NOTE: This is long. Grab some popcorn and hopefully you enjoy my writing style.
I was born in southern California during the 70's and one of my first recalled memories is that of the Bi-Centennial celebration of America in 1976. Even at that young age I was mesmerized by the fireworks and what I would later recognize as patriotism.
In 1981, shortly after Mount St. Helen blew her top, I found myself a stranger in a strange land. We had picked up and moved north to Oregon, settling on the I-5 corridor in the Willamette Valley but leaving all we knew behind. Later on my parents would say they did it because they knew that California was only going to get worse and Oregon was just far enough to not be too far when it came to family.
Shortly thereafter we were involved in Panama, remember that? My folks watched that intently, following each and every turn of events leading up the inevitable. The one thing I remember from that whole time was this particular moment on television when the news was showing footage of our boys deploying and all I could think of was, 'wow, I know what I'm going to do with my life. I'm going to serve my country!' I recall my mom asking me what I was thinking and I turned to tell her that I was going to join the military. Looking back on that, I now believe that was the moment my mom recognized my mortality for the first time.
A few short years later I joined the Cub Scouts and began my journey toward Webelos and the Arrow of Light. I did all the iconic things one would expect of a cub scout: I built and raced pinewood derby cars, looked at stars through a telescope for countless hours on many a hot summer night and even, yes it's true, I even helped little old ladies across the street. I was your classic American boy.
I played sports during school, soccer being my game of choice and I jumped into Vietnam-era uniforms during the summer yelling "bang-bang" in the fields with my friends. My favorite holiday was hands down the good ol' 4th of July! Every year I looked forward to those amazing aerial displays that not only were guaranteed to satisfy but also because of the expected bar-b-Que and good times that were definitely going down. For weeks before the 4th I'd ride my bike around with a small Ensigns taped to each handlebar and me (of course), racing to the local stand to drop all my allowance on fireworks.
As I grew older, I graduated from the Cub Scouts. With my Arrow of Light firmly sewn onto my new tan uniform I dove head first into the Boy Scouts. My first camp out with the troop was to a high adventure area in the Sisters Wilderness National Forest where we hiked in several miles and then camped out under the open sky with the Middle Sister (Hope) watching over us. It was absolutely amazing and surely something I'll never forget. A few short years later I would return to that mountain and finally conquer her. Taking six hours, seven minutes and twenty four seconds point nineteen, we ascended the mountain and for the first time in my life I had the opportunity to stand firmly on the ground while I watched aircraft fly thousands of feet below me. It was a very humbling experience to look across the vast land in absolutely every direction and truly see the curvature of the Earth.
I returned from that summer camp with girls on my mind. I couldn't stop thinking about them. How they walk, how they talked, how they looked and even how they smelled. Yup, I was that kid on the bus in the back smiling because of that yummy smelling perfume that was so new to me and thus exotic. I had several crushes but of course they all ended and life went on, until High School.
I was a month away from earning my Eagle Scout badge and that's when I saw her. Instantly I was taken back, she was the one, I knew it, it hit me like a ton of bricks. Damn near knocked the wind out of me and I'll swear by that to this day. Her name was Alisa and that was yet one more exotic attraction for me as I'd never heard that kind of name before. I was entranced. She was a member of the dance team, I was a wrestler at that time and we hit it off!
Up until this point I had had my life totally mapped out. I was going to accept my Eagle Scout, graduate from high school and then enlist into the Air Force. I planned on serving those first 4 years in pretty much any job, I really didn't care as I just needed to be in the military so I could earn that G.I. Bill. After those 4 years I was going to attend college while still serving in the Air National Guard until I graduated and returned as an officer. This time I would become a pilot as my ultimate goal was to accrue 1,500 flight hours and immediately turn around to apply for NASA's pilot program. If I graduated I would then be placed upon the active duty roster of Astronauts tasked with piloting the Shuttle back to Earth as well as possibly becoming a mission commander. I had it all planned I'm telling ya!
But she tossed all that right out the damned window...
I managed to still earn my Eagle Scout, but I surely didn't enlist in the Air Force. She got the idea in my head that they look like bus drivers, you know, what with that crazy hat they wear. I bought it hook, line and sinker. I didn't join the Air Force. Instead I tried college first but everything was wrong. She's pregnant now, a girl. She would of course be my first and her name would be Heather. She would be born in a couple of months and I was making minimum wage as a night-shift dishwasher at Sherie's while we lived in a 16 foot travel trailer in her dad's RV parking next to his house. I was miserable and not doing what I was put on this planet to do. I needed to join the military.
Shortly thereafter I had to attend an assembly of sorts where we all piled into some auditorium and the military recruiters took to the stage. First up, the Air Force. I heckled them the entire time, quietly of course... boy was I the ignorant one. One by one they tried to sell their branch. Each offering up a jab here and there but clearly nothing offensive. Eventually the U.S. Navy recruiter got his moment in the sun. He began with, 'I'm not going to lie to you...' famous last words I thought. But he wasn't joking. He told the truth, or at least what sounded like it, so much so that I decided to meet with him after their pitch and see what I could see.
We talked for a while, I ended up passing up the rest of my classes that day to get as much info as possible. You see, my father and his brothers and their father before them were all Navy men. I couldn't believe that I hadn't considered the Navy before! I was jazzed man! I hoped the bus and headed straight home to tell her my plan.
She wasn't as excited as I was but she did agree to go to MEPS with me to discuss my options with the detailer. Note: A detailer is a job in the military wherein the individual matches you up with a military job or what we called a Navy Rating. I wanted to work on planes, so I brokered a deal as an Aircraft Mechanic Hydraulic or AMH. Interestingly enough I was also classified as a TAR (Training and Administration of Reserves). Essentially we were fully activated reservists *shrug* who would be stationed state-side (guaranteed *wink*) on special bases called JRB's or Join Reserve Base and focus on the training of the reservists who came in on the weekends. It was supposedly THE gravy detail of the Navy. I was shocked but happy just the same. This was going to grant me the ability to not only take care of my budding family but also bring me closer to my goal, whatever it might be at this point as I'd basically given up on the whole astronaut thing.
My daughter was born and I head to boot camp located in Great Lakes IL, roughly forty or so minutes train ride to Chicago. I landed in Chicago Ohare Airport on Feburary 15th, early 90's. After making my way into the terminal I would find out that with the chill factor, it's 70 below outside!
I met a dude, a Korean kid from Macon Ga. His name is Bill and he quickly became my best friend. We ended up being roughly the same height. We were so close that we ended up being next to each other (bunk-wise) as well as being next to each other in every line we formed and by virtue was my chow mate too. We did everything together. Remember Joker and Cowboy? That was Bill and I. This guy was such a riot... Picture this: A round-faced 18 year old Korean kid from the deep south. That's right, he sounded like a redkneck but looked like a dutiful little Korean. It was hilarious! He was totally in the know and we turned it into a gag for the duration of boot camp and I assure you, I'm not racist nor were we being racist. I merely mentioned his race so you could form a perfect mental image of this as we really thought it was funny.
Ahem... Moving on!
In just over two months we graduated. On our final day we marched, performed our color review and quickly headed back to the barracks where we all had our sea bags packed and waiting on perfectly cleaned bunks 45 deep on either side. We nabbed our gear and took off. Some of us hit the airport, others jumped buses and even more took trains. I was the latter but not before hitting up the Mac Shack with my buddy Bill and his family where I was introduced to the concept that McDonalds has vastly different menu items in the east than it does in the west, hrmmmm. It was great and we traded info, hugged and said our goodbyes. Little did I know that I'd never see him again. I've thought about him countless times over the years, but that's a story for another time.
While at boot camp we all had the opportunity to take the SEAL test. I asked, what does that mean, and was quickly informed that any recruit who wanted to take the test would be released to the physical fitness section for the duration of the day. I thought, 'holy crap! a day without that jerkoff screaming at us?! Where do I sign up?' Needless to say my name was the first on the list.
The next day I found myself along with maybe ten to fifteen other guys from my Division (fancy Navy speak for Company), all sitting quietly on the bleachers inside the indoor swimming arena. That's when THEY entered. SEALS, honest to goodness U.S. Navy FREAKING SEALS MAN! These guys were awesome. They defined awesome! From their khaki shorts and yellow or blue t-shirts with blue ballcaps emblazoned with the SEAL Trident and of course, sunglasses resting upon the most epic mustaches imaginable. These dudes where the shit! I felt like I was meeting my favorite actor man, this was the bees knees for sure!
Then, this guy who for lack of a better description looked and even somewhat acted like Jessie Ventura when he was in the Running Man as a hunter. The guy was built like a brick... umm... you get the idea, he was HUGE! He ambles up because simply walking was not possible thanks to the massive tree trunks that doubled as his legs and began with a smile. He gave us the run down, what we could expect and more importantly, what they expected of us.
The day was stupid hard but it was worth it. I learned a bit about myself that day. I learned that if I WANTED something bad enough, I could have it! They asked me if I wanted to attend BUDS in Coronado and after considering it, I smiled and shook my head saying "no thank you Petty Officer." He simply nodded and moved onto the next guy in line. I figured that was the end of that... but it wasn't.
After boot I headed out to my A-School to learn about hydraulic systems and fluid power in general. I loved it, I do have a mechanical mind after all. Two months later I graduated A-School and earned my rating of AMHAA which meant Aircraft Mechanic Hydraulic Airman Apprentice or just E-2 if you want to be a dick about it, heh.
I was ordered to report to NAS JRB NOLA (Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base New Orleans) to which I naturally did and began my check-in process. After spending my first three months in the fleet doing all the crap jobs the base has to offer, I was finally going to be able to head over to my Division and with any bit of luck start work in my rating.
I ended my check-in at the Division but I had arrived at a time when the Chief was on a phone call so I had to endure many long minutes of uncomfortable silence in the waiting room with the "guys" who instead of asking me questions and introducing themselves, they instead decided to remain absolutely silent and casually look at me from time to time. I later found out they do that to everyone and I got my chance much later to pay it back but for the time being I was probably as uncomfortable as I would ever be my whole life... until that one doctor visit I had to endure since I've been in my thirties... ugggg... I'm happy to announce that everything checked out fine, I'm good to go, thank God!
The Chief ended slammed the phone down and quickly called for me to enter. "Close the door" he mumbled from under his heavy mustache that rested upon a weathered face. He dutifully finished penning whatever it was that held his attention and quickly dropped the pen, throwing his meaty hands behind his head and leaning back with a rather audible groan of disapproval from the chair. After a slow and clearly frustrated exhale, he drew breath and just hit me with it.
"So, you passed the SEAL test in boot camp huh?"
I remember thinking how I absolutely hate how people ask questions to which they clearly know the answer to. "Yes Chief" I sharply replied, my concern rising with every passing moment as I tried like hell to maintain my bearing. He didn't reply, he just looked me up and down and clearly satisfied on some level, he finally leaned forward with yet more disapproval from that poor chair. He rifled through a few papers strewn across his government issued desk and past his government issued lamp to where he had that paper nicely stashed. He rescued it from drowning among the sea of existing papers and placed his glasses on with his other hand.
"It says here that you scored the highest one can score," his dark beady eyes looking back my way from over his metal frames, his graying eyebrows taking on a personality of their own as he awaited a response.
To which I finally replied "that's correct Chief."
After a moment he simply grunted. A few more moments past and he dropped the page, allowing it flutter back toward that mess, folded his hands in his lap and just asked me, "are you going to do it?"
"I hadn't planned on it Chief" I said as professionally as my now drying mouth would allow. Man I tell you, I was getting scared, I didn't want anything to come back to haunt me and I certainly had no plans on becoming a SEAL, at least not until this moment.
"You should do it" he said and with a shrug he added, "would be something to tell the kids and maybe the grandkids about regardless if you graduate or not."
Without actually considering my words, I just spat them out "you think so Chief?"
"Suuuuuure I do son" he replied a smile forming on his tired features. He had me and I knew it and more importantly he knew it. I thought about it for a moment or maybe two but in the end I said "okay, what the hell right? Uhh Chief?"
He smiled and quickly initialed a request chit that he had already filled out for me. It read: I respectfully request permission to attend BUDS. And then I signed it and he took one copy off, handing it me while putting the other two into a basket with other chits awaiting the inner-office mailing of the day so it can head up the chain of command.
In less than a week I had my response. Two days after that I was on a plane for San Diego.
In just over six full months, I was one of 8 to graduate. Despite that incredible accomplishment, I still had a lot more training to complete. Arctic training, POW training, Survival, additional SCUBA, constant firearms and hand to hand combat training including knife fighting. Not to mention jump school, HALO, SAR and so on and so on.
It was November of 1995 and NATO was massing an international force of relief for the poor people of Bosnia who were really being negatively affected by the horrible civil war that was going on at that time. I'm not being sarcastic, those people were in literal Hell and we were going to save them from it. Or so I thought.
Because of the unique situation we found ourselves in, SOG insisted that we be smuggled into the country as air freight, unloaded by lift and finally cracked open after the doors to the hanger were tightly shut. Later I would find out that the reason they deployed us in that way was because the air field was being watched and someone had leaked the data regarding our arrival. The very man we were gunning for was aware.
And now, the reason why I joined this site and why I've taken you down this arduous path to help explain what kind of man I am and hopefully by now you have a pretty good idea.
From the moment we got there things didn't feel right. The very country itself, although beautiful when viewed through rose colored glasses if you will, didn't feel right. My gut was screaming at me and although I tried multiple times to ditch that terrible sensation, I couldn't, no matter what. As time went on, the "bad" feeling didn't just stick around, it grew.
Two nights after arriving, my team (Bravo Team) was holding down our house and I was drawing fire watch. Our handler was there, Jack. He was a good man, really gave a shit about us ya know? I mean really, he came with us! He was the ultimate manager-type-person-guy. While in the field, he never tried to take command, he merely offered advice, if there were any to give. To give you an idea, this guy looked like Mr. Clean with a goatee and had the smile to boot. But if there were ever a guy to have your back in a tight spot, it was Jack.
Anyway, Jack was there, sitting on the wooden-planked floor with his back to the wall, dozing off. I would make my rounds and from time to time go outside to look at the stars. Same stars, different sky and that feeling returned after a short bit of gazing. A shiver ran up and down my spine and it wasn't natural. Goose bumps made their presence known and with a grimace I performed an about face and took a step back toward the house. I looked up and in the dark I saw it for the first time.
I froze, totally unable to move. Here you have a U.S. Navy SEAL, a member of Team II, supposedly the toughest of the tough capable of just about anything, frozen in absolute and unadulterated fear. My mind raced to make sense of it and I found myself in a state of utter disbelief.
All my life I had read about them, saw t.v. shows or movies about them but never, ever, not in a million years would I ever have guessed I'd come so close and as time would tell, this was only the beginning.
It stood three and a half, maybe four feet in height. Lurched, fragile-looking shoulders on an equally fragile looking frame that was quite non-descript. His head, his head on the other hand was HUGE, proportionally speaking. And those eyes, so dark, so large.
After we rotated back to the world we promised each other that we'd each write our reports as we saw the events unfold and go from there. Hopefully we'd never talk about it again, but that was not going to happen.
I came within 20 or so feet of what can only be described as a Gray Alien.
Depending upon how this goes, I may or may not write more. I hope above all else this place will take me seriously enough so that I can feel comfortable sharing my experiences with you and hopefully learning a few things myself. I'm not a stranger to the esoteric, not by a long shot. Something I didn't mention early on (more for the sake of the story than anything), I've been studying spirituality most of my life. I've read countless books, watched a host and then some of documentaries and of course the gratuitous guilty pleasure of wasting a day, night, whatever on youtube being drawn in for just one more vid...
For now you can call me by my hard earned callsign: Ghost. Maybe one day I'll tell you that story. Now that one at least has a happy ending. The one I've begun today does not. Make no mistake, if you allow me to continue, I'll tell you things that will probably blow your minds. I just can't deal with this anymore, it's too much for any one person to keep inside and this is my last hope. I want the dreams and the nightmares to end and I figure that if I share this, they might just leave me alone for the first time in nearly 20 years now.