dose each time. They give it to them not to make the patient too sick. So, I've been pretty fortunate in that aspect. Essentially, stage four, I got handed a death sentence.
Scott DeLuzio: 19:05 I knew somebody who recently, within the last couple of years now, went through pretty heavy doses of chemotherapy and they were only able to go through that just because of the fact that they were so healthy to begin with. Outside of the cancer that they had, they were able to get the higher dose and that high dose really worked. They are Cancer free now. So, hopefully, continuing this will help prolong
Wes Black: 19:46 Unfortunately, my cancer was tied to the burn pits that we were all exposed to while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. And a friend of yours, he gets it, may have served Horn of Africa or anything like that, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, [etc.] Everywhere that trash was burned is considered an open airborne hazard registry area or burn pit area. I actually went down to Dana Farber and the leading doctor at Dana Farber for gastrointestinal cancers basically wrote the letter that service connected me to the burn pit saying that for my age and my aggressive type and form of cancer that I have, there's no way that I would've gotten this any other way than being exposed to the burn pits. So, if the guests that are listening and if any of them are our military veterans that have served over in Iraq and Afghanistan, the only thing I would ask is please, please, please go onto the VA website, find the open airborne hazards registry, burn pit registry and sign up.
Wes Black: 21:05 It's not necessarily going to get you service connection. You can request a medical appointment, at the very end of it for any sort of health issues that you're having. But it's a data collection point because I think unfortunately, the “burn pits” are going to be our generation's “agent orange.” We’re already starting to see veterans who are passing away from really strange types of cancer that wouldn't typically happen to people in their age group. I take, for example, me [getting] stage four colon cancer. They're saying there's no fucking way that a 30 something year old who's perfectly healthy otherwise gets stage four colon cancer without being exposed to something. Vermont has lost two high ranking, Brigadier General Mike Heston and Sergeant Major Mike Cram to cancer. Their families who are actually part of a piece of legislation that I just helped, I testified on behalf of.
Wes Black: 22:11 We just had it passed that the VA in Vermont now has to contact every Vermont veteran who served overseas and tell them that they may have been exposed to these burn pits and that their health could be compromised. It's the only legislation of its type in the United States, currently. I was a part of that; so, I'm actually really proud of that, being a part of that. June Heston, whose husband, Brigadier General, Mike Heston passed away from pancreatic cancer is really spearheading it. And I've been very fortunate to be able to work with her and get the word out. But if you have veterans that are listening to this podcast, that's the only thing that I would recommend is if you have any sort of health issue, please, please, please get it checked out.
Wes Black: 23:02 Don't let it sit and fester. If you have a cough that you haven't been able to shake for a year, please just go to the doctor and push and push until they finally do everything. Exhaust every option to ensure that it's not something that's basically like me. You know, I'd complained to the VA for years that I was having all these issues with my stomach, with my gut, and they kept telling me, “Oh, it's irritable bowel syndrome”, or “Oh, you have Crohn's disease.” I never had a colonoscopy. No one ever did any sort of real deep testing until I quite literally shit a bucket of blood. That's unfortunate because now I'm facing a really shitty outcome from that.
Scott DeLuzio: 23:53 It's unfortunate but you need to be your own advocate with regards to your health care. I've had a similar, not similar to the degree of that type of diagnosis or whatever, but just a misdiagnosis. Where I went into the VA because I was having breathing trouble at one point. They said it was anxiety or stress or something like that that was causing it. They gave me an anxiety medication to help with it. After getting a second opinion and also, looking into it on my own; which, by the way, I never took any of the medication that they prescribed me, because I knew it wasn't stress. The only thing I was stressed about at the time was the fact that I couldn't breathe. Like you told me with yourself that there was something wrong there. I looked into it and it turns out like certain kinds of heartburn or acid reflux kind of things could have symptoms of feeling like you're short of breath. So, what I needed was an antacid or something like that, like Tums or whatever to get rid of that.
Wes Black: 25:04 And then they prescribe you anti-anxiety medication.
Scott DeLuzio: 25:10 Yeah, exactly. I was just at that point that I knew I had to be my own advocate for this type of stuff because they weren’t. They spent 15 minutes with me and they were checking certain vital signs and stuff like that. And they said, oh yeah, it must be something else. I knew it wasn't what they were saying it was. So, it was just probably like the most common issue that they see with people, with the symptoms that I had. And they'd probably just threw me into that bucket.
Wes Black: 25:43 That's the bad thing with the VA is that I used to joke that they delay, deny and hope you die, because they just don't want to help if they can't fix you with a prescription bottle full of pills, then they don't want to deal with you. This is the mentality that I get from a lot of VA visits that I had now that I've gotten as sick as I am, as young as I am, people have started to take notice when I say, “Hey, I'm not feeling good.” People tend to like [screeching sound of putting on the brakes] like what? For a long time, I would walk into the VA and I would tell my primary care doctor, “listen, I am experiencing severe abdominal cramps.”
Wes Black: 26:32 “Like what, what is going on? You need to do something.” And she would say, “oh no, it's probably just your IBS.” At the time I would think, okay, well you're the doctor. I'm not the doctor. So, you know better. Then after a while, nothing was working. None of the medication they were prescribing was helping. None of the stuff was working and I finally just said, “you know what?” I guess I just have to live with this for the rest of my life.” How ironic. It turned out to be that because I didn't push and I didn't advocate because I didn't know that it's turned, unfortunately rather serious.
Scott DeLuzio: 27:19 Right. Still, despite all of this, the bad diagnosis that you have now and the outcome that you're experiencing here, you still have a positive attitude throughout the whole thing. Which, to me is the most important part in that it is because you're still able to carry on and pick yourself back up. And that's just amazing!
Wes Black: 27:49 Well, I've had to learn that. So again, I work as a full-time fireman. If you're not getting fucked with at the fire then we don't like you. When I first got diagnosed everybody was saying, “oh my God!” What do we say to him? For a couple of days guys walked on eggshells. They didn't know how to speak, they didn't know how to approach me, too; they didn't know how to talk to me. It actually helped that we built a small dollhouse out of plywood to work out fire behavior and it was about two weeks after I had been diagnosed and I had already started chemotherapy and it was like the week of my first round of chemotherapy.
Wes Black: 28:34 And so we were out back doing this dollhouse and what you do is you, light one corner of the doll house on fire with some sticks and some stuff and then you open these little sliders and see how fire flows and travels through a house and it's a way to learn fire behavior and how if you ventilate one certain window, you can actually pull fire. If you close it, you can leave it closed, you can actually trap fire. Now it's starting to put off a lot of smoke and the assistant chief looks me and he says, “Wesley, you shouldn't be breathing this stuff in.” I finally looked at him and I said, “what's it going to do, Chief give me fucking Cancer. Everybody was like, “Oh, we made a joke.” Well, we made a joke.
Wes Black: 29:12 “Oh Shit, we can make jokes.” Instantly the floodgates opened. I've had to take on that and granted, I do have a very serious diagnosis. At some point, cancer is going to win the fight. But it's going to take me to the ground and I'm going to be a bloody fucking mess before it wins. I've had to except that no matter what, I still have my wife, I still have my son. I still have my brothers in the fire service, in the military that these guys look at me, not as an example, but these guys aren't used to dealing with people who have cancer. We are in the terms of like treating patients like transporting it from the home to the hospital because they're really sick or because they're actually dying.
Wes Black: 30:10 But these guys don't deal with people with cancer all the time and seeing I have to put on that kind of brave face and that strong armor and be like, “Hey, you know what? yeah, sure man, I got fucking cancer, but it's not going to fucking beat me.” And so, I've had to, for my sanity, for their sanity, because if they're miserable at work, then I'm going to be miserable at work. And if I'm miserable at work, I can't do my job. And if I can't do my job, then I start focusing on other things. I've had work as a way to distract myself from the more serious issue that I'm looking at, which has been really, really helpful. I've had something else to focus my energy on besides the fact that, oh, I'm sick.
Wes Black: 31:02 I don't have time to sit and wallow in my misery because I have to work a 24 tomorrow or Hey, I'm scheduled to work 12 hours overtime tomorrow night. I don't have time to sit and wallow in pity; plus, I have a three year old. My kid is always wanting to get up. He's always wanting to run around. He wants to be outside. He wants to be at the playground. Granted, my weeks of chemotherapy, I'm not feeling great, but how do you tell a three year old that we can't go to the park today. Like, daddy doesn't feel good. You know, you can't do it, you have to stand up, you have to be a man, you have to be a father or you have to be a woman.
Wes Black: 31:40 You have to be a mom and take your kid to do what your kid wants because that's how you build good memories for your kid, in your family. So, I've, had to, in the sense, grow up really, really fast in that aspect of life, I have to have that mental toughness. I have to have that intestinal fortitude that even when I'm sick as fuck bro, like I could be fucking puking in the toilet and 10 minutes later my kids like Dadda outside and it's like, yeah, Bro. Yup, Yup. Let's go. You want to go outside? Let's go. And I am not going to lie, I might only last five or 10 minutes, but you know, at least my kid says, Dad, come on. And it's like, all right, let's go buddy. You want to, you want to go outside or you want to go in your room and play trucks or you want to do whatever. I'm there too, I'm going to be there for you as your dad.
Scott DeLuzio: So those five or 10 minutes you might last are
Scott DeLuzio: 32:40 something super funny or something whatever, has that opportunity to happen. Then that little thing that sticks in the back of his mind as he gets older, he'll think back to remember that. It won't necessarily be dad just kind of crashing on the couch or in bed or whatever, because you didn't feel like getting up. So those types of memories are the things that will help in the future, help him to remember you in a positive light and all that kind of stuff. I think back on childhood memories. I think that's kind of the same for anybody. It's good to have that foresight to see how he's going to think about you and things like that.
Wes Black: 33:36 I write my son and email every day, or I try to every day, some days I don't get to it because I'm not feeling great or some days, I don't get to it because I'm just tired. But I try to write my son an email every day and the way I write it to him is like I'm sitting there having a dad talk. I'm actually sitting at the kitchen table having a conversation with my son and I've tried to figure out what age that I think I want him to have access to this email account. So, I've spoken to my wife about it and she and I have actually talked that probably the right age would be about 14 or 15.
Wes Black: 34:22 The reason why is because I'm very blunt when I write. You know, tomorrow is the nine-year anniversary [of Steven and Tristan’s death]. I'm going to write him an email about exactly how I feel about things that happened that day. The other days when I've lost friends, other days when significant events happened in my military career and my fire career. If I have a bad call, I write to my son about it and I talk to him about it and I do that because I want my son to understand who I am. This terminal diagnosis, and I say that I could live with cancer treatments becoming more and more advanced and people are living longer and longer. The statistics say what they say, but nobody's fits into statistic. I could live another four years. I could live another 10 years; I could live another 15 to 20 years. But on the off chance that I don't live that long, knock on wood, I want my son to have a way that I communicate to him
Wes Black: 35:38 and that he knows who I am, who I was as a person. If I'm not there to teach him these lessons. I try to tell him how that as a person, I want him to be a good person. If somebody needs help you go and help that person, you don't kick somebody when they're down. That's the kind of morals and values that I want to instill in my son. Obviously, I would love to instill those in him myself, but in the off chance that I'm not able to, that's why I use this email account as a way to talk to him and I talk about current events and I talked to him about things that are going on in the world at my time. I wrote to him and talked about Hong Kong the other day and how Hong Kong is actually going through, for lack of a better term, a political revolution.
Speaker 3 36:32 And I said that this is what freedom is for you to be able to stand up to your government and say, “no, we're not going to, we're not going to take you dictating to us how it's going to be. We are the people that you represent or you are supposed to take care of, you can't just treat us the way you do.” I use current events to talk to him about things and I try to relate messages into them. That's the only thing that I can do to ensure that the values that I would want instilled in my son are instilled in him. I do it through an email.
Scott DeLuzio: 37:22 I've heard of people who have done that before where they'll set up an email account for their kids and they'll just write an email to them either every day or every week or month or whatever, or anytime anything significant happens. I think that's a cool, cool idea to do where you can be sending this stuff. Even if you have no health problems and no terminal diagnosis or anything like that. Like you never know, you might get hit by a bus tomorrow or something.
Wes Black: 37:54 I think it's a good idea maybe for veterans to do if they have kids and this might be a way for them to communicate with their children and explain why dad has always kind of had the boogeyman on his shoulder or dad doesn't like crowds. Dad doesn't like fireworks. Dad doesn't like driving with stuff on the side of the road or dad doesn't like to use guns anymore or whatever the reason and I say dad, but because I'm a man. But it could be the same thing for women too. It may be a way for people to be able to communicate not just as a therapy but as a way to communicate to their children.
Wes Black: 38:51 Because you can be completely honest in an email and then you don't have to think about it for four or five, 10 years if you don't want to. And then all of a sudden you hand it to your kid and say, “here, this is yours. I want you to read this. I want you to go through it. If you have questions, I want you to come to me.” That's another way that I think has been very therapeutic for me because I do write exactly how I feel about things. About the loss of my friends, about the horrible things that I saw in combat, the poverty, the famine, the horrible living conditions, the lack of education and some of the stuff that we tried to do to fix those that were met with some acceptance, some obviously graciousness,
Wes Black: 39:49 And then obviously we had some people that rejected it and met it with extreme opposition. I don't want my son growing up with rose-colored glasses thinking that the world is this happy-go-lucky place and that everybody gets along and nobody fights. Unfortunately, violence is a very real issue in the world. We have been very fortunate in this country that we haven't had to deal with it on a daily basis. Countries like Syria and Iraq and Afghanistan and some of the parts of Africa and even now in South America, there's horrible, horrible things that go on in this world. Unfortunately, a lot of, and I'm sure you see it on Facebook and Instagram I did it for the gram kind of style poses and people are more concerned with how many likes and shares and retweets they got as opposed to what's going on around them.
Speaker 3 40:54 And, and I think Veterans can impart that unique perspective because we've seen that; we know how awful things can be because we've seen it; we've lived in it, we fought in it, we tried to fix it. I think that's another reason why when we come home and there's such a detachment for veterans between us and other civilians because we just don't understand how I can come literally 48 hours ago, I was carrying a rifle in Afghanistan. I land, I'm happy to be home. And the first thing I do is I see this young girl driving down the street, like snapping selfies with her phone as she's driving. “What the fuck are you doing?” She's just doing it for the gram and we're sitting there going, “oh my God, you don't understand how dangerous what you're doing is, you are literally going to kill somebody.” It's tough because all we want to do is go over and fix the problem and we can't, we have to be restrained. We have to, we can't use violence and aggression like we did 48 hours ago in Afghanistan to fix a problem. We can't use that here state side, people don't understand.
Scott DeLuzio: 42:16 One of the things I think a lot of guys and gals that comeback feel they, like you said, they did use violence and aggression to fix problems. Someone is approaching too close or whatever and you knock them out or you're shoving a gun in their face and everything. You can't do that here. It's just not how things work. It did work and it was highly effective, like you said, 48 hours ago or whenever or however long ago it was that you were overseas and it was a very effective method of dealing with some of these problems. But you can do those things when you get back. I think a lot of guys and ladies, when they get back, they have trouble figuring out how to deal with those problems that they see, whether they're inconveniences or whatever the case may be, things that happened that they want to try to fix and they just don't know how to deal with that anymore.
Scott DeLuzio: 43:23 and I think that's, that's kind of a problem that a lot of people end up with.
Wes Black: 43:28 Well, and I think too especially because we were infantry, like that's what we did. And so, the way we fix problems was through sheer violence, aggression and taking things by force. That's, that's how we solved problems. I use the analogy of she dogs and wolves. The average person, if you will, is a sheep. They just go about their day. They’re not really concerned with what happens around them unless it immediately affects them but they're afraid of the wolf, right? The Wool comes in and hurts them. You can use a wolf for any kind of analogy, whether it's a bad person or a bad event. Who protects the sheep from the wolf? The sheep dog. The sheep dog reminds the sheep too much of the wolf because the sheepdog has teeth the sheep dog has scars and looks kind of bloodied and mangled because what does the, sheep dog do, she thought fights the wolf, right?
Wes Black: 44:39 So in a lot of terms when we come home from combat, and I use this as an analogy as well, it's like taking up a dog fighting dog, right? If you want to use the example of a pit bull imagine your average US infantry Grunt as a pit bull. You have trained this pit bull for nothing else. Don't get me wrong, I love pit bulls. I think pit bulls are a fantastic breed. I'm just using them as an example. I don't think pit bulls are a problem. But you have trained this dog to do nothing else but fight and you've put it in a couple of fights and this dog has won. It has probably gotten bloodied. It's probably gotten its ass handed to it, but it fought and that's all it knows how to do.
Wes Black: 45:25 And then all of a sudden you take this fighting dog and you shove it back into the Kennel with all these other regular dogs and you tell it, okay, you're done fighting. Don't fight another dog. You can't do that to a dog, but people expect combat veterans to come home and not try and use the skills that they needed to survive oppression, violence, intimidation, use of force. All of a sudden when we come back into state side, because 48 hours ago, that was the way we survived. Now all of a sudden, 48 hours later we're driving down (I live on the east coast) so, I'm driving down I 95 and some fuckhead cuts me off. Well, 48 hours ago, my response would have been that dudes trying to block me into an ambush.
Wes Black: 46:24 I'm going to ram this mother fucker. I can't do that. Now I have to use my horn, I have to maybe flip you one and then I have to maybe yell through the steering column, but I can't physically do what my natural response would be because that's a learned, conditioned response. I can't do that here in the states. I think that's where a lot of veterans run into trouble is because they can't, once that switch is turned on, it's very, very hard to switch that off. It takes a long time of consciously making efforts to switch it off. And once it's switched off, I mean it only takes one incident to switch it back on full bore. It could be something small like getting cut off in traffic or I've had a couple of incidents like a couple of days ago I was at Best Buy and it was raining
Wes Black: 47:28 there was a woman who had parked right on the doorway because her elderly mother was in the car and she was trying to let her out. I get it. She didn't want grandma to walk in the rain too far. But she's blocking the entire road. I go to swerve around her and go pass and I'm sitting there going like, you're a fucking idiot. And this woman comes around the back of the car with the Walker and raises her hand at me as if to say “what the fuck are you doing?” I had high speed come apart. I rolled my window down and said, “what the fuck?” Not the most professional thing to do. I mean it was one of those things lady, you are blocking a lane of traffic.
Wes Black: 48:15 You are going to cause an accident because what you were trying to do while it is convenient for you, it is not convenient for 99 other people. I understand it's your world. I'm just fucking living in it. But I would like to live in it peacefully and you're not allowing me to do that. I've had to learn to say “all right man, like you said what you said, drive away” but it's hard to hit. It's very hard to not like want to just go fucking bananas at somebody. I've had to do a lot of therapy a lot of counseling to get used to that.
Scott DeLuzio: 48:57 I've talked about this before where you'll come back and you'll see people who are bitching and complaining about their Starbucks order wasn't right or something like that. And it's like, who cares?
Wes Black: Drives me crazy.
Scott DeLuzio: But I've learned to look at it like this; because they don't have worries of cars exploding next to them, because they don't have worries of terrorists coming in and shooting up the place, or RPGs coming flying in from God knows where or airplanes flying into buildings.
Scott DeLuzio: 49:42 they can bitch about these things. I feel because none of that bad shit is happening, they aren't worried about those things. So, I feel like job well done! We kept the wolf over there, going back to that the sheep dog analogy. We kept them outside of their area and they don't have to worry about it anymore.
Wes Black: 50:11 It's all a matter of perspective, man. Because you know, our perspective, obviously, like you said fighting that Wolf, we've learned that we have a different perspective. Like we would go days without a shower, right? That's gross. It's disgusting, you smell like, for lack of a better term, it's more like balls and it's not pleasant, right? Or you might've gone a couple of days without chow because of a convoy snafu or your convoy got ambushed and the little combat outpost you're on didn't get food that day or didn't get the food delivery. Now you're eating MREs instead of hot chow, which you know for an infantry guy that that sucks. You look forward to hot chow, you look forward to mail, you look forward to this stuff. When we don't get it, that's an inconvenience, right?
Wes Black: 51:02 Not Getting hot chow, that's inconvenient. But we still had chow so we still got to eat. We didn't go to bed hungry; we didn't starve to death. Okay, he didn't get mail for a couple of days. It's inconvenient. Right? When we come home and misty in front of us gets her fucking order wrong at Starbucks and she complains because her fucking triple soy latte Macchiato is a Vente instead of a Grande, we tend to be like, “are you fucking kidding me? You have the money to be at a Starbucks and you ordered like a half caff macchiato triple soy latte and you didn't get it right and that's what you're going to have a high speed come apart over. That's your fucking moment of the day.” Huh. I see it too and perspectives of firefighting.
Wes Black: 51:54 we show up on somebody's worst day; it could be a motor vehicle accident, it could be a fire, it could be any number of instances. But we show up on somebody's worst day and they don't expect two dumb fucks in a pickup truck. They expect four brain surgeons that are triathletes and x-models to show up and fix all their problems. When we've done these horrible incidences and really genuinely taken care of people, we get these people who come to appreciate that there are people out there that are willing to put their lives on the line to save them. It's not that I don't think a lot of people appreciate or don't appreciate soldiers, fire, police law, EMS, dispatchers.
Wes Black: 53:00 But I think people have lost perspective as to what really constitutes somebody to be a hero and role model. Instead you have people like Kim Kardashian and Kanye West who have become or even, what's the other pecker head that's been really mouthy in the news lately? Oh God, I can't think of his name. He's another Hollywood type, but they're calling for, there's literally too many to mention, but they're calling for all these political actions because they think that their voice carries some sort of significance. You know, they're crying out for justice and reform and they want all these things. l sit there and go, “what the fuck have you done for anybody other than yourself?”
Wes Black: 54:04 What the fuck have you done? You know? Okay, sure. Maybe you've, you've started a charity to help, I don't know, Inner City kids learn music, which is a fantastic program. That's a wonderful program. I'm not taking something away from that. But what have you done that is truly been selfless? Where have you put basically, your ass on the line to help somebody else? Instead you are trying to fix a problem by throwing fucking money at it. And that's not how things get done. And we're starting to see it with the programs in our government. As a veteran I, I tend to lose my mind and I get upset when people just don't appreciate those who wear a badge, carry a rifle or carry a handgun or carry an EMT or a medic bag, or dispatched somebody to help them when they're in trouble. Everybody takes police officers and fire and EMS in the military for granted until, guess what? It's time for them to fucking show up at your door.
Scott DeLuzio: 55:15 Yeah. Until the guys breaking in your door or whatever because you know there's somebody, a home invasion or something like that. Like that's when you need the police and you know, just 24 hours earlier you were “f” the police and everything else.
Wes Black: 55:32 I get so upset because everybody thinks that the police are brutal or they're this Gestapo kind of force that's being utilized against the American populace. Well, they're trying to do a job. I work with police officers every single day, man. They are people in a tough position trying to do a hard job. And I had a woman complained to me in the back of the ambulance one day about how the cop had treated her poorly or whatever. She had overdosed on heroin and she was pissed that the cops had been rude to her and she was like, “I'm going to get that mother fucker fired.” And I sat there and I was like, hold a second, just stop for a second that you're mad because that police officer you felt was rude to you and because he stopped you from overdosing.
Wes Black: 56:36 So he gave you Narcan, right? Which took away your high. So, you're probably pissed about that. But now you have the stones to sit here and say that you're going to get him fired for doing his job. Well, if you don't like it, why don't you go to the police academy? Why don't you become a police officer and why don't you fix it? She was like, why, I can't do that? Well then don't argue with it. If you're not willing to do it, then don't sit here and tell me that the system needs to change. Well, the only way the system changes is if you get involved in the system. Once you get involved in this company and guess what, you realize, Holy Shit, there's a lot of people that I don't like.
Scott DeLuzio: 57:20 Exactly. On that topic of change and everything with all the stuff that we talked about earlier with the, the burn pits and all the other stuff, what do you think the Army, the DOD, VA, whoever it should be. In your opinion, what would be a good step for them to take to do things to prevent stuff like what happened to you from happening in the future?
Wes Black: 57:53 Boy, that's a really good question. Because I'll be honest with you. I mean, and this was part of the, the stuff that I did with testifying for their legislation that Vermont did. I should say, June Heston had a letter that she had gotten a hold of that says that in 2006 to 2014 there were 14 or 19 incinerators, right? Like garbage incinerators that were shipped to Iraq specifically to burn trash, eliminate trash and reduce it or eliminate toxic pollution. None of them were used because no one knew how to install them. No one knew how to hook them up. No one knew where to put them and no one knew how to use them. So, you have these multimillion-dollar incinerator units basically sitting somewhere in an airfield collecting fucking dust because no one knew how to read the fucking instruction manual.
Wes Black: 59:04 So when somebody asked me, how do we affect change, right? I was on a little combat outpost in Afghanistan called COP Herrera and a hundred yards outside of our front gate was our burn pit. We would have the local national come in; he would collect up all the trash every day. He would take it out to the burn pit. He would throw it all in a pile, cover it all up with diesel fuel and light it on fire. And if you were the poor sucker that was standing fucking gate guard that day, guess what you did for an hour and a half; you breathe nothing but trash fumes. There was everything in there, man. All of our trash, you know how much trash Joe generates, right? He's the only guy I know that has a brand-new computer,
Wes Black: 59:54 it gets a crack in the screen, He's like “fuck it, I'm going to throw this away and go buy a new one.” It gets thrown in the trash, it gets sent out to the trash bin and guess what? It gets lit on fire and now you're breathing in battery acid, you're breathing in all of the medical stuff that the little combat aid station has had. If they've been treating patients, it's all their biomedical waste. It's all the food waste, it's batteries, plastic, anything and everything that could burn metals, chemicals, right? So, we know that this stuff is like. If you imagine a structure fire, right? Because I'm a firefighter, if you imagine a structure fire, all the stuff in your home is either made from synthetic material or maybe some natural material, but it's probably all glue board and linoleum, laminate or wood floor laminates that's been coated with a polyurethane look.
Wes Black: 00:49 It's all this stuff that when it burns, it puts out these really toxic chemicals. We in the fire service know that this is the stuff that's giving firefighters Cancer. It only magnifies and we wear protective equipment when we go into these environments. We we're not breathing this shit in direct or trying not to. But when we were standing gate guard in Afghanistan, that's all we had to do was stand a gate. Literally you'd be standing there choking, getting basically kicked out of the gate tower because you couldn't breathe, you couldn't see, your eyes were watering and your nose was running and you're coughing because you're breathing this shit in chemicals that are known carcinogens. So, when I say when people ask what, is there anything that we can do to change?
Wes Black: 01:40 I don't know if there really is in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan because they don't subscribe to the same rules and regulations that we do here in the states. Right? There is no, I never saw one single EPA agency representative in Afghanistan despite all my time. I never saw one in Iraq either. You know, despite all my time serving in the Middle East, I never once ran into an EPA official. The only way that these people get rid of and I say these people, I mean Iraqis and Afghans get rid of their trash as they burn it. That's the option they have. Up until probably 60 years ago, that's how most Americans got rid of their trash. And there's still some, I live in Vermont now, there's still some rural woodchucks that's how they get rid of their trash as they bring out back to a little Holler, throw it over the bank and light it on fire because they don't have a dump that's quick access for them.
Wes Black: 02:41 I don't really know if there is a genuine effective way to not expose our service men and women that are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan and Kuwait and Saudi Arabia and the Horn of Africa. If there isn't a way to not expose them to these really toxic chemicals, I think there are ways that we can minimize it. I don't know if we can completely eliminate it. Unfortunately, I really do think that that burn pit exposure is going to be our generations agent orange that we, we saw with all the Vietnam guys, right? Everybody thought that Agent Orange, the defoliant, was this great thing because it cleared out all these large swaths of land. Do you remember the movie platoon when the guys are standing out there and the agent orange comes flying over him and they're all standing there looking up, looking in the mist and they felt like, “Oh I feel so great?” That's the stuff that was definitely taught.
Wes Black: 03:45 I mean it's the same way now. Like, I have friends that I've made through the process of this legislation bill that are Vietnam veterans. They told me stories of how they would be sitting in the middle of the fucking jungle and KC 130 would come flying over the top of them, drop agent orange and they'd be eating a sea rat and they would get this film, this oily film from the agent orange over the top of their food in their sea rat can. And they would literally scoop it out, throw it away and continue eating. Now, we're wondering why Vietnam veterans are dying of cancer, diabetes all these other things that most people don't get until they're in later stages of life. Vietnam veterans were coming home, if they had fought in the 60s in the 70s and the 80s, they were dying from Type two diabetes, the type that most people don't develop until they're in their late stages of life in their 50s or 60s because they've just been generally eating like crap.
Wes Black: 04:49 And their body can't do it. These were young, healthy, 30-year olds that are dying of diabetes or pancreatic cancer or lymphoma or all these other conditions because of the links to agent orange and the government for years tried to deny and say it's not agent orange. It's not us. We didn't do it. And the Department of Defense is doing the same thing right now with burn pits. And the reason is because they know if they admit that they are culpable for it, it would literally bankrupt the Department of Defense to treat every US veteran. Every, I should say every US combat veteran, that is, who served where these burn pits were an exposure to treat them to early diagnosis and to take care of them. It would literally, it would not only bankrupt the VA, it would probably bankrupt the Department of Defense. So, their solution is delay, deny and hope you die. Because if you die, then you don't fight. You're not fighting them to take care of you
Scott DeLuzio: 05:59 and it doesn't cost anymore at that point.
Wes Black: 06:01 Exactly.
Scott DeLuzio: 06:05 It's hard and I can definitely as a veteran who's been over there. We had a burn pit on our FOB as well. I was exposed to some of that stuff too. I am on the burn pit registry that you talked about earlier. It's hard because like what else do you do with it? They don't have landfills there where you can send the trash off to and have it dumped in there or anything like that. It's same way of life. What do you do? I guess the only option at that point is to just burn it. It sort of sucks. I can see from the government, whichever agency you want to point at, I can see from their point of view too, is how do they handle that?
Scott DeLuzio: 06:56 They only have so much funding and what are they realistically supposed to do? I'm not sure; I don't know if I have a better answer than you on that either. What people are supposed to actually do about any of that. I think taking health concerns seriously and not just writing them off as you must have a sore throat or something like that because you're coughing all the time or whatever. To not just write it off as something minor; actually, take the time to maybe look into it and run a couple of tests that might show what someone might actually have that might be a step in the right direction at least.
Scott DeLuzio: But that's just one guy's opinion, I guess. What advice would you have for somebody who's maybe considering joining the military? Is there anything that you would have wished someone would have told you before you joined?
Wes Black: 08:14 Join the Air Force.
Wes Black: 08:16 It's funny because I actually come from a very long line of military men on my father and mother's sides of the family. My brother, my father and I all served. Actually, my brother was at COP Harrera with me in Afghanistan, which never should have fucking happened; but he was, he was there.
Scott DeLuzio: We had a couple of sets of brothers on the same base too;
Wes Black: It never should have fucking happened after the Sullivan brothers died on the Arizona in Pearl Harbor. The US government made a law that siblings do not serve in the same assignment, let alone the same theater of operations or if they are in the same theater of operations that are under different commands. My brother being right on the same base did wonders for my parents in relieving their stress, but didn't do anything to relieve mine or his stress because every time I would go on a mission or where he would go on a mission, one of us would be sitting in the talk, listening intently and actually it worked out negatively
Wes Black: 09:29 on the 22nd of August, 2010 when we got ambushed because my brother was sitting in the talk listening and when everything started to go down, he was kicked out of the talk by the first sergeant, thankfully. Because the first sergeant was paying attention and realized what platoon exactly it was. It was getting ambushed and told my brother because if my name came across the radio, he didn't want my brother to find out that way. and so, I do cherish the fact that he was on the same base as me, but at the same time, I can't believe somebody in a chain of command somewhere, didn't sit there and say, hold up. If I was to give advice to anybody going into the military or, well, I started to tell his story about a long line of military family, but if I was to give advice to anybody going into the military, I would say, if you truly wish to serve, if that is something that you want to do, and this is an email that I've actually sent to my son, I won't ever discourage my son from serving.
Wes Black: 10:49 Like I said, my father and my brother and I served, my grandfather served during Vietnam. He was assigned state side. Unfortunately, he didn't get to go. Well, fortunately for him, if you ask him, he didn't deploy to Vietnam. He was assigned state side and then his father actually jumped into <inaudible> with 82nd and fought all the way through Europe. I come from
Wes Black: 11:13 a very long line of military tradition on my father's side. And My mother's father was a P 38 pilot during the during World War II. He had immigrated from Ireland, decided he wanted to help and joined the Royal Army Air Corps and flew P38s. My son is not expected to serve. I don't expect my son to join the military. I do expect my son to serve his community in some fashion. If he doesn't want to join the military, then that's fine. But he should become a firefighter or a police officer or a dispatcher like he should be some other fashion of a community supporter. I think that the only way that people can genuinely make things better is if they serve others before themselves. So, if I were to give advice to anybody going into the military, my first thing would say are you doing it for the right reason?
Wes Black: 12:23 Are you doing it because you genuinely want to be there or are you doing it because it's your last option. If it's your last option, then pick a skillset that's going to give you something to do after the military. Go in and become trained up in IT or communications or give yourself something that when you get out of the military, you have a skill set, you have training that you can then turn around and say the military trained me how to do this. I know how to do this. They gave me a skill set that gave me a way to put food on my table. If you genuinely want to be there and depending on what you want to do, if you really want to serve in a combat zone, you want to do the whole airborne, ranger, special forces, navy seal, whatever you want to do.
Wes Black: 13:14 If that's genuinely what you want to do, then my advice would be you better take a deep hard look at what you want to do. Because those jobs, those combat operations jobs, they will hold a mirror up to you and show you exactly who you are. Combat shows you exactly who you are, you will either do fine in combat or you will fall apart. And there is no in between there. I was very fortunate, I served with a lot of men because typically in the war, traditionally infantry is all men. I've met with a lot of men that were very, very good in a firefight. I did not serve with very many that were not and that to me has been a credit of the unit, the mountain unit that I was assigned to. I would say to somebody wanting to go in, if you really want to put your stuff on the table and measure it up, you better be ready because it's combat; it is not forgiving.
Wes Black: 14:30 It is scary. It is intense. It is terrifying. It is hours and hours and hours of boredom and moments of sheer terror. And if you are willing to accept that and you feel like you're ready and you can do that, then by all means, pick up a rifle and go join a combat infantry unit or a combat unit and go do the whole airborne ranger and special forces or navy seals or whatever you want to do. If you want to be that member of the elite, then that's what you need to do. But you need to take a good, hard look at yourself before you decide, because the last thing you want to do is figure out you're in the wrong spot in the middle of a firefight that you shouldn't be where you are. So that is way too late at that point.
Wes Black: 15:21 Yeah. So that would be, that would be my, my, I guess, advice to somebody wanting to go in. Is if you genuinely want to go in, I support anybody that wants to put a uniform on and serve their country. I am so proud of anybody that wants to do that because it really is a selective, rare breed of a person that wants to do it. And it's an even smaller select, rare breed of those of us who become infantry and want to fight are combat arms and want to fight. And you know, it's very, very enlightening. The first time you realize that the bullets are going both ways. It's scary the first time you realize somebody actually genuinely is trying to kill you. It's terrifying.
Scott DeLuzio: It's not just a little green man on a range that you're shooting. They fall down.
Wes Black: 16:17 The first time I ever had an insurgent blow an IED at my vehicle I was in Iraq and actually it was right about this time frame that actually it was the 20th of August in 2005. And it was the first time I ever got ambushed with an IED. And thankfully, he blew it too early. It blew in front of our vehicle by about 50 yards. A little closer, probably 25 yards but it bubbled up on the asphalt and blew a bunch of asphalt into the air and I ducked down, thankfully. Because I was in the turret, I had enough time to duck down. I didn't get a face full of asphalt. I was like, “Whoa, holy fuck. Like somebody just tried to fucking kill us.”
Wes Black: 17:07 Scott Matthiessen, my squad leader looks at me and he goes, “you alright?” And I'm like,” yeah, why?” And he goes, “well, good, get up there and start fucking shit.” It's like I finally realized like, Oh shit. Oh Shit. This is real. It's a terrifying thought. Had that person just waited another five seconds, not even, we would have been right on top of that bomb. It's terrifying to realize; it's that somebody you don't even know, like you've never met them, wants to kill you based off of an ideology that is genuinely scary. I don't know if a lot of people who enlist in the military, I mean, I think they're aware of that fact, but they're not, they're not ready to understand that fact. And that would be something. And you know, that's what I've tried to convey to my son in emails is if you want to do this, man, you better be ready.
Scott DeLuzio 18:13 Okay. Well I think that's great advice and great information to pass on to the future ranks of the military. The people who are maybe juniors, seniors in high school considering a military career or whatever. I think that's great advice to have
Wes Black: 18:36 and join the Air Force because they’re way better.
Scott DeLuzio: Yeah.
Scott DeLuzio: 18:44 Thanks for listening to the Drive On Podcast. If you want to check out more episodes or learn more about the show, you can visit our website, driveonpodcast.com. We're on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at driveonpodcast.
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