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"Love, Darkness, and My Sidearm..."

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Written by Pat Curran

Posted on 17 January 2018

Last Updated 17 January 2018

DESTINATION TOUGHMAN: 48 Days Until Race Day

 

 

“Here we are now going to the west side,

Weapons in hand as we go for a ride.

Some may come and some may stay

Watching out for a sunny day

 

Where there’s

Love, and darkness, and my side arm…

Heading on, and on…

 

 

--Moby and Gwen Stephanie singing, “Southside”

To watch video, click here

 

 

Last week I began the ramping up period of long workouts. The bad news is that I have to get up earlier in order to not interfere with my family events or work schedule. The good news is that I get more time to reflect about the past and try to find an important lesson to carry forward.

 

One particular memory that comes to mind is how I would practice a certain daily ritual while in the Army in order to protect myself mentally and spiritually. In my left cargo pocket I carried a mini US Constitution, reminding me of my purpose. In my right cargo pocket was a small New Testament Bible with Psalms for wisdom and strength. In my left chest pocket, I had my wedding ring closest to my heart. And finally, in my right chest pocket I kept my West Point class ring, encouraging me to do what is right even if it gets incredibly hard.

 

This ritual helped me tremendously because I woke up every morning consciously orienting myself toward those things I loved and believed in most. It calmed my soul and gave my mind and heart “permission” to throw myself completely at any challenge that came up that day because I was already pointed in the right direction.  

 

For some reason, each time I hear the song “Southside,” I remember back to when I used to do this. It’s the phrase, “Love, and darkness, and my sidearm…” that brings me there. Now, I find myself doing a different daily ritual that keeps my conscious clear, so I can continue to do the work I am trusted to do. It feels good to be doing this again because there was a long stretch of time when I stopped believing.  

 

My advice for this week is to start developing some sort of ritual that frees your mind and heart so you can give everything toward your purpose. If you do this, not only are you less likely to get distracted, you will also make the most out of the energy you do have and ensure to make it count. 

 

Stay the course! Until next week…

 

God Bless,

--Pat

 

www.freedomslight.org

 

Did this week’s message help you? If yes, here’s an opportunity to help other Great Americas, starting at just $25.

  • Fisher House: To donate, here
  • Tuesday’s Children   To donate, click here
  • Wounded Warrior Project: To donate, click here
  • Children of Fallen Patriots: To donate, click here,
  • USO’s Operation Care Package:  To donate, click here

 

 

Letters From Your Father – “A Time of Hell and Heroes”

 

 

“I am so high, I can hear heaven

I am so high, I can hear heaven

Whoa, but heaven, no, heaven don’t hear me

 

And they say that a hero could save us

I’m not gonna stand here and wait

I’ll hold on the wings of the eagles

Watch as we all fly away

 

 

 

Nickelback singing “Hero”

To watch video, click here

 

Dear Girls:

 

Below is a very sobering account of September 11, 2001 and the next major decision point I faced that influenced my life. This is the first one that had a direct impact on you. A different choice and you would not be here. Clearly, I chose wisely…

 

I hope this starts to explain why I support Tuesday’s Children among all of the other military charities in my fundraising efforts. It’s a lifetime promise to standby the children and first responders impacted on this day.  

 

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It’s Tuesday, September 11, 2001. I’ve completed about 4 weeks of recovery after my first knee surgery and started running again for the second day in a row. It was a beautiful day at Fort Drum, NY with little-to-no clouds and a comfortable temperature outside. I finish icing my knee after my run and head for the shower.

 

Suddenly, I hear down the hallway, “Captain Curran, Sir. Come quickly. A plane just hit the World Trade Center!” Limping slightly, I rush down the hallway to the S-2 Shop (Battalion Military Intelligence Office) to see what’s going on.

 

As we’re watching CNN (Cable News Network) the crowd around the TV starts to grow. We’re all speculating about how it happened. A pilot off course… An instrument malfunction… Something happened at Air Traffic Control… Suddenly, the conversations come to halt. “Holy Sh*t! Did you see that? A second plane just hit the other tower!” Then silence… At that moment we all know this is no accident.

 

Still in my athletic gear, I go to find Major Griffith (Battalion Operations Officer) and Major Jeselink (Battalion Executive Officer) to provide them the update. By the time I reach them, the already know and are in contact with our Battalion Commander who is out of town meeting with other commanders. They receive their orders and then turn to me. I am told to prepare a meeting with all company commanders and staff in the conference room at 10am. As I get back to my office, I get the other Lieutenants on the phones to coordinate the meeting.

 

After the meeting begins, I receive another update. The Pentagon has been hit. Immediately afterward, I receive an email that the Mall in DC has been set on fire but the Congress has been safely evacuated.  Also, the Vice President, and President are safe.  My first reaction is relief that we still have continuity of command and government. However, the Mall in DC being on fire just sounded odd.   After digging into the details further, I find out that the report was inaccurate.

 

I go back to the command group meeting to give them an update. As I walk into the room and provide the summary, I hear one leader say, “This is it, men. We’re going to war. It’s our watch. Our time to step up an be counted…” I then walk out to continue monitoring events. Back in my office, I finish changing into my uniform and receive another update. “Another plane crashed in a field in Pennsylvania, Sir,” says the Intelligence Officer. The location did not make sense to me at first, but then I quickly came to the realization that somehow the plane was forced down. My guess at the moment was a fighter jet must have taken it down, but later we find out that the passengers attempted to take the plane back.   So, the terrorists crashed it instead of facing justice.  

 

The rest of the day was filled with emotional stories of impacted families, lost fire fighters, policemen, and images of jumpers from the tower. There were pictures seen later of people hugging and holding hands as they descended. Absolutely gut wrenching… By afternoon, I get a hold of my former Company Commander, Captain Kuykendall. He was in a different wing of the Pentagon when it got hit and is OK.  I also find out that one of my high school classmates and firefighter, Tommy Schoales, was killed while evacuating people out of one of the towers.

 

As part of an quick reaction force (QRF), elements are deployed throughout the US to protect our most vulnerable locations. We also setup a 24-hour operations center in Battalion Headquarters to manage updates. This would start what is now often referred to as our “Decade of War.” Days later, I remember a soldier going to the Command Sergeant Major’s office saying, “Sergeant Major, this is what I trained for. I want to go!” The words the Command Sergeant Major stated next seem prophetic now. “Son, this is going to be a 20-year war. Keep you powder dry and wait to be called. There won’t be any shortage of opportunities.”

 

A few weeks later I have my second knee surgery this time on the opposite leg. Shortly after, I am called by Major Griffith to meet him at Brigade Headquarters to discuss “options.” When I get there, we have a map of Afghanistan on the table and discuss current enemy locations with different scenarios for deployment. I look him in the eye and say, “Sir, do you need me?” His response is, “Captain Curran, with your knees I can’t risk it. The terrain over there is nothing like any of us have ever experienced. If we do get called forward, I’m going to need you back here to help keep the Battalion together while we’re gone.” Although logical, that response seems shocking to me. I don’t know how to take what he said, so I quickly change the subject and put our focus back on our analysis of terrain.

 

A version of the plans we work on that day materialize in late October. The 10th Mountain Division Headquarters, 2nd Brigade Headquarters, elements of the 1-87 Infantry Battalion with Engineers, Aviation, and other Combat Service Support elements receive orders to deploy to Afghanistan to join with Marines and Air Force units. Although not confirmed, my hunch is that CIA and Special Ops were already on the ground since October when we started the air campaign. Groups would begin deploying from 10th Mountain on December 10th. Among the people going forward from 10th Mountain Division was my West Point roommate Mark Taylor (Yes, the Uncle Mark who I run marathons with). Originally he did not have to go, but volunteered to take the place of a married officer with kids because he thought it was the right thing to do.

 

About 2 weeks before the deployment, my Battalion Commander pulls me into his office. “Pat, I got a mission for you. I am nominating you to serve with the Division Command Group working directly for General Goedkoop and acting Chief of Staff here at Drum. We’re in 10 different countries now, so, we’re stretched thin. Major Pyatt needs to deploy forward with the lead element to Afghanistan. You’re going to take his place managing the Division Emergency Operations Center, all executive correspondence, and Division Protocol here at Drum. Stay close to the Chief of Staff and you’ll do fine.” Again, I am not sure how to take the news. This is not how I imagined serving… There is no time to ask why, though. I respond with, “Roger, Sir. When do I need to head out?” I begin getting the details and absorb what I can.

 

From December 2001 until the day I left the Army in July 2002, I receive a real “education” on the circumstances that led us to this point in history and the decision making process for what to do next. To write about it in great detail would be difficult. It’s very complicated. Instead here’s one major lesson that I kept with me. Anytime you alert a senior leader about a problem, it’s your responsibility to come with 2 solutions: A solution to fix it and a solution for how to politically sell it. It’s just the way the world operates. Even in war, politics and self-interest are often the primary drivers to decision making. Work within this reality to the best of your ability without compromising your integrity. It’s part of the risks of being a leader.    

 

As my 5-year active duty commitment was coming to a close, I start second guessing my choice to leave the Army. Ten years ago, I made a promise to leave the Army as soon as I was allowed in order to start a new life with your Mom. On the other hand, many of my best friends like Mark were staying in because our country needed us. If I choose to stay on active duty indefinitely, I would break your Mom’s heart. If I choose to get out, then at some level I believed I fell short in my responsibilities to my friends and country. For the first time in my life, no matter what I chose, it was going to be filled with high levels of sadness, worry, and regret.

 

After praying about it a lot, my decision was to walk it down the line between the two choices the best that I could. Instead of leaving in May of 2002, I stayed on for an extra 2 months to ensure there was a seamless transition of my responsibilities to the next person coming in. Then, I left the active Army and decide to serve in the Individual Readiness Reserves (IRR) where they could call me back for up to 3 years, if they needed me.  

 

Now, it’s Independence Day weekend, 2002. The finish line for your Mom and I has arrived. Normally the 4th of July is a time to be happy and proud to be an American. I did not completely feel that way, though. The problem I started developing a few weeks back was that with each jolt of happiness from thinking about being a civilian again came a crash of guilt and worry for the friends I was leaving behind. I don’t dare tell anyone (not even your Mom) because it seems embarrassing. Little cues start sneaking out regardless. “OK, Gina. We’re all loaded up and ready to go!” Your Mom starts walking toward her car with Dozer on his leash. Then, unexpectedly, Dozer drops to the ground and falls asleep on the sidewalk (We adopted Dozer knowing he had narcolepsy). Your Mom and I start laughing. I make the joke, “Well, I guess it’s an emotional moment for the poor guy. Let’s give him a minute to say goodbye.”

 

I open the door of the U-Haul truck and hear that annoying buzzing noise from the key being in the ignition already. Closing the door and looking in my side view mirror, I see your Mom smiling behind me in her Honda CRV with Dozer in the front seat, tongue hanging out. I quickly smile back, do a “thumbs up” out the window, and then turn the ignition. As the engine turns over I take a deep breath and mumble, “Well, I guess this is how it ends…” A pocket of air stuck deep in my lungs finally releases as I complete the phrase. I now step on the gas, glossy eyed.

 

Just a couple of days shy of our 28th Birthday, we leave Sackets Harbor to start a new life back where we grew up as kids. Your Mom already has a small house lined up for us to rent and both of our parents are close by. Luckily, I secured a job over the last couple of weeks. I’ll be working midnight shift as a Materials Shift Team Leader at Pfizer Global Manufacturing Plant in Brooklyn, New York. I understand that I’ll have 20 people reporting to me. That is the one comfort I have. Perhaps it will be like being a platoon leader again…

 

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A lot to absorb here, I know. It's the first of several stories that together will make a lot of sense. Hang in there and keep reading…

 

 

With Love,

--Dad

 

 

 

 

This Week in Training:

Last week, I could only manage getting through 5 of the 7 workouts. The reason is that I am doing intervals and my joints need a little more recovery in order to not get damaged. It’s the right decision because if I want to be in the top 10 in my division at “Toughman” I have to build my legs and practice running smooth and fast. The good news is that I’ve lost just over 11 pounds in the last 2 weeks. I weigh 257 lbs. I think what has helped most with me losing weight is that I am writing down everything I eat on an index card each day. When I am hungry, I look at the card to see what I ate already and select what’s missing out of the food groups to optimize the fuel going into my body.

 

On that note, here is this week’s workout plan:

 

Monday: Swim 10-15 x 100m; Strength Training – Legs, Knees, & Hips

Tuesday: Bike 1.5 hrs; Run 60 min; (3:15am Wakeup!)

Wednesday: Swim 12 x 200; Bike 90 min (4:00am Wakeup!)

Thursday: Swim 20 x 40m; Long Stretching Routine

Friday: Bike 3.5 hours / Run 30 min (3:30am Wakeup!)

Saturday: Run 1.75 hrs (Pace Laps around Track)

Sunday: Tough Kids Training w/Girls

 

 

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